Monday, December 1, 2008

Must preach on such topics that serves much to convert souls

Example of St. Anthony Mary Claret:

A priest named Don Hermenegildo (in Spain) was known for his eloquent preaching, and one day he preached a brilliant and animated sermon. Saint Anthony Mary Claret assisted at the function.

Don Hermenegildo received many congratulations for his sermon, but Archbishop Claret did not compliment him, but quietly retired.

This greatly disturbed Don Hermenegildo, so early the next morning, he visited Saint Anthony Mary Claret.

Dom Hermenegildo said to Archbishop Claret, "Pardon me, Your Excellency, for troubling you with this inopportune visit. I need to unburden my heart to you. I have not been able to sleep all night. Tell me, Archbishop, did my sermon not please you yesterday? Your silence has been a warning and a reproof for me!"

Anthony Mary Claret, having the charity of a saint, wanted to console and encourage him, but also wanted to give him important advice.

The Saint responded, "Tell me, Don Hermenegildo, have you ever preached on the salvation of the soul or on the terrible misfortune of the damned?"

"No, Your Excellency, I have not yet preached on those subjects."

"Have you preached on death, on judgment, on hell, on the necessity of conversion, on avoiding sin and doing penance?"

"I have not preached directly on these subjects either."

"Well then, my friend, I am going to speak to you with all sincerity, since you have asked me to do so. Your sermon did not please me, nor can I approve the procedure of those who in their sermons omit these great truths of Christianity and only touch upon such subjects as serve but little to convert souls. I do not think that such sermons are either agreeable to or shall be approved by Our Lord, Jesus Christ."

Don Hermenegildo listened and was silent, and it wasn't long before the people of Madrid saw a radical change in this famous preacher. Formerly, the people would applaud Dom Hermenegildo's eloquence, but now his sermons caused them to weep in pious contrition.

Example of St. Francis de Sales:

"One day," says the bishop of Belley, "I was to preach at the Church of the Visitation. Being aware that our Saint [Francis de Sales] would be present, and that a large concourse of people was expected, I felt a little personal anxiety on the occasion, and I prepared in good earnest. When we had retired to his house, and were alone together, "Well," he said, "you have given general satisfaction to-day; people went away exclaiming, mirabilia! at your fine and elegant panegyric. I only met with one individual who was not satisfied.

"What can I have said," I replied, "to displease this person? Well, I have no desire to know his name."

"But I, for my part," said the Saint, "have a great desire to tell it to you."

"Who is he then, that I may endeavor to give him satisfaction?"

"If I had not great confidence in you, I should not name him; but as I know you well, I willingly do so. Do you see him here."

I looked around, and saw no one but himself.

"It is you, then," I said. "Myself," he replied. "Certainly," I rejoined; "I should have valued your approbation alone, more than that of the whole congregation. Thank God, I have fallen into the hands of one who wounds only that he may heal! What, then, did you find fault with? For I know that your indulgence will not excuse anything in me!"

"I love you too much," he resumed, "to flatter you; and if you had loved our Sisters after this fashion, you would not have amused yourself in puffing up their minds, instead of edifying them, in praising their state of life, instead of teaching them some humiliating and more salutary doctrine. It is with the food of the mind as with that of the body. Flattery is windy; and windy food, like vegetables, is not nutritious. We ought, in preaching, to provide, not empty food, the memory of which perishes with its utterance, but meat which will endure to life everlasting. We must never, indeed, ascend the pulpit, without the special object of building up some corner or other of the walls of Jerusalem, by teaching the practice of a certain virtue, or the means of avoiding a certain vice; for the whole fruit of preaching consists in making the people do away with sin and practise virtue. Lord ! exclaimed David, I will teach the unjust Thy ways, and the wicked shall be converted unto Thee."

"What sort of conversion," I retorted, "could I preach to souls delivered from the hands of their enemies, the devil, the flesh, and the world, and serving God in holiness of life?"

"You should have taught them," he said, "to take heed, since they stand, not to fail to work out their salvation according to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, with fear and trembling; and not to be without fear, even with respect to sin forgiven. You described them to us as so many saints; it costs you nothing to canonize the living. You must not place pillows under elbows in this way, nor give milk to those who need bitter herbs and wormwood."

"My object," I said, "was to encourage and fortify them in their holy undertaking."

"We must encourage," he replied, "without running the risk of exciting presumption and vanity. It is always safer to humble our hearers, than to exalt them to high and admirable things above their reach. I feel persuaded, that another time you will be cautious in this respect."

The next day he made me preach at a Convent of the Nuns of St. Clare. He was present, and the congregation was not less numerous than on the preceding day. I took care to avoid the pit-fall he had pointed out to me; my discourse was very simple, both in words and ideas, aiming at nothing except edification. I proceeded with much method, and pressed home my subject. Our Saint, on our return, came to see me in my apartment, which, in fact, was his own, for when I was on a visit to him, he always gave me his room. After tenderly embracing me, he said,

"Truly, I loved you dearly yesterday, but much more to-day. You are, indeed, quite after my own heart; and if I am not much mistaken, you are also according to God's heart, who, I believe, has been pleased with your sacrifice. I could not have believed, you would have been so yielding and condescending. It is a true saying, that the obedient man shall speak of victory. You have conquered yourself to-day. Do you know that most of your hearers said, 'To-day is very unlike yesterday,' and they were not as much pleased this time as the last; but the individual, who was not satisfied yesterday, is wonderfully pleased to-day. I grant you hereupon a plenary indulgence for all your past faults. You have fulfilled all my wishes to-day; and if you persevere, you will do much service for the Lord of the vineyard. Preaching must not seek its strength in the words and the notions of human wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. If you faithfully adhere to this method, God will give to your labors a full and honorable increase; you will become prudent in the words of mystical wisdom, and will possess the science of the saints, the science that makes saints. What, after all, do we desire to know, save Jesus, and Jesus crucified."

God the Teacher of Mankind: The Greatest and the First Commandment.

Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pillar of Scourging of Our Lord JESUS

Pillar of Scourging of Our Lord JESUS

Shroud of Turin

Shroud of Turin