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

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

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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”.

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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.

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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…).

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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

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Dominicans of Avrillé, Inc.
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For more information :

Couvent de la Haye-aux-Bonshommes

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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)

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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).


Meditation for Holy Week

Meditation for Holy Week

The Crucifixion and death of Our Lord

By Fr Charles Hyacinth McKenna O.P.

We now come to consider the last of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and one of the greatest events in the history of our sad and sinful old world.

This mystery, said Bishop Martin of Paderborn, contains, accentuates and consummates the other four Sorrowful Mysteries. It renews the Agony in the garden, reopens the wounds of the flagellation; the crown of thorns is replaced on the head of our Redeemer; the Cross now bears Him who was forced to drag it to Calvary”1

As soon as the doleful procession of that first Good Friday attained the summit of the mountain, Our Lord, faint and weary, was given to drink wine mingled with myrrh and gall.   “But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.”

Then, laying violent hands upon Jesus, His tormentors roughly tore off His garments, to which the flesh of His lacerated body had adhered, thereby reopening all His wounds and causing the blood to flow afresh.  What must have been the confusion of our modest Lord, He who is incarnate purity, to be shamelessly exposed for the second time to the derision of that vast multitude!  Ah, to what profound depths of humiliation did He not descend for our sakes!

Despoiled of His raiment, He was then rudely thrown upon the cross, and four of His inhuman executioners began the work of nailing Him to it.  First, His right hand was fastened to the wood with a rude spike — not a sharp nail, but one blunt and rough, which would mangle and tear the sensitive nerves of the palm of the hand and cause indescribable agony.  The left hand was next seized.  His sacred feet were then nailed to the cross in the same inhuman fashion — and the bloody work of the crucifixion was completed!

The soldiers then gathered around our Blessed Lord to place the cross in position.  Carrying it to the spot which they dug for it in the rock, instead of lowering it gently, they roughly dropped it into the hole, thereby jarring most painfully the whole sacred body, enlarging the wounds in the blessed hands and feet, and causing the precious blood to flow in streams.  His malicious enemies now behold their helpless Victim uplifted in His agony.

Is there no heart among them to regret or condemn this terrible immolation of the sinless Lamb of God?  Ah, no!  Far from being moved to pity for the Just One in His extremity of anguish, the hearts of the spectators seem to grow fiercer and more obdurate, if that be possible.  No word of compassion falls from their lips, but priests and soldiers, alike, vie with one another in mocking and blaspheming Him.

Draw near now, faithful souls, to the foot of the cross, and gazing upon this hideous spectacle of your dying Redeemer, learn the malice of sin, as well as the inexorable justice of God, which exacts for it so tremendous an expiation.  It was our sins rather than the nails which fastened Him to the rough wood of the cross; it was for the secret sins of the world, especially, that He was thus exposed, naked, to the profane gaze of a rude, reviling rabble.

Let us approach still nearer, and catch the faint words which fall from the livid lips of our Blessed Lord in His last agony.  Does He, like other victims of injustice, proclaim His innocence, and call down the maledictions of Heaven upon His persecutors?  Ah, no, very different are the sentiments of the meek and forgiving Son of God!  He becomes, instead, the advocate of His cruel crucifiers before His heavenly Father.  He utters that sublime sentence which should ever find an echo in our hearts and influence our conduct toward those who have done evil to us:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Of the two robbers who were crucified with Him, one was touched by this evidence of divine patience and gentleness, by this tender prayer for mercy for His enemies; and, already believing in Christ’s innocence, by a special grace Dismas, the thief, received faith to believe also in His divinity.  Upbraiding his guilty companion for blaspheming Jesus, he turned to the Master and begged Him to be mindful of him in His kingdom.  In return for this dying act of faith he had the ineffable happiness of hearing from Our Lord’s lips these consoling words:  “This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

In this merciful promise there are grounds of hope for the greatest sinners of the world.  The penitent thief, after a life of sin, finds mercy in his dying moments; yet even here we behold a contrast, a presentation of eternal issues calculated to strike the sinner with fear and trembling.  Of two criminals in like danger of death and damnation, only one was saved!  Reflect well upon this consideration.  Both men had the same Redeemer, dying for the world’s salvation, in their midst.  The precious Blood of Jesus was flowing close to them, ready to ransom their souls.  Both had before them the same example of divine patience; both were offered the grace of the Mediator to do penance — yet one is forever lost; the other saved for all eternity.  Have you not, then, O sinner of to-day! less reason to hope than to fear?  I exhort you, if you desire to secure yourself in so important an affair, hasten your conversion.  Do immediately what the good thief did in his extremity, lest his salvation, which was a miracle of grace, should prove the rock of your destruction, the ordinary chastisement of sinners who forget God during their lives2.

Up to this point, we have said little of the part our Blessed Mother took in Calvary’s tragedy.  Present, as she was, during the fearful fastening of her Son to the tree of shame3, she heard the sound of the hammer driving the rude nails into His sacred hands and feet.  Alas! those violent strokes were as so many cruel blows upon her immaculate heart.  She saw the soldiers raise the cross and drop it roughly into position; she heard the exultant shouts of the multitude as her Son was thus elevated above them the blasphemies that were then uttered by the High Priest and the rabble.  As soon as she saw the soldiers withdraw from the cross, she hastened with her companions to take her position at its foot.

With eyes streaming with tears, she gazes upon the agonized face of her dying Son, upon His brow drenched with blood from the thorny crown, upon His eyes dim with the excess of His pain, upon His pale lips, parched with the consuming thirst attendant on His great loss of blood.  She would give a thousand lives, did she possess them, for the privilege of putting to His lips a draught of cold water to relieve His fevered mouth and throat; but even this poor consolation is denied her.  Jesus knows full well the agonizing desires of her devoted heart; and from His cross He casts upon her a look of tender pity.  It is then that, commending her to the care of St. John, He leaves her as a precious legacy to all His followers until the end of time.  In that supreme moment she becomes, in truth, our Mother, our mediator, our intercessor with her Divine Son.

Soon after this, Our Lord gives expression to the bitterest anguish of His heart in that piteous cry: ” My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me?”  These appealing words reveal to us the secret of His intense agony in the Garden of Gethsemani, of His torments on the cross.  His keenest suffering is caused by His apparent abandonment by His beloved Father.  Unconsoled and unsupported, He is left alone to battle with the powers of earth and hell, at the mercy of the spirits of darkness, only such aid being rendered as is necessary to prolong His life until His sacrifice shall reach its supreme consummation in death.  This is that poignant anguish which draws forth the bitter cry: “My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Now nature, less insensible than man, commences to manifest her horror at the spectacle of a God crucified by His creatures.  The sun begins to withdraw its light from the heavens; an awe-inspiring pall of darkness settles down upon that blood-stained city.  Violent convulsions of the earth are felt; Calvary’s rocks are rent; the veil of the Temple, which hides the Holy of Holies from the gaze of the people, is torn asunder, and the dead arise from their graves and appear to many.

The vast multitude on Calvary, who have gathered there to gloat over the death agony of their innocent Victim, hasten to leave that dreadful scene.  Hushed now are the blasphemies, the imprecations, the mockeries of the rabble!  In terror and confusion, they flee over the quaking ground through a darkness which has now grown intense and awful.  A horrible fear assails them.  May we not believe that they then began to realize the enormity of their crime, and feeling that they were indeed guilty of deicide, were moved to exclaim with Longinus: ” Indeed, this was the Son of God!” (Mark xv. 39.)

Only a few remained to witness the end of the great tragedy.  And now the afflicted Mother and her faithful attendants draw nearer to the cross whereon hangs the world’s Redeemer.  Again is heard the voice of the dying Saviour: “All is consummated.”  Having commended His soul to His heavenly Father, He yielded up His spirit.

A little later, the centurion pierced Our Lord’s dead body with a lance, and from the wound there issued forth water and blood, thus testifying that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the ever-flowing fountain of divine love and mercy, was opened to all mankind.

Still later, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took down His sacred body and placed it for a few moments in the arms of His afflicted Mother.  Poor Mother! with what looks of silent agony you gazed on the mangled body of your adorable Son!  Removing the cruel crown of thorns from His blessed brow, Mary placed it, with the sacred nails, in her heaving bosom, close to her immaculate heart.

Not long after, the dead Christ was removed by Joseph of Arimathea and laid “in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock.” (Matt, xxvii. 60.)  A great stone was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, and Joseph went his way, leaving Mary Magdalen and the other Mary sitting beside the tomb.

Thus ends the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery.  Here, at the door of Christ’s sepulcher, let us kneel with these holy women and ask of our crucified Lord the grace to bear our crosses unto death in meek resignation to His adorable will.  Let us resolve to be ever faithful to His teachings and commandments — to follow closely in His footsteps up the bloodstained mountain of self-sacrifice, and, having died with Him upon Golgotha, merit one day to rise with Him to a happy and glorious eternity.

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


Practice of Christian Mortification – Part 2 (of 2)

Practice of Christian Mortification – Part 2 (of 2)

by Cardinal Mercier

(continued)

Mortifications to practice in our exterior actions

1 — You ought to show the greatest exactitude in observing all the points of your rule of life, obeying them without delay, remembering Saint John Berchmans, who said: “Penance for me is to lead the common life”; “To have the highest regard for the smallest things, such is my motto”; “Rather die than break a single rule.”

2 —In the exercise of your duties of state, try to be well-pleased with whatever happens to be most unpleasant or boring for you, recalling again here the words of Saint Francis: “I am never better than when I am not well.”

3 — Never give one moment over to sloth: from morning until night keep busy without respite.

4 — If your life is, at least partly, spent in study, apply to yourself this advice from Saint Thomas Aquinas to his pupils: “Do not be content to take in superficially what you read and hear, but endeavour to go into it deeply and to fathom the whole sense of it.  Never remain in doubt about what you could know with certainty.  Work with a holy eagerness to enrich your mind; arrange and classify in your memory all the knowledge you are able to acquire.  On the other hand, do not seek to penetrate mysteries which are beyond your intelligence.”

5 — Devote yourself solely to your present occupation, without looking back on what went before or anticipating in thought what will follow.  Say with Saint Francis: “While I am doing this I am not obliged to do anything else”; “let us make haste very calmly; all in good time.”

6 — Be modest in your bearing.  Nothing was so perfect as Saint Francis’s deportment; he always kept his head straight, avoiding alike the inconstancy which turns it in all directions, the negligence which lets it droop forward and the proud and haughty disposition which throws it back.  His countenance was always peaceful, free from all annoyance, always cheerful, serene and open; without however any merriment or indiscreet humour, without loud, immoderate or too frequent laughter.

He was as composed when alone as in a large gathering. He did not cross his legs, never supported his head on his elbow. When he prayed he was motionless as a statue. When nature suggested to him he should relax, he did not listen.

7 — Regard cleanliness and order as a virtue, uncleanness and untidyness as a vice; do not have dirty, stained or torn clothes. On the other hand, regard luxury and worldliness as a greater vice still. Make sure that, on seeing your way of dressing, nobody calls it “slovenly” or “elegant”, but that everybody is bound to think it “decent”.

Mortifications to practice in our relations with our neighbour

1 — Bear with your neighbour’s defects; defects of education, of mind, of character. Bear with everything about him which irritates you: his gait, his posture, tone of voice, accent, or whatever.

2 — Bear with everything in everybody and endure it to the end and in a Christian spirit. Never with that proud patience which makes one say: “What have I to do with so and so? How does what he says affect me? What need have I for the affection, the kindness or even the politeness of any creature at all and of that person in particular?” Nothing accords less with the will of God than this haughty unconcern, this scornful indifference; it is worse, indeed, than impatience.

3 — Are you tempted to be angry?  For the love of Jesus, be meek.

To avenge yourself?  Return good for evil; it is said the great secret of touching Saint Teresa’s heart was to do her a bad turn.

To look sourly at someone?  Smile at him with good nature.

To avoid meeting him?  Seek him out willingly.

To talk badly of him?  Talk well of him.

To speak harshly to him?  Speak very gently, warmly, to him.

4 — Love to give praise to your companions, especially those you are naturally most inclined to envy.

5 — Do not be witty at the expense of charity.

6 — If somebody in your presence should take the liberty of making remarks which are rather improper, or if someone should hold conversations likely to injure his neighbour’s reputation, you may sometimes rebuke the speaker gently, but more often it will be better to divert the conversation skillfully, or indicate by a gesture of sorrow or of deliberate inattention that what is said displeases you.

7 — It costs you an effort to render a small service: offer to do it.  You will have twice the merit.

8 — Avoid with horror posing as a victim in your own eyes or those of others.  Far be it from you to exaggerate your burdens; strive to find them light; they are so, in reality, much more often than it seems; they would be so always if you were more virtuous.

Conclusion

In general, know how to refuse to nature what she asks of you unnecessarily.

Know how to make her give what she refuses you for no reason.  Your progress in virtue, says the author of The Imitation of Christ, will be in proportion to the violence that you succeed in doing to yourself.

“It is necessary to die,” said the saintly Bishop of Geneva, “it is necessary to die in order that God may live in us, for it is impossible to achieve the union of the soul with God by any means other than by mortification.  These words ‘it is necessary to die’ are hard, but they will be followed by a great sweetness, because one dies to oneself for no other reason than to be united to God by that death.”   

Would to God we had the right to apply to ourselves these beautiful words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians:  “In all things we suffer tribulation… Always bearing about in our body the death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.” (II Cor 4:8-10)

Practice of Christian Mortification

Practice of Christian Mortification

by Cardinal Mercier

N.B.: All the practices of mortification which we have collected here are derived from the examples of the saints, especially Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Teresa, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint John Berchmans; or they are recommended by acknowledged masters of the spiritual life, such as the Venerable Louis de Blois, Rodriguez, Scaramelli, Msgr Gay, Abbé Allemand, Abbé Hamon, Abbé Dubois, etc…

Mortification of the body

1 — In the matter of food, restrict yourself as far as possible to simple necessity. Consider these words which Saint Augustine addressed to God: “O my God, Thou hast taught me to take food only as a remedy. Ah! Lord, who is there among us who does not sometimes exceed the limit here? If there is such a one, I say that man is great, and must give great glory to Thy name.” (Confessions, book X, ch. 31)

2— Pray to God often, pray to God daily to help you by His grace so that you do not overstep the limits of necessity and do not permit yourself to give way to pleasure.

3— Take nothing between meals, unless out of necessity or for the sake of convenience.

4— Practise fasting and abstinence, but practise them only under obedience and with discretion.

5— It is not forbidden for you to enjoy some bodily satisfaction, but do so with a pure intention, giving thanks to God.

6— Regulate your sleep, avoiding in this all faint-heartedness, all softness, especially in the morning. Set an hour, if you can, for going to bed and getting up, and keep strictly to it.

7— In general, take your rest only in so far as it is necessary; give yourself generously to work, not sparing your labour. Take care not to exhaust your body, but guard against indulging it; as soon as you feel it even a little disposed to play the master, treat it at once as a slave.

8— If you suffer some slight indisposition, avoid being a nuisance to others through your bad mood; leave to your companions the task of complaining for you; for yourself, be patient and silent as the Divine Lamb who has truly borne all our weaknesses.

9— Guard against making the slightest illness a reason for dispensation or exemption from your daily schedule. “One must detest like the plague every exception when it comes to rules,” wrote Saint John Berchmans.

10 —Accept with docility, endure humbly, patiently and with perseverance, the tiresome mortification called illness.

Mortification of the senses, of the imagination and the passions

1 — Close your eyes always and above all to every dangerous sight, and even – have the courage to do it – to every frivolous and useless sight. See without looking; do not gaze at anybody to judge of their beauty or ugliness.

2—Keep your ears closed to flattering remarks, to praise, to persuasion, to bad advice, to slander, to uncharitable mocking, to indiscretions, to ill-disposed criticism, to suspicions voiced, to every word capable of causing the very smallest coolness between two souls.

3 — If the sense of smell has something to suffer due to your neighbour’s infirmity or illness, far be it from you ever to complain of it; draw from it a holy joy.

4 — In what concerns the quality of food, have great respect for Our Lord’s counsel: “Eat such things as are set before you.”   “Eat what is good without delighting in it, what is bad without expressing aversion to it, and show yourself equally indifferent to the one as to the other. There,”says Saint Francis de Sales, “is real mortification.”

5 — Offer your meals to God; at table impose on yourself a tiny penance: for example, refuse a sprinkling of salt, a glass of wine, a sweet, etc.; your companions will not notice it, but God will keep account of it.

6— If what you are given appeals to you very much, think of the gall and the vinegar given to Our Lord on the cross: that cannot keep you from tasting, but will serve as a counterbalance to the pleasure.

7— You must avoid all sensual contact, every caress in which you set some passion, by which you look for passion, from which you take a joy which is principally of the senses.

8— Refrain from going to warm yourself, unless this is necessary to save you from being unwell.

9— Bear with everything which naturally grieves the flesh, especially the cold of winter, the heat of summer, a hard bed and every inconvenience of that kind. Whatever the weather, put on a good face; smile at all temperatures. Say with the prophet: “Cold, heat, rain, bless ye the Lord.” It will be a happy day for us when we are able to say with a good heart these words which were familiar to Saint Francis de Sales: “I am never better than when I am not well.”

10— Mortify your imagination when it beguiles you with the lure of a brilliant position, when it saddens you with the prospect of a dreary future, when it irritates you with the memory of a word or deed which offended you.

11— If you feel within you the need to day-dream, mortify it without mercy.

12— Mortify yourself with the greatest care in the matter of impatience, of irritation, or of anger.

13— Examine your desires thoroughly; submit them to the control of reason and of faith:  Do you never desire a long life rather than a holy life, wish for pleasure and well-being without trouble or sadness, victory without battle, success without setbacks, praise without criticism, a comfortable, peaceful life without a cross of any sort – a that is to say, a life quite opposite to that of Our Divine Lord?

14—Take care not to acquire certain habits which, without being positively bad, can become injurious, such as habits of frivolous reading, of playing at games of chance, etc..

15— Seek to discover your predominant failing and, as soon as you have recognised it, pursue it all the way to its last retreat. To that purpose, submit with good will to whatever could be monotonous or boring in the practice of the examination of conscience.

16— You are not forbidden to have a heart and to show it, but be on your guard against the danger of exceeding due measure.  Resist attachments which are too natural, particular friendships and all softness of the heart.

Mortification of the mind and of the will

1— Mortify your mind by denying it all fruitless imaginings, all ineffectual or wandering thoughts which waste time, dissipate the soul, and render work and serious things distasteful.

2— Every gloomy and anxious thought should be banished from your mind. Concern about all that could happen to you later on should not worry you at all. As for the bad thoughts which bother you in spite of yourself, you should, in dismissing them, make of them a subject for patience.  Being involuntary, they will simply be for you an occasion of merit.

3—Avoid obstinacy in your ideas, stubbornness in your sentiments. You should willingly let the judgments of others prevail, unless there is a question of matters on which you have a duty to give your opinion and speak out.

4— Mortify the natural organ of your mind, which is to say the tongue. Practise silence gladly, whether your rule prescribes it for you or whether you impose it on yourself of your own accord.

5— Prefer to listen to others rather than to speak yourself; and yet speak appropriately, avoiding as extremes both speaking too much, which prevents others from telling their thoughts, and speaking too little, which suggests a hurtful lack of interest in what they say.

6— Never interrupt somebody who is speaking and do not forestall, by answering too swiftly, a question he would put to you.

7— Always have a moderate tone of voice, never abrupt or sharp.  Avoid exaggeration, as being horrible.

(To be continued)