We would like to introduce our newest habit for 18" dolls. St. Catherine Laboure. St. Catherine was a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent dePaul. She is the saint to whom Our Blessed Mother appeared giving her the Miraculous Medal. Her body is one of the incorruptibles. Her feast day is November 28th. You can find her here.
The Apostles had asked Our Lord concerning the destruc- tion of the Temple of Jerusalem, and so important did it appear, that He made them understand, that, to a certain degree, it was the foreshadowing of the end of the world. The catastrophe which is to destroy this world and all its inhabitants must certainly be fearful, and the destruction of Jerusalem was a foreboding of it. The great sign which is to show that the end is near, is that there is to be abomination in the Temple itself. When any one, then, stands in the holy place and sees that filth, neglect and dishonor has come upon it he may conclude that the end is near.
By this abomination of desolation in the holy place is understood literally, the profanation of the Temple. A multitude of soldiers rushed into the sacred precincts, and with fire and sword destroyed everything. Many were killed there and the court of the Temple, a refuge and a place of safety for the persecuted, flowed with blood. Jerusalem had become a picture of hell. A furious army besieged the city, and terrible famine was the consequence; men tore one another like dogs: for after having fought the Romans, dissensions arrayed them against one another, and soon their blood-stained swords were turned to fratricidal slaughter.
Mothers forgot their motherly feelings to such an extent that they consumed their own children for food; those who made an effort to escape were caught to the number of five hundred a day, and were crucified before the gates of the city. This terrible spectacle, however, did not frighten them, for notwithstanding it, many attempted to get out in order to look for a little food. Outside the walls of the city it looked like a forest of crosses. Such was the terrible judgment against this city: Many died on crosses as a punishment for the crucifixion of Our Lord.
The Fathers of the Church who have explained this part of the Scriptures say that by the abomination of desolation is meant mortal sin. Our body, as the Apostle tells us, is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and God wishes to inhabit it. He wants to make a holy of holies of our bodies and souls. What would you think of a sacrilegious thief who would come into the church and despoil the tabernacle and defile the holy altar? What a profanation it would be considered to scatter the consecrated Host torn from its resting-place by sacrilegious hands. Would we not be furious at such a desecration? We would be indignant, and would want to punish the culprit severely; and yet this is what that one does who desecrates his own soul. He drives Our Lord Jesus out of 'his heart, takes hold of Him and forces Him out like an intruder. He has to yield His place to the devil. What a change there is in that soul; would that you could see it. Then you would realize why the Scripture calls such souls vipers, dogs, and swine.
What would you think, then, my dear young people, if, after having committed a sin of impurity, you found yourself changed into an unclean animal? But you are even worse than this, for you are changed into a devil. Our Lord says, "You are of your father, the devil, and the desires of your father you will do." You have in your face the face of the devil; in your blood is his blood. Would you be delighted with such a transformation? What a horrible thing it is to think that you are not only sons of the devil, but are sons of hell; that is, you are destined for that place where the devils live for all eternity. In order to live far from sin and from the abomination it causes in us. Our Lord teaches us that we should avoid the occasions of sin by flying from its neighborhood. For He told His disciples, "When you see these things about to come to pass, those who are in Judea, should flee to the mountain, and he that is on the house-top, should not come down to take anything out of his house." Our Lord commands a most sudden flight from all that might lead to sin.
This measure of prudence is little relished by Christians, for they live blindly on in their sins; they will not listen to the wise words of Ecclesiasticus, "He that loves danger shall perish in it."
What, my dear young people, is your greatest occasion of sin? Your companions are, probably, the greatest source ofperil to you; avoid especially those companions who speak
against modesty. A young man is generally good until he falls in with bad companions, and then there is a wonderful change. After that he does not go to Mass on Sunday, confession is given up as well as holy communion. He is a totally different person from what he was before he met those bad companions.
It is related that there was in a certain city a virtuous young man, who went to a neighboring town to a picnic. Usually he kept good company, but on this occasion he met an acquaintance who was unscrupulous and of loose morals. He should have been on his guard against him, but he thought lightly of the danger just then. The conversation was on indifferent topics at first, but gradually they became more interested, and plans were made to commit a sin of impurity; he fell into the sin, and into disgrace in after life.
Our Lord warns us, too, against putting off our conversion from one day to another, as many do. He tells us that the woman about to give birth to a child, or who is suckling an infant is to be pitied, because she cannot fly. Pray, too. He says, that your flight be not on a Sunday or in bad weather. Woe to them if they put off their flight on account of these difficulties. Woe to those who defer their conversion, who refuse to change their lives and are determined to wait until old age or a grave sickness overtakes them, or till the end of their days. Woe to those who neglect to rectify the bad confessions made in the past, or those unworthy communions, or to repair the scandal by which they ruined so many. Woe to him who comes to the end of his life and then recognizes the fact that he has led a very bad life. Will those be really converted who wait to the end of their days? They think that then they will sin no more and they are right; for on account of sickness, they will no longer be able to indulge in their evil habits. We read in the Psalms that those that put off their conversion to the evening of their life will suffer hunger like dogs. Many different interpretations are given of these words, but here is a beautiful and spiritual one: "Thou," said Our Lord to the sinner, "hast treated Me like a dog in your days. Now I will treat you in the same manner." How are dogs treated? They come to the table of the master, whine, and beg for a morsel. Do you give them the best you have on your plate? No. You give them a bone, or something that you do not want to eat yourself. When we sin we treat God in the same way. We contemptuously throw Him something to keep Him quiet; we give Him the worst we have, as if it were good enough for Him; we are determined to enjoy our youth in sin and throw to God the remainder of our days, of old age, sickness and feebleness. But God is not content with that. Does God owe you His grace at that time of life? At no time of your life have you a right to it and certainly not at the end of your days, when you have done nothing to deserve it. My dear young people, impress this fact well on your minds, that your wasted days and opportunities will verify the words of Our Lord, which you may read in the Gospel that we shall look for Him and shall not find Him, and we shall die in our sins.
Yes, my dear young friends, firmly persuade yourselves of this generally accepted truth. "As your life so shall be your death." He who leads a bad life will also die a bad death. "As the tree is felled, so will it lie." The sinner is the tree, cut down by almighty God, and he will lie where he has fallen.
St. Jerome had the boldness to say that out of ten thousand sinners waiting till the end of their days, one may be converted and saved. Then do not walk in the path of iniquity, because when you wish to correct your bad habits you may not have the grace to do so. St. Augustine says, "It is the just judgment of God, that he who could have acted well and did not act well will lose the power of doing well, when he desires it."
The time of sickness and death is not a good time to change your mode of life. It is arrogance, it is presumption. I hope and pray that no such blind and obstinate people are among you. "Now is the acceptable time; hate and detest your sin now and dedicate the rest of your days to the service of God and the practice of religion. May God give us all a precious death in His sight.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900
Of Judgment and the punishment of Sins
God is patient, says St. Augustine, because He is eternal. But after the days of patience shall come the day of justice; terrible, inevitable day, when all flesh shall appear before the king of eternity, in order to render an account of their works, and even of their thoughts. Transport yourself in spirit to that formidable moment; see how the dust of the tombs is stirred, and how the dead from all quarters rush to the feet of the Sovereign Judge. Then all secrets are brought to light, the conscience has no longer any darkness, and each one awaits in silence the fate which is to be allotted to him forever. The two cities separate; the great sentence is pronounced; it opens heaven to the just, and falls upon sinners with all the weight of eternal reprobation, Surrounded by the faithful angels and by the brilliant body of the elect, Jesus Christ reascends to His glory. Satan seizes his prey and drags it into the abyss. All is consummated for ever. There remain now but the joys of heaven and the despair of hell. Whilst you are still on the earth the choice between those future abiding places is left to you choose then; but remember there can be no repentance beyond the grave.
~Thomas à Kempis–Imitation of Christ Bk I, Ch XXIV reflection.
THE FIRST FESTAL CYCLE
1. The first festal cycle is the Christmas season. It begins with the first Sunday of Advent, and closes with the Saturday preceding Septuagesima Sunday; its central point is the feast of Christmas. Advent forms its remote preparation, its proximate preparation is Christmas Eve. The immediate subsequent commemoration extends from the feast of St. Stephen, until Epiphany, the remote subsequent commemoration from Epiphany to Septuagesima.
2. The main thought of this festal cycle is the birth of Christ. Advent shows the longing and preparation in the Old Law for the coming Messiah, which finally attains its object in the birth of Christ. Christmas shows us the Messiah as He reveals Himself to mankind, and proclaims His kingdom. The Christian should prove himself in Advent, and endeavor to gain greater purity of heart. At Christmas he should renew his resolution to live only for Jesus, and to become more like unto Him, and in the time following he should endeavor to enliven and confirm his faith.
1. The word Advent comes from the Latin and means "The coming." The four weeks preceding Christmas are so called because they are set apart by the Church to prepare for the coming of Christ.
2. With great longing, the world, for four thousand years, waited for the coming of the Redeemer. God, Himself, nourished this longing by repeated prophetic promises, which became more distinctly clear as the time of fulfillment approached. The universal misery in which mankind then languished increased this- longing for the Redeemer. These four thousand years are typified by the four weeks before Christmas. The longing for the Messiah,
announced by the prophets, is partly expressed in the Rorate Masses, but more especially so in the Divine Office, which becomes more and more beseeching as the feast of Christmas approaches. The penance which we are exhorted to practice during this time is symbolical of the misery of sin.
3. The Church wishes to awaken this longing and penitential spirit in the hearts of the faithful, in order to prepare them for the advent of the Redeemer.
(1) Solemnization of marriage is forbidden during this time, so that the solemnity of the season may not be disturbed by noisy pleasures.
(2) The violet color used at Mass is to remind us that heaven closed against sinners, can be opened again by penance.
(3) The Gloria is omitted on those days on which no feast falls.
(4) The preaching of St. John the Baptist in the Gospels, and the exhortations of St. Paul in the Epistles of the Sundays of Advent, as well as the fast days of this time, point distinctly to penance. These fast days are all the Fridays of Advent, the Ember days, and the Vigil of Christmas.
4. The severity of penance is, however, moderated by a glance at Mary, who appears as the Rosy Dawn to gradually dispel the darkness of sin. Therefore the joyous feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated in the midst of this penitential season. Throughout the Breviary and the prayers of the Mass, Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, is often referred to as the Rosy Aurora of our Redemption, especially so in the Rorate Masses sung at early
dawn. The feast of the Expectation on the 8th of December should arouse increased devotion and longing, for the coming Messiah.
The Rorate Masses take their name from the Introit of the Mass, frequently used during Advent, which begins with Rorate Coeli (drop down dew ye heavens). They are also called Masses of the Angel, because the Gospel of these Masses relates to the Annunciation of the Mystery of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin.
5. In order to keep Advent in a befitting manner the Christian should:
1st. Awaken a penitential spirit and practice works of penance,—he should endeavor to conquer at least one prominent fault and to cultivate or practice some particular virtue.
2nd. He should devote himself to prayer, and have a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and
3rd. Have a great longing for the birth of the Christ Child in his heart.
6. Even in the first centuries the faithful prepared themselves for the coming of Christmas by a long season of prayer and fasting, but Advent was not definitely fixed until the fifth and sixth centuries.
7. The following important feasts fall in Advent:
(1) The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, which was celebrated in the earliest times. This Apostle stands conspicuous at the entrance of the Ecclesiastical Year, for Advent begins with the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew. Not only is Andrew the first born of the Apostles, but he led the other Apostles to Christ, and as a special lover of the Cross, he tells us that the Cross is the key of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the foundation of the Ecclesiastical Year. This feast admonishes us, as it were, to begin the year with a love for the Cross, and to make the resolution of practicing self-denial.
(2.) The feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast was celebrated by the churches of the East, even in the fifth century, and by the churches of the West since the seventh century. Pope Pius IX. in the year 1854 proclaimed,
to the joy of the whole Catholic world, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin to be a dogma of the Church. Since then this feast has been more zealously kept. With the conception of Mary, the Morning Star of the Redemption arose. On this beautiful feast the Christian should pray God to enlighten him, that he may know the faults of the past year, and learn from Mary, by purity of heart, to prepare for the coming of Christ.
(3.) Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle, Dec. 21.
Please note: If you wish to get your orders in time for Christmas please order them by the feast of St. Andrew, November 30th. Any orders placed after that date will be shipped after January 7th. Thank you very much for all your orders and God bless you, Sarah
Why Pray For The Poor Souls In Purgatory
Our Lord's Great Law is that we must love one another, genuinely and sincerely. The First Great Commandment is to love God with all our heart and soul. The Second, or rather a part of the First, is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is not a counsel or a mere wish of Our Merciful Saviour. It is His Great Commandment, the very base and essence of His Law. So true is this that He takes as done to Himself what we do for our neighbor, and as refused to himself what we refuse to our neighbor.
We read in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Matt. 25:34-46) the words that Christ will address to the just on the Judgment Day:
34. Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in:
36. Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.
37. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38. And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee?
39. Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee?
40. And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
41. Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand:
Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
42. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink.
43. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.
44. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?
45. Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.
46. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.
Some Catholics seem to think that this Law has fallen into abeyance in these days of self-assertion and selfishness, when everyone thinks only of himself and his personal aggrandizement. "It is useless to urge the Law of Love nowadays," they say, "everyone has to shift for himself, or go under."
No such thing! God's great Law is still and will ever be in full force. Nay, it is more than ever necessary, more than ever our duty and more than ever our own best interest.
We Are Bound To Pray For The Holy Souls
We are always bound to love and help each other, but the greater the need of our neighbor, the more stringent and the more urgent this obligation is. It is not a favor that we may do or leave undone, it is our duty: we must help each other.
It would be a monstrous crime, for instance, to refuse the poor and destitute the food necessary to keep them alive. It would be appalling to refuse aid to one in direst need, to pass by and not extend a hand to save a drowning man. Not only must we help others when it is easy and convenient, but we must make every sacrifice, when need be, to succor our brother in distress.
Now, who can be in more urgent need of our charity than the souls in Purgatory? What hunger or thirst or dire sufferings on this Earth can compare to their dreadful torments? Neither the poor nor the sick nor the suffering we see around us have any such urgent need of our succor. Yet we find many good-hearted people who interest themselves in every other type of suffering, but alas, scarcely one who works for the Holy Souls!
Who can have more claim on us? Among them, too, there may be our mothers and fathers, our friends and near of kin.
God Wishes Us To Help Them
The Holy Souls are God's dearest friends. He longs to help them; He desires most earnestly to have them in Heaven. They can never again offend Him, and they are destined to be with Him for all Eternity. True, God's Justice demands expiation of their sins, but by an amazing dispensation of His Providence He places in our hands the means of assisting them, He gives us the power to relieve and even release them. Nothing pleases Him more than for us to help them. He is as grateful to us as if we had helped Himself.
Our Lady Wishes Us To Help These Suffering Souls
Never did a mother of this Earth love so tenderly a dying child, never did she strive so earnestly to soothe its pains, as Mary seeks to console her suffering children in Purgatory, to have them with her in Heaven. We give her unbounded joy each time we take a soul out of Purgatory.
The Holy Souls Will Repay Us a Thousand Times Over
But what shall we say of the feelings of the Holy Souls themselves? It would be utterly impossible to describe their unbounded gratitude to those who help them! Filled with an immense desire to repay the favors done them, they pray for their benefactors with a fervor so great, so intense, so constant that God can refuse them nothing St. Catherine of Bologna says: "I received many and very great favors from the Saints, but still greater favors from the Holy Souls. "
When they are finally released from their pains and enjoy the beatitude of Heaven, far from forgetting their friends on earth, their gratitude knows no bounds. Prostrate before the Throne of God, they never cease to pray for those who helped them. By their prayers they shield their friends from the dangers and protect them from the evils that threaten them.
They will never cease these prayers until they see their benefactors safely in Heaven, and they will be forever their dearest, sincerest and best friends.
If only Catholics knew what powerful protectors they secure by helping the Holy Souls, they would not be so remiss in praying for them.
The Holy Souls Will Lesson Our Purgatory
Another great grace that they obtain for their helpers is a short and easy Purgatory, or possibly its complete remission!
St. Gertrude was fiercely tempted by the devil when she came to die. The evil spirit reserves a dangerous and subtle temptation for our last moments. As he could find no other ruse sufficiently clever with which to assail the Saint, he thought to disturb her beautiful peace of soul by suggesting that she would surely remain long years in the awful fires of Purgatory since, he reminded her, she had long ago made over all her suffrages to other souls. But Our Blessed Lord, not content with sending His Angels and the thousands of souls she had released to assist her, came Himself in person to drive away Satan and comfort His dear Saint. He told St. Gertrude that in exchange for all she had done for the Holy Souls, He would take her straight to Heaven and would multiply a hundredfold all her merits.
Though the Pharisees often heard the instructions of Our Lord, they never drew any benefit from them. On this day they came to Our Lord, and proposed this question to Him,
"Tell us, what dost Thou think. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?'' In this way, instead of trying to learn something of benefit to their souls, they became more blind. They were full of hatred of Our Lord, and full of jealousy because the people considered Him a prophet, and their intention was to destroy the respect which the multitude had for Him. Here was a question which they thought would certainly lead Our Lord into their meshes.
"Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar?" The Jews hated the Roman dominion over them; they were a downtrodden race, and were obliged to furnish a throne and money for the Roman governor, while their religion was in confusion; and sometimes two high priests were contending for the chief office. So the Pharisees said to themselves,
"If this man consents to pay tribute to Caesar he will be hated by the people; and if on the contrary he disapproves of it, the government will have a case against him for inciting the people to resist lawful authority." Jesus confounded the Pharisees by His divine wisdom.
"Why do you tempt Me, ye hypocrites ?'' He asked. You have a very bad reason for this question you are not honest. Our Lord was affable and kind to the greatest sinners who came to Him in the sincerity of their hearts; but with these double-faced Pharisees He had no patience. He called them vipers, impostors, whitened sepulchres, fair without, but most loathsome within. Does not Our Lord teach us here the hatefulness of the vice of hypocrisy, and how He detested it?
My dear young friends, there are hypocrites among Christians, among our youth. Many young people wish to appear like angels in the eyes of their superiors; before their parents
they are careful not to say a bad word, while with their companions they do and say most scandalous things. They hide their sins so carefully that no one suspects them of any wickedness: even in the confessional they do not make known their great sins, and deceive the priest, the minister of God.
There are hypocrites everywhere; in the sanctuary, in the choir, in sodalities, in the church, and at the sacraments. Never pretend to a devotion that you have not it is disgusting. Be not servers of the eye of man, but serve God in all sincerity. Men may praise you for your piety, honesty, and truthfulness, but God sees deep into the heart; you do not
deceive God. You may gain some temporal advantages by deceiving men, but God's time for punishment will come, and then to your shame, your hypocrisy will be made manifest to the world. We read in Job that, "dissemblers and crafty men provoke the wrath of God.''
"Show me the coin of the tribute," said Our Lord. "Whose image and inscription is this?" He asked. They answered, "Caesar's." Then He said, "Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that axe God's."
The Pharisees were struck with the wisdom of the reply, and must have been covered with shame before the assembled multitude. St. Bonaventure asserts that this coin represents the soul of man, impressed with the image of God. A precious thing, of great value, is the soul in the eyes of God, and it derives its value from the blood of Christ. Our soul, my dear young friends, when gifted with the grace of the Redeemer is a most beautiful object; it is an angel hidden in a body of flesh, a beautiful spirit, radiant with thought and understanding.
A soul in mortal sin has impressed on it the image of the devil. ^'What has become of me?" St. Augustine asks. ''My soul, whither have your sins led you?" That bright image of God which was on you is there no longer; all is changed. "How has the gold changed its color! "Bewail your condition, my dear young people, if you should find yourselves in a state of sin. St. Jerome says, most lamentingly, "This I bewail, that you do not feel that you are dead; this I bewail, that you do not sorrow for yourselves."
Yes, young people who are in sin ought to weep continually; all night instead of closing their eyes in sleep, they ought to keep them open to shed tears; they ought not be able to eat, play or study, so great should be their concern. But do they weep? Oh no! these miserable blind beings enjoy themselves, and never stop to think that God hates them. Oh, raise your eyes to tlie crucified Saviour, see His thorn crowned head has He not sacrificed it for your soul? Those bloodstained eyes, those colorless lips, those hands pierced with nails, those feet cruelly wounded and that side opened by a lance did He not sacrifice all for our salvation? Are you going to allow His sacred Passion to be wasted so far as you are concerned? Jesus has purchased you with His blood, and you are His if you remain faithful to Him. " Take great care of your souls," and Jesus will be satisfied with His purchase and will not consider His Passion too great a price for your soul.
"Give to God the things that are God's.'^ Let us, for a moment, think of this. What do we owe God, that we must give Him ? To God we owe honor and glory. Do we give this glory to God? Do we not give honor rather to men, to those especially who hold positions of dignity. When you enter the magnificent palace of the millionaire, how well-dressed you are, what politeness you assume, so that people may consider you well-bred; you tiptoe up the hall and in a humble whisper ask the servant to take in your card, to see whether you may be admitted; should you have the happiness of an audience, you hardly speak aloud and you put your demands in the most honeyed words. If such is our respect for men, what is not due to almighty God from a human being?
Give to God, therefore, a little of the respect which you show to creatures. God does not wish for a false respect. He wishes you to be free, gracious, and spontaneous in your worship of Him; to assume a pious attitude in church because you are watched is not a worship of God; to say your prayers night and morning for form's sake, or because your parents insist on it, is hardly to be considered meritorious; for it is an unwilling prayer. Does God consider these acts worthy of Him when they are forced from you? He will not look at them with pleasure. He will say to you as He said to the Jews of old, "You celebrate great feasts, and hold certain days solemn, but they are not My feasts, they are yours, because you want them for your own purposes and not for My glory; they excite My indignation but not My mercy toward you." This forced devotion is similar to the mock adoration which the Jews and soldiers offered Our Lord in the hall of Pilate's palace, when
"Hail, King of the Jews!" and made genuflections before Him; and at the cross, when the Jews cried out: " Let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him." God looks at the heart. He pays little attention to our exterior actions; a good, strong, fervent, cordial intention is as good in the eye of God as is the execution of the noblest human action. Give then to God the honor and glory that are due to Him; there is no need to force the youth who is in earnest to honor God in church, or when he hears Mass or goes to the sacraments; he does it of his own free will and with the greatest devotion. Yes, my dear young people, give to God that honor, freely, not through routine or custom. With a great heart, give glory to God. Serve Him with a great heart, joyfully and with willingness, and then you can say with truth that you have given to God the things that are God's.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900
After our holy mother the Church has celebrated with great pomp and solemnity the feast of All Saints; after having raised our eyes to heaven to look upon the great joy above us, so that we may be attracted to do something to merit a place there, she proposes to us today a more gloomy but still a most consoling practice. She bids us make a commemoration of those who are detained in the prison of purgatory: we are to think of the sufferings of the poor souls detained
there, that we may come to their assistance. She tells us that it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be freed from their sins. I know that Christians in general do not need much persuasion to make them think of this holy work. We know that if we go to confession and communion for the benefit of those poor souls, if we fast, give alms, or have Masses said that by these means we appease the justice of God.
The holy souls now know the value of good works and indulgences: but they cannot do any good action, nor can they gain any indulgences except those obtained by the living and applied to them. Still there are many young people who think so little of the life to come, that even the state of purgatory is to them a matter of no moment; they have no thought of the great pains endured there. They come to church on this day from custom, and by their exterior irreverence scandalize the faithful and affect the benefit of or destroy the good altogether of many a prayer which would be said for those detained in that place of torment.
Paradise, my dear young friends, is that most beautiful place, that magnificent celestial city, whose walls are built of gold and precious stones, where none can dwell except those who are pure and immaculate. Hence it is that the souls in purgatory, how holy soever they may be and dear to God, are detained in that prison until they have atoned for every sin, even the smallest. Most of us, even the best, have to accuse ourselves of slight lies, little acts of disobedience, and many other venial faults, for which we have not had even a thought of sorrow: still we are told, "Thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing."
This atonement is made by suffering which God inflicts as punishment in order to purify those souls. This suffering consists of a fire so terrible that the hottest flames on earth would be pleasant in comparison. St. Gregory says that it is a fire of the same nature as hell. We would have hearts of stone if we saw people burning in a fire and would not try to rescue them. We know that the poor souls are in such a terrible purifying fire; then shall we not try to succor them? God has given us the right to come to their relief by our prayers.
The souls in purgatory deserve our sympathy; they are holy souls, destined for heaven and the sight of God, and many of them are connected with us by the ties of blood, if not of religion and humanity. They are souls who were once on earth, breathed the same air, lived in the same houses, and slept in the beds which we now occupy. Perhaps in that sea of flames is your father or mother, brother or sister, whom you pretended to love so tenderly in life, whose property you inherited, who has sacrificed all for you. Are you not almost bound by justice to help him or her? "They are your flesh and blood."
My dear young people, your dead friends and relatives who died well may be there, and this relationship appeals to your kindly feelings. Remember your father and mother, who when on their death-bed said: "My child, will you forget me after I am dead?" And you replied with anguish: "I promise, with all my heart, that as long as I live I shall not forget to pray for you." And yet scarce had a few days passed when you forgot all your affectionate vows.
Modern Catholic young men may perhaps say there is no purgatory; because nowadays pretended enlightenment is so great that our wise people know everything. They deny some of the dogmas of our faith, things of common belief among us, which rest on good foundation. But I am sure that your Catholic education has impressed on your minds the reality of purgatory, though you may be rather negligent in the performance of the duty of praying for the dead. Perhaps you say a few prayers for them, but they are cold; you hear some Masses for them, but with distraction; you say the Rosary for them, but carelessly. Now that you are firmly persuaded of your duty in this regard, pray earnestly for the dead and you may be sure God will hear you and apply the satisfaction of your prayers to them. Should your prayers be the means of releasing a soul from purgatory sooner than it would otherwise have been released, how grateful will not that soul be to you! how interested in your behalf! how anxious for all your needs, temporal and spiritual! That soul will certainly stand before the throne of God and say, "Lord, I recommend to Thee my benefactor: it is he whom Thou didst hear in my behalf, and in answer to his prayers liberated me from the flames of purgatory. Reward him then, my God, for that kindness." If that person is in the state of grace, he will persevere in the love of God to the end of his days, and should he be in sin he will obtain the grace of conversion; this soul will go also to the Blessed Virgin and will say, "To thee I commend my generous liberator; obtain for him every grace from thy divine Son; give him the necessary power to save his soul."
That soul will also approach the angels, and say: "my dear angels of heaven, now my companions and associates, I am anxious to commend to you him who has done so much
for me on earth; he has prayed to God for me, offered Masses, Rosaries and indulgences for me, so that I am now here praising God, while I should have had to stay in that place of
torment a long time to come, to satisfy God's justice for my faults during life, had he not interceded for me." On all sides will this poor liberated soul gain advocates for us, and God Himself will shower many blessings, both spiritual and temporal, on us.
Let us therefore pray diligently and with faith for the souls in purgatory; let us especially say indulgenced prayers: among which the Rosary is certainly the richest. Have your beads always in your hand and say a few Hail Marys on them now and then, for you know that God has mercy on the poor souls in their pains when we pray. Ask Our Lady and the saints to help them.
Cardinal Baronius knew of a person who had greatly at heart the necessities of the poor souls in purgatory. In every possible way he sought means of relieving them; he gave alms, had Masses said, prayed and had communities to pray, all for the souls in purgatory. He took sick, and when death was at hand, Satan, with his cohorts of wicked spirits, surrounded his bed. The distressed man did not know how to keep up his courage. His despair was at its worst when he saw the heavens open, and a great number of the heavenly court descending to his rescue and help; the dying man felt new courage, and asked them who they were. They answered that they were the souls that he had rescued from purgatory by his good works, and now had come to conduct him to heaven. What joy must have come over this poor man! how he must have valued that devotion to the souls in purgatory which had brought to him so many benefits, and the grace of courage at the hour of death.
St. Peter Damian when still very young lost his parents. One of his brothers gave him a home in his house, but his wife, who was a hard woman, gave him barely enough to eat. One day he found a piece of money and instead of buying something to eat with it he brought it to a priest and asked him to say a Mass for his father and mother. This holy action procured him vocation to the priesthood and he became a great saint and most useful to the Church; he was ordained priest, was Bishop of Ostia and afterwards cardinal.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900
Every rational creature has to give an account of his actions for the time that he is on probation. "We human beings are in this world on probation, and when this life is over we have to show God and the angels of heaven that we have lived commendable lives. To prove this Our Lord spoke this parable.
Ten thousand talents were given to a servant by his master, that he might make use of them: he could buy, or sell, or lay out the money in speculation in any way he pleased.
In the course of time, he forgot that he was a servant, and had to give an account of all his operations. The youth of our day live on in a similar way; they use their youth, their body, their time and their faculties as if they were absolute masters of them, and had not to give an account to God. Sometimes, by the mercy of God, they recognize the fact that they are burdened with a tremendous debt which they cannot pay off; that they have squandered the talents that were given them; for, remember, all have talents, and all have to make return for the outlay.
In the case of the servant mentioned in the Gospel there was no return: what could the poor miserable man do but fall down before his creditor, acknowledge the debt, and beg forgiveness of him who is so rich that he will not feel the loss of ten thousand talents. "Have patience with me," give me another chance, advance more talents for my use, and you will see that I shall do better. I will repay the debt, and besides show a great gain. 0, my dear friends, how serious a thing life is! "What are your obligations? What talents have you received? You are preparing for your first communion, or for Confirmation and you are doing so honestly and piously; you go on retreat, review your whole life, and make a general confession. With tears you acknowledge that you have offended God grievously, but God has forgiven you, and the memory of your offences is blotted out. With a light heart, thankful that you escaped so easily, you go forth to your accustomed duties in the world where you meet many fellow-servants that serve the great Master and serve one another too. You meet there one who owes you a few pennies, who has offended you but slightly, and you get very angry at his carelessness in not returning what he borrowed; you take him by the throat as if you would choke him; he begs you to have patience with him, using almost the same words as you did to God. But you demand immediate payment, and as he cannot comply with your demand, you have him cast into prison.
Many have obtained the pardon of their sins and are freed from their debts by the great Owner Of all things; they have been on the point of receiving just punishment, but by their prayers and promises of doing better they get a respite. Perverse beings that they are, they do wrong again; they are no better, they again commit the very sins for which they were called to account, the sins which have been pardoned.
At the encounter of the two servants mentioned in the Gospel, where one treated the other most unmercifully, there were present several witnesses, who reported the case to the king. The king reversed the sentence against the debtor of ten thousand talents, and inflicted on him the same punishment which he had meted out to his fellow-servant. The
conclusion which Our Lord Himself drew from this parable was, that His heavenly Father would do in a like manner to every one who did not forgive his brother from his heart. Let us here reflect on our unwillingness to pardon the faults of others. Remember that you will not obtain forgiveness of your sins imless you sincerely forgive your neighbor. Before asking the forgiveness of our own faults, let us fully pardon our neighbor, and not keep anything in our heart against him. Nay, you must do even more if you would follow out the mandates of Our Lord, for He has said, "Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you."
In the king who forgave his servant that enormous sum of money, we recognize the infinite mercy and kindness of God; where the king inflicts great punishment on his servant for his cruelty, we see the justice of God. Would that we understood the just vengeance of God on those who abuse His goodness. Knowing His infinite mercy do we not frequently commit sin the more easily, in the expectation of being forgiven in the sacrament of confession? You confess every month, but still the same sins are told; promises are made, but you fall again into the same grievous faults. You mock the justice of God, and pretend to be sorry, and then multiply the number of the same sins. You may say that you are weak, human creatures and that in spite of all your good resolutions you fall again and again. Yes, you are weak, because you are slaves to certain sins; you are weak because you do not guard your eyes; you are weak because you do not avoid the occasions of sin. Just there lies your weakness. With the grace of God, you could be strong; stronger than your passions: you would also be made stronger by prayer, and by going to the sacraments more frequently.
St. Anthony the abbot once saw a whole legion of devils advancing upon him to frighten him by its numbers. "Why," asked he, "do you come in such crowds against a poor, miserable man, when one of you could easily overcome him? All the powers of hell cannot affect me in the least if I am fortified by the grace of God; therefore, I fear you not, because I know that the Lord will fight my battles for me; I despise you all." And with his staff he drove the infernal multitude away.
St. Teresa, inspired by divine love, used to say: "I feel no fear when I can say, "My God, my God, I am afraid!"
When St. Martin was on his death-bed, the devil appeared to him. "What are you doing here, impure beast?" asked the saint. "You will find nothing in me that belongs to me; the bosom of Abraham will be my resting-place." This is the way to be strong: strong in the confidence and help of almighty God.
My dear young friends, how great are our debts to almighty God! Many of us can say, "So young, and still so great a sinner!" What a tremendous debt does that young person owe to almighty God, who curses, steals, and is disobedient; who drinks to excess and commits shameful crimes. Fall of confusion for the debt which you have contracted, beg that you may be spared until the whole be paid; but be sure not to burden your soul again, as God is not only good and merciful, but He is also just. St. Augustine says that God's forgiveness is limited. Judas publicly confessed his sin of betraying Our Lord, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." He carried back to the high priest the money he had received for the vile act, and falling into despair, went and hanged himself.
Now is the time of your salvation. If your sins be as numerous as the sands on the seashore God is willing to forgive you. Who knows whether God will forgive your future sins? How many are now in hell who committed only one mortal sin!
There is a story told of a young man who lived an angelic life. But one day he heard one of his companions tell of a shameful sin and he felt a desire to commit it at the first opportunity that presented itself; that night in his sleep he burst a blood-vessel and died. His confessor consoled the father of the boy, and told him he need have no fear, for the young man had led such a good life that he was sure he had gone straight to heaven. The following night the soul of the youth appeared to his confessor, and said, "Do not pray for me, for I am damned; your prayers avail me nothing."
"How is that? " asked the priest. "I went regularly to confession," he answered, "but the day before yesterday, I consented in my mind to a revolting sin, and resolved to commit it at the first opportunity. For that one sin I am in hell." Whether this ever happened cannot be proven, but the principles of the condemnation are correct. Let the sins of the past be enough for us, that past life so badly spent! It is time that we stopped the insults we have heaped on God's majesty. Let us say with St. Margaret of Cortona:
"My Jesus, I have committed up to this time sins enough; give me the grace hereafter never to commit any more."
Thus the great King, our God, whose servants we are, will pardon us our faults when He asks us in the confessional for an accounting. He will forget what we owe Him, and will still consider us His faithful servants. And at the great judgment He will ratify His decision and will bring us to our heavenly reward.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900
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