ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN – St. Alphonsus

SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. – ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.

“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.” MATT. vii. 18.

THEN the gospel of this day tells us, that a good plant cannot produce bad fruit, and that a bad one cannot produce good fruit. Learn from this, brethren, that a good father brings up good children. But, if parents be wicked, how can the children be virtuous? Have you ever, says the Redeemer, in the same gospel, seen grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? “Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles ?” (v. 16.) And, in like manner, it is impossible, or rather very difficult, to find children virtuous, who are brought up by immoral parents.

Fathers and mothers, be attentive to this sermon, which is of great importance to the eternal salvation of yourselves and of your children. Be attentive, young men and young women, who have not as yet chosen a state of life. If you wish to marry, learn this day the obligations which you can contract with regard to the education of your children; and learn also that, if you do not fulfil them, you shall bring yourselves and all your children to damnation.

I shall divide this sermon into two points. In the first, I shall show how important it is to bring up children in habits of virtue; and in the second, I shall show with what care and diligence a parent ought to labour to bring them up well.

First Point – How very important it is to bring up children in habits of virtue.

1. A father owes two obligations to his children; he is bound to provide for their corporal wants, and to educate them in habits of virtue. It is not necessary at present to say more on the first obligation, than that there are some fathers more cruel than the most ferocious of wild beasts; for these do not forget to nourish their offspring; but certain parents squander away in eating and drinking, and gaming, all their property, or all the fruits of their industry, and allow their children to die of hunger. But let us come to the education, which is the subject of my discourse.

2. It is certain that a child’s future good or ill conduct depends on his being brought up well or ill. Nature itself teaches every parent to attend to the education of his offspring. He who has given them being ought to endeavour to make life useful to them. God gives children to parents, not that they may assist the family, but that they may be brought up in the fear of God, and be directed in the way of eternal salvation. ”We have,” says St. Chrysostom, ”a great deposit in children; let us attend to them with great care.” (Hom, ix., in 1 ad Tit.)

Children have not been given to parents as a present, which they may dispose of as they please, but as a trust, for which, if lost through their negligence, they must render an account to God. The Scripture tells us, that when a father observes the divine law, both he and his children shall prosper. “That it may be well with thee and thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is pleasing in the sight of God.” (Deut. xii. 25.) The good or ill conduct of a parent may be known, by those who have not witnessed it, from the life which his children lead. “For by the fruit the tree is known. ” (Matt. xii. 33.)

”A father, ” says Ecclcsiasticus, ”who leaves a family, when he departs this life, is as if he had not died; because his sons remain, and exhibit his habits and character. His father is dead, and he is as if he were not dead; for he hath left one behind him that is like himself.” (Eccl. xxx. 4.) When we find a son addicted to blasphemies, to obscenities, and to theft, we have reason to suspect that such too was the character of the father. ”For a man is known by his children.” (Eccl. xi. 30.)

3. Hence Origen says, that on the day of judgment parents shall have to render an account for all the sins of their children. “Omnia quæcumque delinquerint filii, a parentibus requiruntur. ” (Grig., Lib. 2, in Job.) Hence, he who teaches his son to live well, shall die a happy and tranquil death. ”He that teacheth his son …when he died he was not sorrowful, neither was he confounded.” (Eccl. xxx. 3, 5.)

And he shall save his soul by means of his children; that is, by the virtuous education which he has given them. ”She shall be saved through childbearing.” (1 Tim. ii. 15.) But, on the other hand, a very uneasy and unhappy death shall be the lot of those who have laboured only to increase the possessions, or to multiply the honours of their family; or who have sought only to lead a life of ease and pleasure, but have not watched over the morals of their children. St. Paul says, that such parents are worse than infidels. “But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. v. 8.)

“Were fathers or mothers to lead a life of piety and continual prayer, and to communicate every day, they should be damned if they neglected the care of their children. “Would to God that certain parents paid as much attention to their children as they do to their horses! How careful are they to see that their horses are fed and well trained! And they take no pains to make their children attend at catechism, hear mass, or go to confession. “We take more care” says St. Chrysostom, “of our asses and horses, than of the children. ”(Hom, x., in Matt.)

4. If all fathers fulfilled their duty of watching over the education of their children, we should have but few crimes and few executions. By the bad education which parents give to their offspring, they cause their children, says St. Chrysostom, to rush into many grievous vices; and thus they deliver them up to the hands of the executioner. ”Majoribus illos malis involvimus, et carnificum manibus damus.” (Serin, xx., de divers.) Hence, in Lacedemon, a parent, as being the cause of all the irregularities of his children, was justly punished for their crimes with greater severity than the children themselves.

Great indeed is the misfortune of the child that has vicious parents, who are incapable of bringing up their children in the fear of God, and who, when they see their children engaged in dangerous friendships and in quarrels, instead of correcting and chastising them, rather take compassion on them, and say: ”What can be done? They are young; they must take their course.” Oh! what wicked maxims! what a cruel education! Do you hope that when your children grow up they shall become saints? Listen to what Solomon says: ”A young man, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. xxii. 6.) A young man who has contracted a habit of sin will not abandon it even in his old age. ”His bones,” says Job, ”shall be filled with the vices of his youth, and they shall sleep with him in the dust.” (Job xx. 11.)

When a young person has lived in evil habits, his bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth, so that he will carry them with him to death; and the impurities, blasphemies, and hatred to which he was accustomed in his youth, shall accompany him to the grave, and shall sleep -with him after his bones shall be reduced to dust and ashes.

It is very easy, when they are small, to train up children to habits of virtue; but, when they have come to manhood, it is equally difficult to correct them, if they have learned habits of vice. But, let us come to the second point that is, to the means of bringing up children in the practice of virtue.

I entreat you, fathers and mothers, to remember what I now say to you; for on it depends the eternal salvation of your own souls, and of the souls of your children.

Second Point – On the care and diligence with which parents ought to endeavour to bring up their children in habits of virtue.

5. St. Paul teaches sufficiently, in a few words, in what the proper education of children consists. He says that it consists in discipline and correction. “And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord.” (Ephes. vi. 4 )

Discipline, which is the same as the religious regulation of the morals of children, implies an obligation of educating them in habits of virtue by word and example. First, by words: a good father should often assemble his children, and instil into them the holy fear of God. It was in this manner that Tobias brought up his little son. The father taught him from his childhood to fear the Lord and to fly from sin. ”And from his infancy he taught him to fear God and to abstain from sin. ” (Tob. i. 10.) The Wise Man says that a well educated son is the support and consolation of his father. “Instruct thy son, and he shall refresh thee, and shall give delight to thy soul.” (Prov. xxix. J7.)

But, as a well instructed son is the delight of his father’s soul, so an ignorant child is a source of sorrow to a father’s heart; for the ignorance of his obligations as a Christian is always accompanied with a bad life. Cantipratensis relates (lib. 1, cap. 20) that, in the year 1248, an ignorant priest was commanded, in a certain synod, to make a discourse. But while he was greatly agitated by the command, the devil appeared to him, and instructed him to say: ”The rectors of infernal darkness salute the rectors of parishes, and thank them for their negligence in instructing the people; because from ignorance proceed the misconduct and the damnation of many.” The same is true of negligent parents.

In the first place, a parent ought to instruct his children in the truths of faith, and particularly in the four principal mysteries. First, that there is but one God, the Creator, and Lord of all things; secondly, that this God is a remunerator, who, in the next life, shall reward the good with the eternal glory of Paradise, and shall punish the wicked with the everlasting torments of hell; thirdly, the mystery of the holy Trinity that is, that in God there are Three Persons, who are only one God, because they have but one essence; fourthly, the mystery of the incarnation of the Divine Word the Son of God, and true God, who became man in the womb of Mary, and suffered and died for our salvation.

Should a father or a mother say: I myself do not know these mysteries, can such an excuse be admitted? that is, can one sin excuse another? If you are ignorant of these mysteries you are obliged to learn them, and afterwards teach them to your children.

At least, send your children to the catechism. Oh! what a misery to see so many fathers and mothers who are unable to instruct their children in the most necessary truths of faith, and who, instead of sending their sons and daughters to the Christian doctrine on festivals, employ them in messages, or other occupations of little moment; and when grown up they know not what is meant by mortal sin, by hell, or eternity. They do not even know the Creed, the Pater Noster, or the Hail Mary, which every Christian is bound to learn under pain of mortal sin.

6. Religious parents not only instruct their children in these things, which are the most important, but they also teach them the acts which ought to be made every morning after rising. They teach them, first, to thank God for having preserved their life during the night; secondly, to offer to God all the good actions which they will perform, and all the pains which they shall suffer during the day; thirdly, to implore of Jesus Christ and most holy Mary to preserve them from all sin during the day.

They teach them to make every evening an examen of conscience and an act of contrition. They also teach them to make every day the acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, to recite the Rosary, and to visit the Blessed Sacrament. Some good fathers of families are careful to get a book of meditations read, and to have mental prayer in common for half an hour every day. This is what the Holy Ghost exhorts you to practise. “Hast thou children? Instruct them and bow down their neck from their childhood.” (Eccl. vii. 25.)

Endeavour to train them from their infancy to these religious hahits, and when they grow up they shall persevere in them. Accustom them also to go to confession and communion every week. Be careful to make them go to confession when they arrive at the age of seven, and to communion at the age of ten. This is the advice of St. Charles Borromeo. As soon as they attain the use of reason make them receive the sacrament of confirmation.

7. It is also very useful to infuse good maxims into the infant minds of children. Oh! what ruin is brought upon his children by the father who teaches them worldly maxims!”You must,” some people say to their children, ”seek the esteem and applause of the world. God is merciful; he takes compassion on certain sins.” Miserable the young man who sins in obedience to such maxims. Good parents teach very different maxims to their children. Queen Blanche, the mother of St. Louis, King of France, used to say to him: “My son, I would rather see you dead in my arms than in the state of sin.”

Oh! brethren, let it be your practice also to infuse into your children certain maxims of salvation, such as, “What will it profit us to gain the whole world, if we lose our own souls? Every thing on this earth has an end; but eternity never ends. Let all be lost, provided God is not lost.” One of these maxims well impressed on the mind of a young person will preserve him always in the grace of God.

8. But parents are obliged to instruct their children in the practice of virtue, not only by words, but still more by example. If you give your children bad example, how can you expect that they will lead a good life? When a dissolute young man is corrected for a fault, he answers: Why do you censure me, when my father does worse. “The children will complain of an ungodly father, because for his sake they are in reproach. ”(Eccl. xli. 10.)

How is it possible for a son to be moral and religious, when he has had the example of a father who was accustomed to utter blasphemies and obscenities; who spent the entire day in the tavern, in gaming and drunkenness; who was in the habit of frequenting houses of bad fame, and of defrauding his neighbour?

Do you expect that your son will go frequently to confession, when you yourself approach the tribunal of penance scarcely once a year? Children are like apes; they do what they see their parents do. It is related in the fables, that a crab-fish one day rebuked its young for walking crookedly. They replied: Father, let us see you walk. The father walked before them more crookedly than they did. This is what happens to the parent who gives bad example. Hence, he has not even courage to correct his children for the sins which he himself commits.

9. But though he should correct them, by words, of what use is his correction when he sets them a bad ex ample by his acts? It has been said in the council of Bishops, that”men believe the eyes rather than the ears.” And St. Ambrose says: ”The eyes convince me of what they see more quickly than the ear can insinuate what is past.” (Serm. xxiii., de S. S.) According to St. Thomas, scandalous parents compel, in a certain manner, their children to lead a bad life. ”Eos ad peccatum, quantum in eis fuit obligaverunt” (in Ps. xvi).

They are not, says St. Bernard, fathers, but murderers; they kill, not the bodies, but the souls of their children. “Non parentes, sed peremptores.” It is useless for them to say: ”My children have been born with bad dispositions.” This is not true; for, as Seneca says, ”you err, if you think that vices are born with us; they have been engrafted.” (Ep. xciv.) Vices are not born with your children, but have been communicated to them by the bad example of the parents. If you had given good example to your sons, they should not be so vicious as they are.

O brethren, frequent the sacraments, assist at sermons, recite the Rosary every day, abstain from all obscene language, from, detraction, and from quarrels; and you shall see that your sons will go often to confession, will assist at sermons, will say the Rosary, will speak modestly, and will fly from detraction and disputes. It is particularly necessary to train up children to virtue in their infancy: ”Bow down their neck from their childhood ;” for when they have grown up and contracted bad habits, it will be very difficult for you to produce, by words, any amendment in their lives.

10. To bring up children in the discipline of the Lord, it is also necessary to take away from them the occasion of doing evil. Hence a father must, in the first place, forbid his children to go out at night, or to go to a house in which their virtue might be exposed to danger, or to keep bad company. ”Cast out,” said Sarah to Abraham, ”this bondwoman and her son.” (Gen. xxi. 10.) She wished to have Ishmael, the son of Agar the bondwoman, banished from her house, that her son Isaac might not learn his vicious habits. Bad companions are the ruin of young persons. A father should not only remove the evil which he witnesses, but he is also bound to inquire after the conduct of his children, and to seek information from domestics and from externs regarding the places which his sons frequent when they leave home, regarding their occupations and companions.

Secondly, he should take from them every musical instrument which is to them an occasion of going out at night, and all forbidden weapons which may lead them into quarrels or disputes.

Thirdly, he should dismiss all immoral servants; and, if his sons be grown up, he should not keep in his house any young female servant. Some parents pay little attention to this; and when the evil happens they complain of their children, as if they expected that tow thrown into the fire should not burn.

Fourthly, a father ought to forbid his children ever to bring into his house stolen goods such as fowl, fruit, and the like. When Tobias heard the bleating of a goat in his house, he said: “Take heed, lest perhaps it be stolen; restore ye it to its owners.” (Tob. li. 21.)

How often does it happen that, when a child steals something, the mother says to him: ”Bring it to me, my son.” Parents should prohibit to their children all games which bring destruction on their families and on their own souls, and also masks, scandalous comedies, and certain, dangerous conversations and parties of pleasure.

Fifthly, a father should remove from his house romances, which pervert young persons, and all bad books which contain pernicious maxims, tales of obscenity, or of profane love.

Sixthly, he ought not to allow his children to sleep in his own bed, nor the males and females to sleep together.

Seventhly, he should not permit his daughters to be alone with men, whether young or old. But some will say: ”Such a man teaches my daughters to read and write, etc.; he is a saint.” The saints are in heaven; but the saints that are on earth are flesh, and by proximate occasions they may become devils.

Eighthly, if he has daughters, he should not permit young men to frequent his house. To get their daughters married, some mothers invite young men to their houses. They are anxious to see their daughters married; but they do not care to see them in sin. These are the mothers who, as David says, immolate their daughters to the devil. ”They sacrifice their sons and their daughters to devils.” (Ps. cv. 37.) And to excuse themselves they will say: ”Father, there is no harm in what I do.”

There is no harm! Oh! how many mothers shall we see condemned on the day of judgment on account of their daughters! The conduct of such mothers is at least a subject of conversation among their neighbours and equals; and, for all, the parents must render an account to God. O fathers and mothers! confess all the sins you have committed in this respect, before the day on which you shall be judged arrives.

11. Another obligation of parents is, to correct the faults of the family. “Bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord. ” There are fathers and mothers who witness faults in the family, and remain silent. A certain mother was in the habit of acting in this manner. Her husband one day took a stick and began to beat her severely. She cried out, and said: “I am doing nothing. Why do you beat me ?” “I beat you, ”replied the husband, ”because you see, and do not correct, the faults of the children because you do nothing.” Through fear of displeasing their children some fathers neglect to correct them; but, if you saw your son falling into a pool of water, and in danger of being drowned, would it not be savage cruelty not to catch him by the hair and save his life?”

He that spareth the rod hateth his son.” (Prov. xiii. 24.) If you love your sons correct them, and, while they are growing up chastise them, even with the rod, as often as it may be necessary. I say, ”with the rod,” but not with the stick; for you must correct them like a father, and not like a galley sergeant. You must be careful not to beat them when you are in a passion; for, you shall then be in danger of beating them with too much severity, and the correction will be without fruit; for they then believe that the chastisement is the effect of anger, and not of a desire on your part to see them amend their lives. I have also said that you should correct them “while they are growing up ;” for, when they arrive at manhood, your correction will be of little use. Y

ou must then abstain from correcting them with the hand; otherwise, they shall hecome more perverse, and shall lose their respect for you. But of what use is it to correct children by so many injurious words and by so many imprecations? Deprive them of some part of their meals, of certain articles of dress, or shut them up in a room. But I have said enough. Dearly beloved brethren, draw from the discourse which you have heard the conclusion, that he who has brought up his children badly shall be severely punished; and that he who has trained them to habits of virtue shall receive a great reward.

ON THE VANITY OF THE WORLD – St. Alphonsus

“And have nothing to eat.” MARK viii. 2.

1. SUCH were the attractions of our Divine Saviour, and such the sweetness with which he received all, that he drew after him thousands of the people. Ho one day saw himself surrounded by a great multitude of men, who followed him and remained with him three days, without eating anything. Touched with pity for them, Jesus Christ said to his disciples: ”I have compassion on the multitude; for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat.” (Mark viii. 2.)

He, on this occasion, wrought the miracle of the multiplication of the seven loaves and a few fishes, so as to satisfy the whole multitude. This is the literal sense; but the mystic sense is, that in this world there is no food which can fill the desire of our souls. All the goods of this earth riches, honours, and pleasures delight the sense of the body, but cannot satiate the soul, which has been created” for God, and which God alone can content. ”

I will, therefore speak Today on the vanity of the world, and will show how great is the illusion of the lovers of the world, who lead an unhappy life on this earth, and expose themselves to the imminent danger of a still more unhappy life in eternity.

2. “O ye sons of men,” exclaims the Royal Prophet, against worldlings, ”how long will you be dull at heart? Why do you love vanity and seek after lying ?” (Ps. iv. 3.) O men, fools, how long will you fix the affections of your hearts on this earth? why do you love the goods of this world, which are all vanity and lies? Do you imagine that you shall find peace by the acquisition of these goods? But how can you expect to find peace, while you walk in the ways of affliction, and misery?

Behold how David describes the condition of worldlings. ”Destruction and unhappiness in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.” (Ps. xiii. 3.) You hope to obtain peace from the world; but how can the world give you that peace which you seek, when St. John says, ”that the whole world is seated in wickedness ?” (1 John v. 19.) The world is full of iniquities; hence worldlings live under the despotism of the wicked one that is, the Devil. The Lord has declared that there is no peace for the wicked who live without his grace. ”There is no peace to the wicked.” (Isa. xlviii. 22.)

3. The goods of the world are but apparent goods, which cannot satisfy the heart of man. “You have eaten,” says the Prophet Aggeus, ”and have not had enough.” (Ag. i. 6) Instead of satisfying our hunger they increase it. ”These,” says St. Bernard, “provoke rather than extinguish hunger.” If the goods of this work! made men content, the rich and powerful should enjoy complete happiness; but experience shows the contrary. We see every day that they are the most unhappy of men; they appear always oppressed by fears, by jealousies and sadness.

Listen to King Solomon, who abounded in these goods: ”And behold all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Eccl. i. 14.) He tells us, that all things in this world are vanity, lies, and illusion. They are not only vanity, but also affliction of spirit. They torture the poor soul, which finds in them a continual source, not of happiness, but of affliction and bitterness. This is a just punishment on those who instead of serving their God with joy, wish to serve their enemy the world which makes them endure the want of every good. ”Because thou didst not  serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness of heart thou shaft serve thy enemy in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things. ”(Deut. xxviii. 47, 48.)

Man expects to content his heart with the goods of this earth; but, howsoever abundantly he may possess them, he is never satisfied. Hence, he always seeks after more of them, and is always unhappy. Oh! happy he who wishes for nothing but God; for God will satisfy all the desires of his heart. “Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart.” (Ps. xxxvi. 4.) Hence St. Augustine asks: “What, miserable man, dost thou seek in seeking after goods? Seek one good, in which are all goods.” And, having dearly learned that the goods of this world do not content, but rather afflict the heart of man, the saint, turning to the Lord, said: “All things are hard, and thou alone repose.”

Hence in saying, “My God and my all,” the seraphic St. Francis, though divested of all worldly goods, enjoyed greater riches and happiness than an the worldlings on this earth. Yes; for the peace which fills the soul that desires nothing but God, surpasses all the delights which creatures can give. They can only delight the senses, but cannot content the heart of man. “The peace of God which surpasseth all understanding.” (Phil. iv. 7.)

According to St. Thomas, the difference between God, the sovereign good, and the goods of the earth, consists in this, that he more perfectly we possess God, the more ardently we love him, because the more perfectly we possess him, the better we comprehend his infinite greatness, and therefore the more we despise other things; but, when we possess temporal goods, we despise them, because we see their emptiness, and desire other things, which may make us content. “Summum bonum quanto perfectius possidetur, tanto magis amatur, et alia contemnuntur. Sed in appetitu temporalium bonorum, quando habentur, contemnentur, et alia appetuntur.” (S. Thom, i. 2, qu. 2, art. 1, ad. 3.)

4. The Prophet Osee tells us that the world holds in its hand a deceitful balance. ”He is like Chanaan” (that is the world); “there is a deceitful balance in his hand.” (Osee xii. 7.) We must, then, weigh things in the balance of God, and not in that of the world, which makes them appear different i rom what they are. What are the goods of this life?”My days, ”said Job, “have been swifter than a post: they have passed by as ships carrying fruits.” (Job ix. 25, 26.)

The ships signify the lives of men, which soon pass away, and run speedily to death; and if men have laboured only to provide themselves with earthly goods, these fruits decay at the hour of death: we can bring none of them with us to the other world. We, says St. Ambrose, falsely call these things our property, which we cannot bring witli us to eternity, where we must live for ever, and where virtue alone will accompany us. “Non nostra sunt, quæ non possumus auferre nobiscum: sola virtus nos comitatur.”

You, says St. Augustine, attend only to what a rich man possessed; but tell me, which of his possessions shall he, now that he is on the point of death, be able to take with him?”Quid hie habebat attendis, quid secum fert, atteudo ?” (Serm. xiii. de Adv. Dom.) The rich bring with them a miserable garment, which shall rot with them in the grave. And should they, during life, have acquired a great name, they shall be soon forgotten. ”Their memory hath perished with a noise.” (Ps. ix. 7.)

5. Oh! that men would keep before their eyes that great maxim of Jesus Christ”What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul ?” (Matt. xvi. 26.) If they did, they should certainly cease to love the world. What shall it profit them at the hour of death to have acquired all the goods of this world, if their souls must go into hell to be in torments for all eternity? How many has this maxim, sent into the cloister and into the desert? How many martyrs has it encouraged to embrace torments and death! In the history  of England, we read of thirty kings and queens, who left the world and became religious, in order to secure a happy death.

The consideration of the vanity of earthly goods made St. Francis Borgia retire from the world. At the sight of the Empress Isabella, who had died in the flower of youth, he came to the resolution of serving God alone. “Is such, then,” he said, ”the end of all the grandeur and crowns of this world? Henceforth I will serve a master who can never die.” The day of death is called”the day of destruction” (“The day of destruction is at hand”(Deut. xxxii. 35), because on that day we shall lose and give up all the goods of the world all its riches, honours, and pleasures.

The shade of death obscures all the treasures and grandeurs of this earth; it obscures even the purple and the crown. Sister Margaret of St. Anne, a Discalced Carmelite, and daughter of the Emperor Rodolph the Second, used to say: ”What do kingdoms profit us at the hour of death ?” “The affliction of an hour maketh one forget great delights.” (Eccl. xi. 29.) The melancholy hour of death puts an end to all the delights and pomps of this life. St. Gregory says, that all goods which cannot remain with us, or which are incapable of taking away our miseries, are deceitful. ”Fallaces sunt que nobiscum permanere non possunt: fallaces sunt que mentis nostræ inopiam non expellunt.” (Hom. xv. in Luc.)

Behold a sinner whom the riches and honours which he had acquired made an object of envy to others. Death came upon him when he was at the summit of his glory, and he is no longer what he was. “I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus; and I passed by, and lo! he was not; and I sought him, and his place was not found.” (Ps. xxxvi. 35, 38.)

6. These truths the unhappy damned fruitlessly confess in hell, where they exclaim with tears: “What hath pride profited us? or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.” (Wis. v. 8, 9.) What, they say, have our pomps and riches profited us, now that they are all passed away like a shadow, and for us nothing remains but eternal torments and despair?

Dearly beloved Christians, let us open our eyes, and now that we have it in our power, let us attend to the salvation of our souls; for, if we lose them, we shall not be able to save them in the next life. Aristippus, the philosopher, was once shipwrecked, and lost all his goods; but such was the esteem which the people entertained for him on account of his learning, that, as soon as he reached the shore, they presented him with an equivalent for all that he had lost. He then wrote to his friends, and exhorted them to attend to the acquisition of goods which cannot be lost by shipwreck.

Our relatives and friends who have passed into eternity exhort us, from the other world, to labour in this life for the attainment of goods which are not lost at death. If at that awful moment we shall be found to have attended only to the accumulation of earthly goods, we shall be called fools, and shall receive the reproach addressed to the rich man in the gospel, who, after having reaped an abundant crop from his fields, said to himself: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thy rest, eat, drink, make good cheer. But, God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided ?” (Luke xii. 19,20.)

He said, ”they require thy soul of thee,” because to everyman his soul is given, not with full power to dispose of it as he pleases, but it is given to him in trust, that he may preserve and return it to God in a state of innocence, when it shall be presented at the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge. The Redeemer concludes this parable by saying: ”So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God” (v. 21).

This is what happens to those who seek to enrich themselves with the goods of this life, and not with the love of God. Hence St. Augustine asks: ”What has the rich man if he has not charity? If the poor man has charity, what is there that he has not ?” He that possesses all  the treasures of this world, and has not charity, is the poorest of men; but the poor who have God possess all things, though they should be bereft of all earthly goods.

7. “The children of this world,“ says Jesus Christ, ”are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” (Luke xvi. 8.) how wise in earthly affairs are worldlings, who live in the midst of the darkness of the world! “Behold,” says St. Augustine, ”how much men suffer for things for which they entertain a vicious love.” “What fatigue do they endure for the acquisition of property, or of a situation of emolument! With what care do they endeavour to preserve their bodily health! They consult the best physician, and procure the best medicine. And Christians, who are the children of light, will take no pains, will suffer nothing, to secure the salvation of their souls! God! at the light of the candle which lights them to death, at that hour, at that time, which is called the time of truth, worldlings shall see and confess their folly.

Then each of them shall exclaim: that I had led the life of a saint! At the hour of death, Philip the Second, King of Spain, called in his son, and having shown him his breast devoured with worms, said to him: Son, behold how we die; behold the end of all worldly greatness. He then ordered a wooden cross to be fastened to his neck; and, having made arrangements for his death, he turned again to his son, and said: My son, I wished you to be present at this scene, that you might understand how the world in the end treats even monarchs. He died saying: Oh, that I had been a lay brother in some religious order, and that I had not been a king! Such is the language at the hour of death, even of the princes of the earth, whom worldlings regard as the most fortunate of men. But these desires and sights of regret serve only to increase the anguish and remorse of the lovers of the world at the hour of death, when the scene is about to close.

8. And what is the present life but a scene, which soon passes away for ever? It may end when we least expect it. Cassimir, King of Poland, while he sat at table with his grandees, died in the act of raising a cup to take a draught; thus the scene ended for him. The Emperor Celsus was put to death in seven days after his election; and the scene closed for him.

Ladislaus, King of Bohemia, in his eighteenth year, while he was preparing for the reception of his spouse, the daughter of the King of France, was suddenly seized with a violent pain, which took away his life. Couriers were instantly despatched to announce to her that the scene was over for Ladislaus, that she might return to France. “The world,” says Cornelius à Lapide, in his comment upon this passage, “is like a stage. One generation passes away, and a new generation comes.

The king does not take wiih him the purple. Tell me, villa, O house, how many masters had you ?” In every age the inhabitants of this earth are changed. Cities and kingdoms are filled with new people. The first generation passes to the other world, a second comes on, and this is followed by another. He who, in the scene of this world, has acted the part of a king is no longer a king. The master of such a villa or palace is no longer its master. Hence the Apostle gives us the following advice: “The time is short; it remaineth that… they that use this world be as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (I Cor. vii. 29, 30.)

Since the time of our dwelling on this earth is short, and since all must end with our death, let us make use of this world to despise it, as if it did not exist for us; and let us labour to acquire the eternal treasures of Paradise, where, as the Gospel says, there are no moths to consume, nor thieves to steal them. ”But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (Matt. vi. 20.)

St. Teresa used to say: ”We should not set value on what ends with life; the true life consists in living in such a manner as not to be afraid of death.” Death shall have no terror for him who, during life, is detached from the vanities of this world, and is careful to provide himself only with goods which shall accompany him to eternity, and make him happy for ever.

ON THE SIN OF ANGER – St. Alphonsus

“Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.” MATT. v. 2.

ANGER resembles fire; hence, as fire is vehement in its action, and, by the smoke which it produces, obstructs the view, so anger makes men rush into a thousand excesses, and prevents them from seeing the sinfulness of their conduct, and thus exposes them to the danger of the judgment of eternal death. “Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.”

Anger is so pernicious to man that it even disfigures his countenance. No matter how comely and gentle he may be, he shall, as often as he yields to the passion of anger, appear to be a monster and a wild beast full of terror. ”Iracundus,” says St. Basil, ”humanam quasi liguram amittit, ferae specimen indutus.” (Hom, xxi.)

But, if anger disfigures us before men, how much more deformed will it render us in the eyes of God! In this discourse I will show, in the first point, the destruction which anger unrestrained brings on the soul; and, in the second, how we ought to restrain anger in all occasions of provocation which may occur to us.

First Point

The ruin which anger unrestrained brings on the soul.

1. St. Jerome says that anger is the door by which all vices enter the soul. ”Omnium vitiorum jantia est iracundia.” (Inc. xxix. Prov.) Anger precipitates men into resentments, blasphemies, acts of injustice, detractions, scandals, and other iniquities; for the passion of anger darkens the understanding, and makes a man act like a beast and a madman. ”Caligavit ab indignatione oculus meus.” (Job xvii. 7.) My eye has lost its sight through indignation. David said: ”My eye is troubled with wrath.” (Ps. xxx. 10.)

Hence, according to St. Bonaventure, an angry man is incapable of distinguishing between what is just and unjust. ”Iratus non potest videre quod justum est vel injustum.” In a word, St. Jerome says that anger deprives a man of prudence, reason, and understanding. ”Ab omni concilio deturpat, ut donee irascitur, insanire credatur.” Hence St. James says: ”The anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” (St. James i. 20.) The acts of a man under the influence of anger cannot be conformable to the divine justice, and consequently cannot be faultless.

2. A man who does not restrain the impulse of anger, easily falls into hatred towards the person who has been the occasion of his passion. According to St. Augustine, hatred is nothing else than persevering anger. “Odium est ira diuturno tempore perseverans.” Hence St. Thomas says that”anger is sudden, but hatred is lasting. ” (Opusc. v.)

It appears, then, that in him in whom anger perseveres hatred also reigns. But some will say: I am the head of the house; I must correct my children and servants, and, when necessary, I must raise my voice against the disorders which I witness. I say in answer: It is one thing to be angry against a brother, and another to be displeased at the sin of a brother.

To be angry against sin is not anger, but zeal; and therefore it is not only lawful, but is sometimes a duty. But our anger must be accompanied with prudence, and must appear to be directed against sin, but not against the sinner; for, if the person whom we correct perceive that we speak through passion and hatred towards him, the correction will be unprofitable and even mischievous.

To be angry, then, against a brother’s sin is certainly lawful. ”He,” says St. Augustine, ”is not angry with a brother who is angry against a brother‟s sin.” It is thus, as David said, we may be angry without sin. ”Be ye angry, and sin not.” (Ps. iv. 5.) But, to be angry against a brother on account of the sin which he has committed is not lawful; because, according to St. Augustine, we are not allowed to hate others for their vices. ”Nee propter vitia (licet) homines odisse” (in Ps. xcviii).

3. Hatred brings with it a desire of revenge; for, according to St. Thomas, anger, when fully voluntary, is accompanied with a desire of revenge. ”Ira est appetitus vindicteo.” But you will perhaps say: If I resent such an injury, God will have pity on me, because I have just grounds of resentment Who, I ask, has told you that you have just grounds for seeking revenge?

It is you, whose understanding is clouded by passions, that say so. I have already said that anger obscures the mind, and takes away our reason and understanding. As long as the passion of auger lasts, you will consider your neighbour’s conduct very unjust and intolerable; but, when your anger shall have passed away, you shall see that his act was not so bad as it appeared to you. But, though the injury be grievous, or even more grievous, God will not have compassion, on you if you seek revenge.

No, he says: vengeance for sins belongs not to you, but to me; and when the time shall come I will chastise them as they deserve. ”Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time.” (Deut. xxxii. 35.) If you resent an injury done to you by a neighbour, God will justly inflict vengeance on you for all the injuries you have offered to him, and particularly for taking revenge on a brother whom he commands you to pardon. ”He that seeketh to revenge himself, shall find vengeance from the Lord …. Man to man reserveth anger, and doth he seek remedy of God? …. He that is but flesh nourisheth anger; and doth he ask forgiveness of God? Who shall obtain pardon for his sins ?” (Eccl. xxviii. 1, 3, 5.)

Man, a worm of flesh, reserves anger, and takes revenge on a brother: does he afterwards dare to ask mercy of God? And who, adds the sacred writer, can obtain pardon for the iniquities of so daring a sinner? “Qua ironte,” says St. Augustine, ”indulgentiam peccatorem obtinere poterit, qui præcipienti dare veniam non acquiescit.” How can he who will not obey the command of God to pardon his neighbour, expect to obtain from God the forgiveness of his own sins?

4. Let us implore the Lord to preserve us from yielding to any strong passion, and particularly to anger. “Give me not over to a shameful and foolish mind.” (Eccl. xxiii. 6.) For, he that submits to such a passion is exposed to great danger of falling into a grievous sin against God or his neighbour.

How many, in consequence of not restraining anger, break out into horrible blasphemies against God or his saints! But, at the very time we are in a flame of indignation, God is armed with scourges. The Lord said one day to the Prophet Jeremias: “What seest thou, Jeremias? And I said: I see a rod watching. ” (Jer. i. 11.) Lord, I behold a rod watching to inflict punishment. ”The Lord asked him again: “What seest thou? And I said: I see a boiling caldron.” (Ibid., v. 13.). The boiling chaldron is the figure of a man inflamed with wrath, and threatened with a rod, that is, with the vengeance of God. Behold, then, the ruin which anger unrestrained brings on man.

It deprives him, first, of the grace of God, and afterwards of corporal life. ”Envy and anger shortens a man‟s days.” (Eccl. xxx. 26.) Job says: ”Anger indeed killeth the foolish.” (Job v. 2.) All the days of their life, persons addicted to anger are unhappy, because they are always in a tempest. But let us pass to the second point, in which I have to say many things which will assist you to overcome this vice.

Second Point.

How we ought to restrain anger in the occasions of provocation which occur to us.

5. In the first place it is necessary to know that it is not possible for human weakness, in the midst of so many occasions, to be altogether free from every motion of anger. “No one, ” as Seneca says, “can be entirely exempt from this passion. ” “Iracundia nullum genus hominum excipit” (I. 3, c. xii). All our efforts must be directed to the moderation of the feelings of anger which spring up in the soul. How are they to be moderated?

By meekness. This is called the virtue of the lamb that is, the beloved virtue of Jesus Christ. Because, like a lamb, without anger or even complaint, he bore the sorrows of his passion and crucifixion. ”He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.” (Isa. liii. 7.) Hence he has taught us to learn of him meekness and humility of heart. ”Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matt. xi. 29)

6. Oh! how pleasing in the sight of God are the meek, who submit in peace to all crosses, misfortunes, persecutions, and injuries! To the meek is promised the kingdom of heaven. ”Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.” (Matt. v. 4.)

They are called the children of God. ”Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. ” (Ibid., v. 9.) Some boast of their meekness, but without any grounds; for they are meek only towards those who praise and confer favours upon them: but to those who injure or censure them they are all fury and vengeance. The virtue of meekness consists in being meek and peaceful towards those who hate and maltreat us. “With them, that hated peace I was peaceful.” (Ps. cxix. 7.)

7. We must, as St. Paul says, put on the bowels of mercy towards all men, and bear one with another. “Put on ye the bowels of mercy, humility, modesty, patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another.” (Col iii. 12, 13.) You wish others to bear with your defects, and to pardon your faults; you should act in the same manner towards them. Whenever, then, you receive an insult from a person enraged against you , remember that a “mild answer breaketh wrath,” (Prov. xv. 1.)

A certain monk once passed through a cornfield: the owner of the field ran out, and spoke to him in very offensive and injurious language. The monk humbly replied: Brother, you are right; I have done wrong; pardon me. By this answer the husbandman was so much appeased that he instantly became calm, and even wished to follow the monk, and to enter into religion. The proud make use of the humiliations they receive to increase their pride; but the humble and the meek turn the contempt and insults offered to them into an occasion of advancing in humility. “He,” says St. Bernard, ”is humble who converts humiliation into humility.” (Ser. xxiv. in Can.)

8. “A man of meekness,” says St. Chrysostom, “is useful to himself and to others.” The meek are useful to themselves, because, according to F. Alvares, the time of humiliation and contempt is for them the time of merit. Hence, Jesus Christ calls his disciples happy when they shall be reviled and persecuted. “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you and persecute you.” (Matt. v. 11.)

Hence, the saints have always desired to be despised as Jesus Page 145 of 233 Christ has been despised. The meek are useful to others; because, as the same St. Chrysostom says, there is nothing better calculated to draw others to God, than to see a Christian meek and cheerful when he receives an injury or an, insult. ”Nihil ita conciliat Domino familiares ut quod ilium vident mansuetudine jucundum.” The reason is, because virtue is known by being tried; and, as gold is tried by fire, so the meekness of men is proved by humiliation. “Gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. ” (Eccl. ii. 5.)”My spikenard, ”says the spouse in the Canticles, “sent forth the odour thereof” (i. 11.)

The spikenard is an odoriferous plant, but diffuses its odours only when, it is torn and bruised. In this passage the inspired writer gives us to understand, that a man cannot be said to be meek unless he is known to send forth the odour of his meekness by bearing injuries and insults in peace and without anger.

God wishes us to be meek even towards ourselves. When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself, to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself, and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for, while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good. ”My heart is troubled; my strength hath left me.” (Ps. xxx vii. 11.)

9. Thus, when we receive an insult, we must do violence to ourselves in order to restrain anger. Let us either answer with meekness, as recommended above, or let us remain silent; and thus, as St. Isidore says, we shall conquer. “Quamvis quis irritet, tu dissimula, quia tacendo vinces.” But, if you answer through passion, you shall do harm to yourselves and others. It would be still worse to give an angry answer to a person who corrects you. ”Medicanti irascitur,” says St. Bernard, ”qui non irascitur sagittanti.” (Ser. vi. de Nativ.) Some are not angry, though they ought to be indignant with those who wound their souls by flattery; and are filled with indignation against the person who censures them in order to heal their irregularities.

Against the man who abhors correction, the sentence of perdition has, according to the Wise Man, been pronounced. “Because they have despised all my reproofs,. . . .the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” (Prov. i. 30, etc.) Fools regard as prosperity to be free from correction, or to despise the admonitions which they receive; but such prosperity is the cause of their ruin. When you meet with an occasion of anger, you must, in the first place, be on your guard not to allow anger to enter your heart. “Be not quickly angry” (Eccles. vii. 10.)

Some persons change colour, and get into a passion, at every contradiction: and when anger has got admission, God knows to what it shall lead them. Hence, it is necessary to foresee these occasions in our meditations and prayers; for, unless we are prepared for them, it will be as difficult to restrain anger as to put a bridle on a horse while running away.

10. Whenever we have the misfortune to permit anger to enter the soul, let us be careful not to allow it to remain. Jesus Christ tells all who remember that a brother is offended with them, not to offer the gift which they bring to the altar without being first reconciled to their neighbour. ”Go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.” (Matt. v. 24.) And he who has received any offence, should endeavour to root out of his heart not only all anger, but also every feeling of bitterness towards the persons who have offended him.

“Let all bitterness,” says St. Paul, “and anger and indignation be put away from you.” (Eph. iv. 31.) As long as anger continues, follow the advice of Seneca”When you shall be angry do nothing, say nothing, which may be dictated by anger.” Like David, be silent, and do not speak, when you feel that you are disturbed. ”I was troubled, and I spoke Page 146 of 233 not.” (Ps. Ixxvi. 5.) How many when inflamed with anger, say and do what they afterwards, in their cooler moments, regret, and excuse themselves by saying that they were in a passion?

As long, then, as anger lasts we must be silent, and abstain from doing or resolving to do anything; for, what is done in the heat of passion will, according to the maxim of St. James, be unjust. ”The anger of man worketh not the justice of God.” (i. 20.) It is also necessary to abstain altogether from consulting those who might foment our indignation. “Blessed,” says David, “is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.” (Ps. i. 1.) To him who is asked for advice, Ecclesiasticus says. “If thou blow the spark, it shall burn as a fire; and if thou spit upon it, it shall be quenched.” (Eccl. xxviii. 14.)

When a person is indignant at some injury which he has received, you may, by exhorting him to patience, extinguish the fire; but, if you encourage revenge, you may kindle a great flame. Let him, then, who feels himself in any way inflamed with anger, be on his guard against false friends, who, by an imprudent word, may be the cause of his perdition.

11. Let us follow the advice of the apostle: ”Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Hom, xii. 21.) “Be not overcome by evil:” do not allow yourself to be conquered by sin. If, through anger, you seek revenge or utter blasphemies, you are overcome by sin. But you will say: “I am naturally of a warm temper.”

By the grace of God, and by doing violence to yourself, you will be able to conquer your natural disposition. Do not consent to anger, and you shall subdue the warmth of your temper. But you say: ”I cannot bear with unjust treatment.” In answer I tell you, first, to remember that anger obscures reason, and prevents us from seeing things as they are. “Fire hath fallen on them, and they shall not see the sun.” (Ps. lvii. 9.) Secondly, if you return evil for evil, your enemy shall gain a victory over you. ”If,” said David, ”I have rendered to them that repaid me evils, let me deservedly fall empty before my enemies.” (Ps. vii. 5.)

If I render evil for evil, I shall be defeated by my enemies. ”Overcome evil by good. ”Render every foe good for evil. ”Do good,” says Jesus Christ, “to them that hate you.” (Matt. v. 44.) This is the revenge of the saints, and is called by St. Paulinus, Heavenly revenge. It is by such revenge that you shall gain the victory. And should any of those, of whom the Prophet says, ”The venom, of asps is under their lips” (Ps. cxxxix. 4), ask how you can submit to such an injury, let your answer be: “The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John xviii. 11.)

And then turning to God you shall say: ”I opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it” (Ps. xxxviii. 10), for it is certain that every cross which befalls you comes from the Lord. “Good things and evil are from God.” (Eccl xi. 14.) Should any one take away your property, recover it if you can; but if you cannot, say with Job: ”The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away” (i. 21.) A certain philosopher, who lost some of his goods in a storm, said: ”If 1 have lost my goods I will not lose my peace.” And, do you say: If I have lost my property, I will not lose my soul.

12. In fine, when we meet with crosses, persecutions, and injuries, let us turn to God, who commands us to bear them with patience; and thus we shall always avoid anger. “Remember the fear of God, and be not angry with thy neighbour.” (Eccl. xxviii. 8.) Let us give a look at the will of God, which disposes things in this manner for our merit, and anger shall cease.

Let us give a look at Jesus crucified, and we shall not have courage to complain. St. Eleazar being asked by his spouse how he bore so many injuries without yielding to anger, answered: I turn to Jesus Christ, and thus I preserve my peace. Finally, let us give a glance at our sins, for which we have deserved far greater contempt and chastisement, and we shall calmly submit to all evils.

St. Augustine says, that though we are sometimes innocent of the crime for which we are persecuted, we are, nevertheless, guilty of other sins which merit greater punishment than that which we endure. “Esto non habemus peccatum, quod objicitur: habemus tamen, quod digne in nobis flagelletur.” (in Ps. Ixviii.)

Fr. Carota’s 1 Year Anniversary Of His Passing

This was sent to me today.  As I am many states away, I will not be able to go myself.  Please remember to say rosaries for the repose of his soul and to have masses said for him.


Dear Friends,
On the one year anniversary of Fr. Peter Carota’s death (Sat July 8th) please gather with us to pray a rosary for our beloved friend and priest, Fr. Peter Carota. We will Pray for him at his grave and share our stories at the park.

Please share this with those who loved Father and would like to attend.

Schedule: July 8
9 am: Rosary at St Johns Cemetery at the grave site, St. Patricks Church.

10 am: A potluck brunch at a park in Escalon.  The Park is next to Escalon feed and Supply (17407 Escalon – Bellota Rd) It is a park with some trees and some covered tables. We are not able to reserve the tables.

Please bring a dish and beverage to share. We are also in need of 100 each of plates, cups, utensils, and napkins. If you can contribute any of these please let us know.

Please also consider bringing folding chairs, tables, or blankets as we don’t know if there will be tables available (they get staked out for parties and events).

We hope to see you there. We love and miss our Fr. Peter. God bless and keep you in his hand!

If you have any questions, please contact me below:

Michael and Jennifer Atwood
209 423-4075 cell |  matwood AT gogrupe.com Email

 

Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae – The Heresy Of Americanism…..

To Our Beloved Son, James Cardinal Gibbons, Cardinal Priest of the Title Sancta Maria, Beyond the Tiber, Archbishop of Baltimore:

LEO XIII, Pope-Beloved Son, Health and Apostolic Blessing: We send to you by this letter a renewed expression of that good will which we have not failed during the course of our pontificate to manifest frequently to you and to your colleagues in the episcopate and to the whole American people, availing ourselves of every opportunity offered us by the progress of your church or whatever you have done for safeguarding and promoting Catholic interests. Moreover, we have often considered and admired the noble gifts of your nation which enable the American people to be alive to every good work which promotes the good of humanity and the splendor of civilization. Although this letter is not intended, as preceding ones, to repeat the words of praise so often spoken, but rather to call attention to some things to be avoided and corrected; still because it is conceived in that same spirit of apostolic charity which has inspired all our letters, we shall expect that you will take it as another proof of our love; the more so because it is intended to suppress certain contentions which have arisen lately among you to the detriment of the peace of many souls.

It is known to you, beloved son, that the biography of Isaac Thomas Hecker, especially through the action of those who under took to translate or interpret it in a foreign language, has excited not a little controversy, on account of certain opinions brought forward concerning the way of leading Christian life.

We, therefore, on account of our apostolic office, having to guard the integrity of the faith and the security of the faithful, are desirous of writing to you more at length concerning this whole matter.

The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to mind. The Vatican Council says concerning this point: “For the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared. Hence that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother, the Church, has once declared, nor is that meaning ever to be departed from under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them.” -Constitutio de Fide Catholica, Chapter iv.

We cannot consider as altogether blameless the silence which purposely leads to the omission or neglect of some of the principles of Christian doctrine, for all the principles come from the same Author and Master, “the Only Begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father.”-John i, I8. They are adapted to all times and all nations, as is clearly seen from the words of our Lord to His apostles: “Going, therefore, teach all nations; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world.”-Matt. xxviii, 19. Concerning this point the Vatican Council says: “All those things are to be believed with divine and catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed.”-Const. de fide, Chapter iii.

Let it be far from anyone’s mind to suppress for any reason any doctrine that has been handed down. Such a policy would tend rather to separate Catholics from the Church than to bring in those who differ. There is nothing closer to our heart than to have those who are separated from the fold of Christ return to it, but in no other way than the way pointed out by Christ.

The rule of life laid down for Catholics is not of such a nature that it cannot accommodate itself to the exigencies of various times and places. (VOL. XXIV-13.) The Church has, guided by her Divine Master, a kind and merciful spirit, for which reason from the very beginning she has been what St. Paul said of himself: “I became all things to all men that I might save all.”

History proves clearly that the Apostolic See, to which has been entrusted the mission not only of teaching but of governing the whole Church, has continued “in one and the same doctrine, one and the same sense, and one and the same judgment,” — Const. de fide, Chapter iv.

But in regard to ways of living she has been accustomed to so yield that, the divine principle of morals being kept intact, she has never neglected to accommodate herself to the character and genius of the nations which she embraces.

Who can doubt that she will act in this same spirit again if the salvation of souls requires it? In this matter the Church must be the judge, not private men who are often deceived by the appearance of right. In this, all who wish to escape the blame of our predecessor, Pius the Sixth, must concur. He condemned as injurious to the Church and the spirit of God who guides her the doctrine contained in proposition lxxviii of the Synod of Pistoia, “that the discipline made and approved by the Church should be submitted to examination, as if the Church could frame a code of laws useless or heavier than human liberty can bear.”

But, beloved son, in this present matter of which we are speaking, there is even a greater danger and a more manifest opposition to Catholic doctrine and discipline in that opinion of the lovers of novelty, according to which they hold such liberty should be allowed in the Church, that her supervision and watchfulness being in some sense lessened, allowance be granted the faithful, each one to follow out more freely the leading of his own mind and the trend of his own proper activity. They are of opinion that such liberty has its counterpart in the newly given civil freedom which is now the right and the foundation of almost every secular state.

In the apostolic letters concerning the constitution of states, addressed by us to the bishops of the whole Church, we discussed this point at length; and there set forth the difference existing between the Church, which is a divine society, and all other social human organizations which depend simply on free will and choice of men.

It is well, then, to particularly direct attention to the opinion which serves as the argument in behalf of this greater liberty sought for and recommended to Catholics.

It is alleged that now the Vatican decree concerning the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff having been proclaimed that nothing further on that score can give any solicitude, and accordingly, since that has been safeguarded and put beyond question a wider and freer field both for thought and action lies open to each one. But such reasoning is evidently faulty, since, if we are to come to any conclusion from the infallible teaching authority of the Church, it should rather be that no one should wish to depart from it, and moreover that the minds of all being leavened and directed thereby, greater security from private error would be enjoyed by all. And further, those who avail themselves of such a way of reasoning seem to depart seriously from the over-ruling wisdom of the Most High-which wisdom, since it was pleased to set forth by most solemn decision the authority and supreme teaching rights of this Apostolic See-willed that decision precisely in order to safeguard the minds of the Church’s children from the dangers of these present times.

These dangers, viz., the confounding of license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church’s teaching office than ever before, lest people become unmindful both of conscience and of duty.

We, indeed, have no thought of rejecting everything that modern industry and study has produced; so far from it that we welcome to the patrimony of truth and to an ever-widening scope of public well-being whatsoever helps toward the progress of learning and virtue. Yet all this, to be of any solid benefit, nay, to have a real existence and growth, can only be on the condition of recognizing the wisdom and authority of the Church.

Coming now to speak of the conclusions which have been deduced from the above opinions, and for them, we readily believe there was no thought of wrong or guile, yet the things themselves certainly merit some degree of suspicion. First, all external guidance is set aside for those souls who are striving after Christian perfection as being superfluous or indeed, not useful in any sense -the contention being that the Holy Spirit pours richer and more abundant graces than formerly upon the souls of the faithful, so that without human intervention He teaches and guides them by some hidden instinct of His own. Yet it is the sign of no small over-confidence to desire to measure and determine the mode of the Divine communication to mankind, since it wholly depends upon His own good pleasure, and He is a most generous dispenser ‘of his own gifts. “The Spirit breatheth whereso He listeth.” — John iii, 8.

“And to each one of us grace is given according to the measure of the giving of Christ.” — Eph. iv, 7.

And shall any one who recalls the history of the apostles, the faith of the nascent church, the trials and deaths of the martyrs- and, above all, those olden times, so fruitful in saints-dare to measure our age with these, or affirm that they received less of the divine outpouring from the Spirit of Holiness? Not to dwell upon this point, there is no one who calls in question the truth that the Holy Spirit does work by a secret descent into the souls of the just and that He stirs them alike by warnings and impulses, since unless this were the case all outward defense and authority would be unavailing. “For if any persuades himself that he can give assent to saving, that is, to gospel truth when proclaimed, without any illumination of the Holy Spirit, who give’s unto all sweetness both to assent and to hold, such an one is deceived by a heretical spirit.”-From the Second Council of Orange, Canon 7.

Moreover, as experience shows, these monitions and impulses of the Holy Spirit are for the most part felt through the medium of the aid and light of an external teaching authority. To quote St. Augustine. “He (the Holy Spirit) co-operates to the fruit gathered from the good trees, since He externally waters and cultivates them by the outward ministry of men, and yet of Himself bestows the inward increase.”-De Gratia Christi, Chapter xix. This, indeed, belongs to the ordinary law of God’s loving providence that as He has decreed that men for the most part shall be saved by the ministry also of men, so has He wished that those whom He calls to the higher planes of holiness should be led thereto by men; hence St. Chrysostom declares we are taught of God through the instrumentality of men.-Homily I in Inscrib. Altar. Of this a striking example is given us in the very first days of the Church.

For though Saul, intent upon blood and slaughter, had heard the voice of our Lord Himself and had asked, “What dost Thou wish me to do?” yet he was bidden to enter Damascus and search for Ananias. Acts ix: “Enter the city and it shall be there told to thee what thou must do.”

Nor can we leave out of consideration the truth that those who are striving after perfection, since by that fact they walk in no beaten or well-known path, are the most liable to stray, and hence have greater need than others of a teacher and guide. Such guidance has ever obtained in the Church; it has been the universal teaching of those who throughout the ages have been eminent for wisdom and sanctity-and hence to reject it would be to commit one’s self to a belief at once rash and dangerous.

A thorough consideration of this point, in the supposition that no exterior guide is granted such souls, will make us see the difficulty of locating or determining the direction and application of that more abundant influx of the Holy Spirit so greatly extolled by innovators To practice virtue there is absolute need of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, yet we find those who are fond of novelty giving an unwarranted importance to the natural virtues, as though they better responded to the customs and necessities of the times and that having these as his outfit man becomes more ready to act and more strenuous in action. It is not easy to understand how persons possessed of Christian wisdom can either prefer natural to supernatural virtues or attribute to them a greater efficacy and fruitfulness. Can it be that nature conjoined with grace is weaker than when left to herself?

Can it be that those men illustrious for sanctity, whom the Church distinguishes and openly pays homage to, were deficient, came short in the order of nature and its endowments, because they excelled in Christian strength? And although it be allowed at times to wonder at acts worthy of admiration which are the outcome of natural virtue-is there anyone at all endowed simply with an outfit of natural virtue? Is there any one not tried by mental anxiety, and this in no light degree? Yet ever to master such, as also to preserve in its entirety the law of the natural order, requires an assistance from on high These single notable acts to which we have alluded will frequently upon a closer investigation be found to exhibit the appearance rather than the reality of virtue. Grant that it is virtue, unless we would “run in vain” and be unmindful of that eternal bliss which a good God in his mercy has destined for us, of what avail are natural virtues unless seconded by the gift of divine grace? Hence St. Augustine well says: “Wonderful is the strength, and swift the course, but outside the true path.” For as the nature of man, owing to the primal fault, is inclined to evil and dishonor, yet by the help of grace is raised up, is borne along with a new greatness and strength, so, too, virtue, which is not the product of nature alone, but of grace also, is made fruitful unto everlasting life and takes on a more strong and abiding character.

This over esteem of natural virtue finds a method of expression in assuming to divide all virtues in active and passive, and it is alleged that whereas passive virtues found better place in past times, our age is to be characterized by the active. That such a division and distinction cannot be maintained is patent-for there is not, nor can there be, merely passive virtue. “Virtue,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “designates the perfection of some faculty, but end of such faculty is an act, and an act of virtue is naught else than the good use of free will,” acting, that is to say, under the grace of God if the act be one of supernatural virtue.

He alone could wish that some Christian virtues be adapted to certain times and different ones for other times who is unmindful of the apostle’s words: “That those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son.”- Romans viii, 29. Christ is the teacher and the exemplar of all sanctity, and to His standard must all those conform who wish for eternal life. Nor does Christ know any change as the ages pass, “for He is yesterday and to-day and the same forever.”-Hebrews xiii, 8. To the men of all ages was the precept given: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.”-Matt. xi, 29.

To every age has He been made manifest to us as obedient even unto death; in every age the apostle’s dictum has its force: “Those who are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with its vices and concupiscences.” Would to God that more nowadays practiced these virtues in the degree of the saints of past times, who in humility, obedience and self-restraint were powerful “in word and in deed” -to the great advantage not only of religion, but of the state and the public welfare.

From this disregard of the – angelical virtues, erroneously styled passive, the step was a short one to a contempt of the religious life which has in some degree taken hold of minds. That such a value is generally held by the upholders of new views, we infer from certain statements concerning the vows which religious orders take. They say vows are alien to the spirit of our times, in that they limit the bounds of human liberty; that they are more suitable to weak than ›o strong minds; that so far from making for human perfection and the good of human organization, they are hurtful to both; but that this is as false as possible from the practice and the doctrine of the Church is clear, since she has always given the very highest approval to the religious method of life; nor without good cause, for those who under the divine call have freely embraced that state of life did not content themselves with the observance of precepts, but, going forward to the evangelical counsels, showed themselves ready and valiant soldiers of Christ. Shall we judge this to be a characteristic of weak minds, or shall we say that it is useless or hurtful to a more perfect state of life?

Those who so bind themselves by the vows of religion, far from having suffered a loss of liberty, enjoy that fuller and freer kind, that liberty, namely, by which Christ hath made us free. And this further view of theirs, namely, that the religious life is either entirely useless or of little service to the Church, besides being injurious to the religious orders cannot be the opinion of anyone who has read the annals of the Church. Did not your country, the United States, derive the beginnings both of faith and of culture from the children of these religious families? to one of whom but very lately, a thing greatly to your praise, you have decreed that a statue be publicly erected. And even at the present time wherever the religious families are found, how speedy and yet how fruitful a harvest of good works do they not bring forth! How very many leave home and seek strange lands to impart the truth of the gospel and to widen the bounds of civilization; and this they do with the greatest cheerfulness amid manifold dangers! Out of their number not less, indeed, than from the rest of the clergy, the Christian world finds the preachers of God’s word, the directors of conscience, the teachers of youth and the Church itself the examples of all sanctity.

Nor should any difference of praise be made between those who follow the active state of life and those others who, charmed with solitude, give themselves to prayer and bodily mortification. And how much, indeed, of good report these have merited, and do merit, is known surely to all who do not forget that the “continual prayer of the just man” avails to placate and to bring down the blessings of heaven when to such prayers bodily mortification is added.

But if there be those who prefer to form one body without the obligation of the vows let them pursue such a course. It is not new in the Church, nor in any wise censurable. Let them be careful, however, not to set forth such a state above that of religious orders. But rather, since mankind are more disposed at the present time to indulge themselves in pleasures, let those be held in greater esteem “who having left all things have followed Christ.”

Finally, not to delay too long, it is stated that the way and method hitherto in use among Catholics for bringing back those who have fallen away from the Church should be left aside and another one chosen, in which matter it will suffice to note that it is not the part of prudence to neglect that which antiquity in its long experience has approved and which is also taught by apostolic authority. The scriptures teach us that it is the duty of all to be solicitous for the salvation of one’s neighbor, according to the power and position of each. The faithful do this by religiously discharging the duties of their state of life, by the uprightness of their conduct, by their works of Christian charity and by earnest and continuous prayer to God. On the other hand, those who belong to the clergy should do this by an enlightened fulfillment of their preaching ministry, by the pomp and splendor of ceremonies especially by setting forth that sound form of doctrine which Saint Paul inculcated upon Titus and Timothy. But if, among the different ways of preaching the word of God that one sometimes seems to be preferable, which directed to non-Catholics, not in churches, but in some suitable place, in such wise that controversy is not sought, but friendly conference, such a method is certainly without fault. But let those who undertake such ministry be set apart by the authority of the bishops and let them be men whose science and virtue has been previously ascertained. For we think that there are many in your country who are separated from Catholic truth more by ignorance than by ill-will, who might perchance more easily be drawn to the one fold of Christ if this truth be set forth to them in a friendly and familiar way.

From the foregoing it is manifest, beloved son, that we are not able to give approval to those views which, in their collective sense, are called by some “Americanism.” But if by this name are to be understood certain endowments of mind which belong to the American people, just as other characteristics belong to various other nations, and if, moreover, by it is designated your political condition and the laws and customs by which you are governed, there is no reason to take exception to the name. But if this is to be so understood that the doctrines which have been adverted to above are not only indicated, but exalted, there can be no manner of doubt that our venerable brethren, the bishops of America, would be the first to repudiate and condemn it as being most injurious to themselves and to their country. For it would give rise to the suspicion that there are among you some who conceive and would have the Church in America to be different from what it is in the rest of the world.

But the true church is one, as by unity of doctrine, so by unity of government, and she is catholic also. Since God has placed the center and foundation of unity in the chair of Blessed Peter, she is rightly called the Roman Church, for “where Peter is, there is the church.” Wherefore, if anybody wishes to be considered a real Catholic, he ought to be able to say from his heart the selfsame words which Jerome addressed to Pope Damasus: “I, acknowledging no other leader than Christ, am bound in fellowship with Your Holiness; that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that the church was built upon him as its rock, and that whosoever gathereth not with you, scattereth.”

We having thought it fitting, beloved son, in view of your high office, that this letter should be addressed specially to you. It will also be our care to see that copies are sent to the bishops of the United States, testifying again that love by which we embrace your whole country, a country which in past times has done so much for the cause of religion, and which will by the Divine assistance continue to do still greater things. To you, and to all the faithful of America, we grant most lovingly, as a pledge of Divine assistance, our apostolic benediction.

Given at Rome, from St. Peter’s, the 22nd day of January, 1899, and the thirty-first of our pontificate.

Leo XIII

 

To Read More On The Topic Of Americanism, check out this Article by Dr. John Rao.