Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent 22nd December 2013

22 December 2013 Fourth Sunday of Advent


“Sound the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: Behold he will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.” (1st Antiphon for Vespers & Lauds)
Today, as Christmas is upon us, we again see how the Church introduces the figure of St. John the Baptist preaching a doctrine of repentance for sins as the most important preparation for the coming of Jesus to His public life. The theme of repentance is also related to the coming of Jesus for the first time on Christmas Day as we want to be ready with pure hearts for Him. This is why the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.” Lk. 2:14 We need to have our souls cleansed of any sins or evil desires. God will only give peace to men who have good hearts. This is why St. John the Baptist’s message in today’s gospel is so important: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall behold God’s salvation.” Lk. 3:4-6 & Is. 40:3-5 St. Paul says the same thing in the Epistle, First Corinthians (4:1-5): “Hence, judge nothing before the time fixed—until the Lord comes, who will bring light to hidden things of darkness, and manifest the designs of hearts.” I Cor. 4:5 When the Lord comes, he will reveal the hidden things of the human heart and uncover darkness of sin because Jesus is the Light of the World.

“Prepare the way of the Lord....” Lk. 3:4
Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life Vol. 1, tells us of the importance of St. John the Baptist has on preparation for Christmas: “Today, she (the Church) makes a last effort to stir up the devotion of her children. She leads them to the desert; she shows them John the Baptist, upon whose mission she instructed them on the third Sunday. The voice of the austere Precursor resounds through the wilderness, and penetrates even into the cities. It preaches penance, and the obligation men are under of preparing by self-purification for the coming of Christ. Let us retire from the world during these next few days; or if that may not be by reason of our external duties, let us retire into the quiet of our own hearts and confess our iniquities, as did those true Israelites, who came, full of compunction and of faith in the Messias, to the Baptist, there to make perfect their preparation for worthily receiving the Redeemer on the day of His appearance to the world.” Gueranger, p. 233-4

“ There is a voice crying of one crying in the wilderness....” Lk.3:4 (Is 40:3)
St. Luke in today’s Gospel (Lk. 3:1-6) quotes the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the coming of the precursor, St. John the Baptist. This holy precursor called all the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem to: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall behold God’s salvation.” Lk. 3:4-6 The Jews were familiar with this metaphor of the servants going before the wealthy by making sure that the roads were smooth for their masters. Valleys would be filled and mounds would be levelled. Isaiah spoke of St. John the Baptist who would have to prepare the hearts of men for the Messiah. He did this by preaching a baptism for the remission of sins. His baptism would not forgive sins, but it would prepare them for the Baptism of Jesus by making their hearts ready for His message. St. Bede tells us why St. John’s baptism was important for the coming of Jesus Christ: “If we seek to know why John was baptizing when his baptism was nevertheless unable to take away sins, the reason is clear; to be faithful to his ministry as forerunner it was necessary for him to baptise before the Lord did, just as he was born before he was, preached before he did and died before him. At the same time it was to prevent the jealous wrangling of the Pharisees and scribes from seizing upon the Lord’s ministry supposing he had been the first to administer baptism. ‘Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or human origin?’ As they would not dare to deny that it came from heaven, they were obliged to acknowledge that the world of Him whom John preached was also accomplished by means of a power coming from heaven. However, if John’s baptism did not take away sins that does not mean to say that it bore no fruit for those who received it... It was a sign of faith and repentance, that is to say, it called to mind that all must abstain from sin, practice almsgiving, believe in Christ, and make haste to be washed for the remission of their sins.”

Repentance for sin
Msgr. Patrick Boylan comments on today’s Gospel on the need for repentance from sin as it is related as the preparation of the King on the desert roads as the preparation for Christ’s coming at Christmas: “He is to pass as the desert of our passions, evil tendencies, religious indifference, and sinful habits. To us the Voice cries out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” Lk. 3:4 In the preparation we are asked (a) to make straight the crooked paths; (b) to fill up the valleys; (c) to level the hills; (d) and to make the rough ways smooth. (a) The crooked ways are our habits of falsehood, detraction, dishonesty, and idle speech. The paths of injustice and deceit are not paths on which our King will approach: they are twisted, devious, and perverse. They must be straightened out by a good confession. (b) The valleys of our slothfulness and indifference must be filled in with zeal for the duties of our state, frequent and fervent reception of the Sacraments, constant effort to realize, and to live up to, the Catholic ideal in our public as well as our private lives. (c) In our soul’s life there are mountains of pride and vanity, self-complacency, worldly ambition. Over these the King’s highway cannot pass. They must be brought low by penance, humility, graciousness and gentleness. He that comes is mild and gentle, and to His own He comes. (d) The rough ways of our unkindness, our uncharitableness, our carelessness of our needy brethren, our jealousy, our envy, our hatreds, must be made smooth.” (The Sunday Epistles and Gospels, Vol. I & II, p. 39-40) Let us prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas by purifying our hearts of all uncleanness.

“Oh the joy of thy coming, dear Jesus!”
Dom Gueranger reminds us of the great joy of Jesus’ coming once we purify our hearts. “....Oh the joy of thy coming, dear Jesus! How great it must needs be, when the prophecy says it shall be like an everlasting crown upon our heads (cf. Isaiah 35). And could it be otherwise? The very desert is to flourish as a lily, and living waters are to gush forth out of the parched land, because God is coming. Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, and which the Samaritan woman, the type of us sinners, asked of Thee with such earnest entreaty. This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples. Thou, O Jesus, are our way, our path, to God; and Thou are Thyself God; Thou art, therefore, both our way and the term to which our way leads us. We had lost our way; we had gone astray as lost sheep; how great Thy love to come in search of us. To teach us the way to heaven, Thou hast deigned to come down from heaven, and then tread with us the road which leads to it....There is but one thing which makes us sad; our preparation is not completed. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind. We desire to obey the voice of Thy Precursor, and make plain those rugged paths, which would prevent Thy coming into our hearts, O divine Infant! Give us to be baptized in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptizing us in the Holy Ghost and love.” Gueranger, p. 235-6

Christmas Schedule

Christmas Eve, Tuesday ,
24th December 2013:
10: 45 P. M. Matins
11: 15 P. M. Christmas Carols
12:00 A. M. Midnight Mass: Missa Cantata (EF)
(After Mass there will be refreshments and good cheer in the friary and repository. All are invited to share the great joy of the Birthday of Jesus Christ.)

Christmas Day, Wednesday,
25th December 2011
10:00 A. M. Missa Cantata (EF)

New Year’s Eve, Tuesday,
31 December 2013:

7:30 A. M. Holy Mass (Extraordinary Form). After Mass, there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (all day) in reparation for our sins and the sins of the world.
11:15 PM Matins and Benediction
12:00 A. M. Te Deum (No Mass at Midnight)
(Refreshments in the friary after the Te Deum; all are invited to share the Peace of Christ for the New Year of 2012)

Octave Day of the Nativity,
Wednesday, 1 January 2014
10:00 A. M. Missa Cantata (EF)

Christmas Novena: Christmas Novena of Masses from Christmas Day 25th December 2013 to 2 January 2014 This novena will be for all of the benefactors, friends and relatives of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. Thank you for all of your kind donations of alms and providence for us here in Lanherne.

Christmas Decorations

Special thanks to Fra Leonard Joseph Mary, FI for his decorations of the Christmas stable, crib and the altar with its many lights. Franciscans have always followed the example of Our Holy Father St. Francis of Assisi who began the practice of the Christmas stable and crib at Greccio in Italy in the early part of the 13th Century. So too, many people have come to our chapel to see our depiction of the First Christmas day. Fra Leonard has reminded us, by his beautiful stable, crib, and statues and altar lights, how important Christmas is to all of us. It is the night on which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary out of love for all men. Let us give glory to God and love for our fellow man as we recall the words of the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men of good will.” Lk. 2:14


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent 15th December 2013

Third Sunday of Advent
15 December 2013 
“Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice...The Lord is nigh...” Phil. 4:4-5

Today, the Church is filled with joy as the Lord is very close. It is almost the time of His coming on Christmas Day. The Church calls this Sunday “Gaudete Sunday” after the first word of today’s Introit, “Gaudete....” “Rejoice in the Lord always....” Today is also honoured with blessed exceptions to the austerity of Advent: the organ is played at the Mass and the vestments are rose-coloured instead of the penitential purple. St. Paul sounds the theme for today’s liturgy with his lyrical passage from the Epistle to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice.... the Lord is nigh.” Phil. 4:4-5. The tone of the language of the Church from now until Christmas is one of gladness: the Church begins her nocturnes for the office with the words, “The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.” Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year Vol. I, p. 204 comments: “Who can be near so burning a fire, and yet be cold? Do we not feel that he is coming to us despite all obstacles? He will let nothing be a barrier between Himself and us, neither His own infinite high majesty, nor our exceeding lowliness, nor our many sins.” The Church also gives us in the Gospel from St. John (1:19-28) the necessary attitudes in order to prepare Jesus’ coming. St. John the Baptist tells a delegation from Jerusalem who ask him who he is: “He said, ‘I am the voice of one that cries in the desert: Make smooth the way of the Lord,’ as the Prophet Isaiah said.” Jn. 1:23 We too must cry out that the Lord is nigh. We must also make sure His path is smooth without any evidence of sin and vice because the Lord is holy and we, like St. John the Baptist, are not fit to loose His sandals: “In the midst of you stands One whom ye know not, Who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not fit to loose.” Jn. 1:26-27

Joy and Gladness

In today’s Epistle to the Philippians( Phil. 4:4-7) St. Paul is filled with joy and gladness. Although he is in prison in Rome, the epistle is filled with love, peace and joy. Like St. Paul, despite all the troubles which evil men can give us, we need to treat them all with kindness: “Let your kindliness become known to all. The Lord is nigh.” Phil. 4:5. What in this world can trouble us when the Lord is with us. ---“The Lord is nigh!” St. Paul exhorts us not to be anxious as we can trust in the Lord when we make our wishes known to Him in thanksgiving: “In nothing be anxious, but in all your prayer and supplications make known your wishes with thanksgiving to God.” Phil 4:6 Msgr. Patrick Boylan comments on souls who are thankful: “The Christian who is ready to thank God for everything that His Providence may send, will not be disturbed in soul or suffer any lessening of peace through the malice of and buffeting of the world.” (The Sunday Epistles and Gospels, p. 23) With prayer for all his needs, the faithful Christian gains confidence and is given the peace of God that comes with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace, joy, kindness and patience. These are the blessings which will be given to those who “Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice...The Lord is nigh...” Phil. 4:4-5

“‘I am the voice of one that cries in the desert: Make smooth the way of the Lord,’ as the Prophet Isaiah said.” Jn. 1:23

Again, as we saw in last week’s gospel, St. John holds the key to understanding the mystery of Christ’s Coming. John is only the voice who cries out to the people to prepare the way for the Messiah. He preaches a baptism of repentance for sins for there can be no obstacles in the path of the Holy One of God: “Make smooth the way of the Lord.” Jn. 1:23 John baptizes only with water to prepare the souls for the Messiah. He is the lone voice that cries for repentance. Msgr. Boylan comments on this passage: “The Baptist is a voice that orders the way of the Messiah to be made ready: his baptism is concerned with the preparation of that way. It is only in a penitential spirit that the Messiah can be received—and to develop that spirit in the Jews the preaching and the baptism of the Baptist are directed. The Pharisees are lacking in that spirit and so they fail to recognize the One Who ‘stands up’ already ‘in their midst.’” (Boylan, p. 29)

“I am not the Christ.” Jn. 1:20

How much we should admire St. John the Baptist for his humility and truth! He does not pretend to be someone special. He says very definitely, “I am not the Christ.” Jn. 1:20 Later, he admonishes the Jewish leaders that the Christ is in their midst and that he (St. John) is not even worthy to loosen his sandals: “In the midst of you stands One whom ye know not, Who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not fit to loose.” Jn. 1:26-27 As John baptizes only with water, it is implied that the Messiah, the Holy One of God, will baptize with spirit and power. St. Luke tells us that St. John warns these Jewish leaders: “....He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Lk. 3:16 If we are going to recognize Christ on Christmas Day, then we need to know that we are sinners in need of repentance before the all-holy Christ Child who comes only to give us His peace and love and save us for His eternal kingdom. “Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth among men of good will.” Lk. 2:14

Prayer for “Gaudete Sunday”

As we prepare with joy for the Coming of Christ on Christmas Day, let us be like St. John the Baptist and prepare the way for the Lord by removing from our lives all that would prevent Jesus from coming to us by saying this prayer: “My God and my Saviour, I believe in You, I trust in You. I seek for You, yet I know that You are near me, and in me: near me, hidden under the Eucharistic veil; in me, by grace. O Lord, make me know You! Do not permit it to happen to me as to the Jews: You were living in the midst of them and they knew You not. Grant that my soul may always have a lively faith; increase my faith, for faith is the light by which I can know You on earth. You are within me, Lord, I know it, I believe it, even if I cannot feel You. But if you wish, You can illumine my soul with Your light and make me know your divine mysterious presence.” Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p. 46 Let us too pour out our hearts to the Infant Saviour this Christmas. Let us ask Our Lady, the Immaculate, to teach us the secrets that she had in her heart as she adored her Infant Son and God on the first Christmas day. Let us pray the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary with Our Lady and ask her to help us to repent of our sins so that we will be filled with the peace that is given to men and women of “good will.”

“The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part VII by St. Leonard of Port Maurice

One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask, "Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?" And, not waiting for an answer, he added, "Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred." What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it. That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says, "Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved." So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God, "Just Father, the world has not known Thee," said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say "Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father." He says "just Father," so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears? King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. Dominic? One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed, "Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!" Let me repeat with Jeremiah, "Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people."

Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward hell? For mercy's sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable. (To be continued)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception

Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te. Vestimentum tuum candidum quasi nix, et facies tua sicut sol. Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te. Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri. Tota pulchra es, Maria. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Sunday 8 December 2013

“Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!” Canticle iv, 7

Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life Vol. 1 comments: “The happy Mother of the Messias was to be born before the Messias Himself; and this is the day of the Conception of Mary. The earth already possesses a first pledge of the divine mercy; the Son of Man is near at hand. Two true Israelites, Joachim and Anne, noble branches of the family of David, find their union, after a long barrenness, made fruitful by divine omnipotence. Glory be to God, who has been mindful of His promises, and who deigns to announce from the high heaven, the end of the deluge of iniquity, by sending upon earth the sweet white dove that bears tidings of peace. “The feast of the blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception is the most solemn of all those which the Church celebrates during the holy time of Advent; …The intention of the Church, in this feast, is not only to celebrate the anniversary of the happy moment in which began, in the womb of the pious Anne, the life of the ever-glorious Virgin Mary; but also to honour the sublime privilege, by which Mary was preserved from the original stain, which, by a sovereign and universal decree, is contracted by all the children of Adam the very moment they are conceived in their mother’s womb. The faith of the Catholic Church on the subject of the Conception of Mary is this: that at the very instant when God united the soul of Mary, which He had created, to the body which it was to animate, this ever-blessed soul did not only not contract the stain, which at that same instant defiles every human soul, but was filled with an immeasurable grace which rendered her, from that moment, the mirror of the sanctity of God Himself, as far as this is possible to a creature. The Church with her infallible authority, declared by the lips of Pius IX, that this article of her faith had been revealed by God Himself. The Definition was received with enthusiasm by the whole of Christendom, and the eighth of December of the year 1854 was thus made one of the most memorable days of the Church’s history. …Nothing defiled could be permitted to enter, even for an instant of time, into the creature that was thus predestined to contract such close relation with the adorable Trinity; not a speck could be permitted to tarnish Mary that perfect purity which the infinitely holy God requires even in those who are one day to be admitted to enjoy the sight His divine majesty in heaven; in a word, as the great Doctor St. Anselm says, ‘it was just that this holy Virgin should be adorned with the greatest purity which can be conceived after that of God Himself, since God the Father was to give to her, as her Child, that only-begotten son, whom he loved as Himself, as being begotten to Him from His own bosom; and this in such a manner, that the selfsame Son of God was, by nature, the Son of God the Father and this blessed Virgin. This same Son chose her to be substantially His Mother; and the Holy Ghost willed that in her womb He would operate the conception and birth for Him from whom He Himself had proceeded.’” (De conceptu virginali cap. Xvii) Gueranger, p. 377-9

‘Thou are all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!’ Canticle. iv, 7

Dom Gueranger comments on Our Lady’s purity as foreshowed in the Old Testament. “And how can we do less that admire and love the incomparable purity of Mary in her Immaculate Conception, when we hear even God, who thus prepared her to become His Mother, saying to her, in the divine Canticle, these words of complacent love: ‘Thou are all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee!’ (Cant. iv, 7) It is the God of all holiness that here speaks; that eye, which see all things, finds not a vestige, not a shadow of sin; therefore does He delight in her, and admire in her that of His own condescending munificence.” Gueranger, p. 381

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning.” Prov. 8: 22

Dom Gueranger tells how today’s Epistle (Proverbs 8:22-35 relates to God’s eternal decree of Jesus being born of Mary: “The apostle teaches us that Jesus, our Emmanuel is the firstborn of every creature. (cf. Col. 1: 15) These mysterious words signify not only that He is, as God, eternally begotten of the Father; but also that the divine Word is, as Man, anterior to all created beings. Yet how is this? The world had been created, and the human race had dwelt on this earth full four thousand years, before the Son of God, took to Himself the nature of man. It is not in the order of time, but in the eternal intention of God, that the Man-God preceded every creature. The eternal Father decreed first to give to His eternal Son a created nature, namely, the nature of man; and, in consequence of this decree to create all beings, whether spiritual or material, as a kingdom for this Man-God. This explains to us how it is, that the divine Wisdom, the Son of God, in this passage of the sacred Scripture which forms the Epistle (Proverbs 8:22-35) of this feast, proclaims His having existed before all the creatures of the universe. As God, He was begotten from all eternity in the bosom of the Father; as Man, He was in the mind of God, the type of all creatures, before those creatures were made. But the Son of God could not be of our race, as the divine will decreed He should be, unless He were born in time, and born of a Mother as other men; and therefore she that was to be His Mother was eternally present to the thought of God, as the means whereby the Word would assume the human nature. The Son and the Mother are therefore united in the plan of the Incarnation; Mary therefore, existed, as did Jesus, in the divine decree, before creation began. This is the reason of the Church’s having, from the earliest days of Christianity, interpreted this sublime passage of the sacred volume of Jesus and Mary unitedly, and ordering it and analogous passages of the Scriptures to be read in the assembly of the faithful on the solemnities or feast of the Mother of God. But if Mary be this prominent in the divine and eternal plan; if, in the sense in which these mysterious texts are understood by the Church, she was, with Jesus, before every creature; could God permit her to be subjected to the original sin, which was to fall on all the children of Adam like her divine Son Himself, and to be born at the time fixed; but that torrent, which sweeps all mankind along, shall be turned away from her by God’s grace; it shall not come near to her; and she shall transmit to her Son, who is also the Son of God, the human nature in its original perfection, created, as the apostle says, in holiness and justice.” (cf. Eph. iv, 24) Gueranger, p. 400-1

“Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” Lk 1:28

In today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-28) Don Gueranger brings out the importance of Angel Gabriel’s greeting. “The Archangel (Gabriel) proclaims her full of grace. What means this, but that the second woman (Mary) possesses in her that element of which sin had deprived the first (Eve)? And observe, he does not say merely that divine grace works in her, but that she is full of it. ‘She is not merely in grace as others are, ’Saint Peter Chrysologus told us in his feast, ‘but she is filled with it.’ Everything in her is resplendent with heavenly purity, and sin has never cast its shadow on her beauty. To appreciate the full import of Gabriel’s expression, we must consider what is the force of the words, in the language which the sacred the historian used. Grammarians tell us that the single word which he employs is much more comprehensive than our expression ‘full of grace.’ It implies not only the present time, but the past as well, an incorporation of grace from the very commencement, the full and complete affirmation of grace, the total permanence of grace. Our translation has unavoidably weakened the term. “The better to feel the full force of our translation, let us compare this with an analogous text from the Gospel of St. John. This evangelist, speaking of the Humanity of the Incarnate Word, expresses all by saying that Jesus is full of grace and truth. (cf. Jn. I:14) Now, would this fullness have been real, had sin ever been there, instead of grace, even for a single instant? Could we call him full of grace, who had once stood in need of being cleansed? Undoubtedly, we must ever respectfully bear in mind the distance between the Humanity of the Incarnate Word and the person of Mary, from whose womb the Son of God assumed that Humanity; but the sacred text obliges us to confess, that the fullness of grace was, proportionately, in both Jesus and Mary.
“Gabriel goes on still enumerating the supernatural riches of Mary. He says to her: ‘The Lord is with thee.’ What means this? It means that even before Mary had conceived our Lord in her chaste womb, she already possessed Him in her soul. But would the words be true, if that union with Him had once not been, and had begun only when disunion Him by sin had been removed? The solemn occasion, on which the angel used this language, forbids us to think that he conveyed by it any other idea, by than that she had always had the Lord with her. We feel allusions to a contrast between the first and second Eve; the first lost the God who had once been with her; the second (Eve-Mary) had like the first, received our Lord into her from the first moment of her existence, and never lost Him, but continued from first to last and forever to have him with her…. ‘Blessed are thou among women.’ For four thousand years, every woman has been under the curse of God, and has brought forth her children in suffering and sorrow: but here is the one among women, that has been ever blessed of God, that has ever been the enemy of the serpent, and that shall bring forth the fruit of her womb without travail. “The Immaculate Conception of Mary is therefore declared in the Archangel’s salutation…” Gueranger, p. 403-5

Bl. John Duns Scotus, the Subtle Doctor

It was Franciscan Bl. John Duns Scotus using the Franciscan Thesis (Christ the first-born of all creatures) who proposed the Immaculate Conception as the “perfect fruit, of a perfect redemption, by a perfect redeemer.” Our Lady would have to be sinless; her redemption would be preservative, in light of the foreseen merits of her Son’s redemption, as she never contracted any sin. She would also have to be predestined to be Mother of God (Divine Maternity) in the same divine decree for Incarnation. She would also have to be free from any sins if she were to assist her Son as Co-Redemptrix. Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception and Co-Redemptrix, is “the perfect fruit, of a perfect redemption, by a perfect redeemer.” First, there was the joint predestination of Christ and Mary which was willed by the Father from all eternity. Second, there was the perfect redemption with Mary’s preservative redemption (all other redemptions were liberative after contacting original sin). Finally, there was Mary’s Divine Maternity when she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. As the New Eve, Our Lady would be the object of all complacence by the Holy Trinity. No wonder, Bl. Pius IX would tell us in bull, for the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854, Ineffabilis Deus that Our Lady’s “participation in the Divine Life exceeds that of all angels and saints (together).”

The Divine Maternity and Immaculate Conception

Blessed Pius IX in his solemn definition, Ineffabilis Deus, says of the Immaculate Conception: “The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin…. God so loved her with a unique predilection that He filled her with the greatest abundance of his celestial gifts and her participation in the Divine Life exceeds that of all angels and saints together. Her life reflects so great a fullness of innocence and sanctity that a more exalted creature cannot be conceived of except by the creator Himself.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday of Advent 1st December 2013

First Sunday of Advent:
1 December 2013


“And this do, understanding the time, for it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe.” Rom. 13:11 Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 1: Advent comments: “If ...we would penetrate into the profound mystery which occupies the mind of the Church during this season, we find that this mystery of the coming, or Advent, of Jesus is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the one same Son of God that is coming; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways. ‘In the first coming,’ says St. Bernard, ‘He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.’ This, then, is the mystery of Advent. Let us now listen to the explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon de Adventu: ‘There are three comings of our Lord; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at judgement. The first was at midnight, according to those words of the Gospel: ‘At midnight there was a cry made, ‘Lo the Bridegroom cometh!’ Mt. 25:6 But this first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come unto us and will take up His abode with us (cf. Jn.14:23). So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God! They are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but when He cometh or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death and nothing less sure than the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security says the apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. So that the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love; the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in his second, He renders us just by His grace; in the His third, He will judge all things with justice. In His first, a lamb; in his last a lion; in the one in between the two, the tenderest of friends.’” Gueranger, p. 28-9

The Coming of the Messiah

The prophet Isaiah tells of the coming peace which the Messiah will bring to not only the Jews but to the whole world. “It will be a great time for all peoples: ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the House of God of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in his paths.’” Is 2:3 Today’s Gradual, Ps. 24:3-4 uses veiled language to tell us the times in which the Messiah will come: “All they that wait on Thee shall not be confounded, O Lord. Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me: and teach me Thy paths.” All those who trust in the promises of God about the coming Messiah will not be confounded especially since they pray that God will teach them His ways and His paths. All the world is in readiness. This is what St. Paul tells the Romans in today’s Epistle (Rom. 13:11-14).

The Middle Coming of the Spirit of God

In the Epistle to the Romans, St Paul spells out for us what we must do to live in the peace of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who will come into our lives through His grace by the Holy Spirit. This second (or Middle Coming) is what Peter of Blois says: “They are raised out of themselves by the desire for heavenly things.” St. Paul reminds us that now is the time to repent and think of the heavenly things of the light: “The night is far advanced: the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.” Rom. 13:12. We all need to realize that time goes by very fast and that we should not remain in the darkness of sin. We need to “Put on the armour of light” which is to say, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 13:12-14. We need to give up sin which keeps us in darkness: “Let us walk becomingly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy.” Rom. 13:13 Sin is the only real evil in the world and when man sins, he becomes unhappy! He is in great darkness! Sin never makes us happy! Those who sin become “slaves of sin.” Jesus told us this when He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” Jn. 8:34 This is why St. Paul tells us that true happiness and true freedom can only be achieved by living a virtuous life by putting on Jesus Christ and avoiding sin: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh take no thought for its lusts.” Rom. 13:14 We need to put on Jesus’ holiness. The Church reminds us today’s Alleluia verse that Jesus will help us because He has come to save us: “Show, O Lord, Thy mercy; and grant us Thy salvation.”

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.” Lk. 21: 27

The final advent or Third Coming (according to Peter of Blois) in this Advent Season is the final redemption of the world with the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the world. The Gospel (Luke 21:23-33) today takes on apocalyptical overtones with Jesus’ prophecy of the end of the world: “And there will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations bewildered by the roaring of the sea and waves; men fainting for fear and expectation of the things that are coming to the world; for the powers of heaven will be shaken.” Lk. 21:25-6 It is very clear to see how the whole world, the sun, the moon, the stars and the sea will reveal a time when men will be faint with fear at the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, will not come as the meek and humble babe as He did the first time in Bethlehem. He will come as an all-powerful and just judge. The whole universe will testify to His power: “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” (Mt. 24:29) And Jesus will come on clouds and in glory surrounded by a multitude of angels: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming upon a cloud with great power and majesty.” Lk. 21:27 In order to be ready for Jesus’ coming, we must, as St. Paul says in today’s epistle, be ready: “Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, put on the armour of light.” Rom. 12:11-12

St. Teresa’s Advent Prayer for Jesus

Let us pray with St. Teresa of Avila: “O my God, Word of the Father, Word made flesh for love of us, You assumed a mortal body in order to suffer and be immolated for us. I wish to prepare for Your coming with the burning desires of the prophets and the just who in the Old Testament sighed after You, the one Saviour and Redeemer. ‘O Lord, send Him whom You are going to send... As you have promised, come and deliver us!’ I want to keep Advent in my soul, that is, a continual longing and waiting for this great Mystery wherein You, O Word became flesh to show me the abyss of your redeeming sanctifying mercy....Come, O Lord, come! I, too wish to run to You with love, but alas! My love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You... What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offenses!” (The Way, 40)

First Friday, December 6, 2013
Now is a good time to continue (or begin) the devotion to the “Nine First Fridays” of the Month. The Sacred Heart of Jesus promised to St. Margaret Mary: "I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment." There is no better way of honouring the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus than in receiving Holy Communion on the “Nine First Fridays.”.

Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix(MIM)
7 December 2013

On the First Saturday of every month, we will have our monthly formation program for those who interested in affiliating themselves with the Marian Spirituality of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The day begins at 9:30 AM and goes until 4 PM and includes two conferences, Holy Mass, adoration and the rosary. (see flyer on door) This spirituality is Marian and Franciscan and includes the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Maximilian Kolbe and other Franciscan saints. “The fundamental aim of the MIM is the fulfilment of God’s plan for the salvation and sanctification of all souls through the maternal mediation of the Immaculate to the supreme glory of the Most Holy Trinity.” (Article 2: Statute)
It is most important at this time in our world to come together and learn about Our Lady and her messages especially Fatima. Pope John Paul II: On November 9, 1976 said in the USA as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla: “We are now standing in face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that the wide circles of American society or the wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the Anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-gospel.” We hope that all of you will consider joining the MIM and work for your own sanctification and the sanctification of so many souls who are in danger of being lost for all eternity in hell as Our Lady said at Fatima.

The Five First Saturdays
Next Saturday, 7 December is the First Saturday of November. Our Lady told Sr. Lucia in 1925 “…I promise to assist at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me." If only we would do what Our Lady asks, we would be assured of eternal salvation. Our Lady promises us all the graces necessary for our salvation if we keep The Five First Saturdays!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

St Cuthbert Mayne Priest and Martyr 29th November

A brief history of St. Cuthbert Mayne
Priest and Martyr
Feast day 29th November

St. Cuthbert Mayne was born on March 20th, 1544 (feast of St. Cuthbert) in the parish of Shirwell, in North Devon. The eldest of three brothers, Edward and James, Cuthbert was both of humble origins and of humble nature. His father, William Mayne, seems to have been a simple countryman probably in the service of the Chichester family. His uncle was a Protestant minister who singled out Cuthbert to follow in his footsteps, paying for his education. In the year 1561, at the age of 17, Cuthbert became an Anglican rector of the village of Huntshaw and he admitted with great sorrow later that at this time, he knew neither what Ministry nor Religion meant. St. Cuthbert was then sent by his uncle to study at Oxford, as it was not uncommon in those days to first be given a living and then to study the theology afterwards! At Oxford he became the Chaplain to St. John’s College. Here there was a good deal of sympathy for the Catholic religion and many of its members rejected the new doctrines and left Oxford. St. Cuthbert was mild of nature and at Oxford he was loved both by the Protestants and by the Catholics who advised him of the error in which he was living. They persuaded him that the new doctrine was heretical and so he eventually became a Catholic. Two friends in particular who had a great influence on Cuthbert Mayne at Oxford were Gregory Martin and Edmund Campion. The unjust laws put in force against the Catholic priesthood after the Reformation in England, prohibited the saying of the Mass and the exercise of any religious function and even forbade the education of young candidates for the priesthood. Therefore seminaries for the training of English secular priests were established in different countries. Douai College, in France, was established by Cardinal Allen in the year 1562 and it became the seed-bed of many noble and courageous English martyrs who died to keep the Catholic Faith alive in the hearts and minds of their own people. Between 30 and 40 priests were sent back to England from Douai each year to minister to the people and sustain the Faith in this troubled land. Letters to Cuthbert from his Catholic friends at Douai, full of their new found spiritual joy and begging him to join them (one of them being the above-mentioned St. Edmund Campion who also received the crown of martyrdom, four years after St. Cuthbert) fell into the hands of the Bishop of London, and so an order was given for Cuthbert’s arrest. However, when those wishing to arrest him arrived at Oxford, he had returned to Cornwall, and being informed of his imminent arrest, he knew he had to make a definite decision. Cuthbert decided to leave immediately for Douai in order to train for the priesthood. He took the ship from Cornwall to France and arrived at Douai at the beginning of 1573, where he was reunited with his Oxford friends. Cuthbert made rapid progress in his theological studies, outstripping his contemporaries both in wisdom and in gentleness. He was ordained priest on February 7th 1575. No sooner was this accomplished than he set sail for England, together with Fr. John Paine (who in 1582 was hanged, drawn and quartered at Chelmsford), eager to avail himself of his pastoral office for the conversion of his countrymen and to do all he could to regain ‘Our Lady’s Dowry’s to the Catholic Church. The priests would have been provided with the bare necessities to carry out their priestly duties – a crucifix, the minimum of vestments, and a stole woven with all the liturgical colours so that it could be worn for every occasion. One priest called this stole ‘Joseph’s coat’ as it was of many colours and often steeped in blood! St. Cuthbert arrived in Cornwall and got in touch with members of the Arundell family of Lanherne. It was probably Sir John Arundell who sent Cuthbert to his nephew, Francis Tregian, one of the richest landowners in Cornwall. Francis had inherited Golden Manor from his father who had married Katherine Arundell. Here at Golden, under cover of being the steward of Francis Tregian, St. Cuthbert ministered to the needs of the poor Catholics in the district, often also saying Mass at Lanherne, where he sometimes spent up to two weeks at a time.
The high sheriff of Cornwall at this time was Richard Grenville, who was a notorious hater of the Catholic Faith. It was he who (together with ten justices of the peace and 100 armed men) demanded to search Golden Manor. St. Cuthbert was captured in this house in 1577 and brought to Launceston, where he was imprisoned and chained in a dark and terrible dungeon for about three months. It is said that his cell was the darkest and foulest of the whole prison. St. Cuthbert was tried and condemned solely and purely because he upheld the Church of his Fathers, the Church of the Apostles, emanating from the chair of St. Peter. He was indicted for having a copy of the Jubilee Bull of 1575 and of publishing the same, for upholding the ecclesiastical authority of the Holy Father, for bringing into the country an Agnus Dei (this was the Lamb of God sealed upon a piece of wax from the Paschal candle blessed by the Pope), and for having celebrated the Holy mass. Not one single political matter was mentioned during his trial, thus making of St. Cuthbert, in every sense, a true martyr for the Faith and for the Faith alone. The reality of the situation was that St. Cuthbert was judged to be guilty of having possession of a small piece of wax which the Holy Father had blessed, of carrying a printed copy of the Holy Father’s autograph and of saying his prayers!
His trial was wrongly and informally conducted. The jury were threatened with punishment if they did not give a verdict of guilty. The ‘prisoner’ was therefore found guilty on all counts and sentenced to the horrible death of being hanged, drawn and quartered. On hearing the death sentence St. Cuthbert Mayne, with a cheerful countenance and lifting his eyes and hands to Heaven answered “Deo Gratias.” However he still had some months to wait until his final reward, as there was a disagreement between the judges. In the meantime Richard Grenville went to Queen Elizabeth and as a reward for his part in the capture of Cuthbert Mayne, was awarded a knighthood.
St. Cuthbert never lost heart and spent his long wait in encouraging his fellow prisoners as much as he could. He often fell on his knees to say his prayers, which lasted far into the night. Once just after midnight when it was unusually dark, St. Cuthbert was meditating and praying. Suddenly a bright light shone around him lighting up the terrible wall of the dungeon. It awakened the other prisoners who wondered where the light was coming from. St. Cuthbert gently told them to go back to sleep as it did not concern them. In reality it was nothing less than a miraculous consolation which had been given to the Saint in his dismal dungeon. One morning a man came to the prisoner and told him that he would be executed within three days. St. Cuthbert would have liked to reward this man very much for the great news which he had brought to him.
The day before his martyrdom, St. Cuthbert was taken from his prison and brought before the justices of the county. He was then questioned from morning until late at night to break him down and in order to force him to make some admission as to his guilt. Although he had answered all their arguments, quoting freely from the Holy Bible, they spread rumours that he had utterly failed in proving any of his statements and that he knew hardly a word of Scripture. They continued to offer him his life if he would renounce his religion and swear on the Bible that the Queen was supreme head of the Church in England. He solemnly affirmed that “the queen neither ever was, nor is, nor ever shall be the head of the Church in England.” The next day, 29th November 1577, the sentence was carried out, and Cuthbert Mayne died at the age of thirty-three years, a martyr for the Faith: his offence – that of being a Catholic priest in England! He was brought out to the waiting crowd, calm and serene. He was tied to a hurdle, which was attached to a horse. A justice of the peace advised the executioner to let his head hang down in such a way that it would hit against the cobbles of the street. Cuthbert, speaking for the first time also asked if he might be given this favour, which would add to the glory of his martyrdom. However some ministers came forward to forbid this brutal deed. He was dragged for about a quarter of a mile to where the gibbet awaited him. It was higher than usual for he was considered to be a great criminal. He was untied from the hurdle and for a few moments he knelt down to pray. He was told to climb backwards up the ladder leading to the platform, like a criminal, in order to increase his humiliation. This platform would act as his last pulpit and from there he looked upon the faces of the vast congregation. He then gave his last homily with a voice clear and free from all trace of fear. He told them that he died because the law had judged him guilty of death. For himself he knew he was innocent of any crime before the law, as God would presently judge him. Then the justices of the law made a final angry attempt to make him incriminate Francis Tregian and Sir John Arundell, asking if they knew of the things for which he was to die. He answered that those things were known to him alone and that the only thing he knew of these men was that they were godly gentlemen. He went on to remind all of the Catholic Faith for which he died and their own responsibility to Christ for what had been done to His Church. Then the rope was put around his neck and the martyr glancing upwards and striking his breast cried out: “In manus tuas, Domine… He did not have time to finish “commendo spiritum meum” because immediately the executioner swung away the ladder. He then slashed at the rope with such violence, that St. Cuthbert fell from the high gibbet, striking his head on the platform so hard that his eyes were forced from their sockets. Lying on the ground, choking and barely alive, St. Cuthbert’s garments were torn away from his body by the executioner who with sharp knives began the work of dismembering and disembowelling the body and cutting in into four parts. The heart was torn out and held up for all to see and then thrown onto a fire. Tar and pitch were used to preserve the four parts of the body, which were distributed over the county, only one quarter being sent out of Cornwall to the native town of St. Cuthbert, Barnstaple, where it was spiked on to the bridge crossing the river Taw. Wadebridge had the honour of receiving the martyr’s head and this is the only relic, which to this day is still preserved. From Wadebridge it was removed by a member of the Arundell family and taken to Lanherne. This precious relic was then taken to another place so that it would not be discovered. In 1807, the crown of the skull was brought back to Lanherne by Richard Rawe, a descendant of Bridget Arundell, to be kept by the Carmelite Nuns as a most venerated relic of the martyr.
With regard to those instrumental in causing the martyr’s death, the executioner, after one month, became insane and Sir Richard Grenville was killed by the Spanish some years after.
The skull of St. Cuthbert was exposed for public veneration for the first time on 29th November 1889. It is affirmed that of all the people whom the martyr received into the Church as converts, not one relapsed into Protestantism or departed in any way from the true Faith. In 1952 the skull of Cuthbert Mayne was brought to London and was received with great honour in Westminster Cathedral where thousands knelt to kiss the reliquary containing it. It was also venerated in many other London Churches. St. Cuthbert was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII and canonised on 25th October 1970 together with the other 39 martyrs of England and Wales, by Pope Paul VI.
In August 2001 the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate became the new custodians of the most precious relic of St. Cuthbert Mayne.

Ave Maria!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Pentecost -24 November 2013

Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (From 24th and Last Sunday of Pentecost) 24 November 2013 "Come, ye blessed of My Father, Possess the kingdom prepared for you....” Mt. 35:40 In his book of meditations on the liturgy, Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalen, OCD. comments: “The Mass for today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year is a prayer of thanksgiving for the year that is ending and one of propriation for that which is about to begin; it is a reminder that the present life is fleeting, and an invitation to keep ourselves in readiness for the final step which will usher us into eternity....With the description of the end of the world and the coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead, the Gospel (Mt. 24:15-35) reminds us that just as the liturgical year comes to an end, so does the life of man on earth. Everything will have an end, and at the end of all, will come the majestic epilogue: "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven [the Cross]: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty." (Mt. 24:30) Fr. Gabriel, p. 1100-1 In today’s Epistle (Col. 1:9-14), St. Paul shows us how we can be assured of a place in the heavenly kingdom at the end of the world if we live according to God’s will: "We ... cease not to pray for you and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will ... that you may walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing; being fruitful in every good work,” Col. 1:9-10 Eternal Glory in Heaven Fr. Gabriel tells us about the importance of today’s Epistle for the attainment of eternal glory in heaven: “This is a beautiful synthesis of the task which the interior soul has endeavoured to accomplish during the whole year: to adapt and conform itself to God's holy will, to unite itself to it completely, and, being moved in all things by that divine will alone, to act in such a manner as to please Our Lord in everything. God be praised if, thanks to His help, we have succeeded in advancing some steps along the road which most surely leads to holiness. Making our own the sentiments of the Apostle, we should give thanks to “the Father who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light." (Col 1:12) The lot, the inheritance of the saints, of those who tend toward holiness, is union of love with God-- here below in faith, hereafter in glory. This heritage is ours because Jesus merited it for us by His Blood, and because in Jesus "we have redemption, the remission of sins" (Col. 1:14); thus, cleansed from sin and clothed in grace by His infinite merits, we also can ascend to that very lofty and blessed state of union with God.” Fr. Gabriel, p. 1100 The Fall of Jerusalem and the End of the World In today’s Gospel, Jesus foretells two of the most catastrophic events to happen to mankind. By juxtaposing the Fall of Jerusalem (70 AD) with the End of the World, Jesus warns us to be ready for what will befall our world. When Jesus prophesied “When, therefore, you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains.” Mt. 24:15-6 Cornelius A Lapide in his Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel comments on this scriptural text, especially in relation to Fall of Jerusalem: “Some understand by it an idol placed in the temple as God; others, the sins committed by priests in the temple; others, more correctly, the Roman armies which besieged Jerusalem, and which, shortly afterward, when it had been captured, fearfully wasted it, and made it desolate. It could also mean the profanation of the temple by the murders and other crimes which were perpetuated in it by the seditious killers and wicked Jews, who call themselves Zealots of the law and of liberty.” A Lapide, p. 423. No wonder Jesus prophesied as A Lapide points out: “For there shall be then great tribulation (Jerusalem and all Judea because of the divine vengeance as is clear from Lk. 21:33), such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be.” (Mt. 24:21) A Lapide, p. 427 Jerusalem’s Catastrophic Fate The Fall of Jerusalem was going to be the most catastrophic event to befall a nation in the entire history of the world. It is a reminder of the great price that needed to be paid for the deicide of Jesus Christ. It is also a foreshadowing of the greater events which will happen at the end of the world. Cornelius A Lapide says: “This most dreadful destruction of Jerusalem was an express type and prelude of the end of the world, just as Noe’s deluge, the burning of Sodom, and the drowning of Pharaoh and his entire army in the Red Sea....Christ, therefore, compares the destruction of the one nation of the Jews with that of any other nation whatsoever, but not the destruction of all nations, or the whole world. That this was the case, is plain from the seven books which Josephus compiled (de Bello Judaico). Thus he says expressly (lib. 6 cap.11) ‘to speak briefly, I am of opinion that no other city suffered calamities, nor in any other nation of which there is memory among men was the wickedness of seditious more ferocious... (lib 7, cap. 18) The number of those who perished surpasses that of any calamity, whether human or of divine origin; of whom some were killed outright, and some were carried off by the Romans.’ ....Hence Josephus (lib. 7 Belli c. 17) asserts that besides innumerable others slain in all parts of Judea, there fell in the siege of Jerusalem alone 1,100,000 souls, who died of famine, pestilence and the sword. ...The same writer says that 97,000 Jews were taken captive at that time..... ‘For these are the days of vengeance (i.e., for the death of Christ)... There will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.’ (Lk. 21:22) Josephus adds (lib. 7 Belli c. 16) that Titus (the Roman General) recognized this vengeance of God, and attributed the capture of Jerusalem, not to his own power, but to Him. For entering into the captured city, when he saw the height and solidity of the bulwarks and towers, he exclaimed, ‘It is evident that God has helped us to fight. It was God Himself who cast down the Jews from those fortifications. For what power of man, or what machines, would have been able to do so?’ The same Josephus (lib. 6 Belli cap. 14) adds, and Eusebius cites him (lib. 3 Hist. cap. 5) that ‘Titus went round, and saw the ditches full of corpses of the dead, he groaned aloud, and lifting up his hands to heaven, called God to witness that it was not his work.’” A Lapide, p. 424-8 “...the sun shall be darkened and moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and powers of heaven shall be moved.” Mt. 24:29 Cornelius A Lapide quotes the allegorical meaning of this passage from St. Augustine (epist. 80 at Hesychium): “The sun, that is, the Church, shall be darkened, because in those tremendous tribulations and temptations which shall be in the end of the world, many who had seemed as bright and as firm as the sun and the stars shall fall away from the Faith and a state of grace.” p. 441. Cornelius A Lapide gives a more literal and symbolic explanation of this passage: “...the sun will be darkened because God will withhold His concurrence and take away from it, not its light, but its power of illuminating and of scattering its rays; thus it shall come to pass that in the sun there will be light, but upon the earth nothing but darkness, as it happened during the passion of Christ, so as to manifest the indignity which He suffered, since the sun, the moon, the earth and rocks and all the elements seemed to mourn, indeed grow indignant....” A Lapide, p.441-2 “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn...” Mt. 24:30 Cornelius A Lapide quoting St. Augustine (serm. 130 de Tempore) tells us of the power of Christ’s Cross: “Hast thou considered how great is the virtue of the Sign of the Cross? The sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light; but the cross shall shine and shall obscure the heavenly luminaries. When the stars shall fall, it alone shall send forth radiance, that thou mayest learn how the cross is more luminous than the moon and more glorious than the sun, because illuminated by the brilliance of divine light, it shall surpass their splendour. For just as when a king enters into a city, his soldiers go before him, bearing upon their shoulders the royal arms and standards, and all the pomp of military array, to proclaim the monarch’s entry; so when the Lord descends from heaven, the angel hosts shall go before Him, bearing upon their lofty shoulders that sign which is the ensign of triumph, to announce to the inhabitants of earth the divine entrance of the heavenly King... But why will the cross appear then? That they might understand the mystery of iniquity (cf. II Thess. 2:7). ‘And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.’ (Mt. 24:30) That is, many of every tribe, that is, all the reprobate and the damned shall mourn, because they have neglected their salvation, which cost Christ so dearly that he was crucified. But the elect will rejoice and sing, because they will see that they have been saved and blessed by the cross. The distribution (of rewards), then, is to each according to his kind, and not to (predetermined) categories of individuals as logicians put it. S. Augustine (serm. 130 de Tempore) gives the cause of weeping, ... because they shall see their accuser, that is, the cross itself; and at the sight of this reprover they shall acknowledge their sin. Too late, and in vain shall they confess their impious blindness. And dost thou marvel that when Christ cometh He will bring His cross, since He will show His wounds also?” A Lapide, p. 446 “And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty.” Mt. 24:30b Cornelius A Lapide comments of the power of Jesus at this His Second Coming: “In Greek, ‘with great strength and glory’, Lk. 21:27 ‘with great power’. For as Christ as His first advent came into the world in great infirmity of the flesh, in poverty and contempt, so He hath thereby merited to come in His second advent with great strength, glory and majesty. His might and strength shall appear, in that at His command all the dead shall rise in a moment; in that all men, angels, and devils shall behold and worship Him as their God, their Lord, and their Judge; in that He shall pass sentence upon all according to their merits, and shall execute His sentence, so that none shall dare to contradict or resist it. His majesty shall appear in the infinite splendour of His body, in the multitude and brightness of all the angels accompanying Him, and in His garments of radiant clouds, also in the trumpets, thunder, lightning, earthquakes, etc., that shall precede Him....” A Lapide, p. 448 Confidence in God’s Love St. Teresa of Avila gives us a confidence that, if we have loved God in this world we should have no fear of death nor God’s judgment: "Deign, O Lord, to grant me the experience of true love before You take me from this life, for it will be a great thing at the hour of my death to realize that I shall be judged by One whom I have loved above all things. I shall be able to meet You with security, certain that I shall not be going into a foreign land, but into my own country, for it belongs to the One whom I have loved so truly and who has loved me in return. How sweet will be the death of that soul who has done penance for all its sins and does not have to go to purgatory! It may be that it will begin to enjoy glory even in this world, and will know no fear, but only peace!" St. Jose Maria Escriva, The Way, 40 “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part VIII by St. Leonard of Port Maurice The Goodness of God Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation! In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of saying that if only one man were going to be damned, he would do all he could to make sure he was not that man. So what must we do, we who know that the greater number is going to be damned, and not only out of all Catholics? What must we do? Take the resolution to belong to the little number of those who are saved. You say: If Christ wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Silence, rash tongue! God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be. Therefore, I will now strive to defend the goodness of my God and acquit it of all blame: that will be the subject of the second point. Before going on, let us gather on one side all the books and all the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and on the other side the books and heresies of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, and let us burn them. Some destroy grace, others freedom, and all are filled with errors; so let us cast them into the fire. All the damned bear upon their brow the oracle of the Prophet Osee, "Thy damnation comes from thee," so that they may understand that whoever is damned, is damned by his own malice and because he wants to be damned. First let us take these two undeniable truths as a basis: "God wants all men to be saved," "All are in need of the grace of God." Now, if I show you that God wants to save all men, and that for this purpose He gives all of them His grace and all the other necessary means of obtaining that sublime end, you will be obliged to agree that whoever is damned must impute it to his own malice, and that if the greater number of Christians are damned, it is because they want to be. "Thy damnation comes from thee; thy help is only in Me."

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved by St. Leonard of Port Maurice

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved by St. Leonard of Port Maurice Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was a most holy Franciscan friar who lived at the monastery of Saint Bonaventure in Rome. He was one of the greatest missioners in the history of the Church. He used to preach to thousands in the open square of every city and town where the churches could not hold his listeners. So brilliant and holy was his eloquence that once when he gave a two weeks' mission in Rome, the Pope and College of Cardinals came to hear him. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were his crusades. He was in no small way responsible for the definition of the Immaculate Conception made a little more than a hundred years after his death. He also gave us the Divine Praises, which are said at the end of Benediction. But Saint Leonard's most famous work was his devotion to the Stations of the Cross. He died a most holy death in his seventy-fifth year, after twenty-four years of uninterrupted preaching. One of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice's most famous sermons was "The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved." It was the one he relied on for the conversion of great sinners. This sermon, like his other writings, was submitted to canonical examination during the process of canonization. In it he reviews the various states of life of Christians and concludes with the little number of those who are saved, in relation to the totality of men. The reader who meditates on this remarkable text will grasp the soundness of its argumentation, which has earned it the approbation of the Church. Here is the great missionary's vibrant and moving sermon. Introduction Thanks be to God, the number of the Redeemer's disciples is not so small that the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees is able to triumph over them. Although they strove to calumniate innocence and to deceive the crowd with their treacherous sophistries by discrediting the doctrine and character of Our Lord, finding spots even in the sun, many still recognized Him as the true Messiah, and, unafraid of either chastisements or threats, openly joined His cause. Did all those who followed Christ follow Him even unto glory? Oh, this is where I revere the profound mystery and silently adore the abysses of the divine decrees, rather than rashly deciding on such a great point! The subject I will be treating today is a very grave one; it has caused even the pillars of the Church to tremble, filled the greatest Saints with terror and populated the deserts with anchorites. The point of this instruction is to decide whether the number of Christians who are saved is greater or less than the number of Christians who are damned; it will, I hope, produce in you a salutary fear of the judgments of God. Brothers, because of the love I have for you, I wish I were able to reassure you with the prospect of eternal happiness by saying to each of you: You are certain to go to paradise; the greater number of Christians is saved, so you also will be saved. But how can I give you this sweet assurance if you revolt against God's decrees as though you were your own worst enemies? I observe in God a sincere desire to save you, but I find in you a decided inclination to be damned. So what will I be doing today if I speak clearly? I will be displeasing to you. But if I do not speak, I will be displeasing to God. Therefore, I will divide this subject into two points. In the first one, to fill you with dread, I will let the theologians and Fathers of the Church decide on the matter and declare that the greater number of Christian adults are damned; and, in silent adoration of that terrible mystery, I will keep my own sentiments to myself. In the second point I will attempt to defend the goodness of God versus the godless, by proving to you that those who are damned are damned by their own malice, because they wanted to be damned. So then, here are two very important truths. If the first truth frightens you, do not hold it against me, as though I wanted to make the road of heaven narrower for you, for I want to be neutral in this matter; rather, hold it against the theologians and Fathers of the Church who will engrave this truth in your heart by the force of reason. If you are disillusioned by the second truth, give thanks to God over it, for He wants only one thing: that you give your hearts totally to Him. Finally, if you oblige me to tell you clearly what I think, I will do so for your consolation. The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to hell. To disillusion them and waken them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned? Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them. To resolve this doubt, let us put the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, on one side; on the other, the most learned theologians and erudite historians; and let us put the Bible in the middle for all to see. Now listen not to what I will say to you – for I have already told you that I do not want to speak for myself or decide on the matter – but listen to what these great minds have to tell you, they who are beacons in the Church of God to give light to others so that they will not miss the road to heaven. In this manner, guided by the triple light of faith, authority and reason, we will be able to resolve this grave matter with certainty. Note well that there is no question here of the human race taken as a whole, nor of all Catholics taken without distinction, but only of Catholic adults, who have free choice and are thus capable of cooperating in the great matter of their salvation. First let us consult the theologians recognized as examining things most carefully and as not exaggerating in their teaching: let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine. They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote, "The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls." Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone. Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly, "Many attain to faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom." Saint Anselm declares, "There are few who are saved." Saint Augustine states even more clearly, "Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned." The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: "Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence." The Words of Holy Scripture But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, "This ark was the figure of the Church," while Saint Augustine adds, "And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark." The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat. I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, "Lord, is it only a few to be saved?" Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: "You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?" Here is My answer: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, "Many are called, but few are chosen." He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble. Salvation in the Various States of Life But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, "I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater." Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, "Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, 'We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'" Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, "Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell." Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, "When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned." O abyss of the judgments of God! Out of thirty thousand, only five were saved! And out of sixty thousand, only three went to heaven! You sinners who are listening to me, in what category will you be numbered?... What do you say?... What do you think?... I see almost all of you lowering your heads, filled with astonishment and horror. But let us lay our stupor aside, and instead of flattering ourselves, let us try to draw some profit from our fear. Is it not true that there are two roads which lead to heaven: innocence and repentance? Now, if I show you that very few take either one of these two roads, as rational people you will conclude that very few are saved. And to mention proofs: in what age, employment or condition will you find that the number of the wicked is not a hundred times greater than that of the good, and about which one might say, "The good are so rare and the wicked are so great in number"? We could say of our times what Salvianus said of his: it is easier to find a countless multitude of sinners immersed in all sorts of iniquities than a few innocent men. How many servants are totally honest and faithful in their duties? How many merchants are fair and equitable in their commerce; how many craftsmen exact and truthful; how many salesmen disinterested and sincere? How many men of law do not forsake equity? How many soldiers do not tread upon innocence; how many masters do not unjustly withhold the salary of those who serve them, or do not seek to dominate their inferiors? Everywhere, the good are rare and the wicked great in number. Who does not know that today there is so much libertinage among mature men, liberty among young girls, vanity among women, licentiousness in the nobility, corruption in the middle class, dissolution in the people, impudence among the poor, that one could say what David said of his times: "All alike have gone astray... there is not even one who does good, not even one." Go into street and square, into palace and house, into city and countryside, into tribunal and court of law, and even into the temple of God. Where will you find virtue? "Alas!" cries Salvianus, "except for a very little number who flee evil, what is the assembly of Christians if not a sink of vice?" All that we can find everywhere is selfishness, ambition, gluttony, and luxury. Is not the greater portion of men defiled by the vice of impurity, and is not Saint John right in saying, "The whole world – if something so foul may be called – "is seated in wickedness?" I am not the one who is telling you; reason obliges you to believe that out of those who are living so badly, very few are saved. But you will say: Can penance not profitably repair the loss of innocence? That is true, I admit. But I also know that penance is so difficult in practice, we have lost the habit so completely, and it is so badly abused by sinners, that this alone should suffice to convince you that very few are saved by that path. Oh, how steep, narrow, thorny, horrible to behold and hard to climb it is! Everywhere we look, we see traces of blood and things that recall sad memories. Many weaken at the very sight of it. Many retreat at the very start. Many fall from weariness in the middle, and many give up wretchedly at the end. And how few are they who persevere in it till death! Saint Ambrose says it is easier to find men who have kept their innocence than to find any who have done fitting penance. If you consider the sacrament of penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions! Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them? Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them? Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament! One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit. One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion? Where are they now, those who believe that the number of the saved among Christians is greater than that of the damned and who, to authorize their opinion, reason thus: the greater portion of Catholic adults die in their beds armed with the sacraments of the Church, therefore most adult Catholics are saved? Oh, what fine reasoning! You must say exactly the opposite. Most Catholic adults confess badly at death, therefore most of them are damned. I say "all the more certain," because a dying person who has not confessed well when he was in good health will have an even harder time doing so when he is in bed with a heavy heart, an unsteady head, a muddled mind; when he is opposed in many ways by still-living objects, by still-fresh occasions, by adopted habits, and above all by devils who are seeking every means to cast him into hell. Now, if you add to all these false penitents all the other sinners who die unexpectedly in sin, due to the doctors' ignorance or by their relatives' fault, who die from poisoning or from being buried in earthquakes, or from a stroke, or from a fall, or on the battlefield, in a fight, caught in a trap, struck by lightning, burned or drowned, are you not obliged to conclude that most Christian adults are damned? That is the reasoning of Saint Chrysostom. This Saint says that most Christians are walking on the road to hell throughout their life. Why, then, are you so surprised that the greater number goes to hell? To come to a door, you must take the road that leads there. What have you to answer such a powerful reason? The answer, you will tell me, is that the mercy of God is great. Yes, for those who fear Him, says the Prophet; but great is His justice for the one who does not fear Him, and it condemns all obstinate sinners. So you will say to me: Well then, who is Paradise for, if not for Christians? It is for Christians, of course, but for those who do not dishonor their character and who live as Christians. Moreover, if to the number of Christian adults who die in the grace of God, you add the countless host of children who die after baptism and before reaching the age of reason, you will not be surprised that Saint John the Apostle, speaking of those who are saved, says, "I saw a great multitude which no man could number." And this is what deceives those who pretend that the number of the saved among Catholics is greater than that of the damned... If to that number, you add the adults who have kept the robe of innocence, or who after having defiled it, have washed it in the tears of penance, it is certain that the greater number is saved; and that explains the words of Saint John, "I saw a great multitude," and these other words of Our Lord, "Many will come from the east and from the west, and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," and the other figures usually cited in favor of that opinion. But if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned. Do not believe that because of this, paradise is empty; on the contrary, it is a very populous kingdom. And if the damned are "as numerous as the sand in the sea," the saved are "as numerous at the stars of heaven," that is, both the one and the other are countless, although in very different proportions. One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask, "Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?" And, not waiting for an answer, he added, "Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred." What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it. That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says, "Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved." So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God, "Just Father, the world has not known Thee," said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say "Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father." He says "just Father," so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears? King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. Dominic? One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed, "Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!" Let me repeat with Jeremiah, "Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward hell? For mercy's sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable. The Goodness of God Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation! In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of saying that if only one man were going to be damned, he would do all he could to make sure he was not that man. So what must we do, we who know that the greater number is going to be damned, and not only out of all Catholics? What must we do? Take the resolution to belong to the little number of those who are saved. You say: If Christ wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Silence, rash tongue! God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be. Therefore, I will now strive to defend the goodness of my God and acquit it of all blame: that will be the subject of the second point. Before going on, let us gather on one side all the books and all the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and on the other side the books and heresies of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, and let us burn them. Some destroy grace, others freedom, and all are filled with errors; so let us cast them into the fire. All the damned bear upon their brow the oracle of the Prophet Osee, "Thy damnation comes from thee," so that they may understand that whoever is damned, is damned by his own malice and because he wants to be damned. First let us take these two undeniable truths as a basis: "God wants all men to be saved," "All are in need of the grace of God." Now, if I show you that God wants to save all men, and that for this purpose He gives all of them His grace and all the other necessary means of obtaining that sublime end, you will be obliged to agree that whoever is damned must impute it to his own malice, and that if the greater number of Christians are damned, it is because they want to be. "Thy damnation comes from thee; thy help is only in Me." God Desires All Men to be Saved In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly His desire to save all men. "Is it My will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live?... I live, saith the Lord God. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live." When someone wants something very much, it is said that he is dying with desire; it is a hyperbole. But God has wanted and still wants our salvation so much that He died of desire, and He suffered death to give us life. This will to save all men is therefore not an affected, superficial and apparent will in God; it is a real, effective, and beneficial will; for He provides us with all the means most proper for us to be saved. He does not give them to us so they will not obtain it; He gives them to us with a sincere will, with the intention that they may obtain their effect. And if they do not obtain it, He shows Himself afflicted and offended over it. He commands even the damned to use them in order to be saved; He exhorts them to it; He obliges them to it; and if they do not do it, they sin. Therefore, they may do it and thus be saved. Far more, because God sees that we could not even make use of His grace without His help, He gives us other aids; and if they sometimes remain ineffective, it is our fault; for with these same aids, one may abuse them and be damned with them, and another may do right and be saved; he might even be saved with less powerful aids. Yes, it can happen that we abuse a greater grace and are damned, whereas another cooperates with a lesser grace and is saved. Saint Augustine exclaims, "If, therefore, someone turns aside from justice, he is carried by his free will, led by his concupiscence, deceived by his own persuasion." But for those who do not understand theology, here is what I have to say to them: God is so good that when He sees a sinner running to his ruin, He runs after him, calls him, entreats and accompanies him even to the gates of hell; what will He not do to convert him? He sends him good inspirations and holy thoughts, and if he does not profit from them, He becomes angry and indignant, He pursues him. Will He strike him? No. He beats at the air and forgives him. But the sinner is not converted yet. God sends him a mortal illness. It is certainly all over for him. No, brothers, God heals him; the sinner becomes obstinate in evil, and God in His mercy looks for another way; He gives him another year, and when that year is over, He grants him yet another. But if the sinner still wants to cast himself into hell in spite of all that, what does God do? Does He abandon him? No. He takes him by the hand; and while he has one foot in hell and the other outside, He still preaches to him, He implored him not to abuse His graces. Now I ask you, if that man is damned, is it not true that he is damned against the Will of God and because he wants to be damned? Come and ask me now: If God wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Ungrateful sinner, learn today that if you are damned, it is not God who is to blame, but you and your self-will. To persuade yourself of this, go down even to the depths of the abyss, and there I will bring you one of those wretched damned souls burning in hell, so that he may explain this truth to you. Here is one now: "Tell me, who are you?" "I am a poor idolater, born in an unknown land; I never heard of heaven or hell, nor of what I am suffering now." "Poor wretch! Go away, you are not the one I am looking for." Another one is coming; there he is. "Who are you?" "I am a schismatic from the ends of Tartary; I always lived in an uncivilized state, barely knowing that there is a God." "You are not the one I want; return to hell." Here is another. "And who are you?" "I am a poor heretic from the North. I was born under the Pole and never saw either the light of the sun or the light of faith." "It is not you that I am looking for either, return to Hell." Brothers, my heart is broken upon seeing these wretches who never even knew the True Faith among the damned. Even so, know that the sentence of condemnation was pronounced against them and they were told, "Thy damnation comes from thee." They were damned because they wanted to be. They received so many aids from God to be saved! We do not know what they were, but they know them well, and now they cry out, "O Lord, Thou art just... and Thy judgments are equitable." Brothers, you must know that the most ancient belief is the Law of God, and that we all bear it written in our hearts; that it can be learned without any teacher, and that it suffices to have the light of reason in order to know all the precepts of that Law. That is why even the barbarians hid when they committed sin, because they knew they were doing wrong; and they are damned for not having observed the natural law written in their heart: for had they observed it, God would have made a miracle rather than let them be damned; He would have sent them someone to teach them and would have given them other aids, of which they made themselves unworthy by not living in conformity with the inspirations of their own conscience, which never failed to warn them of the good they should do and the evil they should avoid. So it is their conscience that accused them at the Tribunal of God, and it tells them constantly in hell, "Thy damnation comes from thee." They do not know what to answer and are obliged to confess that they are deserving of their fate. Now if these infidels have no excuse, will there be any for a Catholic who had so many sacraments, so many sermons, so many aids at his disposal? How will he dare to say, "If God was going to damn me, then why did He create me?" How will he dare to speak in this manner, when God gives him so many aids to be saved? So let us finish confounding him. You who are suffering in the abyss, answer me! Are there any Catholics among you? "There certainly are!" How many? Let one of them come here! "That is impossible, they are too far down, and to have them come up would turn all of hell upside down; it would be easier to stop one of them as he is falling in." So then, I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin, in hatred, in the mire of the vice of impurity, and who are getting closer to hell each day. Stop, and turn around; it is Jesus who calls you and who, with His wounds, as with so many eloquent voices, cries to you, "My son, if you are damned, you have only yourself to blame: 'Thy damnation comes from thee.' Lift up your eyes and see all the graces with which I have enriched you to insure your eternal salvation. I could have had you born in a forest in Barbary; that is what I did to many others, but I had you born in the Catholic Faith; I had you raised by such a good father, such an excellent mother, with the purest instructions and teachings. If you are damned in spite of that, whose fault will it be? Your own, My son, your own: 'Thy damnation comes from thee.' "I could have cast you into hell after the first mortal sin you committed, without waiting for the second: I did it to so many others, but I was patient with you, I waited for you for many long years. I am still waiting for you today in penance. If you are damned in spite of all that, whose fault is it? Your own, My son, your own: "Thy damnation comes from thee." You know how many have died before your very eyes and were damned: that was a warning for you. You know how many others I set back on the right path to give you the good example. Do you remember what that excellent confessor told you? I am the one who had him say it. Did he not enjoin you to change your life, to make a good confession? I am the One who inspired him. Remember that sermon that touched your heart? I am the One who led you there. And what has happened between you and Me in the secret of your heart, ...that you can never forget. "Those interior inspirations, that clear knowledge, that constant remorse of conscience, would you dare to deny them? All of these were so many aids of My grace, because I wanted to save you. I refused to give them to many others, and I gave them to you because I loved you tenderly. My son, My son, if I spoke to them as tenderly as I am speaking to you today, how many others souls return to the right path! And you... you turn your back on Me. Listen to what I am going to tell you, for these are My last words: You have cost Me My blood; if you want to be damned in spite of the blood I shed for you, do not blame Me, you have only yourself to accuse; and throughout all eternity, do not forget that if you are damned in spite of Me, you are damned because you want to be damned: 'Thy damnation comes from thee.' " O my good Jesus, the very stones would split on hearing such sweet words, such tender expressions. Is there anyone here who wants to be damned, with so many graces and aids? If there is one, let him listen to me, and then let him resist if he can. Baronius relates that after Julian the Apostate's infamous apostasy, he conceived such great hatred against Holy Baptism that day and night, he sought a way in which he might erase his own. To that purpose he had a bath of goat's blood prepared and placed himself in it, wanting this impure blood of a victim consecrated to Venus to erase the sacred character of Baptism from his soul. Such behavior seems abominable to you, but if Julian's plan had been able to succeed, it is certain that he would be suffering much less in hell. Sinners, the advice I want to give you will no doubt seem strange to you; but if you understand it well, it is, on the contrary, inspired by tender compassion toward you. I implore you on my knees, by the blood of Christ and by the Heart of Mary, change your life, come back to the road that leads to heaven, and do all you can to belong to the little number of those who are saved. If, instead of this, you want to continue walking on the road that leads to hell, at least find a way to erase your baptism. Woe to you if you take the Holy Name of Jesus Christ and the sacred character of the Christian engraved upon your soul into hell! Your chastisement will be all the greater. So do what I advise you to do: if you do not want to convert, go this very day and ask your pastor to erase your name from the baptismal register, so that there may not remain any remembrance of your ever having been a Christian; implore your Guardian Angel to erase from his book of graces the inspirations and aids he has given you on orders from God, for woe to you if he recalls them! Tell Our Lord to take back His faith, His baptism, His sacraments. You are horror-struck at such a thought? Well then, cast yourself at the feet of Jesus Christ and say to Him, with tearful eyes and contrite heart: "Lord, I confess that up till now I have not lived as a Christian. I am not worthy to be numbered among Your elect. I recognize that I deserve to be damned; but Your mercy is great and, full of confidence in Your grace, I say to You that I want to save my soul, even if I have to sacrifice my fortune, my honor, my very life, as long as I am saved. If I have been unfaithful up to now, I repent, I deplore, I detest my infidelity, I ask You humbly to forgive me for it. Forgive me, good Jesus, and strengthen me also, that I may be saved. I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul." And You, O Jesus! What do You say? O Good Shepherd, see the stray sheep who returns to You; embrace this repentant sinner, bless his sighs and tears, or rather bless these people who are so well disposed and who want nothing but their salvation. Brothers, at the feet of Our Lord, let us protest that we want to save our soul, cost what it may. Let us all say to Him with tearful eyes, "Good Jesus, I want to save my soul," O blessed tears, O blessed sighs! Conclusion Brothers, I want to send all of you away comforted today. So if you ask me my sentiment on the number of those who are saved, here it is: Whether there are many or few that are saved, I say that whoever wants to be saved, will be saved; and that no one can be damned if he does not want to be. And if it is true that few are saved, it is because there are few who live well. As for the rest, compare these two opinions: the first one states that the greater number of Catholics are condemned; the second one, on the contrary, pretends that the greater number of Catholics are saved. Imagine an Angel sent by God to confirm the first opinion, coming to tell you that not only are most Catholics damned, but that of all this assembly present here, one alone will be saved. If you obey the Commandments of God, if you detest the corruption of this world, if you embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in a spirit of penance, you will be that one alone who is saved. Now imagine the same Angel returning to you and confirming the second opinion. He tells you that not only are the greater portion of Catholics saved, but that out of all this gathering, one alone will be damned and all the others saved. If after that, you continue your usuries, your vengeances, your criminal deeds, your impurities, then you will be that one alone who is damned. What is the use of knowing whether few or many are saved? Saint Peter says to us, "Strive by good works to make your election sure." When Saint Thomas Aquinas's sister asked him what she must do to go to heaven, he said, "You will be saved if you want to be." I say the same thing to you, and here is proof of my declaration. No one is damned unless he commits mortal sin: that is of faith. And no one commits mortal sin unless he wants to: that is an undeniable theological proposition. Therefore, no one goes to hell unless he wants to; the consequence is obvious. Does that not suffice to comfort you? Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved. Why torment yourself so? For it is certain that you have to commit mortal sin to go to hell, and that to commit mortal sin you must want to, and that consequently no one goes to hell unless he wants to. That is not just an opinion, it is an undeniable and very comforting truth; may God give you to understand it, and may He bless you. Amen. In the first Rules on the discernment of spirits, Saint Ignatius shows that it is typical of the evil spirit to tranquilize sinners. Therefore, we must constantly preach and give rise to confidence and the duty of hope in the Lord's infinite pardon and mercy, for conversion is easy and His grace is all-powerful. But we must also recall that "God is not mocked," and that someone who is living habitually in the state of mortal sin is on the road to eternal damnation. There are last-minute miracles, but unless we contend that miracles are the general run of things, we are obliged to agree that for the majority of people living in the state of mortal sin, final impenitence is the most probable eventuality. Saint Leonard of Port Maurice's reasons have persuaded us. They are worth listening to. With eloquence and clarity, they develop a consideration of Father Lombardi in his public debate with Italian Communist leader Velio Spano in Cagliara on December 4, 1948. "I am horror-struck at the thought that if you continue in this manner, you will be condemned to hell," said Father Lombardi to the Marxist Spano. Spano replied, "I do not believe in hell." And Father Lombardi retorted, "Precisely, and if you continue, you will be condemned; for to avoid being condemned, one must believe in hell." We could generalize Father Lombardi's answer. Perhaps it is precisely such a lack of supernatural faith that is preventing people from arriving at a deep appreciation of the pastoral transcendence of preaching in the manner of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice in its application to our contemporary life. At any rate, it is not because morals are any better now than in the famous missionary's day. No occasion could be finer for us to apply this reproach of Cardinal Pie: "I see prudence everywhere; soon we will not see courage anywhere; rest assured, if we continue in this manner, we will die from an attack of wisdom." Not divine wisdom, surely; for only carnal and worldly prudence give rise to vain knowledge, which mocks at the sermon of Saint Leonard. The doctrine of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice has saved and will save countless souls till the end of time. Here is what the Church says in the prayer of the Divine Office, Sixth Lesson, speaking of Saint Leonard's heavenly eloquence: Upon hearing him, even hearts of iron and brass were powerfully inclined to penance, by reason of the astonishing effectiveness of the sermon and the preacher's burning zeal. And in the liturgical prayer we ask of the Lord, Give the power to bend the hearts of hardened sinners by the works of preaching. This sermon by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was preached during the reign of Pope Benedict XIV, who so loved the great missionary. www.olrl.org/snt_docs/ Copies of this article available from: Our Lady of the Rosary Library 11721 Hidden Creek Road Prospect, KY 40059