Candlemas Feb 2nd, 2019

Today is a day of purification, renewal, and hope. On this day, exactly 40 days after Christmas, we commemorate Mary’s obedience to the Mosaic law by submitting herself to the Temple for the ritual purification, as commanded in Leviticus:

Leviticus 12:2-8
Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child, she shall be unclean seven days, according to the days of separation of her flowers. And on the eighth day the infant shall be circumcised: But she shall remain three and thirty days in the blood of her purification. She shall touch no holy thing: neither shall she enter into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification, be fulfilled. But if she shall bear a maid child, she shall be unclean two weeks, according to the custom of her monthly courses, and she shall remain in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.

And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, and a young pigeon or a turtle for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest: Who shall offer them before the Lord, and shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that beareth a man child or a maid child.

And if her hand find not sufficiency, and she is not able to offer a lamb, she shall take two turtles, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust, and another for sin: and the priest shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed. 

Luke 2:22-24
And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons:

Read more about Candlemas at Fisheaters and New Advent

On the Six Stone Water Jugs at Cana — St. Vincent Ferrer

Jn 2:1 (Douay trans.) And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3 And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. 4 And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. 7 Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

   “Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews,” (Jn 2:6).  This theme gives me a motive and reason for declaring what those things are  which God ordained to purify our souls so that they might enter into paradise.  But first let us salute the Virgin Mary, etc.

   “Now there were set there six water pots of stone etc.,” i.e. for purification.  According to the spiritual sense [of scriptures] which I wish to employ, it must be known that in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ there was constituted a marriage between the Son of God and our humanity, because just as a man and woman “are not two, but one flesh,” (Mt 19:6), so Christ, God and man, is not two persons but one.  There are not two supposites, but only one.

   The wedding took place in the chapel of the Virgin’s womb.  So David, speaking of the divinity of Christ said, “He [is] like a bridegroom coming out of his bride chamber,” (Ps 18:6).  But the nuptials took place not in this world, because it is not an appropriate or sufficient place for such nuptials, but it happened in the empyreal heaven.  Authority. “The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son,” (Mt 22:2).   For just as at the wedding of the chief steward no one entered unless they first had washed, and for this purpose there were six stone water jugs there, as the Theologian [John the evangelist] literally says, so neither in the wedding of paradise can someone  enter unless he first is cleaned and purified in this world, because, “There shall not enter into it anyone defiled, or who does abominable things or tells lies,” (Rev 21:27).  For this reason, Christ the bridegroom placed in this world six stone water jugs, six penitential works, for cleaning and purifying our souls.

  1.             The first is heartfelt contrition.
  2.             The second is sacramental confession.
  3.             The third is penitential affliction.
  4.             The fourth is spiritual prayers.
  5.             The fifth is merciful giving.
  6.             The sixth is forgiveness of injuries.

HEARTFELT CONTRITION

The first water jug is the first work of penance, which is heartfelt contrition, when someone thinks about his sins and vices and evil deeds which he has committed and is contrite, saying “O miserable me, what shall become of me, because I have committed so many sins.”  Against every state of life.  First, the religious, because he did not keep the rules, or constitutions, nor ordinations of his order, but lived as he wished.  When he recovers his senses, he is contrite saying, “O miserable me, what shall become of me,” etc.  In this water jug the soul is washed and purified, especially when the water there consists of tears.  About this, read the lamentation of King Hezekiah, “Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter,” (Is 38:17).  It says how the sinner is always at war with God, but contrition of the sinners makes peace between God and the sinner, and so he says, “in peace is my bitterness most bitter.”  Peace is caused by bitterness, i.e. contrition.  Or because from peace, namely, worldly bitterness is caused.  This peace is bitter, more bitter, most bitter from the bitterness, i.e. contrition.  Bitter because he lost the grace of God.  More bitter, because he lost the inheritance of paradise. Most bitter because it is the judgment of infernal damnation.

SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION

The second water jug is sacramental confession. Note that the confessor ought to sit like a judge, and the penitent ought, at his feet, to confess all his sins by accusing himself. etc.  And at the end of confession, when the confessor absolves, the soul is purified of all mortal sins.  About this image 4 Kgs 5 where we read that a certain nobleman who was a leper came to Elisha to be purified by him from the disease of leprosy. To whom the prophet said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean,” (4Kg 5:10).  And so it happened. This was a prefiguring of confession, so that the river Jordan is the same as the river of judgment.  Behold here is confession, in which the confessor is the judge, and so he should sit.  The sinner is the accused who ought to be washed there seven times, i.e. to confess the seven mortal sins to which all other sins are reduced.  First to confess of the sin of pride, not only in general because it is not sufficient, but in species, the same for the other sins, and so the soul is purified.  O how great a grace is this, that the sinner is absolved by confession.  It is just the opposite in human trials, in which the sinner, having confessed his crime, is sentenced and condemned. etc.  So it is the greatest sin for those who do not wish to confess, but stay away for three or four years, etc.   “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins,” by virtue of confession, “and to cleanse us from all iniquity,” (1Jn 1:9).  For this reason the Church requires that everyone go to confession at least once a year, during Lent, and receive communion at Easter, otherwise they should be refused a church burial.

VOLUNTARY PENANCE

The third water jug is voluntary penitential actions.  The reason is because our flesh is the occasion of all the sins we commit.   The soul, in its proper condition wishes to contemplate always, like the angels, but the flesh draws it down, now to  pride, next to avarice, next to lust and so for the others.  “For the flesh lusts against the spirit,” (Gal  5:17).   So it is that the flesh is chastised and beaten back with penances and fasts etc., because it is better to correct a son or daughter than, that they be sent to the stocks.  So the body is the son, and the flesh is the daughter, and it is better that they be corrected by you than by the wards of hell, i.e., by the demons. Authority: “But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” by God, ( 1Cor 11:31).  The choice is ours, for we gladly diet for health’s sake, but for the health of the soul we are unwilling to do anything.  Knights in armor, for no good reason, bear great burdens, they hunger, they thirst, they wield iron weapons, etc., but for their soul, nothing.  God renders justice and punishment in hell. Authority: “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them,” (Lk 13:3-4).  Note, the eighteenth sin, namely, final impenitence, damns a man.

SPIRITUAL PRAYER

The fourth water jug is spiritual prayer.  Some pray only physical prayers, because they say only words, but their heart is thinking about something else, cooking dinner, or the market, or the tavern.  Prayer is spiritual when someone ponders in their heart what they say with their mouth. Augustine in the Rule says: “When you pray to God in psalms and hymns, entertain your heart with what your lips are reciting,” (Rule of St. Augustine 2:3).  To do this your two hands should be joined, which signifies the conjunction of voice and heart, and then it is spiritual prayer.  For example, when you say the Our Father or the Hail Mary, your heart ought then to think with whom you speak.  He who speaks with the Pope or with the King, speaks with great reverence, not fidgeting or adjusting their clothing. So a man in prayer speaks to the high priest and king Christ, and so with great reverence, otherwise etc.  The Apostle Paul writes.  “If I pray in a tongue,” i.e. in such a way, “my spirit prays, but my understanding is without fruit. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding; I will sing with the spirit, I will sing also with the understanding,” (1Cor 14:14-15).  Such a spiritual prayer purifies the soul according to what Christ declared in Luke 18:13, about that publican who went up to the temple to pray saying, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  He did not know any other prayer. About whom Christ himself said, “Amen I say to you, this man went down into his house justified,” (Lk 18:14). And so it is necessary “to pray always,” (Lk 18:1), morning and evening, and not to give up.

MERCIFUL GIVING

The fifth jug is merciful almsgiving, because God is generous and indeed most generous, so he himself says, “But yet that which remains, give alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you,” (Lk 11:41). Note “yet that which remains,” namely having made restitution, “give alms” from your own just goods, and “all things,” namely, sins, “are clean unto you.”  If it is said what can I do, because I have stolen much and I now have nothing. The response is according to the law, “Whoever cannot pay should give back goods and is free.”  Because the Rule of Law, 14, q. 6, chap 1: “If something belonging to another, on account of which is a sin, is able to be returned and is not returned, penance is not accomplished but feigned. If however it is truly done, the sin is not remitted until thing taken is restored if it is able to be restored.  Often what is taken has been lost, he doesn’t have it to return.  To this we certainly cannot say: Return what you have taken.”  This Augustine: “So you would yield and serve God in good station and pray for those for whom you are bound, and so no one can be excused from restitution, either corporal or spiritual.” “Give alms out of your substance,” (Tob 4:7), and not from another’s.  However much you can, so be merciful.  If much has come to you, give abundantly, if a little has come to you, even then try to give your little bit generously.

FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES

 The sixth jug is forgiveness of injuries.  If you want God to forgive the injuries, which you have committed against God, forgive your enemies their injuries which they have committed against you.  To the extent that you forgive your enemies, to that extent God forgives you, because God cannot be bested by creatures in goodness, which would be the case if you would forgive and he would not forgive you.  Tell how in the particular or universal judgment God would show to the soul its sins saying, “Let’s see what I have done for you, and what you have done for me.”  Blessed are you if you then are able to say, truthfully, “And if I have not have done as much for you as you have done for me, nevertheless out of your love forgive such an injury, etc.”  God is satisfied, and so he himself says, “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences,” (Mt 6: 14-15).

You can see more sermons from this great saint here

Sermon On Baptism Of Christ – St. Vincent Ferrer

Mt 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice. Then he suffered him. 16 And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. 17 And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

“I ought to be baptized by you,” (Mt 3:14), in today’s gospel.  Holy Mother Church today celebrates this feast of the Baptism of Christ, about which today’s gospel speaks, how Christ was baptized by St. John.  And our sermon shall be about this. We have a number of good speculative teachings to enlighten the intellect, and moral instructions for the correction of life. But first let the Virgin Mary be hailed, etc.

In the present sermon I have thought to follow the way of jurists, who in their schools, when they want to read or dispute, first set forth the case of the law [casum legis].  Then ask how the law applies [quid iuris].   So first I shall recite the case of divine law, the story of the holy gospel.  Then I shall posit some speculative and moral questions.

The gospel story tells how Christ came from the town of Nazareth to John at the Jordan that he might be baptized by him.  The Holy Spirit revealed to John that this man was the savior of the world, true God and true man.  On account of which John, in wonder, spoke reverently the theme text: “I ought to be baptized by you, and you come to me? ” (Mt 3:14).  Christ said to him, “Suffer it to be so now. For so it becomes us to fulfill all justice,” (v. 15).  Christ did not speak pompously [pompatice] as from the Lord, but he spoke personally, as himself to John saying, “So, through humility it is fitting that we fulfill all justice.”  Christ, “Humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death,” (Phil 2:8).  Behold here the total fulfillment [impletio] of justice in human redemption. Gregory the Great, [Easter Prayer]:  “It would benefit us nothing, unless we had been redeemed.”  Behold, John also was humbled to fulfill the command of Christ that he be baptized, and trembling all over, he baptized Christ.  The Church, the Baptist, trembled, and dared not touch the holy crown of the head of God.  With a shudder he cried out, “Sanctify me, Savior!”  John used this form in baptizing Christ.

Morally, we are here instructed by this, that John, so holy himself, about whom Christ said, “among them that are born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist,” (Mt 11:11), dared not touch Christ.  Note here how great ought to be the purity and good life of priests who have to touch Christ in the sacrament of the altar.  And so holy scripture says, “The priests that come to the Lord, let them be sanctified, lest he strike them,” (Ex 19:22).  Also the laity are not to approach the altars, cf. Numbers 1 & 3.  One who is not of the family of Aaron, i.e. not a priest, who comes forward, is to be killed.   If what is said in the old law is true, holier and more worthy is the altar of the new law than the old. How much more dignified is Christ who is sacrificed on the altar of the new testament, than a lamb which is sacrificed on the altar of the old testament. So the altar of the new testament is of a greater dignity.  I argue now from the lesser to the greater.  If then there was a punishment of death for one who approached the altar by leaning on it …if it is said, “Never can a man kiss the altar,” etc., I reply “always, reverently,” but it would be better to kiss the ground next to the altar where the feet of the priest stand.  “Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation,” (1Pet 5:6).  Tell of how the hand of the divine person or power humbles and brings low the proud and exalts the humble.

Now, having stated the case of the gospel law, some questions have to be raised [quid iuris] – what law applies.  And I raise five questions for discussion.

1. WHY DID CHRIST COME TO BE BAPTIZED

First about this, where the gospel says. “Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan, to John, to be baptized by him,” (Mt 3:13), it is asked: Why did Christ wish to be baptized?  The reason for this question is because baptism is given primarily against original sin, and also against actual sins if there are any.  But Christ did not have any sin, neither original nor actual.  “Who did no sin,” (1Pet 2:22).  Therefore it seems that he ought not to be baptized.

I reply that Christ wished to be baptized, not that he might receive something from baptism — we receive from baptism various spiritual gifts: the remission of sins, sanctification, virtues and graces, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the infused moral virtues.  Christ received none of these from baptism.  He wished rather to receive baptism so that he might give to baptism regenerative power, as Bede says in his homily for today. “The Son of God comes to be baptized by a man in the water of the Jordan, he who was pure of all uncleanness, that washing the filth of all our sins, he might sanctify the flowing of the waters.”

Recall the appropriate legend about the unicorn which by the touch of his horn purifies water.  Then the awaiting animals can drink.  This properly signifies the baptism of Christ.  And so in sacred scripture Christ is called a unicorn: “But my horn shall be exalted like that of the unicorn: and my old age in plentiful mercy,” (Ps 91:11), and the prophet speaks in the person of the church saying, “shall be exalted.”  Christ is like a unicorn, because divinity and humanity in Christ make up only one horn, i.e. one person.  “And my old age.”  Note, just as the ages of a man are seven, so also are there seven ages of human nature:  infancy was from Adam to Noah; childhood from Noah to Abraham; adolescence from Abraham to Moses; youth from Moses to David;  adulthood [virilitas] from David to the Babylonian captivity; old age from the Babylonian captivity to Christ; decrepitude from Christ to the end of the world.  See why he says, “My old age in plentiful mercy,” i.e. abundant, because now the mercy of God abounds, for all sins with respect to guilt are remitted in baptism and also with respect to punishment.  Another text authority, Luke 1:69 says: “And he has raised up a horn of salvation to us.”  “The horn of our salvation” is the body of Christ.  Today, this most pure unicorn touches the waters, so that by his touch he might confer a regenerative force for all others.  Tell how Christ terminated and finished the purification of the old law, which took place through circumcision, and begins the purification of the new law, which happens through baptism.  Christ is called the “Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end,” (Rev 21:), the beginning of the new law and the end of the old.  For this reason we Christians receive only baptism and not circumcision, because in Christ the sacraments of the [old] law have their end and term.  God said to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and you,” (Gn 17:1-2).  Between these two terms or forces, Abraham and Christ, the covenant of circumcision should endure for two thousand years.  The Apostle says , “Behold, I Paul tell you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing,” (Gal 5:2).  Whoever, therefore, wishes to be circumcised, following the example of Christ, sins gravely.

2. WHY OUGHT JOHN BE BAPTIZED?

A second question is about this, that the theme text has John saying to Christ, “I ought to be baptized by you,” (Mt 3:14).  We might ask: Why did St. John say this since he was sanctified in the womb of his mother?  Luke 1;15: The angel said to Zachary, John’s father, “He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”  Why then did John say to Christ, “I ought to be baptized by you?”

I reply, according to the determinations of the holy doctors, that baptism places a character in the soul, a certain beautiful sign, like a royal crown, which sign no one in paradise can have unless he had been baptized.  So neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor David nor anyone of the old testament have this sign, nor also those fifty philosophers [rhetores] of St. Catherine [of Alexandria] who were killed without the baptism of water, although they were saved by the baptism of blood.  Of this sign the Apostle says, “Believing, you were signed with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,” (Eph 1:13-14).  “The pledge” is the down payment of the inheritance, like that which they give to merchants. Therefore, although St. John had been sanctified in the womb of his mother, nevertheless he did not have the character.  Because of this, so that he might have it, he said to Christ, “I ought to be baptized by you,” to receive this sign. And because he said “I ought,” we have for certain that Christ baptized St. John, and also the apostles and disciples.  From apostolic authority: “Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea: and there he abode with them, and baptized,” (Jn 3:22).  But it is said John 4, as if to the contrary, “Though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples,” (v. 2).  Augustine and the Gloss agree on this point, when John says, “and he was baptizing.”  The Gloss says [he was baptizing] the disciples and apostles, though Christ did not baptize others.  The disciples baptized others.  For the same reason it is believed that Christ baptized the Virgin Mary, that she might have that sign of the crown.  You know the difference between a crown and a tiara [crinale].  The sign of the character is like a crown, and on its front it has a band [monile] with the name “Jesus.”  “Lo a lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads,” (Rev 14:1).

Morally. Because we Christians bear the name of Jesus written on our foreheads, beware lest we bring the name of the devil in our mouth, saying, “In the devil’s name why did you do such and such.”  Take note of the thief crying out “Jesus!” and the devil crying out “Thieves! Thieves!”  This is against those who don’t know how to say anything without invoking the name of the devil.  David, Psalm 39: “Blessed is the man whose trust is in the name of the Lord,” (v. 5), and does not speak the name of the devil.

3. WHY DID THE DOVE DESCEND?

The third question is about this.  The Holy Spirit “descended like a dove,” (Mt 3:16) on him.  Why?  Because it is certain that Christ as man, from the instant of his conception, received the Holy Spirit, who never left him:  Isa 61:1 and Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me,” by grace at my conception.

Response:  The Spirit descended like a dove on him, not as if he had not had it before or he was not in him, nor that he might confer at that moment a new grace, as he would coming on the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and in Luke 1:35, he came upon the Virgin Mary, but to show us that the Holy Spirit descends on one who is baptized, and there he makes his dwelling as if in his own temple.  When someone before baptism, by habit at least, or by reality, or vow becomes the dwelling place of demons, in being baptized he is exorcized to expel the demons.

Morally, from the fact that once the Holy Spirit takes up his dwelling place in a creature, he never recedes from the creature unless he shows irreverence to him through mortal sin.  He does not leave for venial sin.  But when a man sins mortally, then he drives the Holy Spirit from himself and welcomes the devil.  O what an injury!  To expel the king and to welcome a lecherous pimp [ribaldum lenonem].  So scripture says, “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog is returned to his vomit;’ and, ‘The sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire,'” (2Pet 2:21-22).  So children should be taught and nourished lest they hand over a mess to the Holy Spirit who dwells in them.  See what parents ought to teach their children..

4. WHY DID THE VOICE SPEAK?

The fourth question is about this, “A voice came from heaven: You are my beloved Son; in you  I am well pleased,” (Lk 2:22).  It is asked why this voice has happened, because it is certain that Christ did not begin then to be the Son of God, because Christ eternally is the Son of God.  Authority: “The Lord said to me: You are my son, today have I begotten you,” (Ps 2:7).  Note when he says here “today,” many days result from the interposition of night.  If the sun hovered over us always, there would be only one day.  In heaven, there never is night, because God always, invariably, illuminates.  “The city has no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God has enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof,” (Rev. 21:23).    When it is said, “Today have I begotten you,” i.e. in eternity.    Therefore why does that voice speak?

Response: Because that voice does not come for Christ, but for us, to show that in baptism we are made children of God.  Just as a man with his wife begets legitimate sons and daughters, so Christ [begets children] with the Church his spouse.  “The seed is the word of God.,” (Lk 8:11).  Therefore we Christians are all children of God, of the king Christ and the queen, the Church.  It is otherwise before baptism.   But after baptism parents ought to consider themselves as nurses of the child of Christ the King.  “[A woman] shall be saved through childbearing;” that is, by nourishing, “if she continue in faith, and love, and sanctification,” (1 Tim 2:15).  “Behold what manner of charity the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God,” (1Jn 3:1).

Morally, we are instructed that just as the sons of the king do not go to the brothel, nor to taverns, nor to the place where they play dice etc., so neither should Christians, otherwise they would become unworthy and not gain the inheritance of paradise  etc.

5.  WHY DID THE HEAVENS OPEN?

The fifth question is about this, “And the heavens were opened,” (Mt 3:16).  It is asked why this, because the heavens were always opened to Christ.  “All things are naked and open to his eyes,” (Heb 4:13).

I reply that the heavens were opened not for his sake, but to show that the heavens are opened to those who are newly baptized.  It was otherwise before the coming of Christ, because for more than five thousand years the heavens had been closed to mankind.  The gates of paradise had been closed for all because of Eve, and through the Virgin Mary they had been opened again, etc.  And so children who died after baptism before they had sinned mortally, immediately flew straightway to paradise, and they found heaven open.  About whom Christ said to the gatekeepers of paradise, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such,” (Mt 19:14).  Some women err when they say that they bypass purgatory because of [enduring] a mother’s pains.  “When [he] was in the midst of the captives by the river Chobar, the heavens were opened,” (Ez 1:1).  “Chobar ” means baptism.

Morally, we are instructed lest we grieve for such children when they die.  You should rejoice as if the king had taken your son into his court.  Rather you should weep for your lecherous adult children [adulti ribaldi].  The Apostle [Paul] writes, “And we will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep,” innocently at rest, “that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope,” of resurrection, (1Thes 4:13).

St. Vincent Ferrer Sermon On Epiphany

“And falling down they adored him,” (Mt 2:11)

   Today’s feast is commonly called Epiphany or Appearance, which is the same.  Because the Virgin Birth which had been hidden and secret, today was manifest to the nations.  So the churchmen say and call this feast Epiphany, from “epi” which is “above” and “phanos”  which is “appearance,” because the star appeared over the nations.  In order that God should wish to give us sentiments of sweetness of this feast in our souls, let us salute the Virgin Mary, etc.

    “And falling down they adored him.”  The assigned reading reveals to us in a few words the great and perfect reverence which the three kings of the east offered today to our Lord Jesus Christ, “falling down, etc.”  Not only did they uncover their heads, nor were they content to bend their knees, but they folded their hands and arms, and even their whole body.  “And falling down they adored him,” (Mt 2:11).

    Now to give us a reason for this adoration – for reason begets understanding, and authority confirms belief – I find in sacred scripture that for true, devout and perfect adoration two things are required: a reverent attitude of the interior mind, and a humble gesture of the outward body.  As for the first, when man thinks of the infinite and incomprehensible majesty of God and his transcendent power, there comes a reverent trembling interiorly in the soul, and from this there follows exteriorly a humility in the body, joining the hands, genuflecting, or prostrating oneself in prayer to God.  Divine adoration consists in these two.

   To understand this reason, it must be understood that God created man in his substantial being different than other creatures.  Man is a composite, substantially with respect to the soul, and materially with respect to the body.  Not so the angels, who are only spiritual substances, nor the animals which are material substances. Because of this man is similar to the angels and animals, because he has both.

   So God wishes to be worshipped by both: from the soul thinking of the majesty of God, and from the body through humble gestures.  Just like a landowner who leases his field and vineyard for a certain assessment of use. He requires an accounting from both, otherwise he takes back to himself the whole commission. So God is with us.  He gives us the vine, the soul which makes the heart drunk with the love of God, and the field of the body that it might bear the fruit of repentance and mercy.  So from both he would have a reckoning of devout adoration.  Of the angels he asks only spiritual adoration, reverential movements of the mind. Of the animals he asks only a reverential posture of the body, like the ox and ass when they adored Christ in the manger, because they could only bend their knees, but interiorly they had no thoughts. But from us God wishes both, namely the reverent motion of the mind, and bodily actions.

   Christ said, “But the hour comes, and is now, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to adore him.  God is a spirit; and they who adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth,” (Jn 4:23-24).  Note, “the hour comes,” the time of the law of grace, “when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit” with respect to the soul, “and in truth” with respect to the body, because that is truth, when the body conforms and corresponds to the mind.  And he gives a reason, saying, “God is a Spirit,” and so it is necessary to “adore him in spirit and in truth.”

   Think of the miracle found in John 9, of the man born blind, given sight by Christ, to whom he says: “‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’  He answered, and said: ‘Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?’  And Jesus said to him: ‘You have both seen him; and it is he who is talking with you.’  And he said: ‘I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him,'” (Jn 9:35-38).  See the reverential interior movement in the soul and the external bodily gesture, because “falling down he adored him.”

    The three kings acted thus when they saw the infant Jesus.  Instantly there entered into their souls a movement of reverential fear from the presence of divine majesty.  And so, “prostrating themselves they adored him.”

   Of these three kings I shall explain four points

First how they prepared themselves diligently  [se paraverunt diligenter]

Second how they went forth courageously  [ambulaverunt fortiter]

Third how they sought him persistently  [quaesierunt firmiter]

Fourth how they adored him profoundly.  [adoraverunt firmiter]

And from the fourth point the theme speaks, “Falling down they adored him.”

DILIGENTLY PREPARED THEMSELVES

   The first point is to tell how these three holy kings aptly prepared themselves.  We need to know what God promised Abraham and the holy patriarchs, that he would send his son, born into this world of a virgin, true God and true man.  About this he gave clear prophecies, not only to the Jews in Judea, but also to diverse parts of the world, as a sign that he would come not only to save the Jews, as they falsely believe, but also all those believing in him and obeying him.

   He especially sent prophecies to the eastern regions – where there were great prophets and wise men – through the prophet Balaam saying: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A star shall rise out of Jacob and a scepter shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab,” (Num 24:17).   Note: “I shall see him,” Christ,  whom he saw not in himself but through his successors; “I shall see him, but not now,” because from the text of the bible there were 1,500 years from Balaam to Christ.  But these three kings were from their own time [genere], and he gave them signs saying: “A star shall rise out of Jacob,” from the promised land, “and a scepter shall spring up from Israel,” the Messiah king savior, and he “shall strike the kings of Moab,” which is so interpreted. It [Moab] signifies the devil who is the father of sinners, to whom Christ said: “You are of your father the devil,” (Jn 8.44),  “the kings of Moab,” i.e. of the devil or of Lucifer.

    And there are seven princes who are the captains of the seven capital sins:

  • The first prince, and captain of pride is called Leviathan, in Job 40, (v. 20).  He is the king over all the sons of pride.
  • The second prince, and captain of avarice is called Mammon, about whom Christ spoke in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
  • The third prince, and captain of lust is called Asmodeus, about whom we read in Tobit 3:8: “And a devil named Asmodeus had killed them,” namely the lusting [bridegrooms].
  • The fourth prince, of envy is called Beelzebub. Luke, 11:15 ” He casts out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils,” The word was about the envy of the Jews of Christ.
  • The fifth prince, of gluttony is called Beelphegor.   Ps. 105:28: “They also were initiated to Beelphegor: and ate the sacrifices of the dead.”
  • The sixth prince, of anger is called Baalberith. Judges 9:4:  “..out of the temple of Baalberith: wherewith he hired to himself men.”
  • The seventh prince, of sloth is called Astaroth.  I Kings 7:3:  “Put away the strange gods from among you, Baalim and Astaroth: and prepare your hearts unto the Lord.”

   Lord Jesus Christ struck down these seven princes with the staff of his preaching.  David said: “The Lord will send forth the scepter of your power out of Sion,” (Ps. 109:2).

   About this prophecy of Balaam, Chrysostom says, that his disciples and those who were of his kind, after his death wished to observe that star.  And they ordained that certain ones of them would stand on the tall Mount Victory, to gaze at the heavens. There they would wash themselves, believing that by this their sins were forgiven, and they would pray saying, “O God of heaven, God of Israel, send the star,” and fulfill the prophecy,” (Cf. James of Voragine, Golden Legend). And so they divided up times [to watch] for themselves.  And on the night of the nativity, by divine providence, these three Kings of the East, great philosophers and astrologers, on Mount Victory saw the predicted star. And at the moment when Christ was born of the Virgin’s womb, the star appeared to them extremely bright, and low in the sky, nor did daylight dim its appearance.

    Chrysostom repeats the opinion that there was the image of a child in that star, with a cross on his forehead.  Some say that the Magi wanted to adore the star. But Augustine says that the angel of the Lord told them that they should not adore the star, but that they should make their way to adore the newly born Creator.

     Then the kings took counsel how they should travel, how they should prepare, and what they should bring to offer to him, saying, “He is a great king and powerful. We should offer him gold.  And he is God and creator, because the stars serve him, so we shall offer him incense.  And in this sign of the cross it is revealed that he is to die on a cross, and so we shall offer him bitter myrrh.” [Ecclesiast.]  The Magi seeing the star, consulted each other. “This is the sign of a great king. Let us go and inquire of him and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

    I believe, therefore, although it is not written, that the holy kings symbolized in their gifts what they believed about Christ. I believe that also [it was expressed] in their clothing, because the king who brought the gold, was clothed in a gold shirt, and the one who brought the incense, in a purple tunic, and the one with the myrrh, in a red scarf.  See how they made themselves fit both in gifts as well as clothing.

Morally.

   I find in sacred scripture that God promised men two stars, one in the old law, namely that which appeared to the eastern kings, which prefigured the redemption of mankind. The second, and better, was promised in the new testament saying: “And he that shall overcome, and keep my works unto the end, … I will give him the morning star,” (Rev 2:26,28).  This signifies heavenly salvation.  Note, he who shall conquer the devil through humility, the flesh through chastity, and the world through poverty, “and keep my works unto the end…I will give him the morning star,” i.e. the good angel guiding the soul to Christ.  See how the angels in sacred scripture are called stars. The reason is because just as the heavenly firmament is decorated and bedecked with stars, so the empyreal heaven is decorated and bedecked with angels, and so they are referred to as stars.  Authority:  “And the stars have given light in their watches, and rejoiced: They were called, and they said: Here we are: and with cheerfulness they have shined forth to him that made them,” (Bar 3:34-36).  Note “the stars,” i.e. angels, “stars have given light in their watches” i.e. to men who were keeping watch.  David: “For he has given his angels charge over you; to keep you, commanded to his angels to keep you,” (Ps. 90:11).  They bring to the understanding what ought to be believed, to the memory what is to be feared and remembered, and to the will what is to be hoped for, and to deeds, what is to be done.  And when a man receives the light of their instruction, he rejoices.

   And in the end, when a man is in the arms of death, God sends the morning star, i.e. an angel who leads the soul to Christ, just as that star led the kings to Christ.  And so it happens that if this [Epiphany] star is corruptible, because it is immediately was changed back into the underlying material, once it had been observed and desired, how much more should we await  that incorruptible star, by washing ourselves from all uncleanness and sins?  First by washing our heart from anger, rancor and ill will; our mouths from blasphemies, lies and detractions; our hands from theft and extortion and the like; and the whole body from the corruptions of lust and carnal sins.

     Note from the aforesaid evidence that this star which appeared brighter in the birth of Christ was not one of the heavenly stars, for five reasons, which St. Thomas gives III Pars, q. 36, a. 7.  St. Thomas says, repeating the opinions of others, that the essence of this star most probably was of a new creation, not in the heaven, but in the atmosphere, which moved according to divine will. Augustine believed namely that it was not of the  heavenly stars, because he says in his book Contra Faustum Bk, 2, “Besides, this star was not one of those which from the beginning of the world continue in the course ordained by the Creator. Along with the new birth from the Virgin appeared a new star.”  Chrysostom believes this too.

 

PROCEEDED WITH COURAGE

 

  The second point is to declare how the three holy kings proceeded with courage, because from the head of the world, namely from the East, they came for thirteen days to Judea which is in the middle of the world.  In fact, from what I have found in the text and in the Glosses of the doctors, having prepared themselves they immediately began their journey.

   The star first rose ahead of them, showing them the way which they should take.  So that when they had to climb a hill, first the star rose, and when they had to descend, it descended. When they had to cross a river, the star showed them the place to ford it.  And when they were in a village in which they had to rest, the star would remain motionless over the hotel. Then when they were leaving the star would lead again and they would follow.  Doesn’t this seem to you to be a great miracle?  In this way they came to their destination, the promised land.

    And on the next day when they were to enter the land of Judah, the star disappeared from their sight.  Imagine the sadness they had, saying, “O woe!  What is this?  Has the star disappeared because of some sin of one of us?  What should we do?”  St. Thomas Aquinas says that they took counsel on what they should do.  One said that they should return, because to seek a new king in a foreign land would be very dangerous.  Others said that they should at least go into the city of Jerusalem; “Such a king ought to be born in a noble city, or at least they would know where he had been born, because there were great rabbis and professors there, so let us do what we can.”  And they came to the city of Jerusalem.

    And then was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, saying: “Arise be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you. And the Gentiles shall walk in your light, and kings in the brightness of your rising,” (Is 60:1-2).  The gentles speak to the Jews as if to a person sleeping saying: “Arise” city of Jerusalem, “be enlightened,” with the brightness of the light of faith, “for your light is come,” the Christ.  Note: “And the Gentiles shall walk in your light,” not just the Jews.

Morally:

  The kings, having lost their star, came to Jerusalem, so that they can be instructed there.  So should we do when we lose the star of the grace of God. You know that the grace of God is called a star, signified by the star of the kings.  Why?  Because just as that star directed and led the kings to Christ in Judea, so the grace of God directs and leads and shows the way to paradise to those who have it.  At a fork in the road it points out the way, to the right.  O how many forks in the road there are in this world for those who chose not to go to Christ.

  • First is of pride and vanity to the left; of sweetness and humility to the right.  The star of the grace of God points to the right, the way of humility, which is the correct way, straight and good and without danger.
  • Second is [the fork] of avarice and desire; and of mercy and liberality.
  • Third is [the fork] of lust and carnal desires; and purity and innocence.
  • Fourth is [the fork] of envy and malice on the left; and of benevolence and goodness on the right, which the star of grace makes clear.
  • Fifth is of gluttony and voraciousness; and abstinence and moderation.
  • Sixth is [the fork] of anger and brutality; and of peace and unity.
  • Seventh is [the fork] of torpor and laziness; of diligence and industriousness.

In these the star of the grace of God directs us, also the star of the grace of God shows the way, ascending through the contemplative way and descending through the active way for works of mercy and piety.  It also shows the crossing on the river of worldly delights, where many are drowned, submerged by food and drink and clothing, and tastes, etc.

   So Blessed John says: “Let the anointing, which you have received from him, abide in you. And you have no need that any man teach you; but as his anointing teaches you of all things,” (1John 2:27)  Note: “the anointing,” Gloss, i.e. divine grace.  But what must you do when the state of divine grace is lost, which is not lost but through mortal sin?  I say you ought to do what those holy kings did, namely go to Jerusalem, i.e. to the church, to confess our sins, and so rediscover the star of the grace of God. Thus Christ said to Paul, who lost the star, “Go into the city, and there it shall be told you what you must do,” (Acts 9:7).  Note, “the city” i.e. Damascus, which is translated “bloody” and signifies the church in which the blood of Christ is consecrated and consumed.

SOUGHT HIM DISCREETLY

 

     The third point is how these three holy kings sought Christ discreetly, the place of the birth of Christ, after they had been in the city of Jerusalem.  When the kings were near the city, think how there was a disturbance in the city, especially because Herod, who was a new king, and a foreigner to the people of Judah, feared for himself, and kept himself apart from them.  Think how Herod immediately sent for the kings to find out who they were, and whom they sought, and why they had come.  The kings replied that they had come to seek the newly born king of the Jews.  You can imagine that someone warned them “Do not tell, otherwise Herod would follow you.”  They did not deny the truth. “We have seen his star in the east, and have come to adore him,” (Mt 2:2).  Chrysostom: “Consider the devotion of the kings.  They have not yet seen Christ, and they are prepared to die for him.”  Herod had asked why they had come. Think what fear and pain entered into his ear, especially because he was already afraid of this.  And he had heard of the wonders which would happen at the birth of the Christ, on account of which he considered himself ruined and destroyed.  About this the Evangelist Matthew writes: “[Herod] hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him,” (Mt 2:3).  But he hid his malice, feigning joy at the birth of Christ.  And because the kings of the east had come in simplicity, and unarmed, he permitted them to enter the city and received them honorably.

   Next, he said to them, “My lords, why have you come?”  They replied, “We seek the whereabouts of the one who has been born king of the Jews.”  See what peril they placed themselves in.  Herod, dissimulating, said, “I have heard something of this, but I don’t know whether it is certain that he has been born.”  The kings replied: “It is certain, because we have seen his star in the east.”  Then Herod said: “And now, my lords, what do you wish?”  They responded, “We have come with gifts to adore him.”  Then Herod, in a loud voice, eagerly  asked of them the time when the star appeared to them. In private he asked them, “Tell me exactly the day and time of his birth.  And I, with my masters, doctors and rabbis shall tell you of the place where he has been born, that we all might come to adore him.”  O deceiver!  With his other hand he already was readying the sword, that he might cut him down if he could. And gathering all the chief priests and the scribes he consulted them as to where the Christ would be born.  They all agreed and responded it was in the city of Bethlehem according to the prophet Michea: “And you, Bethlehem Ephrata, are a little one among the thousands of Judah: out of you shall he come forth to me he who is to be the ruler in Israel,” (Mic 5:2).  Note “who is to be the ruler,” ruler in virtues, by the example of his behavior and preaching.  Then Herod informed the kings of the place, and sending them to Bethlehem said: “Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I too may come to adore him,”(Matt. 2:8).   O betrayer!  Enemy of the Church!  Wicked Herod, why do you fear the Christ to come?  He who rules [gives] the celestial kingdom does not seize a mortal kingdom.  Thus the holy kings sought him discreetly and with great diligence.

 

Morally:

   The holy kings, before they came to Herod, were guided by a star, but after they had gone to King Herod, they turned again to holy scriptures to guide themselves, etc. Herod signifies the Antichrist, because just as Herod wishing to kill the Christ, killed the innocents, so the Antichrist wishing to destroy the faith of Christ, shall kill Christians contradicting him.  And that star signifies human science, logic, philosophy, laws, canons, by which we are now directed and ruled.  But in the time of the Antichrist it shall be  necessary to turn again to sacred scriptures, because the Antichrist shall not believe in logic, nor philosophy nor poetry nor laws, etc.  Only with sacred scripture shall we make a stand against him.  Therefore how guilty are we now, because no one cares about the Bible.  Laypeople give themselves to profitable sciences.  And among  religious, who ought to study sacred scripture, one devotes himself to Virgil, another to Ovid, another to Terence, and so for the others.  This is one sign, among others, of the nearness of the Antichrist.  Because the Antichrist, to prove his error that he is the Messiah and the son of God etc., shall bring forth only the text of the Bible and the prophets.  How do you defend yourself, to refute him, if you are ignorant of the Bible?  About this there is a prophecy of Solomon saying, “When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered,” (Prov 29:18).  This prophecy speaks of the old testament.   Christ speaks to all, saying,  “Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of me,” (Jn 5:39).

ADORED HIM PROFOUNDLY

   The fourth point is how they adored him profoundly.  After they had received the instruction or permission to depart from Herod, and when they had come to Jerusalem’s gate, the star reappeared to them.  O if one could express the joy which they had!  And Matthew relates this. “And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy,” (Mt 2:10)  We now know the reason why the star hid from them, so that by a double sign, the star and the scriptures, they might be certified of the truth and would have a double testimony.  And the star went before them as before.

    When they were near Bethlehem, the judges and officials of Bethlehem, who had heard of their arrival, came to meet them saying, “What do you wish? And why do you come here?”  They replied, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We have seen his star in the East and we come to adore him.”  They said, “We know no other king but Herod.”  O liars!   That star illumined those three kings, and the sun, that is, Christ, was not able to illuminate them.  Their sinfulness was blinding them, placing an obstacle on the night of the nativity, when [light] was shining.  And the star was seen by all, as Maximus says in his sermon for today.  “Rightly one star shone, the rays of which a faithless people were not able to hide, nor hide its truth; where the very heaven of the universe shone forth with a sidereal light to the eyes of everyone.”  Think when the Jews looked at the star, how it brought devotion to the good, and instilled terror on the wicked.  How they wondered because it did not shine from very high up.  The kings followed it and entered the city and finally came to the place where the child was.

    The holy teachers tell us that the Virgin Mary was still in that cave with the child where she had given birth.  And the Gloss says that Joseph, by divine providence, was not there at that time, lest he himself be thought to be the father of the child. When the Virgin Mary sensed that the army which she feared was coming, imagine how she hid the child in the manger and began sewing and knitting, praying, and her whole heart trembled.

     The star stood above the place where the child was.  And the kings were amazed when they did not see a palace there, or a noble house, and they looked at each other saying, “How is it that the star is not moving?”  Maximus says that the star emitted new and brighter rays, which told the kings “Here is the king whom you seek.”  The kings dismounted from their horses and beasts, and one of them coming to the entrance of the cave lifted up the door-covering a little, and aske, “Who is here?”  He saw the Virgin knitting and sewing. The other two kings approached, and when they saw the Virgin Mary, they immediately were seized with great devotion.  She said to them, “My lords, what do you seek?”  They asked: “Do you know where the one is who has been born King of the Jews, because we wish to adore him.”  The Virgin Mary did not say that she did not know, but she said, “Lords, the great ones, the rabbis and rectors of the city ought to know.”  She spoke the truth, and immediately the kings hearts were fully inflamed.  And again going out they looked for the star.  It was standing immediately overhead, and not moving.  It was even more beautiful.   They returned to the Virgin and they said to her, “Have you a son?”  She responded, “Yes, my lords.”  “How long is it since you gave birth?”  She replied, “Lords, today is the thirteenth day.”  The kings said “Dear young woman, please show him to us.” Then the Virgin, knowing that they had come with good intentions, picked up the child from the manger, and held him out to them. They said: “What is his name?”  The Virgin Mary replied, “Jesus.”  In hearing the name they prostrated themselves and adored him saying, “O Savior, it is good that you have come. O Lord such is your humility that you have wished to come in a stable of this miserable world.  You who are infinite in divinity, are now confined in humanity.  You who are Creator, have become a creature.  You who are immortally and invulnerably safe, have become vulnerable and mortal.  O Lord this is such a grace!”  And weeping they kissed his feet. Then adoring the mother, they said, “O Chamber of Paradise, Temple of God, Chalice of the Holy Spirit. O Blessed, you have brought to us a Savior.”

    The evangelist says that opening their treasures they gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold for a great king, frankincense for the true God, and bitter myrrh for one who would suffer.  And so the prophecy of David was fulfilled of this day saying, “The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts: And all kings of the earth shall adore him: all nations shall serve him,” (Ps 71:10-11).  Note, they “shall serve him,” namely for the good reward and remuneration which he gives to his servants.  Otherwise one serves the world, which brings death to his servants and delivers his soul to the devil, for eternal punishment.  But Christ gives grace to his servants in this world, and glory in the next.  Therefore he  is to be served, and so Christ said, “The Lord your God shall you adore, and him only shall you serve,” (Mt 4:10).

    Then the holy kings prayed to God, that He might show them if they should return to Herod.  But the Evangelist says, that “having received an answer in sleep,” from an angel, “that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country,” (Mt 2:11).

    Think a moment here, when Joseph came and saw such gold, incense and myrrh, how he rejoiced.  But on the other hand he was saddened, that he was not judged worthy to be present for such a special event.  St. Bernard says that they gave all of their gold out of love of God.

Morally.  

  • From the example of the kings we ought to offer the gold of our conversion. Such a person can say with David, “I have loved your commandments above gold and topaz,” which is a precious stone, “therefore was I directed to all your commandments: I have hated all wicked ways,” (Ps 118:127-128).
  • Second, the frankincense of devout prayer, saying, “Let my prayer be directed as incense [in your sight],” (Ps 140:2).
  • Third we should offer the myrrh of voluntary penance. And such a one can say, “You shall … make me to live. Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter: but you best delivered my soul that it should not perish,” (Is 38:16-17).

Found Online Here

Don Bosco’s Educational Method: The Preventive System

What follows are the words of St. John Bosco to his Salesians as found in his writings. They refer to the treatment of the boys and young men who visited the Oratory every day

The Preventive System

The system in use in our schools, as you know, is the Preventive System, which consists essentially in disposing the pupils to obey not from fear or compulsion, but from persuasion. In this system all force must be excluded, and in its place charity must be the mainspring of action. The inspiration of my whole life, of my priestly efforts and ideals, has been my love for poor, abandoned youth.

As all know, this is also the noble ideal of our Salesian Congregation. We are the friends of our boys. To learn how to command them, we must first learn to obey; and to make ourselves feared, we must first make ourselves loved.

Coping with Anger

In dealing with the young, we must not allow the shadow of anger to darken our countenance. Self-control must rule our whole being – our mind, our heart, our lips. Do you remember how Jesus answered those apostles who wanted him to call down fire and brimstone upon those cities that had refused to hear their teaching about him? He had only words of pardon for them.

“Let nothing disturb you!” was an expression often on the lips of St. Teresa. It is good counsel.

St. Francis de Sales, that meekest of saints, never allowed his tongue to speak when his spirit was disturbed. “I am afraid,” he once said, “to lose in a quarter of an hour that little sweetness that I have gathered up, drop by drop, like dew, in the vessel of my heart through the efforts of 20 years.”

Master your own character, and then you will succeed in mastering those of your pupils. Show them that uncontrolled emotion plays no part in your actions; they will respect you for that, and their respect will prompt their obedience. But betray the least sign of weakness, of passion, of impatience, and your authority and prestige will not long endure. Besides, your punishment will not be taken as a remedy for the boy’s fault, but as a vent for your own passion. It can bear no fruit! Even a slight flush of the countenance or a slight change in the tone of voice caused by anger betrays us and incites the boys to lose their esteem and confidence in us.

Then all punishment is useless, because the boys feel that reason alone ought to be used in correcting them. Keep Jesus before you. He patiently bore the ignorance and rudeness of his apostles. He had to put up with their faithlessness. The friendly hand he extended even to sinners aroused surprise in some and scandalized others. Yet his one interest was to inspire confidence and hope in the hearts of sinners. Well could he command us, then: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”

Ways to Make Yourself Loved

Act like a caring father. You will obtain anything from your children if they realize that you are seeking their own good. Act towards them as a good father who checks his children only from a sense of duty, when reason and justice clearly require it. Always be gentle and prudent. God will surely reward you if you are persevering in these virtues. He will make you the master of your children’s hearts even when they are stubborn and rebellious.

Allow for the thoughtlessness of youth, and Be alert for hidden motives. Boys often commit faults through thoughtlessness. At other times there are hidden motives for their misbehavior.

On several occasions I have called some troublesome lads to order and, on inquiring with kindness why they persisted in being stubborn and self-willed, received as an answer, “That teacher has it in for me!” or “They’re always picking on me, so I’m giving them something to pick about!” To my surprise, I have found that such explanations were not always without foundation. Often – I hate to admit it – we ourselves are partly to blame for the misbehavior of our pupils. Strange to say, those very teachers who are most exacting and who refuse to overlook even the slightest disobedience, are often the very first to ignore the advice of their own superiors. They themselves will forgive nothing, but they expect any fault of theirs to be entirely overlooked.

Speak kindly

When the pupil is convinced that his superiors have high hopes for him, he is drawn back again to the practice of virtue. A kind word or a glance does more to encourage a child than a severe reprimand, which only serves to dampen youthful enthusiasm.

Give timely advice

A fatherly word in private is worth much more than reproach. Instill in the young the desire of reward or the thought of doing honor to their dear ones. In this way they are at times incited to acts of great generosity.

Correct often

If they fall into the same faults repeatedly, without losing sight of charity warn them in more serious terms, contrasting your own conduct towards them with theirs towards you. Show them how concerned you are to save them from trouble and how little they repay your leniency toward them.

How to Correct a Child

Never correct in public. Correct them with the patience of a father. Never, as far as possible, correct in public, but in private, apart from others. Only in cases of preventing or remedying serious scandal would I permit public corrections or punishments.

Be indirect

Many times an indirect method of correcting is useful. For example, while in the presence of one at fault, speak to another about the folly of those who do lose their selfrespect and good sense and so deserve punishment. Often make use of a third person to speak well of you to the offender, to advise him, to tell him what you cannot very well tell him yourself. Look for one who can more easily gain his heart.

Withdraw some mark of affection

Sometimes, to obtain the amendment of our pupils it is enough to withdraw those marks of confidence and friendliness usually shown them. Wait until the child is calm. Never correct a boy while he is still under the influence of his own temper. A correction given at that time would only serve to embitter him and make things worse. Give him time to reflect, to enter into himself – he will realize that he is wrong.

Pick the best moment. Correct at the proper time, if you wish correction to do any good. I have often reflected on the story of Saint Paul’s conversion. He had gone to the High Priest “breathing threats of slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” See how our Lord bides his time. He lets the persecutor give vent to his passion. He waits for him to complete his journey. Then at the very gates of Damascus, after Saul has had plenty of time for reflection, when he is far away from those who might encourage him to persist in his resolution to persecute the Christians, Jesus reveals himself in all his authority and power! By the strength of his meekness, he converts Saul’s hatred and opens his eyes to his error; from a persecutor, Saul becomes the apostle of the Gentiles.

Appeal to reason and responsibility. Let the one you correct understand that you act out of duty and according to reason. Try to make him realize his fault and that it deserves punishment. Then mitigate it. In this way he will willingly accept it.

Use a third party. If your first effort at correction proves unsuccessful, find out if there is someone else who has gained the confidence of the child. If so, let that person try correcting him. In the meantime, you should pray that some good may result from his attempt.

Be optimistic. One last thing: when once you have gained the boy’s heart, do not be content with merely inspiring him with the hope of forgiveness, but assure him that by his good conduct in the future he will make up for past failings.

Sweeten correction with comfort. Correction at times brings about anxiety and fear. A word of comfort can easily offset this. A person who forgets and helps the culprit to forget is a true educator. In certain difficult moments, a humble prayer to God is much more useful than a violent outburst of anger. Your children will certainly draw no profit from your impatience, and you will not impress anyone who may be watching you.

A Word on Punishments

I have often been asked and begged by my Salesians to set down various norms regarding the difficult matter of punishments. At times, a child seems to reap no fruit from our corrections, yet down deep in his heart a wonderful change is taking place. And this good effect would be entirely destroyed if we were to inflict some severe punishment on him. But you might ask me here, just what punishments can we use? My dear friends, we should be prudent and sparing in our use of this means for obtaining discipline. If we are also kind and use our good judgment in employing punishments, we will obtain the desired effect – the betterment of our youthful charges.

Punishment should be your last resort. In my long career as an educator, how often this has been brought home to me! No doubt it is ten times easier to lose our patience than to control it, to threaten a boy than to persuade him. No doubt too, it is much more gratifying to our pride to punish those who resist us, than to bear them with firm kindness. Saint Paul often lamented how some converts to the faith too easily returned to their inveterate habits; yet he bore it all with patience as zealous as it was admirable. This is the kind of patience we need in dealing with the young. Force, indeed, punishes guilt but does not heal the guilty. With the young, punishment is whatever is meant as a punishment. In the case of some boys, a reproachful look is more effective than a slap in the face would be. Praise of work well done and blame in the case of carelessness are already a great reward or punishment. A reproachful or severe look often serves as an excellent means of moral restraint over the young.

By it the guilty person is moved to consider his own fault, to feel ashamed, and finally to repent and turn over a new leaf. Never, except in very extreme cases, expose the culprit publicly to shame. Except in very rare cases, corrections and punishments should be given privately and in the absence of companions; and the greatest prudence and patience should be used to bring the pupil to see his fault, with the aid of reason and religion. To strike a child in any way, to make him kneel in a painful position, to pull his ears, and other similar punishments must be absolutely avoided.

The law forbids them, and they greatly irritate the child and degrade the educator. Never stoop to humiliating expressions; on the contrary, make it clear that you entertain high hopes for your children and assure them that you are ready to forget their faults as soon as they take a turn for the better. The pupils should know the disciplinary measures, including rules and punishments, so that no one can make the excuse that he did not know what was commanded or forbidden. Being an Educator Perhaps you think that what I am suggesting is too easy or not practical enough. Yet I assure you that if you abide by what I say, you will be successful. You will see that by these means you will win over those who in the be-ginning had not given the least cause for any hope.

If too often we see our efforts cast to the winds, devoid of any good results, if the fruit of our labors is nothing but a bunch of thorns and thistles, I believe we are to attribute this sad failure to the fact that we have not yet learned the way of keeping discipline in the manner I have explained above. Only moral strength can win the human heart, which Saint Gregory tells us is like an impregnable fortress that cannot be conquered except by affection and kindness. What I recommend is hard, I know, especially for young adults whose first inclination towards obtaining discipline is to act on the spur of the moment and inflict punishments. But I assure you; real success can only be the result of patience. Impatience merely disgusts the children and spreads discontent among the best of them. Long experience has taught me that patience is the only remedy for even the worst cases of disobedience and lack of response.

Sometimes, after making many patient efforts without obtaining success, I deemed it necessary to resort to severe measures. Yet these never achieved anything, and in the end I always found that charity finally triumphed where severity had met with failure. Charity is the cure-all though it may be slow in affecting its cure. Remember that education is a difficult art and that God alone is its true master. We will never succeed in it unless he teaches us the way. While depending humbly and entirely on him, we should try with might and main to acquire that moral strength which is a stranger to force and rigor. Let us strive to make ourselves loved, to instill into our children the high ideal of duty and the holy fear of God, and we will soon possess their hearts. Then, with natural ease, they will join us in praising Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is our model, our patron, our exemplar in all things, but especially in the education of the young.