Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Liturgical Year by Prosper Guéranger

The Liturgical Year by Prosper Guéranger

LENT (Feb. 9--Apr. 9):,M1

PASSIONTIDE AND HOLYWEEK (Passion Sunday--Holy Saturday):,M1

PASCHAL TIME (Easter Sunday--Annunciation):,M1

VOL 1:,M1


VOL 3 (June 2--July 6):,M1

VOL 4 (July 8--Aug. 22):,M1

VOL 5 (Aug. 23--Oct. 31):,M1

VOL 6 (Nov. 1--Nov. 30):,M1

'What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?"

God has given us two eyes, two ears, two hands, and two feet,
so that if we lose one of these members we still have one left.
But He has given us only one soul, and if we lose that we have
no other with which to enjoy eternal happiness. Our first care,
therefore, should be to save our soul, which is to share with
the body either eternal happiness or eternal woe. It will avail
no man at this supreme tribunal to urge, "I was dazzled by the
glitter of wealth; I was deceived by the promises of the world."
The inexorable Judge will answer, "I warned you against these.
Did I not say, 'What doth it profit a man if he gain the
whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26)

-- --Ven. Louis of Granada (From The Sinner's Guide)

On the other hand, his thoughts had not yet risen beyond the honors of this world, and they appeared to him the most noble objects which a generous heart could aspire to. Therefore, when Ignatius was associated with him as a companion, the young nobleman seeing him show an equal contempt for esteem and for insults, and clothe himself in so poor and abject a manner, abhorred as the indication of a mean spirit, that which was, in fact, the effect of the most sublime humility.

Thus he began by despising him, and looking upon him with a species of disgust. In vain Ignatius addressed the most salutary exhortations to Xavier, entreating him to commune with himself; bitter raillery or proud disdain were the only answers he obtained. But on the other hand, with that admirable knowledge of the minds of men, with which Ignatius was endowed, he had immediately discerned in Xavier one of those strong souls, from which we must never expect common things, and which, incapable of degrading themselves for any temporal interest, always deviate from the path traced out by the multitude. But when once they lose sight of the earth, and turn their eyes towards eternal things, it is they who soar above all others in their lofty flight.

The greater the distaste which his fellow-countrymen evinced towards him, the more Ignatius endeavored to win his affections, in order that he might afterwards arouse within his heart a desire to serve God. The very ambition of Xavier assisted him in attaining this object; for Ignatius seeing his ardent thirst for distinction in literature and mental labor, sought out pupils and hearers for him, brought them to him himself, and on all occasions showed himself anxious for his glory. The noble soul of Xavier, drawn towards Ignatius by this conduct, he began to regard him in a different light, to consider him as a sincere friend, and gradually to treat him with confidence and familiarity. He knew besides the noble origin of Ignatius, and that he also had formerly been intoxicated with the vain fumes of glory: In a little while, reflecting upon this great change, which the love of God alone had effected, he began to think that it might have proceeded from some other cause than cowardice or meanness of spirit. He who thus considered the world as unworthy of occupying his thoughts, must surely be raised very far above it. Gradually, sanctity began to assume a new aspect in the eyes of the student, and he discovered that the things which are of God open a vast field of contemplation to an elevated mind, and inspire it with thoughts even more generous than his own had hitherto been. Meanwhile, Ignatius never failed to profit by every opportunity which he could find, of making an impression upon Xavier, especially upon those points where he considered himself strongest, but wherein reality his chief weakness lay. Often he would make those words of Our Saviour resound in the ears of the young student; "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Quid prodest homini, si mundum universum lucretur, animae veri suae detrimentum patiatur?" [What doth it avail a man, if he gain the whole world, and sustain the damage of his own soul?]

"Don Francis," said he, "if we are to expect no other life than this here below, if we are born to die, and not to live eternally, then you triumph and I surrender. You are wise in thinking only of the things of this world, and in endeavoring to obtain all those which are still wanting to you. I am mad in advising you, on the contrary, to renounce all you possess. But if this short life is only a passage leading to another which is immortal, which is endless, then compare them the one with eternity, the other with fleeting time, in order to comprehend by the proportion which you will find between one moment and interminable ages, the importance of making a provision for the one, rather than for the other. You weary yourself in laboring to obtain in this world a felicity which the terrestrial and grovelling ideas that now appear to you noble and generous, represent as true happiness; but do you hope, with all your efforts, ever to succeed in obtaining any thing more precious than Paradise more durable than Eternity? Yet Paradise and Eternity are destined for you! And if you wish to gain them, who can prevent you? When you possess them, who shall deprive you of them? Why then so much labor in order to procure earthly happiness for a soul whose origin is celestial, and transitory enjoyment for a heart capable of loving and possessing God himself, for ever! A blind man leans upon the first object which he meets, because he can see nothing beyond it; but he who can contemplate the firmament, does not fix his eyes upon the ground; and esteeming the earth at its true value, cannot find it worthy of making him forget Heaven, and perilling his soul. Even could this world bestow upon you in one moment its most seducing gifts, and show you as by a flash of lightning all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, could you possess them longer than during the short time you have to live? And were you to live a hundred centuries, would not the last hour of their last day arrive at length? And if you the ephemeral possessor of a middling degree of good, have deprived yourself of God himself for all eternity, shall you have gained in the exchange? Who could enumerate all those who have been rich, powerful, honored? yet their grandeur, their possessions were only lent them, and they fatigued themselves in preserving and increasing that which they were at length obliged to abandon. Did any one of them ever carry away with him a vestige of his riches and power? Had he at least carried away one slave, a single one of his slaves, were it the vilest, the most miserable of them all! Had he preserved but one shred of purple, to show beyond the tomb, that he had been a king when upon earth! But, arrived upon the threshold of eternity, all have looked back, and have beheld the wealth and grandeur which were still theirs, already seeking new masters, whilst they were advancing alone, not to exchange them for new treasures, but to receive the reward of their works! By speaking thus to you, I would not narrow the circle of your thoughts, nor abase their loftiness; I would on the contrary render them vaster, more sublime; for I call those narrow, which, notwithstanding all their vain efforts to extend themselves, can embrace but a short space of time; I call abject, those which remain fixed upon the earth. Should you obtain everything which you now desire, you would neither be happy nor satisfied.

"Oh no! your heart is not so narrow that the whole world can suffice for it; nothing, nothing but God can ever fill it. But in Him you will find all that your soul most ardently desires; then, when you contemplate this world which now dazzles you, and compare its happiness with yours, the first will appear like a drop of water compared with the ocean; like a faint glimmer of light, eclipsed by the appearance of a sun, resplendent in immortal beauty. Francis, you have a solid judgment. I leave you therefore to pronounce yourself which is most advantageous; to say now to all the joys of this world, Quid prodest? what have I to do with you? or to enjoy them at the risk of repeating eternally with the unfortunate victims in hell, these other words; Quid profuit superbia, aut divitiarum, quid contulit nobis?"

Such were the lessons of evangelical philosophy which Ignatius offered to Xavier for his meditation, in order to induce him to partake one day in the holy folly of the Cross, which laughs at the wisdom of the world. And the disciple soon became worthy of his master, for God, who dictated the words of the one, made them penetrate into the heart of the other. The first reflections had troubled him; a usual effect of the combat which arises between nature and grace, between vice and virtue; but a salutary crisis uprooted from his heart every terrestrial and worldly thought which lingered there. Ignatius would have wished him at that time to follow the Exercises, but the duties of his office did not permit this. He therefore replaced them as much as possible by conversations upon the fundamental maxims of salvation, which were a kind of spiritual milk for Xavier, preparing him for the reception of more substantial nourishment. The great word of Ignatius, quid prodest, of which, he had felt all the force, since it was the lever which raised him above the world, afterwards became in his mouth one of the most powerful means for producing upon others the effect which he himself had experienced from it.

In later days, in a letter written from the Indies to Simon Rodriguez, Xavier expresses a great desire that the zeal of John III. for the propagation of the Faith in the East, should be excited by the frequent repetition of these few words: quid prodest, &c. "If I could believe," said he, "that the king would not repulse my humble and faithful counsels, I would entreat him to meditate daily, were it but for a quarter of an hour, on that divine sentence, praying to God that he would grant him grace to understand its full meaning and interior sentiment. I would that he terminated all his prayers by these words. It is time to labor to draw him out of error, for the hour approaches more nearly than he believes, when the King of Kings will demand of him an account of his administration. Radde rationem villicationis tua. Occupy yourself therefore in endeavoring to induce him to send the assistance necessary for the conversion of the infidels!"

History of the Life and Institute of St. Ignatius de Loyola by Daniello Bartoli

on Sundays we should occupy ourselves only with what has to do with His service and the salvation of our soul.

From the booklet, The Thoughts of the Cure d'Ars:

On pages 55 & 56: It is God’s will that on Sundays we should occupy ourselves only with what has to do with His service and the salvation of our soul. By doing so, we draw down blessings on our work during the week.

Pages 22 & 23: How mistaken is he who toils on Sunday with an idea that he is making more money or doing more work. Nothing can ever compensate for the injury one does to oneself by breaking the law of God.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Must leave the job with occasion of sin

St. Alphonsus, when a lawyer, wrote: "My friend, our profession is too full of difficulties and dangers; we lead an unhappy life and run risk of dying an unhappy death. For myself, I will quit this career, which does not suit me; for I wish to secure the salvation of my soul."
Tannoja, Antonio. "The life of St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori" (1855) p. 30

From the Sermons of St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney:

Servants should avoid the growth of too-familiar relationships, which are so dangerous and so fatal to innocence. If you have the misfortune to find yourself in such a situation, you must leave your employment, no matter what it may cost you to do so. Here is an example of those very circumstances wherein you must follow the counsel Jesus Christ gave you when He said that if one's right eye or right hand should be an occasion of sin, one must deprive oneself of them because it is better to go into Heaven lacking an eye or a hand than to be cast into Hell with one's whole body.
That is to say, however desirable your position may be, you must leave it at once; otherwise you will never save your soul. Put the salvation of your soul first, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us, because that is the only thing you ought really to have at heart. Alas, my dear brethren, how rare are those Christians who are ready to suffer rather than to jeopardise the salvation of their souls.

When we have to deliberate, not on the choice of a state of life, but on some undertaking, as, for instance, on accepting or refusing some office, we should keep to the rules laid down in the foregoing chapter, taking care always for this is a capital point to act in view of God's glory and not for earthly interests.[2]Who does not deplore the sad neglect of this principle in our days ? Passion, human advantages, drive men into careers fraught with danger for salvation, and that for some trifling and perishable gain. Who can tell the amount of evil that flows from such conduct?

As in the time of St. Gregory, so in our own day there are many avocations which a man can scarcely, or even not at all, take upon himself, without committing sin: "Sunt pleraque negotia, quae sine peccatis exhiberi aut vix aut nullatenus possunt" (Hom. 24, in Evang.) Therefore, after his return to God, a man must be exceedingly careful not to expose himself anew to anything that would lead him into sin.

what laziness and what indifference we display!

Alas, my dear brethren, what have we become even since our conversion? Instead of going always forward and increasing in holiness, what laziness and what indifference we display! God cannot endure this perpetual inconstancy with which we pass from virtue to vice and from vice to virtue. Tell me, my children, is not this the very pattern of the way you live? Are your poor lives anything other than a succession of good deeds and bad deeds? Is it not true that you go to Confession and the very next day you fall again -- or perhaps the very same day? .... How can this be, unless the religion you have is unreal, a religion of habit, a religion of long-standing custom, and not a religion rooted in the heart? Carry on, my friend; you are only a waverer! Carry on, my poor man; in everything you do, you are just a hypocrite and nothing else! God has not the first place in your heart; that is reserved for the world and the devil. How many people there are, my dear children, who seem to love God in real earnest for a little while and then abandon Him! What do you find, then, so hard and so unpleasant in the service of God that it has repelled you so strangely and caused you to change over to the side of the world? Yet at the time when God showed you the state of your soul, you actually wept for it and realised how much you had been mistaken in your lives. If you have persevered so little, the reason for this misfortune is that the devil must have been greatly grieved to have lost you because he has done so much to get you back. He hopes now to keep you altogether. How many apostates there are, indeed, who have renounced their religion and who are Christians in name only!

But, you will say to me, how can we know that we have religion in our hearts, this religion which is consistent?

My dear brethren, this is how: listen well and you will understand if you have religion as God wants you to have it in order to lead you to Heaven. If a person has true virtue, nothing whatever can change him; he is like a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea. If anyone scorns you, or calumniates you, if someone mocks at you or calls you a hypocrite or a sanctimonious fraud, none of this will have the least effect upon your peace of soul. You will love him just as much as you loved him when he was saying good things about you. You will not fail to do him a good turn and to help him, even if he speaks badly of your assistance. You will say your prayers, go to Confession, to Holy Communion, you will go to Mass, all according to your general custom.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Three Hail Marys Prayers


Hail, Mary, etc. O Holy Mary! Our sovereign Queen! as God the Father, by his omnipotence, has made thee most powerful, so assist us at the hour of our death, by defending us against all the power that is contrary to thine. Hail, Mary, etc.

O Holy Mary! our sovereign Queen! as God the Son has endowed thee with so much knowledge and splendor, that it enlightens all Heaven, so in the hour of our death, illumine and strengthen our souls with the knowledge of the true faith, that they be not perverted by error or pernicious ignorance. Hail, Mary, etc.

O Holy Mary! our sovereign Queen! as the Holy Ghost has plentifully replenished thee with the love of God, so instil into us at the hour of our death, the sweetness of divine love, that all bitterness at that time may become acceptable and pleasant to us Hail, Mary, etc.

"Our Blessed Lady, herself, taught St. Mechtildis the above-mentioned triple salutation, promising her certain assistance for it at the hour of her death.",M1

St. Gregory on the fewness of the saved

"And it should not frighten you that in the Church the bad are many and the good few. For the Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a figure of this Church, was wide below and narrow above, and at the summit measured but one cubit (Gen. vi. 16). And we are to believe that below were the four-footed animals and serpents, above the birds and men. It was wide where the beasts were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church is indeed wide in the number of those who are carnal minded, narrow in those who are spiritual. For where she suffers the morals and beastly ways of men, there she enlarges her bosom. But where she has the care of those whose lives are founded on spiritual things, these she leads to the higher place; but since they are few, this part is narrow. Wide indeed is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many that are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate that leadeth to life; and few there are that find it (Mt. vii. 13)!

"The Ark is made narrow at the summit, so that it is but one cubit wide: because, of those in the Church, the holier they are, the fewer they are. She reaches her highest perfection in Him Who alone among men was born Holy, and there is none to be compared with Him. He Who, in the words of the Psalmist, has become as a sparrow all alone on the housetop (Ps. ci. 8). And so the more must we suffer them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns, but high the piles of chaff that are burned with fire.,+narrow+where+men+lived:+for+the+Holy+Church+is+indeed+wide&ei=1m4vSZ-NFpiyMIKCnbEB#PPA230,M1

If we were born amidst infidels

We were so fortunate to be born in the bosom of the Roman Church, in Christian and Catholic kingdoms, a grace that has not been granted to the greater part of men, who are born among idolaters, Mohammedans, or heretics. [...] How thankful we ought to be, then, to Jesus Christ for the gift of faith! What would have become of us if we had been born in Asia, in Africa, in America, or in the midsts of heretics and schismatics? He who does not believe is lost. He who does not believe shall be condemned. And thus, probably, we also would have been lost. --St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori

Damned Catholics are lower than Jews, who are lower than pagans

One day, St. Macarius found a skull and asked it whose head it had been. "A pagan's!" it replied. "And where is your soul?" he asked. "In Hell!" came the reply. Macarius then asked the skull if its place was very deep in Hell. "As far down as the earth is lower than Heaven!" "And are there any other souls lodged even lower?" "Yes! The souls of the Jews!" "And even lower than the Jews?" "Yes! The souls of bad Christians who were redeemed with the blood of Christ and held their privilege so cheaply!" --Blessed James of Voragine

with what distractions, what want of application in your prayers

The Manna of the Soul Meditations for Each Day of the Year By Paolo Segneri: "Examine thyself on this point and thou wilt see that many of the works thou art continually doing are very likely just works But God grant that thou art also doing them all in the right way Every one knows that saying the rosary reciting psalms receiving the sacraments hearing Mass giving alms to the poor are in themselves just works But how dost thou do them With what distractions what want of application what a variety of faults And yet how is it written They that have kept just things justly shall be justified 2 not they that have kept just things but they that have kept just things justly What constitutes the holiness of a man is not so much that which is merely material as that which is formal in his works "

do the right things rightly

The Manna of the Soul Meditations for Each Day of the Year By Paolo Segneri: "justice But according to the general consent of the Fathers the expression to judge justices also means to judge those works which are just in themselves to see whether they were done at the right time with a right intention in the right way and with all the right circumstances And therefore God here says When I shall take a time I shall judge justices to teach thee that in that day He will judge not only what is "

am I spending time on useful or vain things?

The Manna of the Soul Meditations for Each Day of the Year By Paolo Segneri: "it Time shall be no longer 2 At all events it is certain that He will take His own time that is the time He has fixed and appointed for judgment And then how strict will be the account which He will demand from thee of the time which He now gives thee He hath called against me the time 5 Think a little on the present time how art thou spending it on useful or on vain things God gives it thee for the purpose of transacting the great business of gaining Paradise and thou either despisest it or undervaluest it or only usest it for the purpose of earning damnation Alas for that ill spent time Thou wilt know its value when thy time is over and God"

"The just man shall scarcely be saved."--St. Peter

Hence St. Peter has said, that in the judgment of Jesus Christ, the just man who has observed the divine law, has pardoned enemies, has respected the saints, has practised chastity, meekness, and other virtues, shall scarcely be saved. "The just man shall scarcely be saved." The Apostle adds: "Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Pet. iv. 18.)

--St. Alphonsus de Liguori

I Peter iv. 18 And if the just man shall scarce be saved: where shall the impious and sinner appear?

Rheims bible (1582) commentary:

18.[ If the just. ] Not that a man dying just and in the favor of God, can afterward be in doubt of his salvation, or may be rejected of God: but that the just being both in this life subject to assaults, tentations, troubles, and dangers of falling from God and losing their state of justice, and also oftentimes to make a strait count, and to be temporally chastised in the next life, cannot be saved without great watch, fears, and trembling, and much laboring and chastisement. And this is far contrary to the Protestants doctrine, that putteth no justice but in faith alone, maketh none just in deed and in truth, teacheth men to be so secure and assured of their salvation, that he that hath lived wickedly all his life, if he only have their faith at his death, that is, if he believe steadfastly that he is one of the elect, he shall be as sure of his salvation immediately after his departure, as the best liver in the world.

Commentary in the Challoner version:

18 "Scarcely" "That is, not without much labour and difficulty; and because of the dangers which constantly surround, the temptations of the world, of the devil, and of our own corrupt nature."


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lukewarm soul. St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney

It is true that a Christian who lives in tepidity still regularly -- in appearance at least -- fulfils his duties. He will indeed get down on his knees every morning to say his prayers. He will go to the Sacraments every year at Easter and even several times during the course of the twelve months. But in all of this there will be such a distaste, so much slackness and so much indifference, so little preparation, so little change in his way of life, that it is easy to see that he is only fulfilling his duties from habit and routine .... because this is a feast and he is in the habit of carrying them out at such a time. His Confessions and his Communions are not sacrilegious, if you like, but they are Confessions and Communions which bear no fruit -- which, far from making him more perfect and more pleasing to God, only make him more unworthy. As for his prayers, God alone knows what -- without, of course, any preparation -- he makes of these.

In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul; he is quite taken up with thoughts of work. His mind is so wrapped up in the things of earth that the thought of God has no place in it. He is thinking about what he is going to be doing during the day, where he will be sending his children and his various employees, in what way he will expedite his own work. To say his prayers, he gets down on his knees, undoubtedly, but he does not know what he wants to ask God, nor what he needs, nor even before whom he is kneeling. His careless demeanour shows this very clearly. It is a poor man indeed who, however miserable he is, wants nothing at all and loves his poverty. It is surely a desperately sick person who scorns doctors and remedies and clings to his infirmities.

You can see that this lukewarm soul has no difficulty, on the slightest pretext, in talking during the course of his prayers.

For no reason at all he will abandon them, partly at least, thinking that he will finish them in another moment. Does he want to offer his day to God, to say his Grace? He does all that, but often without thinking of the one who is addressed. He will not even stop working. If the possessor of the lukewarm soul is a man, he will turn his cap or his hat around in his hands as if to see whether it is good or bad, as though he had some idea of selling it. If it is a woman, she will say her prayers while slicing bread into her soup, or putting wood on the fire, or calling out to her children or maid. If you like, such distractions during prayer are not exactly deliberate. People would rather not have them, but because it is necessary to go to so much trouble and expend so much energy to get rid of them, they let them alone and allow them to come as they will.

The lukewarm Christian may not perhaps work on Sunday at tasks which seem to be forbidden to anyone who has even the slightest shred of religion, but doing some sewing, arranging something in the house, driving sheep to the fields during the times for Masses, on the pretext that there is not enough food to give them -- all these things will be done without the slightest scruple, and such people will prefer to allow their souls and the souls of their employees to perish rather than endanger their animals. A man will busy himself getting out his tools and his carts and harrows and so on, for the next day; he will fill in a hole or fence a gap; he will cut various lengths of cords and ropes; he will carry out the churns and set them in order. What do you think about all this, my brethren? Is it not, alas, the simple truth? ....

A lukewarm soul will go to Confession regularly, and even quite frequently. But what kind of Confessions are they? No preparation, no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether. The Confessions of such a person are merely repetitions of old ones, which would be a happy state of affairs indeed if there were nothing to add to them. Twenty years ago he was accusing himself of the same things he confesses today, and if he goes to Confession for the next twenty years, he will say the same things. A lukewarm soul will not, if you like, commit the big sins. But some slander or back-biting, a lie, a feeling of hatred, of dislike, of jealousy, a slight touch of deceit or double-dealing -- these count for nothing with it. If it is a woman and you do not pay her all the respect which she considers her due, she will, under the guise of pretending that God has been offended, make sure that you realise it; she could say more than that, of course, since it is she herself who has been offended. It is true that such a woman would not stop going to the Sacraments, but her dispositions are worthy of compassion.

On the day when she wants to receive her God, she spends part of the morning thinking of temporal matters. If it is a man, he will be thinking about his deals and his sales. If it is a married woman, she will be thinking about her household and her children. If it is a young girl, her thoughts will be on her clothes.

If it is a boy, he will be dreaming about passing pleasures and so on. The lukewarm soul shuts God up in an obscure and ugly kind of prison. Its possessor does not crucify Him, but God can find little joy or consolation in his heart. All his dispositions proclaim that his poor soul is struggling for the breath of life.

After having received Holy Communion, this person will hardly give another thought to God in all the days to follow. His manner of life tells us that he did not know the greatness of the happiness which had been his.

A lukewarm Christian thinks very little upon the state of his poor soul and almost never lets his mind run over the past. If the thought of making any effort to be better crosses his mind at all, he believes that once he has confessed his sins, he ought to be perfectly happy and at peace. He assists at Holy Mass very much as he would at any ordinary activity. He does not think at all seriously of what he is doing and finds no trouble in chatting about all sorts of things while on the way there. Possibly he will not give a single thought to the fact that he is about to participate in the greatest of all the gifts that God, all-powerful as He is, could give us. He does give some thought to the needs of his own soul, yes, but a very small and feeble amount of thought indeed. Frequently he will even present himself before the presence of God without having any idea of what he is going to ask of Him. He has few scruples in cutting out, on the least pretext, the Asperges and the prayers before Mass. During the course of the service, he does not want to go to sleep, of course, and he is even afraid that someone might see him, but he does not do himself any violence all the same. He does not want, of course, to have distractions during prayer or during the Holy Mass, yet when he should put up some little fight against them, he suffers them very patiently, considering the fact that he does not like them. Fast days are reduced to practically nothing, either by advancing the time of the main meal or, under the pretext that Heaven was never taken by famine, by making the collation so abundant that it amounts to a full meal. When he performs good or beneficial actions, his intentions are often very mixed -- sometimes it is to please someone, sometimes it is out of compassion, and sometimes it is just to please the world. With such people everything that is not a really serious sin is good enough. They like doing good, being faithful, but they wish that it did not cost them anything or, at least, that it cost very little. They would like to visit the sick, indeed, but it would be more convenient if the sick would come to them. They have something to give away in alms, they know quite well that a certain person has need of help, but they wait until she comes to ask them instead of anticipating her, which would make the kindness so very much more meritorious. We will even say, my brethren, that the person who leads a lukewarm life does not fail to do plenty of good works, to frequent the Sacraments, to assist regularly at all church services, but in all of this one sees only a weak, languishing faith, hope which the slightest trial will upset, a love of God and of neighbour which is without warmth or pleasure. Everything that such a person does is not entirely lost, but it is very nearly so.

See, before God, my brethren, on what side you are. On the side of the sinners, who have abandoned everything and plunge themselves into sin without remorse? On the side of the just souls, who seek but God alone? Or are you of the number of these slack, tepid, and indifferent souls such as we have just been depicting for you? Down which road are you travelling?

Who can dare assure himself that he is neither a great sinner nor a tepid soul but that he is one of the elect? Alas, my brethren, how many seem to be good Christians in the eyes of the world who are really tepid souls in the eyes of God, Who knows our inmost hearts....

Let us ask God with all our hearts, if we are in this state, to give us the grace to get out of it, so that we may take the route that all the saints have taken and arrive at the happiness that they are enjoying. That is what I desire for you....

The Small Number of the Elect, by Bp. Massillon (Paraphrase-translation).

The Small Number of the Elect, by Bp. Massillon

The translator of his sermons, Fr. Edward Peach, wrote following in his introduction.

"When he delivered his sermon on the small number of the Elect before the voluptuous court of Versailles, the powers of his eloquence were manifested in the most extraordinary manner. So complete was the imagination of this august assembly affected by his awful description, that, at length, terrified and struck as it were by an electric shock, they started involuntarily from their seats, and by their loud and continued murmurs of astonishment and applause, obliged him for a time to desist: he however was not abashed, but concluded his discourse in the most pathetic and masterly manner. A more wonderful instance of the effects of oratory perhaps is not recorded in history. The fruits which always accompanied his ministry were great and lasting. After the conclusion of a discourse, the people did not form themselves into parties in order to canvass its merits and defects; but they all retired in silence, with pensive looks, downcast eyes, and sorrowful countenances. They thought not of the preacher: their attention was immoveably fixed on the great and sublime truths which he had delivered. These silent commendations, if they may be so called, are more expressive of the merits of an orator, than any public applause. The one only flatters the speaker, and assures him that he has pleased his auditory; the other imparts the sweetest consolation to his mind, and assures him that he has touched the heart. "I have heard many distinguished orators", said Louis XIV. addressing himself to Massillon, when he preached his first Advent before the court, in the year 1702, "I have heard many distinguished orators in my chapel, who gave me very great satisfaction; but when I hear you, I am dissatisfied with myself."

Respecting the doctrine of Massillon, I fear that its severity will be criticised and reproved; for he preaches the gospel in its genuine purity. Like another Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he announces the precepts of the Lord without fear, and without disguise. He knows that the laws of the gospel are unalterable, and that every letter must be fulfilled in the last age of Christianity, as well as in the first. He refuses to make any composition with the tepid and slothful degeneracy of the times; because, in the first place, he had received no authority for that purpose; and secondly, because the mercies of the Lord were extended to their utmost limits, when he consented to receive us into favour on the fulfilment of the conditions contained in the Scriptures. He is therefore severe: but he is severe because the gospel is severe, because his duty compelled him to be severe.

... The English Catholic has reason to regret that the works of this celebrated ornament of the pulpit have been so long concealed from him. A regular and well executed translation would be a valuable addition to the libraries of the learned, and would undoubtedly meet with encouragement from the enlightened and wealthy part of the community. But the difficulties of the undertaking, the price which would be required for the purchase of so large a work, and the certainty, that the immoderate length of the sermons, and their being chiefly confined to Lent and Advent, would operate against the constant perusal of them by the great body of the people, are reasons which, I apprehend, will deter every man of abilities equal to the task from attempting the execution. In order, however, that some benefit may be derived from this treasure of sacred eloquence, the present work is respectfully offered to the public. It cannot properly be called a translation. It is a collection of pious and enlightened discourses, drawn up after the manner to which the English reader is habituated, and appropriated to the Sundays and Festivals of the year.


Sometimes two discourses are formed out of one; other times, one part only is taken; and at others the whole is abridged. At all times, the division, the arrangement the subject (with the exceptions mentioned above) are Massillon's; and his method is followed as closely as the nature of the work would permit.


From: Massillon's sermons for all the Sundays and festivals throughout the year (1851)

(This translation done by a Fr. Edward Peach is not a direct translation, but a paraphrase.) Original French of the "Small Number of the Elect" can be read here: )

Part 1: "Many are called, but few are chosen" Matt., xx. 16.

THIS, my beloved brethren, is a sentence, which is seldom reflected on with that serious attention which its importance requires. It is generally supposed that salvation is attainable at a much easier rate than we represent it to be; and that the number of the elect far surpasses the number of the reprobate. But the words of my text declare, that "many are called, but few are chosen".

Were it my intention to strike terror into your minds, instead of consulting your improvement by instruction, I would in this discourse enumerate the alarming examples with which the scriptures are filled on this subject: I would tell you, that the prophet Isaias compares the small number of the elect to the few bunches of grapes which escape the eye of the vintager; to the few ears of corn, which chance only preserves from the sickle of the reaper. I would tell you, in the words of God himself, that there are two paths; the one, narrow, rugged, strewed with thorns, and frequented by very few the other, broad, spacious, adorned with flowers, and trodden by the far greater part of mankind. I would tell you, that the gospel unreservedly declares, that perdition is the fate of the multitude, and that the number of the elect bears no comparison with the number of the reprobate.

But what profit would you reap from this discourse, were I to confine my observations to this subject alone? You would be informed of the danger, and you would not be acquainted with the means of escape. You would behold the sword of God's wrath lifted over your heads, and you would not be empowered to avert the stroke. Your peace of mind would be destroyed, and you would not discover the irregularities of your moral conduct.

For your instruction, therefore, I will examine the causes why the number of the elect is so small. I will apply the subject individually to yourselves, and examine the foundation on which your hopes of salvation are established. Banish all foreign thoughts from your minds, and attend solely to my words. The subject is important, if any subject can be so, and more immediately relating to the concerns of your real and immortal welfare than anything, I believe, that has ever before occupied your attention. 1. The elect of God will be composed of people of two different descriptions; of those who have been so happy as to preserve their innocence spotless and undefined by mortal sin, and of those who have regained their lost innocence by suitable works of penance. These are the elect. Heaven is open only to the innocent and to the truly penitent. Now, my brethren, of which description are you? Are you of the number of the innocent? or are you of the number of the penitent? Faith assures you that nothing defiled can enter Heaven. You must consequently either have avoided every defilement, or your defilements must have been washed away by sincere repentance. The first is a privilege which is enjoyed by very few; and the second requires a grace which, in the present general relaxation of morals and discipline, is either seldom received or seldom corresponded with.

In those happy times when the Church was an assembly of saints, few of the faithful who had been cleansed by the laver of regeneration, and had received the Holy Ghost, relapsed into their former ways. Ananias and Sapphira were the only prevaricators we read of in the church of Jerusalem: one incestuous man only is recorded to have dishonoured the church of Corinth. Seldom was it necessary to subject a disciple to the rigour of canonical penance; or, at least, the number of lepers, who were banished from the presence of the altar and separated from the society of their brethren, was very small in comparison with the rest of the faithful.

But those times are elapsed; and great is the change that has taken place. The Gospel indeed has extended its empire, but the reign of piety is confined within narrower boundaries: the number of believers is increased, but the number of the just is diminished; the world is the same now as it was from the beginning corrupt and profligate; its conversion to the faith has produced no change in its manners and customs. When it entered the Church, it introduced likewise its immorality and profaneness. Yes, my beloved, true it is that the land, even the land of Christianity, is infected by the corruption of its inhabitants; all work iniquity, and seldom is there one who does good. Injustice, calumny, lying, adultery, and crimes of the blackest hue, lay waste the fair inheritance of Christ; hatreds are perpetual; reconciliations are seldom sincere; an enemy is seldom loved; detractions, and censures on the conduct of others, are indulged on all occasions; and the gifts which God intended for the support of the corporal frame, are abused by excesses too shameful for description.

All states and conditions have corrupted their ways. The poor murmur against the rich; the rich forget the Author of their abundance; the great seem to exist only for themselves; and licentiousness is made the privilege of their independent station. Even the lamps of Jacob are extinguished: the salt has lost its savour: the priest has become like unto the people.

Behold, my brethren, the state of Christianity. And, my God! is this thy Church, thy Spouse, thy beloved inheritance? Is this thy delightful vineyard, the object of thy tenderest care? Ah! more heinous or more enormous crimes were not committed in Jerusalem, when thou pronouncedst against it the sentence of its condemnation.

Thus, one gate, the gate of innocence, is irrevocably shut against us. We have all gone astray. There probably was a time when sin defiled the heart of every individual of this assembly. The impetuosity of the passions has perhaps subsided in some; the world has perhaps become disgusting to others; grace, perhaps, has wrought the conversion of others; but there probably was a period which we all look back upon with regret, and would gladly consent that it were for ever blotted out from the history of our lives.

But why do I lose my time in attempting to prove the loss of our baptismal innocence? We know that we are sinners; we dread the scrutinizing eye of an omniscient God; and we have too much reason to fear that he beholds innumerable stains even in that part of our lives which appears to us unsullied by any crime. It is vain, therefore, to claim Heaven on the score of innocence: consequently, there is only one road to salvation left, which is that of penance. After the shipwreck of sin, this is the only plank, say the holy fathers, that can save us.

2. Now let me ask, where are the penitents in this assembly? Are their numbers considerable? There are more, said a holy father, who never lost their baptismal innocence, than have recovered it again by true repentance. A dreadful sentence, my dear brethren, but, I hope, not to be too strictly enforced, however respectable the authority. We will not run into extremes. There are sufficient motives for alarm in the exposition of the known truth, without adding to them by unnecessary declamations. Let us only examine, whether the greater number of us have any right to expect eternal happiness on the score of repentance.

In the first place, what is a penitent? A penitent, says Tertullian, is one who every hour calls to mind in the bitterness of his soul the sins of his past life who takes part with the justice of God against himself, and renounces innocent pleasures in order to atone for the criminal excesses which he formerly committed. A penitent is one who treats his body as an obstinate enemy as a rebel, whom he must bring into subjection as a dishonest debtor, from whom he must exact the last farthing. A penitent is one who considers himself as a malefactor condemned by the justice of God to death, and is convinced that his only portion in this life ought to be sufferings and contempt. A penitent is one who is ready to submit to the loss of health and property, as to the just privations of blessings which he has criminally abused to crosses and afflictions, as to a punishment due to him on account of his transgressions to corporal pains, as to a foretaste of the eternal torments which his sins have deserved. This is the description of a true penitent. Now let me ask, where are the men in this assembly who answer this description?

Are they prostrate in the porch of the temple? Are they covered with sackcloth and ashes? Do they supplicate the brethren, who are entitled to enter the sanctuary, to offer up their prayers to the Father of mercies in their behalf? Have they spent whole years in the exercises of prayer, of fasting, of mortification, and of other penitential austerities? Are they excluded from the Church, and forbidden to assist at the celebration of the tremendous mysteries? Are they treated as the outcast of men, and deprived of every consolation but that of their tears and repentance? This, at least, was the course of atonement prescribed to the ancient penitents, and scrupulously fulfilled by them.

I admit that the Church has long since authorized a relaxation of this discipline; and my motive for hinting at the severities of those times, was not to lead you into a supposition that the observance of them was still necessary, or to cast reflections on the mild condescension of the Church in abolishing them, but to stigmatize the general corruption of the Christian world which rendered the abolition necessary. External discipline must be accommodated to the manners and customs of the times. But although laws framed by men are liable to change, the laws of penance are founded on the gospel, and can never change. We may satisfy the Church without the rigours of public penance; but we cannot satisfy either the Church or God, unless by our private penance we make full atonement for our crimes.

Now, my brethren, what is your private penance? Is it proportionate to the penance of the primitive Christians? Is it proportionate to the number and the enormity of your sins? You, perhaps, may say, that you endure the cares and anxieties inseparable from your state of life: that solicitude for the present and future well-being of yourselves and families embitters your days: that you labour from morning till night, and that, in spite of all your endeavours, you are frequently the victims of want, of wretchedness, of infirmities, and of other numberless evils. This, perhaps, may be true. But do you submit to these trials with a truly Christian spirit, without murmurings, without complaints? Do you submit to them in the spirit of penance, and offer them up to God as an atonement for your sins? If not, they will be found deficient in the scales of unerring justice, and they will not be entitled to a reward. But, supposing that you did not offend in any of these points, would you rank in the number of penitents? Would nothing more be required of you? Your merit, I allow, would be great. You would offer up an acceptable sacrifice of atonement to the justice of God. But would his justice be completely satisfied? The primitive Christians endured the ordinary trials of life with patience, and, in addition, submitted to all the rigours of canonical penance, and yet did not do too much. Can your reconciliation be effected by easier means? Are not voluntary mortifications in private required of you? You know that the penance of every individual must be proportionate to his guilt: and can you reasonably entertain hopes of salvation, when your own penance is not regulated according to this maxim? Oh! be not deceived. The ways of repentance are far more painful than you imagine: the road to Heaven presents far greater difficulties to the sinner than you have hitherto experienced. This is the real truth; and yet you spend your days in perfect tranquillity and peace!

You are not, indeed, singular in this respect. You do nothing more than follow the example of a great majority of your fellow Christians. You are not more attached to worldly pleasures, more averse to sufferings and crosses, more deficient in the works of repentance, than they. I allow that there are men of more dissolute characters: for I will not suppose that you are either destitute of religion, or unconcerned about salvation: but where are the men that are more penitent? Alas! the few that are of this description, I fear, are chiefly to be found in the shades of sequestered solitude. Amongst the people of the world there is only a small number, who, by a little stricter attention to religious duties, attract the notice, and perhaps the censures and ridicule, of the public. All the rest tread the same beaten path: children inherit the false security of their parents; seldom is there one that lives innocent; and seldom is there one that dies penitent. Good God! if thou hast not deceived us if every precept of the gospel must be fulfilled to an iota if the number of the reprobate will not induce thee to relax something of the severity of thy law, what becomes of that multitude of people which daily drop into eternity before our eyes! What is become of our parents, our relations, our friends! What is their eternal lot!

Formerly, when a prophet complained to the Lord, that all Israel had abandoned his alliance, the Lord assured him, that he had reserved to himself seven thousand men, who had not bent their knee before Baal. But can the faithful servants of Jesus be comforted with the same assurance in these days? There are undoubtedly many chosen vessels of election; the priesthood, the army, the court, the cottage, have their ornaments men according to God's own heart, with whom he delighteth to dwell; for the world exists only for the sake of the elect, and when their number is complete, the final dissolution will take place. But how few are they, when compared with that immense multitude which is hurried headlong into the deep abyss!

3. You, perhaps, have been encouraged to rely with confidence on your state, and to conclude that nothing more was required of you, because you perceived that you were as regular, as moral, as attentive to your duty as other people. But, my beloved, this, instead of being a subject of consolation, ought to strike you with dismay. Others, that is the generality of people, live in a state of tepidity and spiritual sloth; they are the slaves of pride and vain-glory; they are addicted to detraction, hatred, and other vices; they love neither God nor their neighbour in the manner they ought; in a word, they walk in the broad road that leadeth to damnation. And can you imagine that you are secure, because you walk in the same path with them? The small number of the elect walk in the narrow path: their lives are regulated, not by the conduct of the multitude, but by the precepts of the gospel: their fervent piety, their strict morality, their penitential austerity, exalt them far above the rank of other people: they are, and have been in every age, men of singular lives: they shine like lights in the midst of darkness: they are spectacles worthy both of angels and men: they hold in abhorrence the ways, the maxims, the pleasures, and the vanities of the world: they live, says St. Paul, not they, but Christ liveth in them.

Perhaps, you will say, that the saints are exceptions to the general rule, worthy indeed of your admiration, but not fit for your imitation. That they are exceptions, I will readily allow. But they are exceptions only from that general rule of walking in the broad road of perdition. A chosen soul, in the midst of the world, must necessarily be an exception. Are we then obliged to walk in the footsteps of the saints? We are. It is the duty of every one to be holy and to be a saint. Heaven is open only to saints. There is no other gospel to be followed, no other duties to be fulfilled, no other promises to be hoped for, than those proposed to the saints. Every one is obliged to love God above all things, and his neighbour as himself: every one is obliged to seek Heaven in the first place, to be meek and humble of heart, to comply with every precept of the gospel, to avoid sin as the greatest of all evils, and to do condign works of penance for the sins into which he has fallen: every one is obliged to do good, to advance forward in the ways of virtue, and to be perfect, as his Heavenly Father is perfect. These are obligations imposed on all: these are the same that were imposed on the saints: and the fulfilling them alone made them saints. Oh! if there were an easier road to Heaven, it would certainly have been pointed out to us; it would have been traced out in the gospel; there would have been saints who would have walked it, and encouragements would have been held out to us by the Church to follow their easy example. But you know that there has been nothing of the kind. Good God! how little do men consult the dictates of reason when their eternal salvation is at stake!

Be not, therefore, lulled into a fatal security by the assurance that you are as virtuous as other people. On the contrary, beware of the multitude: walk not with the multitude, lest you share the same fate. Take your model from the saints, and imitate their virtues and sanctity. If you are innocent, continue to fulfil every precept of the gospel, and by self-denial and prayer prepare yourselves for future temptations. If you are sinners, bewail your sins without ceasing; water your couch every night with your tears; put on the weeds of mourning; and anticipate the judgments of God by mortification and penance. Enter on this penitential time with alacrity and joy; and instead of seeking to increase, or of availing yourselves of, the relaxations which the multitude has extorted, vie with the penitents of old: make it a truly penitential time. Be not seduced by the examples of the impenitent; but, with the chosen few, devote both body and soul to the painful works of fasting and penance. Then you may confidently hope that you will receive the reward promised to the truly penitent, and you will be united to their company hereafter in the joys of a blissful immortality.

Part 2



"A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell by the way side. . . .and

other some fell upon a rock and other some fell among thorns and other some

fell upon good ground, and brought forth fruit a hundred fold" Luke, viii. 5, 8.

OUR attention, my beloved, is again awakened by a repetition of the dreadful truths which were the subject of my last discourse. In this parable, the elect and the reprobate are plainly designated; and the comparatively small number of the elect is discernible to the slightest observer. In the first place, out of that immense multitude of people who either know not God, or refuse obedience to his authority, and throw off the restraints of religion, none are chosen; the parable does not even notice them: and the reason is, because, according to the scripture, they who believe not are already judged. In the second place, out of the seed which God hath sown in his Church, watered with the dews of Heaven, and nourished with the manure of his holy word, only one of the four parts described forms the number of the elect.

The man who hears the word of God, but never follows it in practice, is rejected. The man whose sloth and tepidity, like the dryness of a rock, prevent the word of God from taking root in his soul, and whose only efforts for salvation consist in attending at the service of the Church, and in performing a few exercises of devotion without the spirit and without the fervour of divine love, is rejected. The man whose heart is divided between God and the world, and whose entanglement in the thorns of riches and pleasures draws off his attention from the duties of religion, is rejected. He alone who hears the word of God and keeps it he alone who seeks the kingdom of Heaven in the first place, and makes salvation the great business of his life he alone who, notwithstanding the opposition of his own nature, and the influence of public example, serves his Maker in spirit and in truth, and brings forth fruit in patience he alone is admitted into the number of the elect, and entitled to the rewards prepared for the saints.

But, my brethren, where shall we find men of this description? That you may be enabled to form an idea of the comparative smallness of their number, I will describe in detail the obligations of a Christian, and I will examine how far they are observed by mankind in general. Be attentive, for the subject is applicable to every individual in this assembly.

1. By the title and character of Christian, which we bear, we are obliged to renounce the world and all its pomps, the Devil and all his works, the flesh and all its concupiscences. These are our engagements. These are the essential articles of the treaty concluded between us and God. On the fulfilment of these we shall be entitled to the promises, and not otherwise.

In the first place, we engaged in baptism to renounce the world and all its pomps. This engagement we made at the foot of the altar of God; the Church witnessed and sealed it, and on this condition alone received us into the society of the faithful.

But what is this world which we engaged to renounce? I reply, that it is the world, to which the greater part of mankind are attached; and by this mark we may always distinguish it. The world is that multitude of sinners, whose desires and fears, whose hopes and solicitudes, whose joys and griefs are excited by the goods or evils of this life alone. The world is that great portion of the human race, who fix their affections on the Earth, as if it were their true country; who dread the world to come, as if it were a land of banishment; who are less anxious about their eternal inheritance, than about their temporal pursuits; who consider death as the greatest of all evils the extinction of every hope and the end of every enjoyment. The world is that temporal kingdom, where Christ is not known, or, if he be known, is not glorified as God; where his maxims are reprobated, his faithful servants despised, his blessings abused, his sacraments neglected or profaned, his worship abandoned. This is the world which we have engaged to renounce, to avoid, to hate, to oppose by our good example, and to resist with all our heart and mind and strength. This is the world which ought to be crucified to us that is, ought to be the object of our aversion, and to which we ought to be crucified that is, ought to be the objects of its censures and ridicule.

Now, my beloved, in what manner do we fulfil this engagement? Do we loathe the enjoyments of the world? Are we grieved at the sight of its abominations and crimes? Do we sigh after our true country, and lament that the time of our pilgrimage is prolonged? Do we wish to be dissolved and to be with Christ? No: we do nothing of the kind; or rather, we do directly the reverse. Our thoughts and affections are centred in the world; its laws are our laws; its maxims are our maxims; we condemn what it condemns; and we commend what it commends. When I say we, I mean the generality of Christians. I know that there are many who complain bitterly of the world; who accuse it of injustice, ingratitude, and caprice; who discharge upon it the coldest venom of invective; and who describe its errors and abuses in the strongest terms. But, notwithstanding all this, they still continue to love it; they court its favours; they cannot live without it. Where is the man who can say from his heart that he hates the world, and that he has renounced its pleasures, its customs, its maxims, and its expectations? All are pledged, all, without exception, have entered into a most solemn covenant to do this, and not one will do it.

We engaged, in the second place, to renounce the flesh and all its irregular inclinations and desires: that is to say, we engaged to shun indolence and sensuality, to resist the cravings of a corrupted heart, to chastise the body, to crucify it, and to bring it into subjection. This was our vow; and we are obliged to fulfill it: it is one of our principal duties: it is inseparable from the character of a Christian. And by whom is it fulfilled?

Lastly, we engaged to renounce the Devil and all his works. If it be asked, what these works are, I reply, that they are the works which form the history of the most considerable part of our lives. They are ambition, pride, hypocrisy, vain-glory, and deceit: they are fraud, injustice, double-dealing, and lies: they are hatred, dissension, envy, and jealousy: they are worldly pomp and show, plays, comedies, and unprofitable parties of pleasure.

"What!" methinks I hear you say, "is the Christian to be debarred the theatres, and other public places of resort?" Certainly, if his innocence be exposed to danger. Every action that we perform must have for its object the greater honour and glory of God, or it is not innocent. Every work that is not placed to our account in the book of life, is recorded against us. The weakness of human nature, indeed, requires pastimes and relaxations; but those pastimes and relaxations only are innocent, which may be referred to the honour of God, and which will enable us to apply with more vigour to our more holy and more serious duties.

Now, according to this universally received point of Christian morality, I leave you to decide whether the public amusements above mentioned are innocent or not. Do they unbend the mind only for a time, and thereby enable it to apply with more earnestness to the great affair of salvation? Can they be referred to the greater honour and glory of God? Is it possible to frequent them through motives of religion and virtue? No: the most profane Christian would blush to make the assertion. Consequently, your innocence is not only endangered, but injured by them; and consequently, as often as you frequent them, you violate the sacred engagement to renounce the Devil and all his works, which you contracted in baptism, and which you ratify by your public profession of the Christian faith.

2. These, my brethren, are our baptismal vows. They are not matter of counsel only: they are what we call pious practices. They are obligations the most essential the most indispensable. And yet how few observe them! how few give them a place in their thoughts! Ah! did you but seriously reflect on the extent of the duties which the name of Christian imposes on you were you but once thoroughly convinced that you are obliged to hate the world and all that is not God, to live the life of faith, to maintain a constant watchfulness over your senses, to be conformed to Christ crucified did you but seriously consider, that the great command of loving God with your whole heart and strength, is violated by every thought, every action, which is not referred to him; oh! you would be seized with fear and trembling; you would shudder at the sight of the immense chaos which your infidelities have formed between you and God; you would exclaim with astonishment: "Who can be saved? if these are our duties if this constant watchfulness, this pure and fervent love are required of every individual, who can be saved?" This would be your exclamation; and I would immediately answer: "Very few indeed will be saved: you will not be saved unless you reform your lives; they who live like you will not be saved; the multitude will not be saved".

Who then will be saved? The man who, in these days of irreligion and vice, walks in the footsteps of the primitive Christian, "whose hands are innocent, and whose heart is pure; who has not received his soul in vain" P., xxiii. 4; who has successfully struggled against the torrent of worldly example, and purified his soul; who is a lover of justice, "and swears not deceitfully against his neighbour" ib.; who is not indebted to double dealing for an increase of fortune; who returns good for evil, and heaps favours on the enemy that had laboured for his destruction; who is candid and sincere, and never sacrifices truth to interest, nor conscience to civility; who is charitable to all in distress, and a friend to all in affliction; who is resigned in adversity, and penitent even in prosperity.

He, my dear brethren, will be saved, and he only. Oh! how alarming is this truth! And nevertheless, all the chosen few only excepted, who work out their salvation with fear and trembling all, I say, live on in the greatest peace and tranquillity of mind. They know that the greater number is lost; but they flatter themselves with the assurance that, although they live like the world, they shall die like the just: each one supposes that God will favour him with a particular grace: each one looks forward with confidence to a happy death.

These are your expectations likewise. I will therefore say no more about the rest of mankind, but address myself solely to you as if you were the only inhabitants of the Earth. Now this is the thought which occupies my mind, and strikes terror into the very centre of my soul. I suppose that the last day is arrived; that the trumpet has sounded; that you are risen from the dead; that you are assembled together in this place, to await the coming of the great Judge; that the heavens are about to open; and that you will shortly behold the Son of Man descending with great power and majesty to pronounce upon you the sentence either of election or reprobation.

Rouse your attention, my brethren. Are your accounts in order? Are you prepared for the trial? Are you ready to meet your Judge? Do not say that you will prepare yourselves hereafter. This is a delusive hope. What you are now, the same will you probably be at the hour of death. The intention of reforming your conduct, which has so long occupied your thoughts without effect, will continue without effect as long as you live. This is testified by the experience of ages.

Now I ask you I ask you with dismay, and without meaning to separate my lot from yours: Were the Son of Man to appear in this assembly, and separate the good from the bad, the innocent from the guilty, the penitent from the impenitent, how many would he place on his right hand? Would he place the greater number of us? Would he place one half? Formerly, he could not find ten just men in five populous cities; and could he find as many, do you think, in this small assembly? How many, then, would he place on his right? You cannot give an answer, neither can I. Thou alone, my God, knowest thy elect, thy chosen few.

But if we cannot say who will be placed on his right hand, we can say at least that sinners will be placed on his left. Who, then, are sinners? They may be divided into four classes. Let every individual attend, and examine whether he may not be ranked in one of them.

1. They who are immersed in vice, and will not reform:

2. They who intend to reform, but defer their conversion:

3. They who fall into their former habits as often as they pretend to renounce them:

4. They who think that they need not a change of life.

These are the reprobate: separate them from the rest of this assembly, for they will be separated from them at the last day. Now, ye chosen servants of my God ye remnant of Israel, lift up your heads; your salvation is at hand: pass to the right: separate yourselves from this chaff, which is destined for the fire. O God! where are thy elect! How few of us will be comprehended in the number!

Beloved Christians, our perdition is almost certain; and why are we not alarmed? If a voice from Heaven were heard in this temple, proclaiming aloud that one of us here present would be consigned to eternal flames, without disclosing the name, who would not tremble for himself? who would not examine into the state of his soul? who would not, like the apostles at the last supper, turn to Jesus, and say: "Is it I, Lord?" And, if time were still at our disposal, who would not endeavour to secure his own soul by the tears and sighs of repentance?

Where then is our prudence? Perhaps not more than ten of my present auditory will be saved; perhaps not even so many; perhaps But, O God! I dare not, I cannot fix my eyes on the dreadful, unfathomable abyss of thy justice: perhaps not more than one of us will see Heaven. And yet, we all flatter ourselves that we shall be the happy souls that will escape: we all imagine, without considering either our virtues or vices, that God will have mercy on us in preference even to those who are more innocent and deserving.

Good God! how little are the terrors of thy justice known in the world! The elect in every age withered away through fear, when they contemplated the severity and the depth of thy judgments on the sins of men. Holy solitaries, after a life of the severest penance, were terrified at the thought, and when stretched on the bed of death, shook their hard couch of poverty and mortification by the trembling motions of their emaciated frame. They turned towards their weeping brethren, and with a faltering and dying voice asked them: "Do you think that the Lord will have mercy on me?" Their fears bordered on despair, and their minds were in the greatest agitation, until Jesus himself appeased the storm, and produced a calm. But now, the man who has lived like the multitude, who has been worldly, profane, sensual, and unthinking, dies with the assurance of a happy immortality: and the minister of God, when summoned to attend him, is necessitated to cherish this false confidence, to speak only of the infinite treasures of the mercies of God, and in some measure to aid and assist him in deceiving himself. Good God! what wrath is stored up by thy justice against the day of wrath!

What conclusion, my beloved, are you to draw from these alarming truths? That you are to despair of salvation? God forbid. The impious man alone, in order to indulge his passions with less restraint, endeavours to convince himself that salvation is unattainable, and that all mankind will perish with him. My object is, that you should be undeceived respecting that almost universally received opinion, that it is not unlawful to do what is done by others, and that universal custom is a sufficient rule for your conduct. My object is, that you should be convinced, that in order to be saved, you must live in a different manner from the generality of mankind, that your piety must be singular, and that you must be separated from the multitude.

When the captive Jews were on the point of departing from their beloved country for the land of bondage the great Babylon the prophet Jeremiah, who was commanded by God to remain in Jerusalem, addressed them in words to this purpose. Children of Israel, when you arrive in Babylon, you will behold their gods of silver and gold borne on the shoulders of the inhabitants, and the multitude before and behind adoring them; but do not you imitate their example; on the contrary, say in your hearts: "Thou alone, O Lord, art worthy to be adored" Bar., vi. 6.

My advice to you at parting is nearly in the same words; and I earnestly exhort you never for a moment to lose sight of it. As soon as you have left the house of God, you will find yourselves in the midst of Babylon. You will behold the idols of gold and silver, before which are prostrated the greater part of mankind: you will see the gods of this world wealth, glory, and pleasure, surrounded by their numerous votaries and adorers: you will witness abuses, errors, and disorders, authorized by universal example. Then, my beloved brethren, if you are Israelites indeed, you must turn to God, and say: "Thou alone art worthy to be adored". I will not take part with people who are strangers to thee: I will follow no other law but thine. The gods which the senseless multitude adores are not gods; they are the work of men's hands, and they shall perish with them. Thou only art immortal: Thou alone art worthy to be adored. The laws of Babylon have no connection with thy holy laws. I will adore thee in the society of thy elect, and with them I will ardently sigh after the Heavenly Jerusalem the seat of bliss. The world, perhaps, may attribute my conduct to weakness, my singularity to vain-glory; but do thou, O Lord, give me strength to resist the torrent of vice, and suffer me not to be seduced by evil example. The days of captivity will have an end. Thou wilt remember Abraham and David, thy servants. Thou wilt deliver thy people from slavery, and lead them into Sion. Then shalt thou alone reign over Israel, and over the nations that refuse to know thee. Then shall the former things pass away, and thou alone shalt remain forever. Then shall all nations know that "thou alone, O Lord, art worthy to be adored."

In order therefore to profit by this discourse, you must be resolved to live differently from the rest of men: you must bear constantly in mind that the greater number are lost: you must disregard all customs which are not consistent with the law of God: you must reflect that the saints in every age were men of singular lives. Then, after having been distinguished from sinners on Earth, you will be gloriously separated from them for all eternity.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Think on that dread eternity To which thou art hast'ning ever;

Lines Sung during the Missions.

LOVE God, who loveth thee,
For love itself is He;
He bids the sinner weep;
He saith: Poor child, from sin depart;
Rest thee within thy Father's heart;

Turn to thy Shepherd, wandering sheep.
A messenger from God am I,
Pardon and grace I offer thee;
Perchance thine hour of death draws nigh:
For thy soul's sake, ah ! list to me.

The God of mercy calleth thee;
Turn not deaf ear and rebel heart:
If now His call rejected be
His grace He ll ne'er again impart.

Poor sinful one ! can'st thou remain
In God's disgrace, yet tremble not?
Depart from sin and pleasures vain
Ere hell becomes thy dreadful lot.

Long-suffering is thy Saviour dear,
But not forever will He wait;
If suddenly thy death draws near,
Say, sinner, what shall be thy fate?

Our Jesus is so sweet, so mild,
How canst thou turn from Him away?
Haste, then, with God be reconciled;
Poor sinner, make no vain delay.

How canst thou tranquil, joyous dwell;
Unmindful of eternity ?
And on the very brink of hell
Slight ev'ry grace God offers thee?

Ere long thy life must pass away;
Know'st thou the hour when thou shalt die?
Perchance ere dawns another day
Thou wilt behold eternity !

My son, while yet thou hast the pow'r
Reflect how soon thy life must end
How on its last sad, solemn hour
Eternal pains or joys depend.

If thou pursue thy careless way,
He who is now despis'd by thee
Will meet thee on that dying day
And thy Eternal Judge will be.

Then, sinner, wilt thou trembling stand,
Recalling past iniquity,
Dreading to fall into His hand
Who wrathful stands in majesty.

They who so blindly risk d their all,
Nor thought on hell's eternal fire,
Now after death too surely fall
Into the abyss so dark and dire.

And when shall hell's sharp pains be o'er?
The insult to God's majesty
Has been so deep that evermore
Those pains shall last, eternally.

Think on that dread eternity
To which thou art hast'ning ever;
Think of that long futurity
Of pains that will leave thee never.


WHY serve the world, thy enemy,

Eternal Maxims.

WHY serve the world, thy enemy,
And from thy thankless heart dethrone
That God whose love created thee
To love and serve Himself alone ?

Slave of a tyrant thou dost live;
He promises, and breaks his word,
And for thy service nought can give
But bitter thorns as thy reward.

Remember, death will come one day;
His touch thy fragile life destroys;
Then, then, alas ! will fade away
Earth's cheating hopes and empty joys.

All worldly pleasures then will be
To thee but weariness and woe;
The scene of life must close for thee,
Thy part is played, and thou must go.

That body thou hast oft caress'd
Such noisome stench shall send around,
That all will fly the loathsome pest,
And hide the carrion in the ground.

Forth flies the spirit from this clay,
Alone before its God to stand;
The soul scarce yet has passed away,
The judge already is at hand.

Sinner ! sinner ! what wilt thou do,
Standing before the awful throne?
In vain for mercy wouldst thou sue,
Stern Justice triumphs there alone.

Ah ! miserable, thoughtless one !
Say, what excuse thou darest bring,
Before that gaze of brightest sun,
The face of thy offended King.

What horror then the soul shall pierce,
When, spurned away by heavenly ire,
Tis hurled into the torment fierce
Of never, never-ending fire !

Then shall be closed upon thy pain
The gates of hope and liberty;
Thou seekest death, in vain, in vain;
It flies and mocks thy misery.

That moment when this life shall fail,
Or heaven or hell thy lot must be;
Eternal joys or endless wail,
O moment ! O eternity !

Think, then, ere yet this life is o'er,
On that whereon thy ALL depends;
Eternity which never ends !


Dead to the world already ere he dies

On the Tomb of Alexander the Great.

BEHOLD the end of all the pomp of earth,
All human greatness, beauty, noble birth !
Worms, rottenness, a little dust, a stone,
Close the brief scene of life for ev'ry one.
Who gives his heart to God alone is wise,
Dead to the world already ere he dies.
O thou that readest this ! thou, too, one day
Must die; which lot dost thou prefer, I pray,
To die a slave, and then in bliss to reign,
Or die a king, and pass to endless pain ?
Reflect, prepare; the present time flies fast;
Repentance comes too late when life is past.


On Spiritual Reading

On Spiritual Reading

by St. Alphonsus Liguori

To a spiritual life the reading of holy books is perhaps not less useful than mental prayer. St. Bernard says reading instructs us at once in prayer, and in the practice of virtue. Hence he concluded that spiritual reading and prayer are the arms by which hell is conquered and paradise won. We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions, and particularly in our doubts; but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us lights and directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will. Hence St. Athanasius used to say that we find no one devoted to the service of the Lord that did not practice spiritual reading. Hence all the founders of religious Orders have strongly recommended this holy exercise to their religious. St. Benedict, among the rest, commanded that each monk should every day make a spiritual reading, and that two others should be appointed to go about visiting the cells to see if all fulfilled the command; and should any monk be found negligent in the observance of this rule, the saint ordered a penance to be imposed upon him. But before all, the Apostle prescribed spiritual reading to Timothy. Attend unto reading. Mark the word Attend, which signifies that, although Timothy, as being bishop, was greatly occupied with the care of his flock, still the Apostle wished him to apply to the reading of holy books, not in a passing way and for a short time, but regularly and for a considerable time.

The reading of spiritual works is as profitable as the reading of bad books is noxious. As the former has led to the conversion of many sinners, so the latter is every day the ruin of many young persons. The first author of pious books is the Spirit of God; but the author of pernicious writings is the devil, who often artfully conceals from certain persons the poison that such works contain, and makes these persons believe that the reading of such books is necessary in order to speak well, and to acquire a knowledge of the world for their own direction, or at least in order to pass the time agreeably....

Remember also that for you certain useless books, though not bad, will be pernicious; because they will make you lose the time that you can employ in occupations profitable to the soul. In a letter to his disciple Eustochium, St. Jerome stated for her instruction that in his solitude at Bethlehem he was attached to the works of Cicero, and frequently read them, and that he felt a certain disgust for pious books because their style was not polished. He was seized with a serious malady, in which he saw himself at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. The Lord said to him: "Tell me; what are you?" "I am," replied the saint, "a Christian." "No," rejoined the Judge, "you are a Ciceronian, not a Christian." He then commanded him to be instantly scourged. The saint promised to correct his fault, and having returned from the vision he found his shoulders livid and covered with wounds in consequence of the chastisement that he had received. Thenceforward he gave up the works of Cicero, and devoted himself to the reading of books of piety. It is true that in the works like those of Cicero we sometimes find useful sentiments; but the same St. Jerome wisely said in a letter to another disciple: "What need have you of seeking for a little gold in the midst of so much mire," when you can read pious books in which you may find all gold without any mire?

As the reading of bad books fills the mind with worldly and poisonous sentiments; so, on the other hand, the reading of pious works fills the soul with holy thoughts and good desires.

In the second place, the soul that is imbued with holy thoughts in reading is always prepared to banish internal temptations. The advice that St. Jerome gave to his disciple Salvina was: "Endeavor to have always in your hand a pious book, that with this shield you may defend yourself against bad thoughts."

In the third place, spiritual reading serves to make us see the stains that infect the soul, and helps us to remove them. The same St. Jerome recommended Demetriade to avail herself of spiritual reading as of a mirror. He meant to say that as a mirror exhibits the stains of the countenance, so holy books show us the defects of the soul. St. Gregory, speaking of spiritual reading, says: "There we perceive the losses we have sustained and the advantages we have acquired; there we observe our falling back or our progress in the way of God."

In the fourth place, in reading holy books we receive many lights and divine calls. St. Jerome says that when we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us. St. Ambrose says the same: "We address him when we pray; we hear him when we read." In prayer, God hears our petitions, but in reading we listen to his voice. We cannot, as I have already said, always have at hand a spiritual Father, nor can we hear the sermons of sacred orators, to direct and give us light to walk well in the way of God. Good books supply the place of sermons. St. Augustine writes that good books are, as it were, so many letters of love the Lord sends us; in them he warns us of our dangers, teaches us the way of salvation, animates us to suffer adversity, enlightens us, and inflames us with divine love. Whoever, then, desires to be saved and to acquire divine love, should often read these letters of paradise.

How many saints have, by reading a spiritual book, been induced to forsake the world and to give themselves to God! It is known to all that St. Augustine, when miserably chained by his passions and vices, was, by reading one of the epistles of St. Paul, enlightened with divine light, went forth from his darkness, and began to lead a life of holiness. Thus also St. Ignatius, while a soldier, by reading a volume of the lives of the saints which he accidentally took up, in order to get rid of the tediousness of the bed to which he was confined by sickness, was led to begin a life of sanctity, and became the Father and Founder of the Society of Jesus, an Order which has done so much for the Church. Thus also by reading a pious book accidentally and almost against his will, St. John Colombino left the world, became a saint, and the founder of another religious Order. St. Augustine relates that two courtiers of the Emperor Theodosius entered one day into a monastery of solitaries; one of them began to read the life of St. Anthony, which he found in one of the cells; so strong was the impression made upon him, that he resolved to take leave of the world. He then addressed his companion with so much fervor that both of them remained in the monastery to serve God. We read in the Chronicles of the Discalced Carmelites that a lady in Vienna was prepared to go to a festivity, but because it was given up she fell into a violent passion. To divert her attention she began to read a spiritual book that was at hand, and conceived such a contempt for the world, that she abandoned it and became a Teresian nun. The same happened to the Duchess of Montalto, in Sicily. She began also by accident to read the works of St. Teresa, and afterwards continued to read them with so much fervor, that she sought and obtained her husbandís consent to become a religious, and entered among the Discalced Carmelites.

But the reading of spiritual books has not only contributed to the conversion of saints, but has also given them during their whole life great aid to persevere and to advance continually in perfection. The glorious St. Dominic used to embrace his spiritual books, and to press them to his bosom, saying, "These books give me milk." And how, except by meditation and the use of pious books, were the anchorets enabled to spend to many years in the desert, at a distance from all human society? That great servant of God, Thomas a Kempis, could not enjoy greater consolation than in remaining in a corner of his cell with a spiritual book in his hand. It has been already mentioned in this work that the Venerable Vincent Carafa used to say that he could not desire a greater happiness in this world than to live in a little grotto provided with a morsel of bread and a spiritual book. St. Philip Neri devoted all the vacant hours that he could procure to the reading of spiritual books, and particularly the lives of the saints.

Oh! How profitable is the reading of the lives of the saints! In books of instruction we read what we are bound to do, but in the lives of the saints we read what so many holy men and women, who were flesh as we are, have done. Hence, their example, if it produce no other fruit, will at least humble us and make us sink under the earth. In reading the great things that the saints have done, we shall certainly be ashamed of the little that we have done and still do for God. St. Augustine said of himself: "My God, the examples of Thy servants, when I meditated on them, consumed my tepidity and inflamed me with Thy holy love." Of St. Francis, St. Bonaventure writes: "By the remembrance of the saints and of their virtues, as if they were so many stones of fire, he has inflamed with new love for God."

St. Gregory also relates that in Rome there was a beggar called Servolus; he was afflicted with infirmities, and lived on the alms that he collected: he gave a part to the poor, and employed the remainder in purchasing books of devotion. Servolus could not read, but he engaged those whom he lodged in his little house to read for him. St. Gregory says that by listening to these spiritual readings Servolus acquired great patience and a wonderful knowledge of the things of God. Finally, the saint states that at death the poor man besought his friends to read for him; but before breathing his last he interrupted the reading, and said: "Be silent, be silent, do you not hear how all paradise resounds with canticles and harmonious music?" After these words he sweetly expired. Immediately after his death a most agreeable odor was diffused over the room, in testimony of the sanctity of the beggar, who left the world poor in earthly goods, but rich in virtue and merits.

But to draw great fruit from spiritual reading:

It is, in the first place, necessary to recommend yourself beforehand to God, that he may enlighten the mind while you read. It has been already said, that in spiritual reading the Lord condescends to speak to us; and, therefore, in taking up the book, we must pray to God in the words of Samuel: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Speak, O my Lord, for I wish to obey Thee in all that Thou wilt make known to me to be Thy will.

In the second place, you must read not in order to acquire learning, nor to indulge curiosity, but for the sole purpose of advancing in divine love. To read for the sake of knowledge is not spiritual reading, but is, at the time of spiritual reading, a study unprofitable to the soul. It is still worse to read through curiosity. What profit can be expected form such reading? All the time devoted to such reading is lost time. St. Gregory says that many read and read a great deal, but, because they have read only through curiosity, they finish reading as hungry as if they had not been reading. Hence the saint corrected a physician called Theodore for reading spiritual books quickly and without profit.

To derive advantage from pious books it is necessary to read them slowly and with attention. "Nourish your soul," says St. Augustine, "with divine lectures." Now to receive nutriment from food, it must not be devoured, but well masticated. Remember, then, in the third place, that to reap abundant fruit from pious reading, you must masticate and ponder well what you read; applying to yourself what is there inculcated. And when what you have read has made a lively impression on you, St. Ephrem counsels you to read it a second time.

Besides, when you receive any special light in reading, or any instruction that penetrates the heart, it will be very useful to stop, and to raise the mind to God by making a good resolution, or a good act, or a fervent prayer. St. Bernard says, that it is useful then to interrupt the reading, and to offer a prayer, and to continue to pray as long as the lively impression lasts. Let us imitate the bees, that pass not from one flower to another until they have gathered all the honey that they found in the first. This we should do, although all the time prescribed for the reading should be spent in such acts; for thus the time is spent with greater spiritual profit. Sometimes it may happen that you draw more fruit from reading a single verse than from reading an entire page.

Moreover, at the end of the reading you must select some sentiment of devotion, excited by what you have read, and carry it with you as you would carry a flower from a garden of pleasure.


My Lord, I thank Thee for so many helps and lights that Thou gives me, in order to make me a saint, and to unite me always more closely to Thee. When will the day arrive on which I shall see myself freed from all earthly affections, and entirely united to Thy heart, which is so enamored of my soul! I hope for all things from Thy infinite mercy. My Jesus, I cannot bear to see myself any longer ungrateful to Thy love, as I have hitherto been. Create a clean heart in me, O God. Lord, give me a new heart that will think only of pleasing Thee. This desire that Thou gives me makes me hope for Thy grace. My God, I believe in Thee, and for Thy faith I would give my life a thousand times. I hope in Thee through the merits of Jesus Christ; without them I should be lost. O Sovereign Good, I love Thee; and for the love of Thee, I renounce all things, and embrace every pain and every cross that Thou wishes to send me. I have offended Thee, but I feel more sorrow for having offended Thee, than if I had suffered every other misfortune. I now sigh only for Thy grace and love. My God assist me, have mercy on me.

Holy Virgin, assist me by thy prayers, which obtain from God whatever thou asks. My Mother, recommend me to thy Son; do not forget me.

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