30 August 2009

Renounce Sin for Good and All

All that is very true, you will tell me, but what will people say about me after seeing me go to Confession several times and then not make my Easter duty? People are going to believe that I am leading a bad life; besides, I know plenty of others who are worse sinners than I who have been given absolution; you have received So-and-So well, and he has broken the law of abstinence with me; and So-and-So, who has been out on Sundays, as well as I have, at..[sentence incomplete - Trans.] The conscience of another person is not yours. If he does wrong, it is not for you to listen to accounts of it. Or do you want, just in order to keep up appearances, to damn your soul by committing sacrilege? Would not that be the greatest of all evils? You think that people will notice you because they have seen you going to Confession several times and yet you have not been to Holy Communion. Ah, my poor friend, fear rather the eyes of God, before which you have done the wrong, and pay no attention to all the others. You say that you know of some, more guilty than you, who have been given Absolution. What do you know of them? Did an angel come to you to tell you that God had not changed or converted them? And even if they should not have been converted, should you therefore do wrong because they do wrong? Would you want to be damned because others are damning themselves? Dear God, what frightful talk! But, these penitents still protest, these penitents who not only have not been converted, but who indeed do not want to be converted at all but only to save their faces in public.... When will it be the right time then to come for Holy Communion? When will it be time to come for Holy Communion? Listen to St. John Chrysostom. He himself is going to tell us when it will be time for Holy Communion. Is it at Easter, at Pentecost, at Christmas? No, he tells us. Is it at the point of death? No, he tells us again. When is it then? It is, he says to us, when we have renounced sin for good and all, and are fully resolved, with the help of God's grace, not to fall into it again. When you have paid back that which is not yours, when you have become reconciled with your enemy -- that is when you are genuinely converted. Other sinners will tell us: "If you are going to be so difficult, we will go to those who will allow us to go to Holy Communion. Look at how many times I have come. I have other things to do than to be walking the roads. I am not coming back for a long time, for I can see quite plainly that you are angry with me. What great harm have I done, then?" You will go to find another, my friend? You are entirely free to go to anyone who seems good to you. But do you think that another would wish, any more than I would, to damn himself? No, I am sure you do not. If he receives you, it is because he does not know you well enough. Do you want to know what sort of a person talks like that, and who goes in search of Absolution elsewhere? Listen, and tremble. He leaves his guide, who can lead him surely, to look for a passport to go straight to Hell. But, you will say to me, look at how many times I keep coming. Very well, my friend! Change your ways and you will be allowed Absolution the very first time you return. I am not coming back, you say, for a very long time. So much the worse for you alone, my poor friend. In not coming back you are taking a big step in the direction of Hell. There are some who are so blind that they will go so far as to believe that the confessor is angry with them because he does not give them Absolution. Undoubtedly, my friends, he is vexed with you, but it is because he desires the salvation of your poor souls. It is for that reason that he does not want to give you an Absolution which, very far from saving you, would damn you for all eternity. But, you say, what have I done that is so bad? I have not killed, or stolen.... You say not killed, not stolen, you say? But, my friend, Hell is full of other people who have not killed or stolen. There are more than two sins which drag souls into Hell. But if we were so lax as to give you Absolution when you do not merit it, we would be playing the part of executioner of your poor soul, which caused so much suffering to Jesus Christ.

Repairing the Wrong Done

Having made satisfaction to God, we must then make satisfaction to our neighbour for the wrong which-either in his body or in his soul -- we have done him. I say that it is possible to wrong him in his body, that is to say, in his person, by attacking him either by injurious or insulting words or by bad treatment. If we have sinned against him by injurious words, then we must apologise to him and make our reconciliation with him. If we have done him some wrong by belabouring his animals, as sometimes happens when we find that they have been doing damage among our crops, we are obliged to give him all that we have been the cause of his losing: we could have got compensation without maltreating these animals. If we have done any harm, we are obliged to repay as soon as we can; otherwise we will be gravely at fault. If we have neglected to do that, we have sinned and we must confess it. If you have done wrong to your neighbour in his honour, as, for instance, by scandalous talk, you are obliged to make up by favourable and beneficent talk for all the harm you have done to his reputation, saying all the good of him which you know to be true and concealing any faults which he may have and which you are not obliged to reveal. If you have calumniated your neighbour, you must go and find the people to whom you have said false things about him and tell them that what you have been saying is not true, that you are very grieved about it, and that you beg them not to believe it. But if you have done him harm in his soul, it is a still more difficult thing to repair, and yet it must be done as far as possible; otherwise God will not pardon you. You must also examine your conscience as to whether you have given scandal to your children or to your next-door neighbours. How many fathers, mothers, masters, and mistresses are there who scandalise their children and their servants by not saying their prayers morning or evening or by saying them when they are dressing or sitting back in a chair, who do not even make the Sign of the Cross before and after a meal? How many times are they heard swearing, or perhaps even blaspheming? How many times have they been seen working on Sunday morning, even before Holy Mass? You must consider, too, whether you have sung bad songs, or brought in bad books, or whether you have given bad counsel, as, for instance, advising someone that he should take his revenge on someone else, should exact satisfaction by force. Consider, too, whether you have ever taken anything from a next-door neighbour and neglected to pay it back, whether you have neglected to give some alms which you had been told to give or make some restitution which your parents, who are dead, should have made. If you wish to have the happiness of having your sins forgiven, you must have nothing belonging to anyone else which you should and could pay back. So if you have sullied your neighbour's reputation, you must do all in your power to repair the damage. You must be reconciled with your enemies, speak to them as if they had never done you anything but good all your life, keeping nothing in your heart but the charity which the good Christian should have for everyone, so that we can all appear with confidence before the tribunal of God. That is the happiness that....[sentence is incomplete - Trans.]

Thoughts about Penance

Tell me, my dear brethren, what are the penances that are given to you? Alas! A few rosaries, some litanies, some almsgivings, a few little mortifications. Do all of these things, I ask you, bear any proportion to our sins which deserve eternal punishment? There are some who carry out their penance walking along or sitting down; that is not doing it at all. Unless the priest tells you that you may do it while walking along or sitting down, you should do your penance on your knees. If you do perform your penance while walking along or sitting down, you should confess it and never do it again. In the second place, unless you are not able to do it as required, in which event you must tell that to your confessor when you go to Confession the next time, I must tell you that the penance should be done within the time indicated; otherwise you commit a sin. For example, the priest might tell you to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament after the services because he knows that you go around in company which will not bring you any nearer to God; he may order you to mortify yourself in something which you eat because you are subject to gluttony; to make an act of contrition if you have the misfortune to fall back into the sin which you have just confessed. At other times you may wait until the moment when you are ready to go to Confession to do your penance. You understand as well as I do that in all of these instances you are fully at fault and that you should not fail to confess that and that you should never do this again. In the third place, I tell you that you should perform your penance devoutly, that is to say, with reverence and with the sincere intention of giving up the sin. To say your penance reverently, my dear brethren, is to say it with attention to its spiritual importance and with devotion in your hearts. If you have said your penance with wilful distractions, you will not have said it at all and you are obliged to say it again. To perform it devoutly is to perform it with a strong confidence that God will forgive you your sins through the merits of Jesus Christ, Who made satisfaction for us by His sufferings and His death on the Cross. We should perform our penance overwhelmed with joy at being able to satisfy God, Whom we have offended, and at finding such an easy means of effacing our sins which should have earned eternal sufferings for us. Something which you should never forget is that all the time you are fulfilling your penance, you should be saying to God: "My God, I unite this slight penance to that which Jesus Christ my Saviour has offered to You for my sins." This is what will make your penance meritorious and pleasing to God. I repeat that we should always carry out our penance with the true desire to give up the sin altogether, no matter what it may cost us, even if it involves death itself. If we have not these dispositions, very far from satisfying the justice of God, we will outrage it again, which would make us even more guilty. I have said that we should never content ourselves with the penance which our confessor imposes upon us because it is nothing, or almost nothing, if we compare it with what our sins really deserve. If our confessor is so very lenient with us, it is only lest he might give us a distaste for the work of our salvation. If you really have your salvation at heart, you should impose penances upon yourself. Choose those which suit your case best. If you have the misfortune to be someone who gives scandal, you should make yourself so watchful of your behaviour that your neighbour will not be able to see anything in your life which would give him anything but good example; you should show by your conduct that your life is truly Christian. If you are one of those unhappy people who sin against the holy virtue of purity, you should mortify that sinful body with fasting, giving it only what it needs to sustain life and to fulfil its functions, from time to time making it sleep upon bare boards. If you are one of those who has to have something to eat which will gratify your gluttony, you should refuse this to your body and despise it as much as you previously loved it. When your body wants to cost you your soul, you must punish it. Your heart, which must often have thought of impure things, has carried your thoughts into Hell, which is the place reserved for the unchaste. If you are attached to the things of this earth, you should give alms sufficient to enable you to punish your avarice by depriving yourself of all that is not absolutely necessary for life. If we have been negligent in the service of God, let us impose upon ourselves the penance of assisting at all the exercises of piety which are going on in our parish. I would advise Mass, Vespers, catechism, prayers, the Rosary, so that God, seeing our eagerness, may be good enough to pardon us all our negligences. If we have spare time between the services, let us do some spiritual reading, which will nourish our souls -- above all, some reading of the lives of the saints wherein we may see how they behaved in order to sanctify themselves. That will encourage us. Let us make some short visit to the Blessed Sacrament during the week to ask God to pardon the sins we have committed. If we feel ourselves guilty of some fault, let us go and get rid of it so that our prayers and all our good works may be pleasing to God and more advantageous to our souls. Have we the habit of swearing or of flying into rages? Let us go down on our knees to say again this holy prayer: "My God, may your holy name be blessed for ever and ever! My God, purify my heart, purify my lips so that they may never pronounce words which would outrage you and separate me from you!" Any time that you fall into this sin, you should immediately either make an act of contrition or give away something to the poor. Have you been working on Sunday? Have you been buying or selling without necessity in the course of this holy day? Give to the poor some alms which will exceed the profit you have made. Have you been eating or drinking to excess? In all your meals you should deprive yourself of something. Such, my dear brethren, are the penances which will not only suffice to make satisfaction to the justice of God, if joined to those of Jesus Christ, but which can even preserve you from falling again into your sins. If you want to conduct yourselves in this way, you will be sure, with the grace of God, of correcting your faults.

Annual Confessions

If Easter were prolonged to Pentecost, you would not go to Confession until Pentecost, or if the latter did not come around for ten years, you would go to Confession only every ten years. Indeed, if the Church did not give you a commandment about it, you would not go to Confession until death. What do you think of that, my dear brethren? Does it not mean that you have neither regret for having offended God, Who requires you to go to Confession, nor love for God, Who requires you to make your Easter Communion? Ah you will say to me, that's all very well. We do not make our Easter duty without knowing why. Ah! You know nothing at all about it! You do it from habit, to be able to say you have made your Easter duty, or, if you would prefer to speak the truth, you would say that you have added a new sin to your old ones. It is not, therefore, either love of God or regret for having offended Him which makes you go to Confession or make your Easter duty, or even the desire to lead a more Christian life. And here is the proof of it: if you loved God, would you consent to commit sin with such ease, and even with so much enjoyment? If you had a horror of sin, as you should have, would you be able to keep it for a whole year on your conscience? If you had a real desire to live a more Christian life, would we not see at least some little change in your way of living? No, my dear brethren, I do not wish to talk to you today about those unfortunate people who tell only half their sins through fear of not making their Easter duty or of being refused Absolution -- perhaps even for the sake of covering up their shameful lives with the veil of virtue and who, in this state, approach the altar and are going to complete their dreadful work by handing over their God to the Devil and precipitating their sacrilegious souls into Hell. No, I dare to hope that this does not concern you, but I will continue, nevertheless, to tell you that going to Confession only once a year is not something about which you should feel any peace or satisfaction.

Where are you going?

Ah, who would not be touched? .... A God who weeps with so many tears at the loss of one soul and Who cries unceasingly: My friend, my friend, why proceedest thou thus to lose thy soul and thy God? Stop! Stop! Ah! Look at my tears, my Blood which flows yet. Must I die a second time to save thee? Look at me. Ah! Angels from Heaven descend upon earth, come and weep with me for the loss of this soul! Oh, that a Christian should be so unfortunate as to persevere still in running towards the abyss despite the voice which his God causes him to hear continually! But, you may say to me, no one says these things to us. Oh my friends, unless you want to stop up your ears, you will hear the voice of God, which follows you unceasingly. Tell me, my friends, then, what is this remorse of conscience which overwhelms you in the midst of sin? Why do these anxieties and storms agitate you? Why this fear, this dread that you are in, when you seem to be forever expecting to be crushed by the thunders of Heaven? How many times, even when you were sinning, have you not experienced the touch of an invisible hand which seemed to push you away, as if someone were saying: Unhappy man, what are you doing? Unhappy man, where are you going? Ah my son, why do you wish to damn yourself? .... Would you not agree with me that a Christian who despises so many graces deserves to be abandoned and rejected because he has not listened to the voice of God or profited by His graces? On the contrary, my dear brethren, it is God Himself Who is scorned by this ungrateful soul who would seem to wish to put Him to death again. All creation demands vengeance, and it is, in fact, God alone Who wishes to save this soul and Who is opposed to all that could be prejudicial to it. He watches over its salvation as if it were the only soul in the world.

You can become a good tree

Consider now my dear brethren, the good works you have done. Have you done them for God alone, so that there was nothing worldly in them and so that you had no regrets when people sometimes proved ungrateful? Have you ever congratulated yourselves inwardly on the good you have done your neighbour? Because if you have done that, either you have done nothing or you may as well count it as nothing, since you have already lost your reward for it. Do you know, my dear brethren, the decision you have to make? If you have done nothing, or if what you have done has been fruitless because it was done for a human motive, begin immediately to do good works so that at death you will be able to find something to offer to Jesus Christ in order that He may give you eternal life. Perhaps you will say to me: "I have done nothing but evil all my whole life. I am just a bad tree which cannot bring forth good fruit." My dear brethren, that can very well be, as I am going to show you. Change this tree, moisten it with different water, treat it with some other fertiliser, and you will see that it will bear good fruit, even though it has been bearing bad fruit up to the present. If this tree, which is yourself, has been fruitful in pride, in avarice, in impurity, you can, with the grace of God, see to it that these fruits become abundant in humility, in charity, and in purity. Do yourself as did the earth, which, before the Deluge, drew from its own bosom the water to moisten itself, without having recourse to the clouds of heaven to give it fertility. In the same way, my dear brethren, draw from your own hearts that salutary water which will change your dispositions. You have watered this tree with the foul water of your passions. Well, then, from now on, water it with the tears of repentance, of sorrow, and of love, and you will see that you will cease to be a bad tree and will become one which will bear fruit for life eternal. To show you, my dear brethren, that this can happen, consider the admirable example furnished in the person of St. Mary Magdalen. Remember how, according to Jesus Christ Himself, she was a bad tree, and then how grace made her into a good tree which brought forth good fruit in abundance. St. Luke tells us that she was a sinner and that she was well known as such in the whole city of Jerusalem. I recommend that you consider what significance those words, which came from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself, have for us. Here was a young girl born with the strongest passions, extraordinary beauty, great wealth -- that is to say, with that which not merely kindles the passions but which nourishes and feeds them continually. She was greatly attracted by the pleasures of the world, she had a very strong taste for fashion and a great desire to look beautiful, so that her thoughts and all her cares were employed towards that end. A far from modest air proclaimed openly that her innocence would suffer a speedy shipwreck. Vain and frivolous, the object of admiration by worldlings, she sought all the more to please them, either with provocative glances fired by an impure heart or with her seductive ways and the self-indulgent air which she displayed so brazenly. All of this told a tale of a tree that could only bear plenty of bad fruit. She received with incredible complaisance the gross glances of the worldlings. She accepted with much self-gratification the silly homage of men. She loved, with more than ordinary enjoyment, to move in the well-to-do social circles of her day. Since she was of great beauty and possessed very considerable wealth, was young and graceful to behold, everyone had, it seemed, eyes and thought for her alone. Dances, spectacles, and the desire to attract and please everyone were all she cared about. If she appeared among the faithful, in the places chosen for prayer, she did so quite eagerly, not to weep for her sins, as she should have been doing, but, rather, to take her place there as the center of attraction that she usually was, to see and -- even more -- to be seen, and to be admired. Acting thus, it seemed as if she would like to contest with God Himself for men's hearts and the honour which was due Him alone. She went so far that she finished by becoming a subject of scandal throughout the whole city of Jerusalem. The assignations with the young men, the embraces, the far from modest conversations, the depravities to which she surrendered herself, ended by making her come to be looked upon as a young woman of very evil life. She finished by being avoided and despised by all those of any standing. She was called a sinful and scandalous woman by everyone in the city. You will admit that here, indeed, was a bad tree. If you have gone as far as she did, there are few who have passed her up. Alas, my friends, what a crop of pride was not borne by that head dressed and ornamented with so much care! What fruits of depravity were not produced in that corrupt heart consumed by an impure fire! And so equally with all the other passions which dominated her. I think, my dear brethren, that it would be difficult to find a more evil tree. Yet, my dear brethren, you shall see that, if we are willing to avail ourselves of the grace which is never lacking to us, any more than it was to Mary Magdalen, miserable though we may be, we can change our tree, which up to now has been bearing only bad fruit. We can make it bear good fruit if we will but make use of the grace which comes to our help. From being bad Christians, we can become good and bear fruit worthy of eternal life, as we shall see by the conversion of Mary Magdalen. St. Jerome tells us that while Mary Magdalen was thus abandoned to all her passionate and undisciplined ways of living, the stories of so many miracles worked by our Saviour in curing the sick and raising the dead to life were filling all Judea with astonishment. Everyone was eager to see so extraordinary a man. Mary Magdalen, happily for herself, was one of this number. The first words which she heard falling from the 'lips of our Saviour were those of the Parables of the Prodigal Son and of the Good Shepherd. She recognised herself exactly in this young man and she also recognised our Saviour as the Good Shepherd. The shafts of grace were so lively and so penetrating that she could not help but feel their effects. As the words continued, she felt herself moved to tears. The many miracles that she herself had seen and heard filled her with astonishment, and grace completed the work of changing her, of converting her from a really bad tree into a wonderfully good tree which would bring forth excellent fruit. But what completed the work of detaching her from herself and from sin, the work of breaking through all that held her to these, was the great generosity of God towards sinners. Ah, my dear brethren, how powerful grace is when it finds a heart well disposed! Look at her who began by neither thinking nor acting, but grace pursued her, remorse of conscience tormented her, she felt her heart break with sorrow for her sins. Her eyes, which previously had been so bright with the fire of impurity, which she knew so well how to kindle in the hearts of others, began to shed bitter tears. Since her heart had first tasted the pleasures of the world, she wished it to be the first to feel all the regret for having done evil. From that time, the world of society, which hitherto had held all her pleasure and happiness, could now only weary and disgust her more and more. She discovered that her only happiness lay in being separated from the world and in retirement where she could reflect and shed tears freely. The more she thought upon the kind of life she had been leading up to then, the outrages she had committed against God, and the number of souls she had lost by her bad life, the more acutely was her heart pierced by sorrow. Such self-love, such proud self-gratification as she had taken in her great beauty, all that worldly homage which had so flattered her-all that now was nothing more to her than a senseless vanity and a kind of idolatry. That vulgar luxury, the worldly amusements which she had always looked upon as the privileges of her age and of her sex, were now in her eyes only a pagan way of living and a real apostasy of her religion. Those passionate sentiments, those indecent liberties, those tender attachments, previously so dear to her heart, and all those mysteries of iniquity, now seemed but crimes and abominations. She realised, as she wept freely and abundantly, that if God had graced her with so many gifts, He had done so but to make her more pleasing to Him. She was therefore the more intensely ashamed of her ingratitude and rebellion. During these struggles with herself, she learned that a distinguished Pharisee was enjoying the good fortune of entertaining our Saviour at his house. She recalled all that she had heard our Lord saying. Yes, she said to herself, I can no longer doubt but that this is the good and charitable Shepherd and that I am but the lost sheep. Ah, she cried, it was I that He meant when He spoke of that prodigal son. So I will rise up and I will go to find Him! Indeed, unable to contain herself, she started up at once, spurning all her finery and her vanities. She ran, or, rather, the grace with which her heart was already on fire hurried her along. Casting aside all human respect, she entered into the banqueting hall with a downcast air, her hair, previously so beautifully dressed and curled, now quite dishevelled, her eyes lowered and bathed in tears, her face blushing and ashamed. She threw herself at the feet of the Saviour, Who was at the table." Ah, Magdalen, Magdalen!" cries a Father of the Church, "What are you doing and what have you become? Where are all those pleasures, that vanity and that worldly love?" No, no, my dear brethren, here no longer is Magdalen the sinner, but Magdalen the penitent and the faithful lover of our Lord. Yes, my dear brethren, it was at this moment that everything changed within her. If she had lost so many souls by a life which had been so scandalous, she is now, by her penitent life, going to win even more than those she has lost. She has nothing of human respect left, she accuses herself publicly of her sins before a large assembly, she embraces the feet of our Saviour, bathes them with her tears, dries them with her hair. No, no, my dear brethren, Magdalen is no longer Magdalen but a holy lover of God! "No, no, my brethren," St. Augustine says to us, "in Magdalen there is no more vanity, no more pleasure loving, no more worldly love, all is holy and pure in her." "Yes, my dear brethren," this great saint tells us, "those exquisite perfumes which she had given entirely to luxury, that magnificent head of hair so carefully dressed and ornamented, those beautiful eyes animated with such a dangerous fire, all that is now purified in her tears." "Ah! my dear brethren," he says to us, "who could tell us what passes in her heart? Everyone of those who were witnesses of this generous gesture turns it into ridicule, treats her as deranged, blames and condemns her, except Jesus Christ Himself, Who knows so well that it is His grace which has done all for her." He is so touched by it that He says nothing to her of her sins. But He takes a particular pleasure in praising her for the kindness she has done to Him, and that in front of all the assembled guests: "Go in peace," He said to her tenderly, "thy sins are forgiven thee." Since your soul is as precious in God's eyes as that of Mary Magdalen's, you can be quite sure, my dear brethren, that grace will never be wanting to you to convert you and to help you to persevere.

27 August 2009

Saint Louis IX of France

Excerpts from the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

St. Louis led an exemplary life, bearing constantly in mind his mother's words: "I would rather see you dead at my feet than guilty of a mortal sin." His biographers have told us of the long hours he spent in prayer, fasting, and penance, without the knowledge of his subjects.

He was renowned for his charity. The peace and blessings of the realm come to us through the poor he would say. Beggars were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feets, ministered to the wants of lepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Felles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes; the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men (1254), hospitals at Pontoise, Vernon, Compiegne.

St. Louis IX tells us:

If God send thee adversity, receive it in patience and give thanks to our Saviour and bethink thee that thou hast deserved it, and that He will make it turn to thine advantage. If He send thee prosperity, then thank Him humbly, so that thou becomest not worse from pride or any other cause, when thou oughtest to be better. For we should not fight against God with His own gifts.

04 August 2009

On the Number of Sins beyond which God pardons no more


"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" – Matt., 4:7

A sermon by St. Alphonsus Maria De Ligouri (1696-1787), Bishop and Doctor of the Church. St. Francis Jerome, when he visited the parents of St. Alphonsus shortly after his birth, made this prophecy: "This child will be blessed with length of days; he shall not see death before his ninetieth year; he will be a bishop and will do great things for Jesus Christ.

"In this day's Gospel we read that having gone into the desert, Jesus Christ permitted the Devil to set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and say to Him: "If Thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down"; for the angels shall preserve Thee from all injury. But the Lord answered that in the Sacred Scriptures it is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. The sinner who abandons himself to sin without striving to resist temptations, or without at least asking God's help to conquer them, and hopes that the Lord will one day draw him from the precipice, tempts God to work miracles, or rather to show to him an extraordinary mercy not extended to the generality of Christians.God, as the Apostle says, "will have all men to be saved" – I Tim. 2:4; but He also wishes us all to labor for our own salvation, at least by adopting the means of overcoming our enemies, and of obeying Him when He calls us to repentance. Sinners hear the calls of God, but they forget them, and continue to offend Him. But God does not forget them. He numbers the graces which He dispenses, as well as the sins which we commit. Hence, when the time which He has fixed arrives, God deprives us of His graces, and begins to inflict chastisement. I intend to show in this discourse that when sins reach a certain number, God pardons no more. Be attentive.

1. St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine and other fathers, teach, that as God according to the words of Scripture, "Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight" – Wis. 11:21 has fixed for each person the number of the days of his life, and the degrees of health and talent which He will give him, so He has also determined for each the number of sins which He will pardon; and when this number is completed, He will pardon no more.

2. "The Lord hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart" – Isa. 61:1 God is ready to heal those who sincerely wish to amend their lives, but cannot take pity on the obstinate sinner. The Lord pardons sins, but He cannot pardon those who are determined to offend Him. Nor can we demand from God a reason why He pardons one a hundred sins, and takes others out of life and sends them to Hell, after three or four sins. By His Prophet Amos, God has said: "For three crimes of Damascus, and for four, I will not convert it" – 1:3. In this we must adore the judgments of God, and say with the Apostle: "O the depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments" – Rom. 11:33. He who receives pardon, says St. Augustine, is pardoned through the pure mercy of God; and they who are chastised, are justly punished. How many has God sent to Hell for the first offense? St. Gregory relates, that a child of five years, who had arrived at the use of reason, for having uttered a blasphemy, was seized by the Devil and carried to Hell. The divine Mother revealed to that great servant of God, Benedicta of Florence, that a boy of twelve years was damned after the first sin. Another boy of eight years died after his first sin, and was lost. You say: I am young; there are many who have committed more sins than I have. But is God on that account obliged to wait for your repentance if you offend Him? In the Gospel of St. Matthew (21:19), we read that the Savior cursed a fig tree the first time He saw it without fruit. "May no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. An immediately the fig tree withered away." You must, then tremble at the thought of committing a single mortal sin, particularly if you have already been guilty of mortal sins.

3. "Be not without fear about sin forgiven, and add not sin to sin" – Eccl. 5:5. Say not then, O sinner: "As God has forgiven me other sins, so He will pardon me this one if I commit it." Say not this; for, if to the sin which has been forgiven you add another, you have reason to fear that this new sin shall be united to your former guilt, and that thus the number will be completed, and that you shall be abandoned. Behold how the Scripture unfolds this truth more clearly in another place. "The Lord patiently expecteth, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may punish them in the fullness of sins" – II. Mac. 6:14. God waits with patience until a certain number of sins is committed but, when the measure of guilt is filled up, He waits no longer, but chastises the sinner. "Thou hast sealed up my offenses as it were in a bag" – Job 14:17. Sinners multiply their sins without keeping any account of them; but God numbers them, that, when the harvest is ripe, that is, when the number of sins is completed, He may take vengeance on them. "Put ye in the sickles, for the harvest is ripe" Joel 3:13.

4. Of this there are many examples in the Scriptures. Speaking of the Hebrews, the Lord in one place says: "All the men that have tempted Me now ten times. . . .shall not see the land" – Num. 14:22, 23. In another place, He says, that He restrained His vengeance against the Amorrhites, because the number of their sins was not completed. "For as yet the iniquities of the Amorrhites are not at the full" – Gen. 15:16. We have again the example of Saul who, after having disobeyed God a second time, was abandoned. He entreated Samuel to interpose before the Lord in his behalf. "Bear, I beseech thee, my sin, and return with me, that I may adore the Lord" – I Kings 15:25. But, knowing that God had abandoned Saul, Samuel answered: "I will not return with thee, because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee," etc. – 5:26. Saul, you have abandoned God, and He has abandoned you. We have another example in Balthassar, who, after having profaned the vessels of the Temple, saw a hand writing on the wall,Mane, Thecel, Phares. Daniel was requested to expound the meaning of these words. In explaining the word Thecel, he said to the king: "Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting" – Dan. 5:27. By this explanation, he gave the king to understand that the weight of his sins in the balance of divine justice, had made the scale descend." The same night Balthassar, the Chaldean king, was killed" – Dan. 5:30. Oh! how many sinners have met with a similar fate! Continuing to offend God till their sins amounted to a certain number, they have been struck dead and sent to Hell! "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment they go down to Hell" – Job 21:13. Tremble, brethren, lest if you commit another mortal sin, God should cast you into Hell.

5. If God chastised sinners the moment they insult Him, we should not see Him so much despised. But, because He does not instantly punish their transgressions, and because through mercy He restrains His anger and waits for their return, they are encouraged to continue to offend Him. "For, because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evil without any fear" – Eccles. 8:11. But it is necessary to be persuaded, that though God bears with us, He does not wait, nor bear with us forever. Expecting, as on former occasions, to escape from the snares of the Philistines, Samson continued to allow himself to be deluded by Delilah. "I will go out as I did before, and shake myself" – Judges 16:20. But "the Lord departed from him." Samson was at length taken by his enemies, and lost his life. The Lord warns you not to say: I have committed so many sins, and God has not chastised me. "Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me; for the Most High is a patient rewarder" – Eccl. 5:4. God has patience for a certain term, after which He punishes the first and last sins. And the greater has been His patience, the more severe His vengeance.

6. Hence, according to St. Chrysostom, God is more to be feared when He bears with sinners, than when He instantly punishes their sin. And why? Because, says St. Gregory, they to whom God has shown most mercy shall, if they do not cease to offend Him, be chastised with the greatest rigor. The saint adds that God often punishes such sinners with a sudden death, and does not allow them time for repentance. And the greater the light which God gives to certain sinners for their correction, the greater is their blindness and obstinacy in sin. "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than, after they had known it, to turn back" – II Pet. 2:21. Miserable the sinners, who, after having been enlightened, return to the vomit. St. Paul says, that it is morally impossible for them to be again converted. "For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated-have tasted also the Heavenly gifts. . . and are fallen away, to be renewed again to penance" – Heb. 6:4, 6.

7. Listen, then, O sinner, to the admonition of the Lord: "My son, hast thou sinned? Do so no more, but for thy former sins pray that they may be forgiven thee" – Eccl. 21:1. Son, add not sins to those which you have already committed, but be careful to pray for the pardon of your past transgressions; otherwise, if you commit another mortal sin, the gates of divine mercy may be closed against you, and your soul may be lost forever. When then, beloved brethren, the devil tempts you again to yield to sin, say to yourself: If God pardons me no more, what shall become of me for all eternity? Should the Devil in reply, say: fear not, God is merciful; answer him by saying: What certainty or what probability have I that, if I return again to sin, God will show me mercy or grant me pardon? Behold the threat of the Lord against all who despise His calls: "Because I have called and you refused,...I also will laugh in your destruction, and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared" – Prov. 1:24, 26. Mark the words "I also"; they mean that, as you have mocked the Lord by betraying Him again after your confession and promises of amendment, so He will mock you at the hour of death. I will laugh and will mock. But, "God is not mocked" – Gal. 6:7. "As a dog," says the Wise Man, "that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly" – Prov. 26:11. Bl. Denis the Carthusian gives an excellent exposition of this text. He says that, as a dog that eats what he has just vomited, is an object of disgust and abomination, so the sinner who returns to the sins which he has detested and confessed, becomes hateful in the sight of God.

8. O folly of sinners! If you purchase a house, you spare no pains to get all the securities necessary to guard against the loss of your money; if you take medicine, you are careful to assure yourself that it cannot injure you; if you pass over a river, you cautiously avoid all danger of falling into it: and for a transitory enjoyment, for the gratification of revenge, for a beastly pleasure, which lasts but a moment, you risk your eternal salvation, saying: I will go to confession after I commit this sin. And when, I ask, are you to go to confession? You say: On tomorrow. But who promises you tomorrow? Who assures you that you shall have time for confession, and that God will not deprive you of life as He has deprived so many others, in the act of sin? "Diem tenes" says St. Augustine, "qui horam non tenes." You cannot be certain of living for another hour, and you say: I will go to confession tomorrow. Listen to the words of St. Gregory: "He who has promised pardon to penitents, has not promised tomorrow to sinners" – Hom. 12 in Evan. God has promised pardon to all who repent; but He has not promised to wait until tomorrow for those who insult Him. Perhaps God will give you time for repentance, perhaps He will not. But, should He not give it, what shall become of your soul? In the meantime, for the sake of a miserable pleasure, you lose the grace of God and expose yourself to the danger of being lost forever.

9. Would you, for such transient enjoyments, risk your money, your honor, your possessions, your liberty, and your life? No, you would not. How then does it happen that, for a miserable gratification, you lose your soul, Heaven, and God? Tell me: do you believe that Heaven, Hell, eternity, are truths of faith? Do you believe that, if you die in sin, you are lost forever? Oh! what temerity, what folly is it, to condemn yourself voluntarily to an eternity of torments with the hope of afterwards reversing the sentence of your condemnation! "Nemo," says St. Augustine, "sub spe salutis vult aegrotare." No one can be found so foolish as to take poison with the hope of preventing its deadly effects by adopting the ordinary remedies. And you will condemn yourself to Hell, saying that you expect to be afterwards preserved from it.O folly! which, in conformity with the divine threats, has brought, and brings every day, so many to Hell. "Thou hast trusted in thy wickedness, and evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not know the rising thereof" – Isa. 47:10, 11. You have sinned, trusting rashly in the divine mercy: the punishment of your guilt shall fall suddenly upon you, and you shall not know from whence it comes. What do you say? What resolution do you make? If, after this sermon, you do not firmly resolve to give yourself to God, I weep over you and regard you as lost.

The Importance of Salvation

Of the Importance of Salvation

A Spiritual Retreat for One Day in Every Month

Of the Importance of Salvation

by Fr. Jean Croiset

First Point. The Business of our Salvation is the most Important of all Business.

Second Point. The Business of our Salvation is our only Business.

First Point.

Consider that no business is of so great importance to us as the business of our salvation; an eternity of happiness or misery depends on the success of this [?] other affairs are only permitted as they are subservient to this great work:
If we do lose this, we lose all; for we lose God, who is all Good, and without whom there can be no Good; if we fail in this he is lost to [?] and lost forever, without recovery.

Salvation is our own business, everything else is foreign to us; in other things we do the business of our children, our friends, our family, our country, or of the community to which we belong, and not precisely our own business; everything else is a business of time, this of eternity.

If we lose other business, though of the highest importance, we may find a remedy; or if we do not we shall be no losers, provided we succeed in this.
The loss of our souls is the only irreparable loss, eternity itself will not be sufficient to deplore it.

Shall we be able to comfort ourselves with the thoughts that we have been successful in all our other business of no consequence, and have only neglected this, which is the only business of eternity? It is no matter though we live obscurely and forgotten, without friends or support, and die poor, provided we secure our salvation.But what will all our riches and power, all our knowledge and wisdom avail us if we lose our souls? Though all the world should conspire together, they will never be able to deprive a man of heaven, and make him miserable to all eternity: Neither will they be able to make one damned soul happy, or so much as mitigate his torments. What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or what can he give in exchange for his soul?

Is it possible that this business of eternity is the only business of consequence we have to do, and that yet we should neglect this the most, and lay it least to heart?

We fancy that our studies, our trade, our diversions, our visits and conversation, are of great importance to us, they take up all our time, we can never find leisure enough for them, we are unwilling to defer them; but when we should think seriously of our souls, we make no difficulty of deferring; we imagine it is too soon, and that we shall have time enough, and yet (which is still more surprising) we are never at leisure to set about it.

Certainly we must have odd notions of eternal happiness, since we are so careless of securing it; would we be content to take no more pains, and spend no more time in our studies and in temporal affairs, than we do in what concerns our eternal salvation?

If our salvation depended on another, could he have so little zeal or charity as to neglect it more than we do ourselves? Though we know it depends wholly on our own care. What pains does every man take in his calling? If we have a child to provide for, if we have a design to join in partnership with a merchant, how careful are we to inform ourselves, to examine, to advise with our friends? What measures do we not observe? What precautions do we not take? We think we can never be too sure. But when we are to spend a little time for salvation, we think a very little too much.

Salvation is the business of eternity, but it must be done in time; and we have need of all our time for it; God gives us our whole life to think of it; he judged it was all little enough, but we imagine it may be done in less.

If we spend in working out our salvation the hundredth part of the time and pains we throw away in worldly business, we should soon be great saints. This is the only necessary business we can have, and yet we hardly allot a little time for it, nay, we grudge it even that little.

By our proceedings one would think that we believe God our debtor, and obliged to us for saved.

If a man of business or letters pass one whole day in acquitting himself of the duties of a Christian, he looks upon that day is lost; but we spend whole months in vain studies, or in worldly business, and call this spending the time well.

Salvation is our great and chief business; now a man's chief business takes up all his thoughts, and hardly gives him time to think of any other; and if this succeeds he comforts himself for the miscarriage of the rest.

We commonly put off the care of our salvation to our last sickness; that is, we put off the business of eternity, the most important business we have, and which requires all our lives, to a time when we are incapable of following the slightest business in the world, when we are indeed incapable of anything.

Is God mistaken, who tells us, this only is of consequence? Is he deceived in the disposition of his Providence, and in all his care, which tends only to this? Is he, in whom are all good things, and who is all himself, so little to be valued, that we can be indifferent whether we lose him or no? Whence is all that Weeping, that cruel despair of the damned souls, if what they have lost be not worth our seeking? If everlasting misery be so slight a business, why do we tremble at the thoughts of eternity? and if we believe it so terrible, how can we be at rest while we are so careless about it, and in so much danger?

My God! How many days of grace have I abused? How many precious hours have I let pass unprofitably? Wretch that I am, to spend so much time in doing nothing: But how much more wretched shall I be if I do not now at length begin seriously to work out my salvation?

What do I stay for? For a proper time. Alas! That time perhaps is already past for me. Do I stay till thou callest me? Thou hast never ceased to do it. Oh! How long hast thou solicited me to no purpose? Shall this reiterated grace thou givest me now be in vain?

How long shall I spend the best part of my life in vain amusements, which I myself condemn; and do I condemn them only to aggravate my guilt, by losing that time in the pursuit of them which I ought to employ for heaven?

How long shall I fancy those things necessary which are of no use for the next life, while I neglect only the business of eternity?

My God, how great will my despair and confusion be upon a deathbed if I continue to live as I have done hitherto, when all the means and opportunities I have had of securing my salvation, when this present opportunity, and the thoughts I now have of doing it, present themselves to my memory?

O my God, since thou hast not yet punished me, though I deserved punishment, I trust thou wilt not refuse me the assistance of Thy grace, though I am unworthy of it. Since this is the day designed for my conversion, the present resolution shall not be like the rest. I believe, I am fully persuaded, I am sensible, that there is but One Thing Necessary, that Eternal Salvation is the only business that concerns me, and I am determined to begin this day to apply myself seriously to it.

Second Point.

Consider that our eternal salvation is not only the greatest, but the only business we have, to which we ought to apply ourselves entirely lest we should do it ill. Whatever else we call great business is not properly business, at least not ours; they concern others more than us, and we labor more for our posterity than for ourselves.

We may get others to do them for us, and we may let them along, without being everlastingly unhappy, but we must work out our salvation ourselves, and we are lost without recovery if we neglect it . This is that One Thing of which our Saviour speaks so often; this is our only business: Only, becasue this alone is of such mighty consequence, the success whereof depends on us; only, because no other deserves all our care; only, because it requires all our care, (and because we may do it if we will.)

It is equally the only business of all the world, of the king in the government of his kingdom, of the prelate in the administration of his diocese, of the learned in their studies, of the soldier in the war, of the merchant in his trade, of the artisan in his calling. 'Tis not necessary for a man to be a king, a prelate, soldier, a merchant, or a tradesman, a scholar, or a man of business, but 'tis absolutely necessary for him to be saved.

In other matters we have always some recourse in this life, or in the next, but there is none in this; he who has done this, has done nothing, and will never be in a condition to do it again: He who is damned, is damned forever.

What reception would an ambassador deserve from his master, who at his return from his embassy should give an account of the great things he had done during his absence, of the friends he had made, the reputation he had gained, the riches he had acquired, and how well he had diverted himself; in fine, that he had done everything but the business he was sent to do?

God has sent us into the world only to work out our salvation; this was his sole design in creating us, this is his sole design in preserving us; will he be satisfied with our telling him when we come to die, Lord, we have done great things, we have been in great repute in the world, we have got large estates, we have been in instrumental in the salvation of our neighbors, we have neglected nothing but our own salvation, we have done everything, but that One Thing for which Thou hast sent us into the world? And yet this is all the account the greatest part of mankind is able to give, because 'tis at this rate the greatest part of mankind live. And if we were now to appear before God could we give any other account?

Is all this true? Is there such an eternity? Is life given us only to prepare for it? If I lose my soul can I ever recover it? And shall I certainly lose it if I live as the greatest part of the world do, and as I have done hitherto?Shall I wish at my last hour that I had lived otherwise? That I had done what I could, and what I ought to have done? And will all those things that take me up now, seem vain and trifling then?

My God! Do we indeed believe this our great business? The devils and the damned have as good or stronger speculative belief than we, but do we reduce our faith to practice, which is the science of the saints?

Is it possible that other men's business should take me up, that worldly things, recreations and compliments, should have all our time, while the business of our salvation is the least minded, as if it did not concern us?

What are we the better for being endued with reason, if we make no use of it in the business of our salvation, for which alone God bestowed it on us? Alas! we in a manner wear it out in prosecuting trivial designs, we are proud of it in matters of no moment, we value ourselves upon our prudential conduct, and wise counsels in business; but we neglect the real use of it and we act the matters of eternity as if we wanted common-sense.

And (which is yet more surprising) we are all agreed in the importance of salvation, and the vanity of everything else; yet we apply ourselves only to seek those vanities, and are negligent in nothing but the business of salvation.

We are all conceited of our wisdom and capacity in business; every man pretends to understand it; we think ignorance in business, or neglect of it, shows want of sense and breeding, and that our reputation depends upon it; but if we neglect nothing but our salvation, if we live as unconcernedly as if we had no soul to lose, we are so far from blushing or hiding our carelessness, that we glory in it; and though we are never so indevout and irregular, we pass for very honest men; and if we understand the world, and know how to be successful in it, we are accounted wise.

'Tis an affront to tell a man that he does not understand his business; but 'tis no disgrace to be accused of negligence in the business of salvation; surely we do not look upon it as our business: My God! When did this one thing necessary cease to be so?

We can lose our souls with all the tranquility in the world, and we are reasonable creatures in everything that does not concern us; we do not deny that the saints were truly wise, yet all their wisdom consists in preferring their salvation to everything else, in esteeming it their only business.

Are we wiser than they, that our actions are so contrary to theirs? They spent their whole lives in preparing for eternity; to what end did they take so much pains, and spend so much time, for what we pretend to do with so much ease? Miserable, unthinking, wretches that we are, to allow so little time for what requires it all.

Have we found a new way to heaven, whereof the Son of God was ignorant? Or is the price of heaven fallen? And is that happiness, which cost the blood of Christ to purchase, became of less value?

What are now the sentiments of those famous statesmen whom we esteem the greatest politicians? Of those extraordinary men who were always busy in pacifying or troubling the world, which their heads were always full of. Those men of riches, as the scripture calls them, who lived without thinking on eternity, and who after an uninterrupted success in all their other business, have miscarried only in this great business of salvation? They are not damned for laziness and sloth; on the contrary, they owe their ruin to too much useless business; they were so busy that their very sleeps were broken by their cares, and they have lost themselves by labouring in what did not concern them, by taking too much pains about nothing, while they neglected their only real business; and 'tis by this that the greatest part of mankind are lost.

And shall not I increase the number of the lost if I continued to live as I have done? What have I done for Heaven? What have I not done to deprive myself of it? I have been careful of everything but my soul, and I act as if its ruin were nothing to me. But I trust in thy mercy, o my God, that the change of my life shall manifest that my heart is changed; I will save my soul; the care of my salvation requires all my diligence, and it shall have it all; I humbly beseech thee to give me thy grace to recover what I have lost, as thou hast given me time for it; I am sensible that this is my only business; I am resolved to do it, let thy grace make me successful.

03 August 2009

The Story of Blessed Caius of Corea

This article has been taken from Wikipedia

Caius of Korea (born 1571 in Korea– died 15 November 1624 in Nagasaki, Japan) is the 128th of the 205 Roman Catholic Martyrs of Japan beatified by Pope Pius IX on 7 July1867, after he had canonized the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan five years before on 8 June 1862.The 19th century French Catholic missionary Claude-Charles Dallet wrote of him in his A history of the church in Korea, "His history proves, in a dazzling way, that God would rather make a miracle than abandon an infidel who follows the lights of his conscience, and seeks the truth with an upright and docile heart."

Caius was born in Korea and was given to a Buddhist monastery by his parents. He left the monastery because he could not find the peace that he wanted there and went to a mountain to live as a hermit. It is said that he found a cave in which a tiger lived, which he lived with. The tiger is said not to have harmed Caius, and later went away to find another dwelling. Dallet said of this, "He withdrew into solitude to meditate with more ease on this happiness which he sought. He had as a dwelling only a cave, which he shared with a tiger, which occupied it before him. This wild animal respected its guest; it even yielded the cave to him some time after, and withdrew elsewhere." Caius only ate what was necessary to preserve his life, abstaining from anything that was not absoultely necessary to live. One night, while in meditation, a man of "majestic aspect" appeared to him, and said to him, "Take courage; within one year you will traverse the sea, and, after much work and fatigue, you will obtain the object of your desire." In 1592, Japan invaded Korea, and Caius was made a prisoner. On the journey to Japan, they were shipwrecked at Tsushima Island part of Nagasaki Prefecture, and the Caius was taken to Kyoto, close to death. A Christian named Caius Foyn, the father of his mistress, nursed him back to health. Allured by the life of the Buddhist monks, he felt that he had found what he had been seeking for many years, and went to live in one of the most famous pagodas in Kyoto. Again he felt that he could not find the peace that he wanted there, and he became ill. During his illness, he had a dream in which he saw the pagoda on fire. Then a "child of a charming beauty" appeared to him in his dream, comforting him saying, "Fear no more, you are close to obtaining the happiness you desire."He found himself cured after the dream. In The Ascetical Works. Volume IX, The Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, it is said that "One day during sleep it seemed to him that the house was on fire: a little while afterwards a young child of ravishing beauty appeared to him, and announced to him that he would soon meet what he desired; at the same time he felt himself quite well, though he had been sick. Despairing of seeing among the bonzes the light for which he was longing, he resolved to leave them." Caius then left the temple and went back to his master, who introduced him to a Christian, who in turn introduced him to some Jesuit priests. He converted to Catholicism and was baptised immediately. While he was instructed, one of the priests showed him a tableau representingJesus Christ, at which Caius is said to have exclaimed, "Oh! Voila! Here is who appeared to me in my cave, and who foretold all that happened to me." Caius served the sick, especially lepers. In 1614, he went to the Philippines in order to work as a servant to the Dom Justo Takayama a samurai who had been exiled for his Catholic faith. After Justo died, Caius went back to Japan, and resumed his duties as a catechist. He helped the missionaries by preaching in his native language to the Koreans who had been taken to Japan after the Japanese invasion of Korea, as well as to the Japanese. On 15 November 1624, Caius was burned at the stake with James Coici, a Japanese Catholic, after he was arrested for harbouring missionaries.