"Come Holy Ghost fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Thy love."
THE NINTH ARTICLE OF THE APOSTLES CREED
"THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH" *
FOR love of man, God created the boundless universe, with its stars and countless worlds, and he made the universe, the temple of his endless love. The stars of heaven, as they sweep along in silent harmony, are ever singing a wondrous song, and the sweet burden of their song is, "God is love and TRUTH." This world is the temple of God's love and truth. The green earth, with its flowers, is the carpeted floor. The clear sky above is the vaulted dome, its pillars are the mountains, white with eternal snow. The mists and vapor that are ever ascending, like the smoke of sacrifice, remind us of the thoughts of love and gratitude that should ever go up to heaven from our hearts. The whispering of the winds, the rush of the storm, the murmuring of the brook, and the roar of the cataract, are the music that raises our hearts to God. And when God had finished that wondrous temple of his love, "He saw that it was good." (Gen. i, 25.)
* Enough has been said to show that God teaches mankind through his Church. It would be proper now to explain what the Church teaches, beginning with the explanation of the Apostles Creed. But as many may wish to see in one volume the whole doctrine on the Church, it has been deemed advisable to place, in this volume, the explanation of the Ninth Article of the Creed.
For love of man, God has raised a still more wondrous temple, the temple of his holy Church. Millions and millions of chosen souls have aided in building this wondrous temple. Its foundation was laid at the gates of paradise. The patriarchs and prophets have labored at it, through the long ages of hope and expectation. It was completed, in the fullness of time, by the Only-Begotten of the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ. This temple of love was consecrated by the Holy Ghost on that wonderful day of love, the Feast of Pentecost. The summit of this glorious temple of love now rises to the highest heavens, and to the throne of the living God himself. In its depth, it reaches to that region of suffering where those are detained who are to be cleansed from all stain, before entering into the joys of heaven. In its width, it extends over all the earth, and shuts out no one who is willing to enter its portals. In this new creation, far more than in the old, God looks on those things that he made, and sees that they are "very good" What God does, is done well is a perfect work. The establishment of the Catholic Church is the grand work of his power; it is the greatest fact in history, a fact so great, that there would be no history without it; a fact permanent, entering into the concerns of all nations on the face of the earth, appearing again and again on the records of time, and benefiting, perceived or unperceived, directly or indirectly, socially, morally, and supernaturally, every member of the human family.
From the beginning of the world God always had but one Church to teach his religion to men, and lead them to heaven; Satan, too, from the beginning, has tried to have a church and a worship of his own. He found followers among the angels to refuse submission to God's holy will. Need we wonder at seeing him find followers among men! As the faithful servants of God are known and distinguished by their ready obedience to the divine authority of the Catholic Church, so those who are deceived by Satan are known by their want of submission to the divine authority of the Church. They form churches of their own, in opposition to the true Church of God. (The Novus Ordo is one of these) In the ninth century, the Greeks separated from the Roman Catholic Church, and formed a church of their own, called the Greek Church. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Martin Luther, an apostate friar, preached a doctrine of his own ; he gained many followers in Germany, who left the Catholic Church, and formed what is called and known as the Lutheran, or Protestant, Church. In 1531, Henry VIII, King of England, fell away from the Catholic Church, and made himself the supreme head of the English, or Anglican, Church. These, and other churches, are the work of man. No doubt, every one who is acquainted with the life of our Lord and is asked:
1. How many churches did Christ establish ?
Will answer : Christ established but one church. Indeed, as there is but one Christ, so there is, and can be, but one Church of Christ. The Church is called the body of Christ. Now, as Christ has but one body, so he can have but one Church. Christ himself tells us plainly that he established but one Church. He did not say to St. Peter, upon thee I will build my churches : he said, "Upon thee I will build my Church." He never said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against my churches" he said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against my Church." In fact; that our Lord established but one Church, is self-evident; it needs no proof. We are as certain of it as we are that there is but one God. St. Paul asserts this in the clearest terms: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism; "that is, as there is, and can be, but one Lord, so there is, and can be, but one faith, one religion, one Church. And as our Lord established but one Church, it follows, necessarily, that all other churches are not the work of Jesus Christ. They are the work of man; the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church, alone is the work of God. (It is therefore impossible that the Catholic Church can be united with all other faiths, as Jorge Bergoglio says, he preaches heresy!)
All the works of God have something divine and supernatural about them, something that at once proclaims their divine origin ; something that distinguishes them, in an unmistakable manner, from the works of man. As the Catholic Church is the work of God, she has something about her to show that she is from God, she has marks graven on her which make it impossible for one to be mistaken about her being the true Church of Christ, she has the most incontestable proofs of her divine mission and authority, to convince all who wish to be convinced.
2. By what marks is the Church of Christ easily known ?
By these four : The Church of Christ is:
2. She is holy ;
3. She is Catholic ; and,
4. She is apostolic,
Above all, perfect unity must be found in the Church of Christ; for Christ calls his Church a "building," a "kingdom," a "city," a "flock," a "house," a body." In order to establish, insure, and preserve unity, he made St. Peter the foundation of the building, the chief ruler of the kingdom, the key-holder of the city and house, the principal shepherd of the flock, the head of the body. And on the eve of his passion, Christ asked for a unity in His Church, like that which unites the three divine persons in one and the same nature : "Father," he prayed, "keep them whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." (John xvii, 11.) Moreover, he prayed that this union might last forever, and that it should be the distinctive mark of his Church : "I pray, also," he says, "for all those who, through their word, shall believe in me, that they may all be one, as thou, Father, in me, arid I in thee, that the world may believe that thou
hast sent me." (John xx, 21.) The apostles express very clearly the necessity of unity, and show that it is a distinctive mark of the true Church: "Be careful," says St. Paul, "to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Unity, then, is a distinctive mark, and an essential condition of the Church of Christ. That Church which has no unity, cannot be the true Church, and that Church which has unity, must certainly be divine.
In the Church of Christ holiness also must be found, no less than unity. Christ shed his blood for no other purpose than to form for himself, says St. Paul, a pure Church, "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. v, 25.) (Another mark that seems to be missing in Jorge's Church. I see no holiness, only rotten fruit) Our Lord said, "by their fruits you shall know them." (Matt. 7: 16) See the Church's commentary on this verse below.
Moreover, as the Church of Christ teaches the true faith, holiness must be the result of this faith, since Christ says: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit." (Matt. vii,18.) According to Christ's promise, miracles will be performed by the true believers of his Church, and bear "witness to her holiness." (Mark xvi, 17.)
The Church, however, is not composed of the elect alone, for Christ compares her to a net which draws out of the sea "good and bad fish" (Matt, xiii, 47); to a, field where the cockle grows together with the wheat, until the day of the harvest. (Matt, xiii, 30.)
Again, during his public life, Christ declared repeatedly that his unalterable purpose was to unite, in one religious society, all mankind, of every age and clime, and afford his followers the means to free themselves from sin, and become reconciled to God; to grow in purity and holiness of life, and thus enter into life everlasting. He spoke always and everywhere, in language most clear and explicit, of this note of universality, as one peculiar to his kingdom. (John x, 16; Matt, xxviii, 19.) All the prophecies relative to the Messiah spoke of the whole human race as the flock of Christ, whose kingdom was to extend its bounds "till it embraced all pagan nations." (Matt, xv, 24 ; Ps. cix, 2.) Christ's Church, therefore, must be Catholic, or universal.
Finally, Christ has most solemnly promised to be with his apostles to the end of the world, and he has made St. Peter the first Bishop of Rome, the foundation of the Church, and her supreme head. Christ's Church, therefore, must be apostolic. Holy Scripture itself gives us this full information about the marks of the true Church of Christ. And if it is asked :
3. Which Church is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic?
The answer is: The Roman Catholic Church alone is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.
It is easy to
4. Show how the Catholic Church is one.
The Catholic Church is one, because all her members are united:
1. in one faith;
2. in one worship;
3. under one infallible head.
1. The Catholic Church is one, because all her members are united in one faith. Unity is especially divine. It exists in its perfection only in the adorable Trinity. Wherever we find unity in created things, we may be sure that it is an image and reflection of God. Now, in this world, there is one society, and only one, in which unity has always existed, and has never been broken. This society is the Catholic Church. This society is the most numerous, the first, and the most ancient of all the communities that call themselves Christian. The Catholic Church is found in all kingdoms and states, it reaches from pole to pole, from east to west ; embraces all ranks and classes of men. The members of the Catholic Church differ from one another in their character, in their education, in their modes of thought ~ they differ in their language, in their habits of life, in their sympathies and prejudices; in a word, they differ from one another in everything that distinguishes man from man. But in one thing they are all united : in religion. In religion, alone, they are all of one mind and one heart. In this wonderful society you will find the passionate Italian, with his glowing imagination ; you will find, also, the stolid and tenacious Englishman ; the lively and brilliant Frenchman ; and the quiet, thoughtful German. You will find there the stately Spaniard ; the witty, impulsive Irishman, and the acute and practical American. All these, and so many other races, though they contrast violently with one another in every natural gift and habit ; though they retain all their distinctive peculiarities as men and citizens, yet in religion they are all one absolutely one. Throughout the whole Catholic world, the myriads of every nation, climate, and language, nobles and peasants, monarchs and slaves, philosophers and little children, there exists a unity of faith and doctrine, so divine and absolute, so spontaneous and yet so perfect, so unshackled and yet so complete, that a cardinal in Rome or a neophyte in China, a mathematician in Holland or a wood-cutter in Syria, or a little child anywhere, would give, in substance, the same answer to any question upon any doctrine of the Church.
2. When their children are born, all bring them to be regenerated in the same waters of baptism. When they become unfaithful to their baptismal vows, and sin against God's commandments, they all have recourse to the same tribunal of penance. They all seek strength at the same Eucharistic table, and, animated by the same faith, they receive truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In sickness, when they are about to appear before their God, they all send for the priest of the Church, and receive the sacrament of Extreme Unction. They all are one, not only in faith, but also in worship. And what more natural than this oneness in worship, Christ, who taught us our religion, has also taught us how to worship his heavenly Father in a manner worthy of his divine majesty. He instituted the holy sacrifice of the Mass, in which he is at once the High-Priest and the Victim. Through the hands of his priests he offers himself for us to his heavenly Father as a sacrifice of adoration, of thanksgiving, of atonement, and of impetration. Since the institution of the Mass, paradise blooms again, the heavens are purple, the angels shine in white, and men are exhilarated. This sublime and profound mystery, which scandalizes obstinate unbelievers, and arouses the pride of Protestants, is nevertheless, that which renews the face of the earth, satisfies the justice of God redeems man unto salvation, opens heaven, sanctifies the world, and disarms hell. It is this mystery which has engendered a more holy religion, a more spiritual worship, and a purer virtue among men, because it is more interior from it spring the most efficacious sacrament, more abundant graces, more sublime ceremonies, more perfect laws ; it is that tender adoption of men, as children of God, substituted for the more ancient alliance between God and man, which was founded upon fear. This mystery is the striking manifestation of all truths, and the censure of all errors : all vices find their condemnation therein, all virtues their principle, all merits their recompense ; it is, in short, the foundation of faith, the support of hope, and the most powerful motive for the love of God.
The holy Mass is the sun of Christianity, and the summary of all that is grand, and magnificent, and most prodigious, both in the triumphant and in the militant Church of God. The angels almost envy us this divine sacrifice. Protestants and infidels may say, with a sneer, that it is the pomp and glitter of our ceremonies and altars that draw the faithful to the church. Not so. The fickle nature of man cannot be charmed long by such transitory things. Our altars, indeed, we adorn, we decorate our churches, we embellish the priestly vestments, we display the gorgeous ceremonies of the Church, but not to attract the people ; we do all this simply because our Lord Jesus Christ is present there, our Saviour and our God, surrounded by countless myriads of angels. This is the grand source of the magnificence of our architecture, the gorgeousness of our vestments, the diversity of our Ornaments, the sound of our organs, the religious harmony of our voices, and the grandeur and order of all our ceremonies, both in the consecration and dedication of our churches, and the solemn celebration of the Mass. This is the reason why we adorn ourselves with our gayest attire, why we rifle the gardens of their sweetest and choicest flowers to decorate our altars, and scatter them in lavish profusion before the feet of our sacramental King. This is the reason why our sacred altars glitter and sparkle with cheerful lights, while clouds of sweet-smelling incense float up and around the sacred Victim.
It is related of Frederick II, King of Prussia, that, after having assisted at a solemn high Mass, celebrated in the church of Breslau by Cardinal Tringendorf, he remarked : "The Calvinists treat God as an inferior, the Lutherans treat him as an equal, but the Catholics treat him as God." Yes, indeed ; it is only the Catholic Church that is the home for our dear Saviour. His presence fills her halls to over flowing with joy and gladness. Her propitiatory altars are the anchors of hope for the sinner, her sanctuaries, the antechambers of heaven. Take away the Blessed Sacrament, and you take away her Saviour. Give her the Blessed Sacrament, and you give her a glory, an honor, a triumph, the greatest possible this side of paradise. Her altars are the altars of joy, because they are the altars of the saving Victim for the sins of the world ; for which reason the robed priest begins the tremendous sacrifice with the antiphon : "I will go unto the altar of God, to God who rejoiceth my youth."
This sacrifice of adoration, of thanksgiving, of atonement, and of impetration, is offered up daily, nay, hourly, all over the world. To it come the simple peasant from his woods; the shepherd from the mountains; the man of already the sweet spell upon him, and finds his heart beating in unison with the great heart of the Church, as if he had been suckled at her breast, and had lain in her bosom from infancy. In the whole history of the human race there is no record of any such miracle as this. Even were all the dead to rise from their graves, and to crowd our streets and thoroughfares, it would not be a greater miracle. Like the Jews of old, the men of the present generation "desire a sign," in order that they may believe; and now here is a sign, a standing miracle, more luminous, more dazzling, than the noonday sun. "Truly the finger of God is here."
One day a certain Protestant of Pennsylvania came to Archbishop Kenrick, of Baltimore, to tell him that he wished to become a Catholic. "What induced you," asked the archbishop, "to take this step ?" "The bugs, the bugs!" he replied. "What do you mean by that ?" "I have often noticed," said he, "how in nature animals follow their leader, and are kept united together by him. The same must be true in religion : only that one can be of divine origin which has a leader whom all are bound to follow. As I find this only in the Catholic Church, I feel convinced that she is the true Church, in which alone I can be saved." If St. Paul could say to the heathens, "You might have found out the true God by his works, if you had cared to do so," surely God may say, in the great day, to the children out of the Catholic Church : "You might have known the true Church by her unity, if you had not closed your eyes."
The next mark by which Christ wished his Church to be distinguished is that of holiness. But, in speaking of the holiness of the Catholic Church, we do not mean to say that every member of the Church is holy. The field of the Church is wide, and has weeds as well as wheat. In the very company chosen by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, there was a Peter who denied him, and a Judas who betrayed him. So it is at the present day, So it will be to the end of time.
Commentary taken from the Douay Rheims version of the Bible ~ VERSE. 16. As the true Church is known by the four marks of its being one, holy, catholic, and apostolical, so heretics and false teachers are known by certain vices, and the pernicious effects of their novelties in religion. As the true Church is one, by its members submitting with humility to the authority established by Christ, (he that will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as the heathen and the publican. Mat. xviii. 17.) so are false teachers known by their separation from the ancient Church, and their divisions among themselves, the necessary consequences of rebelling against the authority established by Christ, and alone capable of determining controversies. The same pride and other secret vices which make them despise government, (2 Peter ii. 10.) make them also not afraid to bring in sects of perdition, blaspheming, and this in civil government as well as ecclesiastical. Those that called themselves Reformers, in the beginning of the 16th century, of all others were remarkable in this. What bloody tumults and wars were there not produced in Germany, by the first Reformers in that country! Calvin overturned the government of Geneva; and his followers, under the name Hugonots, filled France for a great length of time with slaughter and civil wars, frequently shaking the throne itself. In this country, the first cause of its separation from the universal Church, was the unbridled passion of a tyrant: the effects were adultery, and the murder of the successive queens that he had taken to his adulterous bed. In the reign of his successor, the insatiate avarice of a corrupt nobility, gratified with the sacrilegious plunder of the Church, established what is called the Reformation. The fear of being compelled to disgorge the fruits of their rapine, contributed much to the confirmation of that order of things in the reign of Elizabeth. She was inclined to it by the circumstances of her birth, which could not be legitimate, if her father's marriage with Catharine of Arragon was valid, as the first authority in the Catholic Church had declared. The natural spirit of this heresy, though checked a while and kept under by the despotical government of this queen, appeared in its own colours soon after, and produced its natural fruits in the turbulence of the times that succeeded, and the multiplicity of sects that are continually springing up to this very day.--As the true Church is holy, recommending various exercises of religion tending to purify human nature, and render men holy, as fasting, confession of sins, evangelical counsels, so false teachers cast off all these, promising liberty, (2 Pet. ii. 16.) and giving full rein to the lustful passions, thus giving a liberty of living, as well as a liberty of believing.—Another fruit of false teachers is, separation from what was the Universal Church before their time, and which continues to be still the far greater part, not being confined to one state or country. If some modern principles, of not allowing any communion of religion out of each state, were admitted, as many religions should have been established by heaven as men think proper to establish different states; nor could Christ have given one for all mankind, under whatever state or form of government they might live.--
Finally, false teachers are to be known by their not being able to shew, that they have received their doctrine and mission from the apostles, in a regular succession from them. Some of our modern divines would spurn at the idea of their holding their doctrine and orders from the Catholic Church, such as it existed at the time of the Reformation, which is precisely such as it exists at the present moment.—In answer to this it has been retorted, that the fruits of the Catholic religion have been as bad, or worse; and the horrors of the French revolution are particularly mentioned, as a proof. . . . That great crimes have been committed by those who professed themselves Catholics, is not denied; but that they were prompted to them by the nature of their religion, is certainly not admitted. The revolution of France in particular, was the effect of the people falling off from their religion. As well may the Puritans, that brought Charles to the block, be said to be Catholics, because they or their parents once had been such: as well may the present bench of Protestant bishops be said to be Catholics, because the bishops of their sees once were so; or that Robespierre, Marat, and the Jacobins that persecuted catholicity in France, and brought its too indulgent sovereign to the guillotine, were Catholics, or directed in the least by Catholic principles.
5. Show how the Catholic Church is holy ?
We answer : The Catholic Church is holy :
1. in Jesus Christ, her Founder ;
2. in her doctrine, which is Christ s doctrine;
3. in her means of grace, the proper use of which makes us h6lyt;
4. in many of her members, whose holiness has been confirmed by miracles and extraordinary gifts.
1. The Catholic Church is holy in her Founder, who is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But what mind of man or angel can conceive the greatness of the holiness of Jesus Christ, which is, indeed, infinite ? To say that his holiness is greater than that of all the saints and angels united, is to fall infinitely below it. Jesus Christ, as God, is infinite holiness itself, and the sum of our conception of holiness is but the smallest atom of the holiness of God. David, contemplating the divine holiness, and seeing that he could not, and never would, be able to comprehend it, could only exclaim : "Lord ! who is like unto thee ?" (Ps. xxxiv, 10.) Lord! what holiness shall ever be found like to thine ? It is an utter impossibility for any human or angelic understanding to conceive an adequate idea of the holiness of Christ. All we can say is, that his holiness is infinite. The Catholic Church, then, is holy in her divine Founder.
2. The Catholic Church is also holy in her doctrine, which is the doctrine of Christ and his holy apostles, and his doctrine is the expression of the will of his heavenly Father : "My doctrine is not mine, but of him that sent me." (John vii, 16.) As the will of God is most holy, so also the doctrine expressing the holy will of God must be most holy. Hence, the book containing the word of God is called the holy Bible, or holy Scripture. Every action and every word of our Saviour breathes holiness, inspires holiness, and leads to holiness. Therefore he calls those blessed who learn his doctrine : "Blessed are your ears, because they hear. For, wnen I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to hear the things that you hear, and have not "You are a chosen generation a holy nation." says St. Peter of the Christians. (1 Pet. ii, 9.)
The very enemies of the Catholic Church bear witness to the holiness of her doctrine. Why have so many fallen away from her faith ? It is because they had not courage enough to live up to her holy precepts. Why is it that so many do not embrace the Catholic faith who know that the Catholic Church is the only true Church of Christ? It is because they are afraid of her holy morals. Even the most wicked feel naturally convinced that the Catholic religion is holy: a fault in a Catholic is considered, and considered rightly, more grave than in one who is not a Catholic.
3. The Church is holy in her means of grace. It is her office to make men holy. She holds out to her children not only the holy example and doctrine of her divine Founder as the pathway to holiness, she also offers to them the means of grace, which enable them to live up to her holy doctrine. By his divine example and holy doctrine Christ showed us the narrow road that leads to heaven. But what would it avail us to know the road to heaven, if we had no strength to walk on that strait, and, to fallen humanity, hard road. This strength we have not of ourselves. God is the greatest supernatural good. We can, then, acquire this good only by supernatural strength, that is, by the help of Almighty God. By his sufferings and death, Christ obtained for us all the graces necessary to live up to his holy doctrine, to overcome all the evil inclinations of fallen nature, all the temptations, all the trials and struggles of life. These graces he wished to be applied to our souls by means of the sacraments and prayer, and he appointed his Church to sanctify her children by these means of grace. The child is born in sin; the Church cleanses it in baptism, and makes it a child of God. The child is weak ; the Church strengthens it in confirmation, makes it a brave soldier, to battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The child is wounded, falls into sin; the Church, like the good physician, probes the wounds, and pours into the bleeding heart the oil and wine of hope and consolation, in the sacrament of penance. The child is hungry and weary ; the Church feeds it with heavenly food, nourishes and refreshes it with the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The heart of the young man feels the fire of that love which first came from God, and which has become unholy only by abuse, and the Church, like a fond mother, sanctifies and preserves this natural love of the bridegroom and the bride. In the holy sacrament of marriage she blesses this love before the altar of God, and declares its bonds perpetual. And should the heart of the young man aspire to a higher and holier destiny ; should he desire, in his inmost soul, to soar high above the weakening tenderness of mere human love, should he desire to become the saviour of his fellow-men, the cooperator with God himself in the great work of redemption, the holy Church leads him by the hand, she "blesses, sanctifies, and consecrates" him before the altar of God ; she makes him a priest forever, a priest of the Most High God. At last, when her child is dying, the holy Catholic Church comes to his bedside with sanctifying oil and the prayer of faith; she administers to him the sacrament of Extreme Unction, to strengthen and console him in his fearful death-struggle. But her love does not end at the bed of death. She opens wide the doors of her temple ; she offers an asylum even to the dead body of her child. She blesses that body which was once the temple of the living God, and she even consecrates the very ground in which that body is laid to rest. The love of the Church for her children does not pause even at the grave. Day after day she offers up her prayers ; day after day she offers up the holy sacrifice of the altar for the souls of her children departed. The husband may forget the wife of his bosom, the mother may forget the child of her heart, but the holy Church does not forget her children, not even in death : her love is divine, it is eternal. And in this love the Church is impartial : she is just to all. As the holy spouse of Christ, she loves justice and hates iniquity. She has spurned the anointed king from the temple of God, until he repented of his crime ; and on the head of the lowly monk, who spent his days in labor and prayer, she has placed the triple crown. At one moment she bathes with baptismal dew the peasant's child; and at another, she boldly confronts the imperial might that dares assail her holy altar. Now the Church is accused of despotism, because she upholds the rights of lawful authority ; and again, she is accused of arrogance, because she dares to protect the poor, the down trodden, and the friendless. She blesses all things that are good in this world, she protects and encourages the fine arts. Truth is the essence of order, the essence of beauty. Religious truth is heavenly order, is supernatural beauty. The Church is the living spouse of heavenly truth ; she must, therefore, be the friend, the protector, of all beauty and order, and so she has proved to be for over eighteen hundred years.
In the Church, all that is good and beautiful in art or nature has been purified as in a heavenly crucible, and consecrated to the service of religion. The poet seeks to please the imaginations of men, and the Church unfolds before him the annals of Christianity. She tells him of the august sacrifice of infinite love, which is her soul and life, and she tells him of her heroic sufferings, of her martyr faith ; and the poet draws holy inspiration from these touching records, and incites men to a higher, to a holier life.
The painter and the sculptor seek to place before our eyes the happiest, the most sublime of conceptions, and the Church bids them look into her treasure-house, where they find the most perfect models of every virtue, models of pure, of noble, of heroic self-sacrifice.
The architect seeks to build up a monument of strength, and intellect, and beauty; and the Church unlocks for him the sublime, mysterious meanings of her ceremonies and symbols. Guided by her inspiration, he teaches the lifeless stone, he teaches the spreading arch, the pointed spire,to speak to men of faith, of hope, of love; he teaches them to speak of prayer, of sacrifice, of heaven.
The orator strives to nerve men for the solemn duties, the grand conflicts of life; the Church of Christ, touches his lips with living fire from the altar, and his eloquence flows on in an impetuous stream of "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn."
The musician seeks to weave his entrancing spells around ear, and heart, and soul; and the Church breathes into his soul the glorious, wondrous melodies which she has borrowed from the angels of heaven, and her music seems like beatific worship, and the worship on earth like beatific music.
4. The Church is holy in many of her members. What is more natural than this ? A mother that teaches her children so holy a doctrine, sets before them constantly the example of her divine Founder, that they may live and die as he did. A mother that has such powerful means to sanctify her children, cannot but be holy in the fruits of sanctity, in the saints, and in the sacred institutions which she has produced.
To be convinced of the personal sanctity of millions of her children, we have but to "pen the annals of Church history. " There we read of thousands of men and women who fulfilled the saying of Christ : "Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel, shall save it." (Mark
viii, 35.) Such was the havoc made during the early persecutions of the Church, that her martyrs alone amount to thirty thousand for every day in the year. How many thousands of the children of the Church followed that saying of the Lord : "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and come, follow me!" (Matt, xix, 21.) And, "Every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name s sake, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall possess life everlasting. (Matt, xix, 29.) Astonishing, indeed, is the number of those who have followed this saying of our Lord, by embracing the religious life.
St. Athanasius writes that in his time there were monasteries like tabernacles, full of heavenly choirs of people, who spent their time in singing psalms, in reading and praying that they occupied a large extent of land, and made, as it were, a town among themselves. Such immense numbers resorted to the religious life in Palestine, that Isidore was the superior of one thousand monks, and his successor, Apollonius, of five thousand in the same monastery. In the cloistered community of Orynchus there were ten thousand monks. Upon a hill in Nitria, about twenty miles from Alexandria, there were five hundred monasteries under one superior. Palladius relates that he saw a city in which there were more monasteries than houses of seculars,"so that, every street and corner ringing with the divine praises, the whole city seemed a church." He also testifies to having seen multitudes of monks in Memphis and Babylon, and that not far from. These he met with a Father of three thousand monks.
St. Pachomius, who lived about three hundred years after Christ, had seven thousand disciples, besides one thousand in his own house, and Serapion had ten thousand monks under his jurisdiction.
Theodoret records that there were also multitudes of religious women throughout the East, in Palestine, Egypt, Asia, Pontus, Cilfcia, Syria, and also in Europe : "Since our Saviour," he says, "was born of a Virgin Mother, the fields of holy virgins are everywhere multiplied." Nor was the great increase of religious houses confined to the early ages of the Church, for Trithemius, who died about the year 1516, says that, in his time, the province of Ments alone contained one hundred and twenty-four abbeys ; and that there was a time when they had fifteen thousand abbeys, besides priories and other small monasteries, belonging to his order.
St. Bernard, in his Life of St. Malachy, records that, in Ireland, there was a monastery out of which many thousands of monks had come forth : "A holy place indeed," he says, "and fruitful in saints, bringing forth abundant fruit to God, insomuch that one man alone of that holy congregation, whose name was Luanus, is reported to have been the founder of one hundred monasteries. And these swarms of saints have not only spread themselves in Ireland and Scotland, but have also gone into foreign parts ; for St. Columba, coming from thence into France, built the monastery of Luxovium, and raised there a great people, their number being so great that the divine praises were sung by them day and night without intermission. St. Columba founded one hundred monasteries, of which thirty-seven were in Ireland, a country which was, for centuries, known all over Europe as the Island of "Saints and of Doctors." According to Archdall, there were in Ireland seven hundred and forty-two religious houses.
St. Bernard, in the space of thirtv years that he was abbot, founded one hundred and sixty monasteries. So rapid was the progress of his order that, in the space of fifty years from its establishment, it had acquired five hundred abbeys, and at one time no fewer than eight hundred were dependent on Clairvaux.
The Franciscans seem to have been particularly blessed in the speedy and extensive propagation of their order for, about the year 1600, one branch of this order, called the Observantines, is said to have numbered one hundred thousand members. This order reckons at present two hundred thousand men and three hundred thousand sisters, including the tertiaries. It possesses two hundred and fifty-two provinces and twenty-six thousand convents, of which five are in Palestine, and over thirty in Turkey. More than eighty-nine emperors, kings and queens have been admitted into the order, which has, moreover, the glory of having furnished three thousand saints, or beatified persons, of whom seventeen hundred are martyrs.
Nor is the Church less holy in many of her members, in our day. Who really takes Christian care of the poor, the sick, and the friendless, but the Catholic Church ? She has founded such orders as the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and so many others, in order to administer to their wants. Where can you find, outside of the Catholic Church, that young and beautiful virgin, who lays at the foot of the cross her youth, her wealth, and her beauty ; who sacrifices all earthly hope and love, to spend her days in a loathsome hospital, and to watch, during the long, dull night, by the bedside of the sick and dying ? The charitable, heroic deeds of these holy virgins have already brought conviction to the minds and hearts of many non-Catholics.
St. John the Evangelist tells us that our Saviour cured one day a young man who had been born blind. The Pharisees heard of this, and were filled with rage and envy. They took the young man aside, and said to him: "Give glory to God, that man that cured you is a sinner. "Well," said the young man, "whether he be a sinner or not, I cannot say. But one thing I do know, and that is, that he has cured me. God does not hear sinners. If this man were not from God, he could not do such things." (John ix.) This was the argument of the young man in the Gospel; this, too, is the simple argument of every honest non-Catholic. The bigots and Protestant preachers say to the returned soldier, to the young man who has just come forth from the hospital where he suffered during a long and painful illness: "The Catholic Church is
sinful and corrupt." "Well" the young man answers, "whether she is corrupt or not, I do not know, but one thing I do know, and that is, that I was at the point of death, and now I am well : and I owe it, after God, to the good Sisters of the Catholic Church. They waited on me in the hospital, in the battle-field, they nursed me as tenderly as a mother or a sister could have done : and they did it without pay? without any human motive or reward. Now, a bad tree cannot bring forth such good fruit. If the Catholic Church were as sinful and corrupt as you say, God would not give her children such heroic devotedness."
Behold, again, the holy charity of the Catholic Church toward the very outcasts of society, those poor, fallen creatures, that have become the dishonor of their sex ! See how closely she imitates her divine spouse, our Lord Jesus Christ ! Jesus is present at a great feast. A poor, sinful woman, notorious on account of her wicked life, falls prostrate at his feet. She washes his feet with her tears, and wipes them with her hair. The Pharisees are shocked and scandalized. They say in their hearts: "This man is no prophet ; if he were a prophet, he would know what kind of a woman that is who kneels at his feet; he would spurn her from him." But Jesus knows well the sinful life of Magdalen, and yet he does not reject her. On the contrary, he defends her before them all, and says to her: "My child, go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee !" Ah, how full of mercy and compassion is the heart of Jesus Christ ! Now look upon his spouse, the holy Catholic Church, and see if she is not worthy of her heavenly Bridegroom ! The unfortunate woman whom many have helped to drag into destruction, has not now a hand stretched out to save her. The world that allured and ruined her despises her, and laughs her to scorn. The proud, self-righteous Pharisee turns away from her in horror and disgust. The grace of God at last touches her heart. She sees herself abandoned by all, she turns her despairing eyes to God. Friendless, homeless, and alone, she wanders through the dark by-ways of this valley of tears till at last she stands at the ever-open portals of the holy Catholic Church. She enters, she falls at the feet of the priest of Jesus Christ. She weeps, she repents, she is forgiven.
See those pure virgin nuns, who are justly called the Daughters of the Good Shepherd ! They have sworn, before the altar of God, to devote their whole life to the reformation of these poor outcasts of society, these unhappy victims of a heartless world. See how gently they receive the fallen one, how kindly they treat her ! See how she enters the convent chapel, and at the very feet of Jesus, in the blessed sacrament, she pours out her prayers, and sighs, and tears ! She experiences at last that there is rest for the weary, that there is hope for the sinner; that there is, indeed, a heaven on earth, in the holy Catholic Church.
In every age, and in every country through which the Catholic religion has spread, there have been many Catholics who showed, in their daily conduct, that they complied with the words of St. Paul : "This is the will of God, your sanctification." (I Thess. iv, 3.) They were scrupulous keepers of the commandments of God, fulfilling the whole law and the prophets. How could it be otherwise ? Jesus Christ, in the blessed sacrament, this divine food, the source of all sanctity, never ceases to bring forth holy bishops, like St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, holy priests, like St. Vincent de Paul, St. Francis Xavier, St. Peter Claver; holy virgins, like St. Teresa, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Zita, St. Rose of Lima ; holy widows, like St. Frances de Chantal ; holy martyrs, like Borie, Gagelin, and so many others.
That God confirmed the holiness of his servants by many miracles and extraordinary gifts, may be read in the Lives of the Saints, or in any Church history. "Amen, amen, I say to you," said Christ, "he that believeth in me, the works that I do he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do" (John xiv, 12) ; and, "These signs shall follow them that believe : In my name they shall cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark xvi, 17, 18.) Accordingly, we read that SS. Paphnutius, Remigius, Otto, Robert, Dominic, and many others, cast out the devil from possessed persons. When St. Bernardine of Sienna, St. Anthony of Padua, St Francis Xavier, and others, preached to an audience composed of people from different countries, every one believed he heard his own tongue spoken. St. Hilary, St. Magnus, St. Patrick, and others, banished snakes and other reptiles. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus moved a mountain, to obtain a site for a Church. St. Patrick, St. Martin, St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. Anthony, St. Francis of Paula, and many others, raised dead persons to life. St. Francis Xavier raised twenty-five, and St. John Capistran, thirty dead persons to life. St. Stanislas the Martyr restored a man to life who had died three years before, and presented him before the court to testify that he had bought from him a certain piece of ground for his church, and that he had paid him in full.
The Catholic Church, then, is holy in her doctrine and means of grace ; she is holy in all those of her members who live up to her holy doctrine. She is holy in the strenuous efforts which she has always made to put down errors, correct abuses, destroy sin, and cure all kinds of evils. Any one who reads, for instance, the acts of the Council of Trent, cannot fail to notice that one-half of its chapters treat of the great work of reformation. In this council the Church proscribes duels, reduces liturgies to unity, banishes profane airs and secular music from her
temples, institutes seminaries for the education of the clergy, establishes, at cathedrals, free-schools and lectures on holy Scripture, for the instruction of the people , she reminds her pastors that they are bound to continence, to residence, to frequent and diligent preaching ; she interdicts all appearance of simony and venality in the distribution of ecclesiastical offices, in preaching indulgences, and in administering the sacraments. Thus the tree is pruned, but not uprooted, the pastors, those heavenly physicians, cure their patients, but do not kill them ; the clergy and the religious orders are reformed, but the priesthood and the religious state are not abolished, incontinence is suppressed, though universal marriage is not preached, the weeds in the field of the Lord are plucked up? but the good seed is preserved. This is a reformation, not of the Church, but by the Church, a reformation to bring about which, she was established by Christ ; a reformation which she accomplishes by her general councils, by her zealous bishops and holy priests, by her fervent religious orders and congregations of both sexes, and by so many pious confraternities. But the Church herself, her doctrine, her means of grace, her order of government, are all divine and holy, and therefore can never be reformed: it would be a monstrous impiety to say that she could be reformed.
What a glorious Church is ours ! What power but that of God could make her so divinely one in her faith, in her morality, in her worship, in her government ? What holiness but that of the Lord could make her so holy in. her Founder, in her doctrine, in her sacraments, in her members ? What more natural than that the Lord of all power and of all holiness should make this Church Catholic, as to time, place, and doctrine ?
Do you see holiness when looking at the Church that is in the Vatican now? I certainly don't.
To be continued . . . . . . . . . .