St. Dominic received from God the grace of converting most obstinate sinners into great saints. One of these was Don Pedro, a nobleman of Aragon. When the saint was preaching in that part of the country, this gentleman, hearing of the wonders he wrought, had a great desire to see him. So he set out one day,accompanied by servants, and entered the church where St. Dominic was going to preach. Not with the intention of changing his life did he go there, but only to satisfy his curiosity. The people who knew of the bad life he was leading were astonished to see him in church. When Don Pedro entered, St. Dominic was kneeling before the altar, and God was pleased to make known to this holy man the dreadful state of the sinner's soul. He seemed to behold entering the church a hideous monster, with eyes starting from his head, and hands like eagle's claws. At this sight the man of God was filled with terror. "O my God, I beseech Thee," he cried out, "change the heart of this great sinner and make him truly penitent." Then going into the pulpit, he preached a sermon upon the awful effects of mortal sin. But all his eloquence was lost on this stubborn sinner. Not many days afterwards the same nobleman returned once more to this church, and St. Dominic was preaching as he came in. Suddenly stopping his sermon, and turning towards the crucifix, he exclaimed: "O Jesus, full of mercy, O Jesus, all-powerful, let Thy people here see with their bodily eyes the sad state of the soul of him who has just entered Thy Holy House." This prayer was heard. In an instant the proud Don Pedro appeared before them as a hideous monster, surrounded by a multitude of evil spirits, who held him by a chain. Terror and fear came upon all the gathered multitude. Some began to scream; in short a great tumult arose in the house of God. Don Pedro was astonished at seeing the dismay his appearance had caused, nor could he understand whence it proceeded. Calling one of his servants who was trembling from head to foot, he asked what it all meant. "My Lord," answered the servant, "is it possible that you alone do not see the terrible change that has come over you? You are surrounded by evil spirits that hold you by a chain."Only then did the unfortunate man realize that God had manifested the state of his soul to those who were present. Thereupon St. Dominic exhorted the people to cease their cries and to pray instead. Calling one of his disciples he gave him his rosary beads, and said : "Give these to Don Pedro and tell him to ask mercy and pardon from God." No sooner had Don Pedro taken the beads into his hands than he assumed his usual appearance. Kneeling down before the altar of the Blessed Mother he was filled with compunction of heart, and amid a flood of tears confessed his sins to St. Dominic and asked pardon of all the people for the scandal he had given them. Ever afterwards his life was one of penance and piety and he died in the odor of sanctity.
Like a man asleep sinners have lost their hearing. Conscience, it is true, is ever awake and knocks at the sinner's heart, reproaching him bitterly for his sinful life, but he is perfectly deaf. He drowns the voice of conscience by worldly pleasures and refuses to heed the admonitions of his pastor and friends. There are many daughters who do not regard the warning words of their parents. They persevere in sin, as though this world were never to be destroyed,— as though they had here an eternal resting place ! Oh, that every sinner would be aroused from the sleep of sin!
A certain young man was filled with the deepest melancholy at the death of a young person with whom he had been sinning. Nothing could console him, and very soon his health began to give way. . One of his companions, observing this, and knowing well the cause of it, thought of a cure, severe indeed, but one which he hoped would prove effective; for being pious himself he desired to bring his friend back to the path of virtue. He asked him to accompany him to the cemetery, and going to the grave wherein the remains of the young person had been interred, he opened it, as also the coffin. The stench of the decaying corpse was so unbearable that the young man turned to run away. "Why do you run away?" said the other. "Of what are you afraid? Come and behold the countenance of your friend, the friend with whom you have broken God's commandments—one who weeps in the other life for the momentary pleasures of this wicked world. Come and learn what a sad and bitter thing it is to have forsaken the Lord Thy God."
This lesson, though severe, had the desired effect. The young man repented of his past sins, and lived and died as saints do. You have learned by experience, my children, how sleep deprives you of the use of your senses; in like manner the torpor of sin does not permit you to see the pernicious consequences of a godless life.
There is no greater misfortune than sin; by it you lose the grace of God; you relinquish your rights to the merits you have acquired for heaven; and are in imminent danger of being lost forever. Cooperate then with the grace of God all your life long for that will enable you to see clearly the way to heaven.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921