The Art of Confessing (Part 2 of 3)

The Art of Confessing

by Fr Henri-Charles Chery O.P.

(Part 2 of 3)

II

Accusation of sins

Here I am next to the confessional, beginning my examination of conscience.  Which sins am I going to confess?

The question obviously needs to be addressed, because I can’t confess every single fault.  ‘The just man sins seven times a day’, Scripture says, and I, who am not just, how many sins slip my mind each day?  To be completely comprehensive, counting up every single possible sin is an unrealistic dream – and not even useful or helpful.  I need to choose. But what do I choose?

Obviously, first of all – all the mortal sins.

To deliberately omit confessing a mortal sin, even if you confess others that are just as serious, would be to render the confession invalid and sacrilegious.  That act by which we deliberately turned away from God, our last end (which is just like saying to him quite consciously, that we could not care less about disobeying him in a serious matter – as long as we can satisfy this or that disordered tendency) how could we come back to grace with God without renouncing it and therefore confessing itWe cannot, at the same time, be both a friend of God and hostile to him.

The difficulty for some of us is knowing when there is mortal sin:

* in theory, everyone knows it: serious matter, full knowledge, and full consent;

* but in practice, we often ask ourselves:

1)  Was the matter really a serious one?

2) And even more commonly: Did I really fully consent?

For the first question, it’s easy enough to ask the confessor’s advice.

As for the second, so long as the question is being asked in all honesty and in good conscience, and if you are really not absolutely sure, the rule is, there was not full consent.

Is this to say that there is no need to confess this ‘doubtful’ sin, or rather, this doubtfully committed sin?  Certainly not!  Because of the uncertainty, one may be permitted to approach the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and, strictly speaking, you aren’t even obliged to confess this sin; but you’d be wrong, if you wish to make progress in the spiritual life, to hide behind this non-obligation to hold on to an uneasy conscience.

Practically, the rule is quite simple.  You are not required to say, ‘I confess to having committed a mortal sin’, but rather, ‘I confess to having committed this sin, to having done this act.’  You might add, if this is the case, ‘I do not know if I fully consented.’  Then everything is in order.  In any case, we are always able to reply according to our conscience if the confessor asks us, ‘Do you believe that acting in this way, you have grievously sinned?’

What are we to think of the formula, so dear to those who use it constantly and almost automatically, ‘I confess myself as guilty as God finds me guilty.’?

Although useful and legitimate when you are uncertain of the nature of your culpability, it seems to me to be too facile, and somewhat hypocritical, when you know very well where you stand.

On the other hand let it be said that we should not (as some souls tend to do) see ‘mortal sin’ everywhere.  A sin that merits, of itself alone, separation from God for all eternity and the pains of hell – we do not commit that kind of sin without our conscience being well aware of it.  If this conscience is in need of formation, you must ask your confessor to enlighten you and then go strictly by his direction.

This formation of conscience should have been done at a young age, yet listening to the confessions of children, we are astonished by their ability to believe that their little faults – mere peccadilloes – are mortal sins.  Is there not in that – let it be said in passing – a responsibility going back to educators, who do not know how to distinguish between their grumblings or scoldings and the true moral value of childish faults?  In any case, this problem of formation of conscience in children should be looked into carefully and individually by parents and regular confessors, as it is just as dangerous to leave children to believe in the seriousness of little faults as it is to leave them to commit, as though quite unconcerned, gravely reprehensible acts.

A scrupulous and anguished conscience in youth makes for a weak adult, withdrawn, without courage, or indirectly results in an adolescent suddenly and brutally ‘liberating’ himself from an unbearable constraint.

Whether mortal or not, one would do well to get into the habit of confessing first of all, right at the beginning, the faults that weigh most heavily on the conscience, instead of slipping them, as if inadvertently, in the middle of a long list of relatively unimportant sins.  In this way you can free yourself in one fell swoop from faults that you might otherwise end up not confessing at all by giving in to foolish fear.

I would like to pay particular attention here on:

1) the examination of conscience and,

2) the confessing of venial sins.  Is it not here that a great many regular penitents fall short?

What is the most common complaint made by those who confess frequently?  ‘Confession bores me, because I always have to say the same thing.’  Or else this other complaint which is directed at the confessor: ‘He doesn’t say anything to me.’ – meaning – nothing out of the ordinary, nothing which helps me to shake off my faults.

Now these two failings, which make confession psychologically tedious, have the same cause – you do not know how to confess your sins.

How do most penitents confess?  Some (admittedly the smaller number) forget that sin is an act, not a state.  And so they reveal (or think they’re revealing) the depths of their soul by saying, ‘I am a liar, I am bad-tempered, I am impatient.  This kind of talk is not what is required.  All it does is expose a tendency of your soul, but confession is not about exposing your tendencies.  It is about admitting to specific acts – which are no doubt the outcome of your tendencies – but as different from them as the fruit is from the tree.  One can very well have a tendency to lying and yet not have committed the sin of lying in the fortnight since the last confession.  If one has told a lie, one should say, ‘I lied’, not ‘I am a liar’.

This is in fact what most penitents do say: ‘I lied, I lacked charity, I was lazy, I was vain.’  This is a more correct way, but the confession is hardly any better, meaning, it is hardly any better for your soul.  And hardly any more likely to draw out useful advice from your confessor.  Why?  Because it is bland.  You haven’t had to put any real thought into it.  You haven’t clarified.  It doesn’t give the confessor any specific indication, any clue, which might enable him to see in what way your soul differs from that of the soul he has had to judge and advise before you.  For every ten penitents following each other, at least nine of them could present the same list.  And in fact, alas! they do so.

So why (unless he already knows you from somewhere else) do you expect your confessor to give you exactly the advice you need?  Nothing specific has been revealed to him by this confession.  He hasn’t been given anything to go on.  He would have to be a marvelous psychologist and amazingly intuitive to guess, from this rapid outpouring of common faults, one after the other, through this grille where he can’t even see your face, the words he should say to reach out to you, touch your heart and encourage you into making the effort which you personally should undertake.  We can’t ask every confessor to be the Cure of Ars.  Normally, he will only be able to give you back from what you have given him.

If, as it sometimes happens through excessive scrupulousness, the penitent launches into a long list that he wants to make meticulously all-inclusive, if he intends to say every single thing and churns out just about every venial sin that it’s possible to commit (which he has, no doubt committed) and all of this made at a speedy pace that sometimes lasts several minutes, there you will have a completely overwhelmed and swamped confessor.  Is there anything personal or distinctive in all this, he’ll be wondering in vain.  And, not finding anything, all he can do is give a general exhortation which isn’t all that helpful.  Whose fault is that?

First and foremost let us emphasize that venial sin is a matter of free choice in the confessional.  We are not obliged to confess it.

A well-made act of contrition, and act of charity, a faithful and humble use of a sacramental are enough to obtain pardon [of venial sins].

A confession that is made up only of venial sins is therefore not necessary for salvation, but rather a means of sanctification.  It is a recourse to a sacrament – to the cleansing Blood of Jesus – by which we are purified and strengthened.  It is also, secondarily, an exercise in humility founded on knowledge of self, and an admission of all that is impeding our spiritual progress.

Therefore we are free to choose which of our committed venial sins to confess.  Does this mean choosing the most insignificant and forgetting about those which trouble us?  No!  Not at all!   A well-made examination of conscience will pick out, from the pile of daily faults, those which, because of their frequency or because of their malice, are the most harmful to the life of the soul.

The physiognomy of my sinful soul is no more similar to that of another soul than my face is similar to another face.  Broadly speaking, we all commit more of less the same faults, just as we all have a nose, a mouth, ears… but the importance for me of this fault, the place it holds in my spiritual life, how it influences other faults, that is what makes up my sinner’s face.  That, therefore, is what an intelligent examination of conscience will serve to pick out and highlight.

It’s useless to gather up a multitude of sins.  Five or six, well chosen, will be enough to see yourself, to show yourself as you are before God.  But as for these sins (and this remark is without doubt the most practical of all) it is a question of bringing them out in their true colors!

Examples

*  ‘I lied’: that means nothing.   ‘Omnis homo mendax,’ says the psalm.  Every man is a liar.  In what way have I lied?  To whom?  In what circumstances?  Why?

‘I lied to a sick friend who was looking forward to my visit because going to see her bored me.’  Who cannot see that this is a specific kind of lie?   ‘I lied to my boss in order to obtain some holiday leave to which I had no right‘,   ‘I lied to a client about the quality of my work so I could charge him more’ – so many different types of lies!   Therefore to just confess, ‘I lied’, would not have given any true idea of what was involved.

* ‘To fail in charity’ – the most common sin.  Why use this totally bland, colorless expression?  Better to say, ‘I said some hurtful words to someone I do not like, with the intention of upsetting him.’ ,  ‘I showed contempt towards a friend who is not very intelligent.’, ‘I refused some help that I could have given to a friend in need’,  or  ‘I made fun of a disabled sick person….’

* There are a hundred ways of being vain. What is yours?  Is it spending far too much time in getting dressed up?  Is it looking in the mirror every other minute?  Do you show off whenever you are in a group, trying to grab all the attention by your brilliant conversation?

* And your laziness?  How does that reveal itself in you?  By your persistent habit of staying in bed when it’s time to get up?  By your careless, half-finished duties of state?  By your could-not-care-less attitude, or your excessive love of sofas?

From these few examples (which could so easily be multiplied) you can see what we mean when we say – confess specific acts, and the circumstances in which you committed them.  Try to find the words that best put across your fault such as it was in reality, as something that was specifically yours and not just anyone’s.  This will be of great benefit to you:

— Firstly, because it will force you to see yourself as you really are, and then, because it will be a healthy and profitable humiliation.  It is more humiliating to say, ‘I spent half an hour every day putting on make up,’ than to say, ‘I was vain’.

— And lastly, because from this clear and precise information, your confessor will be able to see the state of your soul, and from that will be able to give you appropriate advice.

Having said all that, you are not invited to long-winded chatting.  To confess with precision is not the same as ‘telling stories’.  The confession should not be drowned in a flood of descriptive accounts, narration, explanations and digressions, where the penitent forgets he is confessing sins and where the confessor grasps nothing apart from the fact that you are admitting to having been sinned against.  Sometimes we hear this so-called confession changing into self-justification, or at the very least, a speech for the defense.

If you need to unburden a heart that is too weighed down and heavy, and receive some consolation, or if you would like some advice about what you must do, nothing could be more legitimate.  But do clearly separate the two intentions.  First make a proper confession, keeping strictly to your faults, and then inform the confessor that you also have something else to say.

(To be continued)

The Art of Confessing (Part 1 of 3)

The Art of Confessing – PART ONE

by Fr Chery O.P.

THESE WORDS are not addressed to the “big sinners” who come before Christ to relieve themselves of a great burden. They are not even addressed to Catholics who are making their annual Easter confession. But these lessons may be helpful for those people who have the “habit” of weekly, bimonthly or monthly confession.

“Habit” is a colorless word if it signifies only a praiseworthy regularity; it is a cold word if it signifies routine.  And sadly, everyone knows that a praiseworthy regularity easily degenerates into something routine.

The majority of penitents lament the miserable banality of their confessions, the small amount of fruit derived, and sometimes even their little interest in the exhortation that the confessor addresses to them when they come to find him.  Some have disgust for it, confess only by custom, and finally end up spacing their recourse to the sacrament of penance in a way that is prejudicial to their spiritual progress.

This disgust, and its consequences, do these not come from those who do not know how to confess?  There is a manner, an “art,” that could make this regular exercise into a serious means of sanctification.

In writing these lines, we have particularly thought of the numerous young people who seek to live a true Christianity in a generous effort of sincerity.  Not yet habituated, they suffer from a horror of routines, and they reject formalities.  They are right.  But they need to know that formalism is introduced through the fault of the ‘users,’ and I dare say, that it depends on them to keep intact, or lose, their religious vitality, for want of a personal effort.

The rites are conveyors of life, but only to the living.

The use of confession, if it is well understood, can be a serious support for the development of the spiritual life.

But first, since we are going to speak of confession, and nothing but confession [accusation of sins], it is necessary to carefully note that this is not the whole sacrament of penance, that it is not even the principal element.  This principal element consists of a regret, an accusation, an absolution, a reparation.  The sacrament is constituted essentially by an absolution effacing the fault of a heart that repents.  If a penitent, on his deathbed for example, cannot [verbally] express his accusation, the sacrament can [still] take place [even] from this [unspoken] accusation; it cannot take place without regret.  God, for His part, can effect the sacrament (in the absence of any priest qualified to give it): (but) He cannot save a soul in spite of itself, or remit a sin that someone obstinately refuses to regret.

Such people for whom the essential seems to be their accusation will do well to remember it.  The priest exhorts them to contrition, to the means to be considered so as not to fall back into their fault, but once their accusation has been made they seem not to follow him, distracted as they are by the concern to enunciate such and such other sin that did not initially come to their lips.  If it were a matter of a serious fault, it would be normal not to withdraw before expressing it; but most often it is a matter of venial faults. One mainly worries about being complete; but it is necessary above all to be contrite.

Consequently, in the few moments usually spent preparing for confession, it will be good not to give everything to the examination of conscience, but even more to implore the grace of God, in order to obtain a sincere regret for one’s faults, and to express in advance one’s contrition and the intention not to fall again.

To whom am I going to address myself when I go to confession?

First response:  to a priest.  I am deliberately using this general term to emphasize that the primordial importance in the use of the sacrament of penance must be granted not to the qualities of the man who hears confessions, but to his quality as minister of Christ. Because we lack faith, we excessively attach ourselves to the human value of the confessor, a real, objective value, or a value that attributes to him our sympathy and our confidence.

Whether this is to be taken into consideration is undeniable, but from a point of view which is, so to speak, on the margins of the sacrament.

This comes into play for the counsel that will follow the accusation and precede absolution.  But the sacrament is not constituted by this counsel; it can even do without it.  The important thing is to deal with the Christ who holds forgiveness, with the living Christ acting in his Church.  Every priest who has received from the Church the powers to absolve you validly, acts in persona Christi, in the name of Christ.  He opens for your soul the spring of pardon – which is the Blood of the Redeemer Christ – and He washes it in this Blood.

Erroneous for lack of faith is therefore the attitude of such penitents who delay liberating themselves from a serious sin or who indefinitely delay a confession which would release them from a growing malaise (by purifying the infection that spreads little by little) because “their confessor” is not there. If they had an understanding of what the sacrament is – sovereignly valuable in its purifying work, independent of the quality of the confessor who is before all else the “minister of Christ,” that is to say, the ear of Christ to hear the admissions, the wisdom of Christ to judge, and the mouth of Christ to pronounce the remission – they would attach themselves less to the human appearances and not delay at all.

It is appropriate here to mention why I must admit my faults to a priest instead of contenting myself with an admission directly expressed to God in the intimacy of my heart.  This is because I am a member of the Church.

My fault has offended God and diminished myself: it is a lack of the love that I owe to my Creator and to the virtuous love that I must show for the child of God that I am.  And it also harmed the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. “Every soul that raises itself, raises the world.”  Likewise, every Christian who sins upsets the perfection of the Christian community.  The most obscure of sins causes a wound to the tree of which I am a branch.  Whether I detach myself from the tree completely by mortal sin, or whether I separate myself only a little, the entire tree suffers.  I rise from the Church in my vitality, for God has entrusted his graces to the Church for me.  I should, therefore, also rise to escape my fault.

In the early centuries this responsibility before the Church was more obvious, since accusation was public and professed before the entire community.  Presently, the discipline has softened, but it is always before the Church that I accuse myself – through the person of the priest who hears me, and the Church from which I receive reconciliation through the ministry of the priest who absolves me.

I thus confess to the priest because he is a priest.  This does not prevent me from choosing him as humanly capable of understanding and advising me. We are not speaking here, since it is not our aim, of that which is called (a little improperly perhaps) “direction.” Even while remaining strictly on the plane of confession, it is surely better for the progress of the soul if it usually addresses itself to the same confessor.  After some time (provided we have followed the advice we shall give later concerning the manner of accusing ourselves), he (the same confessor) knows whom he is dealing with.  He knows your tendencies and your habitual weaknesses.  Even if you have little to say, he knows what points should be insisted upon in his exhortations.  Little by little you have revealed the difficulties with which you are struggling:  your particular situation.  He does not risk, as would a stranger who does not understand you, perplexing you by an untimely remark.  At a difficult moment in your life, he can stop you from making a dangerous fall.  And at any time, he is able to suggest to you appropriate decisions to get out of your torpor if you let yourself fall asleep.

How should you choose him?

Above all, he needs good sense and right judgment.   Also, holy if this is possible – this is clear – but a balanced and insightful priest will always be preferable to another of a more fervent life with less sound judgment.

Do not forget that you seek a counselor, and that as is the wisdom of the counselor, so is the value of his advice.  But as he is also one who leads, you ought to desire that he be demanding.  A good-natured confessor who merely lulls you with soothing words or sends you away with absolution and a general exhortation, would risk leaving you to languish in your sin or your serious imperfections.

This is why it is necessary, if need be, to encourage the confessor to this beneficial requirement and to humbly accept his invitations to effort.  You will recall that the first condition for him to be useful to you is that you trust him.  You can have the best confessor in the city; but if you cannot open yourself up to him frankly, he can do nothing for you.  You should thus choose him so that you do not feel paralyzed in his presence and that you readily consider him as a father, perceptive, capable of realizing your situation and to interest himself in it, open to the realities of life, sure in his diagnoses, and of firm goodness in his counsel.

If you do not find him (one such ideal priest), do not be much distressed.  Go to a priest1: he has the grace of state.  The Holy Ghost will use him anyway for your best good, provided you are listening.

If you do find the ideal priest, do not easily switch from him.  While remaining fully free from another choice, do not let yourself be “undone” by a few impressions, all the more by some crushing of self-esteem or by some of his demands.  Persevere until you have positive proof that you are making no progress in his school, despite a loyal and constant effort on your part.

(To be continued)

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé # 26: September, 2017

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé  # 26:  September, 2017

clip_image002

Public Procession (feast of the Assumption)

The Myth of a “Neutral State” -“Who’s attacking you?” -“Nobody!”

Ulysses called himself “Nobody,” when Polyphemus asked his name. When this latter cried for help to his fellow cyclopses, and they asked who was attacking him, he stupidly replied “Nobody”!   Of course, they did not come to his aid.

Freemasonry has adopted the same trick to make their enemies look like fools.  The states under its control never openly declare themselves Freemasonic.  They claim to be “neutral” or “secular”.  When one asks who is persecuting the Church, the answer is ready-made: “neutrality,” that is, “no one”; and it’s the same “neutrality” (“no one”…) who indoctrinates the children in the atheistic [and totalitarian] public school system.

The myth of the “neutral” state

The stratagem of the “neutral” state — presented as a purely administrative machine, free from any religious or metaphysical principal, limiting itself to the material direction of the country, leaving each citizen to think as he likes — is an essential pillar of Masonic dictatorship.

However, the Masons are not always able to hold their tongue.  They’re so sure of their victory that they easily reveal their secret.  Vincent Peillon (French Minister of Education from 2012 to 2014) publically declared that secularism is a religion.  His predecessor, René Viviani, had already confessed neutrality to be a “necessary lie.”  Another “insider,” T.G. Masaryk, clearly showed that the modern secular state aims at nothing less than to take the place of the Church.

A well informed Freemason

The Freemason Thomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937) was not just anybody.  During the First World War, he repeated to all who wanted to listen that the principal goal of the war was “the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire.”   This well-informed agent then went on to become the first president of the very Masonic (and very artificial) Czechoslovakian Republic.

clip_image004

Corpus Christi 2017


A special vocabulary

Of course, Masaryk, as a good Mason, muddles his words.  He calls medieval Christendom — which carefully distinguished between the spiritual and temporal powers — “theocracy.”  On the other hand, the regime that mixes the two powers, reuniting them in one hand (or rather, one fist!) is designated by him as “non-theocratic.”  But this coded language does not prevent us from understanding what he means to say.

Masaryk’s avowal: a state “charged with the functions of the Church”

Over and above the words, it’s the reality that counts.  Therefore, in reading the following quotation, let us not be duped by the misuse of the word “theocracy”, or the sarcastic attack against the “medieval state, servus Ecclesiae,” and let’s look at this supposedly wonderful, modern, democratic state imposed upon the world by Freemasonry.  Is it a neutral state, free from all ideology?   No, just the opposite!   Masaryk clearly admits it: the “secular” state has “taken on the functions of the Church,” and has even “extended and multiplied them.”

[W]hat makes the democratic state new, is the fact that its goals and its organization proceed from a new conception of the world, a non-theocratic conception.  That’s the innovation.  The modern state has taken on the functions of the theocracy, especially those of the Church […].  Before, the state was not interested in schools, nor in culture; all the education of society was directed and dispensed by the Church.  To the contrary, the new state has, step by step, taken over all education.  Just as the Reformation, humanism and the Renaissance had engendered a new, secular morality, the state has also taken Charity away from the Church, and transformed it into social legislation.  Compared to the modern state, the former states were practically nothing.  I would even say that they did not think for themselves: the Church thought for them.  If under theocracy philosophy was the “ancilla theologiae,” [Editor:  “handmaiden of theology”]  the old medieval state was the “servus Ecclesiae.” [Editor:  “servant of the Church”]   In secularizing itself, the state was forced to start thinking.  It took on the functions of the Church; it extended and multiplied them.” (T.G. Masaryk, La Résurrection d’un Etat, Paris, Plon, 1930)

It’s clear: the secular state is not just (as they claim) a state separated from the Church.  It’s the state taking itself for the Church, which is only logical for the religion of Man taking himself for God.


Mother Anne-Marie Simoulin (†) (Foundress of the Dominican Sisters of Fanjeaux) and the Question of Modesty

The keen awareness of her duty to transmit an integrally Catholic education was inseparable from an insistence upon practical moral requirements that are a necessary consequence of this Christian formation.  That’s why Mother Anne-Marie was, for example, so virulent when it came to the question of appropriate dressing, despite the pressure from parents and even bishops.  At Montréjeau, for example, the vice-president of the APEL (Parents’ Association), Mr. Vallet, had written to her:

Most Reverend Mother, we would like to call your attention particularly to a problem which has gained such proportions that the members of the APEL of Sainte-Germaine School find themselves obliged to inform you.

Indeed, practically all the parents disapprove of your prohibition for our girls to wear pants. Certain families are even seriously considering taking their children out of the school if no dispensations are made to this prohibition for the time being.

One must take into account that winter is long and rigorous in this region. Tights are very costly and wear out quickly, so certain families are not able to replace them as often as necessary.

Locally, our girls have become victims of a very unpleasant atmosphere, and the situation has gotten worse since it has been known, by trustworthy sources, that other establishments of the Congregation have allowed the new style of clothing.

We would be very grateful to you if we could have your answer before the general assembly to be held on December 1st, 1973, so that we may inform the families of the outcome of this initiative.

Mother Anne-Marie therefore explained the reasons for her refusal:

I am aware of all the arguments put forward, almost everywhere, in favor of pants:  frugality (or purported frugality, because the same people count their pennies less when it comes to following fashions), comfort, practicality, ease…  I understand how appealing these arguments can be for parents who feel obligated to make calculations, but none of these reasons will force me to yield…

Next, Mother exposes some considerations on the disciplinary as well as esthetic levels.  Lastly, she comes back to the fundamental argument:

Just as we refuse co-education […], because we think it is impossible to form a girl’s intelligence and sensibility in the same way as with boys, we refuse all complicity with decadent trends that are sabotaging our civilization.  We want to treat your girls as girls; we want them to be treated as girls, and therefore we want them to be dressed as girls.  We want to help them deepen their sense of properly feminine values, to desire and to cultivate the virtues specially entrusted to women, which will make them particularly capable of giving and nurturing life, whether it be natural or supernatural life.  We want your girls to be fully women, who are proud to be so, and who love to dress accordingly.

For all these reasons on the disciplinary, esthetic and moral levels, we therefore require your girls to dress in conformity to their feminine nature…

—Quoted by Sr. Alice-Marie (Dominican Sisters of FANJEAUX), Rupture ou fidélité 1948/1975. Une congrégation religieuse dans l’Eglise ébranlée, Clovis, 2016, p. 222-224.

 

clip_image006

Community Chronicle

May 25th: Ascension of Our Lord. In the Dominican rite, the Solemn High Mass is preceded by a procession in the cloister (accompanied by the men and boys of the parish) symbolizing the cortege of Our Lady and the Apostles following Our Lord from the Cenacle to the Mount of Olives.  A second Solemn High Mass is celebrated by Fr. de Mérode for St. Thomas Boys’ School, during which twenty students pronounce their profession of Faith after having followed a retreat preached by the same Fr. de Mérode.

June 3rd: First Saturday.  It’s a true consolation to see the faithful doing their best to respond to the requests of Our Lady of Fatima for the first Saturday of each month: the St. Dominic Oratory is overflowing with faithful at the 6:30 a.m. Mass (followed by the 15-minute meditation requested by Our Lady), and the main Church is almost full at the 10:00 a.m. Mass.

June 18th: Corpus Christi Procession.

July 1st and 2nd: End of the school year ceremonies for St. Philomena Primary School and St. Thomas Boys’ School, followed by the annual parish lawn fete.  With the school year behind us, the busy summer schedule starts immediately:

July 3rd-8th: Men’s retreat.  Fathers Louis-Marie and Angelico are happy to receive a bit of reinforcement from Fr. Pierre Roy who came in from Canada to help preach a retreat on “The Incarnate Word” to about 20 fervent men, among which were a certain number of recently baptized.

July 14th-16th: Annual Jean Vaquié Days, with the theme: 1917-2017: From Communism to Globalism.

July 16th: Departure of Fathers Terence and Angelico for the Boys’ Summer Camp in Brittany.  Three weeks of camping, hiking and exploration, as well as activities for the soul: daily sacraments, apologetics competitions…

At the same time, Fr. Hyacinth-Marie chaplains the camps for the boys and girls of Our Lady of Fatima Youth Club (7-12 yrs.) and the adolescent girls of “Valiant Souls”.

July 17th-22nd: Fathers Marie-Dominique and Emmanuel-Marie preach a retreat for married couples, with the help of Fr. de Mérode.

July 24th-29th: Lady’s retreat with Fathers François-Marie and Marie Laurent, aided by Fr. Ballini.

August 4th- 13th: The community is reunited for the annual retreat preached this year by Fr. Joaquim FBVM, from Brazil.  Father Joaquim is no stranger to the community, as he studied philosophy and theology here at Avrillé before being ordained in Brazil.  Theme of the retreat: “Our spiritual life in the present crisis in the Church.”

News from our worksites

All is ready for the parish hall project.  God willing, the building permit will be granted in the coming weeks.

Other various projects have begun or progressed.  The chapter room now has its wooden beams.  Once it’s painted, we’ll be able to put in the new altar.

clip_image008

To help solve the problem of insufficient classroom space at the Boys’ School, a wall has been knocked down (permitting the renovation of a loft) and the grounds have been cleared in view of restoring an old tower (to be used as a study hall).  Also, the recreation courtyards were professionally paved. (To the delight of the seminarians and friars, as well!)

clip_image010

For timely articles and spiritual reading, please go to our website:

www.dominicansavrille.us

To send a donation:

YOU MAY USE PAYPAL (ON OUR WEBSITE), OR SEND TO:

In the U.S.:

Dominicans of Avrillé, Inc.
P.O. Box 23, Newman Lake, WA. 99025

In Canada:

Association of St. Dominic

C I B C, 201-21 Street East

Saskatoon (SK) S7K OB8 Canada

Please specify: CAN$: acc. #40-91531

In the U.K.:

Association of St. Dominic

R B S Edinburgh, 17 Comiston Road, Edinburgh EH10 6AA

Please specify: acc. # 00105564

For more information :

Couvent de la Haye-aux-Bonshommes

49240 Avrillé, France

clip_image011

The Assumption

The Assumption

By Fr. McKenna O.P.

(extracts)

“Behold! My Beloved speaketh to me; arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come, the winter is now past, the rain is over and gone.” — Canticle of Canticles 2, 10.

The two closing mysteries of the Holy Rosary deal especially with the celestial joys and rewards of our Blessed Lady.  They set forth before us her glorious Assumption into heaven, and her Coronation by the Triune Deity as Queen of heaven and earth.  The Assumption is one of the greatest of the Divine Mother’s festivals.  Our Catholic forefathers called it “Great Lady Day,” as they considered it the most beautiful and most solemn of her feasts.  The end of her long and weary pilgrimage had come; her yearning soul was, at last, drawn up to be united with her Beloved, never again to be separated from Him.  In the Introit of the Mass of the day, the Church calls upon us to rejoice in the Lord in celebrating the festival of the Assumption, in whose solemnity the angels rejoice, and together praise the Son of God.

It is generally believed that the death of our Blessed Mother occurred fifteen years after the Ascension of her adorable Son.  She was then in her sixty-third year, and having left Ephesus, where she had lived several years in the house of St. John, the Beloved Disciple, she had come with him to Jerusalem.  She knew that the end of her pilgrimage was at hand, and she desired to be near that city and its precincts which had been sanctified by the footprints and blood of the world’s Redeemer.  She made all the preparations for her last moments; and we are told that, by a special Providence of God, the disciples of her Son were gathered in Jerusalem from their several missions, in order to assist at her deathbed and receive her last blessing.  It might be asked why Mary, who had never been defiled by sin, should be forced to submit to death, which was the punishment of Adam’s sin.  But even if the immaculate Virgin, having closely imitated her Divine Son in every detail of His earthly life, had not desired to imitate Him also in paying the debt of nature, the Angel of the Schools teaches that death and the miseries which we experience, such as hunger, thirst, and all mundane maladies, arise from the constitutive principle of our nature.  Before the sin of Adam these miseries were unknown, for God had elevated Adam to a supernatural state; but human nature, having been despoiled, by the justice of God, of these immunities—which He had conferred as a special grace—lost through sin its integrity and those privileges so liberally given it, and which are not restored in Baptism (St. Thos. Sum. I. p. q. 69, a. 3.). […]

In the Old Law,” said St. Thomas Aquinas,” there were two events which filled all Israel with joy:

* One was the bearing of the Ark of the Covenant into the house of David, which was a source of great rejoicing to David and all his people;

* The other was when the Ark was brought, amid the chanting of choirs, and the sound of timbrels and harps, into the beautiful new Temple which Solomon had just completed for its reception.

There were also two great events in Heaven:

* One was when our humanity, united with the divinity—the Living Ark, which enclosed all the wisdom and knowledge of God1, —entered Heaven, accompanied by all the ransomed souls from Limbo;

* The other was when our dear Mother, the most perfect of all human beings, entered, leaning on her adorable Son, to take possession of that throne and that glory prepared for her from eternity.”

In the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, we behold our human nature exalted and honored above the most resplendent angels in heaven, and placed at the right hand of her adorable Son.  If all Israel united with Solomon in celebrating with song and timbre and harp the coming of the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple prepared for it, how much more did the saints and angels rejoice in seeing the Ark of the New Covenant, the pure and spotless Virgin, conducted on this day into the joys of paradise!  How those blessed spirits of God must have exulted, and burst into paeans of welcome, beholding with wonder and delight their glorious Queen coming in all regal splendor to take possession of the throne prepared for her before the foundation of the world!  We can picture to ourselves the patriarchs and prophets approaching to greet that glorious Daughter of Israel and thank her for all that she had done and suffered in the work of the world’s redemption.  What must have been the unspeakable rapture of Joachim and Anna, of Joseph, her faithful spouse, of the Baptist, and John, her adopted son, of Elizabeth, Zachary, Magdalen, and of so many other chosen souls who had known her during their lives on earth!

How blissful, also, to us, dear fellow Rosarians, is the consideration of our Lady’s Assumption, for, although we are still far removed from our blessed home in Heaven, yet, in telling the beads of the Fourth Glorious Mystery, we commemorate the elevation of the body and soul of one of our fellow beings to the most sublime heights of Heaven.  We see our poor humanity, apart from the divinity, thus exalted, thus glorified, in God’s eternal kingdom.  Never would poor human nature, have been so elevated, had it not been for that felix culpa—that happy fault—the fall of our first parents in the Garden of Eden.

In Mary’s Assumption we have reason not only to thank Almighty God for the favor bestowed on our race in the honor conferred on this glorious daughter of Eve, but we are filled with unbounded confidence in the goodness of God, who has thus elevated this Woman of women to be our Mother and our powerful advocate before the throne of His Mercy.  We acknowledge that we are sinners, but behold! in the bright realms above we have the Advocate of Sinners who, on account of our fall, was raised to such an eminent dignity on earth, and is now enthroned as our refuge and mediatrix in heaven.  Like Queen Esther, standing close to the King in a vesture of gold, she pleads incessantly for the people of her race, and is ever ready to aid all the children of Adam by her powerful intercession.

O Blessed Mother of God! it is with reason that all your true children rejoice in your glorious Assumption, for they see in you their irresistible advocate with your adorable Son.  We know well that Jesus-Christ is the advocate of redemption, that without the merits of His blood no man can be saved; but we know too that He is a God “who loveth justice and hateth iniquity,” and therefore must hate sin with an eternal hatred, and punish it wherever it is found.  But, praise to His holy Name!  He delights in showing mercy; and He has given to His saints, and especially to you, His Blessed Mother, the office of mercy, that through your merits and your powerful pleadings with Him we sinners may obtain pity and pardon, when we deserve nothing but justice and condign punishment.

It is this hope that has ever filled the Catholic heart with confidence in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God.  When we read the lives of God’s illustrious saints, we find that they were all inspired with this humble and unwavering confidence.  The child, who has angered his father by disobedience, will run and hide in the arms of his loving mother, imploring her protection from the just punishment, which he deserves.  Even so, poor, repentant sinners run to Mary, knowing well how grievously they have offended God, but firmly believing that she, who found favor with the Almighty even before the mystery of the Incarnation was accomplished, will much more find favor now with her adorable Son, who is the judge of the living and the dead.  Hence, the prayer of that bright light in the Middle Ages, St. Bernard: “Remember, O most spotless Mother, that never was any one known who sought your help or implored your aid and did not receive powerful assistance!”  How many, indeed, O Blessed Mother, have experienced your render pity and compassion, and your efficacious intercession with your adorable Son!

Bourdaloue2 tells us in his sermon on Our Lady’s Assumption: “Her death was precious in the sight of the Lord because her life was spent in His service.  She was ever faithful to grace; her will was ever conformed to His adorable will; her heart was never attached to the pleasures or vanities of this life.”

The death of all God’s saints, according to David, is precious in His sight; but: just as we cooperate with God’s grace, and labor to promote His glory and our own perfection, in the same proportion will our death be precious before Him and our reward great in Heaven.

Is it not sad, then, dear Rosarians, to consider that, whilst we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and know that our reward or punishment, must be according to our work (for He will render to every man according to his works), that we are so slothful in doing good, and so prone to add sin to sin?  Alas, how many there are who live in mortal sin, and are thus unable to merit any supernatural reward!  Is it not of faith that mortal sin makes us enemies of God, and that from an enemy He will accept nothing?  What can be sadder than that men, destined for heaven, and having all the means for attaining it within their reach, think little of its unspeakable delights, but prostitute their hearts to sensual gratifications and sacrifice their souls for filthy, fleeting pleasures?  Alas, how many are the daughters of Mary who, instead of seeking to please God and their immaculate Mother, place the affections of their heart on vanity and fashion, and cling to sinful fellow-creatures who seek their eternal destruction!  O God! that all would be wise in time, and labor not for that which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life; that all would lay up treasures for heaven, and so live as to be always prepared to die!

St. Alphonsus, speaking of the glorious death and Assumption of our Blessed Lady, closes his discourse in these words:

We have contemplated, brethren, the death of our Blessed Lady and her glorious Assumption. We have followed her in spirit into the joys of Heaven; we have seen her surrounded by patriarchs and prophets, by saints and angels; we have seen her adorned by her adorable Son at His right hand.  Let us unite with heaven and earth in praising and blessing our glorious Queen.  Let us con­gratulate her on her happiness and on the power which Our Lord has given her, and let us implore her by that power and glory which she now enjoys to look down with compassion on her poor children.  Let us beseech her to watch over us during life, and when death comes, to bring us to share with her in the glory of heaven, where, with all the saints, we shall see God face to face and praise and bless Him and His Virgin Mother for all eternity. Amen.”

(From the book of Fr Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.,The Treasures of the Rosary, New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917 )

(written 1835)


Alphonse de RATISBONNE (1814 – 1884), Convert from Judaism by the Miraculous Medal

Alphonse de RATISBONNE

(1814 – 1884)

Converted from Judaism by the Miraculous Medal

image

 

Alphonse de Ratisbonne was the son and the inheritor of a family of Jewish Bankers from Strasbourg.  During his childhood, his elder brother, Theodore, converted to Catholicism.  He was even ordained a priest.  The family naturally reacted with horror and hostility.  Alphonse resolved to never have anything to do with his brother and, furthermore, developed a violent antipathy to the Catholic faith.  Though an atheist, he experienced a tremendous love and a profound loyalty for his own people.  He devoted his efforts and money to the purpose of improving the social condition of less fortunate Jews.

At 27, Alphonse became engaged and then noticed a subtle change concerning his religious sentiments:

A certain change overcame me concerning my religious ideas. I believed in nothing; the sight of my fiancée awoke in me a feeling about human dignity. I began to believe in the immortality of the soul; instinctively, I began to pray to God; I even thanked him for my good fortune; but, nevertheless, I remained dissatisfied…..”

Since his fiancée was only 16 years old, it was considered appropriate to postpone the marriage. Therefore, in order to while away the time Alphonse decided to take a sightseeing trip to Italy (1841-1842).

A curious challenge

image

After spending time in Naples, he stayed in Rome. While there he visited Baron Théodore de Bussières, who happened to be the brother of one of his best friends.  Their conversations turned to religion.  Ratisbonne mocked and attacked the Church repeatedly. Finally the Baron offered him a curious challenge:

Wear the Miraculous Medal 1 and recite one short prayer daily to Mary:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who invoked thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left forsaken. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy clemency hear and answer me. Amen.

The youthful Jew grudgingly accepted: for him it was a way of proving the inanity of these “detestable superstitions”.

On the 20th of January, 1842, the last day of his stay in Rome, Ratisbonne entered, by chance, the church of St. Andrew of the Brothers. He recounts the incident himself:

I was in the church but an instant, when all of a sudden I felt myself overtaken by an inexplicable anxiety. I raised my eyes and noticed that the entire edifice had disappeared from my view; a single chapel had, so to speak, concentrated all the light, and in the center of this radiation there appeared standing on the altar, tall, brilliant, full of majesty and tenderness, the Virgin Mary, just as She appears on my medal and now an irresistible force pushed me toward her.  The Virgin signaled to me to kneel down, and seemed to say to me; that is fine!  She did not speak, but I understood everything.”

At the same instant Alphonse felt freed of his blindness:

At the moment of the gesture, the blindfold fell from my eyes; not only one blindfold, but the whole bundle of blindfolds that had kept me enfolded in their grasp disappeared successively and rapidly, just as snow, mud and ice disappear under the action of a brilliant and burning sun…

In some strange way I felt myself to be completely naked, as though a tabula rasa. The world had become as nothing to me; the prejudices against Christianity no longer existed; my childhood prejudices evaporated; God’s love had replaced my other loves.”

In the beginning, he was able to clearly perceive the brilliance of that divine light. He tried three times to raise his eyes to Her but in those three attempts he found himself incapable of raising his eyes higher than her own hands, from which graces and blessings seemed to cascade in the form of luminous rays.

O my God, he cried out, only a half hour ago I was in the act of blaspheming and I felt a profound mortal hatred against the Catholic religion.  All those who know me know full well that humanly speaking, I nourished the strongest reasons to remain Jewish.  My family is Jewish as well as my fiancée and uncle who are all Jewish.  On becoming Catholic I am sacrificing all my hopes and worldly interests.  Yet, I’m no fool.”

Just eleven days later (31 January, 1842), Alphonse was baptized, confirmed and made his first Holy Communion.

Shortly afterwards, having broken his engagement, he entered religious life and was ordained a priest.  He spent the rest of his days working and praying for the conversion of his people.  He settled in the Holy Land and, with his brother Theodore, founded a religious order whose mission it was to pray for the conversion of the Jews.  He had a convent built on the very site of Pilate’s palace, the same spot where the Roman governor showed the poor scourged and bleeding Jesus to the crowd, suggesting that He be freed, and where the Jews cried: “Crucify Him! May His blood be upon us and our children!” (Mt 27:25).

image

Father Mary-Alphonse de Ratisbonne died in the year 1884, at Ain Karem, St. John the Baptist’s birthplace which is near Jerusalem.


The Descent of the Holy Ghost

The Descent of the Holy Ghost

By Fr McKenna O.P.

image

In this Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, we commemorate:

— the coming of the Divine Spirit upon the disciples of Christ,

— and the foundation of our Holy Mother the Church.

Pentecost gloriously completes the cycle of the work of the Triune God:

— in the Creation, we worship the almighty power of the heavenly Father;

— in the Redemption, we behold with wonder the sublime mission of the Eternal Son, who said: “The Father hath worked till now, now I work.” Jesus finished in Calvary’s awful hour the work which His Father gave Him to do; and now, after His Ascension, He and the Father send down the Holy Ghost to complete the work of the Blessed Trinity;

— thus, the Holy Ghost is especially the gift of the other two Divine Persons.  His mission is the sublime work of guiding the Church, illuminating her supreme pastors, inspiring her saints, filling her doctors and her confessors with His choicest gifts, and establishing the reign of God in the souls of the faithful.

It is true that the Holy Ghost was always in the world. The Spirit of God spoke by the mouth of the patriarchs and the prophets from the beginning; but on the great festival of Pentecost He came in a different manner, being, in the language of Scripture, poured out on the disciples to fit them for their exalted office.  His advent was the especial fruit of our Blessed Lord’s sufferings and death. The world had no right to His coming; it was unfitted for His sublime presence and work.

But Jesus merited for us this heavenly gift, and went before the Father in order to plead for it in our behalf. “If I go not,” He said, ” the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John xvi. 7). Presenting His sacred humanity before His heavenly Father, Our Lord besought Him through His adorable wounds to bestow this sublime gift upon His followers.

And why was this?  Why, we may ask, was the Paraclete sent to us?  It was to perfect the work which the Son of God came on earth to inaugurate.  He had come to establish His Church, He had come to build the Bark of Peter. During His public life Our Lord had collected the materials for that vessel. He had placed its timbers in their proper order; and, to use a figure employed by the early Fathers of the Church, having completed that Bark of Peter, it was destined to sail over every sea, to brave every storm, to be tried by every tempest, to be pursued by every piratical enemy.  Men and demons would do their utmost to destroy it; but it was not destined to perish, for on it depended the salvation of the world.

On the first glorious Feast of Pentecost St. Peter’s Bark was launched — the sails of that mighty vessel were first unfurled.  What, then, was needed but a skilled Pilot to guide her course and favorable winds to fill her sails?  To-day, she commences her glorious voyage ; to-day, the divine Pilot — the Holy Ghost— is on board!  To-day, the winds of heaven fill her sails; to-day, her crew begin to cast forth their net. St. Peter’s Bark will sweep over every sea and gather in all souls destined for a happy eternity!

Let us here reflect for a moment upon the disciples of Christ, who formed the crew of that vessel. Let us consider their condition before the coming of the Holy Ghost.

In the first place, we are told that they were hidden away in an upper chamber in Jerusalem, fearing the Jews. They were timid, cowardly men; their faith was yet weak: their hearts were trem­bling within them. They dreaded to proclaim publicly the glorious name of their Master, in whom they firmly believed; nay, more, they were poor laborers — ignorant, uneducated men, little skilled in public preaching.

But lo! at the sound from Heaven, “as of a rushing mighty wind which filled the whole house where they were sitting,” a great change came over them. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” says the Scripture. That Divine Spirit appeared to them like tongues of fire, whereby their exalted mission as preachers of the Gospel was typified and emphasized. Instantly their cold hearts burned with the fire of the Apostolate! Fear and, cowardice departed forever.

The Apostles, having become in a manner new men, are now inflamed with the love of God and with the desire for the salvation of all mankind. They go forth immediately to proclaim the dignity, the power and the sanctity of that name which was so despised by the Jews, the glorious name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus-Christ. Boldly declaring their belief in His divinity, these once timid men are now willing to die martyrs for their Faith and the cause of the Blessed Master. The effect of Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Three thousand were converted — “devout men out of every nation under heaven;” for at that time were gathered in Jerusalem, in order to celebrate the Pentecostal festival, Jews from nearly every part of the world whither the Hebrews had been scattered. All these were confounded, as the Acts testify, because every man with amazement heard the Apostles speak to him in his own tongue.

In creating this material world our heavenly Father was pleased not to leave it in darkness, but placed the sun in the heavens to shed light and heat over its surface, to bring fruits and flowers to perfection. And that sun is so exalted, so far removed from human influences, that no man or nation can interfere with its light. So, in creating His Church, our Blessed Lord gave to it His Holy Spirit, which is its true Light, abiding with it forever, and conducting its children to paradise by the way of Christian perfection. Nor can men or demons prevent that sublime mission:

— Following St. Peter, the first to claim the special indwelling of the Paraclete is the supreme Head of the Church, its visible ruler and vicegerent of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost abides with our Holy Father the Pope, illuminating his counsels, filling him with divine wisdom, guarding him from error in his teachings, and, in short, making him what he is — the infallible guide for both pastors and people1.

— He, the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity, is with the Church in her councils, filling her hierarchy with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of their people2. He directs their deliberations, illuminating their intellects so as to guard their people from all error and heresy.

— He is with the individual bishop, assisting him with the work of his diocese.

— He is with the pastor, instructing and enlightening his people. He is with the priest in the administration of the Sacraments. In the words of St. Augustine: “When I baptize, it is the Holy Ghost who purifies; when I pronounce the words of salvation, it is the Holy Ghost who cleanses from sin; when I speak the words of consecration, it is the Holy Ghost who changes bread into the Body of Our Lord, and wine into His Blood.”

— The Holy Ghost is with the nun in the schoolroom, with the mother in the Christian home, teaching the child the simple but sublime truths of our holy religion. He is with the faithful, welding them together, uniting them, as the grains of wheat in the bread, into that glorious body of believers of which Jesus Christ is the Head3.

Sublime mission of the Holy Ghost! Wonderful gift of God to a sinful world! For nineteen hundred years4 has that sublime Spirit continually remained with the Bark of St. Peter, bringing and preserving therein all the children of God in the unity of faith and in the bond of charity.

From these marvelous conditions and results shall not all men, not willfully blind to the light of truth, believe and testify that the Church is the spotless Spouse of Christ, the immaculate Bride of the Lamb? “By this shall all men know,” says Christ, “that you are my disciples— if you have love one for another;” and again, in the discourse at the Last Supper: “I pray for them that they all may be one, as Thou, Father in me, and I in Thee” (John xvii. 21).

Proceeding to reflect upon the work of the Holy Ghost in the individual soul, we should, each of us, consider here the infinite debt we owe to that Divine Spirit for the precious graces which He has bestowed on us through the holy Sacraments:

— First of all, should we gratefully acknowledge the gift of Faith — that gift which is so inestimably precious that without it it is impossible to please God, as St. Paul emphatically declares.

Though the Holy Ghost, according to Sacred Scripture, is most prodigally shed abroad throughout the whole universe, how many are there, alas, who place obstacles to that divine Luminary and prevent its rays from penetrating their souls! Ignorance, prejudice, and the corruption of gross vices are as so many dense clouds which prevent the rays of that divine Light from illumining the soul. It is true that Faith is a free gift of God, and that God may and can, and often does, bestow that gift, even unasked, upon persons leading a life of sin. Thus, He enlightened Saul on the road to Damascus, and made him an apostle at the very time that he was breathing threats against the Christians. But, as a rule, the priceless gift of Faith must be asked of God, and the means of obtaining it must be employed by those who desire to possess it, one of those means being the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is not only the door to the other Sacraments, but it gives us a spiritual right to the Holy Ghost. It infuses into the heart of the recipient the gift of divine Faith, which is to the soul what sight is to the body; and it enables even a child, as reason dawns, to grasp the lofty teachings of the Church. Later on in the Christian life, the Holy Ghost is given to the children of God in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which, in the language of St. Paul, we become the temples of the Holy Ghost, and should (as he tells us) glorify and bear God in our body. The work of the Holy Ghost in the individual soul is to form Jesus Christ in it. Hence, again says the Apostle of the Gentiles, “The Holy Ghost is laboring with unceasing groaning that Jesus Christ be formed in you.” And if, true to His guidance, the soul advances from perfection to perfection, becoming more and more enlightened, more and more inflamed with the love of God, it at last arrives at that sublime state to which Christ called all His followers when He enjoined upon them: “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

According to St. Paul, there are three ways of opposing the Holy Ghost in His action on the soul:

The first is our resistance to His divine influence when we do not cooperate with His loving designs in the work of our sanctification. He is ever laboring with unceasing groaning (says the Apostle) to form Christ in us. He is urging us to more fervent and frequent prayer, to more manly self-denial, more frequent and profitable approach to the Sacraments, more earnest imitation of our Blessed Lord, who counsels us to renounce ourselves, and daily to take up our cross and follow Him.

It grieves this Blessed Spirit of God to behold us so careless and indifferent in the great work of our own sanctification. We are like a lazy farmer who, possessed of rich soil which if well cultivated would produce luscious and abundant fruit, fails to improve his opportunities. We also fail to cooperate with our gracious Lord in producing a golden harvest. We also fail to obey Him who tells us to lay up treasures in heaven, where the rust cannot destroy, nor moths consume, nor thieves break through and steal.

— The second way in which we oppose the Holy Ghost is when we grieve Him by deliberately committing venial sin. Venial sin does not kill the soul, but it often seriously wounds it. It defiles it, and, in a manner, paralyzes it by weakening its energies and leaving it faint and sickly. Just as neglect of a trifling malady often leads to the death of the body, so venial sin too often leads the soul to mortal sin.

Alas, for the careless Christian whose life abounds in many willful venial sins! By undue indulgence of the appetite, slothfulness in prayer and other religious duties; by slight fits of anger, or of impatience; and, what is far more serious, by frequenting dangerous company, and giving the eyes, the tongue and the mind liberties that are dangerous to modesty, how often do men and women seriously wound the soul, even though they do not actually cause her death!

— But the greatest of all evils occurs when the sinner utterly quenches the light of the Holy Ghost by willful mortal sin. “Know you not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” “He who defileth the temple of God,” says St. Paul, “him shall the Lord destroy.” It is true that although the sentence of death is passed upon deadly sin, through the infinite mercy of God, its execution is often deferred. Though the Holy Ghost is driven away from the soul by one mortal sin, and the temple of God is horribly deformed and devastated, like a beautiful structure charred and blackened by fire, yet, praise be to God! the Holy Ghost does not yet abandon the unworthy Christian. By many gentle and loving means He still strives to bring back the sinner to repentance. Even as the dove, driven from its little cote by the serpent which has entered and defiled its nest, hovers around, waiting for the venomous intruder’s departure, in order to return and cleanse its nest and again dwell in its cherished home, or as the poor Irish mother, driven from the loved cottage of her youth by the emissary of the landlord, does not abandon the home of her heart, but sits by the roadside with her children till the intruder has withdrawn, and then goes back to her dwelling, rekindling the fire upon her humble hearth and making bright again her little cottage, so the Holy Spirit does not completely abandon the soul when it falls into mortal sin, but mercifully endeavors to excite it to remorse. Sometimes He makes use of sickness, of loss of temporal goods or friends; sometimes, of the sudden death of a companion in sin. Or, it may be by a mission, a sermon, or a word of advice that the transgressor is induced to enter into himself, to forsake his sinful life, and return once more to his God.

Yes, it is the Holy Ghost who, acting thus upon the sinner’s soul, urges upon him this vital change. And when at length the unfortunate one yields to this Divine Spirit, immediately like a skillful architect, divine love and mercy begin to purify and sanctify the soul, to rebuild its beautiful temple, to adorn it, and make it once more His dwelling place, causing the angels in heaven to rejoice over the sinner doing penance.

Such is the mission and the work of the Holy Ghost. We should then labor earnestly to cooperate with Him in that blessed work of our sanctification:

— Let us be fervent in prayer for this is the will of God that we watch and pray without ceasing, lest we enter into temptation.

— Frequently, too, let us approach the Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist, for they are the great channels through which the Holy Ghost directly acts on our souls.

— Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by exposing ourselves to sin or the occasions of sin, but faithfully correspond to His graces, and grate fully thank Him for the gift of Faith, which infinitely surpasses all the riches and treasure of this world.

(From the book of Fr. Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.,  The Treasures of the Rosary, New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917  (written 1835)


The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven

The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven

By Fr McKenna O.P.

image

The sanctuary of PONTCHÂTEAU in France, a place of pilgrimage founded by Saint Louis-Mary Grignion de Montfort ; representing the Ascension

 

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands, He blessed them. And it came to pass, whilst He blessed them, He departed from them and was carried up to heaven.  And they, adoring, went back into Jerusalem with great joy.— Luke xxiv, 50.

The Second Glorious Mystery makes known to us how our Blessed Lord, having appeared to His disciples on many occasions after His Resurrection, ascended at last in their sight to Heaven.  It was meet, in order to elevate their hearts to a desire of the blessed life beyond the grave, that He should show them a part of that glory which is His from all eternity.

Oh, how consoling it is to the Christian soul to meditate on the happiness of Heaven: to know that, after this life of peril and trial, of suffering and sorrow, there is prepared for us through the Passion and death of our Lord and Saviour, a glorious home, where we shall rejoice with Him in never-ending happiness! Were it not for this divine Faith, which supports us in the midst of our daily troubles, how many would sink into dark despair, and curse the hour that they came into life!  But when we realize, in the light of Faith, that our true home is in our Father’s kingdom, beyond the grave, when we firmly believe that He hath prepared a place for us there, in one of His many mansions, an abode of everlasting happiness, in the blissful company of His saints and angels, where we will see God face to face — then, indeed, we can cheerfully take up our daily crosses and patiently bear them onward, in the glad expectation of that revelation of His glory, of that coming of His kingdom, of that eternal rest in the bosom of our God.

Before the clear and explicit teachings of our Blessed Lord concerning the life beyond the grave, mankind entertained very confused conceptions of the joys of Heaven.

* It was His own divine lips that told us of the many mansions in His Father’s kingdom.

* It was He who declared that He departed from earth in order to prepare a place for us above, where, as He said, we should be with Him forever and share in His glory, where we should even eat and drink at His table — at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

* It was He who declared that the blessed in heaven should be as the angels, pure and spiritual, neither marrying nor giving in marriage; and that, with the angels, they should see the face of His Father and thereby enjoy eternal happiness.

Before the coming of Christ the ancient patriarchs, it is true, had some knowledge of a life beyond the grave. They expected vaguely to enjoy a lasting happiness in a future existence. Holy Job has said:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth; . . . that in my flesh I shall see my God, whom I myself shall see and my eyes shall behold and not another. This my hope is laid up in my bosom.” (Job xix. 25).

The mother of the Machabees and the holy priest, Nicanor, spoke of the joys of heaven; David, in his Psalms, tells us how his heart thirsted for the courts of the Lord; and he extolled the happiness of those who dwelt in the house of the Lord forever.

Yet beyond this, mankind in general entertained gloomy and depressing views regarding the life after death.

* The ancient Romans believed in the Elysian fields; yet how sad were their conceptions of a land where departed spirits moved silently among kindred shades in a land of darkness!

* The Indian believed in a happy hunting-ground.

* The Mohammedan, in a paradise of sensual pleasures.

The Christian alone, through the teaching of Our Lord and the light which the Holy Ghost has given to the Church, is able to grasp clear conceptions of that Heavenly City, of that New Jerusalem depicted by St. John and the Evangelists, where the elect enjoy ineffable peace and joy. It was our Blessed Lord who led captivity captive, and opened for the souls in Limbo and all His blessed followers the glorious kingdom of eternal happiness.

Let us approach in spirit the scene of the Ascension.

Mary, our Blessed Mother, and the disciples were assembled that solemn day on Mount Olivet. Jesus had given to them His last instructions, after which He lovingly blessed His Mother and His disciples, and told them not to depart from Jerusalem until the Comforter should come to them. As He was yet speaking, He began gradually to ascend before them, through the limpid air, until a cloud received Him out of their sight. All remained, looking upward, transfixed in adoring silence.

The disciples rejoiced in the glory and the triumph of their Blessed Master, yet their hearts grew heavy at His departure. How lonely was that mountain solitude without Him!

Did not Mary feel the departure of the visible presence of her adorable Son? Had she not, perhaps, tenderly implored Him that she might accompany Him? Whither will He go without His Blessed Mother? Might she not, now that her mission was accomplished, depart with Him to share in His heavenly glory, as she had shared so profoundly in His earthly sufferings and sorrows?

No, Blessed Mother, your time has not yet come; you have still a grand and important task to accomplish! The infant Church needs your care; you are to guide and direct it, even as you tended and watched over your adorable Son in His infancy. The Apostles need your maternal presence, your advice, your encouragement; the Evangelists need your wise instructions. You are yet to tell St. Luke all the beautiful truths connected with the mysteries of the Annunciation, the visit of St. Elizabeth, the birth of Our Lord, and the coming of the shepherds and the Wise Men. You must reveal the incidents of your Divine Child’s flight into Egypt; of His presentation in the Temple; of your finding Him there after the three days’ loss, and all the other wonderful happenings of His infancy, childhood and youth, which were known to you and Joseph alone.

Let us now follow in spirit our ascended Redeemer to the celestial realms.

It is a day of triumph and rejoicing in Heaven: The King of Glory goes to enter into His rest, to take possession of the Kingdom prepared for Him from all eternity.

He brings with Him the trophies of His victory: all the souls in Limbo arise to join Him in that glorious procession, where He goes forth as a conqueror and demands admittance at the celestial gates for Himself and His ransomed followers.

The infinite debt has been paid; death and Hell have been conquered; divine justice is satisfied, the kingdom of salvation has been bravely fought for and gloriously won! As He said to His disciples at Emmaus: “Was it not meet that the Son of Man should thus suffer, and so enter into His glory?” (Luke xxiv. 26).

Valiantly did He struggle and suffer for us, and now He goes to enter upon His glory. In that hour of immortal triumph were fulfilled the words of David, when he saw in prophetic vision this glorious Ascension of the world’s Redeemer.

Hearken to the angels who accompany Our Lord, as they demand admittance into heaven! Hear them cry aloud:

Lift up your gates, ye princes, and be ye lifted up, oh, eternal gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in!

And the angels within the portals having demanded:

Who is this King of Glory?

Lo! the angels of the procession reply:

The Lord God of Heaven, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, ye princes, and be ye lifted up, oh, eternal gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in!

Then for the first time those everlasting gates were opened to ransomed humanity, and that glorious procession, headed by our Blessed Lord, entered the mansions of eternal bliss. There did He take possession of His eternal throne, to rule and govern His mighty kingdom forever.

Behold our human nature seated at the right hand of the Father! Behold that body, once torn by scourges and lacerated by thorns and nails! Once covered with blood and wounds, it is brighter than ten thousand suns, filling all the empyrean with its glory! How joyously the angels must have come to welcome Him, to adore and praise Him, to thank Him for opening heaven to our fallen race! Then were the patriarchs and prophets who accompanied Our Lord received into the mansions of eternal bliss; and for the first time since the fall of the angels the empty thrones of Lucifer and his hosts were filled with ransomed captives. Two thousand years have now passed.

How many blessed spirits have since entered Heaven!

How many glorious martyrs, who suffered and bled and died for Him, have followed their Blessed Master into His kingdom and received from Him their imperishable crown!

For us, also, a brief period in this land of exile, devoted to the faithful service of our King and our God, shall purchase an eternity of bliss. Oh, how all Christians, and especially members of the Rosary Confraternity, should rejoice in the recitation of this Second Glorious Mystery!

The blissful Ascension of our Redeemer is the forerunner, the guarantee, of our own; for one day we, too, if faithful to His commandments, shall ascend to that glorious kingdom and participate in His rewards.

— Let us, therefore, unite with the angels and the saints in congratulating Our Lord on His triumph over death and Hell, ever humbly thanking Him for the immortal victory that He has gained for Himself and for us.

Let us congratulate those ancient patriarchs and prophets, those illustrious apostles, martyrs, and virgins who share with Him now the joys of heaven, and ask that whilst they continue to praise and bless our Redeemer, they may beseech Him to conduct us, in His own good time, to those everlasting mansions of bliss which He has prepared for His elect.

During our pilgrimage here below we are often visited by trials and crosses, pains of body and mind, of heart and of soul. Our good God has His wise designs in sending us these sufferings. If accepted in a Christian spirit, they accomplish a great work in our souls; if borne patiently for the love of our crucified Master, they merit an eternal reward. All such tribulations detach our hearts from the pleasures of this life. They force us to pray, and to seek help from on high. Above all, they make us turn our eyes and hearts to that blessed home, where sorrow never enters, and they enable us to lay up treasures there which naught of earth can destroy nor thief break in and steal.

Lately there died a woman of great sanctity, who had spent forty-five long years under the stress of bitter sorrow and persecution. She had been induced by her mother, contrary to her own inclination, to marry a man of wealth, who was many years her senior. He was of a cruel temper, often dissipated, insanely jealous, and seemed to delight in making the life of his devoted wife miserable. Though reared a Catholic, he had abandoned both Church and Sacraments, and did what he could to prevent his family from practicing their religious duties.  Like St. Monica, his faithful companion constantly prayed for her husband’s conversion.  To that end her Communions, her Masses, her Rosaries, and Stations of the Cross were continually offered; and as her children became capable of praying and of attending to their religious duties, they were carefully taught to offer all their good works for the conversion of their father.  Often her neighbors said to her:

Why not get a divorce?  He is rich; you could have a good living from him!

Her answer was always:

Ah, no; I married him for better or for worse.

A year before he died, the long-desired, long-prayed-for change occurred. The unworthy husband became a true penitent, and in his last days craved for no other attendant save his patient, loyal wife.  He died, at last, an edifying, consoling death.  After his funeral the priest said to her:

How happy you should be in the beautiful death of your husband!”  “Ah, yes, Father,” she said.  “I knew it would come.  I knew our heavenly Father would not refuse my prayers and the prayers of our children.  Father, the neighbors long-wanted me to put the poor man away and get a divorce; but I knew that had I done so he would have died a wretched death, and I could never have forgiven myself for it.  Father,”  she added,  “I have great confidence in the Rosary of our Blessed Mother.  To her I constantly appealed during the dark years of the past.  I felt she would not abandon me, but would some day lift the cross that was crushing me.”

Let us likewise be faithful to the Rosary; and though we may not obtain our petitions immediately after presenting them through the hands of the Mother of God, let us, like this good woman, valiantly persevere.  Let us have her unwavering confidence that, sooner or later, our prayers will be answered.  Through Mary we can obtain all necessary graces for ourselves and others in this life; and, what is more, we shall one day merit, through her powerful intercession, to follow our ascended Lord into His kingdom of light and peace. With her, the saints and the angels, we shall then behold forevermore the glory of our Blessed Redeemer, triumphantly seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

(From the book of Fr. Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.,  The Treasures of the Rosary, New York, P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1917  – written 1835)

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé No. 25: May 2017

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

No. 25: May 2017

clip_image002

The Passion of the Church

On the evening of Holy Thursday, Our Lord had with His Apostles what has come to be known as the “Last Supper Discourse” (Jn. 13:31 to 16:31).

During the Last Supper, Our Lord ordained His Apostles as Priests and Bishops, and gave them Communion for the first time. He also announced the betrayel of Judas, who left in the night to accomplish his crime…

Being relieved by the absence of the traitor, Our Lord took advantage of these few moments of intimacy with His Apostles in order to prepare them for His imminent departure, and the persecutions to come. That is, He prepares them for the Passion, and gives them the necessary counsels to be able to endure it. Alas, they will not take heed and the prophecy of Jesus will be fulfilled: “You shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.”

As the Passion of the Church unfolds before our eyes, it is useful for us to meditate on this discourse. At a time where the “ shepherd is struck and therefore the sheep are scattered” (Zach. 13:7), let us listen to Jesus’ instructions, so that we may go through this passion while remaining faithful.

Commentary of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas composed a very profound commentary on the Gospel of Saint John. Let us just summarize here what concerns Jesus’ words after the Last Supper.

After an introduction (Jn. 13:31-38), in which Jesus states the purpose of the Passion (reestablish the glory of God by the perfect sacrifice of the Cross) and the conditions for staying united (charity and humility), He comforts His disciples with regard to the emotions which trouble them: the sadness caused by His leaving (ch. 14) and the fear of persecutions (ch. 15).

His departure should not trouble them, because it brings with it three advantages:

  • free access to the Father through Jesus, who is the “way”, and the perfect image of the Father
  • the coming of the Paraclete
  • Jesus’ own return (in a new manner)

The Paraclete will bring His “gift”: perfect knowledge of God; and Jesus will bring His: peace, a peace that can only come from Him.

Then, Jesus fortifies His Apostles against the fear of persecutions, to which the Passion was only a prelude. He starts with the beautiful “allegory of the vine”: the branches, that is, the faithful as members of Christ’s Mystical Body, need to be purified through suffering in order to bear fruit: not only fruits of (personal) sanctity, but fruits of a productive apostolate. The conditions to bring about this purification and bearing of fruit are: to “keep His words” (Faith purifies the intelligence), prayer (for this work is supernatural), and above all, a love of Jesus proven by the practice of His commandments.

Our Lord does not content Himself with speaking of His Mystical Body; He goes on to explain to His disciples the source of these persecutions: the world, ennemy of Our Lord. The world is united in its hatred, just as the Church is united by charity. The hatred of the world for Jesus’ friends is a reason for consolation: it makes them similar to their Master. In addition, sustained by the Holy Ghost, they will use it as an opportunity to witness to their Faith, even at the price of martyrdom, when necessary.

Chapter 16 adds a few precisions. Regarding persecutions, the Apostles will have to suffer not only from the part of pagans, but also from the Jews, who will “put them out of the synagogues”, and will put them to death “thinking they are doing a service to God.” Regarding the (physical) absence of Jesus, the three Divine Persons will intervene to console the faithful: the Holy Ghost will convince the world of its sin, Jesus will bring perfect (interior) joy, and the Father will from then on listen favorably to all prayers said in the name of Jesus, by those who love Jesus.

A veil of sorrow passes over Jesus’ face at the thought of the impending defection of His Apostles, but right away He promises them peace, and encourages them: “Have confidence, I have overcome the world.”

Application to the Present Situation

In the present passion of the Church, we must first be convinced that God has allowed it only to bring about a greater good (without doubt, the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary promised at Fatima). We must also do all we can to abide in charity and humility, which are the indispensable conditions to receive the help guaranteed by Our Lord.

Because of the crisis in the Church, we no longer benefit from the habitual spiritual aids of times past, in particular the facility to go to Mass and receive the sacraments. We must therefore try by other means to develop our interior life, the life of union with the three Divine Persons present in every soul in the state of grace.

Let us set aside each day a time of meditation to better know and love Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is “the way, the truth and the life,” in letting ourselves be guided by the Holy Ghost. Even outside of this time specially reserved for prayer, we must put ourselves habitually under the influence of this divine and invisible “guest” of our soul (“You shall know him, because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you”), in following His inspirations when He invites us to do an act of charity or make a sacrifice. Lastly, it is important to remain in the peace of Jesus, consequence of order and justice in our life, according to the definition of Saint Augustine: “serenity of mind (order in our intelligence), tranquility of soul (order in our passions), simplicity of heart (order in our will), concord with God and neighbor.”

With regard to persecutions, seeing as Jesus warned His Apostles that they would have to suffer from the part of the Jews (something which was particularly painful for them), let us not be surprised if we must suffer at the hands of members of the Church, subject since Vatican II to the influence of the world, that is, the anti-church (Freemasonry, communism, anti-Christian globalism, etc.).[1]

The tribulations inflicted upon us by the world, and the privations we must endure in order to preserve ourselves from its influence, will only serve to sanctify us, to console the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to save sinners, and, in a mysterious way, to prepare the victory of Jesus and His Holy Mother: “Have confidence, I have overcome the world.”

[1] One of the most powerful means the world uses today to kill the divine life in souls, is internet. 90% of youth consult pornographic websites. Regardless of the question of impurity, screens are anti-contemplative, because they captivate the senses and inhibit the noblest operations of the mind: judgment and contemplation. The remedy? : meditative reading.

Community Chronicle

December 22nd: High Mass in thanksgiving for the 800th anniversary of the approbation of the Order of Friars Preachers by the Holy See. “It is a pious and precious tradition of the Order of Preachers, handed down by its earliest historians, that it owes its existence to a special intervention of the Most Holy Virgin with Her divine Son. She had the inspiration; She is its Mother, Patron and Queen. She takes pleasure in calling it “My order”; the sons of Saint Dominic are Her sons, and they vow obedience on the day of their profession to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” (Fr. Langlais O.P.)

December 25th: Christmas. With the help of the seminarians of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort Seminary, we are able to sing the three different Masses of Christmas.

January 15th: This year being the 500th anniversary of the revolt of Martin Luther, presented as a hero by the conciliar church, the Friary begins a series of sermons on the Council of Trent, “the most beautiful and precise synthesis of Christian doctrine in opposition to the errors of Protestantism” (Fr. Jean-Baptiste AUBRY, Cours d’histoire ecclesiastique).

March 7th: Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Bishop Faure celebrates a Pontifical High Mass, during which he confers the tonsure to four seminarians, the orders of porter and lector to Brothers Louis-Bertrand and Agostinho, and the orders of exorcist and acolyte to Brother Alain. Each new step is a deeper participation in the sovereign priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

March 25th: The Annunciation. On this day when Our Lady clothed Our Lord with the “habit” of His humanity, our postulant Godefroy receives the religious habit and the name “Augustin-Marie”.

clip_image004

The new Brother receives the kiss of peace.

April 23rd: Father Marie-Dominique is at Saint Malo-du-Bois to represent the Friary for the habit-taking ceremony of Miss Collins (Ireland) in the Institute of the Sisters of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix.

May 5th-8th: Father Angelico replaces Father Ballini in the south of Ireland for weekend Masses. A public 15-decade Rosary (prayed on every First Saturday in the streets of Cork) was attended by a fervent group of faithful, and accompanied by the distribution of Rosaries and booklets on the message of Fatima. A good initiative to imitate!

May 11th: Father Angelico is in Vienna, Virginia, to represent the Friary at the episcopal consecration of His Excellency Bishop Gerardo Zendejas, and his first Pontifical High Mass the next day.

clip_image006

The four bishops consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the first Pontifical High Mass of Bishop Zendejas

News from our worksites

The project of a new school/parish cafeteria is now officially under way. The architects have submitted the plans, but ground has not yet been broken. This new building will not only be used by the primary school and Boys’ High School, but also for a wide variety of parish activities: (conferences, parish library, sewing room…).

clip_image008

Future cafeteria and parish building

The growing number of students and parishioners has rendered this project necessary due to government safety regulations.

Meanwhile, the architects are still studying the restoration of the two “guard towers” at the Priory (the manor house where the Boys’ School is located). The buildings will be used for classrooms.

These two ambitious projects would be out of the question, were it not for the generosity of our loyal benefactors. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for all your support in the past, and we thank you in advance for your continued help!

For timely articles and spiritual reading, please go to our website:

www.dominicansavrille.us

To send a donation:

YOU MAY USE PAYPAL (ON OUR WEBSITE), OR SEND TO:

In the U.S.:

Dominicans of Avrillé, Inc.
P.O. Box 23, Newman Lake, WA. 99025

In Canada:

Association of St. Dominic

C I B C, 201-21 Street East

Saskatoon (SK) S7K OB8 Canada

Please specify: CAN$: acc. #40-91531

In the U.K.:

Association of St. Dominic

R B S Edinburgh, 17 Comiston Road, Edinburgh EH10 6AA

Please specify: acc. # 00105564

For more information :

Couvent de la Haye-aux-Bonshommes

49240 Avrillé, France

clip_image010

Meditation for Easter time

Meditation for Easter time

The Resurrection of Our Lord

By Fr Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.

He is risen; He is not here! (Mark 16, 6)

image

What transports of unalloyed joy arise within the devout Christian soul when contemplating the glorious mystery of Our Lord’s Resurrection!  How intense the spiritual delight of the faithful members of the Rosary Confraternity in meditating on the beauty, power and majesty of their risen Redeemer:

— They have followed Him in spirit from the moment of His descent from Heaven into the Virgin’s womb, on the morning of the Incarnation.  They have gazed in admiring rapture on the beauty of the human soul of Our Lord, the most perfect work of the Adorable Trinity. They beheld that peerless soul united with the most pure and perfect body formed by the Holy Ghost, not of the slime of the earth, not of the sin-corrupted flesh of Adam, but of the most pure blood of the immaculate heart of Mary. They saw how in that instant the heavens bowed down to the earth, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; the Son of God became the true Son of a Virgin Mother.

— Our dear Rosarians have prayerfully followed Our Lord through each mystery of His sacred life, from the poverty and sufferings of the manger of Bethlehem to the agony and ignominy of His death on Calvary. They have gazed in bitter sorrow of spirit upon the livid face of the Divine Victim, when His beautiful soul separated itself from His mangled body; and they have wept with Mary and the disciples when that adorable body was laid in the silent tomb.  But they well know that His mighty soul yet lives; they firmly believe that both body and soul are still united with the Divinity, and that the seed of immortal life is there, soon to burst forth from the sepulchre in the glory of the Resurrection.

Before proceeding further to meditate upon the details of this marvelous miracle, let us pause to consider for a few moments the joy of our Mother, the Church, on this glorious festival.

How supreme the change that has taken place since the dolor and darkness of Good Friday! Then, the agonized Spouse of Christ was submerged in an ocean of bitter sorrow. Her altars were denuded; her ministers were clothed in the sable garments of mourning; a wail of grief went forth from her bosom, piercing the highest heaven.

Behold the glorious transformation of Easter Sunday! Our weeping Mother has dried her tears and hushed her sighs of grief. Her priests appear in vestments of white and gold; her altars are decked with lovely flowers and flaming lights; her organs peal forth exultant paeans, and, in a very rapture of gladness, she calls upon heaven and earth to join in her song of triumph, repeating again and again her thrilling “Alleluias.”

Nor is the Mater Dolorosa forgotten in those joyful canticles of Easter. Tenderly mindful of the sorrows of Mary, the Church cries to her to rejoice in the golden dawn of the Resurrection: “Regina cœli, lætare,” (she chants), “O Queen of Heaven! rejoice, because He whom thou didst merit to bear, hath risen, as He said. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary! because He is truly risen from the dead!” Yes, Blessed Mother, rejoice and be glad! No longer have hell and Satan power over your adorable Son. He lives and reigns forever, the immortal Conquerer of sin and death, and one day, when your grand work for God and His Church is completed, you shall share everlastingly in the joys of His kingdom!

O sweet and gentle Mother! recalling your profound emotions immediately after the death of your Divine Son, assist us to dwell awhile with you on the action of His adorable soul after its separation from the flesh upon Calvary’s cross. You remember the promise the dying Redeemer made to the poor penitent thief that he would be with Him that day in Paradise (Luke 23. 43). That pledge was faithfully fulfilled.

For lo! the moment the soul of Our Lord passed from its blessed body, it descended into hell, as the Apostles’ Creed puts it; that is, it descended not into the hell of the damned, but into Limbo, the prison of the patriarchs, where all the just were confined who had died during 4000 years. What a vast multitude of elect souls was there, waiting, watching, praying for the long-desired moment that had at last arrived! O what joy to those poor captives to behold the glory and beauty of the soul of their Redeemer, which transformed their prison into a paradise of delights ! How fervently they praised and thanked Him for all He had done and suffered in order to give them release from their place of proba­tion!

But the hour draws near when that glorified soul of Our Lord must return to the sepulchre in the Garden, and awaking His adorable body, give it to share in the glory of the Resurrection.  What tongue or pen of men or angels can describe the rapturous reunion of the body and soul of Our Lord on that blissful Easter morn! Lord Jesus, may our bodies and souls experience a measure of that unutterable joy when they meet again on the last day, the day of our resurrection!  Grant, dear Lord, that then there may be no terrible recrimination between flesh and spirit, each accusing the other of its eternal ruin; but rather a mutual joyous congratulation that soul and body united during life in accomplishing the glorious work of their salvation.

On that first Easter Day, the moment the soul of Our Lord returned to the body, it awakened it from the sleep of death and at once filled it with the infinite happiness of the Beatific Vision, giving it all the properties of glorified bodies in the most exalted and perfect degree. Resplendent to behold in its clarity and incorruptibility, invested with subtility and agility, the glorified body of Our Lord passed swiftly through the granite of the sealed tomb.  He did not need to await the rolling back of the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, which occurred later, to convince the guards of the divinity of the crucified Lord, and to acquaint the devout women and His disciples with the fact that He was no longer there, inasmuch as they could behold the place where they had laid Him.

Our Lord appeared to His Blessed Mother just after His Resurrection, changing her sorrow into intense joy, and giving her in anticipation a share of the glory and happiness that awaited her in Heaven. How sweet and consoling must have been the converse of Our Lord with His Blessed Mother! How she must have thanked and congratulated Him for choosing her to be His companion in the sublime work of the world’s redemption — and for having vouchsafed her a share in His manifold sufferings and sorrows! And how Jesus, in turn, must have thanked His Blessed Mother, and praised and blessed her for all she did and suffered for Him from the moment of His Incarnation to His expiration on the cross! Let us try to picture to ourselves the overflowing rapture of Mary’s immaculate Heart when she beheld the glorified body of her divine Son. She did not go with the devout women when (as the Evangelist tells us) they went very early in the morning to anoint the body of Christ. She well knew that it had no need of the embalming spices or unguents, since it was not destined to molder in the grave. She did not go to visit the tomb on Easter morn with the weeping Magdalen, for she was well aware that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was vacant of its divine Tenant. Already her adorable Son had visited and consoled her. And with what ecstatic joy must she have gazed on those hands and feet, lately so livid and lacerated, now shining as if adorned with dazzling jewels; on that glorified body, so horribly torn by the scourges, now resplendently arrayed with heavenly vesture; on that sacred face, once clouded by blood and bruises, now more brilliant than ten thousand suns, thence diffusing the light of the Lamb, which shall fill the New Jerusalem with ineffable delight, from everlasting to everlasting!

Later on, in that first most wonderful Paschal time, when Our Lord appeared to Magdalen, to the other devout women, to Peter, and to the rest of the disciples, and when He saw that they feared and wavered, He said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See My hands and feet — realize that it is I, Myself. Handle and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have.” He permitted that Thomas should doubt, in order that a more convincing proof of His resurrection might be given, by permitting the incredulous disciple to put his hand in the marks of the wounds still existing in His glorified body. When the disciples saw that it was indeed the Lord, their sorrow was changed into unspeakable joy. They hailed with delight their well-beloved Master, who, having triumphed over death and hell, appears once more among them to console and comfort them, and lovingly to pardon their past defections.

After conversing with them for forty days, He ascended gloriously into Heaven, taking with Him the trophies of His victory — the vast multitude of ransomed souls who were to share through Him and with Him in the glory of His eternal kingdom.

We have spoken to you, dear Rosarians, of the body and soul of our risen Redeemer. But shall we venture to dwell upon the awful subject of His divinity? We know that the adorable Son of God was with the Father from all eternity; and we firmly believe that He did not leave the Father when He descended upon the earth, but that clothing Himself with our humanity, He rendered all its actions of infinite value. He concealed Himself from the eyes of the world in the lowliness and poverty of the manger; but, occasionally, during His mortal career He permitted His divinity to shine forth in His stupendous works. He gave a glimpse of it, though still partially veiled, to His chosen disciples on Mount Thabor. He concealed it during the tragedy of Calvary, for there, for our instruction and example, His poor suffering humanity was forced to cry out in bitter anguish: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But now, at last, all is consummated. The work He came to do is accomplished. He has completed the work His Father gave Him to do. Man has been redeemed; death and hell are conquered, and Jesus seems to say to us to-day, as He said to the disciples in Emmaus: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so enter into His glory?”

But apart from the joy given to Christians in the mystery of the Resurrection, there are other solid causes of rejoicing which we will now briefly consider:

— The Resurrection was the test miracle of the divinity of our Lord. He frequently adduced it in His public life as the strongest proof that He was God. When He drove the money-changers out of His Father’s house, the Jews wanted to know by what authority He did it. He answered: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I shall raise it up again. Put Me to death, and in three days I shall rise again.” Repeatedly He said to His disciples: “Behold! we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of His enemies. They will scourge Him and put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again.” When that obdurate people asked of Him a sign, a proof that He was the Son of God, He said, ” An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, and no sign shall be given it, except the sign of Jonas the prophet; for as Jonas was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so shall it be with the Son of Man. He shall be in the bowels of the earth three days and three nights.”

The Jews well knew of His repeated prophecy, and therefore they did all in their power to defeat its accomplishment. Hence, the Resurrection of the crucified Saviour is the strongest proof of the divinity of our Faith, as well as the divinity of Jesus Christ. “If Christ be not risen, our Faith is in vain,” says St. Paul. And even as from the sleeping Adam his virgin spouse was formed, and given to him for a companion, so, say the Fathers, from the sleeping Christ and from the empty tomb the Church came forth in all her virginal beauty, to be forevermore the Spouse of Jesus-Christ. It was in this faith of the Resurrection that St. Peter performed his first miracle. “Know this,” he said, “that it is in the name of Jesus Christ whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in His name this man stands before you whole!” It was in the name of the crucified and risen Saviour that all the miracles wrought by the Apostles were performed. In the faith of the Resurrection they went forth joyously to labor, to suffer and to die. Seventeen millions of martyrs attested by their blood their faith in the Resurrection. And all that has been done by Christianity for the civilization of the world, for the conversion of nations, for the liberation of slaves, for the elevation of woman, has been accomplished through the faith in the Resurrection.

Besides these general motives for rejoicing in the Resurrection, dear Rosarians, we have each a special one to gladden us. Christ’s Resurrection is the model and the pledge of your resurrection and mine, provided we be found at the last day faithful to our Master. Among all the nations of the earth there has ever existed some sort of belief in a future state. Hence their care for the dead. Hence the Indians’ devotion to the remains of their departed, and their belief in the happy hunting-ground. Hence the funeral pyre, the cremating of the dead, and the gathering of their ashes into urns by the Greeks and Romans. Hence the embalming of bodies among the Egyptians, and the erection of the Pyramids, as the enduring monuments of their kings. In the Old Law, we read of the care of Abraham for the grave of Sarah, the desires of Jacob and Joseph to be interred with their Fathers — all in the hope of a glorious resurrection. Holy Job said: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God, Whom I shall myself see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. This, my hope, is laid up in my bosom.” 4Behold, you who moulder in the dust,” said Isaiah, addressing the dead, “you shall be born again, for the dew which falls on you is vivifying dew.” In a sublime allegory, Ezechiel contemplates a vast plain filled with the dried bones of the dead, which at the preaching of the prophet gradually reentered their mortal bodies, and, beginning to move, being covered with flesh and skin, at last arose, a mighty army of the Lord. Then cried the Almighty through the prophet: ” When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that I am the Lord! ” (Ezechiel 30, 1).

Daniel speaks of the vast multitude who sleep in the earth. All will arise, he says, “some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always. But they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament” (Daniel 12, 2-3). “Behold,” says St. Paul, “I tell you a great mystery; we shall all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible, and this mortal shall put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15, 51).

It is a dogma of our Faith that all shall arise again. Our Apostles’ Creed declares: “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” But, alas, Faith does not promise to all a glorious resurrection. Those who persevere in a life of sin, who persistently despise here below the Church and her teachings, can never hope for a blessed immortality. “Be not deceived,” says St. Paul to the Galatians, “God is not mocked; for what things a man sow, the same shall he reap; for he that soweth in the flesh, of the flesh shall reap corruption; but he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6, 7). Again, he says: “They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh, with Its vices and concupiscences.”  In another place he declares: “Brethren, we are debtors, not to live according to the flesh, for if we live according to the flesh we shall die; but if, by the spirit, we mortify the deeds of the flesh we shall live” (Rom. 8, 13).  Divine Faith, therefore, teaches us that they who continue obstinate enemies of God until the end, will remain His enemies for all eternity. To them we can promise no Easter joy, no glorious resurrection of the body.

You are aware that it is the ardent desire of the Church that all her children who have come to the use of reason should approach the Sacraments during this holy season.  For this, her Lenten service, for this, her sermons and instructions.  She not only desires this, but with all her divine authority she commands it, threatening with awful punishment those who will not comply with her precept.  She declares that they are cut off from the body of the Faithful even as the branch is cut off from the vine.  And Jesus tells us Himself that the fruitless branch cut from the vine is dead, and only fit to be cast into the fire.  Have you all proved your obedience to Jesus Christ by obeying His Church, and approaching the Sacraments with proper dispositions during the Paschal time which she appoints1?   We know the words of Jesus Christ: “He who will not hear the Church, let him be considered as the heathen and the publican.”   And, again, he declares: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you (John 6, 54).

That Is to say, you may have mere animal life, the life of the beast, the life of the infidel, the life of the lost soul (for the soul must live forever), but you will not have that spiritual, that divine life, which alone comes from our union with God.  In the same chapter, Jesus says:  “I am the living Bread that comes down from heaven, that if any man eat of this Bread he may not die, but live forever, and the Bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world. Except you eat of this Bread, you shall not have life in you.”

How sad it is to realize that, notwithstanding all that Jesus has done and suffered to unite Himself to us in Holy Communion, there are Catholics who, refusing the life-giving Sacraments, continue to the end His mortal enemies!  Let us beg our risen Lord to pity these ungrateful souls and draw them to His Sacred Heart.  And, still more, let me implore all the members of the Rosary to be faithful in their compliance with the important precept of the Easter duty.

And, now, a word in conclusion to those who have truly arisen with Our Lord and Saviour by having made a good confession and Communion.

Father Chevassu tells us that there are three typical resurrections mentioned in Holy Writ:  The resurrection of Samuel, of Lazarus, and of Our Lord.

* Samuel rose but for a moment, and sank down again, questioning Saul and the witch of Endor why they had disturbed him.  His was not the real resurrection.  It was a phantom resurrection.

* Lazarus truly rose from the dead, but he came out of the sepulchre in the same sluggish flesh that had already generated the seeds of corruption: and hence death claimed him a second time.

* Jesus Christ died but once, and “death,” says St. Paul, “had no longer dominion over Him (Rom 6, 9).  He rose to live the divine life of immortality.  Behold, here, the model of our spiritual resurrection!  Some Catholics rise out of their sins for a moment only, and this generally at Easter, but, like Samuel, they soon sink back again into their deadly slumber. O thers remain firm for a time, but gradually yield.  Let us, at least, beloved Rosarians, strive to imitate our Blessed Master.  He rose from the dead never to die again.  He was never seen in the company of His enemies after His Resurrection.  As He shunned them in those blessed days, and appeared only to His disciples, so we, having arisen from the grave of sin, should avoid all evil associations and consort only with the friends of God.

This is the sublime lesson which we should learn from this glorious festival . Like our risen Lord, let us, as St. Paul tells us, walk in the newness of life, that when Christ appears we may also appear with Him in glory.  Fleeing resolutely from the occasions of sin as from the face of the serpent, fortified by fervent prayer and the holy Sacraments, let us also gain a glorious victory for God over His enemies and ours.  Let us persevere to the end in divine grace; and, following, like true disciples, in the footprints of Our Lord, we may confidently hope to rise with Him to a new life and rejoice with Him and His Blessed Mother in the abode of the saints for a happy eternity.

(From the book of Fr Charles-Hyacinth McKenna, The Treasures of the Rosary, written 1835 ; edited by New-York, P.J. Kenedy and sons, 1917).