I would like to share with you another project I put together for my 7 year old. A printing practice book using the Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism. Feel free to print and use this project for your own family if you would like. You can find the file on our download page under handwriting.
Come Apart In A Desert Place and Rest Awhile
Mark: vi .31
Apart into a desert place
My God Thou leadest me;
And here I ask one only grace:
O Lord, that I may see!
Nature and earth soft vapors raise,
That dim my inward sight,
Oh, scatter that deceitful haze,
And let me see aright!
It may be pain, it may be shame
Deep anguish it may be;
Yet, shall my prayer be still the same,
O Lord, that I may see!
Show me Thy law, whose precepts wise
My every step should guide;
Then let me view with clearest eyes
My practice side by side.
Show me my duties, one by one,
Unshrinking let me see
What was omitted, and what was done
For other end than Thee.
Show me myself without disguise,
As clearly, I entreat,
As when Death’s hand shall open my eyes
Before Thy Judgement Seat!
But, dearest Lord, my weakness pleads
Let not Thy light stop there,
The vision of my own misdeeds
Were else too hard to bear;
Show me Thyself, Thy tender Heart
In all its love display,
One ray of heavenly light impart,
To chase earth’s gloom away;
The truths of the faith, the joys of Love,
And virtues solid bliss,
The glories of the world above,
The hollowness of this;
The sweetness of Thy service, Lord,
The honor and the joy,
Oh, how can anything be hard
In such a proud employ!
All this, and many a lesson more
Make clear and plain to me;
Oh, I entreat Thee oer’ and oe’r,
My God that I may see!
~ Little Treasury of Leaflets - Father Lasance book
Lift Up Your Hearts, Imprimatur 1926
To be firm in faith is not to be easily shaken and turned aside from what it teaches. Many
Catholics live in what may be called an un-Catholic atmosphere. What they hear said around them and what they read are things fitted to make them forget the teachings of their faith, or worse still to make them distrustful of their true Mother the Church. Thus the practice of their faith grows weak, though in theory they remain Catholics. When they judge of things or come to a decision in regard to acting this way or that, it does not occur to them that the Catholic faith should be their guide.
Now, Faith is God's great gift to man, on which depending and by which acting man may rise above the things that are and may lay hold of the things that are to be, in the better world.
It is the "substance of things to be hoped for and the evidence of things that appear not."
This does not mean that reason's work is useless, but rather that divine faith is neither its outcome nor its conclusion. Reason examines the evidence upon which a revelation is guaranteed as coming from God and when that is found to be sufficient, the understanding aided by a good will accepts the doctrine revealed, however impenetrable to the glance of reason, solely on the authority of God revealing it. [Such as the article of Faith which must be believed: One-Holy-Catholic-Apostolic]
Thus faith is a submission, an obedience, a captivity. Thus, also, we find our Blessed Lord demanding the simplicity of "little children" from those whom He invited to enter His Kingdom. It is true He gave proofs of His Mission, of His Divinity, but whenever proposed His doctrine as a matter of discussion: He taught like a master, "like one having authority," and demanded obedience.
When, therefore, we pray for firmness of faith we pray for the subduing of pride, of wilfulness, of prejudice, and for an increase of childlike simplicity and trustfulness — in order that God's revelation may shine with full clearness upon the mind and hold the
understanding and will in firm adhesion to its truth.
Messenger of the Sacred Heart ~ February 1891
The Victims of Sensuality
EVERY man has two lives: one of the senses, to eat, drink, play and enjoy, and with this he begins as a child; the other of reason, to understand his duty in life and to live up to it, uprightly and honorably, facing difficulties and keeping at peace with God and man, and, since reason is Christian, to lead the life of faith, which is that of the Saints. Some men remain children always in their love of the life of the senses; and as this is against reason, they become unreasonable, and as it is against the law of God, which faith teaches, they become filled with sensual sins. All their thoughts go out to gratifying their appetites.
There is a grave reason why sins of sensuality are become more frequent in our day. It is easy to travel and see all sides of life; and the newspapers bring to everyone's door the knowledge and frequent thought of sins that St. Paul says are not even to be named among Christians. Then comfort is now considered a necessity, and luxuries are easily obtained, while Christian mortification is little thought of. The pride and independence of life, to which men are trained from their youth up, prepare the soul for gross sins. For only the humble fear of God is the beginning and lesson and root of wisdom, even all wisdom itself.
Yet the heart of the sensual man is still open to God's grace, and grace is given to prayer. Sensuality, it is true, hardens, but the soul wearies of its slavery; and the thought of death, when the senses shall rot away in corruption, gives a loathing for the unreasonable and un-Christian life of sin. That these thoughts, and the grace of purity given by God, may have their due effect among the poor victims of sensuality. If any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God Who giveth to all men abundantly? Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God?
Messenger of the Sacred Heart ~ In the year of Our Lord 1891
IN the year 1117, upon the 21st of December, a child was born in our own city of London whose name was destined to shine in the long list of martyrs who have laid down their lives for the love of God. This child was Thomas—the son of Gilbert-a-Becket and his pious wife Matilda, who sought to train him in the fear of God and reverence to the Blessed Virgin, under whose special patronage he was placed. His mother would often weigh St. Thomas during his infancy, putting meat, clothing, and bread into the opposite scale, which were to be distributed amongst the poor, so that her alms increased with his growth and were all offered to bring down heavenly blessings upon the child's life.
While still very little, St. Thomas was seized with fever, and when he was getting better, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in the form of a beautiful lady, who bent over his bedside, and, promising him that he would soon be well, gave him two golden keys, which she said were the keys of paradise, of which he was to have charge. Thomas went to a school in the city when first his studies began, but he was soon given into the care of the Prior of Merton, who was afterwards his confessor and friend, and witnessed his martyrdom.
Gilbert-a-Becket was a native of Normandy, and so many of his own countrymen came to visit him in London; one of them called Richier de l'Egle, was very fond of hunting and hawking, and often took St. Thomas as a companion. One of these times they had reached afoot-bridge across a mill-stream, which the knight crossed safely, but Thomas, taking less care, managed to tumble with his horse into the stream, and being unable to swim, he was rapidly borne along in the direction of the mill-wheel, which would certainly have crushed him to pieces. But at the cry for help the miller heard, the mill was stopped in time for the boy to be saved, and dragged out of the water almost insensible.
After finishing his education in England, St. Thomas was sent to Paris for a short time, when he returned to London and became clerk to the sheriffs until he was about one and twenty; then his parents died within a short interval, leaving their family very ill provided for. St. Thomas next entered the service of a relation who was a rich merchant, and thus learnt habits of business which were very useful to him afterwards, when he was raised to a high place in the Church. Many times Thomas had been advised to offer himself to the service of Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury, but his humility kept him back until he was five and twenty, when he was persuaded to do so by a friend of his father's, who felt sure that a higher vocation awaited him than the business of the world.
Theobald received the young man with much kindness, and St. Thomas at once set to work to make up for the deficiencies he quickly discovered in himself, and succeeded in gaining the esteem and confidence of the archbishop so entirely, that when Henry Plantagenet came to be king, Theobald obtained for a-Becket the place of Lord High Chancellor of England. This office was a very important one; he who held it was the keeper of the king's seal, and took charge of the royal chapel, and had the disposal of all the abbeys and bishoprics which were vacant and belonging to the king's right of patronage'; many other privileges belonged to the position which St. Thomas had been given, and which he filled with such great discretion. His life now was full of the whirl of state business, and yet his heart was not in it; often he would speak of his weariness and longing for a quiet and retired place where he might serve God only; but he used his power for the good of the Church and country, and for the divine glory, influencing the king to many acts of mercy and justice. But whilst he was surrounded by luxury and grandeur, his own fare was as simple as it could be. Under his splendid clothing he wore a hair-shirt, and after passing a day in royal pleasures, he would lie upon the floor during the night, doing many acts of humiliation and penance, and thus he remained unharmed
by the world in which he had to live, keeping his heart fixed upon God.
Archbishop Theobald died during the month of April, 1161, so Henry II. fixed upon Thomas-a-Becket to succeed him, and in June, 1162, he was consecrated in the Cathedral of Canterbury, in the presence of an immense assemblage. A different life began for St. Thomas now—one which he had long desired. Every night he rose to say Divine Office with his monks, and then he washed the feet of thirteen poor men, to whom he gave a good meal before sending them away. At the dawn of day, he slept for a short time, and then rose to study the Scriptures; after which, he gave himself to prayer before saying Mass, or assisting at it During dinner, he had some spiritual book read aloud, but he did not force his soldiers to be present lest they might grow weary. Seats were always kept for a number of poor people, but afterwards a large quantity of food was given away to the crowds who came asking alms.
After a time, the king's great friendship for St. Thomas began to grow cooler, and the first
signs of his displeasure arose in several ways. One was a sermon which St. Thomas preached before Henry, in which he said that spiritual power was nobler and higher than that which is temporal; another was, that the archbishop objected to and succeeded in preventing an unfair tax being laid upon the people. Then, Henry encouraged an abbot in refusing to take the oath of obedience to the archbishop, and it became a struggle whether the Church should be governed as our Lord Jesus Christ had appointed, or whether a king was to be its ruler. Great difficulties seemed hanging over England, for Henry wished to begin reforms and changes which St. Thomas refused to agree too, but when the king pledged himself never to do anything to the injury of the Church, the Saint believed his word, and said that upon that condition he would not oppose the royal power.
A council of bishops and nobles was called to meet, so that St. Thomas should be forced to repeat this promise in public, and a paper was drawn up, upon which these "customs," as they were called, had been written, to which he was required now to affix his signature and seal. The Saint, who saw now what he was being made to consent to, refused to sign until he had communicated with the Pope, and no rage of Henry's could induce him to swerve from this decision; but his heart was sad and heavy, for he feared that by his first general promise to accede to the king's wishes, he had been weak instead of strong in the cause of the Church which it was his duty to guard and protect. So tender was his conscience, that for this fault which he deemed so serious, St. Thomas performed severe penance, and deprived himself of the right to say Mass until he had received the forgiveness of the Pope. The Pope wrote to comfort him, and assure him that for any fault there had been of weakness in yielding to the king, God would grant forgiveness, and supported him in his determination not to sign the royal papers which contained such alterations in the government of the Church.
From that time, St. Thomas began to prepare for his martyr's crown, for Henry Plantagenet sought to annoy and persecute him in every possible way—he was ordered to give up his property, called upon to pay an impossible sum of money, and summoned to appear before the court which had judged him. On the first day, the archbishop was confined at home by sickness, but on the Tuesday he rose, said Mass at his own altar, in which he offered up himself in union with the Divine Sacrifice, to suffer according to God's holy Will; then, as the custom of the time was, in any special trial, he placed the Blessed Sacrament in his breast and set out for the court, carrying his own cross, in token of his sacred office. When the king heard of his arrival, he was awe-struck, and stayed in an inner room, for he feared to face the representative of God, and there his nobles followed him, leaving St. Thomas and his bishops alone in the council chamber. The Earl of Leicester at last returned to pass judgment, but the archbishop refused to hear him, reminding him that he had no power over one who was the spiritual father of the king, the nobles and people, and then rising, he left the court, saying, "I put my cause and the cause of the Church under the protection of God and the Holy Father."
On reaching the gate, St. Thomas mounted his horse, but they found themselves locked in; however, one of his followers saw a bunch of keys hanging on a nail in the wall, and, fortunately, the first which he tried opened the gate. When the king heard how the archbishop had left, he was frightened lest some terrible judgments from Heaven should befall him, so he thought to protect himself from God's punishment by sending a herald through the town to order that no one should do St. Thomas any injury; but his command was unnecessary, for the people loved our Saint so warmly that they were rejoicing over- his safe return from the council. They crowded round him, so that he could scarcely get through their midst, kneeling for his blessing, and the sight of their devotion gave him great joy in the midst of his troubles.
Many of his followers had deserted the holy archbishop, but the poor whom he loved were invited to fill their vacant places at his table. When supper was ended, St. Thomas desired to remain the whole night in the Church, but after Office had been sung, he escaped from the monastery with three faithful friends upon strong horses which had been prepared in case a flight was necessary. It was a wet night, and they rode unobserved along the streets, reaching a village half-way to Lincoln before morning, where they rested a short time, and then started again for Lincoln. Here St. Thomas with one of his followers took a boat and went by water to an island on which stood a convent belonging to the canonesses of St. Gilbert of Sempringham, whilst the others journeyed there by land. They rested three days, and then set forth once more, travelling on foot towards Kent, from whence they crossed to the Flemish coast, landing after a stormy passage near Gravelines. But here the Saint was so weary, that his friends tried to get a horse for him; however, when the boy who had been sent for one returned, it was with a miserable ass, without a saddle, and with a halter of straw; so they threw a cloak over it, and S. Thomas mounted and rode a couple of miles, but he found it was more wearisome than walking, so he dismounted and dragged his weary steps along with great
difficulty. A poor woman, struck with his noble appearance and evident fatigue, ran into her house and fetched him a rough stick to help him on his way, which he accepted with many thanks.
Soon after they met a party of young men, one of whom carried a hawk on his wrist; and as the archbishop's eyes rested upon the bird, one of them recognized him, and exclaimed, "I believe that is the Archbishop of Canterbury." But as one of his followers retorted, "You simpleton, did ever you see an archbishop travel in such a guise ?" they were allowed to pass on without further remark, and at length, after many difficulties, arrived safely at St. Berlin's monastery, where a trusty follower was waiting for St. Thomas, with a portion of the plate and money he had secured from Canterbury.' But they could not remain long where they were, in the territory of the Count of Flanders, so once again they journeyed on, until they were safe in the dominions of Louis, King of France.
For seven years the Saint remained in exile—years in which he lived as a simple monk at Fontigny, in the community which received him with great delight, joining the brethren in their out-door occupations, assisting at their Office in choir, and keeping to a course of mortification and penance. Now the quiet and leisure he had often desired was his. It pleased Almighty God at this time to reveal to our Saint the future before him, for once, while he was praying after Mass at the altar of S. Stephen, he beard a voice calling"Thomas! Thomas f upon which he answered, "Where art thou, Lord?" Then the heavenly voice replied, "I am Jesus, thy brother and thy Lord. My Church shall be glorified in thy blood, and thou shalt be glorified in Me."During the archbishop's absence, the King of England took all his property at Canterbury, banished all his servants, even turning every poor man and woman who had shown him any kindness in his wanderings, out of
their homes in the cold winter-time, to seek shelter in Flanders. But his cruelty made every Catholic in Europe indignant with him, and charitable to the poor sufferers. The King of France tried to put an end to Henry's angry feelings, and bring him round to be once more friendly with the exiled archbishop, but in vain. After giving him time to cool down his passion, St. Thomas himself wrote to the king in a kind and gentle way, but no answer was returned to the first or second letter, and the third brought a sharp answer; and yet Henry was very much frightened, for he dreaded the sentence of excommunication which he knew he had deserved. Obstinate as he was, his faith in the Church was sufficient to make him fear her anger. Indeed the Saint felt now that his next step must be to cut off the rebellious monarch from communion with the Church, but by the advice of the Pope he put off the sentence in the hope of peace being made.
After several years of humiliations and false accusations, which the Saint endured with patience and holy joy, a reconciliation was brought about by the King of France, who had persuaded Henry Plantagenet to be his guest, and see the archbishop once more; and at this meeting Henry asked him to return, promising to restore him his see of Canterbury, and to uphold the power of the Church. It was on December 1,1170, that St. Thomas landed at Sandwich, from which he continued his journey to Canterbury upon the same day—the place where within a month he was to die for the cause of God. His journey was a continual triumph, for people flocked from all parts to meet and welcome him, and in his own city there was every sign of joy—the churches resounding with music, and the streets decked out as for a public holiday. St. Thomas went straight to his own cathedral, his face shining with the happiness of his heart, and in the chapter-house he preached a sermon from the words, which seemed almost like a preparation for his fast-approaching death, "We have here no abiding city, but seek one to come."
In about a week, the archbishop proceeded to London, where he was received with great
expressions of joy, the priests and people meeting him, and the "Te Deum" being sung. The young king (whom Henry had caused to be crowned during his own lifetime) sent the archbishop a message, forbidding him to make any more .processions about the country, and advising him to return to Canterbury. This gave St. Thomas much sorrow, for he knew that Henry's son was really attached to him, and that this message must be caused by the influence of others — it seemed to confirm him in his belief that new persecutions and sufferings were beginning.
The Saint wrote to a friend (the Abbot of St. Albans) to meet him at Harrow, and begged him to go and procure him an interview with the young king; and the Abbot obeyed, but without success. Then St. Thomas returned to Canterbury for the Feast of Christmas, but some of his enemies had already crossed over to Normandy, where King Henry was staying, complaining of his renewed power, and of the journeys he was making amidst the rejoicing people. Henry Plantagenet's eyes flashed with rage, and with an oath he cursed all those who did not rid him of one who annoyed him in this way. Then he left them, little thinking what were to be the consequences of those words spoken in his furious passion.
The four knights went out from King Henry's presence, determining to take him at his word, and, starting by four different routes, they reached England and Saltwood Castle at the same time. Next day they went to St. Augustine's Abbey, outside the walls of Canterbury, and spent the time in making their preparations for the sinful deed they had in view. The last morning of his life, the Saint assisted at Mass in the Cathedral, went to confession, scourged himself three times in his spirit of contrition and penance, and spent some hours in talking with his monks of spiritual things. At four in the afternoon the wicked knights came and asked for the archbishop, who received them with his usual courtesy, but they took no notice, looking at each other so strangely that he felt sure they had come for an evil purpose. They professed to have brought a message from the king, but not having an opportunity of attacking their victim, they at last left the room noisily, with threatening words.
The archbishop, with his monks, went to assist at vespers in the choir, but he withdrew alone to the altar of St. Benedict to think and pray, for he felt convinced that the hour of his death had come. As he was just ascending the steps to the choir, one of the knights appeared with his sword drawn, followed by the other three. Some one rushed to bolt the door leading to the cloister, so as to give the Saint an opportunity of escape, but he came down the steps to meet the knights, asking them what they desired. " Your death," replied one, and they tried to drag him from the church, but the Saint pushed the murderer from him, saying, " Touch me not—you forget that you owe me submission." Then, finding they could not get him from the church, Fitz-Urse waved his sword above the Saint, whilst he bowed his head, and commended his soul to God. Three times they struck him, and then falling on his face before the altar of St. Benedict, he breathed his last, saying, "For the Name of Jesus, and for the defence of His Church, I am ready to die." Then the wretched murderers ran through the palace, taking every valuable they could secure, and afterwards they departed, glorying in their awful deed.
When the news spread, people flocked to the church, weeping and lamenting for the Saint, who was so dear to them. They threw themselves down hy the holy corpse, kissing
the hands and feet with reverent love, while others secretly cut shreds from his garments
or took away some of the blood which had flowed from him. That night there was an awful thunder-storm, and amidst the flashes of lightning which lit up the church, the monks kept watch by the remains of the holy martyr, who lay there beautiful in death, a calm smile still on his lips as it had been through life, a fresh colour upon his cheeks, and an air of peace surrounding him, as if he had died in an untroubled sleep rather than by violence.
Next day they dressed him in his hair shirt, with the vestments of his office to cover it, and, laying him in a marble coffin in the crypt, they closed and left it for a while. But miracles began to be worked by the relics which had been carried away, and people flocked to the church, begging to kneel at the shrine. Then the enemies of the martyred Saint threatened to carry off his remains by force, so that the monks in terror were compelled to place the body in a wooden coffin, and hide it behind the altar of the Blessed Virgin until they could carry it once more down to the crypt, where it was enclosed in a marble coffin, round which strong walls were built, and in the roof of which two openings were left, through which pilgrims might touch and kiss the coffin. For a long time the cathedral was in mourning, for the terrible bloodshed which had desecrated it; no Mass was said there, the crucifixes were veiled, the altars stripped, and everything wore an aspect of gloom.
When the news reached Henry Plantagenet, his remorse was terrible. Too late, he saw the consequences of his ungoverned passion—too late he mourned for those hasty words which had brought about the death of such a faithful servant of God, and one who had been so good and patient a friend to himself He shut himself up in his misery, he took off his royal robes and dressed in sackcloth, he fasted, he did penances, but God inflicted greater punishments on him than these. For more than a year Henry was excommunicated, and then had to do public penance for his sin before absolution was given him.
On the 21st February, 1173, St. Thomas of Canterbury was solemnly canonized as a martyr
for the cause of God, and his festival appointed to be kept on the 29th December, which was the day of his death. The body was removed to the place in the chapel of the Blessed Trinity where he had said his first Mass, and a splendid structure was raised to contain those holy relics. There the rich and great, the poor and unknown thronged to the shrine of the martyred St. Thomas, through whose intercessions many prayers were answered.
The death of the Saint of Canterbury brought peace to the Church in England, for in Henry's contrition he restored all the rights which he had deprived her of in that or any other land; and although in later times, when this unhappy country had turned away from the true faith, the martyr's tomb was destroyed and his sacred relics burned, his name still lives, and his memory is cherished as it deserves.
Now in our own times St. Thomas has been given the title of Patron of the Secular Clergy, and churches are rising up in honour of him who shed his blood to keep for the Church of Christ in England that place which, though lost in later years by the faithlessness of its own children, will belong to it again when the errors which prevail are overcome by the power of God's truth, and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is dwelling within every sanctuary throughout the land, amidst the reverent love of a faithful Catholic people.
Source: Saints for Children, Vol III, 1878
The Holy Innocents
Herod, who was reigning in Judea at the time of the birth of Our Saviour, laving heard that the Wise Men had come from the East to Jerusalem in search of the king of the Jews, was troubled. He called together the chief priests, and learning that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, he told the Wise Men: "When you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him." But God having warned them in a dream not to return, they went back to their homes another way. St. Joseph, too was ordered in his sleep to "take the Child and His Mother and fly into Egypt." When Herod found that the Wise Men did not return, he was furious, and ordered that every male child in Bethlehem and its vicinity of the age of two and under should be slain. These innocent victims were the flowers and the first-fruits of His martyrs, and triumphed over the world, without having ever known it or experienced its dangers.
Reflection: How few perhaps of these children, if they had lived, would have escaped the dangers of the world! What snares, what sins, what miseries were they preserved from! So we often lament as misfortunes many accidents which in the designs of Heaven are the greatest mercies.
Source: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, Imprimatur 1925
THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD IN THE TEMPLE
Christmas is over; with the angels we have sung the beautiful anthem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." We have witnessed the tears of the Child Jesus, but we know that those tears were tears of lave, and for that reason, they did not distress us, but gave us consolation.
Today, with the joy of Christmas still in our hearts, we come with the Holy Family and other pious people to the Temple to witness the ceremony of the Presentation. The first time Our Lord goes out into the world. He directs His Mother to carry Him to church. The moral I wish to draw from this Gospel, dear young people, is, that you should think much of the house of God on earth. We must also imitate the example of Christ and while in church beg our dear Lord to inflame our souls more and more with His holy love. There are many who do not love the Church, through some depravity of heart, or the bad example of others. Will such be dear to Jesus? Will He love such as these? Jesus weeps for them.
Mary and Joseph heard the great prophecy which Simeon had spoken; they wondered at it, they thanked God for the light bestowed upon Simeon, and also that they had been made instruments of His divine providence.
We, too, my dear young people, must rejoice at the honors which God gives His Son, as we must weep when we see Him suffer. Yes, when you see Our Lord honored, feel joyful and be happy; when you see Him despised, be sad of heart. Is not this Jesus your good God? your beloved Redeemer who shed His precious blood for you? Can you witness the outrages which are heaped upon Him without resenting them, or at least trying to hinder them? What would you say of a son who saw his father badly used, and looked on carelessly and coldly? Should not a boy feel a natural impulse to defend his father by word and deed? Well, he that loves Jesus Christ should at least feel compassion when His holy religion is insulted. St. Teresa once said that a soul which loves Our Lord would sooner die than see Him despised or neglected. Elias the prophet, not to witness the wickedness of the Jewish people, hid himself in a cave, and there prayed that God would take him out of this life rather than he should see Him offended.
After Simeon had congratulated Mary and Joseph on their glorious future, he spoke of the sorrows that awaited Mary. "This child is set for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be' contradicted; and thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed." What a terrible prophecy this! Is it possible that this Child, who has come to this world for the salvation of His people, should indeed be the cause of the damnation of many? To whom will He be a ruin? to many in Israel, in the true church. He will be a ruin to infidels and heretics who will not believe in Him; a ruin to the proud who will not bow their heads in humility and faith, and to many Christians. But what Christians will be damned by the coming of Christ? Those who are so only in name; who do the works of the heathen and live in sin; who offend and blaspheme Our Lord, even though they were brought up Catholics. This divine Infant will also be the ruin of many young people, of those who from their earliest childhood cared little for Him, drove Him from their hearts to make room for the devil. He will be the utter ruin of those who, not content to lead bad lives themselves, lead others astray by giving bad example or by bad conversation.
The divine Infant is presented today in the Temple. There is nothing dreadful about Him now; but one day they shall see Him, fierce as a lion; they shall see Him as a God, scattering His thunderbolts among sinners; He will demand of them the strictest account of all their works, of all the souls they have ruined, and of whose eternal damnation they have been the cause. May this prophecy not be realized in you. Then it will be too late to please Him; no more time for mercy, but for justice.
There was once a young man at the point of death, who had led a bad life; the priest came and presented the crucifix to him to kiss, saying, "Here, my son, is your hope." The young man fixed his eyes on the cross and said, "Yes, you say truly. He is my hope, but He is now the cause of my despair," and these were his last words. Be you, my dear young people, faithful to Jesus, try to know Him well, do not offend Him, but love Him with a great love; then He will be your salvation and eternal life. But, Mary, my mother, what is that prophecy which Simeon makes concerning you: "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce"? In her subsequent life we see the prophecy verified. A sword of sorrow pierced her very soul, when she saw her divine Son insulted, made an object of hatred, crowned with thorns, and cruelly nailed to a cross. Our minds cannot realize the pain which Mary had to suffer. We know that our sins have been the cause of the Passion and death of Our Lord. Let us, therefore, weep all our life for the sins we have committed, and not renew the Passion of Our Lord or the sufferings of Mary.
The Blessed Virgin once appeared to St. Lutgard, looking very sad; the saint asked her why it was so. Mary replied, "How can I be joyful when so many, day after day, give me new cause of sorrow by again crucifying my most holy Son?" She also appeared to Blessed Mcoletta Franciscana with her Child covered with terrible wounds, and said, "See how sinners treat my Son, inflicting on Him mortal wounds, and giving me also fresh cause of sorrow." St. Alphonsus says that when we sin we take the hammer, and most unmercifully pierce the hands and feet of Jesus with nails, and then we turn on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and plunge the sword of sorrow deep into her soul.
But let us follow the story of the Gospel: There was in the Temple at the same time a woman, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser; she was eighty years old, and after the death of her husband, had remained about the Temple serving the priests and engaged in prayer; she knew Our Lord at once, adored Him, and proclaimed Him the Saviour; then, filled with the Holy Ghost, she told them of the marvels of God's mercy, who had at last sent the Messias.
You see, my dear young people, how that holy woman who served Our Lord in silence and retirement, deserved so great a grace, so great a light of inspiration, as to be enabled to know Jesus. You, also, should love retirement, love to be near Our Lord in the Temple; speak often to Jesus in prayer, and then the Saviour will bring light to your souls, and speak to your hearts words of eternal life.
But there is something else to be considered in the story of this saintly old woman. We have in our cities and villages many who imitate this St. Anna. Let me say something in praise of these: they would willingly remain in the church, day and night, if they were permitted. We call them devotees. They are peculiar in their ways, considered crazy, derided by the good and bad as useless people; but perhaps they are high in the esteem of God. God gives more light to the simple and unpretending than to the philosophers who are puffed up with the pride of their intellect, and use it only to despise what they do not approve.
You remember that beautiful story of St. Catherine; she had a great dispute with some learned professors in one of the universities of Alexandria, Egypt, and in the presence of the Emperor Maximian, she so convinced them of their errors, that many became Christians and afterwards suffered martyrdom.
It is told of another martyr, who was a poor ignorant man, a laborer in the field, but who had studied Our Lord crucified; this man, when he had been judged guilty of disrespect to the gods and was condemned to death, made such a grand appeal to the emperor, that the tyrant himself acknowledged he was acting only from hatred of the Christian religion and not for the love of truth. These devotees in the sight of the world are useless, but we know that they have consecrated their lives to the service of God. There are also monks and nuns who spend much of their time in prayer. Are these people to be called pious idlers? Do they encumber the face of the earth, and should they be scattered as they have been in some countries? 0, how poor and miserable human beings are! They let vice walk openly in the world, and take little trouble about it; but when poor Religious gather together to pray, it makes them desperate, and they do not stop until they have succeeded in suppressing them. The Gospel ends by telling us that Our Lord lived at Nazareth, and grew in age and grace before God and man.
My dear young people, strive to grow in goodness, in virtue, and in sanctity, for it is the will of God that we all should be saints.
Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900
SAINT JOHN THE APOSTLE, EVANGELIST
YOUNGEST of all the Apostles was he whom we know as the "Beloved Disciple," he who was permitted to rest his head upon the Sacred Heart throbbing with love for men, and afterwards to make that Divine love his constant theme.
John was the brother of James whom Herod Agrippa had put to death, and therefore the son of Zebedee and Salome. From his earliest years he had doubtless heard of the time when the long-foretold Messiah should be given to Israel, and thus when John Baptist came to preach penance and to prepare the way for his Master, John, after wards the Evangelist, enrolled himself among the Saint's disciples, and was directed by him to Jesus by the words," Behold the Lamb of God." From that hour, St. John became a follower of Christ, and his love was so deep and strong and true that be was admitted to great and particular favour by Our Lord.
With Sts. James and Peter, John was suffered to be present at the miracle of the raising of the young daughter of Jairus; they too were permitted to attend their Master to the Mount of Transfiguration and to go with Him in the first hour of His bitter Passion to the sorrowful Garden of Gethsemane. Truly John fled in the moment when the soldiers came to seize upon Jesus—fled because overcome by a great and sudden fear; but love soon conquered, and he returned to the hall of judgment to be near his Lord during His trial, and with aching agonized heart beheld the Crucifixion, and received the last earthly wish of that beloved Master, and took the Virgin Mother to his own home.
During the remaining fifteen years of Mary's life on earth, John remained with her in Jerusalem, but after she had been assumed to heaven he made his way to Asia, there to preach the Gospel of Christ and to confirm those who had already received the truth. The churches of Pergamos, of Smyrna, of Sardis, and others, were founded by St. John; but his chief residence was at Ephesus, which church he governed.
During the reign of the Emperor Domitian, a great persecution was raised against Christians, and by his order the Apostle was sent for and carried to the gate of Rome called Latina, where he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. Doubtless St. John offered his life gladly to God in that moment; yet the Will of the Almighty was not to accept him among the company of martyrs, but to prevent the fiery bath from causing him either pain or injury, so that he came forth from it refreshed as if it had been clear pure water.
Domitian's disappointment and rage were great, and believing this miracle had been effected by the power of magic, of which men spoke and thought so much in those days, he banished the aged Apostle to the desolate isle of Patmos in the Aegean sea. It was a bleak and barren spot, and thus chosen by the Emperors of Borne as especially suited for the residence of criminals, there being no chance of escape and no possibility of aid being rendered to them.
Away from all who could comfort him, Domitian deemed his punishment the most severe which he could inflict upon the Apostle, short of positive death; but his power could not shut heaven from the captive's sight, and God granted to St. John glorious visions of that "Jerusalem the Golden" which he mystically describes in the Apocalypse or Book of Revelations.
In this book, the glory of gold and the radiance of rare gems are employed to figure to us the splendour of heaven, still even the most learned of men must fail to comprehend what is reserved for us in that bright home; we only know and love to think that there is perfect peace, perfect joy, for no sorrow and no care can enter in, neither shall there be any more sin—it will be holiness, light, love, and "Christ all and in all!" At length Domitian died and was succeeded by Nerva, under whose milder rule St. John was allowed to leave Patmos for Ephesus, in which city he wrote his Gospel.
This Gospel abounds not so much in narrative as in doctrine, the design and work of Christ being specially dwelt upon. The reason for this seems to lie in the fact that certain heresies prevailed in those early days when men were beginning openly to deny the Divinity of Our Lord—an error which St. John sought to counteract. He also supplies some passages of Evangelical history which had been omitted by the other Evangelists.
St. John was the only one of the Apostles who did not die a martyr's death—it was the Will of God that he should remain a "living example of holiness unto all men," to the great age of nearly a hundred years. Three Epistles come to us from the hand of the Beloved Disciple.
In the first of these he addresses Christians generally, telling them that in Jesus we have eternal life and fellowship with the Father, but that holiness of life must be the fruit of this faith, for "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." He goes on to preach the forgiveness of sins, and to insist upon fraternal charity as the proof of love to God; he also warns us not to give ear to false teachers who are not led by the Spirit of God.
The second Epistle of St. John was written for the purpose of encouraging a Christian matron with her children to walk perseveringly in the way of truth, and to avoid any dealings with those who taught not the true doctrine of Christ Jesus.
The third Epistle is addressed to one called Gaius, of whose good and charitable deeds the Apostle had heard with joy. It seemed the especial work of St. John to teach the grand, yet simple lesson of Divine love, and that love to all men which must spring from the heart which is indeed penetrated with this love of God. "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another;" thus did he write for us of later times as well as for those who heard the message also from his holy lips.
Tradition tells us a beautiful story of St. John's last days on earth. Feeling that his time was short, and being so weak that he could no longer walk to the church where he had been accustomed to teach, the old Apostle entreated his friends to bear him in their arms so that he might once more speak of Christ. They did what he desired; but when he looked round upon the assembly his strength failed him, the words he longed to utter died upon his feeble tongue, he could only raise his trembling hands in a last blessing and falter, "Little children, love one another, love one Another!"
Among the other cruelties which the Emperor Domitian practiced upon the holy Apostle John, was the sending him a poisoned cup. But the Saint, taking it in his hand, made the sacred sign of the Cross, at which a serpent sprang from it, and, without doing harm to any one, glided away. This cup is preserved at Rome, in the church of St. John Lateran, as well as the tunic of the Apostle, and a piece of the chain with which he was bound on the journey from Ephesus to Rome.
A singular devotion has been entertained for St. John by many of the Saints. Among these is St. Edward the Confessor, of whom we read that he never refused anything asked in the name of the Apostle. On one occasion St. John himself appeared in a beggar's dress beseeching alms, and the pious king, having no money with him, took the ring from his finger and gave it to the beggar. It was returned to him afterwards by St. John, with the tidings of his death upon a certain day, which prediction was fulfilled.
To both St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Gertrude, the Apostle appeared several times in vision, and when the last-named Saint asked; God to reveal to her how she could show her love and gratitude to His beloved disciple, the answer was this: "If any one will say an 'Our Father' daily in honour of this Apostle, reminding him of the faithfulness which filled his heart when he learnt this prayer from My lips, he will surely obtain for such an one the gift of persevering in sanctifying grace to the end of his life."
There is an oft-told legend of St. John's life, which we cannot omit here, because it shows so clearly his love for souls and his tenderness to sinners. After his sojourn at Patmos, the Apostle met in a certain city with a youth whom he persuaded to begin to walk in the way of eternal life. Being compelled to go elsewhere, St. John entrusted this youth to the care of the Bishop, calling upon Our Lord to witness his charge solemnly given in the church of the city. The Bishop promised to guide and watch over the young man, and did indeed baptize him and instruct him carefully in Christian doctrine but he allowed him to go from his care too soon, so that, borne down by strong temptation, he fell into many and grievous sins. One night he went with his bad companions to take part in a highway robbery, and the desire for gain took such hold of his mind that he became one of the chief robbers and assassins in those parts. Time passed, and St. John, returning to the city, sought the Bishop and said: "Give me back him whom I committed to your charge in the presence of Christ Jesus." "He is dead," said the Bishop, "Dead to God, for he has become a robber upon the highway."
The Apostle's heart was pierced with grief at such tidings, and calling for a horse he rode quickly towards the mountain where his pupil was then known to dwell. The robbers, however, employed sentinels to guard the mountain passes, and these seized upon St. John and carried him before their leader.
He, the once promising youth—recognized his spiritual Father, and, for very shame, turned and fled. But the old Apostle would not thus let him go, and following him cried: "Why art thou flying from thy Father? stay, my son, for Jesus has sent me to you." The young robber paused at these words, sorrow now succeeded to shame, and he began to weep bitterly; yet he would not stretch out his hand, defiled as it was with crime, to touch the Saint.
But he, the Saint of love took that sinful hand and touched it with his lips, then he led away the youth to the church, nor was it long before his soul was restored to life, and he regained all the grace he had lost. Thus did John love sinners, because great, and deep, and burning was his love for Him Who died for sinners, and Who came into the world to seek and to save the lost.
Source: Lives of the Saints, Vol. IV, 1878
Collect from the Mass of St. John
Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church: that being taught by blessed John, thine Apostle and Evangelist, she may come to thy eternal rewards. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in unity with the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.
Source: The Liturgical Year, 1867
A couple coloring pictures for the children can be found below:
Just sharing a lovely coloring picture of the Nativity. You will find the file below. . . .
THE name of Stephen signifies a crown, and a glorious crown in heaven was surely won by him who was chosen of God to lay down his life for Christ's love, first of all the many martyrs.
St. Stephen was one of six other Jewish men who had been elected to the office of deacon by reason of their well-known piety and wisdom. This office was constituted in the early Church for the purpose of having proper care taken of the poor, and Stephen with his companions were admitted to it by the laying on of hands, and we bear that he was "full of faith and power, and did great wonders and miracles among the people."
But certain men began to feel great enmity against the holy deacon, and resolving to do him harm, they bribed false witnesses to declare that he had been heard publicly to utter blasphemy against Moses, and also against the Almighty. St. Stephen was therefore summoned to appear before the council or Sanhedrim upon the charge of saying that Jesus the crucified and rejected Nazarene, should destroy Jerusalem and change all the rites which had been celebrated by the command of Moses.
We hear that as the holy deacon stood before the assembly, his face shone as that of an angel, bright with the love of God, and the thought of the dear Master, Who also had been evil spoken of and dragged before an earthly tribunal. He made a long address to the council with such power and courage, that they were "cut to the heart at his words," yet gnashed with their teeth in their passionate anger against the Saint, who, looking upwards, cried: "Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." We read that at these words the infuriated people stopped their ears, and with one accord fell upon their victim, casting him violently outside the gates of the city that he might be stoned to death.
Heavily upon the martyr's head fell the stones, terribly they cut and bruised him; but he called upon his Master for help, saying: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" But Jesus had done more than suffer—He had prayed for His murderers; and Stephen, who was treading the hard, rough, bloodstained way of the Cross, must also pray for those who were taking his life. "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," he cried, and thus speaking, he "fell asleep," the sweet sleep of a holy death, a martyr's death, which should know such a blissful awakening.
Oh, happy Saint, so soon to follow his crucified Lord! May we learn from him to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors, and thus grasp the lesson of his holy life.
Source: Lives of the Saints, Vol. IV, 1878
Collect from the Mass of St. Stephen
Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, that we may imitate him whose memory we celebrate, so as to learn to love even our enemies; because we now solemnize his martyrdom, who knew how to pray even for his persecutors to our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.
Source: The Liturgical Year, 1867
A coloring picture for the children can be found below: