ON THE MEANS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.” John i. 23.

ALL would wish to be saved and to enjoy the glory of Paradise; but to gain Heaven, it is necessary to walk in the straight road that leads to eternal bliss. This road is the observance of the divine commands. Hence, in his preaching, the Baptist exclaimed: “Make straight the way of the Lord.” In order to be able to walk always in the way of the Lord, without turning to the right or to the left, it is necessary to adopt the proper means. These means are, first, diffidence in ourselves; secondly, confidence in God; thirdly, resistance to temptations.

First Means. Diffidence in ourselves.

1. ”With fear and trembling,” says the Apostle, ”work out your salvation.” (Phil. ii. 12.) To secure eternal life, we must be always penetrated with fear, we must be always afraid of ourselves (with fear and trembling), and distrust altogether our own strength; for, without the divine grace we can do nothing. ”Without me,” says Jesus Christ, ”you can do nothing.”

We can do nothing for the salvation of our own souls. St. Paul tells us, that of ourselves we are not capable of even a good thought. ”Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Cor. iii. 5.) Without the aid of the Holy Ghost, we cannot even pronounce the name of Jesus so as to deserve a reward. ”And no one can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. xii. 8.)

2. Miserable the man who trusts to himself in the way of God. St. Peter experienced the sad effects of self-confidence. Jesus Christ said to him: ”In this night, before cock-crow, thou wilt deny me thrice.” (Matt. xxvi. 31.) Trusting in his own strength and his goodwill, the Apostle replied: ”Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.” (v. 35.) What was the result? On the night on which Jesus Christ had been taken, Peter was reproached in the court of Caiphas with being one of the disciples of the Saviour.

The reproach filled him with fear: he thrice denied his Master, and swore that he had never known him. Humility and diffidence in ourselves are so necessary for us, that God permits us sometimes to fall into sin, that, by our fall, we may acquire humility arid a knowledge of our own weakness. Through want of humility David also fell: hence, after his sin, he said: ”Before I was humbled, I offended.” (Ps. cxviii. 67.)

3. Hence the Holy Ghost pronounces blessed the man who is always in fear: ”Blessed is the man who is always fearful.” (Prov. xxviii. 14.) He who is afraid of falling distrusts his own strength, avoids as much as possible all dangerous occasions, and recommends himself often to God, and thus preserves his soul from sin. But the man who is not fearful, but full of self confidence, easily exposes himself to the danger of sin: he seldom recommends himself to God, and thus he falls.

Let us imagine a person suspended over a great precipice by a cord held by another. Surely he would constantly cry out to the person who supports him: Hold fast, hold fast; for Gods sake, do not let go. We are all in danger of falling into the abyss of all crime, if God does not support us. Hence we should constantly beseech him to keep his hands over us, and to succour us in all dangers.

4. In rising from bed, St. Philip Neri used to say every morning: Lord, keep thy hand this day over Philip; if thou do not, Philip will betray thee. And one day, as he walked through the city, reflecting on his own misery, he frequently said, I despair, I despair. A Certain religious who heard him, believing that the saint was really tempted to despair, corrected him, and encouraged him to hope in the divine mercy. But the saint replied: “I despair of myself, but I trust in God.” Hence, during this life, in which we are exposed to so many dangers of losing God, it is necessary for us to live always in great diffidence of ourselves, and full of confidence in God.

Second Means. Confidence in God.

5. St. Francis de Sales says, that the mere attention to self- diffidence on account of our own weakness, would only render us pusillanimous, and expose us to great danger of abandoning ourselves to a tepid life, or even to despair. The more we distrust our own strength, the more we should confide in the divine mercy. This is a balance, says the same saint, in which the more the scale of confidence in God is raised, the more the scale of diffidence in ourselves descends.

6. Listen to me, O sinners who have had the misfortune of having hitherto offended God, and of being condemned to hell: if the Devil tells you that but little hope remains of your eternal salvation, answer him in the words of the Scripture: ”No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded. ” (Eccl. ii. 11.) No sinner has ever trusted in God, and has been lost.

Make, then, a firm purpose to sin no more; abandon yourselves into the arms of the divine goodness; and rest assured that God will have mercy on you, and save you from Hell. ”Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” (Ps. liv. 23.) The Lord, as we read in Blosius, one day said to St. Gertrude: ”He who confides in me, does me such violence that I cannot but hear all his petitions”

7. ”But,” says the Prophet Isaias, ”they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (xl. 31.) They who place their confidence in God shall renew their strength; they shall lay aside their own weakness, and shall acquire the strength of God; they shall fly like eagles in the way of the Lord, without fatigue and without ever failing. David says, that”mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.” (Ps. xxxi. 10.) He that hopes in the Lord shall be encompassed by his mercy, so that he shall never be abandoned by it.

8. St. Cyprian says, that the divine mercy is an inexhaustible fountain. They who bring vessels of the greatest .confidence, draw from it the greatest graces Hence the Royal Prophet has said: “Let thy mercy Lord be upon us, as we have hoped in thee.” (Ps. xxxii. 22.) Whenever the Devil terrifies us by placing before our eyes the great difficulty of persevering in the grace of God in spite of all the dangers and sinful occasions of this life, let us, without answering him, raise our eyes to God, and hope that in his goodness he will certainly send us help to resist every attack. “I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.” (Ps. cxx. 1.) And when the enemy represents to us our weakness, let us say with the Apostle “I can do all in him who strengtheneth me. ” (Phil. iv. 13 ) Of myself I can do nothing; but I trust in God, that by his grace I shall be able to do all things.

9. Hence, in the midst of the greatest dangers of perdition to which we are exposed, we should continually turn to Jesus Christ, and. throwing ourselves into the hands of him who redeemed us by his death, should say: Into thy hands I commend my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth.” (Ps. xxx. 6.) This prayer should be said with great confidence of obtaining eternal life, and to it we should add: “In thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me not be confounded forever” (Ps. xxx. 1.)

Third Means. Resistance to temptations.

10. It is true that when we have recourse to God with confidence in dangerous temptations, he assists us; but, in certain very urgent occasions, the Lord sometimes wishes that we cooperate, and do violence to ourselves, to resist temptations. On such occasions, it will not be enough to have recourse to God once or twice; it will be necessary to multiply prayers, and frequently to prostrate ourselves and send up our sighs before the image of the Blessed Virgin and the crucifix, crying out with tears: Mary, my mother, assist me; Jesus, my Saviour, save me, for thy mercy‟s sake do not abandon me, do not permit me to lose thee.

11. Let us keep in mind the words of the Gospel: “How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it.” (Matt. vii. 14.) The way to Heaven is strait and narrow: they who wish to arrive at that place of bliss by walking in the paths of pleasure shall be disappointed: and therefore few reach it, because few are willing to use violence to themselves in resisting temptations.: “The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Matt. xi. 12.) In explaining this passage, a certain writer says: ”Vi queritur, invaditur, occupatur.” It must be sought and obtained by violence: he who wishes to obtain it without inconvenience, or by leading a soft and irregular life, shall not acquire it he shall be excluded from it.

12. To save their souls, some of the saints have retired into the cloister; some have confined themselves in a cave; others have embraced torments and death. ”The violent bear it away”Some complain of their want of confidence in God; but they do not perceive that their diffidence arises from the weakness of their resolution to serve God. St. Teresa used to say: “Of irresolute souls the Devil has no fear” And the Wise Man has declared, that “desires kill the slothful. ” (Prov. xxi. 25.)

Some would wish to be saved and to become saints, but never resolve to adopt the means of salvation, such as meditation, the frequentation of the sacraments, detachment from creatures; or, if they adopt these means, they soon give them up. In a word, they are satisfied with fruitless desires, and thus continue to live in enmity with God, or at least in tepidity, which in the end leads them to the loss of God. Thus in them are verified the words of the Holy Ghost, “desires kill the slothful.”

13. If, then, we wish to save our souls, and to become saints, we must make a strong resolution not only in general to give ourselves to God, but also in particular to adopt the proper means, and never to abandon them after having once taken them up. Hence we must never cease to pray to Jesus Christ, and to His holy Mother for holy perseverance.

ON THE ADVANTAGES OF TRIBULATIONS

” Now when John had heard of the wonderful works of Christ,” MATT. 9. 2.

IN tribulations God enriches his beloved souls with the greatest graces. Behold, St. John in his chains comes to the knowledge of the works of Jesus Christ: ” When John had heard in prison the works of Christ.” Great indeed are the advantages of tribulations. The Lord sends them to us, not because he wishes our misfortune, but because he desires our welfare.

Hence, when they come upon us we must embrace them with thanksgiving, and must not only resign ourselves to the divine will, but must also rejoice that God treats us as he treated his Son Jesus Christ, whose life, upon this earth was always full of tribulation. I shall now show, in the first point, the advantages we derive from tribulations; and in the second, I shall point out the manner in which we ought to bear them.

First Point – On the great advantages we derive from tribulations.

1. “What doth he know that had not been tried? A man that hath much experience shall think of many things, and he that hath learned many things shall show forth understanding.” (Eccl. xxxiv. 9.) They who live in prosperity, and have no experience of adversity, know nothing of the state of their souls. In the first place, tribulation opens the eyes which prosperity had kept shut. St. Paul remained blind after Jesus Christ appeared to him, and, during his blindness, he perceived the errors in which he lived. During his imprisonment in Babylon, King Manasses had recourse to God, was convinced of the malice of his sins, and id penance for them. “And after that he was in distress he prayed to the Lord his God, and did penance exceedingly before the God of his fathers.” (2 Paral. xxxiii. 12.) The prodigal, when he found himself under the necessity of feeding swine, and afflicted with hunger, exclaimed: ”I will arise and go to my father.” (Luke xv. 18.)

Secondly, tribulation takes from our hearts all affections to earthly things. When a mother wishes to wean her infant she puts gall on the paps, to excite his disgust, and induce him to take better food. God treats us in a similar manner: to detach us from temporal goods, he mingles them with gall, that by tasting its bitterness, we may conceive a dislike for them, and place our affections on the things of Heaven. ”God,” says St. Augustine, ”mingles bitterness with earthly pleasures, that we may seek another felicity, whose sweetness does not deceive.” (Ser. xxix., de Verb. Dom.)

Thirdly, they who live in prosperity are molested by many temptations of pride, of vainglory; of desires of acquiring greater wealth, great honours, and greater pleasures. Tribulations free us from these temptations, and make us humble and content in the state in which the Lord has placed us. Hence the Apostle says: ”We are chastised by the Lord that we may not be condemned with this world.” (1 Cor. xi. 32.)

2. Fourthly, by tribulation we atone for the sins we have committed much better than by voluntary works of penance. “Be assured,” says St. Augustine, “that God is a physician, and that tribulation is a salutary medicine.” Oh! how great is the efficacy of tribulation in healing the wounds caused by our sins! Hence, the same saint rebukes the sinner who complains of God for sending him tribulations. ”Why,” he says, ”do you complain? What you suffer is a remedy, not a punishment.” (In Ps. lv.) Job called those happy men whom God corrects by tribulation; because he heals them with the very hands with which he strikes and wounds them. “Blessed is the man whom God correcteth. . . . For he woundeth and cureth. He striketh, and his hand shall heal.” (Job v. 17, 18.) Hence, St. Paul gloried in his tribulations: ”Gloriamur in tribulationibus.” (Rom. v. 3.)

3. Fifthly, by convincing us that God alone is able and willing to relieve us in our miseries, tribulations remind us of him, and compel us to have recourse to his mercy. ”In their affliction they will rise early to me.” (Osee vi. 1.) Hence, addressing the afflicted, the Lord said: ”Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. xi. 28.) Hence he is called”a helper in troubles.” (Ps. xlv. 1 .) “When,” says David,” he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned.” (Ps. lxxvii. 34.) When the Jews were afflicted, and were slain by their enemies, they remembered the Lord, and returned to him.

4. Sixthly, tribulations enable us to acquire great merits before God, by giving us opportunities of exercising the virtues of humility, of patience, and of resignation to the divine will. The venerable John d’Avila used to say, that a single blessed be God: in adversity, is worth more than a thousand acts in prosperity. ”Take away,” says St. Ambrose, ”the contests of the martyrs, and you have taken away their crowns.” (In Luc., c. iv.) Oh! what a treasure of merit is acquired by patiently bearing insults, poverty, and sickness! Insults from men were the great objects of the desires of the saints, who sought to be despised for the love of Jesus Christ, and thus to be made like unto him.

5. How great is the merit gained by bearing with the inconvenience of poverty. ”My God and my all,” says St. Francis of Assisium: in expressing this sentiment, he enjoyed more of true riches than all the princes of the Earth. How truly has St. Teresa said, that”the less we have here, the more we shall enjoy hereafter.” Oh! how happy is the man who can say from his heart: My Jesus, thou alone art sufficient for me! If, says St. Chrysostom, you esteem yourself unhappy because you are poor, you are indeed miserable and deserving of tears; not because you are poor, but because, being poor, you do not embrace your poverty, and esteem yourself happy.”“Sane dignus es lachrymis ob hoc, quod miserum te extimas, non ideo quod pauper es.” (Serm, ii., Epis. ad Phil.)

6. By bearing patiently with the pains of sickness, a great, and perhaps the greater, part of the crown which is prepared for us in Heaven is completed. The sick sometimes complain that in sickness they can do nothing; but they err; for, in their infirmities they can do all things, by accepting their sufferings with peace and resignation. ”The Cross of Christ,” says St. Chrysostom, ”is the key of Paradise.” (Com. in Luc. de vir.)

7. St. Francis de Sales used to say . ”To suffer constantly for Jesus is the science of the saints; we shall thus soon become saints.” It is by sufferings that God proves his servants, and finds them worthy of himself. ”Deus tentavit es, et invenit eos dignos se.” (Wis. iii. 5) “Whom,” says St. Paul, “the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” (Heb. xii. 6.)

Hence, Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa: ”Be assured that the souls dearest to my Father are those who suffer the greatest afflictions.” Hence Job said: ”If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil ?” (Job. ii. 10.) If we have gladly received from God the goods of this Earth, why should we not receive more cheerfully tribulations, which are far more useful to us than worldly prosperity? St. Gregory informs us that, as flame fanned by the wind increases, so the soul is made perfect when she is oppressed by tribulations. ”Ignis flatu premitur, ut crescat.” (Ep. xxv.)

8. To holy souls the most severe afflictions are the temptations by which the Devil impels them to offend God: but they who bear these temptations with patience, and banish them by turning to God for help, shall acquire great merit. ”And,” says St. Paul, ”God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will also make issue with the temptation that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. x. 13.)

God permits us to be molested by temptations, that, by banishing them, we may gain greater merit. ”Blessed,” says the Lord, ”are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. ”(Matt. v. 5.) They are blessed, because, according to the Apostle, our tribulations are momentary and very light, compared with the greatness of the glory which they shall obtain for us for eternity in Heaven. ”For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (1 Cor. iv. 17.)

9. It is necessary, then, says St. Chrysostom, to bear tribulations in peace; for, if you accept them with resignation, you shall gain great merit; but if you submit to them with reluctance, you shall increase, instead of diminishing, your misery”Si vero ægre feras, neque calamitatum minorem facies, et majorem reddes procellam” (Hom. Ixiv., ad Pop.) If we wish to be saved, we must submit to trials. ”Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts xiv. 21.)

A great servant of God used to say, that Paradise is the place of the poor, of the persecuted, of the humble and afflicted. Hence St. Paul says: “Patience is necessary for you, that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Heb. x. 36.) Speaking of the tribulations of the saints, St. Cyprian asks”What are they to the servants of God, whom Paradise invites ?” (Ep, ad Demetr.) Is it much for those to whom the eternal goods of Heaven are promised, to embrace the short afflictions of this life?

10. In fine, the scourges of Heaven are sent not for our injury, but for our good. ”Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which, like servants, we are chastised, have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction.” (Judith viii. 27.)”God,” says St. Augustine, ”is angry when he does not scourge the sinner.” (In Ps. Ixxxix.)

When we see a sinner in tribulation in this life, we may infer that God wishes to have mercy on him in the next, and that he exchanges eternal for temporal chastisement. But miserable the sinner whom the Lord does not punish in this life! For those whom he does not chastise here, he treasures up his wrath, and for them he reserves eternal chastisement.

11. ”Why,” asks the Prophet Jeremiah, ”doth the way of the wicked prosper?” (xii. 1.) Why, Lord, do sinners prosper? To this the same prophet answers: ”Gather them together as sheep for a sacrifice, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.” (Tb. v. 3.) As on the day of sacrifice the sheep intended for slaughter are gathered together, so the impious, as victims of divine wrath, are destined to eternal death. “Destine them,” says Du Hamel, in his commentary on this passage, “as victims of thy anger on the day of sacrifice.”

12. When, then, God sends us tribulations, let us say with Job: “I have sinned, and indeed I have offended, and I have not received what I have deserved.” (Job xxxiii. 27.) O Lord, my sins merit far greater chastisement than that which thou hast inflicted on me. We should even pray with St. Augustine, ”Burn cut spare not in this life, that thou mayest spare for eternity.”

How frightful is the chastisement of the sinner of whom the Lord says: “Let us have pity on the wicked, but he will not learn justice.” (Is. xxvi. 10.) Let us abstain from chastising the impious: as long as they remain in this life they will continue to live in sin, and shall thus be punished with eternal torments. On this passage St. Bernard says: “Misericordiam hanc nolo, super omnem iram miseratio ista.” (Serin, xlii., in Cant.) Lord, I do not wish for such mercy, which is a chastisement that surpasses all chastisements.

13. The man whom the Lord afflicts in this life has a certain proof that he is dear to God. ”And,” said the angel to Tobias, ”because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptations should prove thee.” (Tob. xii. 13.) Hence, St. James pronounces blessed the man who is afflicted: because after he shall have been proved by tribulation, he will receive the crown of life.” (Jam. i. 12.)

14. He who wishes to share in the glory of the saints, must suffer in this life as the saints have suffered. None of the saints has been esteemed or treated well by the world all of them have been despised and persecuted. In them have been verified the words of the Apostle: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. iii. 12.) Hence St. Augustine said, that they who are unwilling to suffer persecutions, have not as yet begun to be Christians. “Si putas non habere persecutiones, nondum cæpisti esse Christianus.” (In Ps. Iv.) “When we are in tribulation, let us be satisfied with the consolation of knowing that the Lord is then near us and in our company. ”The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.” (Ps. xxxiii. 19.)”I am with him in tribulation.” (Ps. xc. 15.)

Second Point –  On the manner in which we should bear tribulations.

15. He who suffers tribulations in this world should, in the first place, abandon sin, and endeavour to recover the grace of God; for as long as he remains in sin, the merit of all his sufferings is lost. ”If,” says St. Paul, ”I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Cor. xiii. 3.) If you suffered all the torments of the martyrs; or bore to be burned alive, and were not in the state of grace, it would profit you nothing.

16. But, to those who can suffer with God, and with resignation for God’s sake, all the tribulations shall be a source of comfort and gladness. ”Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” (John xvi. 20.) Hence, after having been insulted and beaten by the Jews, the apostles departed from the council full of joy, because they had been maltreated for the love of Jesus Christ. ”And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts v. 41.)

Hence, when God visits us with any tribulations, we must say with Jesus Christ: ”The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ?” (John xviii. 11.) It is necessary to know that every tribulation, though it may come from men, is sent to us by God.

17. When we are surrounded on all sides with tribulations, and know not what to do, we must turn to God, who alone can console us. Thus King Josaphat, in his distress, said to the Lord: “As we know not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to thee.” (2 Par. xx. 12.) Thus David also in his tribulation had recourse to God, and God consoled him: “In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and he heard me.” (Ps. cxix. 1.) We should turn to God, and pray to him, and never cease to pray till he hears us.

”As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress, so are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us.” (Ps. cxxii. 2.) We must keep our eyes continually raised to God, and must continue to implore his aid, until he is moved to compassion for our miseries. We must have great confidence in the heart of Jesus Christ, and ought not to imitate certain persons, who instantly lose courage because they do not feel that they are heard as soon as they begin to pray. To them may be applied the words of the Saviour to St. Peter: “0 thou of little faith! why didst thou doubt?” (Matt. xiv. 31.) When the favours which we ask are spiritual, or can be profitable to our souls, we should be certain of being heard, provided we persevere in prayer, and do not lose confidence. ”

All things whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.” (Mark xi. 24.) In tribulations, then, we should never cease to hope with confidence that the divine mercy will console us; and if our afflictions continue, we must say with Job: ”Although he should kill me, I will trust in him.” (xiii. 15.)

18. Souls of little faith, instead of turning to God in their tribulations, have recourse to human means, and thus provoke God’s anger, and remain in their miseries. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.” (Ps. cxxvi. 1.) On this passage St. Augustine writes: “Ipse ædificat, ipse intellectum aperit, ipse ad finem applicat sensum vestrum: et tamen laboramus et nos tanquam operarii, sed nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem,” etc. All good all help must come from the Lord. Without him creatures can give us no assistance.

19. Of this the Lord complains by the mouth of his prophet: ”Is not,” he says, ”the Lord in Sion? . . .Why then have they provoked me to wrath with their idols. . . Is there no balm in Galaad? or is there no physician there? Why then is not the wound of the daughter of my people closed?” (Jer. viii. 19, 22.) Am I not in Sion? Why then do men provoke me to anger by recurring to creatures, which they convert into idols by placing in them all their hopes? Do they seek a remedy for their miseries? Why do they not seek it in Galaad, a mountain full of balsamic ointments, which signify the divine mercy?

There they can find the physician and the remedy of all their evils. Why then, says the Lord, do your wounds remain open? Why are they not healed? It is because you have recourse not to me, but to creatures, and because you confide in them, and not in me.

20. In another place the Lord says: “Am I become a wilderness to Israel, or a late ward springing land? Why then have my people said: We are revolted; we will come to thee no more ?. .But my people have forgotten me days without number.” (Jer. ii. 31, 32.) God complains, and says: ”Why, my children, do you say that you will have recourse to me no more?

Am I become to you a barren land, which gives no fruit, or gives it too late? Is it for this reason that you have so long forgotten me? By these words he manifests to us his desire that we pray to him, in order that he may be able to give us his graces; and he also gives us to understand that when we pray to him, he is not slow, but instantly begins to assist us.

21. The Lord, says David, is not asleep when we turn to his goodness, and ask the graces which are profitable to our souls: he hears us immediately, because he is anxious for our welfare. “Behold, he shall neither slumber nor sleep that keepeth Israel.” (Ps. cxx. 4.) When we pray for temporal favours, St. Bernard says that God”will give what we ask, or something more useful.”

He will grant us the grace which we desire, whenever it is profitable to our souls; or he will give us a more useful grace, such as the grace to resign ourselves to the divine will, and to suffer with patience our tribulations, which shall merit a great increase of glory in Heaven. [Act of sorrow and amendment, prayer to Jesus and Mary.]

ON THE GENERAL JUDGMENT

“And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty.” Matt. xxiv. 30.

AT present God is not known, and, therefore, he is as much despised by sinners, as if he could not avenge, whenever he pleases, the injuries offered to him. The wicked”looketh upon the Almighty as if he could do nothing” (Job xxii. 17,) But the Lord has fixed a day, called in the Scriptures “the day of the Lord,” on which the Eternal Judge will make known his power and majesty. ”The Lord,” says the Psalmist, “shall be known when he executeth judgment.” (Ps. ix. 17.) On this text St. Bernard writes: ”The Lord, who is now unknown while he seeks mercy, shall be known when he executes justice.” (Lib. de xii. Rad.) The prophet Sophonias calls the day of the Lord”a day of wrath a day of tribulation and distress a day of calamity and misery.” (i. 15.)  Let us now consider, in the first point, the different appearance of the just and the unjust; in the second, the scrutiny of consciences; and in the third, the sentence pronounced on the elect and on the reprobate.

First Point – On the different appearance of the just and of sinners in the valley of Josaphat.

1. This day shall commence with fire from Heaven, which will burn the earth, all men then living, and all things upon the earth. ”And the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up.” (2 Pet. iii. 10.) All shall become one heap of ashes.

2 After the death of all men, “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again.” (1 Cor. xv. 52.) St Jerome used to say: “As often as I consider the day of judgment, I tremble. Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, that terrible trumpet appears to sound in my ears, arise ye dead, and come to judgment” (in Matt, c. v.); and St. Augustine declared, that nothing banished from him earthly thoughts so effectually as the fear of judgment.

3 At the sound of that trumpet the souls of the blessed shall descend from Heaven to be united to the bodies with which they served God on Earth; and the unhappy souls of the damned shall come up from Hell to take possession again of those bodies with which they have offended God. Oh! how different the appearance of the former, compared with that of the latter! The damned shall appear deformed and black, like so many firebrands of Hell; but the just shall shine as the sun (Matt xiii 43) Oh! how great shall then be the happiness of those who have fortified their bodies by works of penance! We may estimate their felicity from the words addressed by St. Peter of Alcantara, after death, to St. Teresa: “O happy penance! which merited for me such glory”

4. After the resurrection, they shall be summoned by the angels to appear in the valley of Josaphat. “Nations, nations, in the valley for destruction for the day of the Lord is near‟‟ (Joel iii 14)” Then the angels shall come and separate the reprobate from the elect, placing the latter on the right, and the former on the left. ”The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from the Just. ”(Matt. xiii 49). Oh! How great will then be the confusion which the unhappy damned shall suffer!. “What think you, ” says the author of the Imperfect Work, “must be the confusion of the impious, when, being separated from the just, they shall be abandoned”(Hom liv.). “This punishment alone” says St. Chrysostom, “would be sufficient to constitute a hell for the wicked”. ”Et si nihil ulterius paterentur, ista sola verecundia sufficerit eis ad pœnam,” (in Matt, c. xxiv.) The brother shall he separated from the brother, the husband from his wife, the son from the father, etc.

5. But, behold! the heavens are opened the angels come to assist at the general judgment, carrying, as St. Thomas says, the sign of the cross and of the other instruments of the passion of the Redeemer. ”Veniente Domino ad judicium signum crucis, et alia passionis indicia demonstrabunt.” (Opusc. ii. 244.) The same may be inferred from the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew: ”And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” (xxiv. 30.) Sinners shall weep at the sign of the cross; for, as St. Chrysostom says, the nails will complain of them the wounds and the cross of Jesus Christ will speak against them. ”Clavi de te conquerentur, cicatrices contra et loquentur, crux Christi contra te perorabit.” (Hom, xx., in Matt.)

6. Most holy Mary, the queen of saints and angels, shall come to assist at the last judgment; and lastly, the Eternal Judge shall appear in the clouds, full of splendour and majesty. “And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty.” (Matt. xxiv. 30.) Oh! how great shall be the agony of the reprobate at the sight of the Judge! “At their presence” says the Prophet Joel, “the people shall be in grievous pains.” (Joel ii. 6.) According to St. Jerome, the presence of Jesus Christ will give the reprobate more pain than Hell itself. “It would,” he says, ”be easier for the damned to bear the torments of Hell than the presence of the Lord.” Hence, on that day, the wicked shall, according to St. John, call on the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the sight of the judge. “And they shall say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Apoc. vi. 16.)

Second Point – The scrutiny of conscience.

7. “The judgment sat, and the books were opened. ”(Dan. vii. 10.) The books of conscience are opened, and the judgment commences. The Apostle says, that the Lord”will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” (1 Cor. iv. 5.) And, by the mouth of his prophet, Jesus Christ has said: ”I will search Jerusalem with lamps.” (Soph. i. 12.) The light of the lamp reveals all that is hidden.

8. ”A judgment,” says St. Chrysostom, ”terrible to sinners, but desirable and sweet to the just.” (Hom. iii. de Dav.) The last judgment shall fill sinners with terror, but will be a source of joy and sweetness to the elect; for God will then give praise to each one according to his works. (1 Cor. iv. 5.) The Apostle tells us that on that day the just will be raised above the clouds to be united to the angels, and to increase the number of those who pay homage to the Lord. ”We shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air.” (I Thess. iv. 16.)

9. Worldlings now regard as fools the saints who led mortified and humble lives; but then they shall confess their own folly, and say: “We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.” (Wis. v. 4, 5.) In this world, the rich and the noble are called happy; but true happiness consists in a life of sanctity. Rejoice, ye souls who live in tribulation;”our sorrow shall be turned into joy.” (John xvi. 20.) In the valley of Josaphat you shall be seated on thrones of glory.

10. But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left, to await their last condemnation. ”Judicii tempus,” says St. Chrysostom, ”misericordiam non recipit.” On the day of judgment there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners. “Magna,” says St. Augustine, “jam est pœna peccati, metum et memoriam divini perdidisse judicii.” (Serm. xx. de Temp.) The greatest punishment of sin in those who live in enmity with God, is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment. Continue, continue, says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the day of judgment a treasure of the wrath of God “But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart , thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath” (Rom ii. 5)

11. Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves but, with insufferable pain, they shall be compelled to appear in judgment. “To lie hid” says St. Anselm, “will be impossible to appear will be intolerable.” The devils will perform their office of accusers, and as St. Augustine says, will say to the Judge: “Most just God, declare him to be mine, who was unwilling to be yours. ” The witnesses against the wicked shall be first, their own conscience. “Their conscience bearing witness to them, ”(Rom. ii. 15); secondly, the very walls of the house in which they sinned shall cry out against them”The stone shall cry out of the wall,” (Hab. ii 11); thirdly, the Judge himself will say “I am the judge and the witness, saith the Lord.” (Jer. xxix 23 )

Hence, according to St. Augustine, “He who is now the witness of .your life, shall be the judge of your cause. ” (Lib. x. de Chord., c. ii.) To Christians particularly he will say: “Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida; for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes”(Matt. xi. 21.) Christians, he will say, if the graces which I have bestowed on you had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. “I will discover thy shame to thy face. ” (Nahum iii. 5.) He will expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices, and cruelties. ”I will set all thy abominations against thee”(Ezech. vii. 3.) Each of the damned shall carry his sins written on his forehead.

12. What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah! they can offer no excuses. ”All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” (Ps. cvi. 42.) Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will not have courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.

Third Point – Sentence of the elect, and of the reprobate.

13. St. Bernard says, that the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost. ”Prius pronunciabitur sententia electis ut acrius (reprobi) doleant videntes quid amiserunt.” (Ser. viii., in Ps. xc.) Jesus Christ, then, shall first turn to the elect, and with a serene countenance shall say: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ”(Matt. xxv. 34.) He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and communions; above all, he will bless for them the pains of his passion and the blood shed for their salvation. And, after these benedictions, the elect, singing alleluias, shall enter Paradise to praise and love God eternity.

14. The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and shall pronounce the sentence of their condemnation in these words . ”Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. xxv. 41 ) They shall then be forever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn for ever in the fire of hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting. ” (Matt. xxv. 46.)

15. After this sentence, the wicked shall, according to St. Ephrem, be compelled to take leave for ever of their relatives, of Paradise, of the saints, and of Mary the divine Mother. “Farewell, ye just! Farewell, O cross I Farewell, Paradise! Farewell, fathers and brothers: we shall never see you again! Farewell, O Mary, mother of God!”(St. Eph. de variis serm. inf.) Then a great pit shall open in the middle of the valley: the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those doors shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! to what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. O unhappy souls! for whom is prepared such a melancholy end. But, brethren, have confidence. Jesus Christ is now a Father, and not judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent. Let us then instantly ask pardon from him.

Repost – ST. Leonard – The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved

The Little Number of Those Who Are SavedSt. Leonard of Port Maurice –

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was a most holy Franciscan friar who lived at the monastery of Saint Bonaventure in Rome. He was one of the greatest missioners in the history of the Church. He used to preach to thousands in the open square of every city and town where the churches could not hold his listeners. So brilliant and holy was his eloquence that once when he gave a two weeks’ mission in Rome, the Pope and College of Cardinals came to hear him. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were his crusades. He was in no small way responsible for the definition of the Immaculate Conception made a little more than a hundred years after his death. He also gave us the Divine Praises, which are said at the end of Benediction. But Saint Leonard’s most famous work was his devotion to the Stations of the Cross. He died a most holy death in his seventy-fifth year, after twenty-four years of uninterrupted preaching.

One of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s most famous sermons was “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved.” It was the one he relied on for the conversion of great sinners. This sermon, like his other writings, was submitted to canonical examination during the process of canonization. In it he reviews the various states of life of Christians and concludes with the little number of those who are saved, in relation to the totality of men.

The reader who meditates on this remarkable text will grasp the soundness of its argumentation, which has earned it the approbation of the Church. Here is the great missionary’s vibrant and moving sermon.

Introduction

Thanks be to God, the number of the Redeemer’s disciples is not so small that the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees is able to triumph over them. Although they strove to calumniate innocence and to deceive the crowd with their treacherous sophistries by discrediting the doctrine and character of Our Lord, finding spots even in the sun, many still recognized Him as the true Messiah, and, unafraid of either chastisements or threats, openly joined His cause. Did all those who followed Christ follow Him even unto glory? Oh, this is where I revere the profound mystery and silently adore the abysses of the divine decrees, rather than rashly deciding on such a great point! The subject I will be treating today is a very grave one; it has caused even the pillars of the Church to tremble, filled the greatest Saints with terror and populated the deserts with anchorites. The point of this instruction is to decide whether the number of Christians who are saved is greater or less than the number of Christians who are damned; it will, I hope, produce in you a salutary fear of the judgments of God.

Brothers, because of the love I have for you, I wish I were able to reassure you with the prospect of eternal happiness by saying to each of you: You are certain to go to paradise; the greater number of Christians is saved, so you also will be saved. But how can I give you this sweet assurance if you revolt against God’s decrees as though you were your own worst enemies? I observe in God a sincere desire to save you, but I find in you a decided inclination to be damned. So what will I be doing today if I speak clearly? I will be displeasing to you. But if I do not speak, I will be displeasing to God.

Therefore, I will divide this subject into two points. In the first one, to fill you with dread, I will let the theologians and Fathers of the Church decide on the matter and declare that the greater number of Christian adults are damned; and, in silent adoration of that terrible mystery, I will keep my own sentiments to myself. In the second point I will attempt to defend the goodness of God versus the godless, by proving to you that those who are damned are damned by their own malice, because they wanted to be damned. So then, here are two very important truths. If the first truth frightens you, do not hold it against me, as though I wanted to make the road of heaven narrower for you, for I want to be neutral in this matter; rather, hold it against the theologians and Fathers of the Church who will engrave this truth in your heart by the force of reason. If you are disillusioned by the second truth, give thanks to God over it, for He wants only one thing: that you give your hearts totally to Him. Finally, if you oblige me to tell you clearly what I think, I will do so for your consolation.

 

The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church

It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to hell. To disillusion them and waken them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned?

Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them. To resolve this doubt, let us put the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, on one side; on the other, the most learned theologians and erudite historians; and let us put the Bible in the middle for all to see. Now listen not to what I will say to you – for I have already told you that I do not want to speak for myself or decide on the matter – but listen to what these great minds have to tell you, they who are beacons in the Church of God to give light to others so that they will not miss the road to heaven. In this manner, guided by the triple light of faith, authority and reason, we will be able to resolve this grave matter with certainty.

Note well that there is no question here of the human race taken as a whole, nor of all Catholics taken without distinction, but only of Catholic adults, who have free choice and are thus capable of cooperating in the great matter of their salvation. First let us consult the theologians recognized as examining things most carefully and as not exaggerating in their teaching: let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine. They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote, “The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls.”

Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone. Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly, “Many attain to faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom.” Saint Anselm declares, “There are few who are saved.” Saint Augustine states even more clearly, “Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned.” The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: “Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence.”

 

The Words of Holy Scripture

But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, “This ark was the figure of the Church,” while Saint Augustine adds, “And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark.” The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat.

I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, “Lord, is it only a few to be saved?” Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: “You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?” Here is My answer: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.

 

Salvation in the Various States of Life

But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, “I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater.”

Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, “Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, ‘We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'”

Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrerwill show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, “Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.”

Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, “When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.”

O abyss of the judgments of God! Out of thirty thousand, only five were saved! And out of sixty thousand, only three went to heaven! You sinners who are listening to me, in what category will you be numbered?… What do you say?… What do you think?…

I see almost all of you lowering your heads, filled with astonishment and horror. But let us lay our stupor aside, and instead of flattering ourselves, let us try to draw some profit from our fear. Is it not true that there are two roads which lead to heaven: innocence and repentance? Now, if I show you that very few take either one of these two roads, as rational people you will conclude that very few are saved. And to mention proofs: in what age, employment or condition will you find that the number of the wicked is not a hundred times greater than that of the good, and about which one might say, “The good are so rare and the wicked are so great in number“? We could say of our times what Salvianus said of his: it is easier to find a countless multitude of sinners immersed in all sorts of iniquities than a few innocent men. How many servants are totally honest and faithful in their duties? How many merchants are fair and equitable in their commerce; how many craftsmen exact and truthful; how many salesmen disinterested and sincere? How many men of law do not forsake equity? How many soldiers do not tread upon innocence; how many masters do not unjustly withhold the salary of those who serve them, or do not seek to dominate their inferiors? Everywhere, the good are rare and the wicked great in number. Who does not know that today there is so much libertinage among mature men, liberty among young girls, vanity among women, licentiousness in the nobility, corruption in the middle class, dissolution in the people, impudence among the poor, that one could say what David said of his times: “All alike have gone astray… there is not even one who does good, not even one.”

Go into street and square, into palace and house, into city and countryside, into tribunal and court of law, and even into the temple of God. Where will you find virtue? “Alas!” cries Salvianus, “except for a very little number who flee evil, what is the assembly of Christians if not a sink of vice?” All that we can find everywhere is selfishness, ambition, gluttony, and luxury. Is not the greater portion of men defiled by the vice of impurity, and is not Saint John right in saying, “The whole world – if something so foul may be called – “is seated in wickedness?” I am not the one who is telling you; reason obliges you to believe that out of those who are living so badly, very few are saved.

But you will say: Can penance not profitably repair the loss of innocence? That is true, I admit. But I also know that penance is so difficult in practice, we have lost the habit so completely, and it is so badly abused by sinners, that this alone should suffice to convince you that very few are saved by that path. Oh, how steep, narrow, thorny, horrible to behold and hard to climb it is! Everywhere we look, we see traces of blood and things that recall sad memories. Many weaken at the very sight of it. Many retreat at the very start. Many fall from weariness in the middle, and many give up wretchedly at the end. And how few are they who persevere in it till death! Saint Ambrose says it is easier to find men who have kept their innocence than to find any who have done fitting penance.

If you consider the sacrament of penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions! Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them? Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them? Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament! One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit. One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion?

Where are they now, those who believe that the number of the saved among Christians is greater than that of the damned and who, to authorize their opinion, reason thus: the greater portion of Catholic adults die in their beds armed with the sacraments of the Church, therefore most adult Catholics are saved? Oh, what fine reasoning! You must say exactly the opposite. Most Catholic adults confess badly at death, therefore most of them are damned. I say “all the more certain,” because a dying person who has not confessed well when he was in good health will have an even harder time doing so when he is in bed with a heavy heart, an unsteady head, a muddled mind; when he is opposed in many ways by still-living objects, by still-fresh occasions, by adopted habits, and above all by devils who are seeking every means to cast him into hell. Now, if you add to all these false penitents all the other sinners who die unexpectedly in sin, due to the doctors’ ignorance or by their relatives’ fault, who die from poisoning or from being buried in earthquakes, or from a stroke, or from a fall, or on the battlefield, in a fight, caught in a trap, struck by lightning, burned or drowned, are you not obliged to conclude that most Christian adults are damned? That is the reasoning of Saint Chrysostom. This Saint says that most Christians are walking on the road to hell throughout their life. Why, then, are you so surprised that the greater number goes to hell? To come to a door, you must take the road that leads there. What have you to answer such a powerful reason?

The answer, you will tell me, is that the mercy of God is great. Yes, for those who fear Him, says the Prophet; but great is His justice for the one who does not fear Him, and it condemns all obstinate sinners.

So you will say to me: Well then, who is Paradise for, if not for Christians? It is for Christians, of course, but for those who do not dishonor their character and who live as Christians. Moreover, if to the number of Christian adults who die in the grace of God, you add the countless host of children who die after baptism and before reaching the age of reason, you will not be surprised that Saint John the Apostle, speaking of those who are saved, says, “I saw a great multitude which no man could number.

And this is what deceives those who pretend that the number of the saved among Catholics is greater than that of the damned… If to that number, you add the adults who have kept the robe of innocence, or who after having defiled it, have washed it in the tears of penance, it is certain that the greater number is saved; and that explains the words of Saint John, “I saw a great multitude,” and these other words of Our Lord, “Many will come from the east and from the west, and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” and the other figures usually cited in favor of that opinion. But if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned. Do not believe that because of this, paradise is empty; on the contrary, it is a very populous kingdom. And if the damned are “as numerous as the sand in the sea,” the saved are “as numerous at the stars of heaven,” that is, both the one and the other are countless, although in very different proportions.

One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask, “Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?” And, not waiting for an answer, he added, “Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred.” What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it.

That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says, “Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved.”

So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God, “Just Father, the world has not known Thee,” said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say “Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father.” He says “just Father,” so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears?

King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. Dominic? One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed, “Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!” Let me repeat with Jeremiah, “Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.

Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward hell? For mercy’s sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable.

 

The Goodness of God

Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation! In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of saying that if only one man were going to be damned, he would do all he could to make sure he was not that man.

So what must we do, we who know that the greater number is going to be damned, and not only out of all Catholics? What must we do? Take the resolution to belong to the little number of those who are saved. You say: If Christ wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Silence, rash tongue! God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be. Therefore, I will now strive to defend the goodness of my God and acquit it of all blame: that will be the subject of the second point.

Before going on, let us gather on one side all the books and all the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and on the other side the books and heresies of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, and let us burn them. Some destroy grace, others freedom, and all are filled with errors; so let us cast them into the fire. All the damned bear upon their brow the oracle of the Prophet Osee, “Thy damnation comes from thee,” so that they may understand that whoever is damned, is damned by his own malice and because he wants to be damned.

First let us take these two undeniable truths as a basis: “God wants all men to be saved,” “All are in need of the grace of God.” Now, if I show you that God wants to save all men, and that for this purpose He gives all of them His grace and all the other necessary means of obtaining that sublime end, you will be obliged to agree that whoever is damned must impute it to his own malice, and that if the greater number of Christians are damned, it is because they want to be. “Thy damnation comes from thee; thy help is only in Me.”

 

God Desires All Men to be Saved

In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly His desire to save all men. “Is it My will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live?… I live, saith the Lord God. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live.” When someone wants something very much, it is said that he is dying with desire; it is a hyperbole. But God has wanted and still wants our salvation so much that He died of desire, and He suffered death to give us life. This will to save all men is therefore not an affected, superficial and apparent will in God; it is a real, effective, and beneficial will; for He provides us with all the means most proper for us to be saved. He does not give them to us so they will not obtain it; He gives them to us with a sincere will, with the intention that they may obtain their effect. And if they do not obtain it, He shows Himself afflicted and offended over it. He commands even the damned to use them in order to be saved; He exhorts them to it; He obliges them to it; and if they do not do it, they sin. Therefore, they may do it and thus be saved.

Far more, because God sees that we could not even make use of His grace without His help, He gives us other aids; and if they sometimes remain ineffective, it is our fault; for with these same aids, one may abuse them and be damned with them, and another may do right and be saved; he might even be saved with less powerful aids. Yes, it can happen that we abuse a greater grace and are damned, whereas another cooperates with a lesser grace and is saved.

Saint Augustine exclaims, “If, therefore, someone turns aside from justice, he is carried by his free will, led by his concupiscence, deceived by his own persuasion.” But for those who do not understand theology, here is what I have to say to them: God is so good that when He sees a sinner running to his ruin, He runs after him, calls him, entreats and accompanies him even to the gates of hell; what will He not do to convert him? He sends him good inspirations and holy thoughts, and if he does not profit from them, He becomes angry and indignant, He pursues him. Will He strike him? No. He beats at the air and forgives him. But the sinner is not converted yet. God sends him a mortal illness. It is certainly all over for him. No, brothers, God heals him; the sinner becomes obstinate in evil, and God in His mercy looks for another way; He gives him another year, and when that year is over, He grants him yet another.

But if the sinner still wants to cast himself into hell in spite of all that, what does God do? Does He abandon him? No. He takes him by the hand; and while he has one foot in hell and the other outside, He still preaches to him, He implored him not to abuse His graces. Now I ask you, if that man is damned, is it not true that he is damned against the Will of God and because he wants to be damned? Come and ask me now: If God wanted to damn me, then why did He create me?

Ungrateful sinner, learn today that if you are damned, it is not God who is to blame, but you and your self-will. To persuade yourself of this, go down even to the depths of the abyss, and there I will bring you one of those wretched damned souls burning in hell, so that he may explain this truth to you. Here is one now: “Tell me, who are you?” “I am a poor idolater, born in an unknown land; I never heard of heaven or hell, nor of what I am suffering now.” “Poor wretch! Go away, you are not the one I am looking for.” Another one is coming; there he is. “Who are you?” “I am a schismatic from the ends of Tartary; I always lived in an uncivilized state, barely knowing that there is a God.” “You are not the one I want; return to hell.” Here is another. “And who are you?” “I am a poor heretic from the North. I was born under the Pole and never saw either the light of the sun or the light of faith.” “It is not you that I am looking for either, return to Hell.” Brothers, my heart is broken upon seeing these wretches who never even knew the True Faith among the damned. Even so, know that the sentence of condemnation was pronounced against them and they were told, “Thy damnation comes from thee.” They were damned because they wanted to be. They received so many aids from God to be saved! We do not know what they were, but they know them well, and now they cry out, “O Lord, Thou art just… and Thy judgments are equitable.”

Brothers, you must know that the most ancient belief is the Law of God, and that we all bear it written in our hearts; that it can be learned without any teacher, and that it suffices to have the light of reason in order to know all the precepts of that Law. That is why even the barbarians hid when they committed sin, because they knew they were doing wrong; and they are damned for not having observed the natural law written in their heart: for had they observed it, God would have made a miracle rather than let them be damned; He would have sent them someone to teach them and would have given them other aids, of which they made themselves unworthy by not living in conformity with the inspirations of their own conscience, which never failed to warn them of the good they should do and the evil they should avoid. So it is their conscience that accused them at the Tribunal of God, and it tells them constantly in hell, “Thy damnation comes from thee.” They do not know what to answer and are obliged to confess that they are deserving of their fate. Now if these infidels have no excuse, will there be any for a Catholic who had so many sacraments, so many sermons, so many aids at his disposal? How will he dare to say, “If God was going to damn me, then why did He create me?” How will he dare to speak in this manner, when God gives him so many aids to be saved? So let us finish confounding him.

You who are suffering in the abyss, answer me! Are there any Catholics among you? “There certainly are!” How many? Let one of them come here! “That is impossible, they are too far down, and to have them come up would turn all of hell upside down; it would be easier to stop one of them as he is falling in.” So then, I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin, in hatred, in the mire of the vice of impurity, and who are getting closer to hell each day. Stop, and turn around; it is Jesus who calls you and who, with His wounds, as with so many eloquent voices, cries to you, “My son, if you are damned, you have only yourself to blame: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’ Lift up your eyes and see all the graces with which I have enriched you to insure your eternal salvation. I could have had you born in a forest in Barbary; that is what I did to many others, but I had you born in the Catholic Faith; I had you raised by such a good father, such an excellent mother, with the purest instructions and teachings. If you are damned in spite of that, whose fault will it be? Your own, My son, your own: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’

“I could have cast you into hell after the first mortal sin you committed, without waiting for the second: I did it to so many others, but I was patient with you, I waited for you for many long years. I am still waiting for you today in penance. If you are damned in spite of all that, whose fault is it? Your own, My son, your own: “Thy damnation comes from thee.” You know how many have died before your very eyes and were damned: that was a warning for you. You know how many others I set back on the right path to give you the good example. Do you remember what that excellent confessor told you? I am the one who had him say it. Did he not enjoin you to change your life, to make a good confession? I am the One who inspired him. Remember that sermon that touched your heart? I am the One who led you there. And what has happened between you and Me in the secret of your heart, …that you can never forget.

“Those interior inspirations, that clear knowledge, that constant remorse of conscience, would you dare to deny them? All of these were so many aids of My grace, because I wanted to save you. I refused to give them to many others, and I gave them to you because I loved you tenderly. My son, My son, if I spoke to them as tenderly as I am speaking to you today, how many others souls return to the right path! And you… you turn your back on Me. Listen to what I am going to tell you, for these are My last words: You have cost Me My blood; if you want to be damned in spite of the blood I shed for you, do not blame Me, you have only yourself to accuse; and throughout all eternity, do not forget that if you are damned in spite of Me, you are damned because you want to be damned: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’ “

O my good Jesus, the very stones would split on hearing such sweet words, such tender expressions. Is there anyone here who wants to be damned, with so many graces and aids? If there is one, let him listen to me, and then let him resist if he can.

Baronius relates that after Julian the Apostate’s infamous apostasy, he conceived such great hatred against Holy Baptism that day and night, he sought a way in which he might erase his own. To that purpose he had a bath of goat’s blood prepared and placed himself in it, wanting this impure blood of a victim consecrated to Venus to erase the sacred character of Baptism from his soul. Such behavior seems abominable to you, but if Julian’s plan had been able to succeed, it is certain that he would be suffering much less in hell.

Sinners, the advice I want to give you will no doubt seem strange to you; but if you understand it well, it is, on the contrary, inspired by tender compassion toward you. I implore you on my knees, by the blood of Christ and by the Heart of Mary, change your life, come back to the road that leads to heaven, and do all you can to belong to the little number of those who are saved. If, instead of this, you want to continue walking on the road that leads to hell, at least find a way to erase your baptism. Woe to you if you take the Holy Name of Jesus Christ and the sacred character of the Christian engraved upon your soul into hell! Your chastisement will be all the greater. So do what I advise you to do: if you do not want to convert, go this very day and ask your pastor to erase your name from the baptismal register, so that there may not remain any remembrance of your ever having been a Christian; implore your Guardian Angel to erase from his book of graces the inspirations and aids he has given you on orders from God, for woe to you if he recalls them! Tell Our Lord to take back His faith, His baptism, His sacraments.

You are horror-struck at such a thought? Well then, cast yourself at the feet of Jesus Christ and say to Him, with tearful eyes and contrite heart: “Lord, I confess that up till now I have not lived as a Christian. I am not worthy to be numbered among Your elect. I recognize that I deserve to be damned; but Your mercy is great and, full of confidence in Your grace, I say to You that I want to save my soul, even if I have to sacrifice my fortune, my honor, my very life, as long as I am saved. If I have been unfaithful up to now, I repent, I deplore, I detest my infidelity, I ask You humbly to forgive me for it. Forgive me, good Jesus, and strengthen me also, that I may be saved. I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul.”

And You, O Jesus! What do You say? O Good Shepherd, see the stray sheep who returns to You; embrace this repentant sinner, bless his sighs and tears, or rather bless these people who are so well disposed and who want nothing but their salvation. Brothers, at the feet of Our Lord, let us protest that we want to save our soul, cost what it may. Let us all say to Him with tearful eyes, “Good Jesus, I want to save my soul,” O blessed tears, O blessed sighs!

Conclusion

Brothers, I want to send all of you away comforted today. So if you ask me my sentiment on the number of those who are saved, here it is: Whether there are many or few that are saved, I say that whoever wants to be saved, will be saved; and that no one can be damned if he does not want to be. And if it is true that few are saved, it is because there are few who live well. As for the rest, compare these two opinions: the first one states that the greater number of Catholics are condemned; the second one, on the contrary, pretends that the greater number of Catholics are saved. Imagine an Angel sent by God to confirm the first opinion, coming to tell you that not only are most Catholics damned, but that of all this assembly present here, one alone will be saved. If you obey the Commandments of God, if you detest the corruption of this world, if you embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in a spirit of penance, you will be that one alone who is saved.

Now imagine the same Angel returning to you and confirming the second opinion. He tells you that not only are the greater portion of Catholics saved, but that out of all this gathering, one alone will be damned and all the others saved. If after that, you continue your usuries, your vengeances, your criminal deeds, your impurities, then you will be that one alone who is damned.

What is the use of knowing whether few or many are saved? Saint Peter says to us, “Strive by good works to make your election sure.” When Saint Thomas Aquinas’s sister asked him what she must do to go to heaven, he said, “You will be saved if you want to be.” I say the same thing to you, and here is proof of my declaration. No one is damned unless he commits mortal sin: that is of faith. And no one commits mortal sin unless he wants to: that is an undeniable theological proposition. Therefore, no one goes to hell unless he wants to; the consequence is obvious. Does that not suffice to comfort you? Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved. Why torment yourself so? For it is certain that you have to commit mortal sin to go to hell, and that to commit mortal sin you must want to, and that consequently no one goes to hell unless he wants to. That is not just an opinion, it is an undeniable and very comforting truth; may God give you to understand it, and may He bless you. Amen.

 


In the first Rules on the discernment of spirits, Saint Ignatius shows that it is typical of the evil spirit to tranquilize sinners. Therefore, we must constantly preach and give rise to confidence and the duty of hope in the Lord’s infinite pardon and mercy, for conversion is easy and His grace is all-powerful. But we must also recall that “God is not mocked,” and that someone who is living habitually in the state of mortal sin is on the road to eternal damnation.

There are last-minute miracles, but unless we contend that miracles are the general run of things, we are obliged to agree that for the majority of people living in the state of mortal sin, final impenitence is the most probable eventuality.

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s reasons have persuaded us. They are worth listening to. With eloquence and clarity, they develop a consideration of Father Lombardi in his public debate with Italian Communist leader Velio Spano in Cagliara on December 4, 1948. “I am horror-struck at the thought that if you continue in this manner, you will be condemned to hell,” said Father Lombardi to the Marxist Spano. Spano replied, “I do not believe in hell.” And Father Lombardi retorted, “Precisely, and if you continue, you will be condemned; for to avoid being condemned, one must believe in hell.”

We could generalize Father Lombardi’s answer. Perhaps it is precisely such a lack of supernatural faith that is preventing people from arriving at a deep appreciation of the pastoral transcendence of preaching in the manner of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice in its application to our contemporary life. At any rate, it is not because morals are any better now than in the famous missionary’s day. No occasion could be finer for us to apply this reproach of Cardinal Pie: “I see prudence everywhere; soon we will not see courage anywhere; rest assured, if we continue in this manner, we will die from an attack of wisdom.” Not divine wisdom, surely; for only carnal and worldly prudence give rise to vain knowledge, which mocks at the sermon of Saint Leonard.

The doctrine of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice has saved and will save countless souls till the end of time. Here is what the Church says in the prayer of the Divine Office, Sixth Lesson, speaking of Saint Leonard’s heavenly eloquence: Upon hearing him, even hearts of iron and brass were powerfully inclined to penance, by reason of the astonishing effectiveness of the sermon and the preacher’s burning zeal. And in the liturgical prayer we ask of the Lord, Give the power to bend the hearts of hardened sinners by the works of preaching.

This sermon by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was preached during the reign of Pope Benedict XIV, who so loved the great missionary.

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This sermon was found here

ON BLASPHEMY – St. Alphonsus

“When, therefore, you shall see the abomination of desolation.” MATT. xxiv. 15.

ALL sins are hateful in the sight of God; but the sin of blasphemy ought more properly to be called an abomination to the Lord. Every mortal sin, as the Apostle says, dishonours God. ”By transgression of the law, thou dishonourest God.” (Rom. ii. 23.) Other sins dishonour God indirectly by the violation of his law; but blasphemy dishonours him directly by the profanation of his most holy name. Hence St. Chrysostom teaches, that no sin exasperates the Lord so much as the sin of blasphemy against his adorable name. ”Nihil ita exacerbat Deum, sicut quando nomen ejus blasphematur.” Dearly beloved Christians, allow me, then, this day, to show you, first, the great enormity of the sin of blasphemy; and secondly, the great rigour with which God punishes it.

First Point – On the great enormity of the sin of blasphemy.

1. What is blasphemy? It is the uttering of language injurious to God; it is, according to the definition of theologians, “contumeliosa in Deum locutio ;” or, contumely against God. God! whom does man assail when he blasphemes? He directly attacks the Lord. “He hath strengthened himself against the Almighty.” (Job. xv. 25.) Are you not afraid, blasphemer, says St. Ephrem, that fire will come down from heaven and devour you? or that the earth shall open and swallow you up?”Non metuis ne forte ignis de cœlo descendat et devoret te, qui sic os adversus omnipotentem aperis? Neque vereris, ne terra te absorbeat?” (Paren. 3.)

The devil, says St. Gregory Nazianzen, trembles at the name of Jesus: and we are not afraid to profane it. ”Domones ad Christi nomen exhorrescunt, nos vero nomen adeo venerandum contumelia afficere nou veremur.” (Orat. xx.) The vindictive assail a man who is their own equal; but, by their blasphemies blasphemers appear to seek revenge against God, who does or permits what is displeasing to them. There is a great difference between an act of contempt towards the portrait of a king, and an insult offered to his person. Man is the image of God; but the blasphemer offends God himself. ”He who blasphemes” says St. Athanasius, ”acts against the very Deity itself.”

The man who violates the law is guilty of a crime; but he who attacks the person of his sovereign commits an act of treason; therefore he receives no mercy, but is chastised with the utmost severity. What, then, shall we say of the man who blasphemes and insults the majesty of God?”If,” says the high-priest Heli, “one man shall sin against another, God may be appeased in his behalf; but if a man shall sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him?”(1 Kings ii. 25.) The sin of blasphemy, then, is so enormous, that the saints themselves appear not to have courage to pray for a blasphemer.

2. Some sacrilegious tongues blaspheme the God who preserves their existence!”Tu Deo benefacienti tibi,” says St. Chrysostom, ”et tui curam agenti maledicis.” O God! you stand with one foot at the gate of hell; and if God, in his mercy, did not preserve your life you should be damned for ever: and, instead of thanking him for his goodness, you, at the very time that he bestows his favours upon you, blaspheme his holy name.

”If,” says the Lord, ”my enemy hath reviled me, I would verily have borne with it. (Ps. liv. 13.) Had you treated me with contumely and insult at the time that I chastised you, I would be more willing to bear with your impiety; but you revile me at the time that I confer my favours upon you. diabolical tongue! exclaims St. Bernardine of Sienna, what could have induced you to blaspheme your God, who has created you, and redeemed you with his blood? “0 lingua diabolica, quid, potest te inducere ad blasphemandum Deus tuum qui te plasmavit, qui te pretioso sanguine redemit?” (Serm. xxxiii.) Some expressly blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ of that God who died on a cross for the love of them. God! if we were not subject to death, we should be glad to die for Jesus Christ, in order to make some little return of gratitude to a God who gave his life for us.

I say, a little return of gratitude; for there is no comparison between the death of a miserable creature, and the death of a God. But instead of loving and blessing this God, you, as St. Augustine says, revile and curse him. ”Christ was scourged by the lash of the Jews; but he is not less scourged by the blasphemies of false Christians.” (S. Aug. in Joan.) Some have blasphemed and insulted the Virgin Mary, that good mother, who loves us so tenderly, and prays continually for us. Some of these blasphemers have received a horrible chastisement from God.

Surius relates, in the 7th August, that a certain impious Christian blasphemed the blessed Virgin, and pierced her image with a dagger. As soon as he went out of the church to which the image belonged, he was struck by a thunderbolt, and reduced to ashes. The infamous Nestorious blasphemed, and induced others to blaspheme, most holy Mary, by asserting that she was not the mother of God. But, before death, his impious tongue was eaten away by worms, and he died in despair.

3. “Who is this who speaketh blasphemies?” (Luke v. 21.) He is a Christian who has received the holy sacrament of baptism, in which his tongue has been in a certain manner consecrated to God. A learned author says, that on the tongue of all who are baptized is placed blessed salt, ”that the tongues of Christians may be made, as it were, sacred, and may be accustomed to bless God.” (Clericat. torn. 1. Dec. Tract. 52.) And the blasphemer afterwards makes his tongue, as St. Bernardine says, a sword to pierce the heart of God. “Lingua blasphemantis efficitur quasi gladius cor Dei penetrans.” (Tom. 4. serm. xxxiii.)

Hence the saint adds that no sin contains in itself so much malice as the sin of blasphemy. ”Nullum est peccatum quod habet in se tantem iniquitatem sicut blasphemia.” St. Chrysostom says, that”there is no sin worse than blasphemy; for in it is the accumulation of all evils, and every punishment.” St. Jerome teaches the same doctrine. ”Nothing,” says the holy doctor, ”is more horrible than blasphemy; for every sin, compared with blasphemy, is small.” (In Isa. cxviii.)

And here it is necessary to observe, that blasphemies against the saints, against holy things or holidays such as the sacraments, the Mass, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, Holy Saturday are of the same species as blasphemies against God; for St. Thomas teaches, that, as the honour paid to the saints, to holy things, and holidays, is referred to God, so an insult offered to the saints is injurious to God, who is the foundation of sanctity. ”Sicut Deus, in sanctis suis laudatur,” as we read in the 150th Psalm, “laudate Dominum in sanctis ejus, ita et blasphemia in sanctos in Deum redundat.” (S. Thorn, qu. 13, a 1 3, a 1, ad 2.) The saint adds, that blasphemy is one of the greatest of the sins against religion. (Ibid. a. 3.)

4. Thus, from the works of St. Jerome we may infer, that blasphemy is more grievous than theft, than adultery, or murder. All other sins, says St. Bernardine proceeds from frailty or ignorance; but the sin of blasphemy proceeds from malice. ”Omnia alia peccata vindentur procedere partim ex fragilitate, partim ex ignorantia, sed peccatum blasphemia procedit ex propria malitia.” (Cic. serm. xxx.) For it proceeds from a bad will, and from a certain hatred conceived against God. Hence the blasphemer renders himself like the damned, who, as St. Thomas says, do not now blaspheme with the mouth for they have no body, but with the heart, cursing the divine justice which punishes them. ”The detestation of the divine justice is in them an interior blasphemy of the heart.” (S. Thom. 2, 2, qu. 13, a. 4.)

The saint adds, that we may believe that as the saints in heaven, after the resurrection shall praise God with the tongue, so the reprobates in hell shall also blaspheme him with the tongue. ”Et credibile est quod post resurrectionem erit in eis etiam vocalis blasphemiæ sicut in sanctis vocalis laus Dei.” Justly, then, has a learned author called blasphemy the language of hell; because, as God speaks by the mouth of the saints so the devil speaks by the mouth of blasphemers. ”Blasphemia est peccatum diabolicum, loquela infernalis: sicut enim Spiritus Sanctus loquitur per bonos ita et diabolus per blasphemos.” (Mansi. Discors, 7, num. 2.) When St. Peter denied Christ in the Palace of Pilate, and swore that he did not know him, the Jews said, that his language showed that he was a disciple of Jesus, because he spoke the language of his Master. ”Surely,” they said, “thou also art one of them; for even thy speech doth discover thee.” (Matt. xxvi. 73.)

Thus we may say to every blasphemer: You are from hell; you are a true disciple of Lucifer; for you speak the language of the damned. St. Antonine writes, that the entire occupation of the damned in hell consists in blaspheming and cursing God. ”Non aliud apus inferno exercent nisi blasphemare Deum et maledicere.” (Part 2, tit. 7, cap. iii.) In proof of this doctrine the saint adduces the following text of the Apocalypse: ”And they gnawed their tongues for pain: and they blasphemed the God of heaven.” (Apoc. xvi. 10, 11.) The holy doctor afterwards adds, that he who indulges in the vice of blasphemy, already belongs to the number of the damned, because he practises their art. ”Qui ergo hoc vitio detinetur ostendit se pertinere ad statum damnatorum, ex quo exercet artem eorum.” (Ibid.)

5. To the malice of blasphemy is added the malice of scandal, which generally accompanies blasphemy; for this sin is ordinarily committed externally and in presence of others. St. Paul reproved the Jews, because by their sins they caused the Gentiles to blaspheme our God, and to laugh at his law. “For the name of God, through you, is blasphemed by the Gentiles.” (Rom. ii. 24.) But how much more criminal are Christians, who, by their blasphemies, induce other Christians to imitate their example! How does it happen, that in certain provinces blasphemies are never, or at least very seldom, heard, and that in other places this horrible vice is so prevalent, that the Lord may say of them: ”My name is continually blasphemed all the day long.” (Isa. Iii, 5.)

In the squares, houses, cities, villas, nothing is heard but blasphemies. How does this happen? Some of the inhabitants learn to blaspheme from others: children from their parents, servants from their masters, the young from the old. In some families particularly the vice of blasphemy seems to be transmitted as an inheritance. The father is a blasphemer; hence, the sons and nephews blaspheme: to this inheritance their descendants succeed. O accursed father! Instead of instructing your children to bless the name of God, you teach them to blaspheme him and his saint. ”But I reprove them when they blaspheme in my presence.” Of what use are these reproofs, when with your own mouth you give them bad example. For God’s sake, for God’s sake, O fathers of families, never blaspheme; but be particularly on your guard never to blaspheme in presence of your children.

This is a crime which God can no longer bear in you. And whenever you hear any of your children utter a blasphemy, reprove them severely, and, in obedience to the advice of St. Chrysostom, strike him on the mouth, and you shall thus sanctify your hand. ”Contere os ipsius, manum tuam percussione sanctificat.” (Hom. i. ad pop.) Certain fathers unmercifully beat a child for the neglect of some temporal business; but if he blaspheme the saints, they either laugh at his blasphemies, or listen to them in silence. St. Gregory relates (Dial. 4., cap. xvii.), that a child of five years, the son of a Roman noble man, was in the habit of profaning the name of God. The father neglected to correct him; but he one day saw his son pursued by certain black men. The child ran to embrace his father; but they, who were so many devils, killed him in the father‟s arms, and carried him with them to hell.

Second Point – On the great rigour with which God punishes the sin of blasphemy.

6. “Woe to the sinful nation… they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa. i. 4.) Woe to blasphemers, eternal woe to them: for, according to Tobias, they shall be condemned. ”They shall be condemned that blaspheme thee.” (Job xiii. 16.) The Lord has said by the mouth of Job, “Thou imitatest the tongue of blasphemers; thy own mouth shall condemn, and not I.” (Job xv. 5, 6.)

In pronouncing the sentence of their condemnation, God will say: It is not I that condemn you to hell; it is your own mouth, with which you have dared to revile me and .my saints, that condemns you. Poor miserable blasphemers! They shall continue to blaspheme in hell for their greater torment: their very blasphemies in hell shall always remind them that they are damned for ever in punishment of their blasphemies on earth.

7. But blasphemers are punished not only in hell, but even on this earth. In the Old Law they were stoned by the people. “And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die; all the multitude shall stone him.” (Lev. xxiv. 76.) In the New Law they were condemned to death by the Emperor Justinian. St. Louis, King of France, ordered them to be punished by perforating their tongue, and by branding their forehead with a red hot iron; and when they afterwards relapsed into blasphemy, he ordained that they should die on the scaffold. (Homo Bon. de cas. res. p. 2, c. i.)

Another author says, that the law renders blasphemers (as being infamous) incapable of giving testimony. (Navarr. cons. 11, de offic. ord.) By the constitution of Gregory the Fourteenth, they were deprived of Christian burial. In the Authentica ut non luxur hom., it is said that blasphemies bring on famine, earthquakes, and pestilence. ”Propter blasphemias, et fames, et terræmotus et pestilentia fiunt.” You, O blasphemer, complain that though you labour and submit to fatigue, you are always in poverty. You say: ”I know not why I am always in misery: some malediction must have fallen on my family.” No; the blasphemies which you utter are the cause of your wretchedness, and make you always an object of God’s malediction.

8. O! how many melancholy examples could I mention of blasphemers who have died a bad death. Father Segneri relates, (Tom. 1, Rag. 8,) that, in Gascony, two men who had blasphemed the blood of Jesus Christ, were soon after killed in a quarrel, and torn to pieces by dogs. In Mexico, a blasphemer being once reproved, answered: ”I will hereafter blaspheme more than I have hitherto done.” During the night he found his tongue sowed under the palate, and died in that miserable state without giving the least sign of repentance. Dresselius relates, that a certain person was struck blind in the very act of blaspheming.

Another, in uttering a blasphemy against St. Anthony, was seized by a flame which issued from the image of the saint, and was burnt alive. In his book against blasphemy, Sarnelli relates, that in Constantinople, a man called Simon Tornaco, who had blasphemed God, began like a mad dog to lacerate his own flesh, and died in his madness. Canta- pratensis states (cap. xlviii.), that a person who had been guilty of blasphemy, had his eyes distorted, and that falling on the ground he bellowed like an ox, and con tinued to roar aloud until he expired. In the Gallician Mercury (lib. x.) we read that a man named Michael, who had been condemned to be hanged, when he felt the pain of the halter, burst out into blasphemies, and died instantly. After death his head fell from the body, and the tongue remined hanging out from the neck, as black as coal. I abstain from fatiguing you with other terrible examples: you can find a great many of them in the work of Father Sarnelli against blasphemy.

9. But to conclude. Tell me, blasphemers, if there be any of you present, what benefit do you derive from your accursed blasphemies? You do not receive pleasure from them. Bellarmine says, that blasphemy is a sin which produces no pleasure. You derive no profit from them; for, as I have already said, your blasphemies are the cause of your poverty and wretchedness. You derive no honour from them; your fellow- blasphemers have a horror of your blasphemies, and call you a mouth of hell.

Tell me, then, why you blaspheme. “Father, the habit which I have contracted is the cause of my blasphemies.” But can this habit excuse you before God? If a son beat his father, and say to him: ”My father, have compassion on me: for I have contracted a habit of beating you :” would the father take pity on him? You say that you blaspheme through the anger caused by your children, your wife, or your master. Your wife or your master put you into a passion, and you take revenge on the saints. What injury have the saints done to you? They intercede before God in your behalf, and you blaspheme them. But”the devil tempts me at that time.” If the devil tempts you, follow the example of a certain young man, who, when tempted to blaspheme, went for advice to the Abbot Pemene.

The abbot told him, that as often as the devil tempted him to commit this sin, his answer should be: Why should I blaspheme that God who has created me, and bestowed so many benefits upon me? I will forever praise and bless him. The young man followed the advice, and Satan ceased to tempt him. When you are excited to anger, can you speak nothing but blasphemies? Say on such occasions: “Accursed sin, I hate thee: Lord, assist me: Mary, obtain for me the gift of patience.” And if you have hitherto contracted the abominable habit of blaspheming, renew every morning, as soon as you rise, the resolution of doing violence to yourself to abstain from all blasphemies during the day: and then say three Aves to most holy Mary, that she may obtain for you the grace to resist every temptation by which you shall be assailed.