A Priest’s Thoughtful Message to the Reader, “Enkindling a Flame” From Catholic Tradition.
St. Anthony Claret founded a society of missionaries, and as a bishop in Cuba, he won renown for his pastoral zeal. He wrote these words, taken from The Liturgy of the Hours, “The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal. . . . The man who burns with the fire of Divine love is a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wherever he goes, he enkindles that flame, he desires and works with all his strength to inflame all men with the fire of God’s love. Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labors strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish. He thinks only of how he might follow Jesus Christ and imitate Him by his prayers, his labors, his sufferings, and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
St. Anthony wrote many good Catholic books, printed and distributed thousands. He believed that a good Catholic book is one of the best ways to ignite the fire of Divine Love in the human heart. He said that if you cannot send a missionary to souls ignorant of the love of Jesus and Mary., then give them good Catholic books and you can accomplish what would seem impossible.
What is the power of a good Catholic book? It is tremendous. St. John Bosco said that only God can fully comprehend and appreciate the good that can come about through the reading of just one good Catholic book. It is known that if a non-Catholic, with a good heart and an open mind, reads good Catholic books for just 30 minutes a day consistently, within one year he will learn so many beautiful things about the Catholic Church and receive so many wonderful graces from God, he will want to immediately embrace the Catholic Church and become a living, zealous member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
I know this fact to be true. While I was reading the good Catholic book, The Way of Divine Love, by Sister Josefa Menendez, I received the Divine grace of conversion to the Roman Catholic Church from the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. I received these special graces of conversion and illumination because Our Blessed Lord made a promise to Sister Josefa, shortly before her death, to give these graces to souls while they read the book containing His Sacred Heart’s message to the world. He promised, “My words will be light and life for an incalculable number of souls, and I will grant them special graces of conversion and illumination.” Jesus continues to give me other beautiful graces as I continue to read other good Catholic books. If these books can help a non-Catholic who had an intellect filled with many religious errors, induced by a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister, how much more good can it do for a Catholic who does not possess any religious errors against the Catholic faith. A powerful Catholic book can accomplish a tremendous amount of good for souls because it can “produce” a missionary priest; two good Catholic books can produce two missionary priests, etc.
Following below are three short stories about how Jesus Christ gave the graces of conversion and illumination to three soldiers—–Ignatius, Ronald, and Leslie—–through their reading of good Catholic books and then gave them vocations to be missionary priests.
Pleasure Turned to Joy
St. Ignatius had been wounded on the battlefield when he was a soldier and had been sent to a hospital to recover. This short story, taken from The Liturgy of the Hours, describes the grace God gave to him while reading good Catholic books. Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. While recuperating from wounds suffered in battle, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. No book of that type could be found in the house; instead, he was given a book on the life of Christ and a collection of the lives of the Saints, written in Spanish.
By constantly reading these books, he began to become attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading, he would reflect on what he had read; at other times, he would dwell on his past way of life. At this point, Our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading. He would reflect and reason with himself: “What if I should do what St. Francis or St. Dominic did?” His mind reflected on many intermittent thoughts which were of short and long duration. At times, vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain quite a while. This thought pattern persisted for a long time.
There were differences in each reflection experience. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he experienced great joy. These differences did not seem to make an impression upon him until one day, in a moment of insight, his mind was opened and he began to marvel at the difference, understanding how he felt when one kind of thought experience left him sad and the other kind left him full of joy. Later, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.
The good Catholic books St. Ignatius read produced a great saint who, through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, gave us the wonderful gift of the “Spiritual Exercises.” St. Alphonsus De Liguori encourages and instructs you on how to perform these spiritual exercises in his book, The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection.
Conversion and Vocation
While I was a Lutheran, and in the Air Force, I prayed this short prayer: “Jesus, please send me a good Christian for my roommate in this military barracks. He doesn’t have to be a Lutheran, just so he is a good Christian.” Two weeks later, my prayers were answered. A man, slightly younger than I, was assigned as my roommate. We both studied electronics and worked in the field of early warning radar. He told me about his past: As a teenager, he had been a non-practicing Catholic, and shortly before he had met me, he received a grace of conversion through the miraculous medal and the reading of the book on the life of St. Catherine Laboure. Before his conversion had begun, he had just decided to never again enter a Catholic Church. He made this decision while listening to a priest’s homily. Immediately thereafter, he walked out of the church into the vestibule where he waited for his friend, who brought him to Mass. While waiting, he saw a pamphlet about the miraculous medal. He chose to read it in the hope of finding out why his mother always wore the miraculous medal around her neck. Upon finishing the pamphlet, the grace of God moved him to obtain the book on the life of St. Catherine Laboure from the Catholic library in the chaplain’s office. After reading that book, God gave him the grace to make a good Confession.
During the almost four years that we were in the Air Force, he had read over 400 good Catholic books. With the knowledge and zeal that he obtained by reading these books, he was able to show me why God wanted me to become a Catholic.
For three years, he continued to share the books he was reading along with the information he obtained from them. He was able to move me to read the book, The Way of Divine Love, and it was through this book, I received God’s grace of conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. Because of all the books he read, he was able to point out to me and direct me toward my divine vocation to the priesthood. No sooner had I told him of my desire to become a Catholic, he turned to me and said, “Now that you will become a Catholic, when are you going to become a Catholic priest?” This special friend in my spiritual life is Ronald, We remain very close friends and we are both missionary priests working for the Thare-Nonseng Diocese in Northeastern Thailand.
Because Fr. _____ and I both know the types of graces God gives to those while they are reading good Catholic books, we have worked extensively to reprint many great Catholic spiritual classics, such as St. Alphonsus’ The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, so that the price will be easily affordable. To obtain these books at an almost unbelievable cost, please refer to the order form at the end of this book. Just think, St. Alphonsus’ books and others have help God produce two priests for the souls of the Church. Because Fr. read and expanded his knowledge about the Catholic truths, he was able to bring me into the Catholic Church. I recommend your reading this book and encourage you to share it with others by giving them a copy.
St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, had an IQ of over 200. This is evident from the scientific analysis of his writings in which he stated that the more Catholic knowledge a human intellect acquires about the science of God, the more perfectly he is able to love Him. In this way, God created our souls. He gave our souls two spiritual faculties—–intellect and will. The object of the intellect is truth, and the object of the will is the good. These two faculties of the human soul enable a person to know the true good and to choose it with the assistance of God’s grace. God made us in such a way that we cannot choose what we do not know, and we need God’s Divine assistance to know the true good in order to choose it. With Divine assistance, the more perfect our knowledge is of the true good, the more perfect will be our love of the true good when we choose it.
These two faculties enable us to love God rationally. That is, with the help of God’s grace, we love God with our whole being—–soul, mind, heart, and strength—–above all creatures and to love created persons as Jesus, God’s Son, loves us. I assure you that if you read The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, you will be enlightened by St. Alphonsus’ words. He clearly defines increasing our rational love of God by doing two things: frequent spiritual reading and PRAYER—–Mental Prayer.
By studying Catholic Sacred Truths in order to increase and perfect our knowledge of the Triune God, the more intense and stronger our rational love for the three Divine Persons will be. One of the basic means of sanctification of your soul is the reading of good Catholic literature. As one reads good Catholic books, especially the Catholic Bible, which is THE BOOK of Catholic books, he conforms his mind to the mind of Christ and receives graces from God. St. Alphonsus says, “We should all try to become Saints. St. Augustine said that the person, who is ignorant of any one of the testaments of the Catholic Holy Bible, hobbles to Christ on one foot. How does one approach Christ when he has never read the Holy Bible? I urge you to read at least one chapter of the Catholic Bible every day. Include in your spiritual reading the good Catholic Books. The Holy Bible is the Divinely revealed Word of God as it is written down, and the life of a Saint is the Word of God as it is lived. Your understanding of the Holy Bible will be greatly enhanced by your reading books about the Saints and written by Saints. One excellent book which helped me tremendously to understand the Sacred Scriptures is True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. Devote about 30 minutes a day to loving God with your mind.
St. Ignatius teaches in his Spiritual Exercises the criteria for meditation. Having a great deal of knowledge is not necessary to be able to meditate. St. Alphonsus expounds further on the Exercises by teaching how to use silence to communicate with Our Lord in Mental Prayer. We learn to understand God’s Word and His Divine Will. We learn to ask for graces to accomplish His Divine Will and for final perseverance. We can then savor the matter interiorly which will fill and satisfy our souls. With each half hour of mental prayer, we strive to know Jesus Christ more deeply, love Him more dearly, and definitely follow Him more nearly. Our intellect is fed when we exercise our minds by engaging in conversation with Christ. As we reflect on His Truths and thereby receive spiritual fruits, we conform our minds to His. We move our will, with its affections and desires, from our heart to conform to Christ’s Will by utilizing all the graces bestowed upon us. “We can do nothing without Christ; we are nothing without Christ; we will be nothing without Christ.”
In this book, St. Alphonsus teaches us how to exercise mental prayer, how to refresh your spiritual life with a specifically outlined retreat; how to make a good examination of conscience and a good confession, and how to prepare yourself for the right vocation in life—–a Divine vocation.
All of what I have said above, which came from my heart, should motivate you to read this book as soon as possible. . . . One volunteer worker, after working on the retyping phase of this project, said, “I wish I had been given this book to read while I was a teenager because it would have transformed my entire life.” Pause for a moment to reflect on her statement. If you have any teenagers in your family, among your relatives, or friends, you may decide to give each one a copy so their lives can be transformed to be more like the life of Christ. I believe the time and effort I sacrificed to reproduce St. Alphonsus’ book was one of the best sacrifices I have given to God—–for your benefit and the benefit of all who read this book through your efforts.
St. Alphonsus De Liguori gives you this book so that you can know your God more perfectly and know how to love Him always with a mind which has been conformed to the mind of Christ. He gives you this book so that you will practice daily spiritual reading and mental prayer to gain salvation. For this purpose, please devote at least 30 minutes each day to reading this book, The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, reflect on what you have read, and then devote at least a half hour to mental prayer.
After you have read this book, one of the first things you will want to do is to share it with some soul that you love for the love of Christ. Then, continue reading the other books of St. Alphonsus which are listed in another section of this book. One person made the statement that “if you tell him what you read, he can tell you who you are.” If you can say truthfully that you read your Catholic Bible and the lives and writings of the saints, I could say you have become a true missionary of the Church—–just as St. Ignatius, Fr. _____ and Fr. Stelter. Read, Pray, Meditate, Love souls for the love of Christ by giving them this Catholic book to read.
One of the greatest things you can give other souls is your own developed Catholic mind. St. Robert Bellarmine said that all social evils can be traced back to doctrinal errors in human minds. St. Augustine said that errors against the Catholic faith are produced by human minds which interpret the words of Sacred Scripture erroneously and then hold on to these interpretations with audacity. Give to souls the Catholic Truth and you protect them from the religious errors of the devil. You make it possible for them to live in true peace because they will know how to practice Christian justice towards all for the love of Christ.
I have showed you how God gave three soldiers the graces of illumination and conversion and the graces of the Divine vocation to the priesthood through their reading of good Catholic books. What will be the fruit of your frequent and consistent reading of good Catholic literature? How many vocations to the Roman Catholic priesthood and missionary activity of the Church are out there among non-Catholics? These vocations can be realized by your giving good Catholic books and sharing the Truths and practices you have learned. Please read this book St. Alphonsus gives to you and be a true missionary of the Church by giving others this good Catholic book. Your soul and the souls of many will be saved by reading and living according to this book, the Holy Bible and other good Catholic literature. I would be interested in knowing how this book transformed your life. It has changed my life and the lives of those who have worked on this project. Thank you.
May God bless you in your work for Christ and His Blessed Mother, as They have blessed me in mine.
Sincerely yours in Jesus through Mary,
Rev. Leslie Allen Stelter
Catholic Missionary Priest
c/o O.B.L. Victory Mission, Inc.
5430 West Vliet Street
Milwaukee WI 53208-2117 U.S.A.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.