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.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 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 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
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 17 November 2013 (Epistle & Gospel, of 6th Sunday after Epiphany) “I will open my mouth in parables; things hidden since the world was made I will announce.” Mt. 13:35 In today’s readings, we have the fulfilment of the gospel parables, The Mustard Seed and The Leaven, in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (1:2-10). St. Paul praises the faith of the Thessalonians:“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great tribulation with joy in the Holy Spirit, so that you became a pattern for all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. I Thess. 1:6-7 In the Gospel (Mt,13:31-35), Jesus speaks of The Parable of the Mustard Seed which “is the smallest of all the seeds; but when it grows up it is larger than any herb and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in its branches.” Mt. 13:32. Jesus also speaks of The Parable of the Leaven “which a woman took and buried in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Mt. 13:33. Both parables speak of the Kingdom of God, the Church upon earth, and how it will grow from the Twelve Apostles throughout the whole world and will influence all peoples with the gospel message. This fruitful growth of the Church among the pagan people through the preaching of St. Paul is evident in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. For their faithfulness, sacrifice, and good example the Thessalonians became an example to all the other Churches in Greece: “We thank God always for all of you when we make mention of you in our prayers for we unceasingly remember your active faith, your energetic charity and your unwavering hope in our Lord Jesus Christ before the face of God, our Father.” I Thess. 1:2-3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed Although it is the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed grows into a tree so large that the birds of the air dwell in its branches. So, too, the Church Jesus founded upon the Twelve Apostles would grow until it encompassed almost all of the known world at that time. Similarly, within three centuries the Church would be established throughout the entire Roman Empire. St. Augustine comments on the spiritual significance of the mustard seed: “At first glance it seems small, worthless, despised, not marked by any flavour, not surrounded by any odour, nor giving any sign of sweetness; but once it is bruised, it sheds abroad its odour, displays its sharpness and exhales nourishment of a fiery taste. ...Thus, too, the Christian Faith, at first sight, appears small, worthless and frail, not manifesting its power, nor carrying any semblance of pride, nor conferring grace. But as soon as it begins to be bruised by divers temptations, immediately it manifests its vigour, indicates its sharpness, breathes the warmth of belief in the Lord, and is possessed with so great ardour of divine fire, that both itself is hot and it compels those who participate to be fervent also. As the two disciples said in the holy gospel, when the Lord spoke with them after His passion, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us by the way, while the Lord Jesus opened to us the Scriptures.’ (Lk. 24:32) A grain of mustard, then, warms the inward members of our bodies, but the power of faith burns up the sins of our hearts. The one indeed takes away piercing cold; the other expels the devil’s frost of transgressions. A grain of mustard, I say, purges away corporeal humours, but faith puts an end to the flux of lusts. By the one, medicine is gained for the head; but by faith our spiritual Head, Christ the Lord, is often refreshed. Moreover, we enjoy the sacred odour of faith, according to the analogy of mustard seed, as the blessed Apostle saith, ‘We are a sweet savour of Christ unto God.’’’ (II Cor. 2:15) A Lapide, Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel, p. 27 The Parable of the Leaven The Parable of the Leaven flows naturally from The Parable of the Mustard Seed because as the Church grows, so will it influence the whole world just as the leaven (yeast) permeates all the dough. Interestingly, the three measures of bread is quite large and will feed eighteen people for five days. Jesus makes it so large to emphasize that the Church will influence the whole world. St. Ambrose also applies this to Christ in a spiritual meaning of the leaven: “Therefore, if the Lord is wheat (as He Himself says in John 12:24), the Lord is the leaven, too, since leaven is usually made only of wheaten flour. Therefore, the Lord is rightly compared to leaven for when He was in the form of man, made small by humility and despised for His weakness, He contained within Himself such power of wisdom that the world itself could scarcely contain His doctrine. When He began to diffuse Himself throughout the world by virtue of His divinity, He immediately drew the entire human race into His substance by His power so that He might place the yoke of His Holy Spirit upon all of them, that is, make all Christians to be what Christ is....so Christ (like leaven) is broken up and dissolved by His various sufferings, and His moisture, that is, His precious blood, was poured out for our salvation, that it might by mingling itself with the whole human race, consolidate that race, which lay scattered abroad.” A Lapide, p. 29-30 The Growth of the Church at Thessalonica After St. Paul was expelled by the Jewish leaders at Philippi, he went to the port city of Thessalonica where he found the inhabitants of that city open to the message of the gospel. At first, St. Paul went to the Jewish residents of the city, but after a few weeks with little success, he turned to the Gentiles. There he met with so much success that the Jewish leaders brought charges of treason (preaching about another king) against the Christian missionaries, and St. Paul and his companions had to flee. While at Athens, St. Paul sent Timothy to learn how the Church at Thessalonica fared during the persecution. Timothy reported later, when Paul was at Corinth, that the converts were heroic in the practice of the faith: “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great tribulation with joy in the Holy Spirit, so that you became a pattern for all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. From you the word of the Lord has been spread abroad not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we need say nothing further.” I Thess. 1:6-8. The Thessalonians are a joy to the heart of Paul, as they not only embraced the faith from their pagan ways, but they have even imitated Paul and his companions, Silvanus and Timothy, and spread the faith by their good example throughout the land and the other seaports. Early Christians a reproach to us today Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life, Vol. 4, tells us how the early Christians are a strong reproach to us to imitate them in their lives: “The praise which the apostle here gives to the Thessalonians for their fervour in the faith they had embraced, conveys a reproach to the Christians of our times. These neophytes of Thessalonica, who, a short time before, were worshippers of idols, had become so earnest in the practice of the Christian religion, that even the apostle is filled with admiration. We are the descendants of the countless Christian ancestors; we received our regeneration by Baptism at our first coming into the world; we were taught the doctrine of Jesus Christ from our earliest childhood: yet, our faith is not so strong, nor our lives so holy, as were those of the early Christian. Their main occupation was serving the living and true God, and waiting for the coming of their Saviour. Our hope is precisely the same as that which made their hearts so fervent; how comes it that our faith is not like theirs in its generosity? We love this present life, as though we had no firm conviction that it is to pass away.” Gueranger, p. 102 Good Example The power of good example is the reason why the Thessalonians followed Paul and his companions and why other Greeks followed the example of the Thessalonians. Despite persecution, they kept the faith and awaited the coming of the Lord. So, too, should we, as the parables in today’s gospel suggest, try to build up the kingdom of God by our good example and permeate all of society. This is what Our Lady requested at Fatima when she asked us to pray and sacrifice for the souls of so many in our time who are in danger of being lost for all eternity unless they get a miracle of God’s grace: “Pray and sacrifice for many souls will go to hell, unless someone prays and sacrifices for them.” (Fatima, 1917) “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)
Friday, November 8, 2013
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Epistle and Gospel of the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany) 10 November 2013 “Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: bearing with one another and forgiving one another...” Col. 3: 12-3 For these last Sundays after Pentecost, the Church uses the Sundays after the Epiphany which were not used earlier in the year due to various adjustments with the Church Seasons. Today’s liturgy highlights the importance of charity in an evil and corrupt world. In the Epistle (Colossians 3:12-17), St. Paul reminds us that “charity is the bond of perfection.” Col. 3:14 If we do not have the virtue of charity, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. In the Gospel (Matthew 13: 24-30), Jesus gives us the parable of “The Wheat and the Cockle” to illustrate in simple language a profound teaching about the existence of evil in the world: “The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But while men were asleep, his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat and went his way.” Mt. 3:24 From this brief description, we can see how God created all things good, but the devil sowed evil into the hearts of men to cause them to sin. When the man who owns the field is asked by his servants if the cockle should be removed, he says, “No, lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in time of harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.” Mt. 13:29-30 ) The meaning of the parable is clear: God will allow both good and evil to co-exist in life for a time, but then He will separate the good from the evil and save the good and destroy the evildoers in the fire of hell. What is most important about this parable is that it gives us several reasons for the existence of evil in the world. It also shows how God will always bring good out any evil that men do (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #311); Christians will have the opportunity to practice charity which is needed to enter the kingdom of heaven and with their good example and prayers, Christians may even convert the wicked (cockle). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts.” Col. 3:16 Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 4, comments on the need for living the Christian life, as St. Paul emphasizes in the Epistle, as true followers of Jesus Christ. “The Christian, trained as he has been in the school of the Man-God who deigned to dwell upon this earth, should ever show mercy towards his fellow-men. This world which has been purified by the presence of the Incarnate Word, would become an abode of peace, if we were but to live in such manner as to merit the titles, given us by the apostle, of elect of God, holy and beloved. The peace here spoken of should, first of all, fill the heart of every Christian, and give it an uninterrupted joy, which would be ever pouring itself forth in singing the praises of God. But it is mainly on the Sundays, that the faithful, by taking part with the Church in her psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, fulfil this duty so dear to their hearts. Let us, moreover, in our every-day life, practise the advice given us by the apostle, of doing all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that we may, in all things, find favour with our heavenly Father.” Gueranger, p. 95-6 “Charity... the bond of perfection...” Col. 3:14 Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalen in his book of meditations, Divine Intimacy, reminds us of the practical means in today’s Epistle for us to show charity amidst human suffering and evil: “The Epistle for this Sunday recalls to our mind the fundamental duty of a Christian: charity.... ‘But above all these things,’ St. Paul recommends, ‘have charity, which is the bond of perfection’ (Col. 3:14); not only love for God, but also for our neighbour. .... ‘Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another.’ (Col. 3:12-3) .... Consider the perfect love which the Apostle asks us to have for our neighbour: mercy, compassion, mutual forgiveness, and that love which leaves no room for divisions or dissensions, which overcomes strife and forgets offenses. This long-suffering charity which makes every sacrifice and overcomes all difficulties in order to be in harmony with all, because we all form ‘one body’ in Christ, because we are all children of the same heavenly father.” Fr. Gabriel, p. 203-4 Patient endurance of evil Dom Gueranger comments on the existence of evil in the world in the parable of “The Wheat and Cockle” in today’s gospel and the need to overcome evil with charity by patient endurance of suffering and trust in God’s goodness. “The kingdom of heaven, here spoken of by our Lord, is the Church militant, the society of them that believe in Him. And yet, the field He has tilled with so much care is oversown with cockle; heresies have crept in, scandals have abounded; are we, on that account, to have misgiving about the foresight of the Master, who knows all things, and without whose permission nothing happens? Far from us be such a thought! He Himself tells us that these things must needs be. Man has been gifted with free-will; it is for him to choose between good and evil. Heresies, then, like weeds in the field, may spring up in the Church; but the day must come when they will be uprooted; some of them will wither on the parent stems, but the whole cockle shall be gathered into bundles to burn. Where are now the heresies that sprang up in the first ages of the Church? And in another hundred years, what will have become of the heresy, which, under the pretentious name of the ‘reformation,’ has caused incalculable evil? It is the same with scandals which rise up within the pale of the Church; they are a hard trial; but trials must come. The divine Husbandman wills not that this cockle be torn up, lest the wheat should suffer injury. First of all, the mixture of good and bad is an advantage; it teaches the good not to put their hopes in man, but in God. Then, too the mercy of our Lord is so great, that at times the very cockle is converted, by divine grace, into wheat. We must therefore have patience...” Gueranger, p. 97-8. Charity overcomes evil Fr. Gabriel also comments on the need for patient understanding of God’s Providence with men: “When God asks us to endure with patience certain situations, as inevitable as they are deplorable, He asks for one of the greatest exercises of charity, compassion, and mercy. He does not tell us to fraternize with evil, to make a league with the cockle, but He tells us to endure it with the longanimity with which He Himself endured it. ... Indeed one of the greatest opportunities for the practice of charity is offered by those who by their evil conduct give us so many opportunities for forgiving them for returning good for evil, and for suffering injustice for the love of God. Moreover, we should consider that, whereby cockle cannot be changed into wheat, it is always possible for the wicked to be converted and become good... When our love is perfect, we are able to live among the wicked without being harsh or contentious, without being influenced by them, but rather doing them good.” Fr. Gabriel, p. 204-5 Didn’t Jesus tell us to be good and love our enemies? “But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.” Mt. 5:44 Goodness can come from evil Today’s Epistle and Gospel complement one another in explaining for us the presence of evil in the world. Because God gave man a free will and because men are persuaded by the devil to do evil, we have much evil in the world. God allows the evil so that Christians can practice charity in all its related virtues (“...mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience...” Col. 3:12-13) to convert evildoers and to gain merit in heaven. So great is the reward that Christians will receive for sufferings they will undergo in this life that Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount calls them blessed and tells them that their reward will be great in heaven: “Blessed are you when men reproach you, and persecute you, and speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you, for my sake. Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven; for so did they persecute the prophets who were before you.” Mt. 5:11-2 How great God is that He can bring good from evil as St. Augustine tells us: “For almighty God...because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 311 Remembrance Sunday: Let us remember all those who have given their lives during the Two World Wars and all wars by recalling the words of this lovely poem. “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, May 1915 In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.” Souls in Purgatory: November in the month in which we remember the poor souls in Purgatory who cannot help themselves. They rely on us to shorten their time of purification. All-Souls Lists: Please put the names of those who have died on the All-Souls list, and we will include them in our Masses during the month of November .
Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (From the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany 3 November 2013 “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith.” Mt. 8:26 Today’s gospel narrative about the storm that threatens Peter’s boat has always been a symbol of the Church being persecuted throughout history from within and without. God allows these difficulties to oppose the Church in order to draw out a greater good. Fr. Gabriel in Divine Intimacy tells us, “Virtue and goodness are strengthened in time of difficulty; the efforts made in bearing trials tend to make us surpass what we would have done had we enjoyed perfect calm.” Fr. Gabriel, p. 183 God also allows difficulties in the Church in order to purify it of its errors and disobedience to His Commandments. It seems that only in difficulties, when events become insurmountable, will we turn to God, out of desperation for help: “Lord, save us we are perishing.” Mt. 8: 25 “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” Mt. 8:27 In his commentary on the Gospel (Mt. 8:23-27) for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Dom Prosper Gueranger in The Liturgical Year III comments: “Let us adore the power of our Emmanuel, who is come to calm the tempests which threatened the human race with death. In the midst of their danger, the successive generations of men had cried out: ‘Lord, save us we are perishing.’ Mt. 8:25 When the fullness of time had come, he awoke from his rest; he had but to command, and the power of our enemies was destroyed. The malice of the devils, the darkness of idolatry, and the corruption of paganism—all yielded. Nation after nation was conquered to Jesus. They had said, when in their misery and blindness: ‘Who is this Jesus, whom no power can resist?’ and then they embraced his Law. This power of Jesus to break down every obstacle, and that, too, at the very time when men were disquieted at his apparent slumbering, has often shown itself in the past ages of the Church. How many times has he not chosen for saving the world that period which seemed the least likely for rescue! The same happens in the life of each one among us. Oftentimes we are tossed to and fro by violent temptations; it would seem as though the billows must sink us; and yet our will is firmly anchored to God! And what is this, if not Jesus sleeping in the storm-tossed boat, protecting us by this his sleeping? And if our cry for help at length awakens him, it is only to proclaim his own and our victory; for he has already conquered, and we have conquered in him.” Gueranger, p.261 We should never forget what St. Therese told us of this same incident of Jesus sleeping in the boat; always remember that Jesus is present in the boat and nothing can happen to Him as He is the Son of God and is all powerful. If we are with Him in the boat, we too will be protected no matter how bad the storms of life are. Purification of evil St. Cyprian in a letter to the Church relates how their present persecution was caused by their sins: “We have to confess that the force of the present storm of persecution which has decimated the flock and is even now still pouring out its fury upon it is to a great extent our fault, because we have not followed the commands of God which were given us for our salvation. Christ did the will of his Father, but we do not do his, living in luxury as we do and in pride and rivalries, despising simplicity and faith renouncing in words only, not in deeds, the world in which we live. We please ourselves and do harm to others.... For us this persecution is an examination of conscience. God has decreed that we should be proved and chastised – as he does many times with his own. However, he never fails us in time of trial. He has told me, the least of his servants, to give you this message. ‘Tell them,’ he said to me, ‘that peace will come. The delay is due to the fact that there are still some to be tried by the fire.’” (The Preacher’s Encyclopaedia, p. 437) Because of a lack of charity to others, God would allow the evil of persecution in the early Church to purify it from its selfishness and greed.. “Be debtor to no man in anything—except only in regard to mutual love.” Rom. 13:8 St. Paul in today’s Epistle (Rom. 13: 8-10) reminds us that the debt of charity can never be fully paid. Our one debt that we owe to our fellow man is charity. We can never say that we have paid that debt already! When we pay the debt of charity, we pay all the other debts of the Law of Ten Commandments: “For he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the Law. For ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not covet’; and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’... Love therefore is the fulfilment of the Law.” Rom. 13:10 The early Christians were known to the pagans for their love for one another: “See how the Christians love one another.” St. Paul is just repeating throughout the Epistle to the Romans the major teaching of Jesus which is to love God: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Mt. 22:37-40. Margaret Van der Heiden The Love of Benevolence Many people find it difficult to practice love or charity towards their neighbour because they do not understand what love of neighbour means. “St. Thomas Aquinas says that he who loves truly, desires good for those he loves; which includes also the idea of procuring that good when possible and when it is within his power. This is the love of benevolence. Because we love ourselves, we try to avoid anything that may harm us and procure for ourselves anything that may be for our benefit. When we learn to love others as ourselves, we do the same things for them.” (The Preacher’s Encyclopaedia, P. 454) Some may say, “I can’t love my enemy!” You do not have to like your enemy, but you have to wish them good fortune and help them when you can. As followers of Christ, we have to obey His teachings: “But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you...” Mt. 5:44. If anyone says that he cannot love his enemy or his neighbour, he cannot expect the Lord to come to him when he cries out, “Lord, save us we are perishing.” Mt. 8: 25 Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of the Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia,” 20 December 2010 In this speech, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI compared the disintegration of the Roman Empire to what is happening in our society today because of the loss of faith in God and obedience to His Commandments. Using the ancient Advent prayer, Pope Benedict prays for these times: “Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni (O Lord, stir up thy power and come). Today too, we have many reasons to associate ourselves with this Advent prayer of the Church. For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure. “Excita – the prayer recalls the cry addressed to the Lord who was sleeping in the disciples’ storm-tossed boat as it was close to sinking. When his powerful word had calmed the storm, he rebuked the disciples for their little faith (cf. Mt 8:26 et par.). He wanted to say: it was your faith that was sleeping. He will say the same thing to us. Our faith too is often asleep. Let us ask him, then, to wake us from the sleep of a faith grown tired, and to restore to that faith the power to move mountains – that is, to order justly the affairs of the world.” Rest in Peace Please remember in your prayers Margaret Van der Heiden. She died on 31 November 2013. Margaret was a most devoted benefactor to the Carmelite Nuns and the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part VI by St. Leonard of Port Maurice “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 dishonour 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 favour 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.” (To be continued)