THE HOLY GHOST
You have heard, my dear young people, that our good Lord and Redeemer promised today the coming of the Holy Ghost. He foretold, at the same time, the great persecutions that were to follow His leaving this world: but with the grace of the Holy Ghost His people would be able to overcome all these persecutions, which would redound to their own glory
and the spread of the kingdom of God on earth. But why will these persecutions come and the cruelty of the world to the Apostles? They shall be hated, chased from the synagogues,
and if one is murdered, it will be considered a benefit to the human race. Such were the persecutions of the Christians, and they have continued to the present day; under the guise of religion the most barbarous cruelties have been practiced. Is not this the reason, too, that we are so antagonistic to those who differ from us, that had we the power we would pour our wrath upon them? Be this as it may, whence comes it that men are so wicked and so cruel as to persecute the pure and holy Church of God? Simply because "they know not Me nor My heavenly Father."
My dear young people, what terrible persecution you will have to endure, not of fire and sword, but for your faith and morals in everyday life. Your faith is continually assailed by the wrong theories of our day. To have no religion, or to be a Protestant, we leave to future discussion. How many young men lose their faith in the early days of manhood! Young, strong, and healthy, they do not see the end of their days, and they wish to throw off all restraint of religion; they do not want to believe; it is too much to ask them to make an act of adherence to the Catholic faith.
Many a man's religion is spoiled in his young days; he seems to have no mind for it, and who knows whether he will ever get the grace of God again to take up that which he throws away. Yes, my dear young people, you give your pastors, your parents, and all who are interested in you, great concern for your future. You will have to undergo many temptations, too, from the flesh, which you carry about you; from the devil, who is everywhere watching to find an opportunity to destroy you; from the world, in which all sorts of evil abound, but you are weak and inexperienced in the midst of this great trial. But you must strengthen yourselves by the thought that the same Spirit of fortitude and wisdom who came upon the Apostles will also descend on you, to shield you from all your enemies. In order that you may receive that holy Spirit, you must prepare yourselves carefully to celebrate the feast of Pentecost with sincerity and earnestness. Let us examine a little the necessity of receiving the Holy Ghost, and how we are to prepare for Him.
Every one of you, my dear young people, knows, as did the prophet Job, that this world which we inhabit is a great battlefield, on which we are surrounded by most stubborn and watchful enemies, and that we have to enter on a struggle with them. Hardly have we come into it, and have reached the use of reason, than the fight begins. These enemies aim
at the soul; the life of the body is nothing to them, they wish to ruin the soul. They are powerful enemies, against whom we can do nothing of ourselves. We can easily see, then, that we need the assistance of the Holy Spirit very much.
In the first place, we must fight with the world, our great enemy. The world has an intelligence of its own; it teaches bad doctrines which, though in appearance are most inviting and even most natural, are wrong in principle. For example, the world has the strong conviction that they alone are happy who enjoy themselves; that while you are young, at least, you ought to enjoy the flower of your youth before it withers; that it will be time enough to give up pleasure when old age makes it insipid. How many such poor deluded souls are about us! The world insists that money makes one happy; that one must always have his purse well filled; that one's whole soul should be fully awake to the means of getting wealth, and heaping it up in abundance. One must be smart; by fair means or foul he must procure money. Money is the god of the world; so much so that it forgets real wealth, which is purity of soul and the possession of heaven in course of time. St. Paul tells us that "they that will become rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which hurl men into destruction and perdition."
The world would have us consider in the next place that we must look for honors and esteem; and then running after the false honors of the world we forget the real honor, the true greatness of leading a good life and in the end of being placed in paradise by almighty God. Are these not very deceptive doctrines? How can you discover their fallacy unless the Holy Ghost enlightens you? Not only does the world teach you these fallacies, but like a tutor, it shows you an example of the good fortunes of those who have succeeded in gaining wealth. Look at the great number of successful men in the world that have not a spark of religion and who are proud of it. These men are ashamed to be humble followers of Jesus Christ; their charity is turned into philanthropy; they are ashamed to go to church, to hear Mass or a sermon, to go to the sacraments or to show any sign of Christianity. On the contrary, they make a parade of their vices; they prefer them to following Christ. Such are the consequences of the bad doctrines of the world. How thankful you ought to be that you are not like them. It is only by being enlightened by the Holy Ghost that you will continue to love "the better part."
The devil himself is our great adversary on the battle-field of this world. Of what deception and snares does he not make use to lead us to a fall! "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goeth about, seeking whom he may devour." St. Stanislaus Kostka while he was at prayer was visited by the devil: what a horrible object he was, perfectly black and hideous; his eyes shone in his head like ominous lights, which seemed to scatter fire on whatever object he directed them; his mouth was like the opening of hell. Stanislaus put this infernal creature to flight by the sign of the cross, and nothing daunted quietly continued his prayers, thanking God that he had the power of getting rid so easily of such an unwelcome visitor. I suppose the devil visited Stanislaus to disturb his peace of mind or even to fill him with fear; but not for a moment could the Evil One induce this good, holy soul to infringe God's law in the least. You need have no fear of receiving a visit from the devil in person; but he puts on the grab of an angel of light, a serpent of beautiful colors. "It goeth in pleasantly, but in the end it will bite like a snake." The devil shows us sin in its most attractive exterior; he tempts you as he did Eve, and will battle with the same arguments. Eve was afraid she would die, but he assured her, "Not at all; you will not die, and you will have all pleasures, which it will not do to miss."
What of the bad companions you go with, my dear young people? The devil will argue, "What harm? You may do some good, you will have a good time. If there is any one in this
world that is a wearisome fellow, it is certainly a pious chap; a certain degree of wickedness is required to make life spicy. And then why live such a timid existence; what kind of a life is it, when at every turn some one says, 'Don't do that.' You pass your days in listening to 'don'ts.' You have to watch your words and your thoughts, no useless talks, you cannot have the pleasure of sin, even in imagination; what a dismal life it is which is a continual struggle! "Give it all up," says the devil, "and lead a happy sort of life; don't be wicked exactly."
The devil tries by every means in his power to get at your soul by the channels of your body and your senses; by your eyes through your sight, by your ears through your hearing, by your sense of feeling, by your imagination, and in this way he keeps up the attack, until he gets possession of you: he is not satisfied with that mischief, he demands more and more, until at last he has corrupted you completely. There is no rest; down we go, because the descent is so easy, until as disciples of the devil we are more wicked than the devil himself; we can at least do much more harm, for the devil makes use of men to corrupt others, and they become his agents afterwards. Thus the good priest sees thousands of souls continually going over to Satan: souls that were good at one time, but now are entirely lost to God; souls who absolutely refuse to hear of God, and who try to persuade themselves that there is no God.
Another enemy on the battle-field is the flesh. This enemy is so intimately connected with us that we continually carry it about, and it is the occasion of many of our falls. The flesh has so many animal propensities, which are wrong, and unworthy of so noble a master as the God-like soul. The flesh is impure and filthy, and wants to satisfy its appetites, like an animal; it is avaricious to possess a great deal, so that a good time may be assured for the body. Is not the soul, the pure, immortal soul, far greater than the flesh? its difficult task is to discipline the unruly body and bring it under subjection and become master of it. The saints succeeded in so doing, but oh, by what great labor! How perseveringly they mortified their bodies, even to their last breath. But how did they succeed in subjecting this flesh? By the blessed Spirit of God, whom we are expecting at this time and whose feast we are celebrating.
Now, my dear young people, come with me to the place where we will find the Apostles gathered together and the Blessed Virgin in the midst of them. They are quiet and retired, they are praying for the coming of the Holy Ghost, and also for detachment from the things of this world. My dear young people, are your hearts detached from this life? Not yet, you will say, but you are trying to cut off more and more the love you have for the world. Your thoughts are still on the earth: does that not make you forget the heavenly paradise for which you are on trial? For the great feast of Pentecost, the Apostles prepared themselves by devout prayer and holy meditation. They retired to the cenacle, a quiet place, and there waited the pleasure of God to send them the Holy Spirit. How do we poor
mortals generally pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit? I think we do not pray at all, for we have very little devotion to the Holy Ghost; but let us, at least at this holy time, pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may come unto our soul; for prayer will surely bring Him to us.
Lastly, the Apostles had a great desire to receive the Holy Ghost; Our Lord Jesus Himself put this desire into their hearts, and therefore they wished the Comforter to come to them. Let us invoke this Holy Spirit with fervent prayers, and have a great desire for Him, that He may come down to us with His choicest gifts.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900