On Modesty – Extracts from, ‘The True Spouse of Jesus Christ’ 

Here are some quotes I find on Modest here

Modesty of the Eyes 

‘Turn away your eyes lest they behold vanity; (cf. Ps. 119:37) for license causes souls to perish.’

St. Poemen
Extracts from, ‘The True Spouse of Jesus Christ’
by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Almost all our rebellious passions spring from unguarded looks; for, generally speaking, it is by the sight that all inordinate affections and desires are excited.

Hence, holy Job made a covenant with his eyes, that he would not so much as think upon a virgin.

Why did he say that he would not so much as think upon a virgin? Should he not have said that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a virgin? No; he very properly said that he would not think upon a virgin; because thoughts are so connected with looks, that the former cannot be separated from the latter, and therefore, to escape the molestation of evil imaginations, he resolved never to fix his eyes on a woman.

St. Augustine says: “The thought follows the look; delight comes after the thought; and consent after delight.” From the look proceeds the thought; from the thought the desire; for, as St. Francis de Sales says, what is not seen is not desired, and to the desire succeeds the consent.

If Eve had not looked at the forbidden apple, she should not have fallen; but because she saw that it was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and beautiful to behold, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.

The devil first tempts us to look, then to desire, and afterwards to consent.

St. Jerome says that Satan requires “only a beginning on our part.” If we begin, he will complete our destruction.

A deliberate glance at a person of a different sex often enkindles an infernal spark, which consumes the soul. “Through the eyes,” says St. Bernard, “the deadly arrows of love enter.” The first dart that wounds and frequently robs chaste souls of life finds admission through the eyes. By them David, the beloved of God, fell. By them was Solomon, once the inspired of the Holy Ghost, drawn into the greatest abominations. Oh! how many are lost by indulging their sight!

The eyes must be carefully guarded by all who expect not to be obliged to join in the lamentation of Jeremiah: “My eye hath wasted my soul.” By the introduction of sinful affections my eyes have destroyed my soul. Hence St. Gregory says, that “the eyes, because they draw us to sin, must be depressed.”

If not restrained, they will become instruments of hell, to force the soul to sin almost against its will.

“He that looks at a dangerous object,” continues the saint, “begins to will what he wills not.” It was this the inspired writer intended to express when he said of Holofernes, that the beauty of Judith made his soul captive.

Seneca says that “blindness is a part of innocence.” And Tertullian relates that a certain pagan philosopher, to free himself from impurity, plucked out his eyes. Such an act would be unlawful in us: but he that desires to preserve chastity must avoid the sight of objects that are apt to excite unchaste thoughts. “Gaze not about,” says the Holy Ghost, “upon another’s beauty; . . . hereby lust is enkindled as a fire.” Gaze not upon another’s beauty; for from looks arise evil imaginations, by which an impure fire is lighted up.

Hence St. Francis de Sales used to say, that “they who wish to exclude an enemy from the city must keep the gates locked.” 

Hence, to avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects.

After being a novice for a year, St. Bernard could not tell whether his cell was vaulted. In consequence of never raising his eyes from the ground, he never knew that there were but three windows to the church of the monastery, in which he spent his novitiate.

He once, without perceiving a lake, walked along its banks for nearly an entire day; and hearing his companions speak about it, he asked when they had seen it.

St. Peter of Alcantara kept his eyes constantly cast down, so that he did not know the brothers with whom he conversed. It was by the voice, and not by the countenance, that he was able to recognize them.

The saints were particularly cautious not to look at persons of a different sex.

St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face.

St. Clare would never fix her eyes on the face of a man. She was greatly afflicted because, when raising her eyes at the elevation to see the consecrated host, she once involuntarily saw the countenance of the priest.

St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face.

It is related of St. Arsenius, that a noble lady went to visit him in the desert, to beg of him to recommend her to God. When the saint perceived that his visitor was a woman, he turned away from her, she then said to him: “Arsenius, since you will neither see or hear me, at least remember me in your prayers.” “No,” replied the saint, “but I will beg of God to make me forget you, and never more to think of you.”

From these examples may be seen the folly and temerity of some religious who, though they have not the sanctity of a St. Clare, still gaze around from the terrace, in the parlor, and in the church, upon every object that presents itself, even on persons of a different sex. And notwithstanding their unguarded looks, they expect to be free from temptations and from the danger of sin.

For having once looked deliberately at a woman who was gathering ears of corn, the Abbot Pastor was tormented for forty years by temptations against chastity.

St. Gregory states that the temptation, to conquer which St. Benedict rolled himself in thorns, arose from one incautious glance at a woman.

St. Jerome, though living in a cave at Bethlehem, in continual prayer and macerations of the flesh, was terribly molested by the remembrance of ladies whom he had long before seen in Rome. Why should not similar molestations be the lot of the religious who wilfully and without reserve fixes her eyes on persons of a different sex?

“It is not,” says St. Francis de Sales, “the seeing of objects so much as the fixing of our eyes upon them that proves most pernicious.” “If,” says St. Augustine, “our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one.” Father Manareo, when taking leave of St. Ignatius for a distant place, looked steadfastly in his face: for this look he was corrected by the saint.

From the conduct of St. Ignatius on this occasion, we learn that it was not becoming in religious to fix their eyes on the countenance of a person even of the same sex, particularly if the person is young. But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent. “It is not lawful,” says St. Gregory, “to behold what it is not lawful to covet.”

The evil thought that proceeds from looks, though it should be rejected, never fails to leave a stain upon the soul. Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.

The indulgence of the eyes, if not productive of any other evil, at least destroys recollection during the time of prayer. For, the images and impressions caused by the objects seen before, or by the wandering of the eyes, during prayer, will occasion a thousand distractions, and banish all recollection from the soul. It is certain that without recollection a religious can pay but little attention to the practice of humility, patience, mortification, or of the other virtues. Hence it is her duty to abstain from all looks of curiosity, which distract her mind from holy thoughts. Let her eyes be directed only to objects which raise the soul to God.

St. Bernard used to say, that to fix the eyes upon the earth contributes to keep the heart in heaven. “Where,” says St. Gregory, “Christ is, there modesty is found.” Wherever Jesus Christ dwells by love, there modesty is practised.

However, I do not mean to say that the eyes should never be raised or never fixed on any object. No; but they ought to be directed only to what inspires devotion, to sacred images, and to the beauty of creation, which elevate the soul to the contemplation of the divinity.Except in looking at such objects, a religious should in general keep the eyes cast down, and particulary in places where they may fall upon dangerous objects. In conversing with men, she should never roll the eyes about to look at them, and much less to look at them a second time.

To practise modesty of the eyes is the duty of a religious, not only because it is necessary for her own improvement in virtue, but also because it is necessary for the edification of others.

God only knows the human heart: man sees only the exterior actions, and by them he is edified or scandalized. A man, says the Holy Ghost, is known by his look. By the countenance the interior is known. Hence, like St. John the Baptist, a religious should be a burning and shining light. She ought to be a torch burning with charity, and shining resplendent by her modesty, to all who behold her. To religious the following words of the Apostle are particularly applicable: We are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” And again: Let your modesty be known to all men: the Lord is nigh. Religious are attentively observed by the angels and by men; and therefore their modesty should be made manifest before all; if they do not practise modesty, terrible shall be the account which they must render to God on the day of judgment. Oh! what devotion does a modest religious inspire, what edification does she give, by keeping her eyes always cast down!

St. Francis of Assisi once said to his companion, that he was going out to preach. After walking through the town, with his eyes fixed on the ground, he returned to the convent. His companion asked him when he would preach the sermon. We have, replied the saint, by the modesty of our looks, given an excellent instruction to all who saw us.

It is related of St. Aloysius, that when he walked through Rome the students would stand in the streets to observe and admire his great modesty.

St. Ambrose says, that to men of the world the modesty of the saints is a powerful exhortation to amendment of life.

“The look of a just man is an admonition to many.” The saint adds: “How delightful it is to do good to others by your appearance!”

It is related of St. Bernardine of Sienna, that even when a secular, his presence was sufficient to restrain the licentiousness of his young companions, who, as soon as they saw him, were accustomed to give to one another notice that he was coming. On his arrival they became silent or changed the subject of their conversation. It is also related of St. Gregory of Nyssa, and of St. Ephrem, that their very appearance inspired piety, and that the sanctity and modesty of their exterior edified and improved all that beheld them.

When Innocent II visited St. Bernard at Clairvaux, such was the exterior modesty of the saint and of his monks, that the Pope and his cardinals were moved to tears of devotion. Surius relates a very extraordinary fact of St. Lucian, a monk and martyr. By his modesty he induced so many pagans to embrace the faith, that the Emperor Maximian fearing that he should be converted to Christianity by the appearance of the saint, would not allow the holy man to be brought within his view, but spoke to him from behind a screen.

That our Redeemer was the first who taught, by his example, modesty of the eyes, may, as a learned author remarks, be inferred from the holy evangelists, who say that on some occasion he raised his eyes. “And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples. When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes.” From these passages we may conclude that the Redeemer ordinarily kept his eyes cast down.

Hence the Apostle, praising the modesty of the Saviour, says: I beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ.

I shall conclude this subject with what St. Basil said to his monks: If, my children, we desire to raise the soul towards heaven, let us direct the eyes towards the earth.

From the moment we awake in the morning, let us pray continually in the words of holy David: “Turn away my eyes, that they may not behold vanity.”


“But Jesus hid himself.” JOHN viii. 59.

JESUS CHRIST “is the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. ” (John i. 9.) He enlightens all; but he cannot enlighten those who voluntarily shut their eyes to the light; from them the Saviour hides himself. How then can they, walking in darkness, escape the many dangers of perdition to which we are exposed in this life, which God has given us as the road to eternal happiness?

I will endeavour Today to convince you of the great danger into which tepidity brings the soul, since it makes Jesus Christ hide his divine light from her, and makes him less liberal in bestowing upon her the graces and helps, without which she shall find it very difficult to complete the journey of this life without falling into an abyss that is, into mortal sin.

1. A tepid soul is not one that lives in enmity with God, nor one that sometimes commits venial sins through mere frailty, and not with full deliberation. On account of the corruption of nature by original sin, no man can be exempt from such venial faults. This corruption of nature renders it impossible for us, without a most special grace, which has been given only to the mother of God, to avoid all venial sins during our whole lives. Hence St. John has said: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John i. 8.)

God permits defects of this kind, even in the saints, to keep them humble, and to make them feel that, as they commit such faults in spite of all their good purposes and promises, so also, were they not supported by his divine hand, they would fall into mortal sins. Hence, when we find that we have committed these light faults, we must humble ourselves, and acknowledging our own weakness, we must be careful to recommend ourselves to God, and implore of him to preserve us, by his almighty hand, from more grievous transgressions, and to deliver us from those we have committed.

2. What then are we to understand by a tepid soul? A tepid soul is one that frequently falls into fully deliberate venial sins such as deliberate lies, deliberate acts of impatience, deliberate imprecations, and the like. These faults may be easily avoided by those who are resolved to suffer death rather than commit a deliberate venial offence against God.

St. Teresa used to say, that one venial sin does us more harm than all the devils in hell. Hence she would say to her nuns: “My children, from deliberate sin, however venial it may be, may the Lord deliver you.” Some complain of being left in aridity and dryness, and without any spiritual sweetness. But how can we expect that God will be liberal of his favours to us, when we are ungenerous to him? We know that such a lie, such an imprecation, such an injury to our neighbour, and such detraction, though not mortal sins, are displeasing to God, and still we do not abstain from them. Why then should we expect that God will give us his divine consolations?

3. But some of you will say: Venial sins, however great they may be, do not deprive the soul of the grace of God: even though I commit them I will he saved; and for me it is enough to obtain eternal life. You say that, ”for you it is enough to be saved.” Remember that St. Augustine says that, ”where you have said, „ It is enough‟ there you have perished.” To understand correctly the meaning of these words of St. Augustine, and to see the danger to which the state of tepidity exposes those who commit habitual and deliberate venial sins, without feeling remorse for them, and without endeavouring to avoid them, it is necessary to know that the habit of light faults leads the soul insensibly to mortal sins.

For example: the habit of venial acts of aversion leads to mortal hatred; the habit of small thefts leads to grievous rapine; the habit of venial attachments leads to affections which are mortally sinful. ”The soul,” says St. Gregory, ”never lies where it falls.” (Moral., lib. xxxi.) No; it continues to sink still deeper. Mortal diseases do not generally proceed from serious indisposition, but from many slight and continued infirmities; so, likewise, the fall of many souls into mortal sin follows from habitual venial sins; for these render the soul so weak that, when a strong temptation assails her, she has not strength to resist it, and she falls.

4. Many are unwilling to be separated from God by mortal sins; they wish to follow him, but at a distance, and regardless of venial sins. But to them shall probably happen what befell St. Peter. When Jesus Christ was seized in the garden, St. Peter was unwilling to abandon the Lord, but “followed him afar off.” (Matt. xxvi. 58.) After entering the house of Caiphas, he was charged with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was instantly seized with fear, and three times denied his Master. The Holy Ghost says: ”He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little.” (Eccl. xix. 1.) They who despise small falls will probably one day fall into an abyss; for, being in the habit of committing light offences against God, they will feel but little repugnance to offer to him some grievous insult.

5. The Lord says: ”Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines.” (Cant. ii. 15.) He does not tell us to catch the lions or the bears, but the little foxes. Lions and bears strike terror, and therefore all are careful to keep at a distance through fear of being devoured by them; but the little foxes, though they do not excite dismay, destroy the vine by drying up its roots. Mortal sin terrifies the timorous soul; but, if she accustom herself to the commission of many venial sins with full deliberation, and without endeavouring to correct them, they, like the little foxes, shall destroy the roots that is, the remorse of conscience, the fear of offending God, and the holy desires of advancing in divine love; and thus, being in a state of tepidity, and impelled to sin by some passion, the soul will easily abandon God and lose the divine grace.

6. Moreover, deliberate and habitual venial sins not only deprive us of strength to resist temptations, but also of the special helps without which we fall into grievous sins. Be attentive, brethren; for this is a point of great importance. It is certain, that of ourselves we have not sufficient strength to resist the temptations of the devil, of the flesh, and of the world. It is God that prevents our enemies from assailing us with temptations by which we would be conquered. Hence Jesus Christ has taught us the following prayer: ”And lead us not into temptation.”

He teaches us to pray that God may deliver us from the temptations to which we would yield, and thus lose his grace. Wow, venial sins, when they are deliberate and habitual, deprive us of the special helps of God which are necessary for preservation in his grace. I say necessary, because the Council of Trent anathematizes those who assert that we can persevere in grace without a special help from God. ”Si quis dixerit, justificatum vel sine speciali auxilio Dei in accepta justitia perseverare posse, vel cum eo non posse; anathema sit.” (Sess. 6, can. xxii.) Thus, with the ordinary assistance of God, we cannot avoid falling into some mortal sin: a special aid is necessary. But this special aid God will justly withhold from tepid souls who are regardless of committing, with full deliberation, many venial sins. Thus these unhappy souls shall not persevere in grace.

7. They who are ungenerous to God well deserve that God should not be liberal to them. “He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly.” (2 Cor. ix. 6.) To such souls the Lord will give the graces common to all, but will probably withhold his special assistance; and without this, as we have seen, they cannot persevere without falling into mortal sin. God himself revealed to B. Henry Suso, that, for tepid souls who are content with leading a life exempt from mortal sin, and continue to commit many deliberate venial sins, it is very difficult to preserve themselves in the state of grace.

The venerable Lewis da Ponte used to say: “I commit many defects, but I never make peace with them.” Woe to him who is at peace with his faults! St. Bernard teaches that, as long as a person who is guilty of defects detests his faults, there is reason to hope that he will one day correct them and amend his life: but when he commits faults without endeavouring to amend, he will continually go from bad to worse, till he loses the grace of God. St. Augustine says that, like a certain disease of the skin which makes the body an object of disgust, habitual faults, when committed without any effort of amendment, render the soul so disgusting to God, that he deprives her of his embraces. ”Sunt velut scabies, et nostrum decus ita exterminant ut a sponsi amplcxibus separent.” (Hom. 1., cap. iii.)

Hence the soul, finding no more nourishment and consolation in her devout exercises, in her prayers, communions, or visits to the blessed sacrament, will soon neglect them, and thus neglecting the means of eternal salvation, she shall be in great danger of being lost.

8. This danger will be still greater for those who commit many venial sins through attachment to any passion, such as pride, ambition, aversion to a neighbour, or an inordinate affection for any person. 1st. Francis of Assisium says that, in endeavouring to draw to sin a soul that is afraid of being in enmity with God, the devil does not seek in the beginning to bind her with the chain of a slave, by tempting her to commit mortal sin, Because she would have a horror of yielding to mortal sin, and would guard herself against it. He first endeavours to bind her by a single hair; then by a slender thread; next by a cord; afterwards by a rope; and in the end by a chain of hell that is, by mortal sin; and thus he makes her his slave.

For example: A person cherishes an affection for a female through a motive of courtesy or of gratitude, or from an esteem for her good qualities. This affection is followed by mutual presents; to these succeed words of tenderness; and after the first violent assault of the devil, the miserable man shall find that he has fallen into mortal sin. He meets with the fate of gamesters, who, after frequently losing large sums of money, yield to an impulse of passion, risk their all, and, in the end, lose their entire property.

9. Miserable the soul that allows herself to be the slave of any passion. “Behold, how small a fire what a great wood it kindleth.” (St. James iii. 5.) A small spark, if it be not extinguished, will set fire to an entire wood; that is, an unmodified passion shall bring the soul to ruin. Passion blinds us; and the blind often fall into an abyss when they least expect it. According to St. Ambrose, the devil is constantly endeavouring to find out the passion which rules in our heart, and the pleasures which have the greatest attraction for us. When he discovers them, he presents occasions of indulging them: he then excites concupiscence, and prepares a chain to make us the slaves of hell. ”Tune maxime insidiatur adversarius quando videt in nobis passiones aliquas generari: tune fomites movet, laqueos parat.”

10. St. Chrysostom asserts, that he himself knew many persons who were gifted with great virtues, and who, because they disregarded light faults, fell into an abyss of crime. When the devil cannot gain much from us, he is in the beginning content with the little; by many trifling victories he will make a great conquest. No one, says St. Bernard, suddenly falls from the state of grace into the abyss of wickedness. They who rush into the most grievous irregularities, begin by committing light faults. “Nemo repente fit turpissimus: a minimis incipiunt qui in maxima proruunt.” (Tract de Ord. vita3.) It is necessary also to understand that, when a soul that has been favoured by God with special lights and graces, consents to mortal sin, her fall shall not be a simple fall, from which she will easily rise again, but it will be a precipitous one, from which she will find it very difficult to return to God.

11. Addressing a person in the state of tepidity, our Lord said: ”I would that thou wert cold or hot; but because thou art luke-warm, and neither hot nor cold, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apoc. iii. 15, 16.)”I would thou wert cold” that is, it would be better for thee to be deprived of my grace, because there should then be greater hopes of thy amendment; but, because thou livest in tepidity, without any desire of improvement, ”I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” By these words he means, that he will begin to abandon the soul; for, what is vomited, is taken back only with great horror.

12. A certain author says, that tepidity is a hectic fever, which does not excite alarm, because it is not perceived; but it is, at the same time, so malignant that it is rarely cured. The comparison is very just; for tepidity makes the soul insensible to remorses of conscience; and, as she is accustomed to feel no remorse for venial faults, she will by degrees become insensible to the stings of remorse which arise from mortal sins.

13. Let us come to the remedy. The amendment of a tepid soul is difficult; but there are remedies for those who wish to adopt them.

First, the tepid must sincerely desire to be delivered from a state which, as we have seen, is so miserable and dangerous; for, without this desire, they shall not take pains to employ the proper means.

Secondly, they must resolve to remove the occasions of their faults; otherwise they will always relapse into the same defects.

Thirdly, they must earnestly beg of the Lord to raise them from so wretched a state. By their own strength they can do nothing; but they can do all things with the assistance of God, who has promised to hear the prayers of all. “Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and you shall find.” (Luke xi. 9.) We must pray, and continue to pray without interruption. If we cease to pray we shall be defeated; but if we persevere in prayer we shall conquer.


“Make the men sit down.” JOHN vi. 10.

WE read in this day’s gospel that, having gone up into a mountain with his disciples, and seeing a multitude of five thousand persons, who followed him because they saw the miracles which he wrought on them that were diseased, the Redeemer said to St. Philip: “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat ?” “Lord,” answered St. Philip, ”two-hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient that every one may take a little.”

St. Andrew then said: There is a boy here that has five barley loaves and two fishes; but what are these among so many? But Jesus Christ said: ”Make the men sit down.” And he distributed the loaves and fishes among them. The multitude were satisfied: and the fragments of bread which remained filled twelve baskets. ”

The Lord wrought this miracle through compassion for the bodily wants of these poor people; but far more tender is his compassion for the necessities of the souls of the poor that is, of sinners who are deprived of the divine grace. This tender compassion of Jesus Christ for sinners shall be the subject of this day’s discourse.

1. Through the bowels of his mercy towards men, who groaned under the slavery of sin and Satan, our most loving Redeemer descended from heaven to earth, to redeem and save them from eternal torments by his own death. Such was the language of St. Zachary, the father of the Baptist, when the Blessed Virgin, who had already become the mother of the Eternal Word, entered his house. ”Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us.” (Luke i. 78.)

2. Jesus Christ, the good pastor, who came into the world to obtain salvation for us his sheep, has said: ”I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” (John x. 10.) Mark the expression, “more abundantly” which signifies that the Son of Man came on earth not only to restore us to the life of grace which we lost, but to give us a better life than that which we forfeited by sin. Yes; for as St. Leo says, the benefits which we have derived from the death of Jesus are greater than the injury which the devil has done us by sin. ”Ampliora adepti sumus per Christ! gratiam quam per diaboli amiseramus invidiam.” (Ser. i., de Ascen.) The same doctrine is taught by the Apostle, who says that, “where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” (Rom. v. 20.)

3. But, my Lord, since thou hast resolved to take human flesh, would not a single prayer offered by thee be sufficient for the redemption of all men? What need, then, was there of leading a life of poverty, humiliation, and contempt, for thirty- three years, of suffering a cruel and shameful death on an infamous gibbet, and of shedding all thy blood by dint of torments? I know well, answers Jesus Christ, that one drop of my blood, or a simple prayer, would be sufficient for the salvation of the world; but neither would be sufficient to show the love which I bear to men: and therefore, to be loved by men when they should see me dead on the cross for the love of them, I have resolved to submit to so many torments and to so painful a death. This, he says, is the duty of a good pastor. ”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep… I lay down my life for my sheep.” (John x. 11, 15.)

4. O men, O men, what greater proof of love could the Son of God give us than to lay down his life for us his sheep?”In this we have known the charity of God; because he hath laid down his life for us.” (I John iii. 16.) No one, says the Saviour, can show greater love to his friends than to give his life for them. “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John xv. 13.) But thou, O Lord, hast died not only for friends, but for us who were thy enemies by sin. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Rom. v. 10.) infinite love of our God, exclaims St. Bernard;”to spare slaves, neither the Father has spared the Son, nor the Son himself.” To pardon us, who were rebellious servants, the Father would not pardon the Son, and the Son would not pardon himself, but, by his death, has satisfied the divine justice for the sins which we have committed.

5. When Jesus Christ was near his passion he went one day to Samaria: the Samaritans refused to receive him. Indignant at the insult offered by the Samaritans to their Master, St. James and St. John, turning to Jesus, said: ”Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them ?” (Luke ix. 54.) But Jesus, who was all sweetness, even to those who insulted him, answered: ”You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save.” (r. 55 and 50.)

He severely rebuked the disciples. What spirit is this, he said, which possesses you? It is not my spirit: mine is the spirit of patience and compassion; for I am come, not to destroy, but to save the souls of men: and you speak of fire, of punishment, and of vengeance. Hence, in another place, he said to his disciples: “Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matt. xi. 29 ) I do not wish of you to learn of me to chastise, but to be meek, and to bear and pardon injuries.

6. How beautiful has he described the tenderness of his heart towards sinners in the following words: ”What man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and, if he lose one of them, doth he not leave ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which is lost until he find it: and when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulder rejoicing; and coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost ?” (Luke xv. 4, 5, and 6.) But, Lord, it is not thou that oughtest to rejoice, but the sheep that has found her pastor and her God.

The sheep indeed, answers Jesus, rejoices at finding me, her shepherd; but far greater is the joy which 1 feel at having found one of my lost sheep. He concludes the parable in these words: ”I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven, for one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just, who need not penance.” (Luke xv. 7.)

There is more joy in heaven at the conversion of one sinner, than upon ninety-nine just men who preserve their innocence. What sinner, then, can be so hardened as not to go instantly and cast himself at the feet of his Saviour, when he knows the tender love with which Jesus Christ is prepared to embrace him, and carry him on his shoulders, as soon as he repents of his sins?

7. The Lord has also declared his tenderness towards penitent sinners in the parable of the Prodigal Child. (Luke xv. 12, etc.) In that parable the Son of God says, that a certain young man, unwilling to be any longer under the control of his father, and desiring to live according to his caprice and corrupt inclinations, asked the portion of his fathers substance which fell to him. The father gave it with sorrow, weeping over the ruin of his son. The son departed from his father’s house. Having in a short time dissipated his substance, he was reduced to such a degree of misery that, to procure the necessaries of life, he was obliged to feed swine.

All this was a figure of a sinner, who, after departing from God, and losing the divine grace and all the merits he had acquired, leads a life of misery under the slavery of the devil. In the gospel it is added that the young man, seeing his wretched condition, resolved to return to his father: and the father, who is a figure of Jesus Christ, seeing his son return to him, was instantly moved to pity. “His father saw him, and was moved with compassion” (v. 20); and, instead of driving him away, as the ungrateful son had deserved, “running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him.” He ran with open arms to meet him, and, through tenderness, fell upon his neck, and consoled him by his embraces. He then said to his servants: ”Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him.”

According to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, the first robe signifies the divine grace, which, in addition to new celestial gifts, God, by granting pardon, gives to the penitent sinner. “And put a ring on his finger.” Give him the ring of- a spouse. By recovering the grace of God, the soul becomes again the spouse of Jesus Christ. “And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry” (v. 23). Bring hither the fatted calf which signifies the holy communion, or Jesus in the holy sacrament mystically killed and offered in sacrifice on the altar; let us eat and rejoice. But why, divine Father, so much joy at the return of so ungrateful a child? Because, answered the Father, this my son was dead, and he is come to life again; he was lost, and I have found him.

8. This tenderness of Jesus Christ was experienced by the sinful woman (according to St. Gregory, Mary Magdalene) who cast herself at the feet of Jesus, and washed them with her tears. (Luke vii. 47 and 50.) The Lord, turning to her with sweetness, consoled her by saying: “Thy sins are forgiven ;… thy faith hath made thee safe; go in peace.” (Luke vii. 48 and 50.) Child, thy sins are pardoned; thy confidence in me has saved thee; go in peace. It was also felt by the man who was sick for thirty- eight years, and who was infirm, both in body and soul.

The Lord cured his malady, and pardoned his sins. “Behold,” says Jesus to him, ”thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.” (John v. 14.) The tenderness of the Redeemer was also felt by the leper who said to Jesus Christ: ”Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” (Matt. viii. 2.) Jesus answered: “I will: be thou made clean” (v. 3). As if he said: Yes; I will that thou be made clean; for I have come down from heaven for the purpose of consoling all: be healed, then, according to thy desire. ”And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed.”

9. We have also a proof of the tender compassion of the Son of God for sinners, in his conduct towards the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and pharisees brought her before him, and said: ”This woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses, in the law, commands us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou ?” (John viii. 4 and 5.) And this they did, as St. John says, tempting him.

They intended to accuse him of transgressing the law of Moses, if he said that she ought to be liberated; and they expected to destroy his character for meekness, if he said that she should be stoned. “Si dicat lapidandam,” says St. Augustine, ”famam perdet mansuetudinis; sin dimmitteudam, transgressæ legis accusabitur.” (Tract, xxxiii. in Joan.)But what was the answer of our Lord? He neither said that she should be stoned nor dismissed; but, ”bowing himself down, he wrote with his finger on the ground.”

The interpreters say that, probably, what he wrote on the ground was a text of Scripture admonishing the accusers of their own sins, which were, perhaps, greater than that of the woman charged with adultery. ”He then lifted himself up, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”(v . 7). The scribes and pharisees went away one by one, and the woman stood alone. Jesus Christ, turning to her, said: “Hath no one condemned thee? neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more” (v. 11). Since no one has condemned you, fear not that you shall be condemned by me, who hath come on earth, not to condemn, but to pardon and save sinners: go in peace, and sin no more.

10. Jesus Christ has come, not to condemn, but to deliver sinners from hell, as soon as they resolve to amend their lives. And when he sees them obstinately bent on their own perdition, he addresses them with tears in the words of Ezechiel: ”Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (xviii. 31). My children, why will you die? Why do you voluntarily rush into hell, when I have come from heaven to deliver you from it by death?

He adds: you are already dead to the grace of God. But I will not your death: return to me, and I will restore to you the life which you have lost. “For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: return ye and live” (v. 32).

But some sinners, who are immersed in the abyss of sin, may say: Perhaps, if we return to Jesus Christ, he will drive us away. No; for the Redeemer has said: ”And him that cometh to me I will not cast out.” (John vi. 37.) No one that comes to me with sorrow for his past sins, however manifold and enormous they may have been, shall be rejected.

11. Behold how, in another place, the Redeemer encourages us to throw ourselves at his feet with a secure hope of consolation and pardon. ”Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. xi. 28.) Come to me, all ye poor sinners, who labour for your own damnation, and groan under the weight of your crimes; come, and I will deliver you from all your troubles. A

gain, he says, ”Come and accuse me, saith the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be made white as wool.” (Isa. i. 18.) Come with sorrow for the offences you committed against me, and if I do not give you pardon, accuse me. As if he said: upbraid me; rebuke me as a liar; for I promise that, though your sins were of scarlet that is, of the most horrid enormity your soul, by my blood, in which I shall wash it, will become white and beautiful as snow.

12. Let us then, sinners, return instantly to Jesus Christ. If we have left him, let us immediately return, before death overtakes us in sin and sends us to hell, where the mercies and graces of the Lord shall, if we do not amend, be so many swords which shall lacerate the heart for all eternity.


“And he was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb.” LUKE xi. 14.

THE devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. ”For their own malice blinded them.” (Wis. ii. 21.) He thus leads them to eternal perdition. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labours to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God.

After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession. Thus, he leads us to hell by a double chain, inducing us, after our transgressions, to consent to a still greater sin the sin of sacrilege. I will speak on this subject today, and will endeavour to convince you of the great evil of concealing sins in confession

1. In expounding the words of David”Set a door O Lord, round about my lips,” (Ps. cxl. 3) St. Augustine says: “Non dixit claustrum, sed ostium: ostium et aperitur et clauditur: aperiatur ad confessionem peccati: claudatur ad excusationem peccati.” “We should keep a door to the mouth, that it may be closed against detraction, and blasphemies, and all improper words, and that it may be opened to confess the sins we have committed. ”Thus,” adds the holy doctor, ”it will be a door of restraint, and not of destruction.” To be silent when we are impelled to utter words injurious to God or to our neighbour, is an act of virtue; but, to be silent in confessing our sins, is the ruin of the soul.

After we have offended God, the devil labours to keep the mouth closed, and to prevent us from confessing our guilt. St. Antonine relates, that a holy solitary once saw the devil standing beside a certain person who wished to go to confession. The solitary asked the fiend what he was doing there. The enemy said in reply: ”I now restore to these penitents what I before took away from them; I took away from them shame while they were committing sin; I now restore it that they may have a horror of confession.”“My sores are putrefied and corrupted, because of my foolishness.” (Ps. xxxvii. 6.) Gangrenous sores are fatal; and sins concealed in confession are spiritual ulcers, which mortify and become gangrenous.

2. “Pudorem,” says St. Chrysostom, ”dedit Deus peccato, confessioni nduciam: invertit rem diabolis, peccato fiduciam præbet, confessioni pudorem.” (Proem, in Isa.) God has made sin shameful, that we may abstain from it, and gives us confidence to confess it by promising pardon to all who accuse themselves of their sins. But the devil does the contrary: he gives confidence to sin by holding out hopes of pardon; but, when sin is committed, he inspires shame, to prevent the confession of it.

3. A disciple of Socrates, at the moment he was leaving a house of bad fame, saw his master pass: to avoid being seen by him, he went back into the house. Socrates came to the door and said: My son, it is a shameful thing to enter, but not to depart from this house. ”Non te pudeat, fili egredi ex hoc loco, intrasse pudeat.” To you also, brethren, who have sinned, I say, that you ought to be ashamed to offend so great and so good a God. But you have no reason to be ashamed of confessing the sins which you have committed.

Was it shameful in St. Mary Magdalene to acknowledge publicly at the feet of Jesus Christ that she was a sinner? By her confession she became a saint. Was it shameful in St. Augustine not only to confess his sins, but also to publish them in a book, that, for his confusion, they might be known to the whole world? Was it shameful in St. Mary of Egypt to confess, that for so many years she had led a scandalous life? By their confessions these have become saints, and are honoured on the altars of the Church.

4. We say that the man who acknowledges his guilt before a secular tribunal is condemned , but in the tribunal of Jesus Christ, they who confess their sins obtain pardon, and receive a crown of eternal glory. “After confession,” says St. Chrysostom, ”a crown is given to penitents.” He who is afflicted with an ulcer must, if he wish to be cured, show it to a physician: otherwise it will fester and bring on death. ”Quod ignorat,” says the Council of Trent, ”medicina non curat.” If, then, brethren, your souls be ulcerated with sin, be not ashamed to confess it; otherwise you are lost. ”For thy soul be not ashamed to say the truth.” (Eccl. iv. 24.)

But, you say, I feel greatly ashamed to confess such a sin. If you wish to be saved, you must conquer this shame. ”For there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that bringeth glory and grace.” (Ib. iv. 25.) There are, according to the inspired writer, two kinds of shame: one of which leads souls to sin, and that is the shame which makes them conceal their sins at confession; the other is the confusion which a Christian feels in confessing his sins; and this confusion obtains for him the grace of God in this life, and the glory of heaven in the next.

5. St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her. The devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ. After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat, that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to hell. For those who have sinned grievously, there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins. But, what hope of salvation can he have who goes to confession and conceals his sins, and makes use of the tribunal of penance to offend God, and to make himself doubly the slave of Satan? What hope would you entertain of the recovery of the man who, instead of taking the medicine prescribed by his physician, drank a cup of poison? God! What can the sacrament of penance be to those who conceal their sins, but a deadly poison, which adds to their guilt the malice of sacrilege?

In giving absolution, the confessor dispenses to his patient the blood of Jesus Christ; for it is through the merits of that blood that he absolves from sin. What, then, does the sinner do, when he conceals his sins in confession? He tramples under foot the blood of Jesus Christ. And should he afterwards receive the holy communion in a state of sin, he is, according to St. Chrysostom, as guilty as if he threw the consecrated host into a sink. ”Non minus detestabile est in os pollutum, quam in sterquilinum mittere Dei Filium.” (Hom. Ixxxiii., in Matt.) Accursed shame! how many poor souls do you bring to hell?”Magis memores pudoris,” says Tertullian, ”quam salutis.” Unhappy souls! they think only of the shame of confessing their sins, and do not reflect that, if they conceal them, they shall be certainly damned.

6. Some penitents ask: ”What will my confessor say when he hears that I have committed such a sin ?” What will he say? He will say that you are, like all persons living on this earth, miserable and prone to sin: he will say that, if you have done evil, you have also performed a glorious action in overcoming shame, and in candidly confessing your fault.

7. ”But I am afraid to confess this sin.” To how many confessors, I ask, must you tell it? It is enough to mention it to one priest, who hears many sins of the same kind from others. It is enough to confess it once: the confessor will give you penance and absolution, and your conscience shall be tranquillized. But, you say: ”I feel a great repugnance to tell this sin to my spiritual father.” Tell it, then, to another confessor, and, if you wish, to one to whom you are unknown. ”But, if this come to the knowledge of my confessor, he will be displeased with me.” What then do you mean to do? Perhaps, to avoid giving displeasure to him, you intend to commit a heinous crime, and remain under sentence of damnation. This would be the very height of folly.

8. Are you afraid that the confessor will make known your sin to others? Would it not be madness to suspect that he is so wicked as to break the seal of confession by revealing your sin to others? Remember that the obligation of the seal of confession is so strict, that a confessor cannot speak out of confession, even to the penitent, of the smallest venial fault; and if he did so, * he would be guilty of a most grievous sin.

9. But you say: “I am afraid that my confessor, when he hears my sin, will rebuke me with great severity.” God! Do you not see that all these are deceitful artifices of the devil to bring you to hell? No; the confessor will not rebuke you, but he will give an advice suited to your state. A confessor cannot experience greater consolation than in absolving a penitent who confesses his sins with true sorrow and with sincerity. If a queen were mortally wounded by a slave, and you were in possession of a remedy by which she could be cured, how great would be your joy in saving her life! Such is the joy which a confessor feels in absolving a soul in the state of sin. By his act he delivers her from eternal death: and by restoring to her the grace of God, he makes her a queen of Paradise. * That is, without the permission of the penitent.

10. But you have so many fears, and are not afraid of damning your own soul by the enormous crime of concealing sins in confession. You are afraid of the rebuke of your confessor, and fear not the reproof which you shall receive from Jesus Christ, your Judge, at the hour of death. You are afraid that your sins shall become known (which is impossible), and you dread not the day of judgment, on which, if you conceal them, they shall be revealed to all men. If you knew that, by concealing sins in confession, they shall be made known to all your relatives and to all your neighbours, you would certainly confess them.

But, do you not know, says St. Bernard, that if you refuse to confess your sins to one man, who, like yourself, is a sinner, they shall be made known not only to all your relatives and neighbours, but to the entire human race?”Si pudor est tibi uni homini, et peccatori peccatum exponere, quid facturus es in die judicii, ubi omnibus exposita tua conscientia patebit ?” (S. Ber. super illud Joan., cap. xi.)”Lazare veni foras.” If you do not confess your sin, God himself shall, for your confusion, publish not only the sin which you conceal, but also all your iniquities, in the presence of the angels and of the whole world. ”I will discover thy shame to thy face, and will show thy wickedness to the nations.” (Nah. iii. 5.)

11. Listen, then, to the advice of St. Ambrose. The devil keeps an account of your sins, to charge you with them at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. Do you wish, says the saint, to prevent this accusation? Anticipate your accuser: accuse yourself now to a confessor, and then no accuser shall appear against you at the judgment-seat of God. ”Præveni accusatorem tuum; si to accusaveris, accusatorem nullum timebis.” (Lib. 2 de Pœnit., cap. ii.) But, according to St. Augustine, if you excuse yourself in confession, you shut up sin within your soul, and shut out pardon. “Excusas te, includis peccatum, excludis indulgentiam.” (Hom. xii. 50.)

12. If, then, brethren, there be a single soul among you who has ever concealed a sin, through shame, in the tribunal of penance, let him take courage, and make a full confession of all his faults. ”Give glory to God with a good heart.” (Eccl. xxxv. 10.) Give glory to God, and confusion to the devil. A certain penitent was tempted by Satan to conceal a sin through shame; but she was resolved to confess it; and while she was going to her confessor, the devil came forward and asked her where she was going. She courageously answered: “I am going to cover myself and you with confusion.” Act you in a similar manner; if you have ever concealed a mortal sin, confess it candidly to your director, and confound the devil. Remember that the greater the violence you do yourself in confessing your sins, the greater will be the love with which Jesus Christ will embrace you.

13. Courage, then! expel this viper which you harbour in your soul, and which continually corrodes your heart and destroys your peace. Oh! what a hell does a Christian suffer who keeps in his heart a sin concealed through shame in confession! He suffers an anticipation of hell. It is enough to say to the confessor: ”Father, I have a certain scruple regarding my past life, but I am ashamed to tell it.” This will be enough: the confessor will help to pluck out the serpent which gnaws your conscience. And, that you may not entertain groundless scruples, I think it right to tell you, that if the sin which you are ashamed to tell be not mortal, or if you never considered it to be a mortal sin, you are not obliged to confess it; for we are bound only to confess mortal sins.

Moreover, if you have doubts whether you ever confessed a certain sin of your former life, but know that, in preparing for confession, you always carefully examined your conscience, and that you never concealed a sin through shame; in this case, even though the sin about the confession of which you are doubtful, had been a grievous fault, you are not obliged to confess it because it is presumed to be morally certain that you have already confessed it. But, if you know that the sin was grievous, and that you never accused yourself of it in confession, then there is no remedy; you must confess it, or you must be damned for it.

But, lost sheep, go instantly to confession. Jesus Christ is waiting for you; he stands with arms open to pardon and embrace you, if you acknowledge your guilt. I assure you that, after having confessed all your sins, you shall feel such consolation at having unburdened your conscience and acquired the grace of God, that you shall for ever bless the day on which you made this confession. Go as soon as possible in search of a confessor. Do not give the devil time to continue to tempt you. and to make you put off your confession: go immediately: for Jesus Christ is waiting for you.

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