ON THE DANGER TO WHICH TEPIDITY EXPOSES THE SOUL – St. Alphonsus

“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.

Traditional Catholic with a wife, 10 kids, 5 cats and 2 dogs. To learn why this lay person is running this blog rather than a priest, go here.

ON THE TENDER COMPASSION WHICH JESUS CHRIST ENTERTAINS TOWARDS SINNERS – St. Alphonsus

“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.

Traditional Catholic with a wife, 10 kids, 5 cats and 2 dogs. To learn why this lay person is running this blog rather than a priest, go here.

ON CONCEALING SINS IN CONFESSION – St. Alphonsus

“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.

Traditional Catholic with a wife, 10 kids, 5 cats and 2 dogs. To learn why this lay person is running this blog rather than a priest, go here.

ON THE PAINS OF HELL – St. Alphonsus

” Gather up first the cockle, and bind into bundles to burn.” MATT. xiii. 30.

I shall first speak of the fire, which is the principal pain that torments the senses of the damned, and afterwards of the other pains of hell.

1. BEHOLD! the final doom of sinners who abuse the divine mercy is, to burn in the fire of hell. God threatens hell, not to send us there, but to deliver us from that place of torments. ”Minatur Deus gehennem, ”says St. Chrysostom, ”ut a gehenna liberet, et ut firmi ac stabiles evitemus minas.” (Hom. v. de Pœnit.) Remember, then, brethren, that God gives you Today the opportunity of hearing this sermon, that you may be preserved from hell, and that you may give up sin, which alone can lead you to hell.

2. My brethren, it is certain and of faith that there is a hell. After judgment the just shall enjoy the eternal glory of Paradise, and sinners shall be condemned to suffer the everlasting chastisement reserved for them in hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting.” (Matt. xxv. 46.) Let us examine in what hell consists. It is what the rich glutton called it a place of torments. “In hunc locum tormentorum.” (Luc. xvi. 28.) It is a place of suffering, where each of the senses and powers of the damned has its proper torment, and in which the torments of each person will be increased in proportion to the forbidden pleasures in which he indulged. “As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to her.” (Apoc. xviii. 7.)

3. In offending God the sinner does two evils: he abandons God, the sovereign good, who is able to make him happy, and turns to creatures, who are incapable of giving any real happiness to the soul. Of this injury which men commit against him, the Lord complains by his prophet Jeremiah: “For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have digged to themselves cisterns broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. ii. 13.) Since, then, the sinner turns his back on God, he shall be tormented in hell, by the pain arising from the loss of God, of which I shall speak on another occasion [see the Sermon for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost], and since, in offending God, he turns to creatures, he shall be justly tormented by the same creatures, and principally by fire.

4. ”The vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms.” (Eccl vii. 19.) Fire and the remorse of conscience are the principal means by which God takes vengeance on the flesh of the wicked. Hence, in condemning the reprobate to hell, Jesus Christ commands them to go into eternal fire. : ”Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. xxv. 41.) This fire, then, shall be one of the most cruel executioners of the damned.

5. Even in this life the pain of fire is the most terrible of all torments. But St. Augustine says, that in comparison of the fire of hell, the fire of this earth is no more than a picture compared with the reality, “In cuius comparatione noster hie ignus depictus est. ” Anselm teaches, that the fire of hell as far surpasses the fire of this world, as the fire of the real exceeds that of painted fire. The pain, then, produced by the fire of hell is far greater than that which is produced by our fire because God has made the fire of this earth for the use of man, but he has created the fire of hell purposely for the chastisement of sinners; and therefore, as Tertullian says, he has made it a minister of his justice. ”Longe alius est ignis, qui usui humano, alms qui Dei justitiæ deservit.” This avenging fire is always kept alive by the wrath of God. ”A fire is kindled in my rage. ” (Jer. xv 14)

6 “And the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell.” (Luke xvi. 22.) The damned are buried in the fire of hell; hence they have an abyss of fire below, an abyss of fire above, and an abyss of fire on every side. As a fish in the sea is surrounded by water, so the unhappy reprobate are encompassed by fire on every side. The sharpness of the pain of fire may be inferred from the circumstance, that the rich glutton complained of no other torment. ”I am tormented in this flame.” (Ibid, v 23.)

7 The Prophet Isaias says that the Lord will punish the guilt of sinners with the spirit of fire. “If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion by the spirit of burning” (iv. 4). ”The spirit of burning” is the pure essence of fire. All spirits or essences, though taken from simple herbs or flowers, are so penetrating, that they reach the very bones. Such is the fire of hell. Its activity is so great, that a single spark of it would be sufficient to melt a mountain of bronze. The disciple relates, that a damned person, who appeared to a religious, dipped his hand into a vessel of water; the religious placed in the vessel a candlestick of bronze, which was instantly dissolved.

8. This fire shall torment the damned not only externally, but also internally. It will burn the bowels, the heart, the brains, the blood within the veins, and the marrow within the bones. The skin of the damned shall be like a caldron, in which their bowels, their flesh, and their bones shall be burned. David says, that the bodies of the damned shall be like so many furnaces of fire. ”Thou shalt make them as an oven of fire in the time of thy anger.” (Ps. xx. 10.)

9. O God! certain sinners cannot bear to walk under a strong sun, or to remain before a large fire in a close room; they cannot endure a spark from a candle; and they fear not the fire of hell, which, according to the Prophet Isaias, not only burns, but devours the unhappy damned. ”Which of you can dwell with devouring fire. ”(Isaias xxxiii. 14.) As a lion devours a lamb, so the fire of hell devours the reprobate; but it devours without destroying life, and thus tortures them with a continual death. Continue, says St. Peter Damian to the sinner who indulges in impurity, continue to satisfy your flesh; a day will come, or rather an eternal night, when your impurities, like pitch, shall nourish a fire within your very bowels. “Venit dies, imo nox, quando libido tua vertetur in picem qua se nutriet perpetuus ignis in visceribus tuis.” (Epist. 6.) And according to St. Cyprian, the impurities of the wicked shall boil in the very fat which will issue from their accursed bodies.

10, St. Jerome teaches, that in this fire sinners shall suffer not only the pain of the fire, but also all the pains which men endure on this earth. “In uno igne omnia supplicia sentient in inferno peccatores.” (Ep. ad Pam.) How manifold are the pains to which men are subject in this life. Pains in the sides, pains in the head, pains in the loins, pains in the bowels. All these together torture the damned.

11. The fire itself will bring with it the pain of darkness; for, by its smoke it will, according to St. John, produce a storm of darkness which shall blind the damned. ”To whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever.” (St. Jude 13.) Hence, hell is called a land of darkness covered with the shadow of death. ”A land that is dark and covered with the mist of death a land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order but everlasting horror dwelleth.” (Job x. 21, 22.) To hear that a criminal is shut up in a dungeon for ten or twenty years excites our compassion. Hell is a dungeon closed on every side, into which a ray of the sun or the light of a candle never enters. Thus the damned”shall never see light.” (Ps xlviii. 20.) The fire of this world gives light, but the fire of hell is utter darkness. In explaining the words of David, ”the voice of the Lord divideth the flame of fire,” (Ps. xxviii. 7,)

St. Basil says, that in hell the Lord separates the fire that burns from the flame which illuminates, and therefore this fire burns, but gives no light. B. Albertus Magnus explains this passage more concisely by saying that God”divides the heat from the light.” St. Thomas teaches, that in hell there is only so much light as is necessary to torment the damned by the sight of their associates and of the devils: “Quantum sufficit ad videndum ilia quæ torquere possunt.” (3 p., q. 97, art. 5.) And according to St. Augustine, the bare sight of these infernal monsters excites sufficient terror to cause the death of all the damned, if they were capable of dying. “Videbunt monstra, quorum visio postet illos occidere.”

12. To suffer a parching thirst, without having a drop of water to quench it, is intolerably painful. It has sometimes happened, that travellers who could procure no refreshment after a long journey, have fainted from the pain produced by thirst. So great is the thirst of the damned, that if one of them were offered all the water on this earth, he would exclaim: All this water is not sufficient to extinguish the burning thirst which I endure. But, alas! the unhappy damned shall never have a single drop of water to refresh their tongues. “He cried out and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. ” (St. Luke xvi. 24.) The rich glutton has not obtained, and shall never obtain, this drop of water, as long as God shall be God.

13. The reprobate shall be likewise tormented by the stench which pervades hell. The stench shall arise from the very bodies of the damned. “Out of their carcasses shall arise a stink.” (Isaiah xxxiv. 3.) The bodies of the damned are called carcasses, not because they are dead (for they are living, and shall be forever alive to pain), but on account of the stench which they exhale. Would it not be very painful to be shut up in a close room with a fetid corpse? St. Bonaventure says, that if the body of one of the damned were placed in the earth, it would, by its stench, be sufficient to cause the death of all men. How intolerable, then, must it be to live for ever in the dungeons of hell in the midst of the immense multitudes of the damned! Some foolish worldlings say: If I go to hell, I shall not be there alone.

Miserable fools! do you not see that the greater the number of your companions, the more insufferable shall be your torments? “There,” says St. Thomas, ”the society of the reprobate shall cause an increase and not a diminution of misery.” (Suppl., q. 86, art. 1.) The society of the reprobate augments their misery, because each of the damned is a source of suffering to all the others. Hence, the greater their number, the more they shall mutually torment each other. ”And the people,” says the prophet Isaias, “shall be ashes after a fire, as a bundle of thorns they shall be burnt with fire.” (Isa. xxxiii. 12.) Placed in the midst of the furnace of hell, the damned are like so many grains reduced to ashes by that abyss of fire, and like so many thorns tied together and wounding each other.

14. They are tormented not only by the stench of their companions, but also by their shrieks and lamentations. How painful it is to a person longing for sleep to hear the groans of a sick man, the barking of a dog, or the screams of an infant. The damned must listen incessantly to the wailing and howling of their associates, not for a night, nor for a thousand nights, but for all eternity, without the interruption of a single moment.

15. The damned are also tormented by the narrowness of the place in which they are confined; for, although the dungeon of hell is large, it will be too small for so many millions of the reprobate, who like sheep shall be heaped one over the other. “They are,” says David, “laid in hell like sheep.” (Ps. xlviii. 15.) We learn from the Scriptures that they shall be pressed together like grapes in the winepress, by the vengeance of an angry God. ”The winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Apoc. xix. 15.) From this pressure shall arise the pain of immobility. “Let them become unmoveable as a stone.” (Exod. xvi. 16.)

In whatever position the damned shall fall into hell after the general judgment, whether on the side, or on the back, or with the head downwards, in that they must remain for eternity, without being ever able to move foot or hand or finger, as long as God shall be God. In a word, St. Chrysostom says, that all the pains of this life, however great they may be, are scarcely a shadow of the torments of the damned. ”Hæc omnia ludicra sunt et risus ad ilia supplicia: pone ignem, ferrum, et bestias, attamen vix umbra sunt ad ilia tormenta.” (Hom, xxxix. ad pop. Ant.)

16. The reprobate, then, shall be tormented in all the senses of the body. They shall also be tormented in all the powers of the soul. Their memory shall be tormented by the remembrance of the years which they had received from God for the salvation of their souls, and which they spent in labouring for their own damnation; by the remembrance of so many graces and so many divine lights which they abused. Their understanding shall be tormented by the knowledge of the great happiness which they forfeited in losing their souls, heaven, and God; and by a conviction that this loss is irreparable.

Their will shall be tormented by seeing that whatsoever they ask or desire shall be refused. “The desire of the wicked shall perish.” (Ps. cxi. 10.) They shall never have any of those things for which they wish, and must for ever suffer all that is repugnant to their will. They would wish to escape from these torments and to find peace; but in these torments they must for ever remain, and peace they shall never enjoy.

17. Perhaps they may sometimes receive a little comfort, or at least enjoy occasional repose? No, says Cyprian: ”Nullum ibi refrigerium, nullum remedium, atque ita omni tormento atrocius desperatio.” (Serm. de Ascens.) In this life, how great soever may be the tribulations which we suffer, there is always some relief or interruption. The damned must remain for ever in a pit of fire, always in torture, always weeping, without ever enjoying a moments repose. But perhaps there is some one to pity their sufferings?

At the very time that they are so much afflicted the devils continually reproach them with the sins for which they are tormented, saying: Suffer, burn, live for ever in despair: you yourselves have been the cause of your destruction. And do not the saints, the divine mother, and God, who is called the Father of Mercies, take compassion on their miseries? No;”the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.” (Matt. xxvi. 29.)

The saints, represented by the stars, not only do not pity the damned, but they even rejoice in the vengeance inflicted on the injuries offered to their God. Neither can the divine mother pity them, because they hate her Son. And Jesus Christ, who died for the love of them, cannot pity them, because they have despised his love, and have voluntarily brought themselves to perdition.

Traditional Catholic with a wife, 10 kids, 5 cats and 2 dogs. To learn why this lay person is running this blog rather than a priest, go here.

DANGERS TO ETERNAL SALVATION – St. Alphonsus

“And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him; and, behold, a great tempest arose in the sea.” MATT. viii. 23, 24.

On the greatness of the dangers to which our eternal salvation is exposed, and on the manner in which we ought to guard against them.

1. IN this days Gospel we find that, when Jesus Christ entered the boat along with his disciples, a great tempest arose, so that the boat was agitated by the waves, and was on the point of being lost. During this storm the Saviour was asleep; but the disciples, terrified by the storm, ran to awake him, and said: ”Lord, save us: we perish.” (v. 25.) Jesus gave them courage by saying: “Why are ye fearful, ye of little faith? Then rising up, he commanded the winds and the sea, and there came a great calm.” Let us examine what is meant by the boat in the midst of the sea, and by the tempest which agitated the sea.

2. The boat on the sea represents man in this world. As a vessel on the sea is exposed to a thousand dangers to pirates, to quicksands, to hidden rocks, and to tempests; so man in this life is encompassed with perils arising from the temptations of Hell from the occasions of sin, from the scandals or bad counsels of men, from human respect, and, above all, from the bad passions of corrupt nature, represented by the winds that agitate the sea and expose the vessel to great danger of being lost.

3. Thus, as St. Leo says, our life is full of dangers, of snares, and of enemies: “Plena omnia periculis, plena laqueis: incitant cupiditates, insidiantur illecebræ; blandiuntur lucra.” (S. Leo, serm. v, de Quad.) The first enemy of the salvation of every Christian is his own corruption. “But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.” (St. James i. 14.) Along with the corrupt inclinations which live within us, and drag us to evil, we have many enemies from without that fight against us. We have the devils, with whom the contest is very difficult, because they are “stronger than we are.” ”Bellum grave, ” says Cassiodorus, ”qui cum fortiore.” (In Psal. v.)

Hence, because we have to contend with powerful enemies, St. Paul exhorts us to arm ourselves with the divine aid: ”Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the Devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places.” (Eph. vi. 11, 12.)

The Devil, according to St. Peter, is a lion who is continually going about roaring, through the rage and hunger which impel him to devour our souls. ”Your adversary, the Devil, like a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter, v. 8,) St. Cyprian says that Satan is continually lying in wait for us, in order to make us his slaves: ”Circuit demon nos singulos, et tanquam hostis clauses obsidens muros explorat et tenat num sit pars aliqua minis stabilis, cujus auditu ad interiora penetretur.” (S. Cyp. lib. de zelo, etc.)

4. Even the men with whom we must converse endanger our salvation. They persecute or betray us, or deceive us by their flattery and bad counsels. St. Augustine says that, among the faithful there are in every profession hollow and deceitful men. “Omnis professio in ecclesia habet fictos.” (In Ps. xciv.) Now if a fortress were full of rebels within, and encompassed by enemies from without, who is there that would not regard it as lost? Such is the condition of each of us as long as we live in this world. Who shall be able to deliver us from so many powerful enemies? Only God: “Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.” (Ps. cxxvi. 2.)

5. What then is the means by which we can save our souls in the midst of so many dangers? It is to imitate the holy disciples to have recourse to our Divine Master, and say to him: ”Save us; we perish.” Save us, Lord; if thou do not we are lost. When the tempest is violent, the pilot never takes his eyes from the light which guides him to the port. In like manner we should keep our eyes always turned to God, who alone can deliver us from the many dangers to which we are exposed. It was thus David acted when he found himself assailed by the dangers of sin. ”I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.” (Ps. cxx. 1.)

To teach us to recommend ourselves continually to him who alone can save us by his grace, the Lord has ordained that, as long as we remain on this earth, we should live in the midst of a continual tempest, and should be surrounded by enemies. The temptations of the Devil, the persecutions of men, the adversity which we suffer in this world, are not evils: they are, on the contrary, advantages, if we know how to make of them the use which God wishes, who sends or permits them for our welfare.

They detach our affections from this earth, and inspire a disgust for this world, by making us feel bitterness and thorns even in its honours, its riches, its delights, and amusements. The Lord permits all these apparent evils, that we may take away our affections from fading goods, in which we meet with so many dangers of perdition, and that we may seek to unite ourselves with him who alone can make us happy.

6. Our error and mistake is, that when we find ourselves harassed by infirmities, by poverty, by persecutions, and by such tribulations, instead of having recourse to the Lord, we turn to men, and place our confidence in their assistance, and thus draw upon ourselves the malediction of God, who says, ”Cursed be the man who trusteth in man.” (Jer. xvii. 5.) The Lord does not forbid us, in our afflictions and dangers, to have recourse to human means; but he curses those who place their whole trust in them. He wishes us to have recourse to himself before all others, and to place our only hope in him, that we may also centre in him all our love.

7. As long as we live on this earth, we must, according to St. Paul, work out our salvation with fear and trembling, in the midst of the dangers by which we are beset. “Cum metu et tremore vestram salutem opera mini.” (Phil. ii. 12.) Whilst a certain vessel was in the open sea a great tempest arose, which made the captain tremble. In the hold of the vessel there was an animal eating with as much tranquillity as if the sea were perfectly calm. The captain being asked why he was so much afraid, replied: If I had a soul like the soul of this brute, I too would be tranquil and without fear; but because I have a rational and an immortal soul, I am afraid of death, after which I must appear before the judgment-seat of God; and therefore I tremble through fear.

Let us also tremble, beloved brethren. The salvation of our immortal souls is at stake. They who do not tremble are, as St. Paul says, in great danger of being lost; because they who fear not, seldom recommend themselves to God, and labour but little to adopt the means of salvation. Let us beware: we are, says St. Cyprian, still in battle array, and still combat for eternal salvation. “Adhuc in acie constituti de vita nostra imicamus.” (S. Cypr., lib. 1, cap. i.)

8. The first means of salvation, then, is to recommend ourselves continually to God, that he may keep his hands over us, and preserve us from offending him. The next is, to cleanse the soul from all past sins by making a general confession. A general confession is a powerful help to a change of life. When the tempest is violent the burden of the vessel is diminished, and each person on board throws his goods into the sea in order to save his life. folly of sinners, who, in the midst of such great dangers of eternal perdition, instead of diminishing the burden of the vessel that is, instead of unburdening the soul of her sins load her with a greater weight.

Instead of flying from the dangers of sin, they fearlessly continue to put themselves voluntarily into dangerous occasions; and, instead of having recourse to God’s mercy for the pardon of their offences, they offend him still more, and compel him to abandon, them.

9. Another means is, to labour strenuously not to allow ourselves to become the slaves of irregular passions. ”Give me not over to a shameless and foolish mind.” (Eccl. xxiii. 6.) Do not, Lord, deliver me up to a mind blinded by passion. He who is blind sees not what he is doing, and therefore he is in danger of falling into every crime. Thus so many are lost by submitting to the tyranny of their passions.

Some are slaves to the passion of avarice. A person who is now in the other world said: Alas! I perceive that a desire of riches is beginning to rule over me. So said the unhappy man; but he applied no remedy. He did not resist the passion in the beginning, but fomented it till death, and thus at his last moments left but little reason to hope for his salvation. Others are slaves to sensual pleasures. They are not content with lawful gratifications, and therefore they pass to the indulgence of those that are forbidden. Others are subject to anger; and because they are not careful to check the fire at its commencement, when it is small, it increases and grows into a spirit of revenge.

10. ”Hi hostes cavendi,” says St. Ambrose, ”hi graviores tyranni. Multi in persecutione publica coronati, in hac persecutione ceciderunt.” (In Ps. cxviii. serm. 20.) Disorderly affections, if they are not beaten down in the beginning, become our greatest tyrants. Many, says St. Ambrose, after having victoriously resisted the persecutions of the enemies of the faith, were afterwards lost because they did not resist the first assaults of some earthly passion.

Of this, Origen was a miserable example. He fought for, and was prepared to give his life in defence of the faith; but, by afterwards yielding to human respect, he was led to deny it. (Natalis Alexander, His. Eccl., tom. 7, dis. xv., q. 2, a. 1.) We have still a more miserable example in Solomon, who, after having received so many gifts from God, and after being inspired by the Holy Ghost, was, by indulging a passion for certain pagan, women, induced to offer incense to idols. The unhappy man who submits to the slavery of his wicked passions, resembles the ox that is sent to the slaughter after a life of constant labour. During their whole lives worldlings groan under the weight of their sins, and, at the end of their days, fall into Hell.

11. Let us conclude. When the winds are strong and violent, the pilot lowers the sails and casts anchor. So, when we find ourselves assailed by any bad passion, we .should always lower the sails; that is, we should avoid all the occasions which may increase the passion and should cast anchor by uniting ourselves to God, and by begging of him to give us strength not to offend him.

12. But some of you will say, What am I to do? I live in the midst of the world, where my passions continually assail me even against my will. I will answer in the words of Origen: “Donee quis in tenebris sæculanbus manet et in negotiorum obscuritate versatur, non potest servire Domino. Exeundum est ergo de Egypto, relmquendus est mundus, non loco sed ammo.” (Hom. 111. in Exod.)

The man who lives in the darkness of the world and in the midst of secular business, can with difficulty serve God. Whoever then wishes to insure his eternal salvation, let him retire from the world, and take refuge in one of those exact religious communities which are the secure harbours in the sea of this world. If he cannot actually leave the world, let him leave it at least in affection, by detaching his heart from the things of this world, and from his own evil inclinations: “Go not after thy lusts,” says the Holy Ghost, “but turn away from thy own will.” (Eccl. xviii. 30.) Follow not your own concupiscence; and when your will impels you to evil, you must not indulge, but must resist its inclinations.

13. “The time is short: it remaineth that they also who have wives be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as it they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as if they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passeth away”(1 Cor. vii. 29, etc.) The time of life is short; we should then prepare for death, which is rapidly approaching; and to prepare for that awful moment, let us reflect that everything in this world shall soon end.

Hence, the Apostle tells those who suffer in this life to be as if they suffered not, because the miseries of this life shall soon pass away, and they who save their souls shall be happy for eternity; and he exhorts those who enjoy the goods of this earth to be as if they enjoyed them not, because they must one day leave all things; and if they lose their souls, they shall be miserable for ever.

Traditional Catholic with a wife, 10 kids, 5 cats and 2 dogs. To learn why this lay person is running this blog rather than a priest, go here.