Friday, October 30, 2009

presence of sacred objects stops sorcery

From God the Teacher of Mankind: The first commandment by Fr. Michael Mueller: (p. 351)
Google Books

Let us see now how these familiar spirits of the spiritualists [psychics] behave when in the presence of an opposing power. Such an opposing power, for instance, is a simple prayer from a Catholic priest, or even from a good Catholic layman.

I know a certain priest, who, one day, went to such a meeting with the intention of preventing the diabolical performances. He adjured the evil spirits not to exercise any influence, neither over their mediums, nor over any of those present at the meeting. What happened ? It was in vain that the medium tried to make the spirits appear and speak. He told the assembly that the spirits would not come, that there must be some opposing power.

One day, the Earl of Fingall, in Ireland, Lord Plunkett, father of Rev. Father Plunkett, of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, happened to be at a meeting of spiritualists. The tables began to move. He became frightened, because he saw there was something preternatural in it. So he retired to a corner, and began to pray (to say the Rosary), and instantly the operations were stopped, and they could not get along any more, as long as he was there. (Related by Father Plunkett to one of our Fathers.)

The familiar spirits of spirit-mediums find an opposing power in the presence of sacred relics.

The Emperor Julian, surnamed the Apostate, was most foolishly superstitious, and exceedingly fond of soothsayers and magicians (or spiritualists), Maximius, the Magician (or spiritualist), and others of that character, were his chief confidants. He endeavored, by the black art, or by means of the devil, to rival the miracles of Christ, though he effected nothing.

At that time there was, at Daphne, five miles from Antioch, a famous idol of Apollo, which uttered oracles in that place. Gallus Caesar, to oppose the worship of that idol, translated from Antioch to Daphne the sacred relics of St. Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, and Martyr. He erected a church, sacred to the name of St. Babylas, near the profane temple (or devil's temple), and placed in it the venerable relics of the martyr, in a shrine above ground. The neighborhood of the martyr s relics struck the devil dumb. Eleven years after, in the year 362, Julian the Apostate came to Antioch, and, by a multitude of sacrifices, endeavored to learn of the idol the cause of his silence. At length the fiend gave him to understand that the neighborhood was full of dead bones, which must be removed before he could be at rest, and disposed to give answers. Julian understood this of the body of St. Babylas, and commanded that the christians should immediately remove his shrine to some distant place, but not touch the other dead bodies. The Christians obeyed the order, and, with great solemnity, carried in procession the sacred relics back to Antioch, singing, on this occasion, the psalms which ridicule the vanity and feebleness of idols, repeating after every verse : "May they who adore idols and glory in false gods blush with shame, and be covered with confusion. The following evening lightning fell on the Temple of Apollo, and reduced to ashes the idol and all its ornaments. (Butlers Lives of the Saints, vol. i., pp. 107 and 112, note.)

Similar story in Korea, 1866: Shamans in the royal palace couldn't practice sorcery because their charms were counteracted by the torture of the French Catholic missionaries, saying that it would be evil augury if the blood of the priests were shed in Seoul. (they wouldn't be able to practice shamanism because of the holy influence of the relics of the saintly priests):

"Meanwhile at the palace a troop of sorcerers were plying their trade to cure the illness of the boy-king in time for his marriage. They complained that their charms were counteracted by the suffering of the men from the West, and that if blood were shed in the capital it would be an evil augury for the royal nuptials. Orders were given to execute the condemned five on the promontory of Sou-rieng, a long distance from Seoul.
Catholic world By Paulist Fathers: "every Meanwhile at the palace a troop of sorcerers were plying their trade to cure the illness of the boy king in time for his marriage They complained that their charms were counteracted by the suffering of the men from the West and that if blood were shed in the capital it would be an evil augury for the royal nuptials Orders were given to execute the condemned five on the promontory of Sou rieng a long distance from Saoul The journey

Holy water, too, or any thing else blessed by the Church, is an opposing power for these spirits.

While some of our Fathers were giving a Mission in Erie, a meeting of spiritualists was held in that city. When the bishop heard of it, he sent one of our Fathers to prevent the evil spirits from exercising their influence over their mediums. The Father went in disguise to the house where the meeting was to take place. He took with him a bottle of holy water. Before the performance began, the Father sprinkled the whole floor with holy water. The medium, a young woman, came on the stage, to get into a trance, but she could not succeed. They tried for about an hour, but got no answer. At last the performer, the medium, said: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have to give up to-night. There must be some opposing power, as the spirits do not appear and speak."

When General Lamoriciere, Commander of the Pope's Army, and a very pious Catholic, came back from Italy, he happened to be present at a meeting of spiritualists. He held in his hand a little crucifix, blessed by our Holy Father the Pope. Now, when they laid their hands on the table, and invoked the spirits, none of the spirits would come and answer. The medium then came and said : "Gentlemen, there is some one among you who is averse to the spirits." He examined the hands of every one, and found the little crucifix in the hand of General Lamoriciere. He then told the general either to give up this article or to leave. The general left, the opposing power was gone, and the spirits could work through their medium.

Similar: From 무엇 하는 사람들인가, a Catholic Catechism written in Korean around the 1960's by a Korean Catholic priest named 박도식 (Park Do Shik) ordained in 1961 (pp. 87-88):

Fr. Park: In the places where shamans do their rituals, if there is a Catholic person or Catholic sacramental such as the crucifix or the rosary, the shaman knows this somehow. They tell them to go away, because the spirits will not come when there is something unclean.

And the shamans draw cross on the ground and curse it while stabbing it with a sword. This is the devils hating the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is because the devils were driven out by the Cross of Christ.

Seeing this, it can be known that God exists, and that there are evil spirits who fears the God we believe.

(Fr. Park continues with an example of a possessed person he encountered during the summer break of his seminary days.):
A possessed woman's family, having heard that one can exorcize the devil in a Catholic Church, brought her from far away to a place where they could go to a Catholic Church and rented a room. While there, they went to a Catholic Church everyday to drive the devil away. When the priest said the Mass, she laid down on the floor and pretended to be dead, then was lively again after the Mass ended. One day, she shed tears and said "(Calls her own name twice) Now I have to leave you!" After a while she returned completely to her senses. Her entire family converted, and her mother said "In this world there are devils who torment people. And in Catholic Church there is God who the devils fears. If devils exist, hell must exist, and if God exists, heaven must exist. Look at my daughter, now I can live because of God. Now I cannot not believe in God." Original Korean

From a Korean Catholic online board:
옆집에 무당이 실제로 사는 어떤 자매가 묵주기도 소리를 내어 바칠 때마다, 들은 무당이 너무 괴로워하여 싫어했다고 합니다. 실화인데 심지어 집에 작두도 날라왔다고

["In a neighbor's house, every time a Catholic prayed the Rosary out loud, the shaman who could hear it was very tormented and resented it. This is a true story, and even a shaman's blade was thrown in.]


Some time ago the Davenport brothers put up a blasphemous placard all over the city of St. Louis, Mo., informing the public that they could perform miracles similar to those of Christ. A certain priest of the city read this placard, and became quite indignant at it. He determined to expose the authors of the placard. So he went, in disguise, to the meeting. Now, when they were about to perform their lying miracles, they put out the lights, and told all present to join hands and form a circle. The priest said to his neighbor: "I will not join hands with you; I wish to find out whether the joining of hands is necessary to the performance." As soon as the lights were put out, they heard music over their heads.

All went on very well. The priest saw that the circle was not necessary to the performance; that it was nothing but a cheat to make the affair mysterious. Having found this out, the priest made the sign of the cross. Instantly there was heard a shriek, and a crash. The lights were lit. Davenport came and said : a Gentlemen, some one of you must have broken the circle ; please join hands once more, and do not break the circle." The lights were then put out again. The priest did not join hands with his neighbor, yet the performance again went on as well as before. The priest again made the sign of the cross, and again there was heard a shriek and a crash. Daven port came down and complained. The priest s neighbor then cried out : "My neighbor here did not join hands with me." Every one shouted : " Put him out ! Put him out !" and Davenport, too, begged him to leave. But the priest, who was a strong man, said : " I will not leave until the performance is over. You will have some trouble and difficulty in putting me out ; I have paid for my ticket, and I have as much right to stay as any one else. "

They could no longer succeed in the performance of their lying wonders. Every one left the priest stayed until all were gone. Davenport complained to him, saying : "Why did you act thus, and stop our proceedings?" " Well ! " said the priest, "do you know who I am ? I am a Catholic priest. I suppose you never had a Catholic priest in any of your circles. As you blasphemed God by your placard, I will expose you in all the newspapers of the city. A simple sign of the cross, which I made, was more powerful than all your evil spirits. Had they any power, they would have told you what was the opposing power." Davenport left the city next day. (St. Louis Guardian.)

Now every Christian knows that good angels or spirits are not afraid of, nor are driven away by prayer, by holy relics, by the sign of the cross, by holy water, or the like. It is only the devil who fears the power of prayer, and trembles in the presence of sacred objects, because he finds in them the power of Jesus Christ. It is, then, evident from these facts that spiritism is nothing but satanism.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

miraculous cross in Japan brought about the conversion of twenty thousand people

Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus:

OUR European priests who undertook to evangelize Japan were at first very successful; but in the year 1586 God made known by several signs the approach of a long and bloody persecution that was menacing the rising church. Among these signs the following is particularly remarkable: The King of Arima, named Protasius, a good and zealous Christian,had a vision in which there appeared to him two persons of celestial exterior, who thus spoke to him: "Know that on the lands over which you rule, the sign of Jesus is found; honor and love it much, for it is not the work of man." Six months afterwards, it happened that a fervent Christian from the neighborhood of Arima sent his son to the woods for the purpose of cutting firewood. On his arrival the young man noticed a tree that was somewhat dried up; he split it in two, and found inserted in the middle of it a cross of a brown color and of a regular form. At the sight of this prodigy every one was struck with astonishment. As soon as the king heard of this, he went himself to the place, and on seeing the cross he cried out: "Behold the sign of Jesus, that I was told was hidden in my dominions, and that was not made by the hand of man." He then fell on his knees, and after having venerated it amidst many tears, he had it carried to Arima, where by his order it was formed in a magnificent crystal. This miraculous cross brought about the conversion of twenty thousand people.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

St. Alphonsus - never occupied about matters more curious than useful

The Life of St. Alphonsus:

He was of middle size, with a rather large head, and of a fresh
complexion. He had a full forehead, pleasing azure blue eyes,
an aquiline nose, a small mouth and smiling lips. His
beard was thick and his hair black; he kept them short,
and often cut them himself. He was short-sighted and
made use of glasses, but never in the pulpit or when
he spoke to women. His voice was clear and sonorous;
however spacious the church might be, and however long
a mission might last, it never failed him, and it continued
thus until his last infirmities. He had an imposing mien;
his manners were grave and gracious at the same time.
His judgment was subtle arid penetrating; his memory
prompt and tenacious; and his mind precise and methodical.
He was of a passionate temper, but through virtue he
became a model of sweetness. His whole life was one
continual application ; but he was never occupied about
indifferent things, nor even about matters which were more
curious than useful.

St. Thomas a Becket

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meditations on the principal mysteries of our faith, by Ven. Luis de la Puente

WHEN infirmity disabled the servant of God, and prevented his labours for, the good of his neighbour, either in the pulpit or professor's chair, he ardently wished to help them at least with his pen, by writing treatises on spiritual or sacred subjects, which might turn to the more universal and permanent advantage of the faithful. Fearful, however, of being deceived by his own self-love, he spent several days in earnest prayer, beseeching God to make known His divine will to him on this point. Our loving Lord did not leave him long unsatisfied.

One day, as the holy man was prostrate before the Divine Majesty, a copious flood of celestial light filled his mind, accompanied at the same time with such a vehemence of divine love, that, overpowered with excess of bliss, and feeling his heart bursting, as it were, in his bosom, he exclaimed aloud: "Enough, enough, O Lord ! Not so much light, O Lord!" He afterwards owned in confidence, when speaking of this affair, that his room at the time became like a furnace.

That this light was also the voice whereby God approved his desire, and encouraged him to put his hand to the work, was shown from the admirable effects produced by this signal favour. These were, first, a sublime intelligence of holy Scripture, especially of matters referring to mystical theology, on which he wrote with as much depth and clearness as if the objects had been actually before his eyes; the second effect, no less admirable, was his facility in writing on such difficult and abstruse subjects, in terms so appropriate, with reflections so correct, and similitudes so just, and all this so clearly and so expressively, that some one more than human seemed to have been his teacher; so much so, that many very learned men asserted that he had rendered these matters more clear and intelligible than any previous writer.

With this assistance from on high, and being assured of the Divine Will, he applied himself to his writing. The first work which issued from his pen was the book of "Meditations" on the principal mysteries of our faith, on the Life and Passion of our Lord, of His Blessed Mother, &c. It was written in Spanish, in two volumes, and printed in the year 1605. It is in truth an immortal work, in which the reader scarcely knows which to admire most, either the extensive learning, or the order of arrangement, or the multiplicity and correctness of the reflections, or the unction with which the mysteries are unfolded. It cannot be read without feeling the will excited to devotion, or without a desire to profit by it. It passed through three editions, and was translated into several other languages within one year after its first appearance. In it he explains admirably the practice of prayer, at the same time furnishing ample materials for it. In it directors and confessors may find wherewith to instruct those committed to their charge. In it religious of every order may find celestial manna for the daily food of their devotion. In it, in fine, every person of every state may learn how to appreciate the eternal truths, and the mysteries of our holy faith, and also how to live well, if they will frequently read and meditate upon them. The pious Emperor Ferdinand II. declared that this book had been most useful to him, and was accustomed to say that he knew it almost by heart. Lastly, we may say that most writers who have latterly dealt with this subject have borrowed from Father de Ponte's inexhaustible mine.

Meditations on the mysteries of our holy Faith (Volume 1)
Meditations on the mysteries of our holy Faith (Volume 2)
Meditations on the mysteries of our holy Faith (Volume 3)
Meditations on the mysteries of our holy Faith (Volume 4)
Meditations on the mysteries of our holy Faith (Volume 5)
Meditations on the mysteries of our holy Faith (Volume 6)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Excerpts on Vocation

He that is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife ; and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband."

The practice of virtue in the married state is all the more troublesome, that the care of a wife and anxiety about children are a bar to the soul, and draw it back to the preoccupation of earth.[6] It is therefore true to say that, if man finds in woman some help for a weak and slender form of virtue, she becomes an obstacle for him as soon as he wishes to walk in the path of perfection.[7] When walking along a road that is narrow and hedged with thorns, we can shun the difficulties of the road only by exposing ourselves to be lacerated by the thorns ; so, in the married life, one inconvenience avoided exposes us to incur a still greater.[8]

[The Practice of virtue when engaged in secular mental labor is all the more troublesome, that the care of study and anxiety about the success of the mental labor are a bar to the soul, and draw it back to the preoccupation of earth.]

St. Liguori, addressing virgins, says to them, with all the authority of his knowledge and experience : " Poor mothers of families meet with many bars to holiness ; and the more shining their rank in the world, the more numerous these obstacles become. . . . What leisure, what help, what recollection, can a married woman find to devote herself constantly to God?" . . . Where can she get much time for prayer, since often she has no time for the duties of her house hold ? ...How hard to pray or be recollected amid such turmoil and anguish !

She could merit ; but in the midst of such noise, without prayer or sacraments, it is almost hopeless to expect such resignation. their own houses they must receive the relatives, the connections, and the friends of their husbands. How many occasions are there not in all this for losing God ! Young girls do not know all the danger to which they expose themselves in marrying, but women already married have a full knowledge of them."[9]

Chapter 6: Is it Lawful to Exhort Others to the Practice of Perfect Chastity or Celibacy.

But St. Clement, prudent after the manner of God, knew that virginity is of such worth in the eyes of heaven, that it may be purchased even at the cost of martyrdom.

SS. Athanasius, Chrysostom, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Bernard, have not to be taught how much these illustrious men labored to make celibacy and virginity known and loved by mankind.

" The atmosphere of the world is poisonous for the soul," says St. Liguori. " The ways of society, bad example, bad language, are so many baits that attract us to earth, and draw us away from God. Every one is aware that dangerous occasions are the ordinary cause of the ruin of souls."[4]

It is indeed true that, with the grace of God, we may sanctify ourselves everywhere, just as, in the holiest places, we may fall under the weight of our weakness and the malice of the devil ; but the same St. Liguori tells us that the souls lost in the world are many in number, while but few come to eternal ruin in religion.[5] St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, continues St. Liguori, used often to kiss the walls of her convent, exclaiming : " O walls, sacred walls, that shield me against the temptations of hell! " Whenever the saintly Mary Orsini saw a nun laugh, " Laugh," she would say, " laugh, sister: you have reason to laugh. You are sheltered from the storms of the world.[6]

" Persons living in the world," says St. Liguori, " are trees planted in a parched soil, on which the dews of heaven rarely fall. Poor worldlings! you would wish to give much time to prayer and meditation, often to hear the word of God, and enjoy a little solitude and recollection. But your domestic cares, your parents, social exigencies, visits, and many other distractions, prevent you. On the other hand, religious are privileged trees, growing in a rich soil that is always watered by the showers of heaven. The Lord incessantly helps his spouses by the lights and inspirations of meditation, by sermons, spiritual books

Indeed, the religious life is one of the most efficacious satisfactions for the sins that preceded it.


There are also weak souls that find everywhere in the world proximate occasions for offending God mortally, and for whom religion would be a secure haven against tempests, an escape after spiritual shipwreck. In reference to this matter, we read as follows in St. Liguori : " If one thought that, by remaining in the world, he would lose his soul, either because he has experience of his weakness amid the dangers of the world, or because he does not find there the assistance that the religious state offers, he could not be excused from grievous sin were he to remain in the world, since he thereby would put himself in serious danger of losing his soul."


Although a reasonable cause suffices for putting off the execution of such a vow, yet care is to be taken lest delays should bring on entire faithlessness, and we should fear the sins that may be committed in the world. A long delay, having no excuse in its favor, would be grievously sinful. He who vowed to enter religion, but has not succeeded in gaining admission, though he took all the necessary steps to secure it, is freed from the obligation of his vow, provided he has no hope of gaining admission at some future day.[12]


"If we knew a place unhealthy and subject to pestilence, would we not withdraw our children from it, without being stopped by the riches that might be heaped up in it, or by the fact that their health had not as yet suffered, and might, perhaps, be secure in it from all danger? And yet, now that so deadly a contagion has overspread everything, not only are we the first to push these same children into the chasm, but we even drive away as impostors those who would fain keep them back from destruction."[4]

What are you doing under the paternal roof? ...even if your father were to throw himself across the threshold of your house, step over the obstacle, and with unquivering eye rush to take your place under the standard of the cross. Our heart is not of iron, nor are our feelings dead ; your grandmother, your tutor, who, next to your father, has a claim on your filial affection, exclaim, 'Wait a while until we are dead ; bury us before you go'--love for God and fear of hell easily break all chains. O solitude, all spangled with the flowers of Jesus Christ! O solitude, wherein are shaped the stones that build up the city of the great King! Blessed retreat where one enjoys familiarity with God ! Brother dear, what are you doing in the world, which is so far less than you? How long more shall the paternal roof shelter your head ? Will you tarry much longer in the smoky prison of cities ? Do you fear hardship? And what athlete was ever crowned without a struggle ? It is my love for you, O brother ! that has urged me to say these things, to the end that, on judgment-day, you may share the glory of those who now live amid the holy rigors of penance."[5]

But there is nothing more striking than the example of St. Bernard. The details are taken from the best historians of his admirable life.[7] This saint in the flower of his youth, at the age of twenty, began to feel the impulse of grace drawing to retirement from the busy world. He not only triumphed over the opposition of his family, but drew to his purpose his uncle and his brothers, and took with him to Citeaux thirty of the noblest gentlemen of his country.

St. Liguori: In the world it would be difficult for you to keep yourself in the grace of God. What I say to you, I repeat to all young women who come to ask my advice. I always remind them that, such is the corruption of the world, they will meet in it a thousand hindrances to their salvation. You should then fear to abandon Christ for the world.


" Many young men," says St. Liguori again, " have lost their vocation through the fault of their parents ; and not only have they come themselves to a bad end, but they have brought ruin on their families. A young man, influenced by his father, was unfaithful to his religious vocation ; later he had violent quarrels with his father, in one of which he killed him, and afterward met death himself on a scaffold. How many equally tragic examples could we not cite?

Had he been raised to some high office in the world, who knows whether he would not have despised that same father? But in the career which he has chosen, a career that raises him above kings, he will be in his parents presence the most dutiful of children. In the world, perhaps, he would have coveted riches, and for that reason would have been anxious for you to die; now, on the contrary, he begs of God that your life may be prolonged for many years. Had he even to lay down his own life to save yours, he would not refuse the sacrifice ; for he serves and obeys you, not from the law of nature alone, but, above all, out of obedience to God, for whose sake he has trampled on every earthly advantage.

"No, your son's present lot does not call for tears. He deserves to be covered with applause for having made choice of a life free from turmoil, for having taken refuge in a port so secure.

This father first had recourse to the magistrates, then he threatened his son with prison, stripped him of all he possessed, and sent him to a distant country, without allowing him even the barest necessaries for the support of life. The object of all this harshness was to force his son to return to the world. But when the father saw that the young man was proof against all this ill-treatment, he entirely changed his conduct toward him, and to-day he venerates his child as he would a parent.

However, to have them taught human learning, you send them far away from their native land, and forbid the paternal roof to those who go to learn a mere trade, or something still less honorable.

Finally, if, by remaining in the world, a child were exposed to the danger of sinning grievously, and he could not remove that danger, he would be allowed to enter religion, no matter what might be the wants of his parents ; because the eternal salvation of the child must take precedence of the temporal life of his parents.[8]

But St. Thomas further remarks that the honor due to parents does not consist in rendering them mere bodily service, but takes in, besides, spiritual service and that respect to which their authority has a right. For this reason the religious can fulfil the commandment on honoring parents by praying for them,...

We may add that the sacrifice of their family which religious make, far from being an act of harshness, as the world sometimes unjustly calls it, is often the prompting of filial piety pushed to its farthest limits.

Who can tell how much such a separation costs them ? Jesus Christ alone, who has promised a hundred-fold and life everlasting to sacrifices of this nature.


St. Alphonsus did not speak this way only when he delivered his views as a theologian. He also wrote as follows to a young man : " Under pretext of calming your father and mother, evil counsellors will say to you that it is a matter of conscience for you to expose your parents to lose their souls. Make no account of such scruples: if your parents wish to lose their souls, it is their concern. Tell them that you cannot, for the sake of soothing them, put your own soul in danger, by giving up your evident vocation. "[6]

"When a child finds himself called by God to the religious state, and perceives that his parents are ill-disposed toward him, and, on account of their excessive carnal love for him, would throw obstacles in his way, he is under no obligation to consult them, for it will be wiser and more prudent for him to keep his intention to himself. "[9

"The saints, directly [as soon as] they were called to leave the world, left it altogether, without informing their parents. This was the conduct of St. Thomas of Aquin, St. Francis Xavier, St. Philip Neri, and St. Louis Bertrand. St. Stanislaus also made his escape without his father's permission. His brother instantly followed in pursuit, driving his carriage at full speed. As he was on the point of overtaking the holy fugitive, his horses stopped : no amount of beating could make them move on. At last Paul Kostka turned them about, and then they set off in a gallop to the town from which they had started.

" We have, besides, the example of the blessed Oringa of Valdarno, in Tuscany. Though betrothed to a young man, she secretly left her home to consecrate herself to God. Arriving at the banks of the Arno, which barred her way, she said a short prayer, and immediately saw the river part its waters, which rose on both sides like walls of crystal, and opened a dry passage to her.


it is especially befitting for them to undertake the life of the counsels. For one has all the more reason to refuse himself what is allowable, because he often indulged in what was forbidden.

Several of them, after a life of terrible sin, began immediately to practise the counsels, and shut themselves up in the most austere monasteries, without devoting any previous time to the commandments.[4]

Who would dare to advise a person desirous of embracing poverty for the sake of Jesus Christ, first to live amid riches and observe the laws of justice, as if the possession of wealth were a preparation for the practice of poverty, whereas, on the contrary, wealth throws many obstacles in its way? Are we bound to say to a young man : Live among persons of the opposite sex or among libertines, so as to form yourself to chastity, which you will afterward observe in religion as if it were easier to cultivate that virtue in the world than in the cloister? Those who parade such a doctrine resemble generals that, at the very outset, would expose to the severest shocks of war raw recruits that have only recently been drafted into the army.

Persons of feeble virtue, and but little versed in the fulfilment of God's law, have greater need than others of the means of preservation which the religious life affords : it is easier for them to shun sin in religion than it would be were they living under the freedom of the world.[6] Religious observance, at the same time that it removes the hindrances to perfect charity, also does away with the occasions of sin ; for it is evident that fasting, watching, obedience, and other exercises of the same nature, keep a man from the excesses of intemperance, from failing in chastity, and from every other kind of sin.

Holy orders demand previous holiness ; but the religious state is a means to holiness. Deception on this point would expose us to exclude from the religious state persons who are exceedingly in need of it, and for whom that life may be strictly obligatory, as we have already stated in the fifth chapter of this section. For there are souls guilty only because they are cast among occasions, or because they have not in the world sufficient means of preservation. Give them the shelter and resources of the religious life, and they will pass their days without difficulty in the grace of God.


St. Benedict himself, disregarding the study of human learning, and seeking only to please God, left his father's house, and every thing in the world, to devote himself to the practice of a holy life. "

Similar examples in Korean martyrs who stopped studying secular studies:

"At Jeongju, we must cite the martyrdom of Francisco Kim Sajip. Born to a decent family in the village of Bebang Koji, in the district of Deoksan, Francisco had devoted himself to literary study, acquiring in a short time sufficient knowledge to have enabled him to compete with honor in the public examinations. But no sooner had he converted to the Christian faith than he set aside human learning so that he might occupy himself only in religious studies.(martyred 1802-01-25)
Original French:
A Tsieng-tsiou, nous avons à citer le martyre de François Kim
Sa-tsip-i. Né au village de Pépang-kotsi, district de Tek-san,
d'une famille honnête, François s'était adonné aux lettres, et avait
acquis en peu de temps des connaissances suffisantes pour concourir
honorablement aux examens publics. Mais à peine eut-il
été converti à la foi chrétienne, qu'il laissa de côté les sciences

Alexander...he immediately embraced it with ardor, and no longer wanted any other knowledge than that of salvation. He repudiated the world and its dangerous pleasures, and understanding that he had to communicate to others the light that he himself had received, he became a zealous catechist.

salut, répudia le siècle et ses plaisirs dangereux, et, comprenant
qu'il devait communiquer aux autres la lumière que lui-même
avait reçue, devint un catéchiste zélé.

"...Leo Hong. Arrested with his father Francis Xavier Hong GyoMan (프란치스코 샤비에로 홍교만)...Leo had spent his youth in this district, not dreaming of anything but the future human greatness, which his birth and position had paved the road. But scarcely had he known our holy religion, which he embraced with zeal, he forgot to follow any ambition other than to serve God and spread His law. Filial piety made him a duty to start with his father, who, though instructed in Christianity, hesitated to embrace it. Leo was able to clarify his doubts, fix his irresolution, and end up solidly strengthening him in his faith. His zeal was then turned on other members of his family, whom he instructed assiduously; to lukewarm Christians, whom he stimulated with patient energy; and to the pagans, of whom he converted a great many. ...He was fourty-four years old when he was decapitated, in Bocheon (보천), on January 30, 1802. For several days after his death, a strong light surrounded his body, which retained all the appearances of life.The satellites and a great crowd of pagans were witnesses to this prodigy.

(Léon Hong, qui, arrêté avec son père François-Xavier Hong Kio-man-i, le 14 de la deuxième lune, avait été renvoyé à la prison de Po-tsien, pendant que son père était 'gardé à la capitale. D'un caractère doux et tranquille, Léon avait passé sa jeunesse dans ce district, ne rêvant pour l'avenir que les grandeurs humaines, dont sa naissance et sa position lui frayaient la route. Mais à peine eut-il connu notre sainte religion, qu'il l'embrassa avez zèle, et oublia de suite toute autre ambition que celle de servir Dieu et de propager sa loi. La piété filiale lui faisait un devoir de commencer par son père, qui, bien qu'instruit du christianisme, hésitait à l'embrasser. Léon sutéclaircir ses doutes, fixer ses irrésolutions, et parvint à l'affermir solidement dans la foi. Son zèle se porta ensuite sur les autres membres de sa famille qu'il instruisait assidûment, sur les chrétiens tièdes qu'il excitait avec une patiente énergie, et sur les païens dont il convertit un grand nombre. Son humilité surtout était admirable ; il ne parlait de luimême que dans les termes les plus modestes, et se plaisait à relever les qualités, les talents, et les bonnes actions des autres. Aussi était-il estimé et aimé de tous.)

if they could get a close view of the supernatural loveliness which the solitude of a monastery sheds in a few months over these young souls, they would, with the holy doctor, acknowledge that " it is good for a man to bear the yoke of the Lord from his tenderest years." Alas ! these flowers that have opened and bloomed, under the breath of God, in the shade of the cloister, are no sooner exposed to the parching blasts of the world, than they fade and lose all their glory. Sometimes only a few days spent in the world are enough to blast these fairest of hopes. As soft wax, the child, says the poet, receives every impress of vice: Cereus in vitium flecti ;[12]hence nothing better can be done for him than to separate him from every scandal and every occasion of sin, by multiplying around him supports for his weakness. This is what the religious state does.

Is it reasonable, under pretence of testing a vocation, to oblige a child to spend a long time amid the dangers of the world, to witness all its vanities, and share in the treacherous joys of its festivities ? Could even the most solid virtue resist assaults of this kind?

Can one not remain in the world, and still be saved ? Is it really the same man who at one time has full confidence in the possibility of salvation, even amid all the cares and turmoil of the world, and afterward trembles for the solitary that has been freed from his barriers? You maintained that a man may save his soul in a city : with much more reason will he be able to do so by retiring into solitude."[14] " But my son is young and weak. It is just for that reason," continues St. Chrysostom, " that he should be less exposed, and more surrounded with means of protection. You upset things altogether ; for you throw into the battle of life in the world those whose years, whose weakness and inexperience, have most to fear from the combat. You act like an officer who would order a raw soldier, that cannot yet stand the brunt of war, to throw himself for that very reason into the thickest of the fight, and to command the action.


" WHEN there is question of entering religion in order to lead a life at once more perfect and more secure against the dangers of this world, it is astonishing," says St. Liguori, " to what a degree people of the world carry their pretensions. They insist that, before coming to such a determination, long deliberation is essential ; there must be no haste in the execution of the project, so as to gain a certainty that the call comes really from God, and not from the evil spirit. They do not speak in this way when some high office in the state is to be accepted, which is attended with so many dangers for the soul. Then they do not require the aspirant to go through so many ordeals in order to test the divine origin of his call.

God often uses the malice of the spirits of darkness for the good of his saints, whose struggles and victories he crowns ; and it is thus that holy souls make a sport of the devil. Still we must keep in mind that, were the devil to infuse into one a desire to enter religion, such desire would beget no result, unless God drew the soul to himself by his own divine grace. "[2]

when risks are rare, there is no need of much hesitation. Ordinary watchfulness will suffice to ward off every mishap. " He that observes the wind, shall not sow : and he that considers the clouds, shall never reap." (Eccl. xi, 4.) " The slothful man says : There is a lion in the way, and a lioness in the roads." (Prov. xxvi, 13.)

even the few months spent in a religious house by those who do not persevere, are often fruitful in consolations, in pious exercises, in acts of virtue, and they are sheltered from the dangers and the sins in which life in the world usually abounds.

To those who are of opinion that, if a vocation came from God, delays and obstacles would not be able to destroy it, St. Liguori replies in his turn : " The lights that God sends us are fleeting, not permanent. This is what led St. Thomas to say that divine calls to a more perfect life must be followed without delay : quanta citius" [5]

"St. John Chrysostom, quoted by the Angelical, says that, when God favors us with similar inspirations, he does not wish us to hesitate a moment to follow them. Why so ? Because the Lord loves to see us docile; and the more prompt we are, the more he opens his hand to fill us with blessings. But delays give him great displeasure. God then closes his hand and withholds his graces, so that he who puts off corresponding to his vocation finds it difficult to follow it, and easily gives it up altogether. "Hence," adds St. Chrysostom, "when the devil cannot rob one of his resolution to consecrate himself to God, he endeavors to persuade him, at least, to defer its execution, and he considers it a great gain to obtain a delay of a day, or even of an hour ; for, if, during that day or hour, a new occasion should present itself for delay, it will be less difficult for him to obtain more and more procrastination. In this way does the devil act until the person called by God, finding himself weaker and less influenced by grace, ends by yielding altogether and renouncing his vocation. By such delays how often has not the enemy destroyed a vocation ! For this reason St. Jerome, addressing those who are called to abandon the world, urges them to esape as soon as possible."[6] " Hurry," says he ; " cut, rather than untie, the rope which binds your boat to the shore ;"[7]that is to say, break as quickly as possible the bonds which fasten you to the world.

"Peter and Andrew," says St. Thomas, "directly they were called by our Lord, left their nets on the spot to follow him ; and St. Chrysostom says, to their praise, that, hearing the orders of Christ in the midst of their occupations, they made no delay in executing them. They did not say, Let us go back to our homes and see our friends, but, leaving everything, they followed him."[8]These words were not spoken by the saints with a view to make people enter the religious life rashly, but as a preservative against worldly prejudices, and against the delays in which nature readily delights, but which often extinguish the grace of heaven.

Suarez further remarks, with many theologians, that every one should look upon the religious state as suiting him, as long as he has not acquired a certainty of the contrary, either by some evident reason, or by his own personal experience. For, the watchfulness of superiors, the removal of occasions of sin, holy examples, frequent hearing of the word of God, the consolations which the Lord lavishes on religious, all this abundance of help renders easy the obligations of a state which would be above the strength of a man living in the midst of the world.[13] Should we consult many persons before entering religion? " To lay down as a principle that many should be consulted, would be to raise," says St. Thomas, "a great obstacle against the purpose of those intending to follow the path of perfection.

Every sensible person will be of this opinion ; for the advice of carnal men, who always form the greater number, turns away from, rather than exhorts to, spiritual goods."[14] It is not then necessary to consult much. But should we consult at all? The answer of St. Thomas is, that, " in matters which are certain, there is no need of counsel : In his quae certa sunt, non requiritur consilium; and it is certain that, putting out of question the aspirant, entrance into religion, considered in itself, is a higher good. To doubt of it would be to give the lie to Jesus Christ, who made a counsel of it."[15] There is, therefore, no need of consulting in this matter, as Suarez observes.[16]

Secular priests are under even greater obligastion than religious, and still, withal, they continue exposed to the dangers of the world. Hence, in order that a priest may be good in the world, he must have led a very exemplary life before his ordination. Without that, he would lay himself open to imminent danger of damnation, especially if he took orders to obey parents who had nothing higher than worldly motives in view."[7]

And who is there that has greater need of this wisdom than young people without experience in life, and still having to choose a state in it ? No one more than they has to fear the deceptions and prejudices of the world, the rush of passions and of a fiery imagination, and the fascination of trifles [higher income, honours, esteem of the world] which shroud real good in darkness. Let them pray, therefore.

" Do not fail," continues St. Liguori, "to recommend yourself in a special way to our holy mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, beseeching her to obtain for you grace perfectly to fulfil the will of her divine son.[10]

St. Louis Gonzaga paid frequent visits to our Lady's altar, fasted every Saturday in her honor, and often received holy communion for the same object. On the feast of the Assumption, having eaten the bread of angels, whilst in the name of Mary he besought the Holy Ghost to manifest his will, the young saint learned, in a clear and definite way, what God wished him to do. [11] Turn not away your eyes from the light of that star, if you wish to escape the fury of the waves, says St. Bernard. In all your doubts and anxieties think of Mary, call upon her name.[12]

" WITH desolation is all the land made desolate," says the prophet, " because there is none that considers in his heart." (Jer. xii, 11.) It is this absence of reflection that every day throws into careers not made for them men who are swayed, not by reason or by grace, but by the threefold concupiscence spoken of in St. John. Who can tell the amount of evil which this thoughtlessness begets in individuals, in families, and in society at large? How many beings lead hapless lives because they are out of their true way ; into how many dangers for salvation are not souls plunged inconsiderately, which might have been avoided by a little care and foresight ! What noble talents are buried in the earth, what grand intellects become utterly powerless ! What countless souls, capable of the sublimest achievements, waste away in trifles and folly !" O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?" (Ps. iv, 3.) Do you not fear the endless despair of those who shall cry out on the day of wrath, " Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, we fools" ? (Wisd. v, 6.) " O that they" (young people) " would be wise and would understand, and would provide for their last end" (Deut. xxxii, 29), in the important affair of the choice of a state of life. " Prudence," says the Angelical Doctor, " is one of the most necessary virtues for human life. To live well is to do well ; but to do well, it is not enough to act. We must, besides, act in a proper manner, that is to say, follow a righteous decision, and not be led by mere impulse or passion."[1]But if this righteous decision is required in all human acts, it is still more heedful when there is question of one of the most decisive and important acts of our whole existence on earth. Now, among the faults opposed to prudence, St. Thomas reckons imprudence, precipitation, and thoughtlessness, or want of reflection.[2] This last defect consists in overlooking or neglecting things that may lead to a wrong judgment, and it is evident that this is a defect.[3]

The grand, fundamental, and luminous principle which should direct and enlighten this grave deliberation, is this : " Man was created for this end, that he might praise and reverence the Lord his God, and, serving him, at length be saved. But the other things which are placed on the earth were created for man's sake, that they may assist him in pursuing the end of his creation ; whence it follows that they are to be used or abstained from in proportion as they profit or hinder him in pursuing that end."[5] The letters of St. Liguori, from which we are about to make some quotations, aim at impressing these lofty thoughts on the minds of young men.

To a young man who asked his advice about the kind of life he ought to embrace, the saint wrote : "If you desire to follow the state of life that is the surest to reach salvation, which is for us the all-important point, remember that your soul is immortal, and that the end for which God placed you in this world is, assuredly, not to gain riches and honors, nor to lead an easy and agreeable life, but solely to merit everlasting life by the practice of virtue. On the day of judgment it will profit you nothing to have shed lustre around your family, nor to have shone in the world : the only thing that will then be of any service to you will be to have loved and served Jesus Christ, who will be your judge. The evil is, that in the world little thought is given to God, and to that other world in which we are to dwell for ever. All, or nearly all, the thoughts of men are for the things of earth. As a consequence, life is irksome, and worse than death itself. If, then, you wish to be sure of making a good choice of a state of life, represent yourself as at the point of death, and choose the state which then you will wish to have embraced. Remember that all things here below have an end. Everything passes away, and death advances toward us. At every step we take, we go nearer to death and to eternity. At the moment we think least of it, death will be at our door ; and then what comfort shall we find in the goods of this life? Shall we find in them anything more than delusion, vanity, falsehood, and folly? And all that will contribute only to make us end an unhappy life by a still more unhappy death."[6]

" But in order to know what state will best suit our end, we must reflect. We must interrogate the experience of our past falls, the causes of our sins, the nature of our aptitudes, the excellences, the advantages, the dangers, of the several states of life. We will not enter here into any details. What we have said in the first part of this book, while it gives a correct idea of the different states of the Christian life, will also serve to direct the reflections which every serious mind ought to make. It is true that, while living in the world, it is not always easy to enter into one's self; and hence theologians[10] and the masters of the spiritual life advise persons who are about to choose a state of life, to spend some days in retreat in the quiet and retirement of a religious house, far from the noise of the world and the bustle of business. Here is what St. Liguori wrote to a young man : " If a spiritual retreat is good for all classes of persons, it is especially useful for any one that wishes to choose properly a state of life. The first object aimed at in the establishment of these pious exercises was the choice of a state."[11] The holy doctor afterward advised the same young man to read a book of meditation, which would take the place of sermons, and to get the Lives of the Saints. This advice is especially needful for those who cannot enjoy the benefit of a retreat. They should endeavor to make up this deficiency by serious reading, and by studying the examples of the chosen ones of God. Was it not on hearing read these words of Scripture, " Go, sell all thou hast" (Matt, xix, 21), that St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi resolved to enter on a poor and penitential life ? Was it not meditation on those other words of our blessed Lord, " What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he lose his soul "(Matt, xvi, 26), that opened the eyes of St. Francis Xavier to the vanities of the world and the glory of earth, and of a university professor made an apostle ? " Can I not do what others do?" St. Augustine used to exclaim, when thinking of men who led a chaste life ; and by putting himself this question, he stimulated himself to return from the wanderings of his early years. Let every one, then, who cannot snatch from his occupations the time necessary to shut himself up in solitude and meditate there, reflect every day while attending to his duties, and study in good books, and in the silence of a recollected soul, the heroism of saints and the glorious thoughts of our faith.

As it is of the highest importance to take advice before coming to any irrevocable decision, so it is equally important not to select bad counsellors. " Advise not with fools, for they cannot love but such things as please them." (Ecclus. viii, 20.) On this text the learned a Lapide again says: " The foolish and the wicked counsel what is in the line of their passions and interests, not what is profitable to others. We must not, therefore, apply to men who do not fear God as they should. 'Treat not with a man without religion concerning holiness, nor with an unjust man concerning justice.' (Ecclus. xxxvii, 12.) 'Consult not with him that layeth a snare for thee.' (Ibid. 7.) 'Let one of a thousand be thy counsellor.' (Ibid, vi, 6.) The same distinguished commentator speaks thus on this passage : " We should consult only a few rare and choice men ; for there are not many prudent, few have experience, and fewer still are discreet and faithful."[1]But it is chiefly when we aspire to a perfect life, that we should avoid a multitude of counsellors. Were we to take the advice of many, who does not see what difficulties would arise ? Because carnal men, who are always in the majority, hinder rather than promote the desire of perfection, as St. Thomas observes.[2]"Choose, then, as advisers only such as are prudent and well-minded," adds St. Bernard. "In the vast crowd of mankind it is hard for every one to find even one man uniting these two qualities in a high degree. It is no easy matter to meet a love of what is really good in a prudent man, or prudence in a man fond of good. The number of those who possess neither quality is very great."[3] St. Ambrose speaks in similar terms: " When you ask advice," says he, "you should go to a man noted for the probity of his life, for his virtues, for an unflinching love of good, and for the great moderation of his conduct. Who goes to seek a spring of clear water in a puddle, or drinks dirty water? In like manner, who expects to draw anything useful from the confusion of vice ? Can a man who does not know how to order his own life, regulate the life of another? How can I consider as my superior in prudence a man whom I see so far below me in his morals? Can I look upon as able to give me counsel, one who is unable to counsel himself?Or am I to suppose that he who neglects his own interests, will take care of mine? "[4]

Section 2: Rules to be followed in choosing a State of Life

These rules, which are borrowed from theology and the most eminent masters of the spiritual life, will, we trust, be useful, not only to persons deliberating on the state they should embrace, but to those also who are called upon to advise and direct them in this deliberation.

We have already stated that the obligation of marriage does not hold for him who is willing to employ other means for the preservation of chastity. "Who has ever pretended." asks St. Liguori, " that marriage is indispensable in order to keep out of sin? The words of St. Paul, 'If they do not contain themselves, let them marry' (i Cor. vii, 9), apply to those only who will use no other means to triumph over temptation. This is the meaning generally attached to these words by the interpreters of Holy Scripture."

We have before cited the following passage from St. Liguori's Theology : " Were any one in the belief that, by remaining in the world, he would lose his soul, either because he has already had sad experience of his own weakness amid the dangers of the world, or because he has not those aids which the religious life supplies, he could not be excused from grave sin if he remained in the world, since he thereby would expose himself to imminent danger of being eternally lost."[4]

The number of persons in this case is, perhaps, far greater than is imagined. The Emperor Mauritius having issued an edict which forbade soldiers to become monks, St. Gregory the Great wrote to him that the law was unjust, because it closed heaven on many souls. Here are the words and reasons of that pope : There are very many who cannot save their souls unless they renounce all things : ' Nam plerique sunt qui, nisi onmia reliquerint, salvari apud Deum nullatenus possunt. ' "[5] Lessius, quoted by St. Liguori, says : " If your conscience tells you, as it often happens, that God will abandon you unless you obey his divine call, that you will be lost if you remain in the world, it is a sin for you not to follow that call." St. Liguori ends by saying that persons called to religion are bound to follow it: "Devocatis dico teneri." He also insists on the dangers incurred when the divine call is disobeyed, and he prays God to ward off such an evil.[6] This should suffice to determine all whom God calls to a perfect life, to be docile to the inspirations of grace.

But when is one called to the religious state? St. Liguori will answer; and his doctrine will enlighten such as wait almost for a revelation from heaven in order to decide a vocation. According, then, to the holy doctor, the following are the three chief signs of a real vocation :

First, a good object or intention, such as to retire from the dangers of the world, to make salvation more secure, to attach one's self more closely to God.

Secondly, no positive impediment, such as want of health or talent, parents in great need, and so forth. Everything of this nature is to be submitted to superiors ; and the full truth should be told them, in order that they may decide properly for the order and for the applicant.

Thirdly, acceptance by the superiors of the order to which application is made.[7] When a person has all these conditions, he can go on safely. "It is clear," says Lessius, "that, if the motive which prompts you to enter religion is simply your own spiritual advantage, thus, for instance, if you become a religious to shun the world's dangers, to imitate the life of Christ, to follow his counsels, to give yourself to God, to serve him more faithfully, to take care of your salvation, and to bring others to do the same, your vocation evidently comes from God."[8]

In the conduct of life, it is neither necessary nor proper to await absolute certainty before acting, as the same Lessius observes, according to Bishop Lucquet. Here is a portion of that notable quotation : " When one feels an inclination to give up the world, and imitate the humility of Jesus Christ in the religious state, he is as surely moved to that by the Holy Ghost, as he is surely being moved by the same Spirit of God when he feels an inclination to believe in Jesus Christ, to do penance, to give alms, or undertake any other good work. Nay more, he has the same certainty as for the act of faith that is necessary for salvation. "[9]

Therefore, whenever we have to advise souls that wish to enter religion for a good purpose, we should strengthen them in their holy desire. To thwart or destroy it would be a crime, as St. Liguori teaches. Here are the words which he addresses to directors of consciences : "If the intention of him who wishes to enter the religious life is right, and if he is under no impediment, neither his confessor nor any one else can, without grievous sin, prevent or divert the penitent from following his vocation."[10]

IT often happens that aspirants to the religious state do not present the three conditions enumerated by St. Liguori as signs of a real vocation. Now, according to the same doctor, it is vocation that entails obligation to enter religion, as we have said above: De vocatis dico teneri ; and as those who feel no liking for the state are not bound to enter it,[1] unless they have vowed it, or that their salvation is, to a certain extent, impossible in the world, where the vocation is not clear, the obligation to follow it is uncertain. Here is the case put by Suarez : "Sometimes a person, having neither leaning to nor desire of the religious state, experiences, however, certain thoughts and impressions from grace with respect to the dangers of the world, the excellence and advantages of the religious life, the importance of the choice of a state, and the indifference in which one should be, so as to seek in that choice only the holy will of God. In this case, according to the ordinary manner of judging and speaking, one is not supposed to have a religious vocation, even where these thoughts and motives are the beginning of a call from the Holy Ghost. In such circumstances it is not rash to think of the religious state, or to take advice about it. To warrant the taking of advice, some incipient good thoughts on the religious life, inspired by grace, are sufficient :Loquendo praedicto vulgari modo, negandum est esse temerariunt sine vocatione Spiritus Sancti, de religionis ingressn tractare ant consultare.

We have thus seen the line of conduct to be followed when there is only a germ of religious vocation. Counsel should then be taken ; and we have heretofore said from whom it is to be sought. " We should immediately correspond," says St. Liguori, borrowing the words of St. Francis of Sales, " and cultivate the first motions of the Holy Spirit."[3]

Let us here inquire : How is he to act who is consulted in a doubt of this kind? Suarez replies : "The truth must be told openly to the one who asks advice. He whom the Spirit begins to move, must be helped, either to make him remain firm in his purpose, or to prevent him from resisting grace, and to induce him to merit, by prayers and other good works, more abundant graces."[4] This should be the conduct especially of ministers of the Lord, who are God's coadjutors, (i Cor. iii, 9.)

Is it allowable, under pretext of trying their vocation, to keep languishing for a longtime in the world souls that begin to desire to abandon it ? Lessius says : "In this matter no more pernicious counsel could be given. What can be more opposed to right reason and to real prudence than to seek in so dangerous a way to know what in another way can be known more surely, and without any danger at all? The world is not the place to remain in order to test one's self. Fly as quickly as possible to some secure asylum."[5]

St. Liguori has told us that "an intention is right or pure when we purpose to shun the dangers of the world, to make our salvation safer, and to unite ourselves more closely to God.":[7] "However, we must not," says Suarez, "confound an intention with the occasion which prompts it. For, frequently, the desire to enter religion springs up in the soul on the occasion of some temporal misfortune, while afterward the motive which decides us to put this desire into execution is not the temporal misfortune, but the will to serve God. At times some failure, some sorrow, leads us to think on eternal goods, to despise everything transitory; and thus a man comes, little by little, to wish to seek after the things of heaven, and renounce all that is earthly. Therefore we should be slow to think lightly of the tendencies of a soul to the religious life, even when they arise on the occasion of temporal evils. It is then that these aspirations should be studied with greater attention. When a misfortune is only the occasion of a desire for a perfect life, it is no obstacle to a divine vocation. It is rather a means which God uses often to draw us to the practice of his counsels."[8]

"God," says St. Liguori, quoting St. Francis of Sales, " has many ways to call his servants. Sometimes he makes use of sermons ; at others, of the reading of good books. Some were called by hearing passages of the Gospel read, as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Antony the Hermit; others, through the disgust, calamities, and afflictions which they experienced in the world, and which led them to fly from it. Although these latter come to God in bad humor with the world, they still withal give themselves to him freely and generously ; and such persons often rise to greater holiness than those who entered the service of God with more apparent vocations. Flatus relates that a gentleman dressed in the height of fashion, one day, did all in his power, when mounted on a superb steed, to win the admiration of some ladies who were near him. On a sudden, the animal threw him into the mud, and the poor man got up in a sorry plight. He was so much ashamed and confused at the accident he had met with, that he fell into a violent passion, and resolved on the spot to become a religious. He asked admission into an order, was received, and led a very holy life.[9]

Can it be straightway said that a man is unfit for the religious state, because he has for some time led a life of sin, or still feels strong inclinations to sin ? As we have already seen, St. Thomas teaches that the religious state is suited for sinners who return to God. Experience, too, shows that, with good will and God's grace, men, very prone to anger or to other passions, have learned to practise all the virtues of religion in full perfection. Such men are bound in the world to avoid the defects to which their corrupt nature impels them : now, is it evident that they can triumph more readily amid the dangers of the world than in the religious life ? We must keep in mind the saying of a theologian cited by Suarez,--a saying that deserves to be noted as Suarez himself says, sententia notanda. It is this : " Every one should consider the religious state as suited to him, unless he has acquired a certainty of the contrary, either from solid reasons or from experience. "[15]

"When any one enters religion, we are bound," says St. Thomas, " to presume that he is led by the spirit of God. To put a good interpretation on men's actions, is angelical ; to put a bad one, is diabolical.[16] Besides, let us not forget that the decisive trial of a vocation is the noviceship prescribed by the laws of the Church. This method of testing a vocation is the best, and it is amply sufficient, as Lessius observes. It keeps away, as much as possible, all occasions and causes of temptation. It also furnishes every means that can protect and develop the precious seed. But, in trying a vocation amid the seductions of the world, the very contrary often takes place."[17] "Why would you," adds Lessius, " remain among the obstacles and dangers of the world ? What have you to gain there ? Knowledge of the world and of its vanities. But, in general, it is hurtful to acquire such experience."[18] Is it necessary to know evil in order to do good ?

This follows from all that we have said. This young man is not bound to enter religion, since we suppose him not to have even the beginning of a vocation, and that his salvation is not morally impossible in the world. Nor is he bound to observe celibacy or to get married, since we suppose him not to be in any of those circumstances which render celibacy or marriage obligatory. Besides marriage, celibacy and the religious state are open to him, because, in our supposition, there are no impediments in his way, and he has all the aptitudes required by every one of these states. If, then, after having prayed, reflected, and consulted, he freely chooses one among these several states, taking care meanwhile to refer his choice to God, to have a right intention, and a will always to fulfil his duties, his choice will be a good one, and even meritorious, when the young man is in the state of grace. Should he marry, he will do well. " If thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned," says St. Paul. "He that giveth his virgin in marriage does well." (i Cor. vii, 28, 38.) Recall here the lawful ends to be kept in view in entering the marriage state: we enumerated them, Part I, Art. I, c. iv.

But let us advance a step further. He who would unjustly seek to prevent the above-mentioned young man from marrying, would be guilty of a grievous sin ;[5] for he would rob him of a liberty given by God, and divert him from a holy state to which he has a right. But it would not be against any virtue nay, it would even be a laudable act, to tell that same young man, with St. Paul, that virginity is better than marriage. Celibacy is a counsel: it may therefore be counselled in this case under consideration. Much more may the religious life be counselled, since, even when engaged to be married, one has still a right to enter, and because it is still more perfect than celibacy. There is no need here to go into any proof of these propositions : we gave ample demonstration of them in the First Part. St. Ignatius says that out of the Exercises " it is lawful, and to be accounted meritorious, to persuade all those to embrace celibacy, religious life, and any other evangelical perfection, who, from the consideration of their persons and conditions, will probably be fit subjects."[6] Where a man is free to choose the state which he considers suitable for him, he who seeks most purely to please God will assuredly receive the greatest graces. Hence, in accordance with the Exercises of St. Ignatius, and the Directory that accompanies them, we shall proceed to lay down rules calculated to make the choice of a state in the Christian life as perfect as possible.

THE question to be met in the choice of a state of life is this : Must I confine myself to the commandments, or must I undertake the practice of the counsels ? If I choose the counsels, shall I practise them in the world or in the religious state ?[1]

In order to answer this question, it is important that he who is about to make his choice should be free from every disorderly inclination, and be completely indifferent to everything ; having no other tendency than to follow the divine will, whatever it may be, as soon as it shall make itself known. To have a strong leaning toward riches, and little inclination for poverty, would not be a good disposition, and there would be no reason to expect much good from an election made in such a frame of mind. For, any inclination leading the soul away from the most perfect path, and drawing her to one less perfect, would impel the intellect to seek motives to strengthen still more this inclination, and the deliberation would issue in the soul's taking her own will for the will of God.[2]

Many go wrong, says our illustrious guide, and take as a divine call what is only a badly made choice. A divine call is always pure, clear, and free from carnal affection and perverse desire.[3] Therefore, he who is about to choose must have reached, by meditation on the example of our Lord and of his saints, such a state of indifference, as to be equally disposed to practise both counsels and commandments, or the commandments only, if such be the divine will.[4]

St. Liguori speaks in the same way : " He who is not in this indifference, and still prays to God to enlighten him on the choice of a state of life, and who, instead of conforming to God's will, rather asks God to conform to him, resembles a pilot that pretends to wish his vessel to advance, yet in reality does not want it to stir : he first throws out his anchor, and then unfurls his sails. God does not shed his light on souls thus disposed. On the other hand, if he prays to God with generous indifference, and a resolution to follow his holy will, God will show him clearly what state is best for him."[5]

Indeed, the best disposition for the choice of a state is not to be as ready to follow the counsels as the commandments, but even to be more inclined to what is most perfect.[6] "It is to be observed," says St. Ignatius, "that, when we perceive that our affections are opposed to perfect poverty, which consists in detachment from, and readiness to quit, all things, and that they rather incline to riches, it is very profitable, in order to rid ourselves of such affections, to ask God, even though the flesh resist, that he would call us to poverty. Meanwhile, we should preserve our will free, so that we may in the end go the way which is the more suitable for the service of God."[7]And truly, even though one were not to choose the state of perfection, because, perhaps, he is not called to it, this perfect disposition not only can do no harm, but must prove even very beneficial to the soul. Hence, during the spiritual exercises, the most perfect way is set before men as one that should be desired and asked of God. In this connection we call attention to the following saying of St. Ignatius, which is found in one of his writings : " He who directs another during a retreat, must so dispose him as to make him as ready to follow the counsels as the commandments. Indeed, then, we should have, as far as depends on us, greater readiness for the counsels, where the observance of them will contribute more to the glory of God. For, more evident tokens are required to decide that God wishes a soul to remain in the state of the commandments alone, than to believe that soul called to follow the path of the counsels ; for our Lord has very clearly exhorted men to embrace the counsels."[8]

These grave principles apply chiefly, it seems to us, to persons who have received from heaven more than ordinary talents. " Much shall be asked from him who has received much " (Luc. xii, 48), says our Lord. What we have received is not to be buried in the earth : now, St. Gregory tells us that we bury our talents when we devote them solely to earthly objects : Talentum abscondere est acceptum ingenium terrenis actibus implicare. (Hom. ix, in Evang.) In order to foster in the soul a disposition to embrace what is most perfect, we must be careful to meditate on the life of Christ; for, without such meditation, we will not make a good choice of a state of life, and will only hurt ourselves. Meditation strengthens the soul ; it enlightens it, lifts it above the earth, makes it fitter to know and do God's will, and to beat down every obstacle. The soul that gives up meditation is weak and in darkness.[9] "Lastly, let him who is choosing a state remain in deep recollection during his deliberations. Let him close the gates of his senses, and banish from his mind every other thought. Let him give no ear to any other voice than that of heaven. This means, first, that the soul should not allow itself to be distracted ; that it should bury itself only with its election, attend to it alone, and put aside every other interest. Secondly, it means that, during this deliberation, the soul should consider only heavenly motives ; that is, it should reject all reasons suggested by flesh and blood, and should not permit itself to be influenced by any human and earthly consideration. Every thought must start from and be based solely on this principle : the desire to glorify God and to do his holy will. This gives the soul great confidence that God will not allow her to be deceived. For, since she seeks him sincerely and with all her heart, he will never turn away from her, because his goodness is too great, and his love for his creatures is so boundless, that he often goes to meet those who flee from his face. Yet, though the choice is excellent when made out of love for God, nevertheless, if, as we already stated, any other motive combines to bend the soul in the same direction, the choice is not ill-made on that account, provided this secondary motive is not in opposition with faith or the divine will, and that it is good in itself; as, for instance, one s own consolation, quiet of mind, health, or some similar incentive. But this latter motive must not be the chief one, nor chiefly influence our decision ; and, besides, it must be subordinated to the love of God."[10]

Whenever a soul is thus acted upon by grace, he who directs her must teach her the meaning of spiritual consolation and desolation.[5] Spiritual consolation is recognized by the following signs : The soul, under the action of interior emotions, is on fire with love for God, and can love nothing created save in view of him. Tears flow, stirring up that divine love, whether they flow from grief for sin, or from meditation on the passion, or from any other cause whatever that tends directly to the glory and service of God. We may also give the name, spiritual consolation, to any increase of faith, hope, and charity, and also to every joy which is wont to incite the soul to the meditation of heavenly things, to the desire of salvation, to the possession of rest and peace with God.[6]

We call spiritual desolation any darkening and disturbance of the mind instigating to low and earthly things ; also, every disquietude and agitation or temptation, which moves to distrust concerning salvation, and expels hope and charity, whence the soul finds herself all torpid, lukewarm, sorrowful, and, as it were, separated from her Creator and Lord.[7]

To know, therefore, what side we have to choose, we must examine to what spiritual consolation and peace of mind incline us, when they make themselves felt in the soul ; and also to what desolation inclines us. The evil spirit is wont to excite confusion in the soul, to overwhelm it with pusillanimity, sadness, and torpor. The good spirit, on the other hand, brings joy to the soul, and acts upon her, and influences her during consolation.[8] It is to his voice that we must listen, while closing our ears entirely to the suggestions of the Evil One. When we find ourselves impelled toward the vanities of the world, to the enjoyments of sense, to useless desires, we may be sure that it is the bad spirit who is speaking to us, and we should drive him off with indignation.[9]

The third rule. Ask yourself: "If I were about to die, how would I wish to have decided ? It is clear that I should now choose what at the hour of my death I would wish to have done."

The fourth rule. Seriously say to yourself: " When I shall stand before the judgment-seat of God, what shall I wish to have done? That I shall now choose immediately, so that I may appear with greater security before my Judge."

Remark. Having carefully observed these four rules, the election is to be concluded and offered to God for his approval.[17]

When, in following both of these methods, we obtain the same result, it is a proof that the choice has been well made.[18] It is good to put in writing the reasons for and against the matters on which we deliberate, because thereby the truth becomes clearer and more striking.[19] These reasons are afterward to be submitted to our spiritual director.

These last two methods given by St. Ignatius afford the surest means of making a right election. If, to the reasons furnished by the intellect for embracing perfection, be added experience of the dangers to be met with in the world, so as to make us sensible that salvation runs great risks there, we can act with much more certainty in our determination.[20]

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.

Cloistered houses have the immense advantage of shutting out all occasion of sin that is to be found in the world. Those who, in the world, have learned to know their weakness, do well in preferring them as their place of rest, and as a port after shipwreck. The approbation of the Church is the basis, the support, and the strength of religious societies. Happy the associations that have received this blessing, the value of which cannot be too highly esteemed ! When, in accordance with the rules we have given, a person has chosen the order in which he is to pass his days, he must still be on his guard against inconstancy and negligence in following his vocation. "He who has made a good choice," says St. Ignatius, "has no reason to recall it, but should endeavor to strengthen himself in it more and more."[14] To give up a greater good is, according to St. Thomas, an act of imprudence. A salutary project which has been determined on, cannot be abandoned without some defect and error on the part of reason, from the fact that it rejects what it had deliberately accepted.[15]

To renounce the religious life after a prudent determination to embrace it, is to rob one's self of the greatest good.

It is a duty to respect all the serious impediments that we have enumerated ; but it is an error, or at least a weakness, to stop at obstacles arising from unjust opposition on the part of parents, from excessive natural affection, from a groundless fear of not persevering, or of falling into greater sins in the religious state ; or, finally, from a misconceived humility that, on account of past sins, makes a person deem himself unworthy of the state of perfection. We should, therefore, rise up bravely against obstacles coming from men, or from our own want of courage. If the combat terrifies us, let the reward that is in store for us stimulate our ardor.

" When the hour has come to carry out our vocation to the state of perfection, a difficulty sometimes arises. In things painful to nature, human weakness keeps us back as much as possible. It seeks reasons to justify its delays and to deceive itself. 'The grace of the Holy Ghost knows nothing of such delays,' says St. Ambrose. We should follow the example of the apostles, who abandoned directly their nets and their relations. We should reason in this way : If I am one day to embrace perfection, why not do it now? If I do not take it up immediately, perhaps I shall never do so. For, at present, I am under the influence of grace, I feel its assistance : that grace may very easily grow weak, and then it would be more difficult for me to resist nature and the Evil Spirit. "[16] But there are some whom God really calls to the path of Christian perfection, and yet there are excusable hindrances in their way. For instance, a young man needs to recruit his health ; a young woman is only eighteen years of age, and she must wait until her twenty-first year, because the convent that she intends to enter will not accept her before she is of age, as her parents now refuse their consent. Or again, it is a young man who cannot leave his parents in their present extreme need. In cases of this kind, here is the advice given by St. Liguori :

"He who is absolutely forced to wait, should spare no pains, in order to preserve his vocation, since it is the richest treasure he can own. There are three means to preserve a vocation: discretion, prayer, and recollection. Generally speaking, one's own vocation should be kept secret, and made known to no one except a confessor; for people of the world usually make no scruple about telling young persons called to the religious state that God can be served in all conditions of life, even amid the seductions of the world ;and, what is most astonishing," says the holy doctor, " is that such remarks come from priests, and at times even from religious. Hence, my dear brother, if God inspires you to give up the world, take care not to make it known to your parents. Be satisfied with the blessing of the Lord. For the same reason do not let your friends know your vocation, because they would make no difficulty about inducing you to give it up, or at least about publishing your secret, which would thus come to the knowledge of your parents."[17]

Views of St Ignatius and St Francis de Sales.

Q. What should be done by a person who thinks of entering the religious state, but fears that he may not be called to it by Almighty God? A. St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit Order, gives an excellent answer to this question. He says: "If a person thinks of embracing a secular life, he should ask and desire more evident signs that God calls him to a secular life than if there were question of embracing the evangelical counsels; for Our Lord Himself has evidently exhorted us to embrace His counsels, and, on the other hand, He has evidently laid before us the great dangers and difficulties of a secular life; so that, if we rightly conclude, revelations and extraordinary tokens of His will are more necessary for a man entering upon a life in the world than for one entering the religious state."

Q. Is this doctrine of St Ignatius supported by Sacred Scripture? A. This doctrine is in perfect harmony with the teaching of the Scriptures. Our blessed Lord says: "Woe to the world because of scandals;" and St John, the beloved disciple, says: " If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him; for all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life."

Q. Can you quote other reliable authority on this matter of uncertain vocations? A. Yes; Lehmkuhl, a standard theologian, says; " In order that a person may safely embrace the religious state probable signs of a vocation are sufficient, together with a firm will of fulfilling the obligations to be assumed."

Q. What does St Francis de Sales teach on this point? A. On this subject St Francis de Sales says: "To have a sign of a true vocation it is not necessary that our constancy be sensible; it suffices if our good intention remains in the superior part of our soul. And therefore we must not judge that a vocation is not a true one if a person does not feel sensible movements."

Q. What if this divine call should change to coldness and repugnance? A. St Francis de Sales answers: "It is enough that the will remains firm in not abandoning the divine call, and also that some affection remains for this call, even though a person should feel a coldness and repugnance which sometimes cause him to waver and to fear that all is lost."

Q. What does St Francis de Sales say about expecting direct proofs from God? A. St Francis says: "To know whether God will have a person become a religious it is not to be expected that God Himself should speak, or send an angel from heaven to signify His will. It is not necessary that ten or twelve confessors should examine whether the vocation is to be followed. But it is necessary to correspond with the first movement of the inspiration, and to cultivate it, and then not to grow weary if disgust or coldness should come on. If a person acts thus, God will not fail to make all succeed to His glory. Nor ought we to care much from what quarter the first movement comes. The Lord has many ways of calling His servants."

2. "There are very many who cannot enter heaven unless they abandon all things." ST GREGORY THE GREAT.

6. "you run well, but out of the way; he who does little, but in the state to which God calls him , does more than he who labours much, but in a state which he has thoughtlessly chosen; a cripple limping in the right way is better than a racer out of it.. ST AUGUSTINE.

7. "In the world there is a vast number of women who damn their souls; the number of those who damn their souls in convents is very small." ST LIGUORI.

Q. Why is retirement, or seclusion from the world, necessary in order to preserve the grace of a religious vocation? A. Because an apparently trifling circumstance often causes the loss of such a vocation. A day of amusement, a discouraging word, even from a friend, an unmortified passion, or a conversation, especially with a person of the opposite sex, often suffices to bring to naught the best resolution of giving one's self entirely to God.

Q. Why should a vocation to the religious state be followed promptly? A. St John Chrysostom, as quoted by St Thomas, says: "When God gives such vocations, He wills that we should not defer even for a moment to follow them; for when the devil cannot bring a person to give up his resolution of consecrating himself to God, he at least seeks to make him defer the execution of it, and he esteems it a great gain if he can obtain the delay of one day, or even of one hour."

"Because," continues St Liguori, "after that day, or that hour, other occasions presenting themselves, it will be less difficult for the devil to obtain greater delay, until the person, finding himself more feeble and less assisted by grace, gives way altogether, and loses his vocation."

St Jerome gives this advice to those who are called to quit the world: "make haste, I beseech you, and rather cut than loosen the rope by which your bark is bound fast to the land;" that is, break at once all ties that bind you to the world.

Q. What other reason may be given why a religious vocation should be followed promptly? A. Like other graces, the grace of a religious vocation is transient; it may be offered today, and if not accepted, it may be withdrawn tomorrow: "Today if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts."

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