-The Manual of The Holy Catholic Church - Imprimatur 1906 -
There is a rule and order which is necessary in this life, a regularity which leads us to God, if we keep it faithfully. If we fail in this, we swerve from the path which conducts us to His heavenly kingdom; for all is beautiful where there is order, and the Apostle says: "All order is from God." ~ St. Augustine ~
-The Manual of The Holy Catholic Church - Imprimatur 1906 -
Below you will find the Catholic Churches teaching on True Charity. We need this today more than ever. The true meaning of Charity. It is a long post but a good one. The following is taken from a book titled,
"An Illustrated Explanation of the Commandments," by Rev. H. Rolfus, D.D., Imprimatur 1897.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength." The meaning of this commandment is this: We must love God by a deliberate act of the will (heart), we must reflect how we can put this love into action (soul), we must really love God with an ardent inward charity (mind), and what our will and our intellect have thus apprehended we must practise to the best of our ability (strength). And as the Israelites were always to have the law of God before their eyes, so it must ever be present to our soul, that its observance is the end for which we were created. It is impossible, however, for us to do this of our own selves, but only by means of a supernatural faculty which we receive in holy Baptism. Therefore we call charity, as well as faith, an infused virtue, and, because it has God for its object, a theological virtue. "The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given us" (Rom. v. 5).
1. God must be the object of our love, we must love God above everything else in the world. For the love of God we must, if necessary, sacrifice all the goods of this earth; we must leave father and mother, nay, even give our own life, if charity requires it. All we are allowed to love in this world, we may only love for the sake of God, and in so far as He permits it. We must rather lose everything than commit a sin, for sin separates us from God. " He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me ; and he that lovethson or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me" (St. Matt. x. 37).
2. It it not at all opposed to the love of God that man love himself. He is a creature of God, a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, destined for eternal bliss. This high dignity confers on the Christian not only the right to love himself, but makes self-love a duty for him. Here, again, however, man may only love himself so far as this love coincides with the will of God, as no sin is committed, and as the honor of God is not offended. When charity is violated, all temporal gain, even the greatest, is a loss; but every loss we suffer for the love of God is a gain for us. " He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal" (St. John xii. 25).
3. Although we must love God because He commands it, love from this motive would be a most imperfect love. We must rather love God because He is the Sovereign Good, because He is most worthy of our love, and because He contains in Himself all perfection. He is the most excellent, the most beautiful, the most perfect, and therefore the most amiable. He alone is the Sovereign and Eternal Good. Therefore Nehemias prays in these words: "O Lord God, Creator of all things, dreadful and strong, just and merciful, who alone art the good King, who alone art gracious, who alone art just, and almighty, and eternal" (2 Mach. i. 24, 25). But we also may and ought to love God for the sake of the many benefits which He has conferred on us and is still conferring every moment. Even before we began to live the Lord looked on us with an eye of mercy and called us to be His children. He says to us through the prophet : " I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee" (Jer. xxxi. 3).
From the very first moment of our life to our last breath the Lord loads us with undeserved benefits. And these benefits are at the same time the means of our salvation, for they sustain the life of the soul as well as that of the body, in order that we may fulfil both our earthly and our heavenly destiny. This love is called the love of gratitude. "Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us" (1 St. John iv. 19).
4. We must moreover love God, because He has prepared eternal beatitude for us. This beatitude consists in the possession and enjoyment of God Himself. Therefore those who love God feel a longing for God, which is thus described by the apostle : " I have a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ" (Phil. i. 23).
5. Charity does not only manifest itself in loving affections and emotions, but in an upright mind, instrong resolves, and above all in the observance of the commandments. It stands to reason that he who acts contrary to the will of God has no love for Him. Therefore Our Saviour says expressly: "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me" (St. John xiv. 21).
1. Although charity does not consist in tender emotions, we must not omit to evoke loving affections in our hearts. Even when we are at work, and then more than ever, we can prove to God that for love of Him we are ready to do and suffer all, and to bear all hardships. Let us offer Him our thoughts, affections, desires, actions, toils, and privations, and let us unite them all with the great sacrifice of love which Our Saviour offered for us.
2. But let us also speak very often of the love of God, not only in order to animate ourselves, but also to enkindle divine love in the hearts of our fellow-men, for this is the will of God expressed in the following words: "I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?" (St. Luke xii. 49.)
Abraham would have made the greatest sacrifice for the love of God: he would have killed his own son (Gen. xxii.). The three Israelites, Annias, Azarias, and Misael, allowed themselves to be thrown into the fiery furnace rather than adore the statue erected by Nabuchodonosor (Dan. iii. 20). Eleazar let himself be beaten to death with scourges, but he did not touch the swine's flesh which was put before him (2 Mach. vi.). The Machabean brothers and their mother showed equal fortitude (2 Mach. vii.). St. Stephen, the protomartyr, and all the other martyrs of Christ give us the same glorious example. All for the Love of God.
The heart of St. John of the Cross burned with such an ardent love of God that the hardest trials and privations seemed easy to him, because he bore all adversities with his eyes fixed on Him who first loved us. He went so far as never to accept an invitation to dine when he had preached in a strange place, for he said : " I do not want to accept pay from men for what I have done for the love of God." Once he was innocently imprisoned and even bodily ill-treated. But, when he was set free, he only complained that he had so little to suffer. To those who wondered at his lamentations, he answered: "Do not be astonished that I love suffering so much, for when I was in prison God gave me a great knowledge of the value of suffering borne for the love of Him." On his deathbed he kept on sighing for release. When askedby a brother whether he wished to be released on account of his pains, he answered with a smile: "No, dear brother, but because of my hearty desire to see God the hours seem so long to me." The Church therefore calls St. John of the Cross, in the
Collect of his feast, a lover of the Cross. Sins Against the Love of God*
Every sin violates charity. The effect of mortal sin is to kill the love of God in our soul, whereas venial sin only weakens its fervor. But there are sins which in themselves are opposed to the love of God. To these belongs above all:
1. Hatred of God. This is the devil's own sin. For he did not simply transgress a commandment, but he rebelled against God and would have deprived Him of His sovereignty, and put himself in His place, had he been able to do so. Then there is:
2. Impiety or contempt of God, when we turn away from God. An impious man of this kind is found in Pharao, who, on being asked by Moses in the name of God to let the Israelites depart, hardened his heart, and, in spite of all the divine judgments which he saw before his eyes, would not turn to God.
3. Forgetfulness of God, or indifference for God's honor. Of this sin those are chiefly guilty who know that their inferiors commit sin and do not interfere, or allow God to be blasphemed in their presence and do not raise their voice against it.
4. Murmuring against God's providence. In this way Jonas sinned, who tried to evade the command of God by taking ship for Tharsis, instead of going to Ninive. And when God spared the inhabitants of Ninive, because they did penance, put on sackcloth, and proclaimed a fast, he murmured against God and wished to die (Jonas i. 3; iv. 2-4).
The opposite virtue of these sins is zeal for God's honor, which boldly opposes all evil.
5. Lastly, we have to name idolatry in its extended sense, i.e., such an inordinate affection for creatures that we would rather transgress God's commandments and commit sin, or allow others to commit sin, than overcome the love of creatures or keep it in its proper bounds. Thus parents love their children more than God when they allow them to do as they like, and bring them up to vanity and pride, whereas God commands that they should be trained in modesty, obedience, and humility. So also many a one loves a person, and, in order to obtain her in marriage, he sacrifices his faith and the faith of his children if this is made a condition. Animals are often loved inordinately, and so much is spent on them that the poor would be glad to have only part of it. If anybody loves money and possessions so much that he strives to acquire them by unlawful means, or does not restore them when he has acquired them dishonestly, or if he becomes hard towards his fellow-men for the sake of worldly gain, he adores Mammon. The god of the glutton is his belly. This kind of idolatry is, moreover, committed by all those who trust more in man than in God. All the impious are guilty of it. Every inordinate affection leads to this creature worship, if we do not resist it from the very beginning. Zeal for the Honor of God.
In the time of Antiochus, king of Syria, there lived in the Jewish town of Modin a priest of the name of Mathathias. He was much honored in all Judea for his piety and zeal for the law of God. He had five sons, who, like their father, walked in the ways of the law ; Judas, who afterwards received the name of Machabeus the Hammer, was the greatest among them. To this man King Antiochus sent messengers to ask him and the inhabitants of Modin to sacrifice to heathen idols and eat swine's flesh, and to threaten him with death if he refused. If, on the contrary, Mathathias would offer sacrifice, he and his sons were to be counted among the friends of the king, and loaded with gold and silver and many presents. But Mathathias answered and said in a loud voice : " Although all nations obey King Antiochus, so as to depart every man from the service of the law of his fathers, and consent to his commandments, I and my sons, and my brethren, will obey the law of our fathers." And, when a Jew stepped forth in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar which the messenger of Antiochus had erected, his wrath was kindled, and he slew him on the altar, and pulled down the altar. And he left the city with his sons and fled into the mountains, and many that sought after judgment and justice went up with him, and they went round about and threw down the altars, and they recovered the law out of the hands of the nations and yielded not the horn to the sinner (1. Mach. ii.).
Charity Towards Our Neighbor
The object of our love is God in the first place, but our neighbor in the second, and the commandment of charity towards our neighbor is expressly declared by Our Lord to be equivalent to the commandment of charity towards God. "And thesecond is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (St. Mark xii. 31).
1. The word neighbor does not only designate those who are nearly related to us by the ties of blood, or who live with us in the same house, not only our friends, our countrymen, our namesakes,but every one who has a claim on our help, whether he be of our faith or not, whether he be our friend or our enemy. Our Saviour clearly teaches this in the parable of the Good Samaritan (St. Luke x.). It is where the need is greatest that we must help first, and this is especially the case where the soul is in danger. But when the necessity is equally great, we may give the preference to our relatives, friends, and those of our own faith. We may also render greater assistance to those who are more worthy of charity, and we may refuse our help altogether to those who constantly abuse it. " Whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Gal. vi. 10).
2. We must love our neighbor for the sake of God. In man we love and honor God Himself, for man is created after the image of God. Moreover, we are members of the same family, for we are children of God, we have God for our common Father, we have all the same vocation to attainheaven, whether we be rich or poor. The Prophet Malachias reproves the Jews for their want of charity when he says: "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us ? Why then doth every one of us despise his brother?" (Mai. ii. 10).
Besides, love of our neighbor is the test by which we know whether love of God be genuine, for the Apostle says: " If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not? And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother" (1 St. John iv. 20, 21).
3. When the commandment says: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," this does not imply that I am bound to love him in the same degree as myself, but that I must love him in the same manner as myself. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches expressly that the words " as myself" do not refer to the degree, but to the manner in which we must love. In the same way as we desire all good for ourselves and try to avoid all evil, we are to desire every blessing for our fellow-men, and grieve with them over their misfortunes. " Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep" (Rom. xii. 15).
How we are to love our neighbor is summed up very simply in the following two precepts of the natural law : " Do not do to others what you do not wish them to do to you;" "Do to others as you wish to be done by." These precepts of the natural law are confirmed by Holy Scriptures. When the elder Tobias thought he was going to die, he exhorted his son in these words : " See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another" (Tob. iv. 16). And Our Saviour teaches: "All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets" (St. Matt. vii. 12).
4. But charity must not be satisfied with empty words and wishes, it must show itself in works ofpractical help and assistance in corporal as well as in spiritual need. The apostle exhorts us in the name of God in these words : " Let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth (1 St. John iii. 18).
5. This precept of charity does not, however, give a right to the poor to claim our help and
assistance. They must look for charity and mercy, which they may invoke, but which they must try to merit by faith and confidence, by patience and content, by temperance and industry. The Apostle Paul could write of himself to the Christians: "When I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man : In all things I have kept myself from being burthensome to you, and so I will keep myself" (2 Cor. xi. 9).
6. Holy Scripture recommends to our charity above all widows and orphans, for they are those who have generally lost their protector and support. The impious take advantage of their helplessness, and injure and oppress them, because they have nobody to take up their cause. " Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation" (St. James i. 27).
7. How charity shows itself in our daily intercourse with our fellow-men is described by St. Paul in these words : " Charity is patient, is kind : charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all
things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Cor. xiii. 4-7).
Holy Scripture tells us the most beautiful and touching examples of charity. Abraham sat before his tent and saw three strangers come to him. He did not know them, but he adored them down to the ground, and said : " Lord, if I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away from Thy servant; but I will fetch a little water and wash your feet, and rest ye under the tree. And I will send a morsel of bread, and strengthen ye your heart." Then Abraham hastened to the tent and said to Sara: "Make haste, temper together three measures of flour, and make cakes upon the hearth." He bade his servant to prepare a very tender calf; he himself took butter and milk, and the calf which he had boiled, and set it before his guests. (Gen. xviii. 2-8.) When Abraham's servant, Eleazar, asked Rebecca for a little water, she did not only give him to drink out of her pitcher, but she ran back to the well to draw water, and having drawn, she gave to all the camels (Gen. xxiv. 20). When the Israelites began to think that Moses had forsaken them, and made a golden calf in order to adore it, and God wanted to destroy the whole nation, Moses prayed thus to the Lord : "Either forgive them this trespass, or if Thou do not, strike me out of the book that Thou hast written" (Exod. xxxii. 31). He was ready to give up eternal bliss rather than let the people perish. Tobias daily went among all his kindred, and comforted them, and distributed to every one as he was able of his goods, so that he became poor himself (Tob. i. 19).
At the marriage of Cana, our Blessed Lady interceded for the guests when the wine failed (St, John ii. 3). The early Christians had all things in common, " neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own" (Acts iv. 32). The pious Tabitha was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. When she was dead, and they sent for St. Peter, all the widows stood about him weeping and showing him the coats and garments which Tabitha had made (Acts ix. 36-39)- How beautiful is the sympathy of the neighbors and kinsfolk of Elizabeth, who rejoiced when they heard that the Lord had showed His great mercy towards her (St. Luke i. 58). When the widow of Naim followed the body of her son to the grave, a great multitude of the city was with her. And when Our Lord had given back the son to his afflicted mother, they glorified God and rejoiced with her (St. Luke vii. 12-16). St. Paul says of himself that he had great sadness and continual sorrow in his heart, because his kinsmen would not receive the Gospel of Christ, and he wished, like Moses, to be anathema if only his brethren might be in union with Christ (Rom. ix. 23).
Love of Our Enemies
The commandment which God has given us to love our neighbor extends to our enemies. Nobody may be excluded from our love. This seems very hard to our poor human nature. But:
1. God has expressly commanded it, and this alone is sufficient for convincing us that we can love our enemies. Our Saviour says : " Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that calumniate you" (St. Luke vi. 27, 28).
He has, moreover, given us the example Himself: He did not only pray for His executioners, He also made excuses for them when He said : " Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (St. Luke xxiii. 34). St. Leo says, in contemplating this wonderful love: "Our Lord did not remember that He was dying by His enemies, He only remembered that He was dying for them."
2. Our Lord has attached the pardon of our own sins to our readiness to forgive those who have injured us. He taught us to pray: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." And He added expressly : "If you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences" (St. Matt. vi. 14, 15).
Whoever does not forgive his enemies draws down upon himself the curse of God in saying the Our Father, for he says: Do to me, O Lord, as I do to my enemies, and, because I do not forgive them, do Thou not forgive me either. We see how such an unforgiving man is dealt with in the parable of the unmerciful servant, who did not come out of prison till he had paid the last farthing, although his master had forgiven him his whole enormous debt before.
3. This precept of loving our enemies does not enjoin that we should love our enemies in the same way as we love our friends, parents, benefactors, i.e., not as sensibly and as tenderly, but we must not wish them any harm, but rather, as far as we can, shield them from evil. We must not only wish them all good from our hearts, we must do good unto them as far as we can. On no account may the Christian take revenge for injuries he has received. If he whom we deem our enemy has done us any injury, God will punish him, for He says: "Revenge is Mine, and I will repay them in due time" (Deut. xxxii. 35).
If we treat our enemy with charity, we imitate our heavenly Father, "who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust" (St. Matt. v. 45).
4. If we have been injured by any one, we may try to obtain just and legal reparation; when we are assaulted, we may defend ourselves as far as is necessary. On the other hand, we may not refuse to salute our adversary or to return his salute, we may not revile and insult him, or refuse him such services as usage and custom require, especially when he is in distress. We must altogether show by our outward conduct that we have no hatred or rancor in our heart, but are ready to be reconciled with our enemy, even should he himself not be willing to forgive.
1. Let us strive above all to banish all bitterness from our hearts, and let us consider that it is often mere thoughtlessness, and not malice, by which we have been offended. Let us pray forour adversaries, that God may give them a right understanding. But let us remember above all that, whatever men may do to injure us, their guilt towards us is only very small in comparison with the immense debt we have incurred by offending God.
2. As long as we harbor any enmity in our heart, all our good works are of no avail. Therefore Our Saviour exhorts us in these words: "If, therefore, thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother has anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming, thou shalt offer thy gift" (St. Matt. v. 23, 24).
3. Let us render good for evil according to the words of the apostle: "If thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat : if he thirst, give him to drink. For, doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head" (Rom. xii. 20).
The sons of Jacob had treated their brother Joseph most cruelly and had deserved severe punishment. When Joseph held them in his power, he could easily have revenged himself on them. But he not only refrained from taking revenge, but moreover loaded them with benefits after the death of their father Jacob (Gen. 1. 21).
David was threatened with death by Saul, to whom he had rendered great service, and was obliged to flee. Saul pursued him with 3,000 men in the desert, and searched all the nooks and caves for him, but David knew the hiding-places in the desert better than he. Once he was so near Saul that he could have killed him, but he contented himself with cutting off the hem of his robe, and sent it to Saul in order to show him that he could have put him to death. Another time David went in the night with his armor-bearer Abisai into Saul's tent, and Abisai asked David to kill his persecutor. But David only took Saul's spear and his cup of water with him, and thus showed to the king that God had given him in his power, but that he had honored in Saul the anointed of the Lord (1 Kings xxiv. 1 -1 2). The proto-martyr St. Stephen gave us, like Our Saviour Himself, an example of love towards our enemies. He not only forgave, but he prayed with his dying breath for his murderers in these words : " Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts vii. 59).
I will continue this in another post - which talks of the Works of Mercy.
Below you will find a little history of how things were back in the days of old. I found it quite interesting and thought I would share it.
CHRISTMAS TO LENT
THE feast of Christmas continues until Twelfth-night, though in many parts of the country people spoke of "the twenty days of Christmas." At any rate, those twenty days were full of celebrations of one kind or another. A popular tag summed up the ordinary person's feelings at this time:
"Blessed be Saint Stephen,
There's no fast upon his even!"
Between Christmas and Candlemas there seems to have been only one somber day. This, curiously enough, was "Childermas,"-- Innocents' day. It is true that the boy bishop might be leading his troop through the streets, but all the same this was everywhere considered a day of ill-omen. No one would dream of marrying on Childermas, nor of buying nor wearing new clothes, nor, indeed, of beginning any new undertaking. The coronation of Edward IV was even postponed so as to avoid Childermas. Nor could this be considered a cheerful day for the children themselves: "...it hath been a custom, and yet is elsewhere, to whip the children upon Innocents' day, that the memory of Herod's murder of the Innocents might stick the closer; and in a moderate proportion to act over the crueltie in kind...."
Still, apart from this, feast days followed on each other's heels--St. Stephen's; the Circumcision (called "Singene'en") in Scotland, because it was celebrated by much caroling and when, according to popular belief, even the bees could be heard singing in their hives); Saint Agnes' day, when girls prayed to get husbands, and at whose Mass it was once the custom to bring a lamb into the church at the Agnus Dei of the Mass; a custom still obtaining now on Easter Sunday in some parts of the world; Twelfth-night, the festival of the kings; Candlemas--our Lady's churching-day, when again one sees how great a part is played in the celebrating of feasts by lights, lanterns, candles and fires; St. Valentine's day, the feast of lovers, one which has survived in a corrupted form practically to our own day.
Rejoicing gathered itself for a last fling on Collop Monday, when all the meat and bacon that might not be eaten in Lent were finished off. On the egg feast, the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday, eggs were similarly treated. On Shrove Tuesday itself further Lent-forbidden foods were eaten, and on this day the pancake bell rang early in the morning as a signal for the first frying and again at night, after which second bell no more pancakes were eaten, and the bell called people to confession, to be shriven before the fast of Lent should start.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
In the fruit-growing counties of England "apple-howling" was regularly observed. Boys went from orchard to orchard, surrounding the trees, singing to the accompaniment of a pipe:--
"Stand fast, root, bear well, top,
Pray God send us a good howling crop;
Every twig, apple big,
Every bough, apple enow."
Then they shouted in chorus, and rapped the trees with their sticks. This, again, was probably a pagan rite that the Church took over and turned into the blessing of fruit trees, since popular belief lingered persistently that the wind of New Year's-eve was responsible for the fruitfulness of orchards, and that an east wind meant much fruit. The Church has many prayers for every sort of crop, and there seems no reason why people with a garden and fruit trees or fruit bushes of any kind should not ask on this last day of the year for a good crop. Here is the Church's prayer for the fruits of the earth, which could be said:
"Pour down Thy blessing, we beseech Thee, O Lord, upon Thy people, and on all the fruits of the earth, that when collected they may be mercifully distributed to the honor and glory of Thy Holy Name."
CIRCUMCISION: NEW YEAR'S DAY
This was the day of the giving of gifts, husbands to wives, masters to servants, parishioners to their priests. Moreover, it was a day to go visiting. "On the first day of this month will be given more gifts than will be kindly received or gratefully rewarded. Children, to their inexpressible joy, will be drest in their best bibs and aprons, and may be seen handed along streets, some bearing Kentish pippins, others oranges stuck with cloves, in order to crave a blessing of their godfathers and godmothers." It is pleasant to think that the day of Christ's naming should be the occasion of honoring godparents; and it would be easy enough in any family with small children to invite the godparents to some celebration, or in the case of grown-ups, to visit or to write to those who have been their sponsors. Godparents undertake a considerable responsibility at the font, so what could be more appropriate than some sort of acknowledgment of it on this day?
TWELFTH DAY, EPIPHANY
In Staffordshire, fires were lighted on this day "in memory of the blazing star that conducted the three magi to the manger in Bethlehem." In Irish homes there was the same insistence on light. In a sieve of oats, surrounded by twelve burning candles, a single large candle was lighted. But generally speaking, all the festivities of the day were based on the idea of kingship and bent on honoring the three kings, so that lots were drawn to determine who should be the king for the day. Here was one way of marking the day. An Epiphany cake was made, traditionally of flour, honey, pepper and ginger, and a halfpenny put in it. When it was baked it was cut into as many pieces as there were members of the family, while portions were also assigned to our Lord, to Mary and to the three Magi. These were given to strangers, preferably to people in need. Whoever found the halfpenny in his piece of cake was saluted as king, placed in a chair of honor, and three times raised up to the ceiling, on which with his right hand he drew a cross. A carol was sung and the king ruled the party that followed. An Epiphany party might easily become a feature of this day in any Catholic youth club or school or family. After a brief re-telling of the story of the Wise Men, those arranging the party could follow the custom of having in the cake three beans, each of which will represent a king. On their being chosen, the three kings rule the party, which should end with a carol-singing procession and the giving away to someone in need of some food which had been held back for this purpose.
This is one of the oldest feasts of our Lady, and in Rome in the 7th century it ranked next to the Assumption. Everyone received a candle, which had been blessed at Mass, and afterwards walked in procession with it. The procession recalled the journey of Mary and Joseph to the temple, the burning candles, Simeon's words that the child in his arms was a "light for the revelation of the gentiles." And how appropriate is this symbolic burning candle! "A candle is made of wick and wax; so was Christ's soul hid within the manhood; also the fire betokeneth the Godhead; also it betokeneth our Lady's motherhood and maidenhood, lighted with the fire of love."
If anything still remained of the Christmas candle, or the Christmas block, it was lighted on this day. Now-a-days, one could light up the Christmas candle and these smaller candles whenever the family are together, or at meal-times, or let them burn before a statue of our Lady. This day was called the "Wives' feast," and "our Lady's-churching," and it is in memory of this that even today women carry a candle at their churching, even though of course theirs is a ceremony of thanksgiving, and Mary's was that of ritual purification.
This day was a general holiday, particularly for apprentices, and it would have been strange if it had not frequently become a day into which people tried to cram all the pleasure they would soon have to forego.
In Norwich, as probably in other cities, processions were made to symbolize the rapid approach of Lent. In 1440, say the Norwich records, such a procession was instigated by a certain John Gladman, who was known "as a man ever trewe and feythfilll to God." Crowned as king of Christmas, his horse bedecked with gilt and every sort of finery and tinsel he was preceded in the procession by twelve other horsemen, each representing a month of the year and each dressed appropriately. Last in the procession, following after the glittering king of Christmas, came Lent, a horseman dressed from head to foot in white cloth and herring skins, mounted on a horse with trappings of oyster shells--and this "in token that sadnesse shulde folowe, and a holy tyme." Thus they rode through Norwich, and many others of the townspeople joined in, dressed in every sort of fantastic dress, all of them "making myrth, disportes and playes." That they ate pancakes everywhere is merely because eggs and butter and milk had to be finished off before the fasting began, and the making of pancakes, the beating of the batter, the frying and tossing of the pancakes, could be a festive affair.
There seems no reason why one should not have a party on Shrove Tuesday. Few people have the faintest idea why pancakes are eaten, so these could be made and the reason for them explained. Now, when butter and eggs and milk are all allowed in Lent one might let the party include a last ceremonial tasting of whatever those taking part intend to give up during these forty days--sweets, sugar, cigarettes, whatever it may be. In Kent, it was once the custom to make two effigies on Shrove Tuesday, and to burn them to ashes as a sign that good living was now over and done with and that a stricter time was at hand, and at a Shrove-tide party there could be a short explanation of Lent, while it might very well end up with the whole group going to confession.
~ A Candle is Lighted, Imprimatur 1945 ~
INSTRUCTION ON THE
SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
INTROIT. While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty Word, O Lord, came down from heaven, from Thy royal throne. (Wi. xviii. 14. 15.) The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself. (Ps, xciL i.) Glory be to the Father, etc.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure; that in the name of Thy beloved Son we may deserve to abound in good works. Who with Thee &c.
EPISTLE. (Gal. iv. I 7.) BRETHREN, as long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all: but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father: so we also, when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. Therefore now he is not a servant, but a son; and if a son, an heir also through God.
EXPLANATION. St. Paul desired to instruct the Galatians, many of whom still clung to the Mosaic law, that this was no longer necessary, because Christ had freed them from its hard bondage, which contained merely the rudiments, so to speak, of the one only saving faith, and had made them children and heirs of God, for which they should rejoice.
Ours is a far greater happiness than that which the Jews received, because we, through our ancestors, were converted by apostolic messengers of the faith from heathenism to the true, saving Catholic faith, and by this holy religion were changed from vassals of Satan, into children and heirs of God. What a great advantage is this! Must it not be dearer to us than all the kingdoms of the world? Let us thank the Lord for it, and be careful not to lose this prerogative of being a child of God, an heir to heaven, let us not by sin give ourselves anew, as voluntary slaves to Satan.
GOSPEL. (Luke ii. 33 40.^ At that time, Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were wondering atthose things which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold, this child is set for the fall, and for 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. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she at the same hour coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him.
Why did Mary and Joseph wonder at the things which were spoken of the Child Jesus?
They wondered, not because that which was said of the child Jesus by Simeon was new to them, for they already knew why He was sent from God, but because of the marvellous ways in which God revealed the mysteries of the new-born Saviour to Simeon, the shepherds, and to other pious people.
How is Christ set for the fall of many?
Christ is set for the fall, that is, for the eternal damnation, of all those who either reject His doctrine, or live not according to its teachings. They themselves, not Christ, are the cause of their damnation on account of their perversity and hard-heartedness. "If I had not come and spoken to them," says Christ, "they would not have sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin." (John xv. 22.)
For whom is Christ the resurrection?
For those who believe in Him, and live in accordance with the teachings of His doctrine. These, if they persevere will at the Last Day rise to eternal life.
Why is Christ a sign that shall be contradicted?
Because, by His birth from a virgin, by His life and death, and especially by His heavenly doctrine, which is entirely opposed to the carnal spirit of this world, Christ became an object of mockery and blasphemy. Even now, according to the saying of St. Bernard, Christ is a sign of contradiction for many Christians who contradict His humility by their pride, His poverty by their avarice, His fasting by their gluttony, His purity by their impurity, His zeal by their indolence, etc., thus denying by their actions that which they confess with their lips, proving thereby that they are Christians but in name, of whom it is written : "Thou hast the name of being alive, but thou art dead."
(Apoc. iii. i.)
What is meant by these words: Thy own soul a sword shall pierce?
It means that the greatest grief should cut like a sword through the inmost parts of the soul, which came to pass, when Mary heard the calumnies and blasphemies of the Jews against her Son, and when she saw Him die on the cross between two thieves. Meditating on this grief of the most loving mother Mary, St. Bonaventure exclaims: "Never was there grief so great, for never was there Son so loved !"
What else do we learn from this gospel?
The widows should learn from Anna, who spent nearly all her life in the temple, to serve God by prayer and fasting; for a widow who prays not, but lives in pleasures, is dead, while she is living. (1. Tim. v. 6.) Parents should learn from it, to be careful that their children not only increase in knowledge, but that they by a pious life advance in grace before God and man.
ASPIRATION. O Jesus, Thou new-born Saviour, do Thou move our hearts to the fulfillment of Thy precepts that Thou mayst never be set for our fall; for it would be much better for us, not to have known the ways of righteousness, than having known them, to have departed from them.
INSTRUCTION ON BLESSING.
"And Simeon blessed them" (Luke ii. 34.)
What is meant by a blessing?
A blessing on the part of God, means the giving to man some spiritual or temporal grace; a blessing on the part of an angel or a man, means the expression in prayer of a wish or desire that God would give to some particular person a corporal or spiritual grace. In the proper sense of the word, only God can give a blessing, because all spiritual and temporal good comes from Him; angels and men can only wish and ask of God that He would bestow His gifts.
Have we examples of blessing in the Bible?
Yes, for the angels blessed Jacob. (Gen. xxxii. 26.) and Jacob blessed his sons and grandsons, (Gen., 'x.iviii. 15.) Melchisedech blessed Abraham, (Gen. xiv. 19.) and Rebecca was blessed by her brothers. (Gen. xxiv. 60.)
Is it well for parents to bless their children?
Yes, for God frequently ratifies the blessings wished by the parents, as in the case of Isaac who blessed Jacob, and Jacob who blessed his own sons. (Gen. xlix.J And, on the contrary, God permits the curses of parents to be fulfilled on their children as history shows. "The father's blessing establisheth the houses of the children; but the mother's curse rooteth up the foundation."
(Ecclus. iii. II.)
What power has the priest's blessing?
A. very great one, because it is given by the priest, the vicar of Christ on earth, in the name of Jesus, and of the Church founded by Him, in which He has deposited the plenitude of His blessings. The Church expresses this, when the bishop, anointing the hands of the newly ordained, makes the sign of the cross over them: "All that they bless, is blessed; that they consecrate, is consecrated arid sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The blessing of the priest is to be prized.therefore, and an obstacle not set to it by a sinful life. Parents should ask his blessing for their children when he happens to visit them. Children were brought to Christ that He might lay His hands on them and bless them. (Matt. xix. 13.)
What is the effect of God's blessing?
In spiritual life it gives great joy and strength to practice virtue; and in physical life it gives fruitful prosperity in our occupations and undertakings. Therefore, all is contained in the blessing of God, and he who receives it, is richer than if he possessed the whole world. We should endeavor by a pious life to secure this blessing, for it rests only on the head of the just. (Prov. x. 6.)
INSTRUCTION ON THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS [December 28]
THE gospel of this day gives the history of the death of these children whom the Church regards as mattyrs, because though they could not confess Christ with their lips, they did so by the death which they suffered on account of Herod's hatred of Christ.
The Introit of the Mass; Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise because of thy enemies. O Lord our Lord, how admirable is thy name in the whole earthl (Ps. viii.) Glory &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, whose praise Thy martyrs the Innocents did on this day
confess, not by speech, but by their deaths, mortify in us all the evils of vice, that Thy faith, which our tongue professes, our life also by its deeds may declare. Thro'. &c.
LESSON. (Apoc. xiv. i 5.) IN THOSE DAYS, I saw upon Mount Sion a Lamb standing, and with him a hundred forty-four thousand having his name, and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a . noise from heaven , as the noise of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder; and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers, harping on their harps. And they sung as it were a new canticle before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and the ancients; and no man could say the canticle but those hundred forty-four thousand who were purchased from the earth.
These are they who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouth there was found no lie; for they are without spot before the throne of God.
EXPLANATION AND APPLICATION. This vision of St. John is applied to the holy Innocents because on account of their innocence they are ranked with the virgins of whom mention is here made. St. John describes the prerogatives of purity, and relates that he had seen the Lamb of God, Christ, on Mount Sion, that is, in heaven, surrounded by one hundred and forty-four thousand virgins. There is here given a definite number to represent the multitude of those who preserve their innocence through life. These are distinguished from the other saints, by the name of the Lamb which is marked upon them and are in a greater measure like unto Him, and enjoy His company in an especial manner, which is manifested by the new canticle which none of the other saints can sing. Mark the great preference which virginal innocence holds in heaven;God raises the virginal soul above all the other saints in heaven. And can you throw away this heavenly virtue, this most precious of pearls, for a vain, passing pleasure, which never satisfies the soul, but on the contrary fills it with pain and disgust ? By no means ; ever preserve, then, the robe of innocence free from all spots, and if you have stained or lost it by sin, hasten to do penance, that you may be received with the sainted penitents into the joy of God and His angels.
GOSPEL. (Matt. ii. 13 18.) AT THAT TIME, an Angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt; and be there until I shall tell thee: for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him. Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt; and he was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise
Men, was exceeding angry; and sending, killed all the men-children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Why did Herod seek the life of Christ?
Because carried away by pride and ambition, he feared that by this child, whom the wise men named King of the Jews, he would be deprived of his throne which he had unjustly usurped, and to obtain which he had caused even his son and nearest relations to be put to death. How ruinous is it to give oneself up to pride! To what will not this passion often lead men! Seek well if the inclination to pride has not taken root in your heart! Strive, while considering your misery, your poverty and your sinfulness, to weed it out at once, despise yourself, and continually pray for the spirit of true humility.
Who are like Herod?
All those who kill innocent children either in body or soul; for example, all imprudent, careless women who by excessive dancing, by carrying or lifting heavy burdens, by hurtful eating or drinking, by violent anger or immoderate grief, injure the fruit of their wombs; brutal men who treat harshly, even strike, beat or provoke to anger their wives while in a state of pregnancy; careless parents who take their children into bed with them, at the risk of suffocating them iri their sleep; corrupt and godless women who destroy the fruit of their shame before birth, and thus send them without baptism into the other world. But more cruel even than these, far more cruel than Herod, are those who scandalize the innocent, that is, lead them into sin by holding improper conversations, singing bad songs ; making" indecent jokes and using immodest words in the presence of children, thus enticing them into this abominable kind of sin. Jesus pronounces a terrible curse upon such people.
What punishment did Herod receive for his cruelties?
He was attacked shortly after by a most painful and disgusting disease which was so offensive that he was deserted by every one; eaten by worms and other vermin he died in the greatest despair. If Herod, the murderer of the bodies of the holy Innocents, was so fearfully punished by God, what must the murderers of innocent souls expect?
What is meant by the words: A voice in Rama was heard?
St. Chrysostom says: "If we are asked why Rachel bewailing her children is mentioned here, when it is only the children of Bethlehem that are spoken of, and what connection there is between Rachel and Rama, we answer: Rachel very properly appears here showing her distress, for she was the mother of Benjamin (from whom the holy Innocents descended) and he had been buried in the vicinity of Bethlehem, which was also near Rama, in the land
of the tribe of Benjamin. And as Rachel was the mother of the prince of this tribe, and this place contained the ashes of the mother, the holy Scripture names the children who were killed, the children of Rachel." From these words may be understood the grief of the mothers, for their murdered children.To weep for the loss of children is most natural, but to weep immoderately is not wise. How can the Christian mother be inconsolable for the loss of her children whom God has taken to Himself? Is it not better for them to be with God in heaven than to live here on earth, exposed to dangers, and perhaps be lost forever.
OTHER USEFUL AND CONSOLING LESSONS.
GOD saved His Son from the hands of Herod in a natural way, by flight, although He could have guarded Him in other ways. He wished to teach us that we should not expect Him to help us miraculously, so long as He can aid us in a natural manner. We should learn from the ready obedience with which Jesus, Mary, and Joseph submitted, without questioning God's orders and arrangements, or murmuring against them, to submit in ready obedience to God's dispositions without inquiring or complaining about them.
The adverse incidents which these most holy persons, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to meet in their lives, teach us that God takes pleasure in trying and perfecting His own by proving them through trials and vicissitudes. Dare we, then, murmur when God so tries us? Herod sought to slay Jesus, and to secure his end caused a number of innocent children to be murdered, and yet Jesus escaped him. What are the plans of the wicked against God and His chosen ones ? He who fears God and serves Him, against him all the powers of hell can do nothing.
SUPPLICATION TO THE HOLY INNOCENTS.
I salute you, innocent little martyrs, who glorified God not by your words, but by your death. What happiness was yours to pass into eternal life almost before you had commenced the temporal! What happiness is now yours who continually follow the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! O pray for us, that we may ever confess the faith in Jesus with heart and with lips, and by a pious Christian life, through sufferings and trials, reach Christ whom you enjoy now
JOHN, the son of Zebedee and of Salome, and brother of St. James the Greater, born about eight years later than Christ, was the youngest of the apostles, and before being called by Christ was a fisherman, and disciple of St. John the Baptist. When Jesus called him and his brother, they were mending their nets by the sea of Galilee. He obeyed the call and became our Lord's constant companion, and was, with Peter and James, His most intimate disciple. Our Lord loved him above all the others, especially on account of his great purity of heart, and gave him the most tender proofs of His affection, so much so, that at the Last Supper St. John was permitted to lean upon the Saviour's breast; our Lord when dying, gave His beloved Mother into his care, and she was taken home by St. John, who never again left her. When the apostles dispersed to preach the gospel in different parts of the world, St. John went to Asia Minor, where he founded many congregations, and that he might be near them, he established his seat at Ephesus. He was taken to Rome in the year 95, during the reign of the cruel Emperor Domitian, and cast into a kettle of boiling oil; by divine assistance he was preserved in a wonderful manner, but was banished by the emperor to the island of Patmos, now called Palmosa. Here he received those marvellous revelations, called the Apocalypse, which are included in the holy Scriptures, and foretell the fate of the Church of God. After the death of Domitian, St. John returned to Ephesus, where at the prayer of the faithful, and, to refute the heresy which denied the divinity of Christ, he wrote his gospel, in which he soars like an eagle to the subject of Christ's divinity, and proves it indisputably against the heresies of Ebion and Cerinthus. About the same time he also wrote his three epistles, wherein he urges especially the love of God and our neighbor. He constantly inculcated this love,, especially in his old age, and when he could no longer, because of the weakness of age, deliver long sermons, he would always, when he appeared among the faithful, repeat these words: "My children, love one another/ and when once asked why he saidalways the same thing, he replied: "This is the commandment of the Lord, and who observes this, does enough."
St. John believed he could not better repay the love which Christ had shown him, than by infusing into all hearts the holy love, which is the perfect bond and the mark of the true disciple of Jesus. St. John survived all the apostles; at last, in the year 100 of our era, Christ called to Himself by a placid death, the man of nearly a hundred years, whom He loved so much. The sepulchre of the saint, which is on a hill outside the city of Ephesus, has been glorified by many miracles.
The Introit of the Mass reads: In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: and clothed him with a robe of glory. (Ecclus. xv. 5.) It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to thy name, O Most High. (Ps. xci.) Glory &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Of Thy goodness, O Lord, enlighten Thy Church; that being illumined by the doctrines of blessed John Thy Apostle and Evangelist, she may attain to everlasting gifts. Thro'. &c.
LESSON. (Ecclus.w. i 6.) He that feareth God, will do good: and he that possesseth justice, shall lay hold on her, and she will meet him as an honorable mother. With the bread of life and understanding she shall feed him, and give him the water of wholesome wisdom to drink; and she shall be made strong in him, and he shall not be moved: and she shall hold him fast, and he shall not be confounded ; and she shall exalt him among his neighbors, and in the midst of the Church she shall open his mouth, and shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and shall clothe him with the robe of glory. The Lord our God shall heap upon him a treasure of joy and gladness, and shall cause him to inherit an everlasting name.
THE Holy Ghost says: Wisdom will "not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins. (Wisd. i. 4.) From his childhood St. John was an angel of purity; and was on this account especially loved by Jesus, and gifted by the Holy Ghost with such wisdom and understanding, that, as observed by St. Augustine, "he commences his gospel in a grander and nobler strain than that used by the other three evangelists." For while they walk on earth with the God Man, saying but little concerning His divinity, St. John, as if forgetting the world, soars far above earth, beyond the vault of heaven, above even the angelic hosts, to Him by whom all things were made, saying: In the beginning was the Word. At the Last Supper he was permitted to lean upon our Lord's breast, and that which he silently imbibed in that union, he afterwards openly imparted. Strive, therefore, to maintain purity of heart, that thou mayest like St. John be a loved disciple of Christ, and be filled with heavenly wisdom.
GOSPEL. (John xxi. 19. 24.) AT THAT TIME, Jesus said to Peter: Follow me. Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper, and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee? Him, therefore, when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? follow thou me. This saying therefore, went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him, he should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
What did Christ mean by the words: So 1 will have him to remain till I come, follow thou me?
He indicated that St. John was not to die by violence, but naturally, while Peter was to be crucified, as our Lord had foretold. (John xxi. 18.)
Did not our Lord 'answer Peter's question?
He wished to rebuke his inquisitiveness, and to teach him that we should not be curious concerning our neighbor's affairs. He who interferes over much in his neighbor's concerns is apt to neglect his own, and cause himself much annoyance and inconvenience.
SUPPLICATION TO ST. JOHN. O St. John, beloved disciple of Christ, thou who didst lean upon His breast at the Last Supper, and to whom He entrusted His Mother, I beseech thee by these great graces, to obtain for me and all men purity of heart, sincere devotion to the dying Saviour and His blessed Mother, an ardent love for God and our neighbor, and finally, a happy death.
Why is wine blessed on this day, and given to the faithful to drink?
That those who drink of this blessed wine may be preserved from all diseases of body and soul, as God preserved St. John, who to confirm the truth of the Christian religion, drank poisoned wine without being injured by it; and that we may by St. John's intercession be strengthened and confirmed in the faith, and be inflamed with the love of God and our neighbor, of which this wine is a figure. Consequently when presenting the wine, the priest
says: Drink the love of St. John, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
NOTE, This custom of blessing wine on the feast of -St. John is observed in many places in Europe. It is generally omitted in the United States.
JESUS came . . .
not to a throne, but to a manger;
JESUS lived . . .
not as a king, but as a servant;
JESUS chose . . .
not a kingdom, but a cross;
JESUS gave . . .
not just a little, but everything!
May the incredible Love of Christ our Saviour and the Joy of His Coming Bless you and your families anew, this Christmas!
Christmas Blessings for a Grace-Filled New Year! The Willson Family
What is Christmas Day?
IT is the day on which Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, was born of the Blessed Virgin in a stable at Bethlehem.
Why is this festival called "the Holy Night?'
Because this night has been especially blessed and sanctified by the holy, mysterious birth of the Redeemerof the world.
Why do priests say three Masses on this day?
In commemoration of the threefold birth of the Redeemer: of His birth from all eternity in the bosom of His Heavenly Father; of His birth in the fulness of time; and of His spiritual birth in the hearts of the faithful who, by lively faith in Him, receive the power to become children of God. (John L 12.)
Why is the first Mass said at midnight?
Because Christ, the true light which came into the world to enlighten those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, that is, of unbelief and of sin, (Luke i. 79.) was born at night, and because the divine birth is incomprehensible to us.
Why is the next Mass said at daybreak, and the third after sunrise?
To signify that the birth of Christ, expelling the darkness of ignorance and infidelity, brought us the clear daylight of the knowledge of God, and that the spiritual birth of Christ can take place at any time in the pure soul*
When does this spiritual birth take place?
It takes place when the soul, having been cleansed from all sin, makes the firm, unalterable resolution to die to the world and all carnal desires, and arouses in itself the ardent desire henceforth to live only for Christ, and, by His grace, to practice all virtues.
INSTRUCTION ON THE FIRST MASS.
The Introit of this Mass reminds us of the eternal birth of Christ, the Lord. The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day (that is, from all eternity) have I begotten thee. (Ps. ii. 7.) Why have thecGentiles raged, and the people devised vain things? (Ps. ii. i.) Glory be to the Father, &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, who hast made this most sacred night to shine forth with the brightness of the true light: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may enjoy His happiness in heaven, the mystery of whose light we have known upon earth. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, &c.
EPISTLE. (Tit. ii. I ii) Dearly beloved, the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us, that denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himselffor us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak, and exhort, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In what special manner has the grace and goodness of God been manifested to us?
In the incarnation and birth of Christ, His Son, whom, in His infinite love, He has made like unto us, our brother and our teacher, by whom we have become children of God, and co-heirs of His kingdom.
What does Christ by His incarnation desire to teach us especially?
That we should put aside all unrighteousness, all infidelity and injustice, and endeavor to become like unto Him, who, except in sin, has become altogether like unto us. But especially that we repress the desires of lust, wealth, and honor, and not rest until we have rooted them from our hearts.
How do we live soberly', justly, and godly?
We live soberly, when we fulfil all duties towards ourselves; justly, when we fulfil all duties towards our neighbor; and godly, when we fulfil all duties to God.
ASPIRATION. Blessed art Thou, Oh! new-born Saviour, who hast descended from on high to teach me the ways of justice, hast become man and equal to me. In return for this goodness of Thine, I renounce all evil, all sinful desires, words, and deeds. In return for Thy love, I will ever uproot from my heart all carnal desires, and aways live soberly, justly, and godly; do Thou by Thy grace, strengthen me in this resolve.
GOSPEL. (Luke ii. I 14.) At that time there went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold, an Angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round them; and they feared with a great fear. And the Angel said to them: Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall toe a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good-will.
Why, at the time of Augustus, were all the Roman subjects enrolled?
This happened by a special ordinance of God, that by this enrollment Mary and Joseph should be obliged to go to Bethlehem, that it might be made known to the world that Christ was really born at Bethlehem, of the tribe of' Juda, and the house of David, and that He was the Messiah who had been foretold by the prophets. (Mich. v. 2.) Let us learn from this how the providence of God directs all things according to His will, and consider the obedience which Mary rendered to the command of a heathen emperor, or rather to God who caused the command.
Why is Christ called the "first-born" of Mary?
Because she gave birth to no child before Him; she bore none after Him, He was the only Son of Mary, as He was the only-begotten Son of the Heavenly Father.
Why was Christ born in such poverty?
To teach us not by words but by example that which He afterwards so often preached and forcibly taught, namely: the love of poverty, the practice of humility and patience with contempt of the world, and also to confound by His humble birth the foolish wisdom of the world which seeks only honors, pleasures and riches.
Why was the birth of Christ announced to poor^ shepherds^ and not to Ktng Herod and the chief priests?
That it might be known that God loves to dwell with poor, simple, pious, faithful people, such as the shepherds were, and reveals Himself to those who are little in their own eyes, (Matt. xi. 25.) while He despises the proud and leaves them over to their own spiritual blindness. Let us learn from this to acquire simplicity and humility, and despise pride and cunning, that God may reveal Himself to us by His interior inspirations.
What is meant by the angelic song of praise: Glory be to God on high?'
By this song of praise which the priests usually say in the Mass is meant that the greatest praise and the most heartfelt thanks are due to God for having sent His Son into the world; and that those who have the good will to glorify God by all their actions, will receive peace, that is- all happiness, blessings, and salvation. Rejoice with the angels over the birth of the Saviour, return thanks to God, and honor Him alone in all things, that you may have that peace: peace with God, peace with yourself and peace with all men. Learn also from the angels, who rejoiced in the graces which man would receive from the birth of Christ, to rejoice, and thank God for the favors which He gives your neighbor, and by rejoicing participate in them.
INSTRUCTION ON THE SECOND MASS.
In the Introit of this Mass the Church makes use of the words of Isaias: A light shall shine upon us this day: for our Lord is born to us: and he shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of peace, the Father of the world to come; of whose reign there shall be no end. (Isai. ix.^) The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself,
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, tha we, who are filled with the new light of Thy incarnate Word, may show forth in our works what by faith shineth in our minds. Through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who livest &c.
EPISTLE. (Titus iii. 47.} DEARLY beloved, the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath appeared: not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour: that, being justified by his grace, we may be heirs according to hope of life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To whom do we owe our salvation?
Not to ourselves, nor any good works we may have performed, but entirely to the mercy of God who from all eternity decreed our redemption, and sent His only-begotten Son into this world to accomplish it; which redemption is bestowed upon us in baptism, where we are washed from the stain of sin, and by the rich infusion of the Holy Ghost born again, heirs of eternal life.
Why, then, had God no mercy on the fallen angels?
To this question St. John of Damascus replies: "We must know here that the fall was to the angels what death is to man; for the angels there was no repentance after the fall, as for man there is no repentance after death" (Defid. orthod. lib. 2. c. 4.) In eternity there is no available contrition and penance, so God showed no mercy to the fallen angels. Let us learn from this, to make ourselves participators in the mercy of God, by contrition and penance while there is yet time.
GOSPEL. (Luke ii. 15 20.) AT that time the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger. And seeing they understood of the word that had been spoken to themconcerning this child. And all that heard wondered, and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
I. The shepherds follow at once the voice of God which calls them to the manger; they exhort one another to do so ; they seek the Redeemer and happily find Him; they make Him known to others, and heartily thank God for the grace given them. Let us follow the inspirations of God with ready obedience; let us exhort one another to virtue by our good example and edifying conversation; let us make good use of the knowledge given us by God, give it to others, and praise God for the same.
II. Mary kept all these words, spoken about her Son, and pondered them in her heart. Let us learn from her to prepare food for our souls by careful meditation on the divine truths that are made known to us: so that we may be preserved and strengthened in spiritual life.
INSTRUCTION ON THE THIRD MASS.
The Introit of this Mass reminds us of the spiritual birth of Christ, by which He is spiritually born in us: A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us; whose government is upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called the Angel of great counsel. (Isai. ix.) Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: for he hath done wonderful things. (Ps. xcvii.) Glory &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that the new birth of Thine only begotten Son in the flesh may deliver us who are held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Thro'.
EPISTLE. (Heb. i. 1 12.) God, who diversely and many ways, spake in times past to the fathers
by the prophets, last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high: being made so much better than the angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath he said at any time: Thou art my son, to-day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son? And again when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the angels of God adore him. And to the angels indeed he saith: He that maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore, God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And: Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth; and the works of thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but thou shalt continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail.
INSTRUCTION. The greatness of Christ Jesus, the dignity of His divinity and humanity, the love and goodness of His Heavenly Father, who has given Him to us as our teacher, could not be more gloriously described than in this epistle. Learn from it how much you are obliged, because of this, to serve God, to be grateful to Him, and to follow Christ who governs heaven and earth; and whom the angels serve.
ASPIRATION. I thank Thee, a thousand times, O Heavenly Father, that Thou hast spoken to us through Thy only- begotten Son, in whom Thou artwell pleased. With my whole heart, O Father of Mercy, will I listen to Him, and be obedient to all His instructions.
GOSPEL. (John i. i 14.) IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to bear witness of the light. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the .Father), full of grace and truth.
What does St. John mean by the Word?
That the Son of God, who was begotten and brought forth like a word of the mouth from the Father, but in a manner incomprehensible and inscrutable to us, is one with the Father in the divine nature, but different from Him in person; He is also called the Word of the Father, because through Him the Father has spoken and made known the divine will. (Heb. L 2.; Matt. xvii.
What is meant by:, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God?
When all things had their beginning the Son of God already was, not made or created, but born of the Father from eternity, with whom and in whom He therefore existed from all eternity. St. John here teaches the divinity, the eternity, and the equality of Christ with the Father.
What is meant by: All things were made by Him'?
That the Son of God, Himself true God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, has made all things, visible and invisible.
What is meant by: In Him was the life?
It means: The Son of God is the origin and fountain of the spiritual life of our souls upon earth, and of the glorious life in eternity. To give this true life to us, He became man, whereby we are born again, newly created, as it were, from the death of sin .to the life of grace and righteousness.
Why is this life the light of men?
Because this true life of the soul which Christ has obtained for us, consists in the ever increasing knowledge of God and his salvation, which knowledge also comes from Christ, either externally through holy words and examples, or inwardly by divine inspiration.
How did the light shine in darkness?
The Son of God has given the necessary grace to find the true faith to mankind. He still imparts to all men the necessary light, especially by his holy Word which is preached to them, but the hardened sinners reject it, because they wish not to hear of faith and repentance.
How did St. John the Baptist bear witness of the light?
By announcing the Saviour to the world, and even pointing Him out when He appeared.
Who receive Christ?
Those who walk in the light of His grace, cooperate with it, and so become the children of God.
How are we to understand: The Word was made flesh?
We are to understand by it that the Word was not changed into human nature, but that He became incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, thus uniting in Himself two natures, the divine and the human. So Christ is true God, and at the same time true man, therefore God-Man; consequently there are in Christ two wills, the divine and the human. In His humanity He is less than the Father, (John xiv. 28.) in His divinity He is equal to the Father; (John x. 30.) His humanity filled Him with a natural terror of His sufferings, but His divinity was perfectly united with the will of His Heavenly Father, and could pray: Not my will, but thine be done.
ASPIRATION. O God, our Heavenly Father, who this night hast given to us sinners, in the form of a child from the immaculate womb of Mary, Thine only-begotten Son as our Mediator and Redeemer, we give Thee thanks with heart and lips, and humbly beseech Thee that Thou wilt never permit us to forget such a grace, and that we may sustain ourselves by it in all temptations; that we may be ever grateful to Thee for it, and until death praise, honor, and serve Thee in sanctity. Amen.
Whence comes the custom of representing in our churches and houses the crib of Bethlehem?
This custom was introduced by St. Francis of Assisi who, having a particular devotion to the Infant Jesus, was accustomed to represent to himself in this way the stable and manger at Bethlehem the further to excite his love; and as this pious practice is calculated to assist exceedingly in the instruction of the unlearned, especially of children, it was introduced into many congregations.
THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY CHILDHOOD FOR
THE SALVATION OF HEATHEN CHILDREN.
MANY thousands of heathen children die every year without baptism, and what is most terrible, a great number of these unfortunate children die the most miserable death, and thus perish, soul and body. In the heathen countries, especially in China, a country that contains more than three hundred millions of inhabitants, it is the horrible custom of parents, when they have too many children, or when they are sickly, weak, or deformed to expose them on the streets, or to throw them with a weight around their neck into the water. On the streets the poor little children die of hunger, or are devoured by beasts, in the water their flesh becomes the food of fishes. Many, especially girls, are picked up by the wicked heathens, carried home, and so trained that when they grow up, they may enrich their masters by prostitution. A multitude of others are strangled immediately after birth, their bodies thrown into the water, or into the gutter. No law forbids or punishes this horrible custom. No less than twenty or thirty thousand of these unfortunate children are killed in one year.
The missionaries who preach the gospel to these heathens witnessed these cruelties with terror without being able to do anything to abolish this awful custom. To see these children die without baptism grieved them. Some sought to gather, baptize and raise them. Good women were engaged for this purpose. But how could the missionaries provide for so many, how support those women who collected these unfortunate children? They had no means. Necessity compelled them to turn to Christian Europe. By touching letters they solicited alms for these little unfortunates,. Owing to the sad condition of these children the pious bishop of Nancy, Forbin Janson, became the founder of the society of the Holy Child Jesus, inviting all children of his diocese to form a society of the Holy Childhood, under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the benefit of the miserable heathen children, giving alms out of love for the Infant Saviour. All under twenty-one years of age, were to belong to it forming clubs of twelve, in honor of the twelve years of Christ's childhood; each member to contribute one cent monthly; and to say one "Hail Mary" every day with the invocation: "Holy Mary, pray for us and for the poor children of the heathens." By means of the money thus collected, the missionaries were enabled to save the heathen children from spiritual and corporal death. The society has been in existence since 1841, and has already embraced all Catholic countries; thousands of pious Christian children deprive themselves of a portion of their food in order to save alms, thereby performing a good work for the love of the Child Jesus and the salvation of the children of the heathens. Adults are admitted as honorary members, and would it not be well, beloved reader, for you to join it, and by prayers and alms aid in saving those little ones? This would be indeed a good work, for which rich reward will be given in heaven.
LET us therefore make him a little chamber, and put a little bed in it for him and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick, that when he cometh to us, he may abide there", (iv. Kings, iv.
13.) Such was the Sunamite woman's regard for the prophet Eliseus, that she would make such preparations for his entertainment! Will we do as much for Christ who is ready to come to us? Take pains, O Christian, to occupy this night in pious thoughts, and aspirations, for the love of God and for the good of your own soul, making yourself worthy to receive the graces which He is ready when He comes, to give you. Think how Mary, who was near her time, and Joseph her spouse obedient to the imperial command, and perfectly submissive to the will of God, journeyed with the greatest inconvenience to Bethlehem, and when, because of the multitude of people, they found no place to receive them they took refuge, as God willed it, in a most miserable stable, at the extreme end of the town. What love does not the Saviour deserve, who for love of us so humbled Himself?
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, who makest us rejoice in the yearly expectation of the feast of our redemption: grant, that we who cheerfully receive Thy only-begotten Son as a Redeemer, may behold without fear the same Lord Jesus Christ, coming as our Judge.
Who livest &c.
+ J.M.J. +
We just wanted to let you know that there will be no Gazette for the month of January. We have been fighting a very nasty bug here and with Christmas coming we have not been able to make one up. We will have one for February maybe mid January with a little extra.
May you all have a Holy Christmas and a Blessed New Year!
May our Little Infant Saviour and His most holy Mother bless you now and always,
The Willson Family
I want to apologize for not uploading any coloring pictures as I had promised. For some reason the site hasn't let me. I'm waiting to hear back from them with a solution to the problem. May you all have a blessed 4th Sunday of Advent.
ON this Sunday the Church redoubles her ardent sighs for the coming of the Redeemer, and, in the Introit, places the longing of the just of the Old Law upon the lips of the faithful, again exhorting them through the gospel of the day, to true penance as the best preparation for the worthy reception of the Saviour. Therefore at the Introit she prays: Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just. (Isai. xlv.) Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Saviour. The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands. ( Ps. xviii. 2.)
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Raise up, O Lord, we pray Thee, Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that, by the help of Thy grace, that which our sins impede may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness. Who livest, etc.
EPISTLE, (i Cor. iv. i 5.) BRETHREN, Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me, it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man's day: but neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet am I not hereby justified : but he that
judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come: who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise from God.
Why is this epistle read on this day?
The Church desires by this epistle to impress those who received Holy Orders on Ember Saturday with the dignity of their office, and exhorts them to fill it with becoming fidelity and sanctity, excelling the laity in piety and virtue, as well as in official dignity. She wishes again to remind the faithful of the terrible coming of Christ to judgment, urging them, by purifying their conscience through a contrite confession, to receive Christ at this holy Christmas time, as their Saviour, that they may not behold Him, at the Last Day, as their severe judge.
How should the faithful regard the priests and spiritual superiors?
They should esteem and obey them as servants, stewards, and vicars of Christ; as dispensers of the holy mysteries;
(i Cor. iv. i.) as ambassadors of the most High, (ii Cor.v. 20.) For this reason God earnestly commands honor to priests, (Ecclus. vii. 31.) and Christ says of the Apostles and their successors: (Luke x. 16.) Who despiseth you, despiseth me; and St. Paul writes: (i Tim. v., 17.) Let the priests that rule well be esteemed worthy of double honor: especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.
Can the priest dispense the sacraments according to his own will?
No, he must have power from the Church, and must exercise his office faithfully, in accordance with the orders of the Church, and act according to the will of Christ whose steward he is. The priest dare not give that which is holy to dogs, (Matt. vii. 6.) that is, he is not permitted to give absolution, and administer the sacraments to impenitent persons, under penalty of incurring eternal damnation.
Why does St. Paul consider the judgment of men a small matter?
Because it is usually false, deceptive, foolish, and is consequently not worth seeking or caring for. Man often counts as evil that which is in itself good and, on the contrary, esteems as good that which is evil. St. Paul says: If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal. i. 10.) Oh, how foolish, and what poor Christians, therefore, are they, who not to displease man, willingly adopt all silly customs, and fashions in dress, manners and appearance, making themselves contemptible to God, the angels, and saints. Recall the beautiful words of the Seraphic St. Francis: "We are, what we are in the sight of God, nothing more"; learn from them to fulfill your duties faithfully, and be indifferent to the judgment of the world and its praise.
Why does not St. Paul wish to judge himself?
Because no one, without a special revelation from heaven, can know if he be just in the sight of God or not, even though his conscience may accuse him of nothing, for "man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred." (Eccl. ix. i.) Thus St. Paul goes on to say, that though he was not conscious of any wrong, he did not judge himself to be justified, God only could decide that. Man should certainly examine himself as much as is in his power, to find if he has -anything within him displeasing to God; should he find nothing he must not judge himself more just than others, but consider that the eyes of his mind may be dimmed, and fail to see that which God sees and will reveal to others at the Judgment Day. The Pharisees saw no fault in themselves, and were saintly and perfect in their own estimation, yet our Lord cursed them.
ASPIRATION. O Lord, enter not into judgment with Thy servant: for in Thy sight no man living can be justified". (Ps. cxiii. 2.)
GOSPEL. (Luke iii. I 6.) In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius -Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high-priests Annas and Caiphas: the word of the Lord came to John the son of Zachary in the desert. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain: and all flesh
shall see the salvation of God.
Why is the time in which St. John commenced to preach so minutely described?
The Evangelist, contrary to his usual custom, describes the time minutely, and enumerates exactly, in their precise order, the religious and civil princes' in office, that, in the first place, it could not be denied that this was truly the time and the year in which the promised Messiah appeared in this world, whom John baptized, and the Heavenly Father declared to be His beloved Son. Furthermore, it shows the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Patriarch Jacob, (Gen. xlix. 10.) that when the sceptre would be taken away from Juda, that is, when the Jews would have no longer a king from their own tribes, the Saviour would come.
What is meant by: "The word of the Lord came to John?"
It means that John was commissioned by divine inspiration, or by an angel sent from God, to preach penance and announce to the world the coming of the Lord. He had prepared himself for this work by a penitential, secluded life, and intercourse with God. We learn from his example not to intrude ourselves into office, least of all into a spiritual office, but to await the call from God, preparing ourselves in solitude and quiet, by fervent prayer and by a holy life, for the necessary light.
What is meant by: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths?"
It means that we should prepare our hearts for the worthy reception of Christ, by penance, amendment, and the resolution to lead a pious life in future. To do this, every valley should be filled, that is, all faint-heartedness, sloth and cowardice, all wordly carnal sentiments should be elevated and directed to God, the highest Good, by firm confidence and ardent desire for heavenly virtues; the mountains and hills should be brought low, that is, pride, stubbornness, and ambition should be humbled, and the obstinate will be broken. The crooked shall be made straight, that is, ill-gotten goods should be restored, hypocrisy, malice, and double dealing be renounced, and our intentions turned to God and the performance of His holy will. And the rough ways shall be made plain, that is, anger, revenge, and impatience must leave the Heart, if the Lamb of God is to dwell therein. It may also signify that the Saviour put to shame the pride of the world, and its false wisdom, by building His Church upon the Apostles, who, by reason of their poverty and simplicity, may be considered the low valleys, while the way to heaven, formerly so rough and hard to tread, because of the want of grace, is now by His grace made smooth and easy.
ASPIRATION. O my Jesus! would that my heart were well prepared and smooth for Thee! Assist me! O my Saviour to do that which I cannot do by myself. Make me an humble valley, fill me with Thy grace; turn my crooked and perverted will to Thy pleasure; change my rough and angry disposition, throw away in me whatever impedes Thy way, that Thou mayst come to me without hindrance. Thou alone possess and rule me forever. Amen.
EMBER SATURDAY IN ADVENT.
EPISTLE, (ii. Thess. ii. i 8.)
BRETHREN, we beseech you, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our gathering together unto him: that you be not easily moved from your mind, nor be frighted, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God. Remember you not, that when I was yet with you I told you these things? And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh: only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way, and then that wicked one shall be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.
EXPLANATION. At the time when St. Paul wrote this epistle, the false report was circulated that the Last Day was at hand, and Christ was coming to judge all men. The Apostle warns the faithful against trusting this, telling them they should not permit themselves to be misled; for first, the greater part of mankind would fall away from God, and Antichrist, the son of perdition appear, but not until the gospel was everywhere preached. The great falling off would be gradual, caused by the heresies which would arise from time to time, and would be completed by Antichrist, whom our Lord, at last, on the Day of Judgment would kill with the breath of his mouth. Let us learn from this epistle not to be curious concerning the Last Day, and the Advent of Christ, but to prepare, rather for the coming of Jesus into our hearts, that He may be merciful to us in death, and at judgment.
ASPIRATION. Ah, Jesus! when wilt Thou come and take my heart wholly into Thy possession, that I may be forever Thine! Remark. The gospel of this day will be found in the instruction on the fourth Sunday of Advent.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, who seest us afflicted on account of our own wickedness; mercifully grant, that by Thy coming we may be comforted.
Who livest and reignest &c.
EXPLANATION. In this lesson the Lord announced to the Jews, through the prophet, the consoling promise that when they were sufficiently punished, and had come to the consciousness of their own misery, the Saviour would come and bring all things to order. The rod spoken of by the prophet, is the Blessed Virgin who would proceed from the root of Jesse, that is, from the stem of David, and give birth to the flower, viz., to the Saviour upon whom the HolyGhost, with His sevenfold gifts, would descend, that is, dwell in Him. As a reader of the heart He would judge man, not according to his outward appearance , but according to his intentions. He would not flatter the sinner, but with severe words punish his sinful life, and because just and faithful, He would reward every man without respect to person. Let us be always mindful in all our omissions and commissions, that our Lord sees into our hearts, and judges not only according to our works, but principally according to our intentions, and let us strive ever to have pure motives in all our actions.
ASPIRATION. O Fragrant Flower of the Virgin, Jesus our Saviour, come and draw us to Thee, that we may walk in the perfume of .Thy ointments , and obtain a merciful judgment from Thee.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Show forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come, that we who confidently trust in Thy love, may be the sooner delivered from all adversities, who livest and reignest &c.
EMBER FRIDAY IN ADVENT.
LESSON. (Isai. XL i 5.) . AND there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness, and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice' shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins.
In this lesson the Lord announced to the Jews, through the prophet, the consoling promise
that when they were sufficiently punished, and had come to the consciousness of their own misery, the Saviour would come and bring all things to order. The rod spoken of by the prophet, is the Blessed Virgin who would proceed from the root of Jesse, that is, from the stem of David, and give birth to the flower, viz., to the Saviour upon whom the Holy Ghost, with His sevenfold gifts, would descend, that is, dwell in Him. As a reader of the heart He would judge man, not according to his outward appearance , but according to his intentions. He would not flatter the sinner, but with severe words punish his sinful life, and because just and faithful, He would reward every man without respect to person.
Let us be always mindful in all our omissions and commissions, that our Lord sees into our hearts, and judges not only according to our works, but principally according to our intentions, and let us strive ever to have pure motives in all our actions.
ASPIRATION. O Fragrant Flower of the Virgin, Jesus our Saviour, come and draw us to Thee, that we may walk in the perfume of Thy ointments , and obtain a merciful judgment from Thee.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Show forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come, that we who confidently trust in Thy love, may be the sooner delivered from all adversities, who livest and reignest &c.
EMBER WEDNESDAY IN ADVENT.
LESSON, (hai. VIL 10 15.) AND the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord. And he said : Hear ye, therefore, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a
son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good*.
EXPLANATION OF THE LESSON.
In this Lesson is contained the important prophecy of the Saviour's birth from a virgin. War was declared by the kings of Israel and Syria against Achaz, king of Juda, who at their approach was overpowered with fear, and thought of seeking aid from the Assyrians instead of looking to Almighty God for help ; and for this lack of confidence in God, the prophet Isaiah was sent to announce to him the destruction of both kings, and his own preservation. The prophet, wishing Achaz to prove his assertion, requested the king to demand a sign from God; but he being' given to idolatry, did not wish to ask a sign from heaven, for he had more faith in the assistance of the demons and of the Assyrians. He offended God by his refusal and the prophet rebuked him, saying: The Lord himself will give you (that is, your posterity) a sign, for the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel, that is God with us. By these words Isaias desired to impress upon the king, that as surely as he should be preserved from his enemies, so surely this Emmanuel, the Son of the Virgin, would appear to redeem the world from Satan's power.
Let us learn from this lesson always to trust in God, who can deliver us from all danger, and let us also be grateful to Him, who seven hundred and forty-three years before the time, permitted, for our consolation, the announcement of the coming of His Son, our Saviour.
ASPIRATION. O Emmanuel, powerful, holy God! Our Saviour and our Redeemer! be with us always in llfe and death: for, if Thou art with us who can be against us?
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Grant, we beseechThee, Almighty God, that the approaching celebration
of our redemption may bring us the necessary graces
for the present life, and bestow upon us the rewards of
eternal happiness, through our Lord Jesus Christ &c.
Congratulations to Erin M. and Jill L. on winning a copy of My Catholic Faith. I have sent emails to you both that you can reply to with your mailing address, and I will send your book right out to you.
God bless you!
There is a rule and order which is necessary in this life, a regularity which leads us to God, if we keep it faithfully. If we fail in this, we swerve from the path which conducts us to His heavenly kingdom; for all is beautiful where there is order, and the Apostle says: "All order is from God." ~ St. Augustine ~
-The Manual of The Holy Catholic Church - Imprimatur 1906 -
"Preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins"
(Luke III. 3.)
What is penance, and how many kinds are there?
PENANCE, says the Roman Catechism, (Cat. Rom. de Poenit. 54.) consists in the turning of our whole soul to God, hating and detesting the crimes we have committed, firmly resolving to amend our lives, its evil habits and corrupt ways, hoping through the mercy of God to obtain pardon. This is interior penance, or the virtue of penance. The sincere ack- nowledgment of our sins to a priest and the absolution he accords, is exterior penance, or the holy Sacrament of Penance, which Christ instituted, (John XX. 22 23.) through which the sins committed after baptism, are remitted.
Which of these penances is necessary for the for- giveness of sins?
Both are necessary, for unless the conversion of the heart to God, a true consciousness of, and sorrow for sin, the firm purpose of amendment and confidence in God's mercy, precede the confession, declaring all our sins to a priest can not obtain forgiveness of mortal sin, committed after baptism. At the same time a really contrite turning to God, will not, without confession to a priest, obtain forgiveness, except when by circumstances, a person is prevented from approaching the tribunal of penance. Such a person must, however, have the ardent desire to confess as soon as possible.
Can any one who has committed mortal sin be saved without penance?
No, for penance is as necessary to such a one as baptism, if he wishes not to perish: Unless you do penance, says Christ, you shall all likewiseperish. (Luke XIII. 3. 5.) Is this penance performed at once? This penance is necessary every day of our lives: that is, we must from day to day endeavor to be heartily sorry for our sins, to despise them, to eradicate the roots of sin, that is, our passions and evil inclinations, and become more pleasing to God by penance and good works. Why do so many die impenitent? Because they do not accept and use the many graces God offers them, but put off their repentance. If such sinners, like the godless King Antiochus, (li. Mack, ix.) intend to repent on their death-bed for fear of punishment, they usually find that God in His justice will no longer give them the grace of repentance, for he who when he can repent, will not, cannot when he will. "Who will not listen at the time of grace", says St. Gregory, "will not be listened to in the time of anxiety." And it is to be feared that he who postpones penance until old age, will not find justice where he looked for mercy.
Can all sinners do penance?
With the grace of God all can, even the greatest sinners; as a real father God calls them when He says: As I live . . . I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways: and why will ye die, O house of Israel? And the wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him, in what day soever he shall turn from his wickedness. (Ezech. xxxiii. 11-12.)
Do all who go to confession perform true penance?
Unfortunately they do not; for all is not accomplished with confession. If there is no sincere detestation of sin, no true sorrow for having offended God; if the evil inclinations and bad habits are not overcome, illgotten goods restored, and calumny repaired, the occasions of sin avoided; if a sincere amendment of life, or, at least, its earnest purpose does not follow, then indeed, there cannot be the least shadow of true repentance, not even though such persons confess weekly. But alas! we see many such. And why? Because many think repentance consists simply in confession, and not in the amendment of their lives. Only those obtain pardon who are truly penitent, and perform all that is enjoined upon them in confession. It is well, therefore, to read and carefully act according to the following instructions.
I. ON THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE.
The foundation of true repentance, interior and exterior (see the preceding pages), is the vivid knowledge of our sins. There are many who are unconscious of the most grievous sins in which they are buried; blinded by self-love they do not even regard them as sins, do not confess them, perform no penance for them and are consequently eternally lost. To prevent this great evil, the Council of Trent (Sess. 14. c. 5.) ordered a careful examination of conscience before confession, and afterwards to confess the sins which are discovered by that examination.
Why should we examine our conscience?
Because, as St. Ignatius says, no one can become fully aware of his own faults, unless God reveals them by a special light; we should, therefore, first of all, daily ask the Holy Ghost to enlighten us, and should then examine our thoughts, desires, words, actions, and omissions since our last valid confession and how often we have sinned in these respects. To know this, we should let our conscience, that is, the inner voice which tells us what is good and what is evil, speak freely, without flattering ourselves, or passing it by negligently. St. Charles Borromeo says, we should place before our eyes the Ten Commandments of God and carefully compare our life and our morals with them; it is well also to examine ourselves on the seven deadly sins, and remember the places and persons with whom we have been in contact, the duties of our state of life, the vices to which we are most inclined, the consequences that were, or might have been produced upon ourselves or others. At the same time, we should imagine ourselves standing before the judgment seat of God, and whatever would cause us fear there, whatever we could not answer for there, we should look upon as sins, be sorry for, and confess.
Is it a sin not to examine ourselves long and carefully?
Certainly it is a sin for those to examine their consciences carelessly, who live unfaithfully and in mortal sin, and who seldom confess, because they expose themselves frivolously to the danger of leaving out great sins, and consequently they make a sacrilegious confession, committing thereby a new and grievous sin. Those who daily ask God for enlightenment and examine their conscience at least every evening before going to bed, will prepare themselves properly before approaching the tribunal of penance. "Behold, you have a book in which you write your daily expenses," says St. Chrysostom, "make a book of your conscience, also, and write there your daily sins. Before you go to bed, before sleep conies, take your book, that is, your conscience, and recall your sins, whether of thought, word, or deed. Say then to your soul: Again, O my soul, a day is spent, what have we doneof evil or of good? If you have accomplished some good, be grateful to God; if evil, resolve to avoid it for the future, shed tears in remembrance of your sins; ask forgiveness of God, and then let your body sleep."
II. ON CONTRITION.
"O man", cries St. Augustine, "why dost thou weep over the body whence the soul has departed, and not over the soul from which God has withdrawn?" The idolatrous Michas (Judges xviii. 23. 24.) complained bitterly, because his idols were taken from him; Esau grieved greatly over the loss of his birthright and his father's blessing. (Gen. xxvii. 34.) Should we not therefore, be filled with sorrow, when by our sins we have lost God and Heaven?
What is contrition, and how many kinds are there?
"Contrition is a hearty sorrow and detestation of our sins, with a firm purpose of sinning no more." (Cone. Trid. sess. xiv. 4.) If this grief and detestation comes from a temporal injury, shame or punishment, it is a natural sorrow; but if we are sorry for our sins, because by them we have offended God, and transgressed His holy law, it is a supernatural sorrow; this, again, is imperfect when fear of God's punishment is the motive; it is perfect, if we are sorry for our sins, because we have offended God, the supreme Lord and best of Fathers.
Is natural sorrow sufficient for a good confession?
It is not, because it proceeds not from a supernatural motive, but from the love or fear of the world. A mere natural sorrow for our sins worketh death, (ii Cor. vii. 10.) If one confess his sins having only a natural sorrow for them, he commits a sacrilege, because the most necessary part of the Sacrament of Penance in wanting".
What other qualities are necessary for a true contrition?
Contrition should be interior, proceeding from the heart and not merely from the lips; it must be universal, that is, it must extend to all the mortal sins which the sinner has committed; it must be sovereign, that is, he must be more sorry for having offended God, than for any temporal evil; it must be supernatural, that is, produced in the heart by supernatural motives; namely, because we have offended God, lost His grace, deserved hell, etc.
What kind of sorrow must we have in order to obtain forgiveness of our sins?
That sorrow which proceeds from a perfect love of God, and not from fear of temporal or eternal punishment. This perfect contrition would suffice for the forgiveness of sins, if in case of danger of death, there should be a great desire, but no opportunity to confess to a priest. But the Holy Catholic Church has declared (Cone. Trid. s. 14. c. 4.) the imperfect contrition which proceeds from the fear of eternal punishment to be sufficient for the valid reception of the holy Sacrament of Penance.
Who are those who have reason to fear they have aroused only a natural sorrow for their sins?
Those who care little about knowing what true sorrow is; those who often commit grievous sins, and do not amend their lives; for if true sorrow for sin had been excited in their hearts, with the firm purpose of amendment, the grace of God in this Sacrament would have strengthened the resolution, and enabled them to avoid sin, at least for a time. On account of their immediate relapse we justly doubt whether they have validly received the sacrament of penance and its sanctifying grace.
How can the sinner attain true sorrow?
The sinner can attain true sorrow by the grace of God and his own cooperation. That both are necessary, is shown by the prophet Jeremias, (Jer. xxxi. 18, 19.) who prays: Convert me, OLord, and I shall be converted: for Thou art the Lord, my God. For after Thou didst convert me, I did penance: and after Thou didst shew unto me, I struck my thigh (with sorrow). To which God replies: If thou wilt be converted, I will convert thee. (Jer. xv. 19.) We see, therefore, that the first and most essential means for producing this sorrow is the grace of God. It must begin and complete the work of conversion, but it will do this only when the sinner earnestly and faithfully cooperates. When God in whatever way has admonished the sinner that he should be converted, let him ardently implore God for the grace of a true conversion, invoke the intercession of the Mother of the Saviour, his guardian angel, and like the holy penitents, David, Peter, and Magdalen, let him meditate upon the truth that God is a just judge, who hates sin, and will punish it in the eternal torments of hell. Having placed these truths vividly before his eyes, the sinner will reflect further whether by his sin she has not himself deserved this punishment, and if by the enlightenment of God he finds he has, he will also see the danger in which he stands, that if God should permit him to die impenitent, he would have to suffer forever in hell. This fear of eternal punishment urges the sinner to hope in God's mercy; for He wishes not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; again, our Redeemer says: I came to call the sinner to repentance, and, there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who does penance, than over ninety-nine just. He considers the patience of God towards him, the graces bestowed upon, him during his sinful life; namely his creation, redemption, sanctification in baptism, and many others. He will now contemplate the beauty and perfection of God: "Who art Thou, O my God," he cries, "who art Thou who hast loved me with such an unspeakable love, and lovest me still, ungrateful, abominable sinner, that I am! What is all the beauty of this world of the angels and of the blessed spirits compared to Thine! Thou fountain of all beauty, of all goodness, of all that is amiable, Thou supreme majesty, Thou infinite abyss of love and mercy, I for one vain thought, a short, momentary pleasure, a small, mean gain, could forget, offend and despise Thee! Could I sell, could I forfeit heaven, and eternal joy with Thee! O, could I repair those crimes! Could I but wash them out with my tears, even with my blood?" Through such meditations the sinner, by the grace of God, will be easily moved to sorrow. Without such or similar reflections the formulas of sorrow as read from prayer books or recited by heart, are by no means acts of contrition.
Should we make an act of contrition before confession only?
We should make an act of contrition before confession, and not only then, but every evening after the examination of conscience; we should make one immediately after any fault committed, above all when in danger of death; for we know not when God will call us to judgment, or whether we shall then have the grace to receive the sacrament of Penance with proper preparation.
ON THE PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT.
The purpose of amending our life is as necessary for the remission of sin, as contrition; for how could he obtain forgiveness from God, who has not the determination to sin no more ? The will to sin cannot exist with the hatred of sin.
What is necessary for a firm purpose?
A firm purpose of amendment requires: the determination to avoid sin; to flee from all occasions that might bring the danger of sinning, all persons, places, societies in which we usually sin; bravely to fight against our evil inclinations and bad habits; to make use of all means prescribed by our confessor, or made known to us by God Himself; to repair the injustice we have done; to restore the good name of our neighbor, and to remove the scandal and enmity we have caused.
Who then, have no true purpose of amendment?
Those who do not truly intend to leave the frivolous persons with whom they have associated, and committed sin; to remove the occasions of cursing, swearing, drunkenness, and secret sins, etc.; who have the intention to borrow or to contract debts which they know they cannot pay, or do not even care to pay; to squander the property of their wives and children, letting them suffer want; to frequent barrooms, or saloons, fight, gamble, indulge in vile, filthy conversations and detraction, murmur against spiritual and temporal superiors, throw away precious time, and bring, even compel others to do the same. The saloon-keepers, who for the sake of money allure such wretched people, keep them there, and what is still worse, help to intoxicate them, participate in their sins.
IV. ON CONFESSION.
Confession is a contrite acknowledgment of our sins to a priest who is duly authorized, in order to obtain forgiveness. This acknowledgment of our sins is an important and necessary part of the holy Sacrament of Penance. Even in the Old Law, a certain kind of confession was prescribed and connected with a sacrifice, called the sacrifice of Atonement but the forgiveness of sins was effected only through faith in the coming Redeemer, towards whom this sacrifice pointed. (Lev. v. 5, 6. Num. v. 7.; compare Matt. iii. 6.) In the new Law, Christ gave to the apostles and their successors, power to forgive, and to retain sins, (John xx. 21- 23) and in doing so made them judges. "Without confession on the part of the sinner, they cannot act as judges, and do justice in regard to giving punishment and remedies, (Cone. Trid. sess. 14. c. 6) and as the sinner is but seldom able to make an act of perfect contrition, which obtains the forgiveness of sin without confession, it was necessary that the most merciful Lord, as the Roman Catechism says, (de poen. 5. 36.) through the means of confession to the priest, should provide in an easier manner for the common salvation of man. Confession, at the same time, is the best means of bringing man to a knowledge of his sins and of their malice. Therefore, even Adam was obliged to acknowledge his sins, and in the same way Cain was asked by God concerning his brother's murder, although God, the Omniscient, knew the sins of both. The desire to ease the troubled conscience, seems born in man. Thus David says of his crime: Because was silent, my bones grew old, whilst I cried out all the day long; (Ps. xxxi. 3.) and in the book of Proverbs it is said; He that hideth his sins, shall not prosper: but he that shall confess and forsake them, shall obtain mercy. (Prov. xxviii. 13.) Constant experience in life verifies these words, and heretics could not entirely abolish private confession, though they rejected the Sacrament of Penance.
Is confession a human law or a human invention?
No, confession was instituted by Christ Himself; for after His resurrection He appeared to His apostles and disciples, and said to them: Peace be with you! As the Father hath sent me, I also send you; that is, the same power to remit sin which the Father has given me, I give to you. When he had said this, he breathed on them, and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John xx. 21 23; compare Matt, xviii. 18.) In these words Christ evidently gave to the apostles and their successors the power to forgive and retain sins. This they can do only when the sins are confessed to them; and, therefore, Christ, when instituting the forgiveness of sins, instituted and connected with it the acknowledgment, that is, the confession of sins. This regulation of Christ was complied with by the first Christians in humility of heart, as is proved in the Acts of the apostles, where we read: And many, (referring to the Christians at Ephesus) of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds. (Acts. xix. 18.) And the apostle James exhorts his own: Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. (St. James v. 16.) The work founded by Christ must stand, as long as the world, and as the apostles and disciples of our Lord died, their successors necessarily continued the work, and received the same power from Christ. This is verified by the whole history of His Church. In the very beginning of Christianity, the faithful with great sorrow confessed to the priest all their transgressions, even the smallest and most secret, after which they received absolution. "Let us be sincerely sorry as long as we live," says St. Clement of Rome, a disciple of St. Paul, (Ep. i. ad Cor.) "for all evil which we have committed in the flesh, for having once left the world, there will no longer be any confession and penance for us." Tertullian (217 after Christ) writes of those who hid their sins, being ashamed to confess them: "Can we also hide from the knowledge of God that which we conceal from a fellow creature". (Lib. de qan. 5. 36.) Origen (+ 254), after speaking of baptism, says: "There is still a severer and more tedious way of obtaining remission of sin: when the sinner moistens his pillow with tears, and is not ashamed to confess his sins to the priest of the Lord". (Hom. 3. in Lev.) St. Cyprian (+ 258) writes of those Christians who during the persecutions of his time, had not sinned by openly denying the faith: "Yet because they had but thought of doing so, they make a sorrowful and simple confession to God's priests". (Sib. de laps.) Basil (+ A.D. 379) writes: "Necessarily the sins must be made plain to those to whom the power of the mysteries is confided, that is, to the priests". (In reg. brev. 288.) Many more testimonies could be brought from the earliest centuries of Christianity, which make it clear, that Christ Himself instituted confession, and that the faithful always availed themselves of it as a means of remission of sin. It would not have been possible for a human being, though he were the mightiest prince, to have imposed upon Catholic Christianity so hard an obligation as confession, without the special command of Christ the Son of God; nor could any one have invented it without the faithful at once revolting. It is also well known that, in the Oriental Churches which separated from the true Church in the earliest ages, private confession to a priest is yet valued as a divine institution. The Catholic institution of confession, with which, in the earliest centuries; there was even connected a public confession, before the whole congregation, for notorious sinners, is as old as the Church itself, as Pope Leo the Great (+ 461) proves (Ep. 136); "The secret, auricular confession was introduced into the Church as early as the times of the apostles, or their immediate successors." It was 'instituted by Christ, the God-Man, and instituted for the purpose of enabling the apostles and the priests, their successors, to remit in the confessional the sins committed after baptism, if the sinner heartily regrets them, sincerely confesses, and renders satisfaction for them, or to retain them if he be unworthy of absolution. From this it is seen that the enemies of the Catholic Church oppose, in rejecting confession, the plain expression of the holy Scriptures, and of entire Christian antiquity, and that it is a detestable calumny to assert that confession is simply a human invention. The divine institution of confession always was and is a fountain of sweetest con- solation for sinful man, and thousands have experienced that which is said by the Council of Trent: (Sess. 14. c. 3. de part.} "The effect of this Sacrament is reconciliation with God, followed by peace, cheerfulness and consolation of the heart in those who worthily receive this Sacrament."
What will aid us to make confession easy?
The consideration of the manifold benefits arising from it; first, forgiveness of all, even the most grievous sins, remission of the guilt and eternal punishment; secondly, the certainty of having again been made a child, of God; thirdly, the sweet consolation and desired peace ofconscience; fourthly, the necessary remedies which a pious and prudent confessor will prescribe for the cure of the diseases of the soul; finally, the prayer and exhortation of the priest which will also add to the complete conversion of the sinner.
What should be done to participate in these benefits?
Besides that which has already been said of the examination of conscience, and especially of sorrow for sin, the confession must be sincere and open-hearted; that is, a correct and exact confession not only of all mortal sins, their kind, circumstances and number, without excuses, or veiling or lessening them, but also a faithful revelation of all other spiritual affairs, fears, doubts, and other wounds of the soul; for a wound which is not shown to the physician, cannot be healed. We should not seek those confessors who are only "mute dogs", (Isai. Ivi. 10.) and give absolution without hesitation, but we should trust the direction of our souls to learned, pious, and zealous priests, and remain under their guidance, as in physical sickness we remain under the care of an experienced physician, and accept their words as if Christ Himself had spoken.
How should the false shame which prevents confession be overcome?
It should be remembered that the priest in the confessional is the representative of Christ, and that whoever lies to the confessor, seeks to deceive God Himself, who abominates a lie, and at the Last Day will publicly put such a liar to shame. The confessor takes the place of Christ, and after His example must be merciful to the sinner, if, a sinful man himself, he hopes to receive mercy and grace from God. At the same time, no confessor is allowed to reveal the slightest thing heard in confession, even should it cost him his life. It may be considered further that he who conceals a sin in confession, and thus obtains absolution by false pretenses, receives no remission, but, on the contrary, commits a new sin, "When man uncovers his sins, God covers them; when man conceals his sins, God reveals them," says St. Augustine. Man can be deceived, but not God, the Omniscient; and who is ashamed to show his wounds to the physician?
Why should it be a cause of shame to throw out the poison of sin by a sincere confession?
To sin only is shameful, to confess sin is not shameful. But if by all these reflections we are still unable to overcome ourselves so as to confess our sins to a certain confessor we may seek another in whom we have confidence.
V. ON SATISFACTION AFTER CONFESSION.
Satisfaction is the diligent performance of all the works of penance imposed upon us by the confessor. With this, however, a true penitent will not be satisfied; for in our times, on account of the weakness and little zeal of Christians, a light penance is imposed that they may not be deterred from the reception of the holy Sacraments. To avoid relapsing into sin, one must do penance, and bring forth worthy fruits, (Luke xiii. 3) for God will only then give the grace to persevere. We satisfy God by fasting, prayer, almsdeeds, avoidance of the snares of the world, diffidence in ourselves, and especially by patient endurance of the afflictions and sufferings which He imposes upon us. Those who have committed sin must do penance in this life or submit to everlasting penance in the next.
Is the heretic right in asserting that man does not need to render satisfaction since Christ has rendered it complete on the cross?
He is entirely wrong. Christ on the cross did indeed render satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, and man is not capable to atone for one single sin but it does not follow from this that man is not required to do something. To render satisfaction means to perform a duty which has been neglected. Instead of obeying God the sinner,by his sins, disobeys Him. Satisfaction for disobedience requires perfect obedience from the sinner: but this, because of his weakness and corruption, no man is able to render, therefore Christ rendered it for us by His perfect obedience even unto the death of the cross. But because Christ has been thus obedient for us, must we not be somewhat obedient also? or which is the same, because Christ for love of us has atoned for our sins by perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father, are we to do no penance for ourselves? It is precisely by this atonement made by Christ that we receive the power of rendering satisfaction. But for this we must, first of all, ask the grace, pray, to restrain our earthly desires, fast, and by means of active love (charity) make ourselves susceptible to this grace. St. Paul the Apostle, who calls himself the greatest of sinners, writes of himself: I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh for his body, which is the Church (Col. i. 24.) and to the Corinthians he writes: But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps: when I have preached to others, (meaning penance and conversion) I myself should become cast away. (i. Cor. ix. 27.). Christ Himself did not censure the Ninivites for their fasting and their penance in sackcloth and ashes, but gave them as an example. (Matt. xii. 41.) In the Old Testament we find that even after remitting the sin, God imposed a punishment for it. Thus He let the child of king David die, as punishment for his adultery, even though He had forgiven the sin; (ii. Kings xii. 13, 14.) thus Moses and Aaron, because they once distrusted God, were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. (Num. xx. 24.7 Deut. xxxiv. 4.) According to this doctrine of the Bible, the Catholic Church teaches that there remains a temporal punishment which the sinner must expiate either in this world, or in the next, though on account of the infinite merits of Christ the guilt and eternal punishment of sin are taken away by absolution. In the earliest times of the Church
certain works of penance were imposed, which were then very severe, and in the course of time, owing to the indolence of the, faithful, were much moderated.
Just wanted to let everyone know that we will be taking a break from this site until after Christmas. I will still put the sermons on and some coloring pictures but otherwise I will be spending time with the family and our usual traditions.
Have blessed Advent,
ON this day the Church not only makes mention in the office of the priest, but also in the Mass, of the two different Advents of Christ, that by His first gracious advent we may be gladdened, and by His last terrible coming at the day of judgment we may be impressed with salutary fear. With this intention she cries out at the
Introit: People of Sion, behold the Lord shall come to save the nations; and the Lord shall make the glory of his voice to be heard in the joy of your heart. (Isai. XXX.30) Give ear, O thou that rulest Israel: thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. (Ps. LXXIX) Glory etc.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His advent we may be worthy to serve Thee with purified minds; who livest and reignest with God the Father, in union with the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.
EPISTLE. (Romans XV. 4 -13.) BRETHREN, what things soever were written, were written for our learning, that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope. Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ: that with one mind, and with one mouth, you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honor of God. For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people, And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and magnify him, all ye people. And again, Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles shall hope. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost.
What does St. Paul teach in this Epistle?
The Jews and Gentiles who had been converted to the Christian faith were disputing among themselves at Rome, in regard to abstinence and the use of certain kinds of food, reproaching each other severely; the Jews boasted that the Saviour, according to promise, was born of their nation, thus claiming Him from the Gentiles, who, in their turn, reproached the Jews for their ingratitude in having crucified Him. To restore harmony St. Paul shows that each had reason, the Jews and Gentiles alike, to praise God, to whose grace and goodness they owed all; that each had in Him a Redeemer in whom they could hope for salvation; and he warns them not to deprive themselves of that hope by contentions. By these words the Apostle also teaches that we too, have great reason to praise God, and to thank Him for calling us, whose forefathers were heathens, to the Christian faith, and to guard against losing our salvation by pride, envy, impurity etc.
Why should we read the Scriptures?
That we may know what we are to believe, and do in order to be saved, as all Scripture inspired by God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice; (Tim. III 16) that we may learn from what Christ has done for us, and the saints for Christ, to be patient in our sufferings, and to be consoled and encouraged by their example. To derive this benefit from the Scriptures, the Catholic must read them by the light of that Spirit through whose assistance they came into existence, who lives and remains for ever with the Church: that is, the light of the Holy Ghost must be sought, that their meaning may be read according to the sense of the Church and not be explained according to the reader's judgment.
For he who reads the holy Scriptures by the light of his own private judgment, must, as experience shows, of necessity diverge from the right path, become entangled in manifold doubts, and at last, lose the faith entirely. For this reason the Catholic Church has very properly limited the reading of the Bible, not as has been falsely asserted, unconditionally forbidden it, but she allows the reading of those editions only, which are accompanied by notes and explanations, that the unity of faith may not be disturbed, and that among Catholics there may not be the terrible bewilderment of the human intellect which has taken place among the different heretical sects who have even declared murder, bigamy and impurity to be permissible on the authority of the Bible. We are to consider also, that Christ never commanded the Bible to be written or read, and that not the readers but the hearers and the followers of the word of God by which is meant those who hear the word of God in sermons, and keep it, will be saved.*
Why is God called a God of patience, of consolation, and of hope?
He is called a God of patience because He awaits our repentance, of consolation, because He gives us grace to,be patient in crosses and afflictions, and so consoles us inwardly,that we become not faint-hearted; of hope, becauseHe gives us the virtue of hope, and because He desires to be Himself the reward we are to expect after this life.
ASPIRATION. O God of patience, of consolation and of hope, fill cw hearts with peace and joy, and grant that we may become perfect in all good, and by faith, hope and charity, attain the promised salvation.
GOSPEL. (Matt. XI 2-10) At that time, when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples, he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or do we look for another? And Jesus making answer, said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them: and blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me.
And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold, they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, "Behold, I send my Angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee."
Why was John in prison?
He was in prison, and lost his life, because he had rebuked king Herod for his adulterous marriage with his brother's wife. (Matt. XIV. 310.) Truth, as the proverb says, is certainly a very beautiful mother, but she usually bears a very ugly daughter: Hatred. St. John experienced, that speaking the truth very often arouses hatred and enmity against the speaker. Let us learn from him to speak the truth always, when duty requires it, even if it brings upon us the greatest misfortunes, for, if with St. John we patiently bear persecution, with St. John we shall become martyrs for truth.
Why did St. John send his disciples to Christ?
That they should learn from Christ, who had become illustrious by His teachings and miracles, that He was really the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world, whom they should follow.
Why did Christ say to the disciples of St. John: "Go and say to John, the blind see, the lame 'walk &c.?"
That they should, by His miracles, judge Him to be the Messiah, because the prophets had predicted that He would work such miracles. (Isai. XXXV. 5 6.) "Christ," says St. Cyril, "proved that He was the Messiah by the grandeur as well as by the number of His miracles."
Why does Christ add: "And blessed is he who shall not be scandalized in me?"
Christ used these words in reference to those who would be scandalized by His poverty, humility and ignominious death on the cross, and who for these reasons would doubt and despise Him, and cast Him away; though "man," as St. Gregory says, "owes all the more love to the Lord, his God, the more humiliations He has borne for him."
What was our Lords object in the questions He asked concerning St. John?
His object was to remove from St. John all suspicion of failing in faith in Him; and to praise the perseverance with which, although imprisoned and threatened with death, he continued to fill his office of preacher, thus constituting him an example to all preachers, confessors and superiors, that they may never be deterred by human respect, or fear of man, or other temporal considerations, from courageously fulfilling their duties. Our Lord commended also rigorous penance, exhibited by St. John's coarse garments and simple food, that we may learn, from his example, penance and mortification.
Why does Christ say that John is more than a prophet?
Because St. John was foretold by the prophet Malachias as was no other prophet; because of all the prophets he was the only one who with his own eyes saw Christ and could point Him out; and was the one to baptize Him: and because like an angel, a messenger of God, he announced
the coming of the Saviour, and prepared the way for the Lord.
How did St. John prepare the way for the Saviour?
By his sermons on penance, and by his own penitential life he endeavored to move the hearts of the Jews, that by amending their lives, they might prepare to receive the grace of the Messiah, for God will not come with His grace into our hearts if we do not prepare His way by true repentance.
ASPIRATION. O Lord Jesus, by the praise Thou didst accord to Thy forerunner St. John, for his firmness and austerities, inflame our hearts with love to imitate his steadfastness and penance, that we may never do anything to please man which may be displeasing to Thee; grant us also Thy grace that we too, like St. John, may have those who are confided to our care, instructed in the Christian doctrine.
CONSOLATION IN SUFFERING.
"The God of patience and of comfort, the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing". (Rom. XV. 5)
What gives us the greatest consolation in adversities?
THE strong and fervent belief that each and every thing that happens to us, comes to us for our own good from God, and that whatever evil befalls us, is by the will or permission of God. Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God. (Ecclus. XL 14.) If we have received good things at the hand of God, (Job. II. 10.) saith the pious Job in his affliction, "why should we not receive evil?"
We should be of the fully convinced that without the permission of God not a single hair of our head shall perish, (Luke XXI. 18.) much less can any other evil be done to us by man or devil; (Job. I.) we should have a steadfast confidence that if we ask Him, God can and will assist us in our sufferings, if it be for our salvation. Cana woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee in my hands; (Isai. XLIX. 15 - 16) we should hope for abundant reward in the future life, which we will merit by patience in our sufferings, for that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; (II. Cor. IV. 17.) we should remember that all complaints and murmurs against the dispensation of God are useless, and lead only to harm and shame; Who hath resisted Him, and hath had peace? (Job. IX. 4.) we should have a vivid remembrance of our sins, for which we have long since deserved the eternal punishments of hell, hence the well known saying of St. Augustine: O Lord, here cut, here burn, but spare me in eternity. No other way leads to the kingdom of heaven than the way of the cross, which Christ Himself, His sorrowing mother, and all the saints had to tread. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, .and so to enter into His glory? (Luke XXIV. 26.) Through many tribulations we iftust enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts XIV. 21) And we should not forget that sorrows and adversities are signs of God's love, and manifest proofs of being His chosen ones. Whom the Lord loveth He chastiseth, and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. (Heb. XII. 6. comp. 7-11)
PRAYER IN SORROW. O almighty, kind and merciful God! who hast said: "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me", (Ps. XLIX. 15.) behold relying upon Thy word, I take refuge in Thee in my trouble. Give honor to Thy name, therefore, and deliver me, if it be pleasing to Thee and beneficial for me, that all may know, Thou art our only help. Amen.
* Further instruction in regard to the doctrine of faith on this subject will be found in the "Instruction for Easter-Tuesday."
One "Blessed be God" in the time of adversity is worth more than "I thank you" said a thousand times in prosperity.
- St. John of Avila -
We will be giving away two copies of the wonderful catechism, "My Catholic Faith." You can see a sample of ithere. There is a picture for every lesson. I used this for my 11th graders catechism. They enjoyed it and learned a lot. The Imprimatur of this book is 1937.
The give-a-way will start this Sunday 12/9 and end next Sunday 12/16.
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
"O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee"
With such a glorious feast as this during the month of December, we are almost tempted to give up all hope of doing much penance during the season of Advent. On December 8th we celebrate the wondrous moment when the Blessed Virgin began her existence in this world. At the same time we celebrate the sublime privilege by which Mary, alone among all human beings and in virtue of the future merits of Christ, was preserved at the very first moment of conception from the stain of original sin. It is true, of course, that in origin and in principle this great feast does not have any relationship with the time of Advent. It was fixed on December 8 in order to separate the feast by nine months from the date of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin on September 8.
However, in celebrating this feast we may easily enter into the spirit of Christmastide, for the feast is like the dawn of the Sun of Christmas. Mary is our hope, guide, and mother along the path of salvation.
The vigil of the Immaculate Conception is an opportune time to introduce the children to the practice of lighting a special Advent candle in Mary's honor. The Advent candle expresses symbolically the words of Isaias, "There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of this root." A beautiful candle is placed in a candleholder, which is covered with a white silk cloth tied together with ribbon. The candle is then placed before an image, statue or icon of our Lady before which the family prays to the Mother of God. This ancient custom preaches its lesson with an eloquent simplicity which is comprehensible to little children. The covered candle holder represents the rod out of the root of Jesse, Our Lady, from whose womb will come the Saviour of the world. The candle represents Christ, the Light of the World, who shall come to dispel all darkness and stain of sin. In conjunction with this little ceremony, one of the family could tell of the purity and childlike simplicity of our Blessed Mother, and of how she came to be the mother of us all.
Some of the prophetic lessons of Isaias could also be read, along with Gertrude von le Fort's poem to Our Lady of Advent, from "Hymns to the Church." The singing of the "Alma Redemptoris Mater," or the beautiful "Tota Pulchra Es" of Dom Pothier would be a suitable conclusion for the little ceremony.
Several remarks may be added concerning the hymns which we teach children in honor of Our Lady. Much bad taste, musical and theological, has entered into the praises of Our Lady. It would indeed be wise always to teach children only the best, and that which is always truthful and in accord with reality. Would we dare to compare "Macula non est in te," "Mother Dear, O Pray for Me," "On This Day, O Beautiful Mother," or "Bring Flowers of the Rarest," with the "Ave, Maris Stella" (sung in English, perhaps; but you will find that the children easily come to love and understand the Latin); the "Ave Maria," as edited by Solesmes; the sequence "Inviolata"; the hymn "Maria Mater Gratiae," or the "Tota Pulchra Es" of Dom Pothier?
Mother Church recommends the "Ave Maris Stella," which is the vesper hymn of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Compare the theology of this hymn with the sentimental ballads which are customarily taught to children in honor of their heavenly Mother and Mediatrix:
Ave, Star of ocean,
Child divine who bearest,
Mother, ever Virgin,
Heaven's portal fairest.
Taking that sweet Ave
Erst by Gabriel spoken,
Eva's name reversing,
Be of peace the token.
Break the sinner's fetters,
Light to blind restoring,
All our ills dispelling,
Every boon imploring.
Show thyself a mother
In thy supplication,
He will hear who chose thee
At His Incarnation.
Maid all maids excelling,
Passing meek and lowly,
Win for sinners pardon,
Make us chaste and holy.
As we onward journey
Aid our weak endeavor,
Till we gaze on Jesus
And rejoice forever.
Father, Son, and Spirit,
Three in One confessing,
Give we equal glory
Equal praise and blessing.
--Ethelstan Riley translation
Should we desire other hymns in honor of the Immaculate Conception, we may choose such hymns and carols as "A Child Is Born in Bethlehem," or the superb German Advent carol "Behold, a Branch Is Growing." The latter, a fifteenth-century carol harmonized by Praetorius, is given below:
Behold a branch is growing
Of loveliest form and grace.
As prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse's race.
And bears one little flower.
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.
Isaiah hath foretold it
In words of promise sure,
And Mary's arms enfold it,
A Virgin meek and pure.
Through God's eternal will,
This Child to her is given
At midnight calm and still.
Even the cook is not allowed respite during the octave of the Immaculate Conception, for it is time to make Moravian "Spritz" for the children. Ordinarily these gingerbread cookies are made for the vigil of the Immaculate Conception since Mary, too, "gave forth sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatic balm and yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh." These cookies are loaded with fine, aromatic spices, tempting the appetites of any child of
Mary. The spirit of mortification enters in readily, for the cookies must stand for ten days in the refrigerator before baking, and are then shaped into Christmas figures, especially hearts and liturgical symbols. Later on in the season, when we come to Candlemas, we could cut the cookies into the form of candles and turtle-doves.
The Immaculate Conception is the Patroness of the United States. How often our Holy Father has stated in recent years that the hope of peace in the world does not lie in force of arms, but rather in prayers and recourse to the intercession of Our Lady.
~ True Christmas Spirit, Imprimatur 1955 ~
You can find a coloring picture of the Immaculate Conception here.
Our Lord never asks of us a sacrifice which is above our strength. But sometimes it is true He makes us feel all the bitterness of the Chalice which He presents to our soul.
- Soeur Therese -
Holy Mother Church dedicates the month of May to the Blessed Virgin Mary
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