No doubt, there are many poor creatures around you, who labor and suffer and weep, and, in their blindness and despair, curse the loving God who created them; blaspheme the God who died for them; and hate the holy Church which he established in order to save them. And among these restless, wandering souls, you often find noble, generous hearts. Many are wavering between good and evil, many of them struggle, at least at times, against their passions. They are groping about in the dark. A kind word, a friendly advice, might save them. Many of them are like the poor paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida. They are so near the source of life, they long to reach it but they find no one to take them by the hand and lead them thither. And one soul brought thus to God will be the means of leading others to God, and so the good will go on till the day of judgment.
Kevelin Digby, author of the "Ages of Faith," who did so much to awaken what was afterwards called the "Oxford Movement," was led to the Catholic faith by means of the barber who used to shave him when he was a member of the University. The barber began to instruct him, in the broken conversations occurring from day to day. Then he lent Mr. Digby books, and the barber thus became the teacher of the University man. Ah! rest assured that every one, no matter in what state of life he is placed, will find opportunities to instruct the ignorant if he is zealous enough to perform this spiritual work of mercy.
A child passes you on the road. Why pass it by as coldly as if you did not see it ? Salute the child kindly ; speak to it. Ask, for instance, if it goes to school and where ; if it can read, can pray ; who is "Our Father" in heaven? You can thus give the child a short instruction ! You cast the seeds of eternal life into its heart seeds that will one day ripen with God s grace and bear fruit a hundred-fold. And even should the seed choke and wither in the child s heart, your eternal reward in heaven will not be lost. Your guardian angel has written down the good deed. If even a cup of cold water given in our Lord"s name shall be rewarded, how much more an act of charity done to the soul.A neighbor's child comes to your house perhaps to play with your children. Of course, should the child teach your little ones bad words or anything that is wrong, you must send it away or correct it. But if the child is well disposed, treat it kindly ; you have a good opportunity to do an act of charity to that child's soul. Do not imagine that the child comes there merely by accident. It is its angel that sends it, that you may instruct it, that you may teach it how to reach its heavenly home. Show the little one some pious pictures. Tell it something about our Saviour, about the Blessed Virgin, about the angels. Teach it how God sees it every moment, in the darkest night as well as in broad daylight.
You are living with a Protestant family. You edify them by your conduct. They are in doubt about their religion, or ridicule yours on certain occasions. Profit by these occasions, and tell them the most important truths of our religion. Be not afraid to do so. Our Lord makes use of you to convert that family if they are sincere before God.
Not long ago a poor but worthy Irishman came to the door of a respectable Protestant family, and asked for any employment that would secure his daily bread. He was engaged for some service on the farm, and gave satisfaction. But being a Catholic he was held in contempt in that part of this country. As he seemed utterly devoid of even the first elements of education, it was thought that an attack upon his religion would not only result in amusement from his ridiculous answers, but in an easy triumph over his evident ignorance. He was accordingly questioned and bantered on the "objectionable" points of his creed by the most intelligent member of the house hold. But the good man, though ignorant of most other things, had been thoroughly instructed in his catechism ; and this alone would have made him more than a match for a score of divines from Princeton or Geneva. His answers were so calm, so clear and correct, so logical, and, finally, so impressive, that the tables were soon turned and the laugh, or the defeat rather, proved to be on the wrong side. The questioner was not only vanquished but dismayed and terrified into the conviction that answers so simple, yet so cogent and logical must rest on some basis of truth. This brought about a serious examination of Catholic doctrine, and the examination was followed by submission to the Church. This conversion happily led to that of the whole family and of many others. These facts are well known throughout the county and State where they happened. (American Cath. Quart. Review, October, 1879, p. 723.)
3. To counsel the doubtful.
It often happens that a person is doubting as to whether a thing is lawful or not, whether this or that action is forbidden or allowed. On both sides he sees plausible reasons, which make an impression ; but amongst these reasons there is none that draws down the weight, none that is sufficient to ground a determination. Thus, wavering between these different and opposite reasons, he remains undetermined and dares not make a decision for fear of being deceived and of falling into sin. Now that person is not allowed to act with such a doubtful conscience. He must seek for light and instruction, if he can.
An heir, for example, has entered upon an estate which was formerly unjustly acquired by his ancestors ; but, at the time he accepted it, he had no knowledge, no doubt concerning its unjust acquisition. Afterwards he discovers a flaw in his title, and for good reasons begins to doubt as to whether he lawfully possesses the property.
There is another. He doubts as to the state of life to which God calls him. There is a Protestant ; for good reasons he has doubts as to the possibility of being saved in the Protestant religion. Now to counsel aright such persons, is to perform a spiritual work of mercy. For want of knowledge, or discretion, or some other reason, it may not be in your power to perform this kind of work of mercy. But you know, perhaps, a learned and charitable man who is competent to ad vise properly the doubtful. Now by referring to such a man, a person who has doubts of conscience, you share in the spiritual work of mercy the good advice which is given.
To be continued . . . . . . . . . . .