ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN – St. Alphonsus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 VANITY OF THE WORLD – St. Alphonsus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 SIN OF ANGER – St. Alphonsus

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

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

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

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

First Point

The ruin which anger unrestrained brings on the soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

DEATH IS CERTAIN AND UNCERTAIN – St. Alphonsus

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

DEATH IS CERTAIN AND UNCERTAIN.

Let down your nets for a draught.” LUKE v. 4.

IN this day’s gospel we find that, having gone up into one of the ships, and having heard from St. Peter, that he and his companions had laboured all the night and had taken nothing, Jesus Christ said: “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” They obeyed; and having cast out their nets into the sea, they took such a multitude of fishes, that the nets were nearly broken.

Brethren, God has placed us in the midst of the sea of this life, and has commanded us to cast out our nets, that we may catch fishes; that is, that we may perform good works, by which we can acquire merits for eternal life. Happy we, if we attain this end and save our souls! Unhappy we, if, instead of laying up treasures for heaven, we by our sins merit hell, and bring our souls to damnation!

Our happiness or misery for eternity depends on the moment of our death, which is certain and uncertain. The Lord assures us that death is certain, that we may prepare for it; but, on the other hand, he leaves us uncertain as to the time of our death, that we may be always prepared for it two points of the utmost importance. First Point. It is certain that we shall die. Second Point. It is uncertain when we shall die.

First Point:  It is certain that we shall die.

1. ”It is appointed unto men once to die.” (Heb. ix. 27.) The decree has been passed for each of us: we must all die. St. Cyprian says, that we are all born with the halter on the neck: hence, every step we make brings us nearer to the gibbet. For each of us the gibbet shall be the last sickness, which will end in death.

As then, brethren, your name has been inserted in the registry of baptism, so it shall be one day written in the record of the dead. As, in speaking of your ancestors, you say: God be merciful to my father, to my uncle, or to my brother; so others shall say the same of you when you shall be in the other world; and as you have often heard the death-bell toll for many, so others shall hear it toll for you.

2. All things future, which regard men now living, are uncertain, but death is certain. “All other goods and evils,” says St. Augustine, ”are uncertain; death only is certain.” It is uncertain whether such an infant shall be rich or poor, whether he shall enjoy good or ill health, whether he shall die at an early or at an advanced age. But it is certain that he shall die, though he be son of a peer or of a monarch.

And, when the hour arrives, no one can resist the stroke of death. The same St. Augustine says: “Fires, waters, and the sword are resisted; kings are resisted: death comes; who resists it ?” (in Ps. xii.) We may resist conflagrations, inundations, the sword of enemies, and the power of princes; but who can resist death? A certain king of France, as Belluacensis relates, said in his last moments: “Behold, with all my power, I cannot make death wait for a single hour.” No; when the term of life has arrived, death does not wait even a moment”Thou hast appointed his bounds, which cannot be passed.” (Job. xiv. 5.)

3. We must all die. This truth we not only believe, but see with our eyes. In every age houses, streets, and cities are filled with new inhabitants: their former possessors are shut up in the grave. And, as for them the days of life are over, so a time shall come when not one of all who are now alive shall be among the living. “Days shall be formed, and no one in them.” (Ps. cxxxviii. 10.) “Who is the man that shall live, and shall not see death ?” (Ps. lxxxviii. 49 )

Should any one flatter himself that he will not die, he would not only be a disbeliever for it is of faith that we shall all die but he would be regarded as a madman. We know that all men, even potentates and princes and emperors, have, utter a certain time, fallen victims to death. And where are they now?”Tell me,” says St. Bernard, “where are the lovers of the world? Nothing has remained of them but ashes and worms.” Of so many great men of the world, though buried in marble mausoleums, nothing has remained but a little dust and a few withered bones.

We know that our ancestors are no longer among the living: of their death we are constantly reminded by their pictures, their memorandum books, their beds, and by the clothes which they have left us. And can we entertain a hope or a doubt that we shall not die? Of all who lived in this town a hundred years ago how many are now alive? They are all in eternity in an eternal day of delights, or in an eternal night of torments. Either the one or the other shall be our lot also.

4. But, God! we all know that we shall die: the misfortune is, that we imagine death as distant as if it were never to come, and therefore we lose sight of it. But, sooner or later, whether we think or think not of death, it is certain, and of faith that we shall die, and that we are drawing nearer to it every day. ”For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.” (Heb. xiii. 14.) This is not our country: here we are pilgrims on a journey. ”While we are in the body we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 6.)

Our country is Paradise, if we know how to acquire it by the grace of God and by our own good works. Our house is not that in which we live; we dwell in it only in passing; our dwelling is in eternity. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” (Eccl. xii. 5.) How great would be the folly of the man, who, in passing through a strange country, should lay out all his property in the purchase of houses and possessions in a foreign land, and reduce himself to the necessity of living miserably for the remainder of his days in his own country!

And is not he, too, a fool, who seeks after happiness in this world, from which he must soon depart; and, by his sins, exposes himself to the danger of misery in the next, where he must live for eternity?

5. Tell me, beloved brethren, if, instead of preparing for his approaching death, a person condemned to die were, on his way to the place of execution, to employ the few remaining moments of his life in admiring the beauty of the houses as he passed along, in thinking of balls and comedies, in uttering immodest words, and detracting his neighbours, would you not say that the unhappy man had either lost his reason, or that he was abandoned by God?

And are not you on the way to death? Why then do you seek only the gratification of the senses? Why do you not think of preparing the accounts which you shall one day, and perhaps very soon, have to render at the tribunal of Jesus Christ? Souls that have faith, leave to the fools of this world the care of realizing a fortune on this earth; seek you to make a fortune for the next life, which shall be eternal. The present life must end, and end very soon.

6. Go to the grave in which your relatives and friends are buried. Look at their dead bodies: each of them says to you: “Yesterday for me; Today for thee.” (Eccl. xxxviii. 23.) What has happened to me must one day happen to thee. Thou shalt .become dust and ashes, as I am. And where shall thy soul be found, if, before death, thou hast not settled thy accounts with God? Ah, brethren! if you wish to live well, and to to have you accounts ready for that great day, on which your doom to eternal life or to eternal death must be decided, endeavour, during the remaining days of life, to live with death before your eyes. ”death, thy sentence is welcome.” (Eccl. xli. 3.)

Oh! how correct are the judgments, how well directed the actions, of those who form their judgments, and perform their actions, with death before their view! The remembrance of death destroys all attachment to the goods of this earth. ”Let the end of life be considered, ” says St. Lawrence Justinian, ”and there will be nothing in this world to be loved.” (de Ligno Vitæ, cap. v.) Yes; all the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world are easily despised by him who considers that he must soon leave them forever, and that he shall be thrown into the grave to be the food of worms.

7. Some banish the thought of death, as if, by avoiding to think of death, they could escape it. But death cannot be avoided; and they who banish the thought of it, expose themselves to great danger of an unhappy death. By keeping death before their eyes, the saints have despised all the goods of this earth. Hence St. Charles Borromeo kept on his table a death’s head, that he might have it continually in view. Cardinal Baronius had the words, “Memento mori”Remember death” inscribed on his ring.

The venerable P. Juvenal Anzia, Bishop of Saluzo, had before him a skull, on which was written, “As I am, so thou shalt be.” In retiring to deserts and caves the holy solitaries brought with them the head of a dead man; and for what purpose? To prepare themselves for death. Thus a certain hermit being asked at death, why he was so cheerful, answered: I have kept death always before my eyes; and therefore, now that it has arrived, I feel no terror. But, oh! how full of terror is death, when it comes to those who have thought of it but seldom.

Second Point: It is uncertain when we shall die.

8. ”Nothing,” says the Idiota, ”is more certain than death, but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” It is certain that we shall die. God has already determined the year, the month, the day, the hour, the moment, in which each of us shall leave this earth, and enter into eternity; but this moment he has resolved not to make known to us.

And justly, says St. Augustine, has the Lord concealed it; for, had he manifested to all the day fixed for their death, many should be induced to continue in the habit of sin by the certainty of not dying before the appointed day. ”Si statuisset viam omnibus, faceret abundare peccata de securitate”(in Ps. cxliv). Hence the holy doctor teaches that God has concealed from us the day of our death, that we may spend all our days well. ”Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes dies. ” (Hom. xii. inter 50.)

Hence Jesus Christ says: “Be you also ready; for at what hour you think not the Son of Man will come.” (Luke xii. 40.) That we may be always prepared to die, he wishes us to be persuaded that death will come when we least expect it. ”Of death,” says St. Gregory, ”we are uncertain, that we may be found always prepared for death.” St. Paul likewise admonishes us that the day of the Lord that is, the day on which the Lord shall judge us shall come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, ”The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. v. 2.)

Since, then, says St. Bernard, death may assail you and take away your life in every place and at every time, you should, if you wish to die well and to save your soul, be at all times and places in expectation of death: ”Mors ubique te expectat tu ubique earn expectabis :” and St. Augustine says: ”Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes dies. ”(Hom, xii.) The Lord conceals from us the last day of our life, that we may always have ready the account which we must render to God after death.

9. Many Christians are lost, because many, even among the old, who feel the approach of death, flatter themselves that it is at a distance, and that it will not come without giving them time to prepare for it. ”Dura mente,” says St. Gregory, ”abesse longe mors creditur etiam cum sentitur.” (Moral, lib. 8.) Death, even when it is felt, is believed to be far off. O brethren, are these your sentiments? How do you know that your death is near or distant? What reason have you to suppose that death will give you time to prepare for it? How many do we know who have died suddenly? Some have died walking; some sitting; and some during sleep. Did any one of these ever imagine that he should die in such a manner?

But they have died in this way; and if they were in enmity with God, what has been the lot of their unhappy souls? Miserable the man who meets with an unprovided death! And I assert, that all who ordinarily neglect to unburthen their conscience, die without preparation, even though they should have seven or eight days to prepare for a good death; for as I shall show in the fortyfourth sermon, it is very difficult, during these days of confusion and terror, to settle accounts with God, and to return to him with sincerity.

But I repeat that death may come upon you in such a manner, that you shall not have time even to receive the sacraments. And who knows whether, in another hour, you shall be among the living or the dead? The uncertainty of the time of his death made Job tremble. “For I knew not how long I shall continue, or whether, after a while, my Maker may take me away.” (Job xxxii. 22.) Hence St. Basil exhorts us in going to bed at night, not to trust that we shall see the next day. ”Cum in lectulum ad quicscendum membra tua posueris, noli confidere de lucis adventu.” (Inst. ad fil. spirit.)

10. Whenever, then, the devil tempts you to sin, by holding out the hope that you will go to confession and repair the evil you have done, say to him in answer: How do I know that this shall not be the last day of my life? And should death overtake me in sin, and not give me time to make my confession, what shall become of me for all eternity?

Alas! how many poor sinners have been struck dead in the very act of indulging in some sinful pleasure, and have been sent to hell! “As fishes are taken by the hook, and as birds are caught with the snare, so men are taken in the evil time.” (Eccl. ix. 12.) Fishes are taken with the hook while they eat the bait that conceals the hook, which is the instrument of their death. The evil time is precisely that in which sinners are actually offending God.

In the act of sin, they calm their conscience by a security of afterwards making a good confession, and reversing the sentence of their damnation. But death comes suddenly upon them, and does not leave them time for repentance. “For, when they shall say peace and security, then shall sudden destruction come upon them.” (1 Thess. v. 3.)

11. If a person lend a sum of money he is careful instantly to get a written acknowledgment, and to take all the other means necessary to secure the repayment of it. Who, he says, can know what shall happen? Death may come, and I may lose my money. And how does it happen that there are so many who neglect to use the same caution for the salvation of their souls, which is of far greater importance than all temporal interests? “Why do they not also say: Who knows what may happen? death may come, and I may lose my soul?

If you lose a sum of money, all is not lost; if you lose it one way you may recover the loss in another; but he that dies and loses his soul, loses all, and has no hope of ever recovering it. If we could die twice, we might, if we lost our soul the first time, save it the second. But we cannot die twice. ”It is appointed unto men once to die,” (Heb. ix. 27) Mark the word once: death happens to each of us but once: he who has erred the first time has erred for ever. Hence, to bring the soul to hell is an irreparable error. ”Periisse semel æternum est.”

12. The venerable Father John Avila was a man of great sanctity, and apostle of Spain. What was the answer of this great servant of God, who had led a holy life from his childhood, when he was told that his death was at hand, and that he had but a short time to live?”Oh!” replied the holy man with trembling, ”that I had a little more time to prepare for death!”St. Agatho, abbot, after spending so many years in penance, trembled at the hour of death, and said: ”What shall become of me? who can know the judgments of God ?”

And, O brethren, what will you say when the approach of death shall be announced to you, and when, from the priest who attends you, you shall hear these words: ”Go forth, Christian soul, from this world ?” You will, perhaps, say: Wait a little; allow me to prepare better. No; depart immediately; death does not wait. You should therefore prepare yourselves now. ”With fear and trembling work out your salvation.” (Phil. ii. 12.) St. Paul admonishes us that, if we wish to save our souls, we must live in fear and trembling, lest death may find us in sin. Be attentive, brethren: there is question of eternity. ”If a tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall there shall it be.” (Eccl. xi. 3.)

If, when the tree of your life is cut down, you fall to the south that is, if you obtain eternal life how great shall be your joy at  being able to say: I shall be saved; I have secured all; I can never lose God; I shall be happy for ever. But, if you fall to the north that is, into eternal damnation how great shall be your despair! Alas! you shall say, I have erred, and my error is irremediable! Arise, then, from your tepidity, and, after this sermon, make a resolution to give yourselves sincerely to God. This resolution will insure you a good death, and will make you happy for 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.

Final Perseverance – Preparation For Death – Considerations XXXI

” He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.”— Matt. xxiv. 13.

FIRST POINT.

Necessity of Perseverance.—Means of Defense against the Devil. 

JEROME says that many begin well but few persevere (Cont. Jovin. 1, 1). Saul, Judas, Tertullian, began well, but ended badly, because they did not persevere in grace. The Lord, says St. Jerome, requires not only the beginning of a good life, but also the end: (Ep. ad Fur.) it is the end that will be rewarded. St. Bonaventure says that the crown is given only to perseverance. (Diaet. Sal. 1, 8, c. 2). Hence St. Laurence Justinian calls perseverance the “gate of heaven.” (De Obed. c. 26).

No one can enter paradise unless he finds the gate of heaven. My brother, at present you have renounced sin, and justly hope that you have been pardoned. You are then the friend of God: but remember that you are not yet saved. And when will you be saved ? When you will have persevered to the end. He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved (Matt. xxiv, 13). Have you begun a good life ? Thank the Lord for it: but St. Bernard warns you that to him who begins, a reward is only promised, and is given only to him who perseveres S 82 (De modo bene viv. s. 6). It is not enough to run for the prize, you must run till you win it. So run, says St. Paul, that you may obtain (1 Cor. ix, 24). You have already put your hand to the plough, and you have begun to live well; but now you must tremble and fear more than ever. With fear and trembling work out your salvation (Phil. ii, 12). And why ? Because if—which God forbid—you look back and return to a life of sin, God will declare you unfit for paradise. No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke, ix, 62). At present, through the grace of God, you avoid evil occasions, you frequent the sacraments, and make meditation every day.

Happy you if you continue to do so, and if, when he comes to judge you, Jesus Christ will find you doing these things. Blessed is that servant whom, when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing ( Matt. xxiv, 46). But do not imagine that, now that you have begun to serve God, there is as it were an end, or a lack of temptations: listen to the advice of the Holy Ghost. Son, when thou comest to the service of God . . . prepare thy soul for temptation (Ecclus. ii, 1). Remember that now more than ever you must prepare yourself for conflicts, because your enemies, the world, the devil, and the flesh, will arm themselves now more than ever to fight against you in order to deprive you of all that you have acquired. Denis the Carthusian says, that the more a soul gives itself to God, the more strenuously hell labors to destroy it.

And this is sufficiently expressed in the Gospel of St. Luke, where Jesus Christ says: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest, and not finding it, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in, they dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse 83 than the first (Luke, xi, 24).

When banished from a soul, the devil finds no repose, and does everything in his power to return: he even calls companions to his aid; and if he succeeds in re-entering, the second fall of that soul will be far more ruinous than the first. Consider, then, what arms you must use in order to defend yourselves against these enemies, and to preserve your soul in the grace of God. To escape defeat, and to conquer the devil, there is no other defense than prayer. St. Paul says that we have to contend, not with men of flesh and blood like ourselves, but with the princes of hell. Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers (Eph. vi, 12).

By these words the Apostle wished to admonish us that we have not strength to resist such powerful enemies, and that we stand in need of aid from God. With his aid we shall be able to do all things. I can do all things in Him that strengthened me (Phil. iv, 13). Such is the language of St. Paul; such, too, should be our language. But this divine aid is given only to those who pray for it. Ask and you shall receive. Let us, then not trust in our purposes; if we trust in them, we shall be lost. Whenever the devil tempts us, let us place our entire confidence in the divine assistance, and let us recommend ourselves to Jesus Christ, and to the Most Holy Mary.

We ought to do this particularly as often as we are tempted against chastity; for this is the most terrible of all temptations, and is the one by which the devil gains most victories. We have not strength to preserve chastity; this strength must come from God. And, said Solomon, as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent except God gave it, . . . I went to the Lord, and besought him (Wis. viii, 21). In such temptations, then, we must instantly have recourse to Jesus Christ, and to his holy Mother, frequently invoking the most holy names of Jesus and 84 Mary. He who does this, will conquer; he who neglects it, will be lost.

Affections and Prayers

Oh, my God! ” cast me not away from Thy face.” I know that Thou wilt never abandon me, unless I first abandon Thee. Experience of my own weakness makes me tremble lest I should again forsake Thee. Lord ! it is from Thee I must receive the strength necessary to conquer hell, which labors to make me again its slave. This strength I ask of Thee for the sake of Jesus Christ. O my Saviour! establish between Thee and me a perpetual peace, which will never be broken for all eternity. For this purpose I ask Thy love. ” He who loves not is dead.” O God of my soul, it is by Thee I must be saved from this unhappy death. I was lost; Thou knowest it. It is Thy goodness alone that has brought me into the state in which I am at present, in which I hope I am Thy friend. Ah, my Jesus! through the painful death which Thou didst suffer for my salvation, do not permit me ever more to lose Thee voluntarily.

I love Thee above all things, I hope to see myself always bound with this holy love, and to die in the bonds of love, and to live for eternity in the chains of Thy love. O Mary! thou art called the mother of perseverance; through thee this great gift is dispensed. Through thy intercession I ask and hope to obtain it.

SECOND POINT

We must Conquer the World. Let us now see how we must conquer the world.

The devil is a great enemy of our salvation, but the world is worse. If the devil did not make use of the world and of wicked men, by whom we mean the world, he would not obtain the victories which he gains. But says Jesus Christ, beware of men (Matt. x, 17). Men are often A L 85 worse than the devils; for these are put to flight when we pray and invoke the most holy names of Jesus and Mary.

But when a person gives a becoming answer to wicked companions, who tempt him to sin, they redouble their efforts, they treat him with ridicule, upbraiding him with vulgarity and want of education; and when they can say nothing else, they call him a hypocrite, who only pretends to sanctity.

To escape such derision and reproach, certain weak souls miserably associate with these ministers of Lucifer, and return to the vomit. My brother, be persuaded that, if you wish to lead a holy life, you must expect the ridicule and contempt of the wicked. The wicked, says the Holy Ghost, loathe them that are in the right way (Prov. xxix, 27).

He who lives in sin cannot bear the sight of those who live according to the Gospel. And why ? Because their life is a continual reproach to him; and therefore to avoid the pain of remorse caused by the good example of others, he would wish that all should imitate his own wickedness. There is no remedy.

The Apostle tells us that he who serves God must be persecuted by the world. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. iii, 12). All the saints have been persecuted. Who was more holy than Jesus Christ? The world persecuted him so as to cause him to bleed to death on a cross. There is no help for this; for the maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ.

What the world esteems, Jesus Christ has called folly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Cor. iii, 19). And the world regards as folly what Jesus Christ has strongly recommended,—such as crosses, pains, and contempts. For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness (1 Cor. iii, 18). But if the wicked revile and reproach us, let us console ourselves with the reflection that God blesses and praises us. They will curse, and Thou wilt bless (Ps. cviii, 28). Is it not enough 86 for us to be praised by God, by Mary, by the angels, the saints, and all good men ?

Let us, then, leave sinners to say what they please, and let us continue to please God, who is grateful and faithful to all who serve him. The greater the opposition and difficulty we meet in doing good, the more we shall please God and treasure up merits for ourselves. Let us imagine that we are alone with God in this world. When the wicked treat us with derision, let us recommend them to the Lord, let us thank him for giving us light, which he does not give to these miserable men, and let us continue our journey.

Let us not be ashamed to appear like Christians; for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, he protests that he will be ashamed of us on the day of judgment. For he that shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty (Luke, ix, 26). If we wish to save our souls, we must resolve to suffer, and to do violence to ourselves. How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life (Matt. vii, 14).

The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away (Matt. xi, 12). He who does not violence to himself, will not be saved. There is no remedy. If we wish to do good, we must act in opposition to our rebellious nature. In the beginning, it is particularly necessary to do violence to ourselves in order to root out bad habits, and to acquire habits of virtue. When good habits are once acquired, the observance of the divine law becomes easy, and even sweet. Our Lord said to St. Bridget, that when in the practice of virtue a person suffers the first punctures of the thorns with patience and courage, these thorns afterwards become roses.

Be attentive, then, dearly beloved Christian, Jesus Christ now says to you, what he said to the paralytic: Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee (John, v, 14). Remember, says St. Bernard, that if you have the 87 misfortune of relapsing into sin, your relapse will be more disastrous than all your falls (In Cant. s. 54). Woe, says the Lord, to them who begin to walk in the way of God, and afterward forsake it. Woe to you, apostate children (Isa. xxx, 1). Such sinners are punished as rebels against God’s light. They have been rebellious to the light (Job, xxiv, 13).

The chastisement of these rebels, who have been favored by God with a great light, and have been afterward unfaithful to him, is, to remain in blindness, and thus die in their sins. But if the just man turn himself away from his justice . . . shall he live ? All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered; in the prevarication by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin which he hath committed, in them he shall die (Ezek. xviii, 24).

Affections and Prayers

Oh, my God! such a chastisement I have often deserved, because I have, through the light which Thou gavest me, renounced sin, and have miserably returned to it. I infinitely thank Thy mercy for not having abandoned me in my blindness by leaving me entirely destitute of light, as I deserved. Great then, O my Jesus ! are my obligations to Thee, and great should be my ingratitude, were I again to turn my back upon Thee.

No, my Redeemer, the mercies of the Lord I will sing forever. I hope that during the remainder of my life, and for all eternity, I will always sing and praise Thy mercies by loving Thee always, and never more seeing myself bereft of Thy graces. The great ingratitude with which I have hitherto treated Thee, and which I now hate and curse above every evil, will serve to make me weep bitterly over the injuries I have done Thee, and to inflame me still more with the love of Thee, who, after I had given Thee so many grievous offences, have bestowed upon me so many great graces. Yes, I love Thee, O my God ! worthy of infinite love. Henceforth Thou shall be my only love, my A 88 only good.

O eternal Father! through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask of Thee final perseverance in Thy grace and in Thy love. I know that Thou wilt grant it to me whenever I ask it. But who assures me that I shall be careful to ask this perseverance from Thee ? Hence, O my God, I ask perseverance, and the grace always to ask it of Thee.

O Mary, my advocate, my refuge, and my hope! obtain for me by thy intercession the gift of constancy in always asking of God the grace of final perseverance. Through the love which thou bearest Jesus Christ, I ask thee to obtain for me this gift.

THIRD POINT

We must Struggle against the Flesh.—Recapitulation.

Let us come to the third enemy—that is, the flesh, which is the worst of all: and let us see how we must defend ourselves against its attacks. The first means is prayer: but this we have already considered. The second is, to avoid the occasion of sin; and let us now ponder well upon this means of overcoming the flesh. St. Bernardine says that the greatest of all counsels, and the one which is, as it were, the foundation of religion, is to fly from sinful occasions (T. i, s. 21, a. 3).

Being compelled by exorcisms, the devil once confessed that of all sermons, that which displeased him most was the sermon on avoiding the occasions of sin: and justly; for the devil laughs at all the resolutions and promises of penitent sinners who remain in the occasion of sin. The occasion of sins of the flesh, in particular, is like a veil placed before the eyes, which prevents the soul from seeing either its resolutions, or the lights received from God, or the truths of eternity: in a word, it makes it forget everything, and almost blinds it. The neglect of avoiding the occasions of sin was the cause of the fall of our first parents. God had forbidden them even to touch the forbidden fruit. God L 89 commanded us, said Eve, that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it (Gen. iii, 3).

But through want of caution she saw, took, and ate it. She first began to look at the apple, she afterward took it in her hand, and then ate it. He who voluntarily exposes himself to danger, will perish in it (Ecclus. iii, 27). St. Peter tells us that the devil goeth about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter, v. 8). And what, says St. Cyprian, does he do in order to enter again into the soul from which he has been expelled? (De zelo et liv.). He seeks an occasion of sin. If the soul permit him lo bring it again into the occasion of sin, he will enter again, and shall devour it.

The Abbot Guerric says that Lazarus came forth from the grave bound hand and foot, and after rising in this state, he died again. Miserable, this author means to say, is the man who rises from sin bound by the occasion of sin; though he should rise, he surely will die again. He, then, who wishes to be saved must forsake not only all sin, but the occasions of sin— that is, the companions, the house, the connections which lead to sin. But you will say: I have changed my life, and now I have no bad motive, nor even a temptation, in the society of such, a person.

I answer: it is related that in Mauritania there are bears that go in search of the apes. As soon as they see a bear, the apes save themselves by climbing up the trees: but what does the bear do? He stretches himself, as if dead, under the tree; and when the apes descend, he springs up, seizes, and devours them. It is thus the devil acts: he makes the temptations appear dead; and when the soul exposes itself to the occasions of sin, he excites the temptation, which devours it. Oh ! how many miserable souls, that practiced mental prayer, frequented Communion, and might be called saints, have, by putting themselves into dangerous occasions, become the prey of hell ?

It is related in ecclesiastical history, that a holy matron, who devoted herself to the pious work of 90 burying the martyrs, found one of them not dead. She brought him to her house: he recovered. What happened ? By the proximate occasion, these two saints, as they might be called, first lost the grace of God, and afterward lost the faith. The Lord commanded Isaias to proclaim that all flesh is grass (Isa. xl, 6). Is it possible, says St. John Chrysostom, for hay not to burn when it is thrown into the fire ? (In Ps. 1, hom. 1). And St. Cyprian says that it is impossible to stand in the midst of flames, and not be burned. (De Singul. Cler.). According to the prophet Isaias, our strength is like that of tow cast into the fire. And your strength shall be as the ashes of tow (Isa. i, 31). And Solomon says that it would be folly to expect to walk on redhot coals, without being burned. Can a man walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned’? (Prov. vi, 27).

Thus it is likewise folly to expose ourselves to the occasion of sin, and to expect not to fall. It is necessary then to fly from sin as from the face of a serpent. Flee from sins as from the face of a serpent (Ecclus. xxi, 2). We ought, says Gualfrido, not only to avoid the bite or contact of a serpent, but should also abstain from approaching it.

But you will say: My interest requires that I should frequent such a house, or that I should keep up a certain friendship. But if you see that such a house is for you a way to hell, there is no remedy; you must forsake it if you wish to save your soul. Her house is the way to hell (Prov. vii, 27). The Lord tells you that if your right eye is a cause of damnation to you, you must pluck it out and cast it from you (Matt. v, 29). Mark the words; you must cast it, not beside you, but to a distance from you—that is, you must take away every occasion of sin.

St. Francis of Assisi says, that the devil tempts spiritual souls, who have given themselves to God, in a way different from that in which he tempts the wicked. In the beginning he does not seek to bind them with a chain; he is content to hold them by a 91 single hair: he then binds them with a slender thread; afterward with a cord; then with a chain; and thus drags them to sin. And therefore he who wishes to be free from the danger of perdition must, in the beginning, break all these hairs, he must avoid all occasions of sins, he must give up these salutations, presents, notes, and the like.

And for those who have contracted a habit of committing sins against purity, it will not be enough to avoid proximate occasions: unless they fly even from remote occasions, they will relapse. He who sincerely wishes to be saved, must, by often repeating with the saints, Let all be lost, provided God is not lost, labor continually to strengthen and renew his resolution of never again renouncing the friendship of God.

But it is not enough to resolve never more to lose God; it is moreover necessary to adopt the means by which you may be preserved from the danger of losing him. The first means is, to avoid the occasions of sin; of this we have already spoken. The second is, to frequent the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. In the house which is often swept there is no uncleanness. By the sacrament of penance the soul is purified; by it it obtains not only the remission of sins, but also help to resist temptations. The Communion is called the bread of heaven; because as the body cannot live without earthly food, so the soul cannot live without this celestial bread. Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you (John, vi, 54).

But on the other hand, to those who frequently eat this bread, is promised eternal life. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever (John, vi, 52). Hence the Council of Trent calls the Communion a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins (Sess. 13, cap. 2). The third means is meditation, or mental prayer.

Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin (Ecclus. vii, 40). He who keeps before his eyes the eternal truths— 92 death, judgment, eternity—will not fall into sin. God enlightens us in meditation. Come ye to Him, and be enlightened (Ps. xxxiii, 6). In meditation God speaks to us, and makes known to us what we are to avoid, and what we are to do. I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart (Osee, ii, 14).

Meditation is the blessed furnace in which divine love is lighted up. In my meditation a fire shall flame out (Ps. xxxviii, 4). To preserve the soul in the grace Of God, it is, as has been already said, absolutely necessary always to pray, and to ask for the graces we stand in need of. They who do not make mental prayer, will scarcely pray for God’s graces; and by neglecting to pray for them, they will certainly be lost. It is necessary then to adopt the means of salvation, and to lead a life of order and regularity.

It is necessary, after rising in the morning, to make the Christian acts of thanksgiving, love, oblation, and a purpose of avoiding sin, along with a prayer to Jesus and Mary that they may preserve you from sin during the day: you should afterward make your meditation, and hear Mass.

During the day you ought to make a spiritual reading, visit the Blessed Sacrament and an image of the divine Mother. In the evening, say the Rosary, and make an examination of conscience. Go to Communion several times in the week, according as your director may advise: you should ordinarily go to confession to the same confessor.

It would also be very profitable to make the spiritual exercises in some religious house. It is likewise necessary to honor the Most Holy Mary by some special devotion—such as by fasting on Saturdays. She is called the Mother of perseverance, and she promises to obtain it for all who serve her. They that work by me shall not sin (Ecclus. xxiv, 30). Above all, it is necessary to ask of God holy perseverance, and especially in the time of temptation, invoking then more frequently the names of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation continues. If you act in this manner, you will certainly be saved; if not, you will certainly be lost.

Affections and Prayers

My dear Redeemer! I thank Thee for the lights which Thou now givest me, and for the means of salvation which Thou makest known to me. I promise to endeavor to persevere in the practice of them. I see that Thou wishest for my salvation ; and I wish to be saved principally to please Thy heart, which so ardently desires my salvation.

O my God ! I will no longer resist the love which Thou entertainest for me. This love has made Thee bear me with so much patience when I offended Thee. Thou callest me to Thy love, and I desire only to love Thee. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O infinite Good ! Ah ! I entreat Thee, through the merits of Jesus Christ, not to permit me to be ever again ungrateful to Thee; either make me cease to be ungrateful to Thee, or make me cease to live.

Lord ! Thou hast already begun the work ; bring it to perfection, Confirm, O God! that which Thou hast wrought in me (Ps. lxvii, 29). Give me light, give me strength, give me love. O Mary! who art the treasurer of graces, assist me, accept me for thy servant, and pray to Jesus for me. Through the merits of Jesus Christ first, and then through thy prayers, I hope for salvation.

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.