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 Sermons for All the Sundays in the year  St. Alphonsus M. Liguori

 

 

 

Translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus M. Liguori

Bishop of St. Agatha and Founder of the Congregation of The Most Holy Redeemer.

By the late Very Rev. Nicholas Callan, D.D., Roman Catholic College, Maynooth.

Eighth Edition. Dublin, James Duffy & Sons, 15 Wellington Quay; and London, 1 Paternoster Row. 1882. Dublin.

 

Protestation....2

Instructions to Preachers....2

Sermon I. First Sunday of Advent. - On the General Judgment....8

Sermon II. Second Sunday of Advent. - On the Advantages of Tribulations....12

Sermon III. Third Sunday of Advent. - On the Means Necessary for Salvation....17

Sermon IV. Fourth Sunday of Advent. - On the Love of Jesus Christ for Us, and on Our

                Obligations to Love Him.... 20

Sermon V. Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity. - In What True Wisdom Consists.... 23

Sermon VI. Malice of Mortal Sin....27

Sermon VII. Second Sunday after the Epiphany. - On the Confidence with Which

                We Ought to Recommend Ourselves to the Mother of  God....31

Sermon VIII Third Sunday after the Epiphany. - On the Remorse of the Damned.... 36

Sermon IX. Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. - Dangers to Eternal Salvation.... 39

Sermon X. Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. - On the Pains of Hell....43

Sermon XI. Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. - On the Death of the Just....47

Sermon XII. Septuagesima Sunday. - On the Importance of Salvation....53

Sermon XIII-Sexagesima Sunday. - On the Unhappy Life of Sinners, And On the

                Happy Life of Those Who Love God....56

Sermon XIV. Quinquagesima Sunday. - Delusions of Sinners....60

Sermon XV. First Sunday of Lent. - On The Number Of Sins Beyond, Which

                God Pardons No   More....63

Sermon XVI. Second Sunday of Lent. - On Heaven....67

Sermon XVII Third Sunday in Lent. - On Concealing Sins in Confession....71

Sermon XVIII. Fourth Sunday of Lent. - On The Tender Compassion, Which Jesus Christ Entertains Towards Sinners....74

Sermon XIX. Passion Sunday. - On the Danger to Which Tepidity Exposes the Soul....78

Sermon XX. Palm Sunday. - On the Evil Effects of Bad Habits....82

Sermon XXI. Easter Sunday. - On the Miserable State of Relapsing Sinners....86

Sermon XXII. First Sunday after Easter. - On Avoiding the Occasions of Sin....90

Sermon XXIII. Second Sunday after Easter. - On Scandal.... 94

Sermon XXIV. Third Sunday after Easter. - On the Value of Time...98

Sermon XXV. Fourth Sunday after Easter. - On Obedience to Your Confessor....102

Sermon XXVI. Fifth Sunday after Easter. - On the Conditions of Prayer....107

Sermon XXVII. Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Or the Sunday within the

                Octave of the Ascension. - On Human Respect....111

Sermon XXVIII. Pentecost Sunday. - On Conformity to the Will of God....115

Sermon XXIX. Trinity Sunday. - On the Love of the Three Divine Persons for Man....119

Sermon XXX. First Sunday after Pentecost. - On Charity to Our Neighbor....124

Sermon XXXI. Second Sunday after Pentecost. - On Holy Communion....129

Sermon XXXII. Third Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Mercy of God Towards Sinners....133

 

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Sermon XXXIII. Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. - Death Is Certain and Uncertain....137

Sermon XXXIV. Fifth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Sin of Anger....142

Sermon XXXV. Sixth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Vanity of the World....147

Sermon XXXVI. Seventh Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Education of Children....151

Sermon XXXVII. Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Particular Judgment. .....156

Sermon XXXVIII. Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Death of the Sinner....161

Sermon XXXIX. Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Efficacy and Necessity of Prayer....165

Sermon XL. Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Vice of Speaking Immodestly....169

Sermon XLI. Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Abuse of Divine Mercy....172

Sermon XLII. Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On Avoiding Bad Company....177

Sermon XLIII. Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost. - All Ends, And Soon Ends....180

Sermon XLIV. Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On The Practical Death, or

On What Ordinarily Happens at the Death of Men of the World....184

Sermon XLV. Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On Impurity....190

Sermon XLVI. Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Love of God....195

Sermon XLVII. Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On Bad Thoughts....200

Sermon XLVIII. Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Pain of Loss Which the Damned Suffer in Hell....205

Sermon XLIX. Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Predominant Passion....209

Sermon L. Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost. - On the Eternity of Hell....214

Sermon LI. Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost. - Straits and Anguish of Dying Christians Who Have Been Negligent During Life about the Duties of Religion....218

Sermon LII. Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost. - On Impenitence....223

Sermon LIII. Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. - On Blasphemy....228

 

Object of the work.

 

The present work is entitled, Abridged Sermons for All the Sundays in the year .  They are called Abridged Sermons, because, although each contains abundant matter for a sermon, the sentiments are briefly expressed not, however, so briefly as to render the sense obscure. Hence, the work may be used for spiritual lectures. Diffuseness has been purposely avoided, that the preacher may extend the subject treated in the way, which may appear best to him. A preacher will scarce ever deliver, with zeal and warmth, sentiments which he has not made in some manner his own. Hence, the matter of each sermon has been condensed into a small compass, that the preacher may extend it according to his pleasure, and thus make it his own. In each sermon there are many passages from the Scriptures and Holy Fathers, and a variety of reflections perhaps too many for a single discourse that the reader may select what will be most pleasing to him. The style is easy and simple, and therefore calculated to render the preaching of the Divine Word conducive to the salvation of souls.

 

Protestation.

 

In obedience to the decrees of Urban VIII, I protest that, of the miraculous works and gifts ascribed in this work to certain servants of God, and not already approved by the Holy See, I claim no other belief than that which is ordinarily given to history resting on mere human authority; and that in bestowing the title of Saint or Blessed, on any person not canonized or beatified by the Church, I only intend to do it according to the usage and opinion of men.

 

Instructions to Preachers.

 

1. In the first place, the preacher, if he wishes that his preaching shall produce abundant fruit, should propose to himself the proper end that is, to preach, not with a view to obtain honor, or applause, or any temporal advantage, but solely to gain souls to God; and Hence, it is necessary, that when he enters upon his exalted office of divine ambassador, he should

 

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pray to God fervently to inflame his heart with his holy love; because it is by this means that his preaching will be productive of much fruit. The venerable Father John D’ Avila being once asked, what was most conducive to wards preaching well, replied in those short but expressive words” To love Jesus Christ well” It has been therefore found by experience, that preachers who love Jesus Christ have often effected more by a single discourse, than others by several.

 

2. St. Thomas of Villanova said that the words of a sermon should be like so many darts of fire, which would wound and inflame the hearers with divine love. “But how,” he subjoined, “can the heart be set on fire by those sermons which, through long and elaborate, issue, notwithstanding, from a frozen heart?” St. Francis de Sales observes, that the tongue speaks to the ear, but the heart speaks to the heart. He proceeds to say, that when the sentiments do not spring from the heart of the preacher, it is with difficulty they draw the hearts of others to divine love; he must himself be first inflamed with it. “Lampades ejus lampades ignis, atque flammarum.” (Cant. 8:6). He must be first a fire to burn, and afterwards a flame to set others on fire. St. Bernard explained this in other terms, when he said, that he must be first a cistern, and then a canal; first a cistern that is, full of the fervor and zeal which are collected in mental prayer; and then a canal, to communicate it to others.

 

3. With regard to the subject matter of sermons. Those subjects should be selected, which move most powerfully to detest sin and to love God. Hence, the preacher should often speak of the last things of death, of judgment, of Hell, of Heaven, and of eternity. According to the advice of the Holy Spirit, “Memorare novissima tua, et in æternum non peccabis,” (Sir. 7:40), it is particularly useful often to make mention of death, by delivering several discourses on that subject during the year , speaking at one time on the uncertainty of death, which terminates all the pleasures as well as all the afflictions of this life; at another, on the uncertainty of the time at which death may arrive; now, on the unhappy death of the sinner; and again, on the happy death of the just.

 

4. The preacher should often speak of the love, which Jesus Christ bears towards us, of the love, which we should bear to Jesus Christ, and of the confidence we should have in his mercy whenever we are resolved to amend our lives. It would appear that some preachers do not know how to speak of anything but the justice of God, terrors, threats, and chastisements. There is no doubt but that terrifying discourses are of use to arouse sinners from the sleep of sin; but we should be persuaded at the same time, that those who abstain from sin solely through the fear of punishment, will with difficulty persevere for a long time. Love is that golden link which binds the soul to God, and makes it faithful in repelling temptation and practicing virtue. St. Augustine said, “Ama et fac quod vis.” He who truly loves God, flies from everything displeasing to Him, and seeks to please Him to the utmost of his power. And here let us cite that remarkable saying of St. Francis de Sales, “The love that does not spring from the passion of Christ is weak.” By this the saint gives us to understand that the passion of Christ moves us most effectually to love him. 

 

5. Thus, it is very useful, and most conducive to inspire the love of God, to speak to sinners of the confidence which we should have in Jesus Christ if we abandon sin. “Viam mandatorum, tuorum cucurri, cum dilatasti cor meum” (Ps, 118:32). When the heart is dilated with confidence it easily runs in the way of the Lord. In like manner the preacher should often

 

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speak of the confidence, which we should have in the intercession of the Mother of God. Besides the discourses delivered during the course of the year , on the principal festivals of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Annunciation, the Assumption, her Patronage, and her Sorrow. Let him oftentimes, in his addresses to the people, inculcate upon the minds of his auditors devotion to the Mother of God. Some preachers have a very laudable custom of introducing into every sermon something regarding the Blessed Virgin, either by relating some example of graces bestowed on her clients, or of some act of homage performed by her votaries, or some prayer which we should offer to her.

 

6. Moreover, the preacher should often speak of the means by which we are preserved in the grace of God, such as, fleeing dangerous occasions and wicked companions, frequenting the sacraments, and especially recommending ourselves often to God and the Virgin Mother, in order to obtain the graces necessary for salvation, and principally the graces of perseverance and of the love of Jesus Christ, without which we cannot be saved.

 

7. The preacher should likewise often speak against bad confessions, in which sins are concealed through shame. This is an evil not of rare occurrence, but frequent, especially in small country districts, which consigns innumerable souls to hell. Hence, it is very useful to mention, from time to time, some example of souls that were damned by willfully concealing sins in confession.

 

8. We shall now speak briefly of the parts of a discourse, which are nine, the exordium, the proposition, the division, the introduction, the proof, the confutation, the amplification, the peroration or conclusion, the epilogue, and the appeal to the passions. These are again reduced to three principal divisions, 1 the exordium; 2 the proof, which comprises the introduction that precedes, and the confutation of the opposite arguments, that follows it; 3 the peroration or conclusion, which comprises the epilogue, the moral exhortation, and the appeal to the passions. To the exordium rhetoricians assign seven parts, the introduction, general proposition, confirmation, repetition of the proposition, connection, particular proposition, and division. But, commonly speaking, the substantial parts of the exordium are three, 1 the general proposition; 2 the connection or the link by which it is connected with the particular proposition; 3 the particular proposition, or the principal one of the discourse, which includes the division of the points. For example, 1 “We must work out our salvation, because there is no alternative, whosoever is not saved is damned; that is the general proposition." 2 “But, to be saved, we must die a happy death, that is the connection or application." 3 “But it is exceedingly difficult to die a happy death after a wicked life,” and that is the particular proposition, or principal one of the discourse, which ought to be clear, concise, and, simple, and, at the same time, one; otherwise, if unity be not observed in the proposition, it would not be one sermon, but several; and, therefore, the points into which the discourse is divided ought all tend to prove one single proposition. For example, “The person who is addicted to a bad habit is with difficulty saved, because the bad habit (1) darkens the understanding, (2) hardens the heart,” and these will be the two points of the discourse. Let the points be short and few, not exceeding two, or, at most, three; and sometimes a single point will be sufficient. For example, “Mortal sin is a great evil, because it is an injury done to God;” or, “He who abuses too much the mercy of God will be abandoned by Him” 

 

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9. With regard to the body of the discourse, and, in the first place, the proof, it ought to be a perfect syllogism, but without appearing to be so. The major proposition should be proved before we pass to the minor; and the minor before we pass to the conclusion. This, however, is to be understood when the major or minor proposition requires proof, otherwise, when they express truths already known and certain, it is sufficient to amplify, without proving them.

 

10. As far as regards the order of the proofs, generally speaking, the authority of the Scriptures and of the Holy Fathers should be first adduced; then the arguments from reason; and afterwards the illustrations and examples. The texts of Scripture should be cited in an impressive and emphatic manner. It is better than to dwell on the exposition of one or two texts of Scripture than to cite many at once, without considering well their import. The citations from the Fathers should be few and brief, and containing some sentiment that is strong and animated, and not trivial. After the citations, the arguments from reason should be adduced; concerning which, some assert that the weaker reasons should be adduced in the first place, and then the stronger; but I am disposed to adopt the opinion of others, who think it better that the strong arguments should be advanced; and that the weaker ones should occupy the middle place; because, were a weak argument adduced in the commencement, it might make a bad impression on the minds of the auditors. After the arguments from reason come the examples and illustrations. I have said that this arrangement should be observed ordinarily; but, occasionally, it will be of use to give some one of the aforementioned proofs precedence of the others, this must be left to the discretion of the preacher.

 

11. Care should be taken that the transition from one point to the other be made naturally without passing from one thing to another that has no relation to it. The most ordinary and easiest modes are these, “Let us proceed to the other point, etc;" or “Thus, after having seen,” etc. And passing from one argument to another, you may say, “Besides, we should consider,” etc., taking care, as far as it is possible, that the last part of the preceding argument has some connection with the following point or argument.

 

12. We have spoken of proofs. As far as regards the amplification of proofs, one is verbal, which consists in words; another is real, which may consist either in climax; for example, “It is a virtue to suffer tribulations with patience a greater virtue to desire them; it is a greater still to take delight in them;” or it may be borrowed from the circumstances of the subject, or from comparison with another subject of equal or lesser consideration. The morals have their proper place, as we shall remark in the peroration. It is, however, occasionally allowed, after a satisfactory proof has been adduced, to address a short exhortation; and this is particularly the case in the sermons of the Mission, in which the audience is generally composed of rude, uneducated persons, on whom moral exhortation makes more impression; but these moral exhortations that are incidentally introduced should not be too long or too frequent, so as to render the discourse tedious or languid.

 

13. The peroration contains three parts the epilogue, the moral exhortation, and the appeal to the passions. The epilogue is a recapitulation of the discourse, in which the most convincing arguments that have been already advanced are repeated, but which must be handled with a view to the movement of the passions, which is to follow; Hence, the preacher, in his recapitulation, should commence to move the passions.

 

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14. As to the moral exhortation, it may be observed, that oftentimes the principal fruit of the sermon consists, especially in discourses addressed to the people, in explaining the moral truths suitable to the subject of the discourse, with propriety and earnestness. The preacher, therefore, should take care to speak against the most prevalent vices, viz., hatred, impurity, blasphemy; against evil occasions, wicked companions; against parents who allow their children to hold intercourse with persons of different sex; and especially against mothers who invite young men into their houses to converse with their daughters. Let him also exhort the heads of families to remove from their houses bad books, and particularly novels, which insinuate a secret poison that corrupts youth. Let him speak against games of hazard, which are the ruin of families and of souls.

 

15. In a word, let the preacher endeavor, in his sermons, always to insinuate whatever he can that is practical that is, the remedies of the different vices; the means of persevering in a virtuous life; such as, to flee dangerous occasions and bad company; to offer violence to one’s self in motions of anger, so as not to break out into injurious actions or words; by suggesting to the hearers some form of expression, to avoid blasphemies or imprecations; for example, “Lord, give me patience!” “Virgin Mary, assist me!” and the like. Let him recommend the people to hear Mass every morning, to read every day some spiritual book; every morning to renew the resolutions of not offending God, and to ask the Divine assistance in order to persevere; to make each day a visit to the most holy sacrament and the Blessed Virgin, in some representation of her, each evening to make the examination of conscience, with an act of sorrow; after having committed a sin, immediately to make an act of contrition, and to confess it as soon as possible, above all, let him recommend his hearers to have recourse to God and to the Blessed Virgin in the time of temptation, by repeating oftentimes the name of Jesus and Mary, and continuing to invoke their aid until the temptation ceases. Those means and remedies should be often repeated by the preacher, and recommended frequently in the course of his sermons; and he must not be deterred by the apprehension of being criticized by some learned person, who may remark that the preacher repeated the same things. In preaching we must not seek the applause of the learned, but the divine approbation and the advantages of souls, and particularly of poor ignorant persons, who do not profit so much by thoughts and arguments, as by those easy practices which are suggested and repeated to them. I say repeated, since those rude and unlettered persons will easily forget what they hear, unless it is oftentimes repeated to them.

 

16. Let young preachers also take care to develop, and to commit to memory, their sermons, before they deliver them from the pulpit. To preach extempore is useful, inasmuch as the discourse becomes thus more natural and familiar; this, however, is not the case with young men, but only with those who have been in the habit of preaching for many years; otherwise, young men would contract a habit of speaking without preparation, and of preaching at random, saying whatever occurred to them, without any order or arrangement. However, young preachers should take care to develop their sermons, not in the florid style of elaborate expression, lofty thoughts, and sounding periods. Read the golden treatise on popular eloquence by the celebrated scholar, Louis Muratori; in which he proves that all sermons addressed to an audience composed of learned and unlearned, ought to be not only familiar, but also popular; composed in an easy and simple style, such as the people are in the habit of using; avoiding, however, all low and vulgar expressions, which are not suited to the dignity

 

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of the pulpit “The people,” says Muratori, “are composed for the most part of the ignorant; if you address to them abstruse doctrines and reflections, and use words and phrases that are not adapted to ordinary comprehensions, what fruit do you hope for from persons who do not understand you? Wherefore, the practice of those preachers will never be conformable to the rules of the art, or the principles of genuine eloquence, who, instead of accommodating themselves to the limited capacity of so many of their hearers, appear to study to make themselves intelligible to the learned only; as if they were ashamed to make themselves understood by the poor, who have as good a right to the word of God as the learned. Nay more, a Christian preacher is bound to each one of his auditory in particular, as if there were no other who heard him. He who employs lofty reasoning, and is not careful to make himself understood by all, betrays the cause of God and his own duty, and disregards the spiritual necessities of a great portion of his audience.” Hence, the Council of Trent prescribes to all parish priests, to compose their discourses in a manner adapted to the capacity of their audience, “Archipresbyteri et parochi per se vel alios idoneos, plebes sibi commissas pro earum capacitate pascant salutaribus verbis” (Sess. 5. cap. 1. de Reform).

 

17. St. Francis de Sales said, that select language and sounding periods are the bane of sacred eloquence; and the principal reason of this is, that sermons composed in this style have not the divine sanction and concurrence. They may be of use to the learned, but not to the illiterate, who generally constitute the principal part of every audience. On the other hand, sermons composed in a familiar style are useful to the illiterate as well as to the learned. Muratori adds, that when the preacher addresses the humbler classes alone, or country people, he ought to make use of the most popular and familiar style possible, in order to accommodate himself to the gross understanding of such ignorant persons. He says, that the preacher, when speaking to those rude people, should imagine himself to be one of them, who was desirous to persuade a companion of something; that, on this account also, the periods of sermons addressed to the common people should be concise and broken, so that whoever has not caught the meaning of the first sentence, may be able to comprehend the second; which cannot be done when the sentences are long and connected; for then, whoever does not understand the first period will not understand the second nor the third.

 

18. Muratori also observes, that, in preaching to the people, it is very useful to make frequent use of the figure called antiphora; by which a question is asked, and replied to by the speaker. For example, “Tell me why so many sinners relapse, after confession, into the same sins?” I will tell you, because they do not remove the dangerous occasions of sin. It is also useful oftentimes to call on the auditory to attend to what is said, and especially to certain things that are more important. For example, “O good God! You come to us in order to save us, and we fly from you to destroy ourselves.” It is useful likewise to repeat with emphasis some striking maxim of religion; as, for example, “There is no alternative, sooner or later we must die;” or, “My brethren, it is certain that, after this life, we must be eternally happy, or eternally miserable." 

 

19. I do not enlarge more on this subject, which I deem most important, as I have found it necessary to write more at length on it in a letter of apology, which I published in reply to a religious who censured me for approving of sermons composed in a simple and popular style. I there premised in a sufficient manner whatever Muratori has observed on this subject, and subjoined what the Holy Fathers have written on it, as far as I was able to discover. I

 

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pray the reader not to omit to read this letter, it is an uncommon little treatise, which contains matter not treated by any preceding writer.

 

20. I do not, however, deem it right to omit to say something on the modulation of the voice, and on the gesture, which should be used in preaching. As far as regards the voice, the preacher should avoid speaking in an inflated tone, or in a monotonous and invariably loud tone of voice. What moves and engages the attention of the hearers is, to speak at one time in a strong, at another time in a middle voice, and at another in a low voice, according as it suits the sentiment that is expressed, but without any sudden or violent fall or elevation; now to exclaim; now to pause; and now to resume with a sigh. This variety of tone and manner keeps the audience always attentive.

 

21. The preacher should avoid gesture that is affected, or oftentimes repeated in the same form, or too vehement, with much agitation of the body. The arms should be moved with moderation, ordinarily the right hand should be used; the left but seldom. The hands should not be raised above the head, nor too much extended sideways, nor held too confined. In delivering the exordium the preacher should remain stationery, and should not move from a middle position in the pulpit, in delivering the first sentence he should not use gesture; in the second, he should only commence to move the right hand, keeping the left resting on the pulpit or the breast. Let him take care not to keep the arms attached close to the sides, or to raise them both at the same time in form of a cross, or throw them behind the shoulders. He must rarely strike them against each other or against the pulpit, to stamp the feet is very unbecoming. The motion of the head should correspond with that of the hand, accompanying it in the direction in which, it moves. It is a fault to twist the head, or move it too often or too violently, or to hold it always raised, or always inclined upon the breast. The eyes ought to accompany the motion of the head; Hence,  it is a fault to keep them always closed or cast downwards, or fixed immovably in one direction. It may be permitted sometimes to sit down, but it should be seldom. The same may be said of moving back and forward, but the preacher should never run from one side of the pulpit to the other. He should, for the most part, speak from a middle position, so as to be seen equally from either side; but it is useful to incline occasionally to the right or left, without, however, turning the back to the opposite direction. Finally, as far as regards the length of the sermon. The Lent sermons should not exceed an hour; and the Sunday discourses should not occupy more than three quarters of an hour; but the parochial instructions should not be longer than a half-hour, including the act of contrition, to which, ordinarily, it is advisable to accustom the common people; making them, at the close of the sermon, have recourse to the mother of God, to ask of her some particular grace as, holy perseverance, a happy death, the love of Jesus Christ, and the like. Nor does it signify, that in order to make room for the act of contrition, the time of the sermon must be shortened; for these acts are the most precious fruit to be derived from it. It were well that the preacher should sometimes exhort the audience to relate to others what they have heard in the sermon; as by this means it may be made useful even to those who have not heard it. 

 

SERMON I. FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT. - ON THE GENERAL JUDGMENT.

 

“And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty.” Matt. 24:30.

 

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At present God is not known, and, therefore, he is as much despised by sinners, as if he could not avenge, whenever he pleases, the injuries offered to him. The wicked "looks upon the Almighty as if he could do nothing.” (Job 22:17). But the Lord has fixed a day, called in the Scriptures “the day of the Lord,” on which the Eternal Judge will make known his power and majesty. “The Lord,” says the Psalmist, “shall be known when he executes judgment.” (Ps. 9:17). On this text St. Bernard writes,  “The Lord, who is now unknown while he seeks mercy, shall be known when he executes justice” (Lib. de 12. Rad).. The prophet Sophonias calls the day of the Lord “a day of wrath a day of tribulation and distress a day of calamity and misery.” (1 15). Let us now consider, in the first point, the different appearance of the just and the unjust; in the second, the scrutiny of consciences; and in the third, the sentence pronounced on the elect and on the reprobate.

 

First Point. On the different appearance of the just and of sinners in the valley of Josaphat.

 

1. This day shall commence with fire from Heaven, which will burn the earth, all men then living, and all things upon the earth. “And the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up.” (2 Pet. 3:10). All shall become one heap of ashes.

 

2 After the death of all men, “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again” (1 Cor. 15:52). St Jerome used to say, “As often as I consider the Day of Judgment, I tremble. Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, that terrible trumpet appears to sound in my ears, arise you dead, and come to judgment” (in Matt, c. v); and St. Augustine declared, that nothing banished from him earthly thoughts so effectually as the fear of judgment.

 

3 At the sound of that trumpet the souls of the blessed shall descend from Heaven to be united to the bodies with which they served God on Earth; and the unhappy souls of the damned shall come up from Hell to take possession again of those bodies with which they have offended God. Oh! how different the appearance of the former, compared with that of the latter! The damned shall appear deformed and black, like so many firebrands of Hell; but the just shall shine as the sun. (Matt 13:43). Oh! how great shall then be the happiness of those who have fortified their bodies by works of penance! We may estimate their felicity from the words addressed by St. Peter of Alcantara, after death, to St. Teresa, “O happy penance!, which merited for me such glory”

 

4. After the resurrection, they shall be summoned by the angels to appear in the valley of Josaphat. “Nations, nations, in the valley for destruction for the day of the Lord is near (Joel 3:14).” Then the angels shall come and separate the reprobate from the elect, placing the latter on the right, and the former on the left. “The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from the Just." (Matt. 13:49).. Oh! How great will then be the confusion which the unhappy damned shall suffer!. “What think you,"  says the author of the Imperfect Work, “must be the confusion of the impious, when, being separated from the just, they shall be abandoned” (Hom liv). “This punishment alone” says St. Chrysostom, “would be sufficient to constitute a hell for the wicked”. “Et si nihil ulterius paterentur, ista sola verecundia sufficerit eis ad poenam,” (in Matt, c. 24). The brother shall he separated from the brother, the husband from his wife, the son from the father, etc.

 

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5. But, behold! the Heavens are opened the angels come to assist at the general judgment, carrying, as St. Thomas says, the sign of the cross and of the other instruments of the passion of the Redeemer. “Veniente Domino ad judicium signum crucis, et alia passionis indicia demonstrabunt” (Opusc. 2. 244). The same may be inferred from the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” (24. 30). Sinners shall weep at the sign of the cross; for, as St. Chrysostom says, the nails will complain of them the wounds and the cross of Jesus Christ will speak against them. “Clavi de te conquerentur, cicatrices contra et loquentur, crux Christi contra te perorabit.” (Hom, 20, in Matt).

 

6. Most holy Mary, the queen of saints and angels, shall come to assist at the last judgment; and lastly, the Eternal Judge shall appear in the clouds, full of splendor and majesty. “And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty” (Matt. 24:30). Oh! how great shall be the agony of the reprobate at the sight of the Judge! “At their presence” says the Prophet Joel, “the people shall be in grievous pains” (Joel 2:6). According to St. Jerome, the presence of Jesus Christ will give the reprobate more pain than Hell itself. “It would,” he says, “be easier for the damned to bear the torments of Hell than the presence of the Lord.” Hence, on that day, the wicked shall, according to St. John, call on the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the sight of the judge. “And they shall say to the mountains and the rocks, Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Rev. 6:16).

 

Second Point. The scrutiny of conscience.

 

7. “The judgment sat, and the books were opened." (Dan. 7:10). The books of conscience are opened, and the judgment commences. The Apostle says, that the Lord “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” (1 Cor. 4:5). And, by the mouth of his prophet, Jesus Christ has said, “I will search Jerusalem with lamps.” (Soph. 1:12). The light of the lamp reveals all that is hidden.

 

8. “A judgment,” says St. Chrysostom, “terrible to sinners, but desirable and sweet to the just” (Hom. 3. de Dav). The last judgment shall fill sinners with terror, but will be a source of joy and sweetness to the elect; for God will then give praise to each one according to his works. (1 Cor. 4:5). The Apostle tells us that on that day the just will be raised above the clouds to be united to the angels, and to increase the number of those who pay homage to the Lord. “We shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air.” (I Thess. 4:6).

 

9. Worldlings now regard as fools the saints who led mortified and humble lives; but then they shall confess their own folly, and say, “We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.” (Wis. 5:4, 5). In this world, the rich and the noble are called happy; but true happiness consists in a life of sanctity. Rejoice, you souls who live in tribulation; “our sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20). In the valley of Josaphat you shall be seated on thrones of glory.

 

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10. But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left, to await their last condemnation. “Judicii tempus,” says St. Chrysostom, “misericordiam non recipit.” On the Day of Judgment there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners. “Magna,” says St. Augustine, “jam est poena peccati, metum et memoriam divini perdidisse judicii” (Serm. xx. de Temp). The greatest punishment of sin in those who live in enmity with God, is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment. Continue, continue, says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the Day of Judgment a treasure of the wrath of God “But according to your  hardness and impenitent heart , you treasure up to your self wrath against the day of wrath.” (Rom 2:5).

 

11. Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves but, with insufferable pain, they shall be compelled to appear in judgment. “To lie hid” says St. Anselm, “will be impossible to appear will be intolerable.” The devils will perform their office of accusers, and as St. Augustine says, will say to the Judge, “Most just God, declare him to be mine, who was unwilling to be yours." The witnesses against the wicked shall be first, their own conscience. “Their conscience bearing witness to them." (Rom. 2:15); secondly, the very walls of the house in which they sinned shall cry out against them "The stone shall cry out of the wall.” (Hab. 2:11); thirdly, the Judge himself will say “I am the judge and the witness, says the Lord.” (Jer. 29:23). Hence, according to St. Augustine, “He who is now the witness of .your life, shall be the judge of your cause." (Lib. 10. de Chord., c. 2). To Christians particularly he will say, “Woe to you, Corozain, woe to you, Bethsaida; for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. (Matt. 11:21).. Christians, he will say, if the graces, which I have bestowed on you had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. “I will discover your  shame to your  face." (Nahum 3:

5). He will expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices, and cruelties. “I will set all your  abominations against you. (Ezek. 7:3). Each of the damned shall carry his sins written on his forehead.

 

12. What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah!they can offer no excuses. “All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” (Ps. 106:42).. Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will not have courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.

 

Third Point. Sentence of the elect, and of the reprobate.

 

13. St. Bernard says, that the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost. “Prius pronunciabitur sententia electis ut acrius (reprobi). doleant videntes quid amiserunt. (Ser. 8, in Ps. 90).. Jesus Christ, then, shall first turn to the elect, and with a serene countenance shall say, “Come, you blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34). He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and communions; above all, he will bless for them the pains of his passion and the blood shed for their salvation. And, after these benedictions, the elect, singing alleluias, shall enter Heaven to praise and love God eternity.

 

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14. The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and shall pronounce the sentence of their condemnation in these words, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. 25:41).. They shall then be forever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn forever in the fire of hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting." (Matt. 25:46).

 

15. After this sentence, the wicked shall, according to St. Ephrem, be compelled to take leave forever of their relatives, of Heaven, of the saints, and of Mary the divine Mother. “Farewell, you just! Farewell, O cross I Farewell, Heaven! Farewell, fathers and brothers, we shall never see you again! Farewell, O Mary, mother of God!” (St. Eph. de variis serm. inf). Then a great pit shall open in the middle of the valley, the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those doors shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! to what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. O unhappy souls! For whom is prepared such a melancholy end. But, brethren, have confidence. Jesus Christ is now a Father, and not judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent. Let us then instantly ask pardon from him. [Let the preacher here propose for the people an act of sorrow, a purpose of amendment, and a prayer to Jesus and to Mary for the gift of holy perseverance. Let him repeat the same at the end of every sermon.]

 

SERMON II. SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT. - ON THE ADVANTAGES OF TRIBULATIONS.

 

“Now when John had heard of the wonderful works of Christ,” etc. Matt. 9:2.

 

In tribulations God enriches his beloved souls with the greatest graces. Behold, St. John in his chains comes to the knowledge of the works of Jesus Christ, “When John had heard in prison the works of Christ.” Great indeed are the advantages of tribulations. The Lord sends them to us, not because he wishes our misfortune, but because he desires our welfare. Hence, when they come upon us we must embrace them with thanksgiving, and must not only resign ourselves to the divine will, but must also rejoice that God treats us as he treated his Son Jesus Christ, whose life, upon this earth was always full of tribulation. I shall now show, in the first point, the advantages we derive from tribulations; and in the second, I shall point out the manner in which we ought to bear them.

 

First Point. On the great advantages we derive from tribulations.

 

1. “What does  he know that had not been tried? A man that has much experience shall think of many things, and he that has learned many things shall show forth understanding” (Sir. 34:9). They who live in prosperity, and have no experience of adversity, know nothing of the state of their souls. In the first place, tribulation opens the eyes which prosperity had kept shut. St. Paul remained blind after Jesus Christ appeared to him, and, during his blindness, he perceived the errors in which he lived. During his imprisonment in Babylon, King Manasses had recourse to God, was convinced of the malice of his sins, and did penance for them. “And after that he was in distress he prayed to the Lord his God, and did penance exceedingly before the God of his fathers.” (2 Chron. 33:12).. The prodigal, when he found himself under the necessity of feeding swine, and afflicted with hunger, exclaimed, “I will arise and go to my father.” (Luke 15:18).

 

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Secondly, tribulation takes from our hearts all affections to earthly things. When a mother wishes to wean her infant she puts gall on the paps, to excite his disgust, and induce him to take better food. God treats us in a similar manner, to detach us from temporal goods, he mingles them with gall, that by tasting its bitterness, we may conceive a dislike for them, and place our affections on the things of Heaven. “God,” says St. Augustine, “mingles bitterness with earthly pleasures, that we may seek another felicity, whose sweetness does not deceive.” (Ser. 26, de Verb. Dom). Thirdly, they who live in prosperity are molested by many temptations of pride, of vain-glory; of desires of acquiring greater wealth, great honors, and greater pleasures. Tribulations free us from these temptations, and make us humble and content in the state in which the Lord has placed us. Hence, the Apostle says, “We are chastised by the Lord that we may not be condemned with this world.” (1 Cor. 11:32).

 

2. Fourthly, by tribulation we atone for the sins we have committed much better than by voluntary works of penance. “Be assured,” says St. Augustine, “that God is a physician, and that tribulation is a salutary medicine.” Oh! how great is the efficacy of tribulation in healing the wounds caused by our sins! Hence, the same saint rebukes the sinner who complains of God for sending him tribulations. “Why,” he says,  "do you complain? What you suffer is a remedy, not a punishment.” (In Ps. 55). Job called those happy men whom God corrects by tribulation; because he heals them with the very hands with which he strikes and wounds them. “Blessed is the man whom God corrects. . . . For he wounds and cures. He strikes, and his hand shall heal.” (Job 5:17, 18).. Hence, St. Paul gloried in his tribulations, “Gloriamur in tribulationibus.” (Rom. 5:3).

 

3. Fifthly, by convincing us that God alone is able and willing to relieve us in our miseries, tribulations remind us of him, and compel us to have recourse to his mercy. “In their affliction they will rise early to me.” (Hosea 6:1).. Hence, addressing the afflicted, the Lord said, “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11:28).. Hence, he is called “a helper in troubles.” (Ps. 45:1).. “When,” says David,” he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned.” (Ps. 77:34).. When the Jews were afflicted, and were slain by their enemies, they remembered the Lord, and returned to him.

 

4. Sixthly, tribulations enable us to acquire great merits before God, by giving us opportunities of exercising the virtues of humility, of patience, and of resignation to the divine will. The venerable John d’ Avila used to say, that a single blessed be God, in adversity, is worth more than a thousand acts in prosperity. “Take away,” says St. Ambrose, “the contests of the martyrs, and you have taken away their crowns.” (In Luke, c. 4). Oh! What a treasure of merit is acquired by patiently bearing insults, poverty, and sickness! Insults from men were the great objects of the desires of the saints, who sought to be despised for the love of Jesus Christ, and thus to be made like unto him.

 

5. How great is the merit gained by bearing with the inconvenience of poverty. “My God and my all,” says St. Francis of Assisi, in expressing this sentiment, he enjoyed more of true riches than all the princes of the Earth. How truly has St. Teresa said, that “the less we have here, the more we shall enjoy hereafter.” Oh! how happy is the man who can say from his heart, My Jesus, you alone art sufficient for me! If, says St. Chrysostom, you esteem yourself

 

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unhappy because you are poor, you are indeed miserable and deserving of tears; not because you are poor, but because, being poor, you do not embrace your poverty, and esteem yourself happy.” “Sane dignus es lachrymis ob hoc, quod miserum te extimas, non ideo quod pauper es.” (Serm, 2., Epis. ad Phil).

 

6. By bearing patiently with the pains of sickness, a great, and perhaps the greater, part of the crown, which is prepared for us in Heaven is completed. The sick sometimes complain that in sickness they can do nothing; but they err; for, in their infirmities they can do all things, by accepting their sufferings with peace and resignation. “The Cross of Christ,” says St. Chrysostom, “is the key of Heaven.” (Com. in Luke de vir).

 

7. St. Francis de Sales used to say . “To suffer constantly for Jesus is the science of the saints; we shall thus soon become saints.” It is by sufferings that God proves his servants, and finds them worthy of himself. “Deus tentavit es, et invenit eos dignos se.” (Wis. 3:5). “Whom,” says St. Paul, “the Lord loves, he chastises; and he scourges every son whom he receives.” (Heb. 12:6).. Hence, Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa, “Be assured that the souls dearest to my Father are those who suffer the greatest afflictions.” Hence, Job said, “If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?” (Job. 2:10). If we have gladly received from God the goods of this Earth, why should we not receive more cheerfully tribulations, which are far more useful to us than worldly prosperity? St. Gregory informs us that, as flame fanned by the wind increases, so the soul is made perfect when she is oppressed by tribulations. “Ignis flatu premitur, ut crescat.” (Ep. xxv).

 

8. To holy souls the most severe afflictions are the temptations by which the Devil impels them to offend God, but they who bear these temptations with patience, and banish them by turning to God for help, shall acquire great merit. “And,” says St. Paul, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will also make issue with the temptation that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13). God permits us to be molested by temptations, that, by banishing them, we may gain greater merit. “Blessed,” says the Lord, “are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matt. 5:5). They are blessed, because, according to the Apostle, our tribulations are momentary and very light, compared with the greatness of the glory, which they shall obtain for us for eternity in Heaven. “For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, works for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (1 Cor. 4:17).

 

9. It is necessary, then, says St. Chrysostom, to bear tribulations in peace; for, if you accept them with resignation, you shall gain great merit; but if you submit to them with reluctance, you shall increase, instead of diminishing, your misery. "Si vero ægre feras, neque calamitatum minorem facies, et majorem reddes procellam” (Hom. Ixiv., ad Pop). If we wish to be saved, we must submit to trials. “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21). A great servant of God used to say, that Heaven is the place of the poor, of the persecuted, of the humble and afflicted. Hence, St. Paul says, “Patience is necessary for you, that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Heb. 10:36). Speaking of the tribulations of the saints, St. Cyprian asks, “What are they to the servants of God, whom Heaven invites?" (Ep, ad Demetr). Is it much for those to whom the eternal goods of Heaven are promised, to embrace the short afflictions of this life?

 

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10. In fine, the scourges of Heaven are sent not for our injury, but for our good. “Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which, like servants, we are chastised, have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction.” (Judith 8:27). "God,” says St. Augustine, “is angry when he does not scourge the sinner.” (In Ps. 134). When we see a sinner in tribulation in this life, we may infer that God wishes to have mercy on him in the next, and that he exchanges eternal for temporal chastisement. But miserable the sinner whom the Lord does not punish in this life! For those whom he does not chastise here, he treasures up his wrath, and for them he reserves eternal chastisement.

 

11. “Why,” asks the Prophet Jeremiah, “does  the way of the wicked prosper?” (12:1). Why, Lord, do sinners prosper? To this the same prophet answers, “Gather them together as sheep for a sacrifice, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.” (Tb. v. 3). As on the day of sacrifice the sheep intended for slaughter are gathered together, so the impious, as victims of divine wrath, are destined to eternal death. “Destine them,” says Du Hamel, in his commentary on this passage, “as victims of your  anger on the day of sacrifice.”

 

12. When, then, God sends us tribulations, let us say with Job, “I have sinned, and indeed I have offended, and I have not received what I have deserved.” (Job 33:27). O Lord, my sins merit far greater chastisement than that which you have inflicted on me. We should even pray with St. Augustine, “Burn cut spare not in this life, that you may spare for eternity.” How frightful is the chastisement of the sinner of whom the Lord says, “Let us have pity on the wicked, but he will not learn justice.” (Is. 26:10). Let us abstain from chastising the impious, as long as they remain in this life they will continue to live in sin, and shall thus be punished with eternal torments. On this passage St. Bernard says, “Misericordiam hanc nolo, super omnem iram miseratio ista.” (Serin, 92, in Cant). Lord, I do not wish for such mercy, which is a chastisement that surpasses all chastisements.

 

13. The man whom the Lord afflicts in this life has a certain proof that he is dear to God. “And,” said the angel to Tobias, “because you were acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptations should prove you.” (Tob.12:13). Hence, St. James pronounces blessed the man who is afflicted, because after he shall have been proved by tribulation, he will receive the crown of life.” (Jam. 1:12).

 

14. He who wishes to share in the glory of the saints, must suffer in this life as the saints have suffered. None of the saints has been esteemed or treated well by the world all of them have been despised and persecuted. In them have been verified the words of the Apostle, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12). Hence, St. Augustine said, that they who are unwilling to suffer persecutions, have not as yet begun to be Christians. “Si putas non habere persecutiones, nondum cæpisti esse Christianus.” (In Ps. 60). “When we are in tribulation, let us be satisfied with the consolation of knowing that the Lord is then near us and in our company. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.” (Ps. 33:19). "I am with him in tribulation.” (Ps. 90:15).

 

Second Point. On the manner in which we should bear tribulations. 

 

15. He who suffers tribulations in this world should, in the first place, abandon sin, and endeavor to recover the grace of God; for as long as he remains in sin, the merit of all his

 

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sufferings is lost. “If,” says St. Paul, “I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3). If you suffered all the torments of the martyrs; or bore to be burned alive, and were not in the state of grace, it would profit you nothing.

 

16. But, to those who can suffer with God, and with resignation for God’s sake, all the tribulations shall be a source of comfort and gladness. “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” (John 16:20). Hence, after having been insulted and beaten by the Jews, the apostles departed from the council full of joy, because they had been maltreated for the love of Jesus Christ. “And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy  to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41). Hence, when God visits us with any tribulations, we must say with Jesus Christ, “The chalice which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). It is necessary to know that every tribulation, through it may come from men, is sent to us by God.

 

17. When we are surrounded on all sides with tribulations, and know not what to do, we must turn to God, who alone can console us. Thus King Josaphat, in his distress, said to the Lord, “As we know not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to you.” (2 Chron. 20:12). Thus David also in his tribulation had recourse to God, and God consoled him, “In my trouble I cried to the Lord, and he heard me.” (Ps. 119:1). We should turn to God, and pray to him, and never cease to pray till he hears us. “As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress, so are our eyes unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us.” (Ps. 122:2). We must keep our eyes continually raised to God, and must continue to implore his aid, until he is moved to compassion for our miseries. We must have great confidence in the heart of Jesus Christ, and ought not to imitate certain persons, who instantly lose courage because they do not feel that they are heard as soon as they begin to pray. To them may be applied the words of the Savior to St. Peter, “0 you of little faith! why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). When the favors, which we ask are spiritual, or can be profitable to our souls, we should be certain of being heard, provided we persevere in prayer, and do not lose confidence. “All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.” (Mark 11:24). In tribulations, then, we should never cease to hope with confidence that the divine mercy will console us; and if our afflictions continue, we must say with Job, “Althrough he should kill me, I will trust in him.” (13:15).

 

18. Souls of little faith, instead of turning to God in their tribulations, have recourse to human means, and thus provoke God’s anger, and remain in their miseries. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watchs in vain that keep it.” (Ps. 126:1). On this passage St. Augustine writes, “Ipse ædificat, ipse intellectum aperit, ipse ad finem applicat sensum vestrum, et tamen laboramus et nos tanquam operarii, sed nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem,” etc. All good all help must come from the Lord. Without him creatures can give us no assistance.

 

19. Of this the Lord complains by the mouth of his prophet, “Is not,” he says, “the Lord in Sion? . . .Why then have they provoked me to wrath with their idols. . . Is there no balm in Galaad? or is there no physician there? Why then is not the wound of the daughter of my people closed?” (Jer. 8:19, 22). Am I not in Sion? Why then do men provoke me to anger by recurring to creatures, which they convert into idols by placing in them all their hopes? Do

 

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they seek a remedy for their miseries? Why do they not seek it in Galaad, a mountain full of balsamic ointments, which signify the divine mercy? There they can find the physician and the remedy of all their evils. Why then, says the Lord, do your wounds remain open? Why are they not healed? It is because you have recourse not to me, but to creatures, and because you confide in them, and not in me.

 

20. In another place the Lord says, “Am I become a wilderness to Israel, or a late ward springing land? Why then have my people said, We are revolted; we will come to you no more?...But my people have forgotten me days without number.” (Jer. 2:31-32). God complains, and says, “Why, my children, do you say that you will have recourse to me no more? Am I become to you a barren land, which gives no fruit, or gives it too late? Is it for this reason that you have so long forgotten me? By these words he manifests to us his desire that we pray to him, in order that he may be able to give us his graces; and he also gives us to understand that when we pray to him, he is not slow, but instantly begins to assist us.

 

21. The Lord, says David, is not asleep when we turn to his goodness, and ask the graces which are profitable to our souls, he hears us immediately, because he is anxious for our welfare. “Behold, he shall neither slumber nor sleep that keeps Israel.” (Ps. 120:4). When we pray for temporal favors, St. Bernard says that God "will give what we ask, or something more useful.” He will grant us the grace which we desire, whenever it is profitable to our souls; or he will give us a more useful grace, such as the grace to resign ourselves to the divine will, and to suffer with patience our tribulations, which shall merit a great increase of glory in Heaven. [Act of sorrow and amendment, prayer to Jesus and Mary.]

 

SERMON III. THIRD SUNDAY OP ADVENT. - ON THE MEANS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION.

 

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.” John 1:23.

 

All would wish to be saved and to enjoy the glory of Heaven; but to gain Heaven, it is necessary to walk in the straight road that leads to eternal bliss. This road is the observance of the divine commands. Hence, in his preaching, the Baptist exclaimed, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” In order to be able to walk always in the way of the Lord, without turning to the right or to the left, it is necessary to adopt the proper means. These means are, first, diffidence in ourselves; secondly, confidence in God; thirdly, resistance to temptations.

 

First Means. Diffidence in ourselves.

 

1. “With fear and trembling,” says the Apostle, “work out your salvation.” (Phil. 2:12). To secure eternal life, we must be always penetrated with fear, we must be always afraid of ourselves (with fear and trembling)., and distrust altogether our own strength; for, without the divine grace we can do nothing. “Without me,” says Jesus Christ, “you can do nothing.” We can do nothing for the salvation of our own souls. St. Paul tells us, that of ourselves we are not capable of even a good thought. “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5). Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, we cannot even pronounce the name of Jesus so as to deserve a reward. “And no one can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:8).

 

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2. Miserable the man who trusts to himself in the way of God. St. Peter experienced the sad effects of self-confidence. Jesus Christ said to him, “In this night, before cockcrow, you will  deny me thrice.” (Matt. 26:31). Trusting in his own strength and his goodwill, the Apostle replied, “Yea, through I should die with you, I will not deny you.” (5:35). What was the result? On the night on which Jesus Christ had been taken, Peter was reproached in the court of Caiphas with being one of the disciples of the Savior. The reproach filled him with fear, he thrice denied his Master, and swore that he had never known him. Humility and diffidence in ourselves are so necessary for us, that God permits us sometimes to fall into sin, that, by our fall, we may acquire humility arid a knowledge of our own weakness. Through want of humility David also fell, hence, after his sin, he said, “Before I was humbled, I offended.” (Ps. 118:67).

 

3. Hence, the Holy Spirit pronounces blessed the man who is always in fear, “Blessed is the man who is always fearful.” (Prov. 28:14). He who is afraid of falling distrusts his own strength, avoids as much as possible all dangerous occasions, and recommends himself often to God, and thus preserves his soul from sin. But the man who is not fearful, but full of self-confidence, easily exposes himself to the danger of sin, he seldom recommends himself to God, and thus he falls. Let us imagine a person suspended over a great precipice by a cord held by another. Surely he would constantly cry out to the person who supports him, "Hold fast, hold fast; for Gods sake, do not let go." We are all in danger of falling into the abyss of all crime, if God does not support us. Hence, we should constantly beseech him to keep his hands over us, and to succor us in all dangers.

 

4. In rising from bed, St. Philip Neri used to say every morning, Lord, keep your  hand this day over Philip; if you do not, Philip will betray you. And one day, as he walked through the city, reflecting on his own misery, he frequently said, "I despair, I despair.' A Certain religious who heard him, believing that the saint was really tempted to despair, corrected him, and encouraged him to hope in the divine mercy. But the saint replied, “I despair of myself, but I trust in God.” Hence, during this life, in which we are exposed to so many dangers of losing God, it is necessary for us to live always in great diffidence of ourselves, and full of confidence in God.

 

Second Means. Confidence in God.

 

5. St. Francis de Sales says, that the mere attention to self-diffidence on account of our own weakness, would only render us pusillanimous, and expose us to great danger of abandoning ourselves to a tepid life, or even to despair. The more we distrust our own strength, the more we should confide in the divine mercy. This is a balance, says the same saint, in which the more the scale of confidence in God is raised, the more the scale of diffidence in ourselves descends.

 

6. Listen to me, O sinners who have had the misfortune of having hitherto offended God, and of being condemned to hell, if the Devil tells you that but little hope remains of your eternal salvation, answer him in the words of the Scripture, “No one has hoped in the Lord, and has been confounded." (Sir. 2:11). No sinner has ever trusted in God, and has been lost. Make, then, a firm purpose to sin no more; abandon yourselves into the arms of the divine goodness; and rest

 

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assured that God will have mercy on you, and save you from Hell. “Cast your care upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you.” (Ps. 54:23). The Lord, as we read in Blosius, one day said to St. Gertrude, “He who confides in me, does me such violence that I cannot but hear all his petitions”

 

7. “But,” says the Prophet Isaias, “they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” (40:31). They who place their confidence in God shall renew their strength; they shall lay aside their own weakness, and shall acquire the strength of God; they shall fly like eagles in the way of the Lord, without fatigue and without ever failing. David says, that “mercy shall encompass him that hope in the Lord.” (Ps. 31:10). He that hopes in the Lord shall be encompassed by his mercy, so that he shall never be abandoned by it.

 

8. St. Cyprian says, that the divine mercy is an inexhaustible fountain. They who bring vessels of the greatest .confidence, draw from it the greatest graces Hence, the Royal Prophet has said, “Let your  mercy Lord be upon us, as we have hoped in you.” (Ps. 32:22). Whenever the Devil terrifies us by placing before our eyes the great difficulty of persevering in the grace of God in spite of all the dangers and sinful occasions of this life, let us, without answering him, raise our eyes to God, and hope that in his goodness he will certainly send us help to resist every attack. “I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from Hence,  help shall come to me.” (Ps. 120:1). And when the enemy represents to us our weakness, let us say with the Apostle “I can do all in him who strengthens me. “ (Phil. 4:13 ). Of myself I can do nothing; but I trust in God, that by his grace I shall be able to do all things.

 

9. Hence, in the midst of the greatest dangers of perdition to which we are exposed, we should continually turn to Jesus Christ, and. throwing ourselves into the hands of him who redeemed us by his death, should say, "Into your  hands I commend my spirit, you have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth.” (Ps. 30:6). This prayer should be said with great confidence of obtaining eternal life, and to it we should add, “In you, O Lord, I have hoped; let me not be confounded forever” (Ps.30:1).

 

Third Means. Resistance to temptations.

 

10. It is true that when we have recourse to God with confidence in dangerous temptations, he assists us; but, in certain very urgent occasions, the Lord sometimes wishes that we cooperate, and do violence to ourselves, to resist temptations. On such occasions, it will not be enough to have recourse to God once or twice; it will be necessary to multiply prayers, and frequently to prostrate ourselves and send up our sighs before the image of the Blessed Virgin and the crucifix, crying out with tears, Mary, my mother, assist me; Jesus, my Savior, save me, for your  mercy's sake do not abandon me, do not permit me to lose you.

 

11. Let us keep in mind the words of the Gospel, “How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it.” (Matt. 7:14). The way to Heaven is strait and narrow, they who wish to arrive at that place of bliss by walking in the paths of pleasure shall be disappointed, and therefore few reach it, because few are willing to use violence to themselves in resisting temptations., “The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Matt. 11:12). In explaining this passage, a certain writer says,

 

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“Vi queritur, invaditur, occupatur.” It must be sought and obtained by violence, he who wishes to obtain it without inconvenience, or by leading a soft and irregular life, shall not acquire it he shall be excluded from it.

 

12. To save their souls, some of the saints have retired into the cloister; some have confined themselves in a cave; others have embraced torments and death. “The violent bear it away” Some complain of their want of confidence in God; but they do not perceive that their diffidence arises from the weakness of their resolution to serve God. St. Teresa used to say, “Of irresolute souls the Devil has no fear” And the Wise Man has declared, that “desires kill the slothful." (Prov. 21:25). Some would wish to be saved and to become saints, but never resolve to adopt the means of salvation, such as meditation, the frequentation of the sacraments, detachment from creatures; or, if they adopt these means, they soon give them up. In a word, they are satisfied with fruitless desires, and thus continue to live in enmity with God, or at least in tepidity, which in the end leads them to the loss of God. Thus in them are verified the words of the Holy Spirit, “desires kill the slothful.”

 

 13. If, then, we wish to save our souls, and to become saints, we must make a strong resolution not only in general to give ourselves to God, but also in particular to adopt the proper means, and never to abandon them after having once taken them up. Hence, we must never cease to pray to Jesus Christ, and to His holy Mother for holy perseverance. 

 

SERMON IV. FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT. - ON THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST FOR US, AND ON OUR OBLIGATIONS TO LOVE HIM.

 

“And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:6.

 

The Savior of the world, whom, according to the prediction of the prophet Isaias, men were one day to see on this Earth “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God,” has already come. We have not only seen him conversing among men, but we have also seen him suffering and dying for the love of us. Let us, then, this morning consider the love which we owe to Jesus Christ at least through gratitude for the love which he bears to us. In the first point we shall consider the greatness of the love which Jesus Christ has shown to us; and in the second we shall see the greatness of our obligations to love him.

 

First Point. On the great love which Jesus Christ has shown to us.

 

1 . “Christ,” says St. Augustine, “came on Earth that men might know how much God loves them.” He has come, and to show the immense love which this God bears us, he has given himself entirely to us, by abandoning himself to all the pains of this life, and afterwards to the scourges, to the thorns, and to all the sorrows and insults which he suffered in his passion, and by offering himself to die, abandoned by all, on the infamous tree of the cross. “Who loved me, and delivered himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20). 

 

2. Jesus Christ could save us without dying on the cross, and without suffering. One drop of his blood would be sufficient for our redemption. Even a prayer offered to his Eternal Father would be sufficient; because, on account of his divinity, his prayer would be of infinite value, and would therefore be sufficient for the salvation of the world, and of a thousand worlds. “But” says St. Chrysostom, or another ancient author, “what was sufficient for redemption was not sufficient for love.” To show how much he loved us, he wished to shed not only a

 

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part of his blood, but the entire of it, by the power of torments. This may be inferred from the words which he used on the night before his death, “This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many. “ (Matt. 26:28). The words shall be shed show that, in his passion, the blood of Jesus Christ was poured forth even to the last drop. Hence, when after death his side was opened with a spear, blood and water came forth, as if what then flowed was all that remained of his blood. Jesus Christ, then, through he could save us without suffering, wished to embrace a life of continual pain, and to suffer the cruel and ignominious death of the cross. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8).  

 

3. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). To show his love for us, what more could the Son of God do than die for us? What more can one man do for another than give his life for him? “Greater love than this no man has.” Tell me, my brother, if one of your servants if the vilest man on this Earth had done for you what Jesus Christ has done in dying through pain on a cross, could you remember his love for you, and not love him?

 

4. St. Francis of Assisi appeared to be unable to think of anything but the passion of Jesus Christ; and, in thinking of it, he continually shed tears, so that by his constant weeping he became nearly blind. Being found one day weeping and groaning at the foot of the crucifix, he was asked the cause of his tears and lament.. He replied, “I weep over the sorrows and ignominies of my Lord. And what makes me weep still more is, that the men for whom he has suffered so much live in forgetfulness of him.” 

 

5. O Christian, should a doubt ever enter your mind that Jesus Christ loves you, raise your eyes and look at him hanging on the cross. Ah! says St. Thomas of Villanova, the cross to which he is nailed, the internal and external sorrows which he endures, and the cruel death which he suffers for you, are convincing proofs of the love which he bears you, “Testis crux, testes dolores, testis amara mors quam pro te sustinuit.” (Conc. 3). Do you not, says St. Bernard, hear the voice of that cross, and of those wounds, crying out to make you feel that he truly loves you? "Clamat crux, clamat vulnus, quod vere dilexit.”

 

6. St. Paul says that the love, which Jesus Christ has shown in condescending to suffer so much for our salvation, should excite us to his love more powerfully than the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the painful journey to Calvary, the agony of three hours on the cross, the buffets, the spitting in his face, and all the other injuries which the Savior endured. According to the Apostle, the love which Jesus has shown us not only obliges, but in a certain manner forces and constrains us, to love a God who has loved us so much. “For the charity of Christ presses us.” (2 Cor. 5:14). On this text St. Francis de Sales says, “We know that Jesus the true God has loved us so as to suffer death, and even the death of the cross, for our salvation. Does not such love put our hearts as it were under a press, to force from them love by a violence which is stronger in proportion as it is more amiable?” 

 

7. So great was the love which inflamed the enamored heart of Jesus, that he not only wished to die for our redemption, but during his whole life he sighed ardently for the day on which he should suffer death for the love of us. Hence, during his life, Jesus used to say, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is

 

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accomplished.” (Luke 12:50). In my passion I am to be baptized with the baptism of my own blood, to wash away the sins of men. “And how am I constrained!” How, says St. Ambrose, explaining this passage, am I constrained by the desire of the speedy arrival of the day of my death? Hence, on the night before his passion he said, “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15). 

 

8. “We have,” says St. Lawrence Justinian, “seen wisdom become foolish through an excess of love.” We have, he says, seen the Son of God become as it were a fool, through, the excessive love which he bore to men. Such, too, was the language of the Gentiles when they heard the apostles preaching that Jesus Christ suffered death for the love of men. “But we,” says St. Paul, “preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, unto the Gentiles foolishness.” (1 Cor. 1:23). Who, they exclaimed, can believe that a God, most happy in himself, and who stands in need of no one, should take human flesh and die for the love of men, who are his creatures? This would be to believe that a God became foolish for the love of men. “It appears folly,” says St. Gregory, “that the author of Life should die for men.” (Hom vi). But, whatever infidels may say or think, it is of faith that the Son of God has shed all his blood for the love of us, to wash away the sins of our souls. “Who has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Rev. 1:5). Hence, the saints were struck dumb with astonishment at the consideration of the love of Jesus Christ. At the sight of the crucifix, St. Francis of Paul could do nothing but exclaim, "love! love! love!" 

 

9. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end." (John xiii. 1). This loving Lord was not content with showing us his love by dying on the cross for our salvation; but, at the end of his life, he wished to leave us his own very flesh for the food of our souls, that thus he might unite himself entirely to us. “Take and eat, this is my body.” (Matt. 26:26). But of this gift and this excess of love we shall speak at another time, in treating of the most holy sacrament of the altar. Let us pass to the second point.

 

Second Point. On the greatness of our obligations to love Jesus Christ.

 

10. He who loves wishes to be loved. “When,” says St. Bernard, “God loves, he desires nothing else than to be loved.” (Ser. 83., in Cant). The Redeemer said, “I am come to cast fire upon the Earth, and what will I but that it is kindled” (Luke 12:49). I, says Jesus Christ, came on earth to light up the fire of divine love in the hearts of men and what will I but that it be kindled?” God wishes nothing else from us than to be loved. Hence, the holy Church prays in the following words, “We beseech you, Lord, that your  Spirit may inflame us with that fire which Jesus Christ cast upon the Earth, and which he vehemently wished to be kindled." Ah!what have not the saints, inflamed with this fire, accomplished! They have abandoned all things delights, honors, the purple and the scepter that they might burn with this holy fire. But you will ask what are you to do, that you too may be inflamed with the love of Jesus Christ. Imitate David, “In my meditation a fire shall flame out." (Ps. 38).. Meditation is the blessed furnace in which the holy fire of divine love is kindled. Make mental prayer every day, meditate on the passion of Jesus Christ, and doubt not but you too shall burn with this blessed flame.

 

11. St. Paul says, that Jesus Christ died for us to make himself the master of the hearts of all. “To this end Christ died and rose again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the

 

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living.” (Rom. 14:9). He wished, says the Apostle, to give his life for all men, without a single exception, that not even one should live any longer to himself, but that all might live only to that God who condescended to die for them. “And Christ died for all, that they also who live may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them.” (2 Cor. 5:15).

 

12. Ah!to correspond to the love of this God, it would be necessary that another God should die for him, as Jesus Christ died for us. ingratitude of men! A God has condescended to give his life for their salvation, and they will not even think on what he has even done for them! Ah! if each of you thought frequently on the sufferings of the Redeemer., and on the love which he has shown to us in his passion, how could you but love him with your whole hearts? To him who sees with a lively faith the Son of God suspended by three nails on an infamous gibbet, every wound of Jesus speaks and says, “You shall love the Lord your  God.” Love, man, your  Lord and your  God, who has loved you so intensely. “Who can resist such tender expressions? “The wounds of Jesus Christ,” says St. Bonaventure, “wound the hardest hearts, and inflame frozen souls.”

 

13. “Oh!, if you knew the mystery of the cross! said St. Andrew the Apostle to the tyrant by whom he was tempted to deny Jesus Christ. tyrant, if you knew the love which your Savior has shown you by dying on the cross for your salvation, instead of tempting me, you would abandon all the goods of this Earth to give yourself to the love of Jesus Christ.

 

14. I conclude, my most beloved brethren, by recommending you henceforth to meditate every day on the passion of Jesus Christ. I shall be content, if you daily devote to this meditation a quarter of an hour. Let each at least procure a crucifix, let him keep it in his room, and from time to time give a glance at it, saying, “Ah!my Jesus, you have died for me, and I do not love you." Had a person suffered for a friend injuries, buffets, and prisons, he would be greatly pleased to find that they were remembered and spoken of with gratitude. But he should be greatly displeased if the friend for whom they had been borne, were unwilling to think or hear of his sufferings. Thus frequent meditation on his passion is very pleasing to our Redeemer; but the neglect of it greatly provokes his displeasure. Oh!, how great will be the consolation which we shall receive in our last moments from the sorrows and death of Jesus Christ, if, during life, we shall have frequently meditated on them with love! Let us not wait till others, at the hour of death, place in our hands the crucifix; let us not wait till they remind us of all that Jesus Christ suffered for us. Let us, during life, embrace Jesus Christ crucified; let us keep ourselves always united to him, that we may live and die with him. He who practices devotion to the passion of our Lord, cannot but be devoted to the sorrow's of Mary, the remembrance of which will be to us a source of great consolation at the hour of death, how profitable and sweet the meditation of Jesus on the cross! Oh! how happy the death of him who dies in the embraces of Jesus crucified, accepting death with cheerfulness for the love of that God who has died for the love of us!

 

SERMON V. SUNDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY. - IN WHAT TRUE WISDOM CONSISTS.

 

“Behold, this CHILD is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel.” Luke 2:34.

 

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Such was the language of holy Simeon when he had the consolation to hold in his hands the infant Jesus. Among other things which he then foretold, he declared that “this child was set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel.” In these words he extols the lot of the saints, who, after this life, shall rise to a life of immortality in the kingdom of bliss, and he deplores the misfortune of sinners, who, for the transitory and miserable pleasures of this world, bring upon themselves eternal ruin and perdition. But, notwithstanding the greatness of his own misery, the unhappy sinner, reflecting only on the enjoyment of present goods, calls the saints fools, because they seek to live in poverty, in humiliation, and self-denial. But a day will come when sinners shall see their errors, and shall say. “We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor.” (Wis. 5:4). We fools; behold how they shall confess that they themselves have been truly fools. Let us examine in what true wisdom consists, and we shall see, in the first point, that sinners are truly foolish, and, in the second, that the saints are truly wise.

 

First Point. Sinners are truly foolish.

 

1. What greater folly can be conceived than to have the power of being the friends of God, and to wish to be his enemies? Their living in enmity with God makes the life of sinners unhappy in this world, and purchases for them an eternity of misery hereafter St. Augustine relates that two courtiers of the emperor entered a monastery of hermits, and that one of them began to read the life of St. Anthony. “He read," says the saint, “and his heart was divested of the world.” He read, and, in reading, his affections were detached from the Earth. Turning to his companion he exclaimed, “What do we seek? The friendship of the emperor is the most we can hope for. And through how many perils shall we arrive at still greater danger? Should we obtain his friendship, how long shall it last?” Friend, said he, fools that we are, what do we seek? Can we expect more in this life, by serving the emperor, than to gain his friendship? And should we, after many dangers, succeed in making him our friend, we shall expose ourselves to greater danger of eternal perdition. What difficulties must we encounter in order to become the friend of Caesar!” But, if I wish, I can in a moment become the friend of God.” I can acquire his friendship by endeavoring to recover his grace. His divine grace is that infinite treasure which makes us worthy of his friendship. “For she is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God” (Wis. 7:14).

 

2. The Gentiles believe it impossible for a creature to become the friend of God; for, as St. Jerome says, friendship makes friends equal. “Amicitia pares accipit, aut pares facit.” But Jesus Christ has declared, that if we observe his commands we shall be his friends. “You are my friends, if you do the things I command.” (John 15:14).

 

3. How great then is the folly of sinners, who, through they have it in their power to enjoy the friendship of God, wish to live in enmity with him! The Lord does not hate any of his creatures, he does not hate the tiger, the viper, or the toad. “For you loves all things that are, and hates none of the things which you have made.” (Wis. 11:25). But he necessarily hates sinners. “You hate all the workers of iniquity.” (Ps. 5:7). God cannot but hate sin, which is his enemy and diametrically opposed to his will; and therefore, in hating sin, he necessarily hates the sinner who is united with his sin. “But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike. “ (Wis. 14:9).

 

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4. The sinner is guilty of folly in leading a life opposed to the end for which he was created. God has not created us, nor does he preserve our lives, that we may labor to acquire riches or earthly honors, or that we may indulge in amusements, but that we may love and serve him in this world, in order to love and enjoy him for eternity in the next. “And the end life everlasting.” (Rom. 6:22). Thus the present life, as St. Gregory says, is the way by which we must reach Heaven, our true country. “In the present life we are, as it were, on the road by which we journey to our country.” (St. Greg. hom. 11. in Evan).

 

5. But the misfortune of the greater part of mankind is, that instead of following the way of salvation, they foolishly walk in the road to perdition,. Some have a passion for earthly riches; and, for a vile interest, they lose the immense goods of Heaven, others have a passion for honors; and, for a momentary applause, they lose their right to be kings in Heaven, others have a passion for sensual pleasures; and, for transitory delights, they lose the grace of God, and are condemned to burn forever in a prison of fire. Miserable souls!, if, in punishment of a certain sin, their hand was to be burned with a red-hot iron, or if they were to be shut up for ten years in a dark prison, they certainly would abstain from it. And do they not know that, in chastisement of their sins, they shall be condemned to remain forever in Hell, where their bodies, buried in fire, shall burn for all eternity? Some, says St. John Chrysostom (Hom. de recup. Laps)., to save the body, choose to destroy the soul; but, do they not know that, in losing the soul, their bodies shall be condemned to eternal torments? “If we neglect the soul, we cannot save the body”

 

6. In a word, sinners lose their reason, and imitate brute animals, that follow the instinct of nature, and seek carnal pleasures without ever reflecting on their lawfulness or unlawfulness. But to act in this manner is, according to St. Chrysostom, to act not like a man, but like a beast. “Hominem ilium dicimus” says the saint, “qui imaginem hominis salvam retinet, qua autem est imago hominis? Rationalem esse” To be men we must be rational, that is, we must act, not according to the sensual appetite, but according to the dictates of reason. If God gave to beasts the use of reason, and if they acted according to its rules, we should say that they acted like men. And it must, on the other hand, be said, that the man whose conduct is agreeable to the senses, but contrary to reason, acts like a beast. He who follows the dictates of reason, provides for the future. “Oh!, that they would be wise, and would understand, and would provide for their last end.” (Deuter. 32:29). He looks to the future that is, to the account he must render at the hour of death, after which he shall be doomed to Hell or to Heaven, according to his merits, “Non est sapiens” says St. Bernard, “qui sibi non est.” (Lib. de consid). 

 

7. Sinners think only of the present, but regard not the end for which they were created. But what will it profit them to gain all things if they lose their last end, which alone can make them happy. “But one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42). To attain our end is the only thing necessary for us, if we lose it, all is lost. What is this end? It is eternal life. “Finem vero vitam æternam.” During life, sinners care but little for the attainment of their end. Each day brings them nearer to death and to eternity; but they know not their destination. Should a pilot who is asked whether he is going, answer that he did not know, would not all, says, St. .Augustine, "cry out that he was bringing the vessel to destruction?” "Fac hominem perdidisse quo tendit, et dicatur ei, quo is? et dicat, nescio, nonne iste navem ad naufragium perducet?” The saint then adds, “Talis est qui currit præter viam.” Such are the wise of the world, who know how

 

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to acquire wealth and honors, and to indulge in every kind of amusement, but who know not how to save their souls. How miserable the rich glutton, who, through able to lay up riches and to live splendidly, was, after death, buried in Hell! How miserable Alexander the Great, who, after gaining so many kingdoms, was condemned to eternal torments? How great the folly of Henry the Eighth, who rebelled against the Church, but seeing at the hour of death that his soul should be lost, cried out in despair, “Friends, we have lost all!” O God, how many others now weep in Hell, and exclaim, “What has pride profited us? or what advantage has the toasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.” (Wis. 5:8). In the world we made a great figure we enjoyed abundant riches and honors; and now all is passed away like a shadow, and nothing remains for us but to suffer and weep for eternity. St. Augustine says, that the happiness, which sinners enjoy in this life is their greatest misfortune, “Nothing is more calamitous than the felicity of sinners, by which their perverse will, like an internal enemy, is strengthened.” (Ep. v. ad Marcellin).

 

8. In fine, the words of Solomon are fulfilled with regard to all who neglect their salvation, “Mourning takes hold of the end of joy.” (Prov. 14:13). All their pleasures, honors, and greatness, end in eternal sorrow and wailing. “While I was yet beginning, he cut me off.” (Is. 37:12). While they are laying the foundation of their hopes of realizing a fortune, death comes, and, cutting the thread of life, deprives them of all their possessions, and sends them to Hell to burn forever in a pit of fire. What greater folly can be conceived, than to wish to be transformed from the friend of God into the slave of Lucifer, and from the heir of Heaven to become, by sin, doomed to Hell? For, the moment a Christian commits a mortal sin, his name is written among the number of the damned! St. Francis de Sales said that, if the angels were capable of weeping, they would do nothing else than shed tears at the sight of the destruction which a Christian who commits mortal sin brings upon himself.

 

9. Oh!, how great is the folly of sinners, who, by living in sin, lead a life of misery and discontent! All the goods of this world cannot content the heart of man, which has been created to love God, and can find no peace out of God. What are all the grandeurs and all the pleasures of this world but “vanity of vanities!” (Sir.1:2). What are they but “vanity and vexation of spirit?” (Ibid. 4:16). Earthly goods are, according to Solomon, who had experience of them, vanity of vanities; that is mere vanities, lies, and deceits. They are also a “vexation of spirit,” they not only do not content, but they even afflict the soul; and the more abundantly they are possessed, the greater the anguish which they produce. Sinners hope to find peace in their sins; but what peace can they enjoy? “There is no peace to the wicked, says the Lord.” (Is. 48:22). I abstain from saying more at present on the unhappy life of sinners, I shall speak of it in another place. At present, it is enough for you to know that God gives peace to the souls who love him, and not to those who despise him. Instead of seeking to be the friends of God, sinners wish to be the slaves of Satan, who is a cruel and merciless tyrant to all who submit to his yoke. “Crudelis est et non miserebitur.” (Jer. 6:23). And if he promises delights, he does it, as St. Cyprian says, not for our welfare, but that we may be the companions of his torments in hell, “Ut habeat socios poena, socios gehenæ.

 

Second Point. The saints are truly wise.

 

10. Let us be persuaded that the truly wise are those who know how to love God and to gain Heaven. Happy the man to whom God has given the science of the saints. “Dedit illi  

 

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scientiam sanctorum” (Wis. 10:10). Oh! how sublime the science, which teaches us to know how to love God and to save our souls! Happy, says St. Augustine, is the man “who knows God, although he is ignorant of other things.” They who know God, the love which he merits, and how to love him, stand not in need of any other knowledge. They are wiser than those who are masters of many sciences, but know not how to love God. Brother Egidius, of the order of St. Francis, once said to St. Bonaventure, Happy you, Father Bonaventure, who are so learned, and who, by your learning, can become more holy than I can, who am a poor ignorant man. Listen, replied the saint, if an old woman knows how to love God better than I do, she is more learned and more holy than I am. At hearing this, Brother Egidius exclaimed, “poor old woman! poor old woman! Father Bonaventure says that, if you love God more than he does, you can surpass him in sanctity.”

 

11. This excited the envy of St. Augustine, and made him ashamed of himself. “Surgunt indocti,” he exclaimed, “et rapiunt coelum.” Alas!, the ignorant rise up, and bear away the kingdom of Heaven; and what are we, the learned of this world, doing? Oh!, how many of the rude and illiterate are saved, because, through unable to read, they know how to love God; and how many of the wise of the world are damned! Oh! truly wise were St. John of God, St. Felix of the order of St. Capuchins, and St. Paschal, who were poor lay Franciscans, and unacquainted with human sciences, but learned in the science of the saints. But the wonder is, that, through worldlings themselves are fully persuaded of this truth, and constantly extol the merit of those who retire from the world to live only to God, still they act as if they believed it not.

 

12. Tell me, brethren, to which class do you wish to belong to the wise of the world, or to the wise of God? Before you make a choice, St. Chrysostom advises you to go to the graves of the dead! “Proficiscamur ad Sepulchra” Oh! how eloquently do the sepulchers of the dead teach us the science of the saints and the vanity of all earthly goods! ”For my part,” said the saint, “I see nothing but rottenness, bones, and worms. “ As if he said, Among these skeletons I cannot distinguish the noble, the rich, or the learned; I see that they have all become dust and rottenness, thus all their greatness and glory have passed away like a dream.

 

13. What then must we do? Behold the advice of St. Paul, “This, therefore, I say, brethren, the time is short, it remains that . . . they that use this world be as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passes away.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31). This world is a scene which shall pass away and end very soon . “The time is short.” During the days of life that remain, let us endeavor to live like men who are wise, not according to the world, but according to God, by attending to the sanctification of our souls, and by adopting the means of salvation; by fleeing dangerous occasions; by practicing prayer; joining some pious sodality; frequenting the sacraments; reading every day a spiritual book; and by daily hearing Mass, if it be in our power; or, at least, by visiting Jesus in the holy sacrament of the altar, and some image of the most holy Mary. Thus we shall be truly wise, and shall be happy for time and eternity. 

 

SERMON VI. MALICE OF MORTAL SIN.

 

“Behold, your  father and I have sought you sorrowing." Luke 2:48. 

 

Most holy Mary lost her Son for three days, during that time she wept continually for having lost sight of Jesus, and did not cease to seek after him till she found him. How then

 

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does it happen that so many sinners not only lose sight of Jesus, but even lose his divine grace; and instead of weeping for so great a loss, sleep in peace, and make no effort to recover so great a blessing? This arises from their not feeling what it is to lose God by sin. Some say, I commit this sin, not to lose God, but to enjoy this pleasure, to possess the property of another, or to take revenge of an enemy. They who speak such language show that they do not understand the malice of mortal sin. What is mortal sin?

 

First Point. It is a great contempt shown to God.

 

Second Point. It is a great offence offered to God. First Point. Mortal sin is a great contempt shown to God.

 

1. The Lord calls upon Heaven and Earth to detest the ingratitude of those who commit mortal sin, after they had been created by him, nourished with his blood, and exalted to the dignity of his adopted children. “Hear, O you Heavens, and give ear, Earth; for the Lord has spoken. I have brought up children - and exalted them; but they have despised me.” (Is. 1:2). Who is this God whom sinners despise? He is a God of infinite majesty, before whom all the kings of the Earth and all the blessed in Heaven are less than a drop of water or a grain of sand. "As a drop of a bucket, . . . as a little dust." (Is. 40:15). In a word, such is the majesty of God, that in his presence all creatures are as if they did not exist. “All nations are before him as if they had no being at all.” (Ibid. 40:17). And what is man, who insults him? St. Bernard answers, “Saccus vermium, cibus vermium.” A heap of worms, the food of worms, by which he shall be devoured in the grave. “You art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17). He is so miserable that he can do nothing, so blind that he knows nothing, and so poor that he possesses nothing. And this worm dares to despise a God, and to provoke his wrath. “Vile dust,” says the same saint, “dares to irritate such tremendous majesty.” Justly, then, has St. Thomas asserted, that the malice of mortal sin is, as it were, infinite, “Peccatum habet quandam infinitatem malitiae ex infinitatem divine majestatis.” (Par. 3, q. 2, a. 2, ad. 2). And St. Augustine calls it an infinite evil. Hence, Hell and a thousand Hells are not sufficient chastisement for a single mortal sin.

 

2. Mortal sin is commonly defined by theologians to be “a turning away from the immutable good.” St. Thom., par. 1, q. 24, a. 4; a turning ones back on the sovereign good. Of this God complains by his prophet, saying, “You have forsaken me, says the Lord; you art gone backward." (Jer. 15:6). Ungrateful man, he says to the sinner, I would never have separated myself from you; you have been the first to abandon me, you have gone backwards; you have turned your back upon me.

 

3. He who contemns the divine law despises God; because he knows that by despising the law, he loses the divine grace. “By transgression of the law, you dishonor God.” (Rom. 2:23). God is the Lord of all things, because he has created them. “All things are in your  power... You have made Heaven and Earth.” (Esth. 13:9). Hence, all irrational creatures the winds, the sea, the fire, and rain obey God, “The winds and the sea obey him.” (Matt. 8:27). ”Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfill his word.” (Ps. 148:8). But man, when he sins, says to God, Lord, you do command me, but I will not obey; you do command me to pardon such an injury, but I will resent it; you do command me to give up the property of others, but I will retain it; you do wish that I should abstain from such a forbidden pleasure, but I will indulge in it. “You have broken my yoke, you have burst my

 

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bands, and you said, I will not serve.” (Jer. 2:20). In fine, the sinner when he breaks the command, says to God, I do not acknowledge you for my Lord. Like Pharaoh, when Moses, on the part of God, commanded him in the name of the Lord to allow the people to go into the desert, the sinner answers, “Who is the Lord, that I should hear his voice, and let Israel go?” (Ex. 5:2).

 

4. The insult offered to God by sin is heightened by the vileness of the goods for which sinners offend him. “Wherefore has the wicked provoked God.” (Ps. 10:13). For what do so many offend the Lord? For a little vanity; for the indulgence of anger; or for a beastly pleasure. “They violate me among my people for a handful of barley and a piece of bread.” (Ezek. 13:19). God is insulted for a handful of barley for a morsel of bread! God! why do we allow ourselves to be so easily deceived by the Devil? "There is,” says the Prophet Hosea, “a deceitful balance in his hand.” (12:7). We do not weigh things in the balance of God, which cannot deceive, but in the balance of Satan, who seeks only to deceive us, that he may bring us with himself into Hell. “Lord,” said David, “who is like to you?” (Ps. 34:10). God is an infinite good; and when he sees sinners put him on a level with some earthly trifle, or with a miserable gratification, he justly complains in the language of the prophet, “To whom, have you likened me or made me equal? Says the Holy One.” (Is. 40:25). In your estimation, a vile pleasure is more valuable than my grace. Is it a momentary satisfaction you have preferred before me?” You have cast me off behind your  back.” (Ezek. 23:35). Then, adds Salvian, “there is no one for whom men have less esteem than for God.” (Lib. 5., Avd. Avar). Is the Lord so contemptible in your eyes as to deserve to have the miserable things of the Earth preferred before him?

 

5. The tyrant placed before St. Clement a heap of gold, of silver, and of gems, and promised to give them to the holy martyr if he would renounce the faith of Christ. The saint heaved a sigh of sorrow at the sight of the blindness of men, who put earthly riches in comparison with God. But many sinners exchange the divine grace for things of far less value; they seek after certain miserable goods, and abandon that God who is an infinite good, and who alone can make them happy. Of this the Lord complains, and calls on the Heavens to be astonished, and on its gates to be struck with horror, “Be astonished O you Heavens, at this; and you gates thereof, be very desolate, says the Lord.” He then adds, “For my people have done two evils, they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have dug to themselves cisterns broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:12-13). We regard with wonder and amazement the injustice of the Jews, who, when Pilate offered to deliver Jesus or Barabbas, answered, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” (John 18:40). The conduct of sinners is still worse; for, when the Devil proposes to them to choose between the satisfaction of revenge a miserable pleasure and Jesus Christ, they answer, “Not this man, but Barabbas.” That is, not the Lord Jesus, but sin. 

 

6. “There shall be no new God in you,” says the Lord. (Ps. 80:10). You shall not abandon me, your true God, and make for yourself a new god, whom you shall serve. St. Cyprian teaches that men make their god whatever they prefer before God, by making it their last end; for God is the only last end of all, “Quidquid homo Deo anteponit, Deum sibi facit.” And St. Jerome says, “Unusquisque quod cupit, si veneratur, hoc illi Deus est. Vitium in corde, est idolum in altari.” (In Ps. Ixxx). The creature which a person prefers to God, becomes his God. Hence, the holy doctor adds, that as the Gentiles adored idols on their altars, so sinners

 

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worship sin in their hearts. When King Jeroboam rebelled against God, he endeavored to make the people imitate him in the adoration of idols. He one day placed the idols before them, and said, “Behold your  gods, Israel!” (1 Kings 12:28). The Devil acts in a similar manner towards sinners, he places before them such a gratification, and says, Make this your God. Behold! this pleasure, this money, this revenge is your God, adhere to these, and forsake the Lord. When the sinner consents to sin, he abandons his Creator, and in his heart adores as his god the pleasure which he indulges. “Vitium in corde est idolum in altari."

 

7. The contempt which the sinner offers to God is increased by sinning in God’s presence. According to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, some adored the sun as their god, that during the night they might, in the absence of the sun, do what they pleased, without fear of divine chastisement. “Some regarded the sun as their God, that, after the setting of the sun, they might be without a God.” (Catech. iv). The conduct of these miserable dupes was very criminal; but they were careful not to sin in presence of their god. But Christians know that God is present in all places, and that he sees all things. “Do not I fill Heaven and Earth? says the Lord,” (Jer. 23:24).; and still they do not abstain from insulting him, and from provoking his wrath in his very presence, “A people that continually provoke me to anger before my face.” (Is. 65:3). Hence, by sinning before him who is their judge, they even make God a witness of their iniquities, “I am the judge and the witness, says the Lord.” (Jer. 29:). St. Peter Chrysologus says, that, “the man who commits a crime in the presence of his judge, can offer no defense.” The thought of having offended God in his divine presence, made David weep and exclaim, “To you only have I sinned, and have done evil before you.” (Ps.1:6). But let us pass to the second point, in which we shall see more clearly the enormity of the malice of mortal sin.

 

Second Point. Mortal sin is a great offence offered to God.

 

8. There is nothing more galling than to see oneself despised by those who were most beloved and most highly favored. Whom do sinners insult? They insult a God who bestowed so many benefits upon them, and who loved them so as to die on a cross for their sake; and by the commission of mortal sin they banish that God from their hearts. A soul that loves God is loved by him, and God himself comes to dwell within her. “If anyone love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him.” (John 14:23). The Lord, then, never departs from a soul, unless he is driven away, even through he should know that she will soon banish him from her heart. According to the Council of Trent, “he deserts not the soul, unless he is deserted.”

 

9. When the soul consents to mortal sin she ungratefully says to God, Depart from me. “The wicked have said to God, Depart from us.” (Job 21:14). Sinners, as St. Gregory observes, say the same, not in words, but by their conduct. “Recede, non verbis, sed moribus.” They know that God cannot remain with sin in the soul, and, in violating the divine commands, they feel that God must depart; and, by their acts they say to him, since you cannot remain any longer with us, depart farewell. And through the very door by which God departs from the soul, the Devil enters to take possession of her. When the priest baptizes an infant, he commands the demon to depart from the soul, “Go out from him, unclean spirits, and make room for the Holy Spirit.” But when a Christian consents to mortal sin, he says to God, Depart from me; make room for the

 

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Devil, whom I wish to serve.

 

10. St. Bernard says, that mortal sin is so opposed to God, that, if it were possible for God to die, sin would deprive him of life; "Peccatum quantum in se est Deum perimit.” Hence, according to Job, in committing mortal sin, man rises up against God, and stretches forth his hand against him, “For he has stretched out his hand against God, and has strengthened himself against the Almighty.” (Job. 15:25).

 

11. According to the same St. Bernard, they who willfully violate the divine law, seek to deprive God of life in proportion to the malice of their will; “Quantum in ipsa est Deum perimit propria voluntas.” (Ser. iii. de Res). Because, adds the saint, self-will “would wish God to see its own sins, and to be unable to take vengeance on them.” Sinners know that the moment they consent to mortal sin, God condemns them to Hell. Hence, being firmly resolved to sin, they wish that there was no God, and, consequently, they would wish to take away his life, that he might not be able to avenge their crime. “He has,” continues Job, in his description of the wicked, “run against him with his neck raised up, and is armed with a fat neck.” (15:26). The sinner raises his neck; that is, his pride swells up, and he runs to insult his God; and, because he contends with a powerful antagonist, “he is armed with a fat neck.” “A fat neck” is the symbol of ignorance, of that ignorance which makes the sinner say, This is not a great sin; God is merciful; we are flesh; the Lord will have pity on us. O temerity! illusion! which brings so many Christians to Hell. Moreover, the man who commits a mortal sin afflicts the heart of God. “But they provoked to wrath, and afflicted the spirit of the Holy One.” (Is.63:10). “What pain and anguish would you not feel, if you knew that a person whom you tenderly loved, and on whom you bestowed great favors, had sought to take away your life! God is not capable of pain; but, were he capable of suffering, a single mortal sin would be sufficient to make him die through sorrow. “Mortal sin,” says Father Medina, “if it were possible, would destroy God himself, because it would be the cause of infinite sadness to God.” As often, then, as you committed mortal sin, you would, if it were possible, have caused God to die of sorrow; because you knew that by sin you insulted him and turned your back upon him, after he had bestowed so many favors upon you, and even after he had given all his blood and his life for your salvation.

(An act of sorrow, etc.}

 

SERMON VII. SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY. - ON THE CONFIDENCE WITH WHICH WE OUGHT TO RECOMMEND OURSELVES TO THE MOTHER OF GOD

 

“And the wine failing, the Mother of Jesus says to him, They have no wine” John 2:3.

 

In the Gospel of this day we read that Jesus Christ, having been invited, went with his holy mother to a marriage of Cana of Galilee. “The wine failing, Mary said to her divine Son, “They have no wine.” By these words she intended to ask her Son to console the spouses, who were afflicted because the wine had failed. Jesus answered, “Woman, what is it to me and to you? my hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4). He meant that the time destined for the performance of miracles was that of his preaching through Judea. But, through his answer

 

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appeared to be a refusal of the request of Mary, the Son, says St. Chrysostom, resolved to yield to the desire of the mother. “Althrough he said, my hour is not yet come, he granted the petition of his mother.” (Hom, in ii. John). Mary said to the waiters, “Whatever he shall say to you, do you.” Jesus bid them fill the water-pots with water the water was changed into the most excellent wine. Thus the bride groom and the entire family were filled with gladness. From the fact related in this day’s gospel, let us consider, in the first point, the greatness of Mary’s power to obtain from God the graces which we stand in need of; and in the second, the tenderness of Mary’s compassion, and her readiness to assist us all in our wants.

 


 

* In a notice to the reader, prefixed to the Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus explains the sense in which he wished his doctrine regarding the privileges of the Blessed Virgin to be understood. He concludes this explanation in the following words, “Then, to say all in a few words, the God of all holiness, in order to glorify the Mother of the Redeemer, has decreed and ordained, that her great charity should pray for all those for whom her Divine Son has paid and offered the most superabundant price of his precious blood, in which alone is our salvation, life, and resurrection? And on the foundation of this doctrine, and inasmuch as they accord with it, I have intended to lay down my propositions, which the saints, in their affectionate colloquies with Mary, and in their fervent discourses upon her, have not hesitated to assert.” Glories of Mary. Monza Edition, vol. 1., pp. 11, 12. In the third chapter of the first volume (pp. 123, 124), St. Alphonsus compares the hope which we place in the Blessed Virgin to the confidence which a person has in a minister of state whom he asks to procure a favor from his sovereign. “Whatsoever Mary obtains for us, she obtains it through the merits of Jesus Christ, and because she prays in the name of Jesus Christ.” Glories of Mary, vol. i., p. 188. “Mary, then, is said to be omnipotent in the manner in which omnipotence can be understood of a creature; for a creature is incapable of a divine attribute. Thus she is omnipotent, inasmuch as she obtains by her prayers whatever she asks. “Ibid., p. 223. To obtain favors through the intercession of Mary, by practicing devout exercises in her honor, “the first condition is, that we perform our devotions with a soul free from sin, or, at least, with a desire to give up sin.” “If a person wish to commit sin with the hope of being saved by the Blessed Virgin, he shall thus render himself unworthy  and incapable of her protection.” Glories of Mary, vol. 2., pp. 325, 326.

 

First Point. The greatness of Mary’s power to obtain from God for us all the graces we stand in need of.

 

1. So great is Mary’s merit in the eyes of God, that, according to St. Bonaventure, her prayers are infallibly heard. “The merit of Mary is so great before God, that her petition cannot be rejected.” (De Virg., c. iii). But why are the prayers of Mary so powerful in the sight of God? It is, says St. Antonine, because she is his mother. “The petition of the mother of God partakes of the nature of a command, and therefore it is impossible that she should not be heard.” (Par. 4, tit. 13, c. xvii., 4). The prayers of the saints are the prayers of servants; but the prayers of Mary are the prayers of a mother, and therefore, according to the holy doctor, they are regarded in a certain manner as commands by her Son, who loves her so tenderly. It is then impossible that the prayers of Mary should be rejected.

 

2. Hence, according to Cosmas of Jerusalem, the intercession of Mary is all-powerful. “Omnipotens auxilium tuum, Maria” It is right, as Richard of St. Lawrence teaches, that the son should impart his power to the mother. Jesus Christ, who is all-powerful, has made Mary omnipotent, as far as a creature is capable of omnipotence; that is, omnipotent in obtaining from him, her divine Son, whatever she asks. “Cum autem eadem sit potestas filii et matris ab omnipotente filio, omnipotens mater facta est.” (Lib. 4, de Laud. Virg).

 

3. St. Bridget heard our Savior one day addressing the Virgin in the following words, “Ask from me whatever you wish, for your petition cannot be fruitless.” (Rev. 1. 1, cap. 4). My mother, ask of me what you please; I cannot reject any prayer which you present to me; “because since you refused me nothing on earth, I will refuse you nothing in Heaven.” (Ibid). St. George, Archbishop of Nicomedia, says that Jesus Christ hears all the prayers of his mother, as if he wished thereby to discharge the obligation which he owes to her for having given to him his human nature, by consenting to accept him for her Son. “Filius,

 

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exolvens debitum petitiones tuas implet.” (Orat. de Exitu Mar). Hence, St. Methodius, martyr, used to say to Mary, “Euge, euge, quæ debitorum habeas filium, Deo enim universi debemus, tibi autem ille debitor est.” (Orat, Hyp. Dom). Rejoice, rejoice, holy virgin; for you have for your debtor that Son to whom we are all debtors; to you he owes the human nature which he received from you.

 

4. St. Gregory of Nicomedia encourages sinners by the assurance that, if they have recourse to the Virgin with a determination to amend their lives, she will save them by her intercession. Hence, turning to Mary, he exclaimed, “You have insuperable strength, lest the multitude of our sins should overcome your  clemency.” O mother of God, the sins of a Christian, however great they may be, cannot overcome your  mercy. “Nothing,” adds the same saint, “resists your  power; for the Creator regards your  glory as his own.” Nothing is impossible to you, says St. Peter Damian, you can raise even those who are in despair to hopes of salvation. “Nihil tibi impossibile, quæ etiam desperates in spem salutis potes relevare.” (Ser. i. de Nat. B.V).

 

5. Richard of St. Lawrence remarks that, in announcing to the Virgin that God has chosen her for the mother of his Son, the Archangel Gabriel said to her, “Fear not, Mary; for you have found grace with God.” (Luke 1:30). From which words the same author concludes, “Cupientes invenire gratiam, quæramus inventricem gratiæ." If we wish to recover lost grace, let us seek Mary, by whom this grace has been found. She never lost the divine grace; she always possessed it. If the angel declared that she had found grace, he meant that she had found it not for herself, but for us miserable sinners, who have lost it. Hence, Cardinal Hugo exhorts us to go to Mary, and say to her, O blessed lady, property should be restored to those who lost it, the grace which you have found is not yours for you have never lost the grace of God but it is ours; we have lost it through our own fault, to us, then, you ought to restore it. “Sinners, who by your sins have forfeited the divine grace, run to the Virgin, and say to her with confidence, Restore us to our property, which you have found.”

 

6. It was revealed to St. Gertrude, that all the graces, which we ask of God through the intercession of Mary, shall be given to us. She heard Jesus saying to his divine mother, “Through you all who ask mercy with a purpose of amending their lives, shall obtain grace.” If all Heaven asked a favor of God, and Mary asked the opposite grace, the Lord would hear Mary, and would reject the petition of the rest of the celestial host. Because, says Father Suarez, “God loved the Virgin alone more than all the other saints.” Let us, then, conclude this first point in the words of St. Bernard, “Let us seek grace, and let us seek it through Mary; for she is a mother, and her petition cannot be rejected.” (Serm. de Aquæd). Let us seek through Mary all the graces we desire to receive from God, and we shall obtain them; for she is a mother, and her son cannot refuse to hear her prayers, or to grant the graces which she asks from him.

 

Second Point. On the tender compassion of Mary, and her readiness to assist us in all our wants.

 

7. The tenderness of Mary’s mercy may be inferred from the fact related in this day’s Gospel. The wine fails the spouses are troubled no one speaks to Mary to ask her Son to console them in their necessity. But the tenderness of Mary’s heart, which, according to St. Bernardine of Sienna, cannot but pity the afflicted, moved her to take the office of advocate, and, without

 

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being asked, to entreat her Son to work a miracle. “Unasked, she assumed the office of an advocate and a compassionate helper.” (Tom. 3, ser. ix). Hence, adds the same saint, if, unasked, this good lady has done so much, what will she not do for those who invoke her intercession? “Si hoc non rogata perfecit, quid rogata perficiet?”

 

8. From the fact already related, St. Bonaventure draws another argument to show the great graces which we may hope to obtain through Mary, now that she reigns in Heaven. If she was so compassionate on earth, how much greater must be her mercy now that she is in Heaven? “Great was the mercy of Mary while in exile on earth; but it is much greater now that she is a queen in Heaven; because she now sees the misery of men.” (St. Bona. in Spec. Virg., cap. viii). Mary in Heaven enjoys the vision of God; and therefore she sees our wants far more clearly than when she was on earth; hence, as her pity for us is increased, so also is her desire to assist us more ardent. How truly has Richard of St. Victor said to the Virgin, “So tender is your  heart that you canst not see misery and not afford succor.” It is impossible for this loving mother to behold a human being in distress without extending to him pity and relief.

 

9. St. Peter Damian says that the Virgin “loves us with an invincible love.” (Ser, i. de Nat. Virg). How ardently soever the saints may have loved this amiable queen, their affection fell far short of the love which Mary bore to them. It is this love that makes her so solicitous for our welfare. The saints in Heaven, says St. Augustine, have great power to obtain grace from God for those who recommend themselves to their prayers; but as Mary is of all the saints the most powerful, so she is of all the most desirous to procure for us the divine mercy, “Sicut omnibus sanctis potentior, sic omnibus est pro nobis sollicitior.”

 

10. And, as this our great advocate once said to St. Bridget, she regards not the iniquities of the sinner who has recourse to her, but the disposition with which he invokes her aid. If he comes to her with a firm purpose of amendment she receives him, and by her intercession heals his wounds, and brings him to salvation. “However great a mans sins may be, if he shall return to me, I am ready instantly to receive him. Nor do I regard the number or the enormity of his sins, but the will with which he comes to me; for I do not disdain to anoint and heal his wounds, because I am called, and truly am, the mother of mercy.”

 

11. The blessed Virgin is called a "fair olive tree in the plains,” “Quasi oliva speciosa in campis.” (Sir. 24:19). From the olive, oil only comes forth; and from the hands of Mary only graces and mercies flow. According to Cardinal Hugo, it is said that she remains in the plains, to show that she is ready to assist all those who have recourse to her, “Speciosa in campis ut omnes ad earn confugiant.” In the Old Law there were five cities of refuge, in which not all, but only those who had committed certain crimes, could find an asylum; but in Mary, says St. John Damascene, all criminals, whatever may be their offences, may take refuge. Hence, he calls her “the city of refuge for all who have recourse to her.” Why, then, says St. Bernard, should we be afraid to approach Mary? She is all sweetness and clemency; in her there is nothing austere or terrible, “Quid ad Mariam accedere trepidat humana fragilitas? Nihil austerum in ea, nihil terribile, tota sauvis est.”

 

12. St. Bonaventure used to say that, in turning to Mary, he saw mercy itself receiving him. “When I behold you, O my lady, I see nothing but mercy." The Virgin said one day to St.

 

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Bridget, “Miser erit, qui ad misericordiam cum possit, non accedit.” Miserable and miserable for eternity shall be the sinner who, through he has it in his power during life to come to me, who am able and willing to assist him, neglects to invoke my aid, and is lost, “The devil” says St. Peter, “as a roaring lion goes about seeing whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). But, according to Bernardine a Bustis, this mother of mercy is constantly going about in search of sinners to save them. “She continually goes about seeking whom she may save.” (Maril. par. 3, ser. iii). This queen of clemency, says Richard of St. Victor, presents our petitions, and begins to assist us before we ask the assistance of her prayers; "Velocius occurrit ejus pietas quam invocetur, et causas miserorum anticipat.” (In Can., c. xxiii). Because, as the same author says, Mary’s heart is so full of tenderness towards us, that she cannot behold our miseries without affording relief. “Nee possis miserias scire, et non sub venire.”

 

13. Let us, then, in all our wants, be most careful to have recourse to this mother of mercy, who is always ready to assist those who invoke her aid. “Invenies semper paratam auxiliari,” says Richard of St. Lawrence. She is always prepared to come to our help, and frequently prevents our supplications, but, ordinarily, she requires that we should pray to her, and is offended when we neglect to ask her assistance. “In te domina peccant,” says St. Bonaventure, “non solum qui tibi injuriam irrogant, sed etiam qui te non rogant.” (In Spec. Virg). You, blessed lady, art displeased not only with those who commit an injury against you, but also with those who do not ask favors from you. Hence, as the same holy doctor teaches, it is not possible that Mary should neglect to succor any soul that flies to her for protection; for she cannot but pity and console the afflicted who have recourse to her. “Ipsa enim non misereri ignorat et miseris non satisfacere.”

 

14. But, to obtain special favors from this good lady, we must perform in her honor certain devotions practiced by her servants; such as, first, to recite every day at least five decades of the Rosary; secondly, to fast every Saturday in her honor. Many persons fast every Saturday on bread and water, you should fast in this manner at least on the vigils of her seven principal festivals. Thirdly, to say the three Aves when the bell rings for the Angelus Domini; and to salute her frequently during the day with an Ave Maria, particularly when you hear a clock strike, or when you see an image of the Virgin, and also when you leave or return to your house. Fourthly, to say every evening the Litany of the Blessed Virgin before you go to rest; and for this purpose procure an image of Mary, and keep it near your bed. Fifthly, to wear the scapular of Mary in sorrow, and of Mount Carmel. There are many other devotions practiced by the servants of Mary; but the most useful of all is, to recommend yourself frequently to her prayers. Never omit to say three Aves in the morning, to beg of her to preserve you from sin during the day. In all temptations have immediate recourse to her, saying, “Mary, assist me.” To resist every temptation, it is sufficient to pronounce the names of Jesus and Mary; and if the temptation continues, let us continue to invoke Jesus and Mary, and the devil shall never be able to conquer us.

 

15. St. Bonaventure calls Mary the salvation of those who invoke her, “salus te invocantium.” And if a true servant of Mary were lost (I mean one truly devoted to her, who wishes to amend his life, and invoke with confidence this advocate of sinners)., this should happen either because Mary would be unable or unwilling to assist him. But, says St. Bernard, this is impossible, being the mother of omnipotence and of mercy, Mary cannot want the power or

 

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the will to save her servants. Justly then is she called the salvation of all who invoke her aid. Of this truth there are numberless examples, that of St. Mary of Egypt will be sufficient. After leading for many years a sinful and dissolute life, she wished to enter the church of Jerusalem in which the festival of the holy cross was celebrated. To make her feel her miseries, God closed against her the door which was open to all others, as often as she endeavored to enter, an invisible force drove her back. She instantly perceived her miserable condition, and remained in sorrow outside the church. Fortunately for her there was an image of most holy Mary over the porch of the church. As a poor sinner she recommended herself to the divine mother, and promised to change her life. After her prayer, she felt encouraged to go into the church, and, behold! the door which was before closed against her she now finds open, she enters, and confesses her sins. She leaves the church, and, under the influence of divine inspiration, goes into the desert, where she lived for forty-seven years, and became a saint.

 

SERMON VIII THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY. - ON THE REMORSE OF THE DAMNED.

 

“But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt. 8:12.

 

In the Gospel of this day it is related that, “when Jesus Christ entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion beseeching him” to cure his servant, who lay sick of the palsy. Jesus answered, “I will come and heal him.” "No,” replied the centurion, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” (5:8). Seeing the centurion’s faith, the Redeemer instantly consoled him by restoring health to his servant; and, turning to his disciples, he said, “Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” By these words our Lord wished to signify, that many persons born in infidelity shall be saved, and enjoy the society of the saints, and that many who are born in the bosom of the Church shall be cast into Hell, where the worm of conscience, by its gnawing, shall make them weep bitterly for all eternity. Let us examine the remorses of conscience which, a damned Christian shall suffer in Hell. First remorse, arising from the thought of the little which he required to do in order to save his soul. Second remorse, arising from the remembrance of the trifles for which he lost his soul. Third remorse, arising from the knowledge of the great good, which he has lost through his own fault.

 

First remorse of the damned Christian, arising from the thought of the little which he required to do in order to save his soul.

 

1. A damned soul once appeared to St. Hubert, and said, that two remorse’s were her most cruel executioners in Hell, the thought of the little, which was necessary for her to have done in this life to secure her salvation; and the thought of the trifles for which she brought herself to eternal misery. The same thing has been said by St. Thomas. Speaking of the reprobate, he says, “They shall be in sorrow principally because they are damned for nothing, and because they could most easily have obtained eternal life.” Let us stop to consider this first source of remorse; that is, how few and transitory are the pleasures for which all the damned are lost.

 

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Each of the reprobate will say for eternity, If I abstained from such a gratification; if in certain circumstances I overcame human respect; if I avoided such an occasion of sin such a companion, I should not now be damned; if I had frequented some pious sodality; if I had gone to confession every week; if in temptations I had recommended myself to God, I would not have relapsed into sin. I have so often proposed to do these things, but I have not done them. I began to practice these means of salvation, but afterwards gave them up; and thus I am lost.

 

2. This torment of the damned will be increased by the remembrance of the good example given them by some young companions who led a chaste and pious life even in the midst of the world. It will be still more increased by the recollection of all the gifts which the Lord had bestowed upon them, that by their cooperation they might acquire eternal salvation; the gifts of nature health, riches, respectability of family, talents; all gifts granted by God, not to be employed in the indulgence of pleasures and in the gratification of vanity, but in the sanctification of their souls, and in becoming saints. So many gifts of grace, so many divine lights, holy inspirations, loving calls, and so many years of life to repair past disorders. But they shall forever hear from the angel of the Lord that for them the time of salvation is past. “The angel whom I saw standing, swore by Him that liveth forever and ever. . . . that time shall be no longer.” (Rev. 10:6).

 

3. Alas! what cruel swords shall all these blessings received from God be to the heart of a poor damned Christian, when he shall see himself shut up in the prison of Hell, and that there is no more time to repair his eternal ruin! In despair he will say to his wretched companions, “The harvest is past; the summer is ended; and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8:20). The time, he will say, of gathering fruits of eternal life is past; the summer, during which we could have saved our souls, is over, but we are not saved, the winter is come; but it is an eternal winter, in which we must live in misery and despair as long as God shall be God.

 

4. O fool, he will say, that I have been! If I had suffered for God the pains to which I have submitted for the indulgence of my passions if the labors which I have endured for my own damnation, had been borne for my salvation, how happy should I now be! And what now remains of all past pleasures, but remorse and pain, which now torture, and shall torture me for eternity? Finally, he will say, I might be forever happy and now, I must be forever miserable. Ah! this thought will torture the damned more than the fire and all the other torments of Hell.

 

Second remorse of the damned, arising from the remembrance of the trifles for which they lost their souls.

 

5. Saul forbid the people, under pain of death, to taste food. His son Jonathan, who was then young being hungry, tasted a little honey. Having discovered that Jonathan had violated the command, the king declared that he should die. Seeing himself condemned to death, Jonathan said with tears, “I did but taste a little honey, and behold I must die.” (1 Kings 14:43). But the people, moved to pity for Jonathan, interposed with his father, and delivered him from death. For the unhappy damned there is no compassion; there is no one to intercede with God to deliver them from the eternal death of Hell. On the contrary, all rejoice at the just

 

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punishment, which they suffer for having willfully lost God and Heaven for the sake of a transitory pleasure.

 

6. After having eaten the pottage of lentils for which he sold his right of primogeniture, Esau was tortured with grief and remorse for what he had lost, and “roared out with a great cry.” (Gen. 27:34). Oh! how great shall be the roaring and howling of the damned, at the thought of having lost, for a few poisonous and momentary pleasures, the everlasting kingdom of Heaven, and of being condemned for eternity to a continual death!

 

7. The unfortunate reprobate shall be continually employed in reflecting on the unhappy cause of their damnation. To us who live on earth our past life appears but a moment ~ but a dream. Alas! what will the fifty or sixty years which they may have spent in this world appear to the damned, when they shall find themselves in the abyss of eternity, and when they shall have passed a hundred and a thousand millions of years in torments, and shall see that their miserable eternity is only beginning, and shall be forever in its commencement? But have the fifty years spent on this earth been full of pleasures? Perhaps the sinner, living in enmity with God, enjoyed uninterrupted happiness in his sins? How long do the pleasures of sin last? Only for a few minutes; the remaining part of the lives of those who live at a distance from God is full of anguish and pain. Oh! what will these moments of pleasure appear to a damned soul, when she shall find herself in a pit of fire?

 

8. “What has pride profited us or what advantage has the boasting of riches brought us? All those things have passed away like a shadow.” (Wis. 5:8). Unhappy me! each of the damned shall say, I have lived on earth according to my corrupt inclinations; I have indulged my pleasures; but what have they profited me? They have lasted but for a short time; they have made me lead a life of bitterness and disquietude; and now I must burn in this furnace forever, in despair, and abandoned by all.

 

Third remorse of the damned, arising from the knowledge of the great good which they have lost by their own fault.

 

9. A certain queen, blinded by the ambition of being a sovereign, said one day, “If the Lord gives me a reign of forty years, I shall renounce Heaven.” The unhappy queen reigned for forty years; but now that she is in another world, she cannot but be grieved at having made such a renunciation. Oh! how great must be her anguish at the thought of having lost the kingdom of Heaven for the sake of a reign of forty years, full of troubles, of crosses, and of fears! “Plus coelo torquetor, quam gehenna,” says St. Peter Chrysologus. To the damned the voluntary loss of Heaven is a greater loss than the very pains of Hell.

 

10. The greatest pain in Hell is the loss of God, that sovereign good, who is the source of all the joys of Heaven. “Let torments,” says St. Bruno, “be added to torments, and let them not be deprived of God.” (Serm, de Jud. fin). The damned would be content to have a thousand Hells added to the Hell which they suffer provided they were not deprived of God; but their Hell shall consist in seeing themselves deprived forever of God through their own fault. St. Teresa used to say, that when a person loses, through his own fault, a trifle a small sum of money, or a ring of little value the thought of having lost it through his own neglect afflicts him and disturbs his peace. What then must be the anguish of the damned in reflecting that they have lost God, a good of infinite value, and have lost him through their own fault?

 

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11. The damned shall see that God wished them to be saved, and had given them the choice of eternal life or of eternal death. “Before man is life and death, that which he shall choose shall be given to him.” (Eccles. 15:18). They shall see that, if they wished, they might have acquired eternal happiness, and that, by their own choice, they are damned. On the Day of Judgment they shall see many of their companions among the elect; but, because they would not put a stop to their career of sin, they have gone to end it in Hell. “Therefore we have erred,” they shall say to their unhappy associates in Hell; "we have erred in losing Heaven and God through our own fault, and our error is irreparable." They shall continually exclaim, “There is no peace for my bones because of my sins.” (Ps. 37:4). The thought of having been the cause of their own damnation produces an internal pain, which enters into the very bones of the damned, and prevents them from ever enjoying a moments repose. Hence, each of them shall be to himself an object of the greatest horror. Each shall suffer the pain threatened by the Lord, “I will set YOU before your  face.” (Ps. 99:21).

 

12. If, beloved brethren, you have hitherto been so foolish as to lose God for a miserable pleasure, do not persevere in your folly. Endeavor, now that you have it in your power, to repair your past error. Tremble! Perhaps, if you do not now resolve to change your life, you shall be abandoned by God, and be lost forever. When the Devil tempts you, remember Hell, the thought of Hell will preserve you from that land of misery. I say, remember Hell and have recourse to Jesus Christ and to most holy Mary, and they will deliver you from sin, which is the gate of Hell.

 

SERMON IX. FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY. - DANGERS TO ETERNAL SALVATION.

 

“And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him; and, behold, a great tempest arose in the sea.” Matt. 8:23, 24.

 

On the greatness of the dangers to which our eternal salvation is exposed, and on the manner in which we ought to guard against them.

 

1. In this day's Gospel we find that, when Jesus Christ entered the boat along with his disciples, a great tempest arose, so that the boat was agitated by the waves, and was on the point of being lost. During this storm the Savior was asleep; but the disciples, terrified by the storm, ran to awake him, and said, “Lord, save us, we perish.” (v. 25). Jesus gave them courage by saying, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith? Then rising up, he commanded the winds and the sea, and there came a great calm.” Let us examine what is meant by the boat in the midst of the sea, and by the tempest, which agitated the sea.

 

2. The boat on the sea represents man in this world. As a vessel on the sea is exposed to a thousand dangers to pirates, to quicksand, to hidden rocks, and to tempests; so man in this life is encompassed with perils arising from the temptations of Hell from the occasions of sin, from the scandals or bad counsels of men, from human respect, and, above all, from the bad passions of corrupt nature, represented by the winds that agitate the sea and expose the vessel to great danger of being lost.

 

6. Thus, as St. Leo says, our life is full of dangers, of snares, and of enemies, “Plena omnia periculis, plena laqueis, incitant cupiditates, insidiantur illecebræ; blandiuntur lucra.” (S.

 

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Leo, serm. v, de Quad). The first enemy of the salvation of every Christian is his own corruption. “But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.” (Jas. 1:14). Along with the corrupt inclinations which live within us, and drag us to evil, we have many enemies from without that fight against us. We have the devils, with whom the contest is very difficult, because they are “stronger than we are.” “Bellum grave," says Cassiodorus, “qui cum fortiore.” (In Ps. 5). Hence, because we have to contend with powerful enemies, St. Paul exhorts us to arm ourselves with the divine aid, “Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the Devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:11, 12). The Devil, according to St. Peter, is a lion who is continually going about roaring, through the rage and hunger which impel him to devour our souls. “Your adversary, the Devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter, 5:8,). St. Cyprian says that Satan is continually lying in wait for us, in order to make us his slaves, “Circuit demon nos singulos, et tanquam hostis clauses obsidens muros explorat et tenat num sit pars aliqua minis stabilis, cujus auditu ad interiora penetretur.” (S. Cyp. lib. de zelo, etc).

 

4. Even the men with whom we must converse endanger our salvation. They persecute or betray us, or deceive us by their flattery and bad counsels. St. Augustine says that, among the faithful there are in every profession hollow and deceitful men. “Omnis professio in ecclesia habet fictos.” (In Ps. 94). Now if a fortress were full of rebels within, and encompassed by enemies from without, who is there that would not regard it as lost? Such is the condition of each of us as long as we live in this world. Who shall be able to deliver us from so many powerful enemies? Only God, “Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it.” (Ps. 126:2).

 

5. What then is the means by which we can save our souls in the midst of so many dangers? It is to imitate the holy disciples to have recourse to our Divine Master, and say to him, “Save us; we perish.” Save us, Lord; if you do not we are lost. When the tempest is violent, the pilot never takes his eyes from the light which guides him to the port. In like manner we should keep our eyes always turned to God, who alone can deliver us from the many dangers to which we are exposed. It was thus David acted when he found himself assailed by the dangers of sin. “I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from Hence,  help shall come to me.” (Ps. 120:1). To teach us to recommend ourselves continually to him who alone can save us by his grace, the Lord has ordained that, as long as we remain on this earth, we should live in the midst of a continual tempest, and should be surrounded by enemies. The temptations of the Devil, the persecutions of men, the adversity which we suffer in this world, are not evils, they are, on the contrary, advantages, if we know how to make of them the use which God wishes, who sends or permits them for our welfare. They detach our affections from this earth, and inspire a disgust for this world, by making us feel bitterness and thorns even in its honors, its riches, its delights, and amusements. The Lord permits all these apparent evils, that we may take away our affections from fading goods, in which we meet with so many dangers of perdition, and that we may seek to unite ourselves with him who alone can make us happy.

 

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6. Our error and mistake is, that when we find ourselves harassed by infirmities, by poverty, by persecutions, and by such tribulations, instead of having recourse to the Lord, we turn to men, and place our confidence in their assistance, and thus draw upon ourselves the malediction of God, who says, “Cursed be the man who trusts in man.” (Jer. 17:5). The Lord does not forbid us, in our afflictions and dangers, to have recourse to human means; but he curses those who place their whole trust in them. He wishes us to have recourse to himself before all others, and to place our only hope in him, that we may also center in him all our love.

 

7. As long as we live on this earth, we must, according to St. Paul, work out our salvation with fear and trembling, in the midst of the dangers by which we are beset. “Cum metu et tremore vestram salutem opera mini.” (Phil. 2:12). While a certain vessel was in the open sea a great tempest arose, which made the captain tremble. In the hold of the vessel there was an animal eating with as much tranquility as if the sea were perfectly calm. The captain being asked why he was so much afraid, replied, If I had a soul like the soul of this brute, I too would be tranquil and without fear; but because I have a rational and an immortal soul, I am afraid of death, after which I must appear before the judgment seat of God; and therefore I tremble through fear. Let us also tremble, beloved brethren. The salvation of our immortal souls is at stake. They who do not tremble are, as St. Paul says, in great danger of being lost; because they who fear not, seldom recommend themselves to God, and labor but little to adopt the means of salvation. Let us beware, we are, says St. Cyprian, still in battle array, and still combat for eternal salvation. “Adhuc in acie constituti de vita nostra imicamus.” (S. Cypr., lib. 1, cap. i).

 

8. The first means of salvation, then, is to recommend ourselves continually to God, that he may keep his hands over us, and preserve us from offending him. The next is, to cleanse the soul from all past sins by making a general confession. A general confession is a powerful help to a change of life. When the tempest is violent the burden of the vessel is diminished, and each person on board throws his goods into the sea in order to save his life. folly of sinners, who, in the midst of such great dangers of eternal perdition, instead of diminishing the burden of the vessel that is, instead of unburdening the soul of her sins load her with a greater weight. Instead of flying from the dangers of sin, they fearlessly continue to put themselves voluntarily into dangerous occasions; and, instead of having recourse to God’s mercy for the pardon of their offences, they offend him still more, and compel him to abandon, them.

 

9. Another means is, to labor strenuously not to allow ourselves to become the slaves of irregular passions. “Give me not over to a shameless and foolish mind.” (Sir. 23:6). Do not, Lord, deliver me up to a mind blinded by passion. He who is blind sees not what he is doing, and therefore he is in danger of falling into every crime. Thus so many are lost by submitting to the tyranny of their passions. Some are slaves to the passion of avarice. A person who is now in the other world said, Alas! I perceive that a desire of riches is beginning to rule over me. So said the unhappy man; but he applied no remedy. He did not resist the passion in the beginning, but fomented it till death, and thus at his last moments left but little reason to hope for his salvation. Others are slaves to sensual pleasures. They are not content with lawful gratifications, and therefore they pass to the indulgence of those that

 

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are forbidden. Others are subject to anger; and because they are not careful to check the fire at its commencement, when it is small, it increases and grows into a spirit of revenge.

 

10. “Hi hostes cavendi,” says St. Ambrose, “hi graviores tyranni. Multi in persecutione publica coronati, in hac persecutione ceciderunt.” (In Ps. 118. serm. 20). Disorderly affections, if they are not beaten down in the beginning, become our greatest tyrants. Many, says St. Ambrose, after having victoriously resisted the persecutions of the enemies of the faith, were afterwards lost because they did not resist the first assaults of some earthly passion. Of this, Origen was a miserable example. He fought for, and was prepared to give his life in defense of the faith; but, by afterwards yielding to human respect, he was led to deny it. (Natalis Alexander, His. Sir. , tom. 7, dis. xv., q. 2, a. 1). We have still a more miserable example in Solomon, who, after having received so many gifts from God, and after being inspired by the Holy Spirit, was, by indulging a passion for certain pagan, women, induced to offer incense to idols. The unhappy man who submits to the slavery of his wicked passions, resembles the ox that is sent to the slaughter after a life of constant labor. During their whole lives worldlings groan under the weight of their sins, and, at the end of their days, fall into Hell.

 

11. Let us conclude. When the winds are strong and violent, the pilot lowers the sails and casts anchor. So, when we find ourselves assailed by any bad passion, we .should always lower the sails; that is, we should avoid all the occasions which may increase the passion and should cast anchor by uniting ourselves to God, and by begging of him to give us strength not to offend him.

 

12. But some of you will say, What am I to do? I live in the midst of the world, where my passions continually assail me even against my will. I will answer in the words of Origen, “Donee quis in tenebris sæculanbus manet et in negotiorum obscuritate versatur, non potest servire Domino. Exeundum est ergo de Egypto, relmquendus est mundus, non loco sed ammo.” (Hom. 111. in Ex). The man who lives in the darkness of the world and in the midst of secular business, can with difficulty serve God. Whoever then wishes to insure his eternal salvation, let him retire from the world, and take refuge in one of those exact religious communities which are the secure harbors in the sea of this world. If he cannot actually leave the world, let him leave it at least in affection, by detaching his heart from the things of this world, and from his own evil inclinations, “Go not after your lusts,” says the Holy Spirit, “but turn away from your own will.” (Sir. 18:30). Follow not your own concupiscence; and when your will impels you to evil, you must not indulge, but must resist its inclinations.

 

13. “The time is short, it remains that they also who have wives be as if they had none; and they that weep, as through they wept not; and they that rejoice, as it they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as if they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passes away” (1 Cor. 7:29, etc). The time of life is short; we should then prepare for death, which is rapidly approaching; and to prepare for that awful moment, let us reflect that everything in this world shall soon end. Hence, the Apostle tells those who suffer in this life to be as if they suffered not, because the miseries of this life shall soon pass away, and they who save their souls shall be happy for eternity; and he exhorts those who enjoy the goods of this earth to be as if they enjoyed them not, because they must one day leave all things; and if they lose their souls, they shall be miserable forever.

 

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SERMON X. FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY. - ON THE PAINS OF HELL.

 

“Gather up first the cockle, and bind into bundles to burn.” Matt. 13:30.

 

I shall first speak of the fire, which is the principal pain that torments the senses of the damned, and afterwards of the other pains of hell.

 

1. Behold! the final doom of sinners who abuse the divine mercy is to burn in the fire of hell. God threatens hell, not to send us there, but to deliver us from that place of torments. “Minatur Deus gehennem, “says St. Chrysostom, “ut a gehenna liberet, et ut firmi ac stabiles evitemus minas.” (Hom. v. de Poenit). Remember, then, brethren, that God gives you Today the opportunity of hearing this sermon, that you may be preserved from hell, and that you may give up sin, which alone can lead you to hell.

 

2. My brethren, it is certain and of faith that there is a hell. After judgment the just shall enjoy the eternal glory of Heaven, and sinners shall be condemned to suffer the everlasting chastisement reserved for them in hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting.” (Matt. 25:46). Let us examine in what hell consists. It is what the rich glutton called it a place of torments. “In hunc locum tormentorum.” (Luke 16:28). It is a place of suffering, where each of the senses and powers of the damned has its proper torment, and in which the torments of each person will be increased in proportion to the forbidden pleasures in which he indulged. “As much as she has glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give you to her.” (Rev. 18:7).

 

3. In offending God the sinner does two evils, he abandons God, the sovereign good, who is able to make him happy, and turns to creatures, who are incapable of giving any real happiness to the soul. Of this injury which men commit against him, the Lord complains by his prophet Jeremiah, “For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have dug to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13). Since, then, the sinner turns his back on God, he shall be tormented in hell, by the pain arising from the loss of God, of which I shall speak on another occasion [see the Sermon for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost], and since, in offending God, he turns to creatures, he shall be justly tormented by the same creatures, and principally by fire.

 

4. “The vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms.” (Eccl 7:19). Fire and the remorse of conscience are the principal means by which God takes vengeance on the flesh of the wicked. Hence, in condemning the reprobate to hell, Jesus Christ commands them to go into eternal fire. “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. 25:41). This fire, then, shall be one of the most cruel executioners of the damned.

 

5. Even in this life the pain of fire is the most terrible of all torments. However, St. Augustine says, that in comparison of the fire of hell, the fire of this earth is no more than a picture compared with the reality, “In cuius comparatione noster hie ignus depictus est." Anselm teaches, that the fire of hell as far surpasses the fire of this world, as the fire of the real exceeds that of painted fire. The pain, then, produced by the fire of hell is far greater than that which is produced by our fire because God has made the fire of this earth for the use of man, but he has created the fire of hell purposely for the chastisement of sinners; and therefore, as

 

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Tertullian says, he has made it a minister of his justice. “Longe alius est ignis, qui usui humano, alms qui Dei justitiæ deservit.” This avenging fire is always kept alive by the wrath of God. “A fire is kindled in my rage." (Jer. 15:14).

 

6 “And the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell.” (Luke 16:22). The damned are buried in the fire of hell; Hence, they have an abyss of fire below, an abyss of fire above, and an abyss of fire on every side. As a fish in the sea is surrounded by water, so the unhappy reprobate are encompassed by fire on every side. The sharpness of the pain of fire may be inferred from the circumstance, that the rich glutton complained of no other torment. “I am tormented in this flame.” (Ibid, v 23).

 

7 The Prophet Isaias says that the Lord will punish the guilt of sinners with the spirit of fire. “If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion by the spirit of burning” (4. 4).. “The spirit of burning” is the pure essence of fire. All spirits or essences, through taken from simple herbs or flowers, are so penetrating, that they reach the very bones. Such is the fire of hell. Its activity is so great, that a single spark of it would be sufficient to melt a mountain of bronze. The disciple relates, that a damned person, who appeared to a religious, dipped his hand into a vessel of water; the religious placed in the vessel a candlestick of bronze, which was instantly dissolved.

 

8. This fire shall torment the damned not only externally, but also internally. It will burn the bowels, the heart, the brains, the blood within the veins, and the marrow within the bones. The skin of the damned shall be like a caldron, in which their bowels, their flesh, and their bones shall be burned. David says, that the bodies of the damned shall be like so many furnaces of fire. “You shall make them as an oven of fire in the time of your  anger.” (Ps. 20:10).

 

9. O God! certain sinners cannot bear to walk under a strong sun, or to remain before a large fire in a close room; they cannot endure a spark from a candle; and they fear not the fire of hell, which, according to the Prophet Isaias, not only burns, but devours the unhappy damned. “Which of you can dwell with devouring fire. “(Is.33:14). As a lion devours a lamb, so the fire of hell devours the reprobate; but it devours without destroying life, and thus tortures them with a continual death. Continue, says St. Peter Damian to the sinner who indulges in impurity, continue to satisfy your flesh; a day will come, or rather an eternal night, when your impurities, like pitch, shall nourish a fire within your very bowels. “Venit dies, imo nox, quando libido tua vertetur in picem qua se nutriet perpetuus ignis in visceribus tuis.” (Epist. 6). And according to St. Cyprian, the impurities of the wicked shall boil in the very fat which will issue from their accursed bodies.

 

10, St. Jerome teaches, that in this fire sinners shall suffer not only the pain of the fire, but also all the pains, which men endure on this earth. “In uno igne omnia supplicia sentient in inferno peccatores.” (Ep. ad Pam). How manifold are the pains to which men are subject in this life. Pains in the sides, pains in the head, pains in the loins, pains in the bowels. All these together torture the damned.

 

11. The fire itself will bring with it the pain of darkness; for, by its smoke it will, according to St. John, produce a storm of darkness which shall blind the damned. “To whom the storm of

 

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darkness is reserved forever.” (St. Jude 13). Hence, hell is called a land of darkness covered with the shadow of death. “A land that is dark and covered with the mist of death a land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order but everlasting horror dwells.” (Job 10:21, 22). To hear that a criminal is shut up in a dungeon for ten or twenty years excites our compassion. Hell is a dungeon closed on every side, into which a ray of the sun or the light of a candle never enters. Thus the damned “shall never see light.” (Ps 48:20). The fire of this world gives light, but the fire of hell is utter darkness. In explaining the words of David, “the voice of the Lord divides the flame of fire,” (Ps. 28:7,). St. Basil says, that in hell the Lord separates the fire that burns from the flame which illuminates, and therefore this fire burns, but gives no light. B. Albertus Magnus explains this passage more concisely by saying that God “divides the heat from the light.” St. Thomas teaches, that in hell there is only so much light as is necessary to torment the damned by the sight of their associates and of the devils, “Quantum sufficit ad videndum ilia quæ torquere possunt.” (3 p., q. 97, art. 5). And according to St. Augustine, the bare sight of these infernal monsters excites sufficient terror to cause the death of all the damned, if they were capable of dying. “Videbunt monstra, quorum visio postet illos occidere.”

 

12. To suffer a parching thirst, without having a drop of water to quench it, is intolerably painful. It has sometimes happened, that travelers who could procure no refreshment after a long journey, have fainted from the pain produced by thirst. So great is the thirst of the damned, that if one of them were offered all the water on this earth, he would exclaim, All this water is not sufficient to extinguish the burning thirst which I endure. But, alas! the unhappy damned shall never have a single drop of water to refresh their tongues. “He cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. “ (Luke 16:24). The rich glutton has not obtained, and shall never obtain, this drop of water, as long as God shall be God.

 

13. The reprobate shall be likewise tormented by the stench which pervades hell. The stench shall arise from the very bodies of the damned. “Out of their carcasses shall arise a stink.” (Isaiah 34:3). The bodies of the damned are called carcasses, not because they are dead (for they are living, and shall be forever alive to pain)., but on account of the stench which they exhale. Would it not be very painful to be shut up in a close room with a fetid corpse? St. Bonaventure says, that if the body of one of the damned were placed in the earth, it would, by its stench, be sufficient to cause the death of all men. How intolerable, then, must it be to live forever in the dungeons of hell in the midst of the immense multitudes of the damned! Some foolish worldlings say, If I go to hell, I shall not be there alone. Miserable fools! do you not see that the greater the number of your companions, the more insufferable shall be your torments? “There,” says St. Thomas, “the society of the reprobate shall cause an increase and not a diminution of misery.” (Suppl., q. 86, art. 1). The society of the reprobate augments their misery, because each of the damned is a source of suffering to all the others. Hence, the greater their number, the more they shall mutually torment each other. “And the people,” says the prophet Isaias, “shall be ashes after a fire, as a bundle of thorns they shall be burnt with fire.” (Is. 33:12). Placed in the midst of the furnace of hell, the damned are like so many grains reduced to ashes by that abyss of fire, and like so many thorns tied together and wounding each other.

 

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14. They are tormented not only by the stench of their companions, but also by their shrieks and lament.. How painful it is to a person longing for sleep to hear the groans of a sick man, the barking of a dog, or the screams of an infant. The damned must listen incessantly to the wailing and howling of their associates, not for a night, nor for a thousand nights, but for all eternity, without the interruption of a single moment.

 

15. The damned are also tormented by the narrowness of the place in which they are confined; for, although the dungeon of hell is large, it will be too small for so many millions of the reprobate, who like sheep shall be heaped one over the other. “They are,” says David, “laid in hell like sheep.” (Ps. 38:15). We learn from the Scriptures that they shall be pressed together like grapes in the winepress, by the vengeance of an angry God. “The winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 19:15). From this pressure shall arise the pain of immobility. “Let them become unmovable as a stone.” (Ex. 16:16). In whatever position the damned shall fall into hell after the general judgment, whether on the side, or on the back, or with the head downwards, in that they must remain for eternity, without being ever able to move foot or hand or finger, as long as God shall be God. In a word, St. Chrysostom says, that all the pains of this life, however great they may be, are scarcely a shadow of the torments of the damned. “Hæc omnia ludicra sunt et risus ad ilia supplicia, pone ignem, ferrum, et bestias, attamen vix umbra sunt ad ilia tormenta.” (Hom, xxxix. ad pop. Ant).

 

16. The reprobate, then, shall be tormented in all the senses of the body. They shall also be tormented in all the powers of the soul. Their memory shall be tormented by the remembrance of the years which they had received from God for the salvation of their souls, and which they spent in laboring for their own damnation; by the remembrance of so many graces and so many divine lights which they abused. Their understanding shall be tormented by the knowledge of the great happiness which they forfeited in losing their souls, Heaven, and God; and by a conviction that this loss is irreparable. Their will shall be tormented by seeing that whatsoever they ask or desire shall be refused. “The desire of the wicked shall perish.” (Ps. 111:10). They shall never have any of those things for which they wish, and must forever suffer all that is repugnant to their will. They would wish to escape from these torments and to find peace; but in these torments they must forever remain, and peace they shall never enjoy.

 

17. Perhaps they may sometimes receive a little comfort, or at least enjoy occasional repose? No, says Cyprian, “Nullum ibi refrigerium, nullum remedium, atque ita omni tormento atrocius desperatio.” (Serm. de Ascens). In this life, how great soever may be the tribulations which we suffer, there is always some relief or interruption. The damned must remain forever in a pit of fire, always in torture, always weeping, without ever enjoying a moments repose. But perhaps there is someone to pity their sufferings? At the very time that they are so much afflicted the devils continually reproach them with the sins for which they are tormented, saying, Suffer, burn, live forever in despair, you yourselves have been the cause of your destruction. And do not the saints, the divine mother, and God, who is called the Father of Mercies, take compassion on their miseries? No; "the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven.” (Matt. 26:29). The saints, represented by the stars, not only do not pity the damned, but they even rejoice in the vengeance inflicted on the injuries offered to their God. Neither can the divine mother pity

 

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them, because they hate her Son. And Jesus Christ, who died for the love of them, cannot pity them, because they have despised his love, and have voluntarily brought themselves to perdition.

 

SERMON XI. SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY. - ON THE DEATH OF THE JUST.

 

“The kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened.” Matt. 13:33.

 

In this days gospel we find that a woman, after putting leaven in the dough, waits till the entire is fermented. Here the Lord gives us to understand that the kingdom of Heaven that is, the attainment of eternal beatitude is like the leaven. By the leaven is understood the divine grace, which makes the soul acquire merits for eternal life. But this eternal life is obtained only when “the whole is leavened;” that is, when the soul has arrived at the end of the present life and the completion of her merits. We shall, then, speak Today of the death of the just, which we should not fear, but should desire with our whole souls. For, says St. Bonaventure, “Triplex in morte congratulatio, hominem ab omni labore, peccato, et periculo liberari.” Man should rejoice at death, for three reasons First, because death delivers him from labor that is, from suffering the miseries of this life and the assault of his enemies. Secondly, because it delivers him from actual sins. Thirdly, because it delivers him from the danger of falling into hell, and opens Heaven to him.

 

First Point. Death delivers us from the miseries of this life, and from the assaults of our enemies.

 

1. What is death? St. Eucherius answers, that “death is the end of miseries.” Job said that our life, however short it may be, is full of miseries, of infirmities, of crosses, of persecutions, and fears. “Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries.” (Job 14:1). What, says St. Augustine, do men who wish for a prolongation of life on this earth desire but a prolongation of suffering?” “Quid est diu vivere nisi diu tor queri.” (Serm. xvi de Serb. Dom). yes ; for, as St. Ambrose remarks, the present life was given to us not for repose or enjoyment, but for labor and suffering, that by toils and pains we may merit Heaven. “Hæc vita homini non ad quitem data est, sed ad laborem.” (Serm. 43). Hence, the same holy doctor says, that, through death is the punishment of sin, still the miseries of this life are so great, that death appears to be a relief rather than a chastisement, “Ut mors remediuni videatur esse, non poena."

 

2. To those who love God, the severest of all the crosses of this life are the assaults of hell to rob them of the divine grace. Hence, St. Denis the Areopagite says, that they joyfully meet death, as the end of their combats, and embrace it with gladness, because they hope to die a good death, and to be thus freed from all fear of ever again falling into sin. “Divino gaudio et mortis terminum tanquam ad finem certaminum tendunt, non amplius metuentus pervertii.” (De Hier. Sir., cap. vii). The greatest consolation which a soul that loves God experiences at the approach of death, arises from the thought of being delivered from so many temptations, from so many remorses of conscience, and from so many dangers of offending God. Ah! says St. Ambrose, as long as we live, “we walk among snares.” We walk continually in the midst of the snares of our enemies, who lie in wait to deprive us of the life of grace. It was the fear of falling into sin that made St. Peter of Alcantara, in his last moments, say to a lay brother

 

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who, in attending the saint, accidently touched him, “Brother, remove, remove from me, for I am still alive and in danger of being lost.” The thought of being freed from the danger of sin by death consoled St. Teresa, and made her rejoice as often as she heard the clock strike, that an hour of the combat was past. Hence, she used to say, “In each moment of life we may sin and lose God.” Hence, the news of approaching death filled the saints not with sorrow or regret, but with sentiments of joy; because they knew that their struggles and the dangers of losing the divine grace were soon to have an end.

 

3. “But the just man, if he be prevented with death, shall be in rest.” (Wis. 4:7). He who is prepared to die, regards death as a relief. If, says St. Cyprian, you lived in a house whose roof and walls were tottering and threatening destruction, would you not fly from, it as soon as possible? In this life everything menaces ruin to the poor soul the world, the devils, the flesh, the passions, all draw her to sin and to eternal death. It was this that made St. Paul exclaim, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. vii. 24). Who shall deliver me from this body of mine, which lives continually in a dying state, on account of the assaults of my enemies? Hence, he esteemed death as a great gain, because it brought to him the possession of Jesus Christ, his true life. Happy then are they who die in the Lord, because they escape from pains and toils, and go to rest. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, says the spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” (Rev. 14:13). It is related in the lives of the ancient fathers, that one of them who was very old, when dying, smiled, while the others wept. Being asked why he smiled, he said, “Why do you weep at seeing me go to rest? "Ex labore ad requiem vado, et vos ploratis?” At the hour of death, St. Catherine of Sienna said to her sisters in religion, Rejoice with me, for I leave this land of suffering, and am going to the kingdom of peace. The death of the saints is called a sleep that is, the repose, which God gives to his servants as the reward of their toil. “When he shall give sleep to his beloved, behold the inheritance of the Lord.” (Ps. 126:2). Hence, the soul that loves God neither weeps nor is troubled at the approach of death, but, embracing the crucifix, and burning with love, she says, “In peace in the self same I will sleep and I will rest.” (Ps. 4:9).

 

4. That “Proficiscere de hoc mundo,” (“Depart, Christian soul, from this world,”). which is so appalling to sinners at the hour of death, does not alarm the saints. “But the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.” (Wis. 3:1). The saint is not afflicted, like worldlings, at the thought of being obliged to leave the goods of this earth, because he has kept the soul detached from them. During life, he always regarded God as the Lord of his heart and as the sole riches which he desired, “What have I in Heaven? and, besides you, what do I desire upon earth? You art the God of my heart and the God that is my portion forever.” (Ps. 82:25, 26). He is not afflicted at leaving honors, because the only honor which he sought was, to love and to be loved by God. All the honors of this world he has justly esteemed as smoke and vanity. He is not afflicted at leaving his relatives, because he loved them only in God. In his last moments he recommends them to his Heavenly Father, who loves them more than he does. And having a secure confidence of salvation, he hopes to be better able to assist his relatives from Heaven, than on this earth. In a word, what he frequently said during life, he continues to repeat with greater fervor at the hour of death “My God and my all.”

 

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5. Besides, his peace is not disturbed by the pains of death; but, seeing that he is now at the end of his life, and that he has no more time to suffer for God, or to offer him other proofs of love, he accepts those pains with joy, and offers them to God as the last remains of life; and uniting his death with the death of Jesus Christ, he offers it to the Divine Majesty.

 

6. And although the remembrance of the sins which he has committed will afflict, it will not disturb him; for, since he is convinced that the Lord will forget the sins of all true penitents, the very sorrow, which he feels for his sins, gives him an assurance of pardon. “If the wicked do penance. ... I will not remember all his iniquities that he has done.” (Ezek. 18:21 and 22). “How,” asks St. Basil, “can anyone be certain that God has pardoned his sins? He may be certain of pardon if he say, I have hated and abhorred iniquity.” (In Reg. inter. 12). He who detests his sins, and offers to God his death in atonement for them, may rest secure that God has pardoned them. “Mors,” says St. Augustine, “quæ in lege naturæ erat poona peccati in lege gratiæ est hostia pro peccato.” (Lib. iv. de Trin. c. xxii). Death, which was a chastisement of sin under the law of nature, has become, in the law of grace, a victim of penance, by which the pardon of sin is obtained.

 

7. The very love which a soul bears to God, assures her of his grace, and delivers her from the fear of being lost. “Charity casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). If, at the hour of death, you are unwilling to pardon an enemy, or to restore what is not your own, or if you wish to keep up an improper friendship, then tremble for your eternal salvation; for you have great reason to be afraid of death; but if you seek to avoid sin, and to preserve in your heart a testimony that you love God, be assured that he is with you, and if the Lord is with you, what do you fear? And if you wish to be assured that you have within you the divine love, embrace death with peace, and offer it from your heart to God. He that offers to God his death, makes an act of love the most perfect that is possible for him to perform; because, by cheerfully embracing death to please God, at the time and in the manner which God ordains, he becomes like the martyrs, the entire merit of whose martyrdom consisted in suffering and dying to please God.

 

Second Point. Death frees us from actual sins.

 

8. It is impossible to live in this world without committing at least some slight faults. “A just man shall fall seven times, “ (Prov. 24:16). He who ceases to live, ceases to offend God. Hence, St. Ambrose called death the burial of vices, by death they are buried, and never appear again. “Quid est mors nisi sepultura vitorum?” (De Bono Mort. cap. iv). The venerable Vincent Caraffa consoled himself at the hour of death by saying, now that I cease to live, I cease forever to offend my God. He who dies in the grace of God, goes into that happy state in which he shall love God forever, and shall never more offend him. “Mortuus,” says the same holy doctor, “nescit peccare. Quid tanto pere vita mistam desideramus, in qua quanto diutius quis fuerit, tanto majori oneratur sarcina peccatorum.” How can we desire this life, in which the longer we live, the greater shall be the load of our sins?

 

9. Hence, the Lord praises the dead more than any man living, “I praised the dead rather than the living.” (Sir. 4:2). Because no man on this earth, however holy he may be, is exempt from sins. A spiritual soul gave directions that the person who should bring to her the news

 

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of death, should say, “Console yourself, for the time has arrived when you shall no longer offend God.”

 

10. St. Ambrose adds, that God permitted death to enter into the world, that by dying, men should cease to sin, “Passus est Dominus subintrare mortem ut culpa cessaret.” (Loco cit). It is, then, a great error to imagine that death is a chastisement for those who love God. It is a mark of the love which God bears to them , because he shortens their life to put an end to sin, from which they cannot be exempt as long as they remain on this earth. “For his soul pleased God, therefore he hastened to bring him out of the midst of iniquities.” (Wis. 4:14).

 

Third Point. Death delivers us from the danger of falling into hell, and opens Heaven to us.

 

11. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of the saints.” (Ps. 115:16). Considered according to the senses, death excites fear and terror; but, viewed with the eyes  of faith, it is consoling and desirable. To the saints it is as amiable and as precious, as it appears terrible to sinners. “It is precious,” says St. Bernard, “as the end of labors, the consummation of victory, the gate of life.” The joy of the cup-bearer of Pharaoh, at hearing from Joseph that he should soon be released from prison, bears no comparison to that which a soul that loves God feels on hearing that she is to be liberated from the exile of this earth, and to be transported to the enjoyment of God in her true country. The Apostle says, that, as long as we remain in the body, we wander at a distance from our country in a strange land, and far removed from the life of God, “While we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:6). Hence, St. Bruno teaches, that our death should not be called death, but the beginning of life. “Mors dicenda non est, sed vitæ principium.” And St. Athanasius says, “Non est justis mors sed translatio.” To the just, death is but a passage from the miseries of this earth to the eternal delights of Heaven. O desirable death! exclaimed St. Augustine; who is there that does not desire you? For you art the term of evils, the end of toils, and the beginning of everlasting repose! "O mors desirabilis, malorum finis, laboris clausula, quietis principium.”

 

12. No one can enter into Heaven to see God without passing through the gate of death. “This is the gate of the Lord the just shall enter into it.” (Ps. 117:20). Hence, addressing death, St. Jerome said, “Aperi mini soror mea.” Death, my sister, if you do not open the gate to me, I cannot enter to enjoy my God. And St. Charles Borromeo, seeing in his house a picture of death with a knife in the hand, sent for a painter to cancel the knife, and substitute for it a key of gold; because, said the saint, it is death that opens Heaven. Were a queen confined in a dark prison, how great would be her joy at hearing that the gates of the prison are open, and that she is to return from the dungeon to her palace! It was to be liberated by death from the prison of this life that David asked, when he said, “Bring my soul out of prison.” (Ps. 141:8). This, too, was the favor which the venerable Simeon asked of the infant Jesus, when he held him in his arms, “Now you do  dismiss your  servant.” (Luke 2:29).”As if detained by force,” says St. Ambrose, “he asked to be dismissed.” Simeon sought to be delivered by death, as if he had been compelled by force to live on this earth.

 

13. St. Cyprian says, that the sinner who shall pass from temporal to eternal death, has just reason to be afraid of death. “Mori timeat, qui ad secundum mortem de hac morte transibit.” But he who is in the state of grace and hopes to pass from death to eternal life which is the true life tears not death. It is related that a certain rich man gave to St. John the Almoner a

 

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large sum of money to be dispensed in alms, for the purpose of obtaining from God a long life for his only son. The son died in a short time. The father complained of the death of his son; but, to console him, the Lord sent an angel to say to him, “You have sought a long life for your son, and the Lord has heard your prayer; for your son is in Heaven, where he enjoys eternal life.” This is the grace which, according to the promise of the prophet Hosea, the Redeemer obtained for us. “death, I will be your  death.” (13. 14). By His redemption, Jesus Christ destroyed death, and changed it into a source of life to us. When St. Pionius, martyr, was asked how he could go to death with so much joy, he answered, “You err; I do not go to death but to life.” “Erratis non ad mortem, sed ad vitam contendo.” (Apud Eusub., lib. iv. cap. xiv ). Thus also, St. Symphorosa exhorted her son, St. Symphorian, to martyrdom, “My son, said she, “life is not taken away from you; it is only changed for a better one.”

 

14. St. Augustine says, that they who love God desire to see him speedily, and that, therefore, to them life is a cause of suffering, and death an occasion of joy. “Patienter vivit, delectabiliter moritur.” (Trac. ix. in Ep. Joan). St. Teresa used to say, that to her life was death. Hence, she composed the celebrated hymn, “I die because I do not die.” To that great servant of God D. Sancia Carriglio a penitent of Father M. Avila it was one day revealed, that she had but a year  to live; she answered, “Alas! must I remain another year  at a distance from God? O sorrowful year, which will appear to me longer than an age.” Such is the language of souls who love God from their heart. It is a mark of little love of God not to desire to see him speedily.

 

15. Some of you will say, I desire to go to God, but I fear death. I am afraid of the assaults, which I shall then experience from hell. I find that the saints have trembled at the hour of death; how much more ought I to tremble! I answer, It is true that hell does not cease to assail even the saints at death, but it is also true that God does not cease to assist his servants at that moment; and when the dangers are increased, he multiplies his helps. “Ibi plus auxilii,” says St. Ambrose, “ubi plus periculi.” (ad Jos. cap. v). The servant of Eliseus was struck with terror when he saw the city surrounded by enemies; but the saint inspired him with courage by showing to him a multitude of angels sent by God to defend it. Hence, the prophet afterwards said, “Fear not, for there are more with us than with them.” (4 Kings 6:16). The powers of hell will assail the dying Christian; but his angel guardian will come to console him. His patrons, and St. Michael, who has been appointed by God to defend his faithful servants in their last combat with the devils, will come to his aid. The mother of God will come to assist those who have been devoted to her. Jesus Christ shall come to defend from the assaults of hell the souls for which he died on a cross, he will give them confidence and strength to resist every attack. Hence, filled with courage, they will say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Is. 26:1). Truly has Origen said, that the Lord is more desirous of our salvation than the devil is of our perdition, because God’s love for us far surpasses the devil’s hatred of our souls. “Major ilia cura est, ut nos ad veram pertrahat salutem, quam diabolo, ut nos ad æternam damnationem impellat.” (Hom, xx).

 

16. God is faithful, he will never permit us to be tempted above our strength, “Fidelis Deus non patietur vos tentari supra id quod potestis.” (1 Cor. 10:13). It is true that some saints have suffered great fear at the hour of death; but they have been few. The Lord, as Belluacensis says, has permitted this fear to cleanse them at death from some defect. “Justi quandoque dure moriendo purgantur in hoc mundo.” But we know that, generally speaking, the saints

 

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have died with a joyful countenance. Father Joseph Scamacca, a man of a holy life, being asked if, in dying, he felt confidence in God, answered, "Have I served Muhammad, that I should now doubt of the goodness of my God, or of his wish to save me?" Ah! the Lord knows well how to console his servants in their last moments. Even in the midst of the agony of death, he infuses into their souls a certain sweetness and a certain foretaste of that happiness, which he will soon bestow upon them. As they who die in sin begin to experience from the bed of death a certain foretaste of hell certain extraordinary terrors, remorses, and fits of despair; so, on the other hand, the saints, by the fervent acts of divine love which they then make, and by the confidence and the desire which they feel of soon seeing God, taste, before death, that peace which they shall afterwards fully enjoy in Heaven.

 

17. Father Suarez died with so much peace, that in his last moments he said, “I could not have imagined that death was so sweet.” Being advised by his physician not to fix his thoughts so constantly on death, Cardinal Baronius said, "Is it lest the fear of death should shorten my life? I fear not; on the contrary, I love and desire death." Of the Cardinal Bishop of Rochester, Saunders relates, that, in preparing to die for the faith, he put on his best clothes, saying that ho was going to a nuptial feast. When he came within view of the place of execution, he threw away his staff, and said, "O my feet, walk fast; for we are not far from Heaven." “Ite pedes, parum a paradiso distamus.” Before death, he wished to recite the TE DEUM, in thanksgiving to God for permitting him to die for the holy faith; and, full of joy, he laid his head on the block. St. Francis of Assisi began to sing at the hour of death. Brother Elias said to him, Father, at the hour of death, we ought rather to weep than to sing. But, replied the saint, I cannot abstain from singing at the thought of soon going to enjoy God. A nun of the order of St. Teresa, in her last moments, said to her sisters in religion, who were in tears, O God! why do you weep? I am going to possess my Jesus; if you love me, weep not, but rejoice with me. (Dis. Parol. i. 6).

 

18. Father Granada relates, that a certain sportsman found in a wood a solitary singing in his last agony. How, said the sportsman, can you sing in such a state? The hermit replied, Brother, between me and God there is nothing but the wall of this body. I now see that since my flesh is falling in pieces, the prison shall be destroyed , and I shall soon go to see God. It is for this reason I rejoice and sing. Through the desire of seeing God, St. Ignatius, martyr, said, that if the wild beasts should spare him, he would provoke them to devour him. “Ego vim faciam, ut devorer.” St. Catherine of Genoa was astonished that some persons regarded death as a misfortune, and said, “O beloved death, in what a mistaken light do men view you! Why do you not come to me? 1 call on you day and night” (Vita, c. 7).

 

19. Oh! how peculiarly happy is the death of the servants of Mary! Father Binetti relates, that a person whom he assisted in his last moments, and who was devoted to the Blessed Virgin, said to him, “Father, you cannot conceive the consolation which arises at death from the remembrance of having served Mary. Ah! my father, if you knew what happiness I feel on account of having served this good mother! I cannot express it.” What joy shall the lovers of Jesus Christ experience at his coming to them in the most holy viaticum! Happy the soul that can then address her Savior in the words which St. Philip Neri used when the viaticum was brought to him, “Behold my love! behold my love! give me my love!” But, to entertain these sentiments at death, we must have ardently loved Jesus Christ during life.

 

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SERMON XII. SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY. - ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SALVATION.

 

“He sent them into his vineyard.” Matt. 20:2

 

The vines of the Lord are our souls, which he has given us to cultivate by good works, that we may be one day admitted into eternal glory. “How,” says Salvian, “does it happen that a Christian believes, and still does not fear the future?” Christians believe death, judgment, hell, and Heaven, but they live as if they believed them not as if these truths of faith were tables or the inventions of human genius. Many live as it they were never to die, or as if they had not to give God an account of their life as if there were neither hell nor a Heaven. Perhaps they do not believe in them? They believe, but do not reflect on them; and thus they are lost. They take all possible care of worldly affairs, but attend not to the salvation of their souls. I shall show you, this day, that the salvation of your souls is the most important of all affairs.

 

First Point. Because, if the soul is lost, all is lost;

 

Second Point. Because, if the soul is lost once, it is lost forever.

 

First Point. If the soul is lost, all is lost.

 

1. “But,” says St. Paul, “we entreat you .... that you do your own business.” (1 Thess. 4:10, 11). The greater part of worldlings are most attentive to the business of this world. What diligence do they not employ to gain a law-suit or a post of profit! How many means are adopted how many measures taken? They neither eat nor sleep. And what efforts do they make to save their souls? All blush at being told that they neglect the affairs of their families; and how few are ashamed to neglect the salvation of their souls. “Brethren,” says St. Paul, I entreat you that you do your own business;” that is, the business of your eternal salvation.

 

2. “Nugæ puerorum,” says St. Bernard, “nugæ vocantur, nugæ malorum negotia vocantur.” The trifles of children are called trifles, but the trifles of men are called business; and for these many lose their souls. If in one worldly transaction you suffer a loss, you may repair it in another; but if you die in enmity with God, and lose your soul, how can you repair the loss? “What exchange can a man give for his soul,” (Matt. xvi. 26). To those who neglect the care of salvation, St. Euterius says, “Quam pretiosus sis, homo, si Creatori non credis, interroga Redemptorem.” (Hom. ii. in Symb). If, from being created by God to his own image, you do not comprehend the value of your soul, learn it from Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you with his own blood. “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).

 

3. God, then, sets so high a value on your soul; such is its value in the estimation of Satan, that, to become master of it, he does not sleep night or day, but is continually going about to make it his own. Hence, St. Augustine exclaims, “The enemy sleeps not, and you are asleep.” The enemy is always awake to injure you, and you slumber. Pope Benedict the Twelfth, being asked by a prince for a favor, which he could not conscientiously grant, said to the ambassador, Tell the prince, that, if I had two souls, I might be able to lose one of them in order to please him; but, since I have but one, I cannot consent to lose it. Thus he refused the favor which the prince sought from him.

 

4. Brethren, remember that, if you save your souls, your failure in every worldly transaction will be but of little importance, for, if you are saved, you shall enjoy complete happiness for

 

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all eternity. But, if you lose your souls, what will it profit you to have enjoyed all the riches, honors, and amusements of this world? If you lose your souls, all is lost. “What does  it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26). By this maxim, St. Ignatius of Loyola drew many souls to God, and among them the soul of St. Francis Xavier, who was then at Paris, and devoted his attention to the acquirement of worldly goods. One day St, Ignatius said to him, “Francis, whom do you serve? You serve the world, which is a traitor that promises, but does not perform. And if it should fulfill all its promises, how long do its goods last? Can they last longer than this life? And, after death, what will they profit you, if you shall not have saved your soul?” He then reminded Francis of the maxims of the Gospel, “What does  it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” “But one thing is necessary?” (Luke 10:42). It is not necessary to become rich on this earth to acquire honors and dignities; but it is necessary to save our souls; because, unless we gain Heaven we shall be condemned to hell, there is no middle place, we must be either saved or damned. God has not created us for this earth; neither does he preserve our lives that we may become rich and enjoy amusements. “And the end life everlasting.” (Hom, 6. 22). He has created us, and preserved us, that we may acquire eternal glory.

 

5. St. Philip Neri used to say, that he who does not seek, above all things, the salvation of his soul, is a fool. If on this earth there were two classes of men, one mortal, and the other immortal, and if the former saw the latter entirely devoted to the acquisition of earthly goods, would they not exclaim, O fools that you are! You have it in your power to secure the immense and eternal goods of Heaven, and you lose your time in procuring the miserable goods of this earth, which shall end at death. And for these you expose yourselves to the danger of the eternal torments of hell. Leave to us, for whom all shall end at death, the care of these earthly things. But, brethren, we are all immortal, and each of us shall be eternally happy or eternally miserable in the other life. But the misfortune of the greater part of mankind is, that they are solicitous about the present, and never think of the, future. “Oh! that they would be wise, and would understand, and would provide for their last end.” (Deut. 32:29). Oh! that they knew how to detach themselves from present goods, which last but a short time, and to provide for what must happen after death an eternal reign in Heaven, or everlasting slavery in hell. St. Philip Neri, conversing one day with Francis Zazzera, a young man of talent who expected to make a fortune in the world, said to him, “You shall realize a great fortune; you shall be a prelate, afterwards a cardinal, and in the end, perhaps, pope. But what must follow? What must follow? Go, my son, think on these words.” The young man departed, and after meditating on the words, "What must follow? What must follow?" he renounced his worldly prospects, and gave himself entirely to God; and, retiring from the world, he entered into the congregation of St. Philip, and died a holy death.

 

6. “The fashion of this world passes away.” (I Cor. 7:31). On this passage, Cornelius à Lapide , says, that “the world is as it were a stage.” The present life is a comedy, which passes away. Happy the man who acts his part well in this comedy by saving his soul. But if he shall have spent his life in the acquisition of riches and worldly honors, he shall justly be called a fool; and at the hour of death he shall receive the reproach addressed to the rich man in the gospel, “Fool, this night do they require your  soul of you; and whose shall these things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20). In explaining the words “they require”, Toletus

 

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says, that the Lord has given us our souls to guard them against the assaults of our enemies; and that at death the angel shall come to require them of us, and shall present them at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. But if we shall have lost our souls by attending only to the acquisition of earthly possessions, these shall belong to us no longer they shall pass to other hands, and what shall then become of our souls?

 

7. Poor worldlings! of all the riches which they acquired, of all the pomps which they displayed  in this life, what shall they find at death? They have slept their sleep, and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands.” (Ps. 75:6). The dream of this present life shall be over at death, and they shall have acquired nothing for eternity. Ask of so many great men of this earth of the princes and emperors, who, during life, have abounded in riches, honors, and pleasures, and are at this moment in hell what now remains of all the riches which they possessed in this world? They answer with tears, “Nothing, nothing. “ And of so many honors enjoyed of so many past pleasures of so many pomps and triumphs, what now remains? They answer with howling, “Nothing, nothing. “

 

8. Justly, then, has St. Francis Xavier said, that in the world there is but one good and one evil. The former consists in saving our souls; the latter in losing them. Hence, David said, “One thing I have asked of the Lord; this I will seek after that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” (Ps. 26:4). One thing only have I sought, and will forever seek, from God that he may grant me the grace to save my soul; for, if I save my soul, all is safe; if I lose it, all is lost. And, what is more important, if my soul be once lost, it is lost forever. Let us pass to the point.

 

Second Point. If the soul be once lost, it is lost forever.

 

9. Men die but once. If a Christian died twice, he might lose his soul the first, and save it the second time. But we can die only once, if the soul be lost the first time, it is lost forever. This truth St. Teresa frequently inculcated to her nuns, “One soul,” she would say, “one eternity.” As if she said, We have but one soul, if this be lost, all is lost. There is but “one eternity;” if the soul be once lost, it is lost forever. “Periisse semel æternum est.”

 

10. St. Eucherius says that there is no error so great as the neglect of eternal salvation. “Sane supra omnem errorem est dissimulare negotium æternæ salutis.” It is an error, which surpasses all errors, because it is irremediable. Other mistakes may be repaired, if a person loses property in one way, he may acquire it in another; if he loses a situation, a dignity, he may afterwards recover them; if he even loses his life, provided his soul be saved, all is safe. However, he who loses his soul has no means of repairing the loss. The wailing of the damned arises from the thought, that for them the time of salvation is over, and that there is no hope of remedy for their eternal ruin. “The summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. 8:20). Hence, they weep, and shall inconsolably weep forever, saying, “Therefore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of justice has not shined unto us.” (Wis. 5:6). But what will it profit them to know the error they have committed, when it will be too late to repair it?

 

11. The greatest torment of the damned arises from the thought of having lost their souls, and of having lost them through their own fault. “Destruction is your  own, O Israel; your  help is only from me.” (Hosea 13:9). O miserable being! God says to each of the damned; your perdition is your own; that is from your self; by sin you have been the cause of your  damnation;

 

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for I was ready to save you if you had wished to attend to your  salvation. St. Teresa used to say, that when a person loses a trifle through negligence, his peace is disturbed by the thought of having lost it through his own fault. O God! what shall be the pain, which each of the damned shall feel on entering into hell, at the thought of having lost his soul his all and of having lost them through his own fault!

 

12. “We must, then, from this day forward, devote all our attention to the salvation of our souls. There is no question, says St. John Chrysostom, of losing some earthly good, which we must one day relinquish. But there is question of losing Heaven, and of going to suffer forever in hell, “De immortalibus suppliciis, de coelestis regni amissione res agitur.” We must fear and tremble; it is thus we shall be able to secure eternal happiness. “With fear and trembling work out your salvation." (Phil. 2:12). Hence, if we wish to save our souls, we must labor strenuously to avoid dangerous occasions, to resist temptations, and to frequent the sacraments. Without labor we cannot obtain Heaven. “The violent bear it away.” The saints tremble at the thought of eternity. St. Andrew Avellino exclaimed with tears, 'Who knows whether I shall be saved or damned?" St. Lewis Bertrand said with trembling, 'What shall be my lot in the other world?" And shall we not tremble? Let us pray to Jesus Christ and his most holy mother to help us to save our souls. This is for us the most important of all affairs, if we succeed in it, we shall be eternally happy; if we fail, we must be forever miserable.

 

SERMON XIII-SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY. - ON THE UNHAPPY LIFE OF SINNERS, AND ON THE HAPPY LIFE OF THOSE WHO LOVE GOD.

 

“And that which fell among the thorns are they who have heard, and, going their way, are choked with the cares and riches of this life, and yield no fruit.” Luke 8:14.

 

In the parable of this day’s gospel we are told that part of the seed which the sower went out to sow fell among thorns. The Savior has declared that the seed represents the divine word, and the thorns the attachment of men to earthly riches and pleasures, which are the thorns that prevent the fruit of the word of God, not only in the future, but even in the present life. misery of poor sinners! By their sins they not only condemn themselves to eternal torments in the next, but to an unhappy life in this world. This is what I intend to demonstrate in the following discourse.

 

First Point. The unhappy life of sinners.

 

Second Point. Happy life of those who love God.

 

First Point. Unhappy life of sinners.

 

1. The devil deceives sinners, and makes them imagine that, by indulging their sensual appetites, they shall lead a life of happiness, and shall enjoy peace. But there is no peace for those who offend God. “There is no peace to the wicked, says the Lord." (Is. 48:22). God declares that all his enemies have led a life of misery, and that they have not even known the way of peace. “Destruction and unhappiness in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known.” (Ps. 13:3).

 

2. Brute animals that have been created for this world, enjoy peace in sensual delights. Give to a dog a bone, and he is perfectly content; give to an ox a bundle of hay, and he desires nothing more. But man, who has been created for God, to love God, and to be united to him,

 

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can be made happy only by God, and not by the world, through it should enrich him with all its goods. What are worldly goods? They may be all reduced to pleasures of sense, to riches, and to honors. “All that is in the world,” says St. John, “is the concupiscence of the flesh,” or sensual delights, and “the concupiscence of the eyes,” or riches, and “the pride of life” that is, earthly honors. (1 John 2:16). St. Bernard says, that a man may be puffed up with earthly goods, but can never be made content or happy by them. “Inflari potest, satiari, non potest.” And how can earth and wind and dung satisfy the heart of man? In his comment on these words of St. Peter “Behold, we have left all things” the same saint says, that he saw in the world different classes of fools. All had a great desire of happiness. Some, such as the avaricious, were content with riches; others, Ambitious of honors and of praise, were satisfied with wind; others, seated round a furnace, swallowed the sparks that were thrown from it these were the passionate and vindictive; others, in fine, drank fetid water from a stagnant pool and these were the voluptuous and unchaste. O fools! adds the saint, do you not perceive that all these things, from which you seek content, do not satisfy, but, on the contrary, increase the cravings of your heart? “Hæc potius famem provocant, quam extinguunt.” Of this we have a striking example in Alexander the Great, who, after having conquered half the world, burst into tears, because he was not master of the whole earth.

 

3. Many expect to find peace in accumulating riches; but how can these satisfy their desires? “Major pecunia,” says St. Augustine, “avaritiæ fauces non claudit, sed extendit.” A large quantity of money does not close, but rather extends, the jaws of avarice; that is, the enjoyment of riches excites, rather than satiates, the desire of wealth. “You were debased even to hell; you have been wearied in the multitude of your  ways; you said not, I will rest." (Is. 57:9-10). Poor worldlings! they labor and toil to acquire an increase of wealth and property, but never enjoy repose, the more they accumulate riches, the greater their disquietude and vexation. “The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good." (Ps. 33:11). The rich of this world are, of all men, the most miserable; because, the more they possess, the more they desire to possess. They never succeed in attaining all the objects of their wishes, and therefore they are far poorer than men who have but a competency, and seek God alone. These are truly rich, because they are content with their condition, and find in God every good. “They that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good.” To the saints, because they possess God, nothing is wanting; to the worldly rich, who are deprived of God, all things are wanting, because they want peace. The appellation of fool was, therefore, justly given to the rich man in the gospel (Luke 12:19)., who, because his land brought forth plenty of fruits, said to his soul, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years, take rest, eat, drink, make good cheer.” (Luke 12:19). But this man was called a fool. “You fool, this night do they require your soul of you; and whose shall those things be which you have provided?” (v. 20). And why was he called a fool. Because he imagined that by these goods by eating and drinking he should be content, and should enjoy peace. “Rest,” he said, “eat, drink.” “Num quid, “ says St. Basil of Seleucia, “animam porcinam habes?" Have you the soul of a brute, that you expects to make it happy by eating and drinking?

 

4. But, perhaps sinners who seek after and attain worldly honors are content? All the honors of this earth are but smoke and wind (“Ephraim feeds on the wind” Hosea 12), and how can these content the heart of a Christian? “The pride of them,” says David, “ascends continually.” (Ps. 73:23). The ambitious are not satisfied by the attainment of

 

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certain honors, their ambition and pride continually increase; and thus their disquietude, their envy, and their fears are multiplied.

 

5. They who live in the habit of sins of impurity, feed, as the Prophet Jeremiah says, on dung. “Qui voluptuose vescebantur, amplexati sunt stercora.” (Lam. 4:5). How can dung content or give peace to the soul? Ah! what peace, what peace can sinners at a distance from God enjoy? They may possess the riches, honors, and delights of this world; but they never shall have peace. No; the word of God cannot fail, he has declared that there is no peace for his enemies. “There is no peace to the wicked, says the Lord." (Isaias, 48:22). Poor sinners! they, as St. Chrysostom says, always carry about with them their own executioner that is, a guilty conscience, which continually torments them. “Peccator conscientiam quasi carnificem circumgestat.” (Serm. 10. do Laz). St. Isidore asserts that there is no pain more excruciating than that of a guilty conscience. Hence, he adds, that he who leads a good life is never sad. “Nulla poena gravior poena conscientiæ, vis nunquam esse tristis? bene vive.” (S. Isid., lib. 2, Solit).

 

6. In describing the deplorable state of sinners, the Holy Spirit compares them to a sea continually tossed by the tempest. “The wicked are like the raging sea, which cannot rest.” (Is. 57:20). Waves come and go, but they are all waves of bitterness and rancor; for every cross and contradiction disturbs and agitates the wicked. If a person at a ball or musical exhibition, were obliged to remain suspended by a cord with his head downwards, could he feel happy at the entertainment? Such is the state of a Christian in enmity with God, his soul is as it were turned upside down; instead of being united with God and detached from creatures, it is united with creatures and separated from God. But creatures, says St. Vincent Ferrer, are without, and do not enter to content the heart, which God alone can make happy. “Non intrant ibi ubi est sitis.” The sinner is like a man parched with thirst, and standing in the middle of a fountain, because the waters which surround him do not enter to satisfy his thirst, he remains in the midst of them more thirsty than before.

 

7. Speaking of the unhappy life which he led when he was in a state of sin, David said, “My tears have been my bread, day and night, While it is said to me daily, Where is your God?” (Ps. 41:4). To relieve himself, he went to his villas, to his gardens, to musical entertainments, and to various other royal amusements, but they all said to him, “David, if you expects comfort from us, you art deceived. “Where is your God? Go and seek your God, whom you have lost; for he alone can restore your  peace.” Hence, David confessed that, in the midst of his princely wealth, he enjoyed no repose, and that he wept night and day. Let us now listen to his son Solomon, who acknowledged that he indulged his senses in whatsoever they desired. “Whatsoever my eyes desired, I refused them not.” (Sir. 2:10). However, after all his sensual enjoyments, he exclaimed, “Vanity of vanities ,... behold all is vanity and affliction of spirit.” (Eccles. 1:2 and 14). Mark! he declares that all the pleasures of this earth are not only vanity of vanities, but also affliction of spirit. And this sinners well know from experience; for sin brings with it the fear of divine vengeance. The man who is encompassed by powerful enemies never sleeps in peace; and can the sinner, who has God for an enemy, enjoy tranquility? “Fear to them that work evil.” (Prov. 10:29). The Christian who commits a mortal sin feels himself oppressed with fear every leaf that moves excites terror. “The sound of dread is always in his ears.” (Job 15:21). He appears to be always flying away, although no one pursues him. “The wicked man flees when no man pursues.” (Prov. 28:1). He shall be

 

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persecuted, not by men, but by his own sin. It was thus with Cain, who, after having killed his brother Abel, was seized with fear, and said, “Every one, therefore, that finds  me shall kill me.” (Gen. 4:14). The Lord assured him that no one should injure him, “The Lord said to him, “No; it shall not be so” (v. 15). However, notwithstanding this assurance, Cain, pursued by his own sins, was, as the Scripture attests, always flying from one place to another “He dwelt a fugitive on the earth.” (v. 16).

 

8. Moreover, sin brings with it remorse of conscience that cruel worm that gnaws incessantly, and never dies. “Their worm shall not die.” (Isa 66:24). If the sinner goes to a festival, to a comedy, to a banquet, his conscience continually reproaches him, saying, Unhappy man! you have lost God; if you were now to die, what should become of you? The torture of remorse of conscience, even in the present life, is so great that, to free themselves from it, some persons have put an end to their lives Judas, through despair, hanged himself. A certain man who had killed an infant, was so much tormented with remorse that he could not rest. To rid himself of it he entered into a monastery; but finding no peace even there, he went before a judge, acknowledged his crime, and got himself condemned to death.

 

9. God complains of the injustice of sinners in leaving him, who is the fountain of all consolation, to plunge themselves into fetid and broken cisterns, which can give no peace. “For my people have done two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have dug to themselves cisterns broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13). You have, the Lord says to sinners, refused to serve me, your God, in peace. Unhappy creatures! you shall serve your enemies in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of every kind. “Because you did not serve the Lord your  God with joy and gladness, .... you shall serve your  enemy in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things.” (Deut. 28:47-48). This is what sinners experience every day. What do not the vindictive endure after they have satisfied their revenge by the murder of an enemy? They fly continually from the relations of their murdered foe, and from the minister of justice. They live as fugitives, poor, afflicted, and abandoned by all. What do not the voluptuous and unchaste suffer in order to gratify their wicked desires? What do not the avaricious suffer in order to acquire the possessions of others? Ah! if they suffered for God what they suffer for sin, they would lay up great treasures for eternity, and would lead a life of peace and happiness, but, by living in sin, they lead a life of misery here, to lead a still more miserable life for eternity hereafter. Hence, they weep continually in hell, saying, “We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways.” (Wis. 5:7). We have, they exclaim, walked through hard ways, through paths covered with thorns. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity, we have labored  hard, we have sweated blood, we have led a life full of misery, of gall, and of poison. And why? To bring ourselves to a still more wretched life in this pit of fire.

 

Second Point. The happy life of those who love God.

 

10. “Justice and peace have kissed.” (Ps. 84:11). Peace resides in every soul in which justice dwells. Hence, David said, “Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the requests of your  heart.” (Ps. 36:4). To understand this text, we must consider that worldlings seek to satisfy the desires of their hearts with the goods of this earth; but, because these cannot make them happy, their hearts continually make fresh demands; and, how much soever they may

 

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acquire of these goods, they are not content. Hence, the Prophet says, “Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the requests of your  heart.” Give up creatures, seek your delight in God, and he will satisfy all the cravings of your heart.

 

11. This is what happened to St. Augustine, who, as long as he sought happiness in creatures, never enjoyed peace; but, as soon as he renounced them, and gave to God all the affections of his heart, he exclaimed, “All things are hard, O Lord, and you alone art repose.” As if he said, Ah! Lord, I now know my folly. I expected to find felicity in earthly pleasures; but now I know that they are only vanity and affliction of spirit, and that you alone art the peace and joy of our hearts.

 

12. The Apostle says, that the peace, which God gives to those who love, surpasses all the sensual delights which a man can enjoy on this earth. “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. “ (Phil. 4:7). St. Francis of Assisi, in saying “My God and my all,” experienced on this earth an anticipation of Heaven. St. Francis Xavier, in the midst of his labors in India for the glory of Jesus Christ, was so replenished with divine consolations, that he exclaimed, “Enough, Lord, enough.” Where, I ask, has any lover of this world been found, so satisfied with the possessions of worldly goods, as to say, Enough, O world, enough; no more riches, no more honors, no more applause, no more pleasures? Ah, no! worldlings are constantly seeking after higher honors, greater riches, and new delights; but the more they have of them, the less are their desires satisfied, and the greater their disquietude.

 

13. It is necessary to persuade ourselves of this truth, that God alone can give content. “Worldlings do not wish to be convinced of it, through an apprehension that, if they give themselves to God, they shall lead a life of bitterness and discontent. But, with the Royal Prophet, I say to them, “taste, and see that the Lord is sweet.” (Ps. 33:9). Why, sinners, will you despise and regard as miserable that life which you have not as yet tried? “taste and see.” Begin to make a trial of it; hear Mass every day; practice mental prayer and the visitation of the most holy sacrament; go to communion at least once a week; fly from evil conversations; walk always with God; and you shall see that, by such a life, you will enjoy that sweetness and peace which the world, with all its delights, has not hitherto been able to give you.

 

SERMON XIV. QUINQUAGESIMA SUNDAY. - DELUSIONS OF SINNERS.

 

“Lord, that I may see.” Luke 18:41.

 

1. The Devil brings sinners to hell by closing their eyes to the dangers of perdition. He first blinds them, and then leads them with himself to eternal torments. If, then, we wish to be saved, we must continually pray to God in the words of the blind man in the gospel of this day, “Lord, that I may see.” Give me light, make me see the way in which I must walk in order to save my soul, and to escape the deceits of the enemy of salvation. I shall, brethren, this day place before your eyes the delusion by which the devil tempts men to sin and to persevere in sin, that you may know how to guard yourselves against his deceitful artifices.

 

2. To understand these delusions better, let us imagine the case of a young man who, seized by some passion, lives in sin, the slave of Satan, and never thinks of his eternal salvation. My

 

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son, I say to him, what sort of life do you lead? If you continue to live in this manner, how will you be able to save your soul? But, behold! the devil, on the other hand, says to him, Why should you be afraid of being lost? Indulge your passions for the present, you will afterwards confess your sins, and thus all shall be remedied. Behold the net by which the devil drags so many souls into hell. “Indulge your passions, you will hereafter make a good confession.” But, in reply, I say, that in the meantime you lose your soul. Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a thousand pounds, would you throw it into a river with the hope of afterwards finding it again? What if all your efforts to find it were fruitless? God! you hold in your hand the invaluable jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his own blood, and you cast it into hell! yes; you cast it into hell; because according to the present order of providence, for every mortal sin you commit, your name is written among the number of the damned. But you say . “I hope to recover God’s grace by making a good confession.” And if you should not recover it, what shall be the consequences? To make a good confession, a true sorrow for sin is necessary, and this sorrow is the gift of God, if he does not give it, will you not be lost forever?

 

3. You rejoin, “I am young; God compassionates my youth; I will hereafter give myself to God.” Behold another delusion! You are young; but do you not know that God counts, not the years, but the sins of each individual? You are young; but how many sins have you committed? Perhaps there are many persons of a very advanced age, who have not been guilty of the fourth part of the sins which you have committed. And do you not know that God has fixed for each of us the number of sins which he will pardon? “The Lord patiently expects, that, when the Day of Judgment shall come, he may punish them in the fullness of their sins.” (2 Mac. 6:14). God has patience, and waits for a while; but, when the measure of the sins which he has determined to pardon is tilled up, he pardons no more, but chastises the sinner, by suddenly depriving him of life in the miserable state of sin, or by abandoning him in his sin, and executing that threat which he made by the prophet Isaias “I shall take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted.” (Is. 5:5). If a person has cultivated land for many years, has encompassed it with a hedge for its protection, and expended a large sum of money on it, but finds that, after all, it produces no fruit, what will he do with it? He will pluck up the hedge, and abandon it to all men and beasts that may wish to enter. Tremble, then, lest God should treat you in a similar manner. If you do not give up sin, your remorse of conscience and your fear of divine chastisement shall daily increase. Behold the hedge taken away, and your soul abandoned by God a punishment worse than death itself.

 

4. You say, “I cannot at present resist this passion.” Behold the third delusion of the devil, by which he makes you believe that at present you have not strength to overcome certain temptations. But St. Paul tells us that God is faithful, and that he never permits us to be tempted above our strength. “And God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted above that which you are able.” (1 Cor. 10:13). I ask, if you are not now able to resist the temptation, how can you expect to resist it hereafter? If you yield to it, the Devil will become stronger, and you shall become weaker; and if you be not now able to extinguish this flame of passion, how can you hope to be able to extinguish it when it shall have grown more violent? You say, “God will give me his aid.” But this aid God is ready to give at present if you ask it. Why then do you not implore his assistance? Perhaps you expect that, without now taking the trouble of invoking his aid, you will receive from him increased helps and graces, after you shall have multiplied the number of your sins? Perhaps you doubt the veracity of God,

 

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who has promised to give whatever we ask of him? ”Ask,” he says, “and it shall be given you.” (Matt. 7:7). God cannot violate his promises. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Num. 23:19). Have recourse to him, and he will give you the strength necessary to resist the temptation. God commands you to resist it, and you say, “I have not strength.” Does God, then, command impossibilities? No; the Council of Trent has declared that “God does not command impossibilities; but, by his commands, he admonishes you to do what you can, and to ask what you cannot do; and he assists, that you may be able to do it.” (Sess. 6. c. xiii). When you see that you have not sufficient strength to resist temptation with the ordinary assistance of God, ask of him the additional help which you require, and he will give it to you; and thus you shall be able to conquer all temptations, however violent they may be.

 

5. But you will not pray; and you say that at present you will commit this sin, and will afterwards confess it. But, I ask, how do you know that God will give you time to confess it? You say, “I will go to confession before the lapse of a week.” And who has promised you this week? Well, then you say, “I will go to confession tomorrow.” And who promises you tomorrow? “Crastinum Deus non promisit,” says St. Augustine, “fortasse dabit, et fortasse non dabit.” God has not promised you tomorrow. Perhaps he will give it, and perhaps he will refuse it to you, as he has to so many others. How many have gone to bed in good health, and have been found dead in the morning! How many, in the very act of sin, has the Lord struck dead and sent to hell! Should this happen to you, how will you repair your eternal ruin? ”Commit this sin, and confess it afterwards.” Behold the deceitful artifice by which the devil has brought so many thousands of Christians to hell. We scarcely ever find a Christian so sunk in despair as to intend to damn himself. All the wicked sin with the hope of afterwards going to confession. But, by this illusion, how many have brought themselves to perdition! For them there is now no time for confession, no remedy for their damnation.

 

6. “But God is merciful.” Behold another common delusion by which the devil encourages sinners to persevere in a life of sin! A certain author has said, that more souls have been sent to hell by the mercy of God than by his justice. This is indeed the case; for men are induced by the deceits of the devil to persevere in sin, through confidence in God’s mercy; and thus they are lost. “God is merciful.” Who denies it? But, great as his mercy, how many does he every day send to hell? God is merciful, but he is also just, and is, therefore, obliged to punish those who offend him. “And his mercy,” says the divine mother, “to them that fear him.” (Luke 1:50). But with regard to those who abuse his mercy and despise him, he exercises justice. The Lord pardons sins, but he cannot pardon the determination to commit sin. St. Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of repenting after his sins, is not a penitent but a scoffer. “Irrisor est non poenitens.” However, the Apostle tells us that God will not be mocked. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” (Gal. 6:7). It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you pleased, and afterwards to expect eternal glory.

 

7. “But”; you say, “as God has shown me so many mercies hitherto, I hope he will continue to do so for the future.” Behold another delusion! Then, because God has not as yet chastised your sins, he will never punish them! On the contrary, the greater have been his mercies, the more you should tremble, lest, if you offend him again, he should pardon you no more, and should take vengeance on your sins. Behold the advice of the Holy Spirit, “Say not, I have

 

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sinned, and what harm has befallen me? for the Most High is a patient rewarder.” (Eccles. 5:4). Do not say, “I have sinned, and no chastisement has fallen upon me.” God bears for a time, but not forever. He waits for a certain time; but when that arrives, he then chastises the sinner for all his past iniquities, and the longer he has waited for repentance, the more severe the chastisement. “Quos diutius expectat,” says St. Gregory, “durius damnat.” Then, my brother, since you know that you have frequently offended God, and that he has not sent you to hell, you should exclaim, “The mercies of the Lord, that we are not consumed.” (Lam. 3:22). Lord, I thank you for not having sent me to hell, which I have so often deserved. And therefore you ought to give yourself entirely to God, at least through gratitude, and should consider that, for less sins than you have committed, many are now in that pit of fire, without the smallest hope of being ever released from it. The patience of God in bearing with you, should teach you not to despise him still more, but to love and serve him with greater fervor, and to atone, by penitential austerities and by other holy works, for the insults you have offered to him. You know that he has shown mercies to you, which he has not shown to others. “He has not done in like manner to every nation.” (Ps. 147:20). Hence, you should tremble, lest, if you commit a single additional mortal sin, God should abandon you, and cast you into hell.

 

8. Let us come to the next illusion. “It is true that, by this sin, I lose the grace of God; but, even after committing this sin, I may be saved.” You may, indeed, be saved, but it cannot be denied that if, after having committed so many sins, and after having received so many graces from God, you again offend him, there is great reason to fear that you shall be lost. Attend to the words of the sacred Scripture, “A hard heart shall fare evil at the last.” (Eccles. 3:27). The obstinate sinner shall die an unhappy death. Evil doers shall be cut off.” (Ps. 36:9). The wicked shall be cut off by the divine justice. “For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap.” (Gal. 6:8). He that sows in sin, shall reap eternal torments. “Because I called and you refused, I also will laugh in your destruction and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared.” (Prov. 1:24, 26). I called, says the Lord, and you mocked me; but I will mock you at the hour of death. “Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time.” (Deut. 32:35). The chastisement of sins belongs to me, and I will execute vengeance on them when the time of vengeance shall arrive. “The man that with a stiff neck despises him that reproves him, shall suddenly be destroyed , and health shall not follow him.” (Prov. 29:1). The man who obstinately despises those who correct him, shall be punished with a sudden death, and for him there shall be no hope of salvation.

 

9. Now, brethren, what think you of these divine threats against sinners? Is it easy, or is it not very difficult, to save your souls, if, after so many divine calls, and after so many mercies, you continue to offend God? You say, “But after all, it may happen that I will save my soul.” I answer, “What folly is it to trust your salvation to a perhaps? How many with this “perhaps I may be saved,” are now in hell? Do you wish to be one of their unhappy companions? Dearly beloved Christians, enter into yourselves, and tremble; for this sermon may be the last of Gods mercies to you.

 

SERMON XV. FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT. - ON THE NUMBER OF SINS BEYOND WHICH GOD PARDONS NO MORE.

 

“You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Matt. 4:7.

 

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In this days gospel we read that, having gone into the desert, Jesus Christ permitted the devil to “set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,” and say to him, “If you be the Son of God, cast your self down;” for the angels shall preserve you from all injury. But the Lord answered that, in the Sacred Scriptures it is written, “You shall not tempt the Lord your  God.” The sinner who abandons himself to sin without striving to resist temptations, or without at least asking God’s help to conquer them, and hopes that the Lord will one day draw him from the precipice, tempts God to work miracles, or rather to show to him an extraordinary mercy not extended to the generality of Christians. God, as the Apostle says, “will have all men to be saved,” (1 Tim. 2:4).; but he also wishes us all to labor for our own salvation, at least by adopting the means of overcoming our enemies, and of obeying him when he calls us to repentance. Sinners hear the calls of God, but they forget them, and continue to offend him. But God does not forget them. He numbers the graces which he dispenses, as well as the sins which we commit. Hence, when the time which he has fixed arrives, God deprives us of his graces, and begins to inflict chastisement. I intend to show, in this discourse, that, when sins reach a certain number, God pardons no more. Be attentive.

 

1. St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and other fathers, teach that, as God (according to the words of Scripture, “You have ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wis. 11:21)., has fixed for each person the number of the days of his life, and the degrees of health and talent which he will give him, so he has also determined for each the number of sins which he will pardon; and when this number is completed, he will pardon no more. “Illud sentire nos convenit,” says St. Augustine, “tamdiu unumquemque a Dei patientia sustineri, quo consummate nullam illi veniam reserveri.” (De Vita Christi, cap. iii). Eusebius of Cesarea says, “Deus expectat usque ad certum numerum et postea deserit.” (Lib. 8, cap. ii). The same doctrine is taught by the above mentioned fathers.

 

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

 

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3. “Be not without fear about sins forgiven, and add not sin to sin.” (Sir. 5:5). Say not then, O sinner; As God has forgiven me other sins, so he will pardon me this one if I commit it. Say not this; for if to the sin, which has been forgiven you add another, you have reason to fear that this new sin shall be united to your former guilt, and that thus the number will be completed, and that you shall be abandoned. Behold how the Scripture unfolds this truth more clearly in another place. “The Lord patiently expects, that when the Day of Judgment shall come, he may punish them in the fullness of sins.” (2 Mac. 6:14). God waits with patience until a certain number of sins is committed, but, when the measure of guilt is filled up, he waits no longer, but chastises the sinner. “You have sealed up my offences as it were in a bag.” (Job 14:17). Sinners multiply their sins without keeping any account of them; but God numbers them that, when the harvest is ripe, that is, when the number of sins is completed, he may take vengeance on them. “Put you in the sickles, for the harvest is ripe.” (Joel 3:13).

 

4. Of this there are many examples in the Scriptures. Speaking of the Hebrews, the Lord in one place says, “All the men that have tempted me now ten times. . . . shall not see the land." (Num. 14:22, 23). In another place he says, that he restrained his vengeance against the Amorrhites, because the number of their sins was not completed. “For as yet the iniquities of the Amorrhites are not at the full.” (Gen. 15:16). We have again the example of Saul, who, after having disobeys d God a second time, was abandoned. He entreated Samuel to interpose before the Lord in his behalf. “Bear, I beseech you, my sin, and return with me, that I may adore the Lord,” (1 Kings 15:25). But, knowing that God had abandoned Saul, Samuel answered, “I will not return with you; because you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you,” etc. (v. 26). Saul, you have abandoned God, and he has abandoned you. We have another example in Balthassar, who, after having profaned the vessels of the temple, saw a hand writing on the wall, “Mane, Thecel, Phares.” Daniel was requested to expound the meaning of these words. In explaining the word Thecel, he said to the king, “You are weighed in the balance, and are found wanting.” (Dan. 5:27). By this explanation he gave the king to understand that the weight of his sins in the balance of divine justice had made the scale descend. “The same night, Balthassar, the Chaldean king, was killed.” (Dan. 5:30). Oh! how many sinners have met with a similar fate! Continuing to offend God till their sins amounted to a certain number they have been struck dead and sent to hell. “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment they go down to hell.” (Job 21:13). Tremble, brethren, lest, if you commit another mortal sin, God should cast you into hell.

 

5. If God chastised sinners the moment they insult him, we should not see him so much despised. But, because he does not instantly punish their transgressions, and because, through mercy, he restrains his anger and waits for their return, they are encouraged to continue to offend him. “For, because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evil without any fear.” (Eccles. 8:11). But it is necessary to be persuaded that, through God bears with us, he does not wait, nor bear with us forever. Expecting, as on former occasions, to escape from the snares of the Philistines, Samson continued to allow himself to be deluded by Delilah. “I will go out as I did before, and shake myself." (Judges 16:20). But “the Lord was departed from him.” Samson was at length taken by his enemies, and lost his life. The Lord warns you not to say, I have committed so many sins, and God has not chastised me “Say not, I have sinned, and what harm has befallen me?

 

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for the Most High is a patient rewarder.” (Sir. 5:4). God has patience for a certain term, after which he punishes the first and last sins. And the greater has been his patience, the more severe his vengeance.

 

6. Hence, according to St. Chrysostom, God is more to be feared when he bears with sinners than when he instantly punishes their sins. “Plus timendum est, cum tolerat quam cum festinanter punit.” And why? Because, says St. Gregory, they to whom God has shown most mercy, shall, if they do not cease to offend him, be chastised with the greatest rigor. “Quos diutius expectat durius damnat.” The saint adds that God often punishes such sinners with a sudden death, and does not allow them time for repentance. “Sæpe qui diu tolerati sunt subita morte rapiuntur, ut nec flere ante mortem liceat.” And the greater the light which God gives to certain sinners for their correction, the greater is their blindness and obstinacy in sin. “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than, after they had known it, to turn back.” (2 Pet. ii. 21). Miserable the sinners who, after having been enlightened, return to the vomit. St Paul says, that it is morally impossible for them to be again converted. “For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated have tasted also the Heavenly gifts, ... and are fallen away, to be renewed again to penance.” (Heb. 6:4, 6).

 

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

 

8. O folly of sinners! If you purchase a house, you spare no pains to get all the securities necessary to guard against the loss of your money; if you take medicine, you are careful to assure yourself that it cannot injure you; if you pass over a river, you cautiously avoid all danger of falling into it; and for a transitory enjoyment, for the gratification of revenge, for a beastly pleasure, which lasts but a moment, you risk your eternal salvation, saying, “I will go to confession after I commit this sin.” And when, I ask, are you to go to confession? You say, “On tomorrow.” But who promises you tomorrow? Who assures you that you shall have time for confession, and that God will not deprive you of life, as he has deprived so many

 

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others, in the act of sin? "Diem tenes,” says St. Augustine, “qui horam non tenes.” You cannot be certain of living for another hour, and you say, “I will go to confession tomorrow.” Listen to the words of St. Gregory, “He who has promised pardon to penitents, has not promised tomorrow to sinners.” (Hom. 12. in Evan).. God has promised pardon to all who repent; but he has not promised to wait till tomorrow for those who insult him. Perhaps God will give you time for repentance, perhaps he will not. But, should he not give it, what shall become of your soul? In the meantime, for the sake of a miserable pleasure, you lose the grace of God, and expose yourself to the danger of being lost forever.

 

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

 

SERMON XVI. SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT. - ON Heaven.

 

“Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Matt. 17:4.

 

In this days gospel we read, that wishing to give his disciples a glimpse of the glory of Heaven, in order to animate them to labor for the divine honor, the Redeemer was transfigured, and allowed them to behold the splendor of his countenance. Ravished with joy and delight, St. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Lord, let us remain here; let us -.never more depart from this place; for, the sight of your  beauty consoles us more than all the delights of the earth. Brethren, let us labor during the remainder of our lives to gain Heaven. Heaven is so great a good, that, to purchase it for us, Jesus Christ has sacrificed his life on the cross. Be assured, that the greatest of all the torments of the damned in hell, arise from the thought of having lost Heaven through their own fault. The blessings, the delights, the joys, the sweetness of Heaven may be acquired; but they can be described and understood only by those blessed souls that enjoy them. But let us, with the aid of the holy Scripture, explain the little that can be said of them here below.

 

1. According to the Apostle, no man on this earth, can comprehend the infinite blessings which God has prepared for the souls that love him. “eyes  has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). In this life we cannot have an idea of any other pleasures than those which we enjoy by means of the senses. Perhaps we imagine that the beauty of Heaven

 

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resembles that of a wide extended plain covered with the verdure of spring, interspersed with trees in full bloom, and abounding in birds fluttering about and singing on every side; or, that it is like the beauty of a garden full of fruits and flowers, and surrounded by fountains in continual play. “Oh! what a Heaven,” to behold such a plain, or such a garden! But, oh! how much greater are the beauties of Heaven! Speaking of Heaven, St. Bernard says, O man, if you wish to understand the blessings of Heaven, know that in that happy country there is nothing, which can be disagreeable, and everything that you can desire. “Nihil est quod nolis, totum est quod velis.” Although there are some things here below which are agreeable to the senses, how many more are there which only torment us? If the light of day is pleasant, the darkness of night is disagreeable, if the spring and the autumn are cheering, the cold of winter and the heat of summer are painful. In addition, we have to endure the pains of sickness, the persecution of men, and the inconveniences of poverty; we must submit to interior troubles, to fears, to temptations of the devil, doubts of conscience, and to the uncertainty of eternal salvation.

 

2. But, after entering into Heaven, the blest shall have no more sorrows. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The Lord shall dry up the tears which they have shed in this life. “And death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. And he that sat on the throne, said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:4-5). In Heaven, death and the fear of death are no more, in that place of bliss there are no sorrows, no infirmities, no poverty, no inconveniencies, no vicissitudes of day or night, of cold or of heat. In that kingdom there is a continual day, always serene, a continual spring, always blooming. In Heaven there are no persecutions, no envy; for all love each other with tenderness, and each rejoices at the happiness of the others, as if it were his own. There is no more fear of eternal perdition; for the soul confirmed in grace can neither sin nor lose God.

 

3. “Totum est quod velis.” In Heaven you have all you can desire. “Behold, I make all things new.” There everything is new; new beauties, new delights, new joys. There all our desires shall be satisfied. The sight shall be satiated with beholding the beauty of that city. How delightful to behold a city in which the streets should be of crystal, the houses of silver, the windows of gold, and all adorned with the most beautiful flowers. But, oh! how much more beautiful shall be the city of Heaven! the beauty of the place shall be heightened by the beauty of the inhabitants, who are all clothed in royal robes; for, according to St. Augustine, they are all kings. “Quot cives, tot reges.” How delighted to behold Mary, the queen of Heaven, who shall appear more beautiful than all the other citizens of Heaven! But, what it must be to behold the beauty of Jesus Christ! St. Teresa once saw one of the hands of Jesus Christ, and was struck with astonishment at the sight of such beauty. The smell shall be satiated with odors, but with the odors of Heaven. The hearing shall be satiated with the harmony of the celestial choirs. St. Francis once heard for a moment an angel playing on a violin, and he almost died through joy. How delightful must it be to hear the saints and angels singing the divine praises! “They shall praise you forever and ever.” (Ps. 83:5). What must it be to hear Mary praising God! St. Francis de Sales says, that, as the singing of the nightingale in the wood surpasses that of all other birds, so the voice of Mary is far superior to that of all the other saints. In a word, there are in Heaven all the delights which man can desire.

 

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4. But the delights of which we have spoken are the least of the blessings of Heaven. The glory of Heaven consists in seeing and loving God face to face. “Totum quod expectamus,” says St. Augustine, “duæ syllabæ sunt, Deus.” The reward which God promises to us does not consist altogether in the beauty, the harmony, and other advantages of the city of Heaven. God himself, whom the saints are allowed to behold, is, according to the promises made to Abraham, the principal reward of the just in Heaven. “I am your  reward exceeding great.” (Gen. 15:1). St. Augustine asserts, that, were God to show his face to the damned, “Hell would be instantly changed into a Heaven of delights.” (Lib. de trip, habit., torn. 9). And he adds that, were a departed soul allowed the choice of seeing God and suffering the pains of hell, or of being freed from these pains and deprived of the sight of God, “she would prefer to see God, and to endure these torments.”

 

5. The delights of the soul infinitely surpass all the pleasures of the senses. Even in this life divine love infuses such sweetness into the soul when God communicates himself to her, that the body is raised from the earth. St. Peter of Alcantara once fell into such an ecstasy of love, that, taking hold of a tree, he drew it up from the roots, and raised it with him on high. So great is the sweetness of divine love, that the holy martyrs, in the midst of their torments, felt no pain, but were on the contrary filled with joy. Hence, St. Augustine says that, when St. Lawrence was laid on a red-hot gridiron, the fervor of divine love made him insensible to the burning heat of the fire. “Hoc igne incensus non sentit incendium.” Even on sinners who weep for their sins, God bestows consolations which exceed all earthly pleasures. Hence, St. Bernard says, “If it be so sweet to weep for you, what must it be to rejoice in you!”

 

6. How great is the sweetness which a soul experiences, when, in the time of prayer, God, by a ray of his own light, shows to her his goodness and his mercies towards her, and particularly the love which Jesus Christ has borne to her in his passion! She feels her heart melting, and as it were dissolved through love. But in this life we do not see God as he really is, we see him as it were in. the dark. “We see now through a glass in a dark manner, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12). Here below God is hidden from, our view; we can see him only with the eyes of faith, how great shall be our happiness when the veil shall be raised, and we shall be permitted to behold God face to face! We shall then see his beauty, his greatness, his perfection, his amiableness, and his immense love for our souls.

 

7. “Man knows not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” (Sir. 9:1). The fear of not loving God, and of not being loved by him, is the greatest affliction which souls that love God endure on the earth; but, in Heaven, the soul is certain that she loves God, and that he loves her; she sees that the Lord embraces her with infinite love, and that this love shall not be dissolved for all eternity. The knowledge of the love which Jesus Christ has shown her in offering himself in sacrifice for her on the cross, and in making himself her food in the sacrament of the altar, shall increase the ardor of her love. She shall also see clearly all the graces which God has bestowed upon her, all the helps which he has given her, to preserve her from falling into sin, and to draw her to his love. She shall see that all the tribulations, the poverty, infirmities, and persecutions which she regards as misfortunes, have all proceeded from love, and have been the means employed by Divine Providence to bring her to glory. She shall see all the lights, loving calls, and mercies which God had granted to her, after she had insulted him by her sins. From the blessed mountain of Heaven she shall see so many

 

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souls damned for fewer sins than she had committed, and shall see that she herself is saved and secured against the possibility of ever losing God.

 

8. The goods of this earth do not satisfy our desires, at first they gratify the senses; but when we become accustomed to them they cease to delight. But the joys of Heaven constantly satiate and content the heart. “I shall be satisfied when your  glory shall appear.” (Ps. 16:15). And through they satiate they always appear to be as new as the first time when they were experienced; they are always enjoyed and always desired, always desired and always possessed. “Satiety,” says St. Gregory, “accompanies desire.” (Lib. 13, Mor., c. 18). Thus, the desires of the saints in Heaven do not beget pain, because they are always satisfied; and satiety does not produce disgust, because it is always accompanied with desire. Hence, the soul shall be always satiated and always thirsty, she shall be forever thirsty, and always satiated with delights. The damned are, according to the Apostle, vessels full of wrath and of torments, “vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction.” (Rom. 9:22). But the just are vessels full of mercy and of joy, so that they have nothing to desire. “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of your  house.” (Ps. 35:9). In beholding the beauty of God, the soul shall be so inflamed and so inebriated with divine love, that she shall remain happily lost in God; for she shall entirely forget herself, and for all eternity shall think only of loving and praising the immense good which she shall possess forever, without the fear of having it in her power ever to lose it. In this life, holy souls love God; but they cannot love him with all their strength, nor can they always actually love him. St. Thomas teaches, that this perfect love is only given to the citizens of Heaven, who love God with their whole heart, and never cease to love him actually. “Ut totum cor hominis semper actualiter in Deum feratur ista est perfectio patriæ” (2, 2 quæst. 44, art. 4, ad. 2).

 

9. Justly, then, has St. Augustine said, that to gain the eternal glory of Heaven, we should cheerfully embrace eternal labor. “Pro æterna requie æternus labor subeundus esset.” “For nothing” says David, “shall you save them.” (Ps. 55:8). The saints have done but little to acquire Heaven. So many kings, who have abdicated their thrones and shut themselves up in a cloister; so many holy hermits, who have confined themselves in a cave; so many martyrs, who have cheerfully submitted to torments to the rack, and to red-hot plates have done but little. “The sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory to come.” (Rom. 8:18). To gain Heaven, it would be but little to endure all the pains of this life.

 

10. Let us, then, brethren, courageously resolve to bear patiently with all the sufferings which shall come upon us during the remaining days of our lives, to secure Heaven they are all little and nothing. Rejoice then; for all these pains, sorrows, and persecutions shall, if we are saved, be to us a source of never-ending joys and delights. “Your sorrows shall be turned into joy.” (John 16:20). When, then, the crosses of this life afflict us, let us raise our eyes to Heaven, and console ourselves with the hope of Heaven. At the end of her life, St. Mary of Egypt was asked, by the Abbot St. Zozimus, how she had been able to live for forty-seven years in the desert where he found her dying. She answered, “With the hope of Heaven.” If we be animated with the same hope, we shall not feel the tribulations of this life. Have courage! Let us love God and labor for Heaven. There the saint expects us, Mary expects us, Jesus Christ expects us; he holds in his hand a crown to make each of us a king in that eternal kingdom.

 

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SERMON XVII THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT. - ON CONCEALING SINS IN CONFESSION.

 

“And he was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb.” Luke 11:14.

 

The devil does not bring sinners to hell with their eyes open, he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. “For their own malice blinded them.” (Wis. 2:21). He thus leads them to eternal perdition. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labors to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession. Thus, he leads us to hell by a double chain, inducing us, after our transgressions, to consent to a still greater sin the sin of sacrilege. I will speak on this subject today, and will endeavor to convince you of the great evil of concealing sins in confession

 

1. In expounding the words of David "Set a door O Lord, round about my lips,” (Ps. 140:3). St. Augustine says, “Non dixit claustrum, sed ostium, ostium et aperitur et clauditur, aperiatur ad confessionem peccati, claudatur ad excusationem peccati.” “We should keep a door to the mouth, that it may be closed against detraction, and blasphemies, and all improper words, and that it may be opened to confess the sins we have committed. “Thus,” adds the holy doctor, “it will be a door of restraint, and not of destruction.” To be silent when we are impelled to utter words injurious to God or to our neighbor, is an act of virtue; but, to be silent in confessing our sins, is the ruin of the soul. After we have offended God, the devil labors to keep the mouth closed, and to prevent us from confessing our guilt. St. Antonine relates, that a holy solitary once saw the devil standing beside a certain person who wished to go to confession. The solitary asked the fiend what he was doing there. The enemy said in reply, “I now restore to these penitents what I before took away from them; I took away from them shame while they were committing sin; I now restore it that they may have a horror of confession.” “My sores are putrefied and corrupted, because of my foolishness.” (Ps. 37:6). Gangrenous sores are fatal; and sins concealed in confession are spiritual ulcers, which mortify and become gangrenous.

 

2. “Pudorem,” says St. Chrysostom, “dedit Deus peccato, confessioni nduciam, invertit rem diabolis, peccato fiduciam præbet, confessioni pudorem.” (Proem, in Isa). God has made sin shameful, that we may abstain from it, and gives us confidence to confess it by promising pardon to all who accuse themselves of their sins. But the devil does the contrary, he gives confidence to sin by holding out hopes of pardon; but, when sin is committed, he inspires shame, to prevent the confession of it.

 

3. A disciple of Socrates, at the moment he was leaving a house of bad fame, saw his master pass, to avoid being seen by him, he went back into the house. Socrates came to the door and said, My son, it is a shameful thing to enter, but not to depart from this house. “Non te pudeat, fili egredi ex hoc loco, intrasse pudeat.” To you also, brethren, who have sinned, I say, that you ought to be ashamed to offend so great and so good a God. But you have no reason to be ashamed of confessing the sins which you have committed. Was it shameful in St. Mary Magdalene to acknowledge publicly at the feet of Jesus Christ that she was a sinner? By her confession she became a saint. Was it shameful in St. Augustine not only to confess his sins, but also to publish them in a book, that, for his confusion, they might be known to the whole world? Was it shameful in St. Mary of Egypt to confess, that for so many years she had

 

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led a scandalous life? By their confessions these have become saints, and are honored on the altars of the Church.

 

4. We say that the man who acknowledges his guilt before a secular tribunal is condemned , but in the tribunal of Jesus Christ, they who confess their sins obtain pardon, and receive a crown of eternal glory. “After confession,” says St. Chrysostom, “a crown is given to penitents.” He who is afflicted with an ulcer must, if he wish to be cured, show it to a physician, otherwise it will fester and bring on death. “Quod ignorat,” says the Council of Trent, “medicina non curat.” If, then, brethren, your souls be ulcerated with sin, be not ashamed to confess it; otherwise you are lost. “For your  soul be not ashamed to say the truth.” (Sir. 4:24). But, you say, I feel greatly ashamed to confess such a sin. If you wish to be saved, you must conquer this shame. “For there is a shame that brings sin, and there is a shame that brings glory and grace.” (Ib. 4. 25). There are, according to the inspired writer, two kinds of shame, one of which leads souls to sin, and that is the shame which makes them conceal their sins at confession; the other is the confusion which a Christian feels in confessing his sins; and this confusion obtains for him the grace of God in this life, and the glory of Heaven in the next.

 

5. St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her. The devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ. After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat, that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to hell. For those who have sinned grievously, there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins. But, what hope of salvation can he have who goes to confession and conceals his sins, and makes use of the tribunal of penance to offend God, and to make himself doubly the slave of Satan? What hope would you entertain of the recovery of the man who, instead of taking the medicine prescribed by his physician, drank a cup of poison? God! What can the sacrament of penance be to those who conceal their sins, but a deadly poison, which adds to their guilt the malice of sacrilege? In giving absolution, the confessor dispenses to his patient the blood of Jesus Christ; for it is through the merits of that blood that he absolves from sin. What, then, does the sinner do, when he conceals his sins in confession? He tramples underfoot the blood of Jesus Christ. And should he afterwards receive the holy communion in a state of sin, he is, according to St. Chrysostom, as guilty as if he threw the consecrated host into a sink. “Non minus detestabile est in os pollutum, quam in sterquilinum mittere Dei Filium.” (Hom. Ixxxiii., in Matt). Accursed shame! how many poor souls do you bring to hell? "Magis memores pudoris,” says Tertullian, “quam salutis.” Unhappy souls! they think only of the shame of confessing their sins, and do not reflect that, if they conceal them, they shall be certainly damned.

 

6. Some penitents ask, “What will my confessor say when he hears that I have committed such a sin?” What will he say? He will say that you are, like all persons living on this earth, miserable and prone to sin, he will say that, if you have done evil, you have also performed a glorious action in overcoming shame, and in candidly confessing your fault.

 

7. “But I am afraid to confess this sin.” To how many confessors, I ask, must you tell it? It is enough to mention it to one priest, who hears many sins of the same kind from others. It is enough to confess it once, the confessor will give you penance and absolution, and your

 

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conscience shall be tranquillized. But, you say, “I feel a great repugnance to tell this sin to my spiritual father.” Tell it, then, to another confessor, and, if you wish, to one to whom you are unknown. “But, if this come to the knowledge of my confessor, he will be displeased with me.” What then do you mean to do? Perhaps, to avoid giving displeasure to him, you intend to commit a heinous crime, and remain under sentence of damnation. This would be the very height of folly.

 

8. Are you afraid that the confessor will make known your sin to others? Would it not be madness to suspect that he is so wicked as to break the seal of confession by revealing your sin to others? Remember that the obligation of the seal of confession is so strict, that a confessor cannot speak out of confession, even to the penitent, of the smallest venial fault; and if he did so, * he would be guilty of a most grievous sin.

 

9. But you say, “I am afraid that my confessor, when he hears my sin, will rebuke me with great severity.” God! Do you not see that all these are deceitful artifices of the devil to bring you to hell? No; the confessor will not rebuke you, but he will give an advice suited to your state. A confessor cannot experience greater consolation than in absolving a penitent who confesses his sins with true sorrow and with sincerity. If a queen were mortally wounded by a slave, and you were in possession of a remedy by which she could be cured, how great would be your joy in saving her life! Such is the joy which a confessor feels in absolving a soul in the state of sin. By his act he delivers her from eternal death, and by restoring to her the grace of God, he makes her a queen of Heaven. * That is, without the permission of the penitent.

 

10. But you have so many fears, and are not afraid of damning your own soul by the enormous crime of concealing sins in confession. You are afraid of the rebuke of your confessor, and fear not the reproof which you shall receive from Jesus Christ, your Judge, at the hour of death. You are afraid that your sins shall become known (which is impossible)., and you dread not the Day of Judgment, on which, if you conceal them, they shall be revealed to all men. If you knew that, by concealing sins in confession, they shall be made known to all your relatives and to all your neighbors, you would certainly confess them. But, do you not know, says St. Bernard, that if you refuse to confess your sins to one man, who, like yourself, is a sinner, they shall be made known not only to all your relatives and neighbors, but to the entire human race? ”Si pudor est tibi uni homini, et peccatori peccatum exponere, quid facturus es in die judicii, ubi omnibus exposita tua conscientia patebit?” (S. Ber. super illud Joan., cap. xi). “Lazare veni foras.” If you do not confess your sin, God himself shall, for your confusion, publish not only the sin which you conceal, but also all your iniquities, in the presence of the angels and of the whole world. “I will discover your  shame to your  face, and will show your  wickedness to the nations.” (Nah. 3:5).

 

11. Listen, then, to the advice of St. Ambrose. The devil keeps an account of your sins, to charge you with them at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. Do you wish, says the saint, to prevent this accusation? Anticipate your accuser, accuse yourself now to a confessor, and then no accuser shall appear against you at the judgment-seat of God. “Præveni accusatorem tuum; si to accusaveris, accusatorem nullum timebis.” (Lib. 2 de Poenit., cap. ii). But, according to St. Augustine, if you excuse yourself in confession, you shut up sin within your soul, and shut out pardon. “Excusas te, includis peccatum, excludis indulgentiam.” (Hom. 12. 50).

 

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12. If, then, brethren, there be a single soul among you who has ever concealed a sin, through shame, in the tribunal of penance, let him take courage, and make a full confession of all his faults. “Give glory to God with a good heart.” (Sir. 35:10). Give glory to God, and confusion to the devil. A certain penitent was tempted by Satan to conceal a sin through shame; but she was resolved to confess it; and while she was going to her confessor, the devil came forward and asked her where she was going. She courageously answered, “I am going to cover myself and you with confusion.” Act you in a similar manner; if you have ever concealed a mortal sin, confess it candidly to your director, and confound the devil. Remember that the greater the violence you do yourself in confessing your sins, the greater will be the love with which Jesus Christ will embrace you.

 

13. Courage, then! expel this viper which you harbor in your soul, and which continually corrodes your heart and destroys your peace. Oh! what a hell does a Christian suffer who keeps in his heart a sin concealed through shame in confession! He suffers an anticipation of hell. It is enough to say to the confessor, “Father, I have a certain scruple regarding my past life, but I am ashamed to tell it.” This will be enough, the confessor will help to pluck out the serpent which gnaws your conscience. And, that you may not entertain groundless scruples, I think it right to tell you, that if the sin which you are ashamed to tell be not mortal, or if you never considered it to be a mortal sin, you are not obliged to confess it; for we are bound only to confess mortal sins. Moreover, if you have doubts whether you ever confessed a certain sin of your former life, but know that, in preparing for confession, you always carefully examined your conscience, and that you never concealed a sin through shame; in this case, even through the sin about the confession of which you are doubtful, had been a grievous fault, you are not obliged to confess it because it is presumed to be morally certain that you have already confessed it. But, if you know that the sin was grievous, and that you never accused yourself of it in confession, then there is no remedy; you must confess it, or you must be damned for it. But, lost sheep, go instantly to confession. Jesus Christ is waiting for you; he stands with arms open to pardon and embrace you, if you acknowledge your guilt. I assure you that, after having confessed all your sins, you shall feel such consolation at having unburdened your conscience and acquired the grace of God, that you shall forever bless the day on which you made this confession. Go as soon as possible in search of a confessor. Do not give the devil time to continue to tempt you. and to make you put off your confession, go immediately, for Jesus Christ is waiting for you.

 

SERMON XVIII. FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT. - ON THE TENDER COMPASSION WHICH JESUS CHRIST ENTERTAINS TOWARDS SINNERS.

 

“Make the men sit down.” John 6:10.

 

We read in this day’s gospel that, having gone up into a mountain with his disciples, and seeing a multitude of five thousand persons, who followed him because they saw the miracles which he wrought on them that were diseased, the Redeemer said to St. Philip, “Hence,  shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” “Lord,” answered St. Philip, “two-hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient that every one may take a little.” St. Andrew then said, There is a boy here that has five barley loaves and two fishes; but what are these among so many? But Jesus Christ said, “Make the men sit down.” And he distributed the loaves and fishes among them. The multitude were satisfied, and the fragments of bread

 

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which remained filled twelve baskets. The Lord wrought this miracle through compassion for the bodily wants of these poor people; but far more tender is his compassion for the necessities of the souls of the poor that is, of sinners who are deprived of the divine grace. This tender compassion of Jesus Christ for sinners shall be the subject of this day’s discourse.

 

1. Through the bowels of his mercy towards men, who groaned under the slavery of sin and Satan, our most loving Redeemer descended from Heaven to earth, to redeem and save them from eternal torments by his own death. Such was the language of St. Zachary, the father of the Baptist, when the Blessed Virgin, who had already become the mother of the Eternal Word, entered his house. “Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high has visited us.” (Luke 1:78).

 

2. Jesus Christ, the good pastor, who came into the world to obtain salvation for us his sheep, has said, “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Mark the expression, “more abundantly” which signifies that the Son of Man came on earth not only to restore us to the life of grace which we lost, but to give us a better life than that which we forfeited by sin. yes ; for as St. Leo says, the benefits which we have derived from the death of Jesus are greater than the injury which the devil has done us by sin. “Ampliora adepti sumus per Christ! gratiam quam per diaboli amiseramus invidiam.” (Ser. i., de Ascen). The same doctrine is taught by the Apostle, who says that, “where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” (Rom. 5:20).

 

3. But, my Lord, since you have resolved to take human flesh, would not a single prayer offered by you be sufficient for the redemption of all men? What need, then, was there of leading a life of poverty, humiliation, and contempt, for thirty- three years, of suffering a cruel and shameful death on an infamous gibbet, and of shedding all your  blood by dint of torments? I know well, answers Jesus Christ, that one drop of my blood, or a simple prayer, would be sufficient for the salvation of the world; but neither would be sufficient to show the love which I bear to men, and therefore, to be loved by men when they should see me dead on the cross for the love of them, I have resolved to submit to so many torments and to so painful a death. This, he says, is the duty of a good pastor. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep... I lay down my life for my sheep.” (John 10:11, 15).

 

4. O men, O men, what greater proof of love could the Son of God give us than to lay down his life for us his sheep? "In this we have known the charity of God; because he has laid down his life for us.” (I John 3:16). No one, says the Savior, can show greater love to his friends than to give his life for them. “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). But you, O Lord, have died not only for friends, but for us who were your  enemies by sin. “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Rom. 5:10). infinite love of our God, exclaims St. Bernard; "to spare slaves, neither the Father has spared the Son, nor the Son himself.” To pardon us, who were rebellious servants, the Father would not pardon the Son, and the Son would not pardon himself, but, by his death, has satisfied the divine justice for the sins which we have committed.

 

5. When Jesus Christ was near his passion he went one day to Samaria, the Samaritans refused to receive him. Indignant at the insult offered by the Samaritans to their Master, St.

 

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James and St. John, turning to Jesus, said, “Lord, will  you that we command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). But Jesus, who was all sweetness, even to those who insulted him, answered, “You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save.” (r. 55 and 50). He severely rebuked the disciples. What spirit is this, he said, which possesses you? It is not my spirit, mine is the spirit of patience and compassion; for I am come, not to destroy, but to save the souls of men, and you speak of fire, of punishment, and of vengeance. Hence, in another place, he said to his disciples, “Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matt. 11:29 ). I do not wish of you to learn of me to chastise, but to be meek, and to bear and pardon injuries.

 

6. How beautiful has he described the tenderness of his heart towards sinners in the following words, “What man of you that has an hundred sheep, and, if he lose one of them, does  he not leave ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which is lost until he find it, and when he has found it, lay it upon his shoulder rejoicing; and coming home, call together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost?” (Luke 15:4-6). But, Lord, it is not you that ought to rejoice, but the sheep that has found her pastor and her God. The sheep indeed, answers Jesus, rejoices at finding me, her shepherd; but far greater is the joy which 1 feel at having found one of my lost sheep. He concludes the parable in these words, “I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in Heaven, for one sinner that does  penance, more than upon ninety-nine just, who need not penance.” (Luke 15:7). There is more joy in Heaven at the conversion of one sinner, than upon ninety-nine just men who preserve their innocence. What sinner, then, can be so hardened as not to go instantly and cast himself at the feet of his Savior, when he knows the tender love with which Jesus Christ is prepared to embrace him, and carry him on his shoulders, as soon as he repents of his sins?

 

7. The Lord has also declared his tenderness towards penitent sinners in the parable of the Prodigal Child. (Luke 15:12, etc). In that parable the Son of God says, that a certain young man, unwilling to be any longer under the control of his father, and desiring to live according to his caprice and corrupt inclinations, asked the portion of his father’s substance which fell to him. The father gave it with sorrow, weeping over the ruin of his son. The son departed from his father’s house. Having in a short time dissipated his substance, he was reduced to such a degree of misery that, to procure the necessaries of life, he was obliged to feed swine. All this was a figure of a sinner, who, after departing from God, and losing the divine grace and all the merits he had acquired, leads a life of misery under the slavery of the devil. In the gospel it is added that the young man, seeing his wretched condition, resolved to return to his father, and the father, who is a figure of Jesus Christ, seeing his son return to him, was instantly moved to pity. “His father saw him, and was moved with compassion” (v. 20).; and, instead of driving him away, as the ungrateful son had deserved, “running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him.” He ran with open arms to meet him, and, through tenderness, fell upon his neck, and consoled him by his embraces. He then said to his servants, “Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him.” According to St. Jerome and St. Augustine, the first robe signifies the divine grace, which, in addition to new celestial gifts, God, by granting pardon, gives to the penitent sinner. “And put a ring on his finger.” Give him the ring of- a spouse. By recovering the grace of God, the soul becomes again the spouse of Jesus Christ. “And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry” (v. 23).. Bring hither the fatted calf which signifies the holy communion, or Jesus in the holy

 

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sacrament mystically killed and offered in sacrifice on the altar; let us eat and rejoice. But why, divine Father, so much joy at the return of so ungrateful a child? Because, answered the Father, this my son was dead, and he is come to life again; he was lost, and I have found him.

 

8. This tenderness of Jesus Christ was experienced by the sinful woman (according to St. Gregory, Mary Magdalene). who cast herself at the feet of Jesus, and washed them with her tears. (Luke 7:47, 50). The Lord, turning to her with sweetness, consoled her by saying, “your  sins are forgiven ;... your  faith has made you safe; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48, 50). Child, your  sins are pardoned; your  confidence in me has saved you; go in peace. It was also felt by the man who was sick for thirty- eight years, and who was infirm, both in body and soul. The Lord cured his malady, and pardoned his sins. “Behold,” says Jesus to him, “you art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to you.” (John 5:14). The tenderness of the Redeemer was also felt by the leper who said to Jesus Christ, “Lord, if you will , you canst make me clean.” (Matt. 8:2). Jesus answered, “I will, be you made clean” (v. 3).. As if he said, yes ; I will that you be made clean; for I have come down from Heaven for the purpose of consoling all, be healed, then, according to your  desire. “And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed.”

 

9. We have also a proof of the tender compassion of the Son of God for sinners, in his conduct towards the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees brought her before him, and said, “This woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses, in the law, commands us to stone such a one. But what say you?” (John 8:4-5). And this they did, as St. John says, tempting him. They intended to accuse him of transgressing the law of Moses, if he said that she ought to be liberated; and they expected to destroy his character for meekness, if he said that she should be stoned. “Si dicat lapidandam,” says St. Augustine, “famam perdet mansuetudinis; sin dimmitteudam, transgressæ legis accusabitur.” (Tract, xxxiii. in Joan). But what was the answer of our Lord? He neither said that she should be stoned nor dismissed; but, “bowing himself down, he wrote with his finger on the ground.” The interpreters say that, probably, what he wrote on the ground was a text of Scripture admonishing the accusers of their own sins, which were, perhaps, greater than that of the woman charged with adultery. “He then lifted himself up, and said to them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (v . 7).. The scribes and Pharisees went away one by one, and the woman stood alone. Jesus Christ, turning to her, said, “Has no one condemned you? neither will I condemn you. Go, and now sin no more” (v. 11).. Since no one has condemned you, fear not that you shall be condemned by me, who has come on earth, not to condemn, but to pardon and save sinners, go in peace, and sin no more.

 

10. Jesus Christ has come, not to condemn, but to deliver sinners from hell, as soon as they resolve to amend their lives. And when he sees them obstinately bent on their own perdition, he addresses them with tears in the words of Ezekiel, “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (xviii. 31).. My children, why will you die? Why do you voluntarily rush into hell, when I have come from Heaven to deliver you from it by death? He adds, you are already dead to the grace of God. But I will not your death, return to me, and I will restore to you the life which you have lost. “For I desire not the death of him that dies, says the Lord God, return you and live” (v. 32).. But some sinners, who are immersed in the abyss of sin, may say, Perhaps, if we return to Jesus Christ, he will drive us away. No; for the Redeemer has said, “And him that cometh to me I will not cast out.” (John 6:37). No one that comes to me with

 

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sorrow for his past sins, however manifold and enormous they may have been, shall be rejected.

 

11. Behold how, in another place, the Redeemer encourages us to throw ourselves at his feet with a secure hope of consolation and pardon. “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11:28). Come to me, all you poor sinners, who labor for your own damnation, and groan under the weight of your crimes; come, and I will deliver you from all your troubles. Again, he says, “Come and accuse me, says the Lord; if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be red as crimson, they shall be made white as wool.” (Is. 1:8). Come with sorrow for the offences you committed against me, and if I do not give you pardon, accuse me. As if he said, upbraid me; rebuke me as a liar; for I promise that, through your sins were of scarlet that is, of the most horrid enormity your soul, by my blood, in which I shall wash it, will become white and beautiful as snow.

 

12. Let us then, sinners, return instantly to Jesus Christ. If we have left him, let us immediately return, before death overtakes us in sin and sends us to hell, where the mercies and graces of the Lord shall, if we do not amend, be so many swords which shall lacerate the heart for all eternity.

 

SERMON XIX. PASSION SUNDAY. - ON THE DANGER TO WHICH TEPIDITY EXPOSES THE SOUL.

 

“But Jesus hid himself.” John 8:59.

 

Jesus Christ “is the true light which enlightens every man that cometh into this world." (John 1:9). He enlightens all; but he cannot enlighten those who voluntarily shut their eyes to the light; from them the Savior hides himself. How then can they, walking in darkness, escape the many dangers of perdition to which we are exposed in this life, which God has given us as the road to eternal happiness? I will endeavor Today to convince you of the great danger into which tepidity brings the soul, since it makes Jesus Christ hide his divine light from her, and makes him less liberal in bestowing upon her the graces and helps, without which she shall find it very difficult to complete the journey of this life without falling into an abyss that is, into mortal sin.

 

1. A tepid soul is not one that lives in enmity with God, nor one that sometimes commits venial sins through mere frailty, and not with full deliberation. On account of the corruption of nature by original sin, no man can be exempt from such venial faults. This corruption of nature renders it impossible for us, without a most special grace, which has been given only to the mother of God, to avoid all venial sins during our whole lives. Hence, St. John has said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8). God permits defects of this kind, even in the saints, to keep them humble, and to make them feel that, as they commit such faults in spite of all their good purposes and promises, so also, were they not supported by his divine hand, they would fall into mortal sins. Hence, when we find that we have committed these light faults, we must humble ourselves, and acknowledging our own weakness, we must be careful to recommend ourselves to God, and implore of him to preserve us, by his almighty hand, from more grievous transgressions, and to deliver us from those we have committed.

 

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2. What then are we to understand by a tepid soul? A tepid soul is one that frequently falls into fully deliberate venial sins such as deliberate lies, deliberate acts of impatience, deliberate imprecations, and the like. These faults may be easily avoided by those who are resolved to suffer death rather than commit a deliberate venial offence against God. St. Teresa used to say, that one venial sin does us more harm than all the devils in hell. Hence, she would say to her nuns, “My children, from deliberate sin, however venial it may be, may the Lord deliver you.” Some complain of being left in aridity and dryness, and without any spiritual sweetness. But how can we expect that God will be liberal of his favors to us, when we are ungenerous to him? We know that such a lie, such an imprecation, such an injury to our neighbor, and such detraction, through not mortal sins, are displeasing to God, and still we do not abstain from them. Why then should we expect that God will give us his divine consolations?

 

3. But some of you will say, Venial sins, however great they may be, do not deprive the soul of the grace of God, even through I commit them I will he saved; and for me it is enough to obtain eternal life. You say that, “for you it is enough to be saved.” Remember that St. Augustine says that, “where you have said, "It is enough,there you have perished.” To understand correctly the meaning of these words of St. Augustine, and to see the danger to which the state of tepidity exposes those who commit habitual and deliberate venial sins, without feeling remorse for them, and without endeavoring to avoid them, it is necessary to know that the habit of light faults leads the soul insensibly to mortal sins. For example, the habit of venial acts of aversion leads to mortal hatred; the habit of small thefts leads to grievous rapine; the habit of venial attachments leads to affections which are mortally sinful. “The soul,” says St. Gregory, “never lies where it falls.” (Moral., lib. xxxi). No; it continues to sink still deeper. Mortal diseases do not generally proceed from serious indisposition, but from many slight and continued infirmities; so, likewise, the fall of many souls into mortal sin follows from habitual venial sins; for these render the soul so weak that, when a strong temptation assails her, she has not strength to resist it, and she falls.

 

4. Many are unwilling to be separated from God by mortal sins; they wish to follow him, but at a distance, and regardless of venial sins. But to them shall probably happen what befell St. Peter. When Jesus Christ was seized in the garden, St. Peter was unwilling to abandon the Lord, but “followed him afar off.” (Matt. 26:58). After entering the house of Caiphas, he was charged with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was instantly seized with fear, and three times denied his Master. The Holy Spirit says, “He that contemns small things shall fall by little and little.” (Sir. 19:1). They who despise small falls will probably one day fall into an abyss; for, being in the habit of committing light offences against God, they will feel but little repugnance to offer to him some grievous insult.

 

5. The Lord says, “Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines.” (Cant. 2:15). He does not tell us to catch the lions or the bears, but the little foxes. Lions and bears strike terror, and therefore all are careful to keep at a distance through fear of being devoured by them; but the little foxes, through they do not excite dismay, destroy the vine by drying up its roots. Mortal sin terrifies the timorous soul; but, if she accustom herself to the commission of many venial sins with full deliberation, and without endeavoring to correct them, they, like the little foxes, shall destroy the roots that is, the remorse of conscience, the fear of offending God, and

 

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the holy desires of advancing in divine love; and thus, being in a state of tepidity, and impelled to sin by some passion, the soul will easily abandon God and lose the divine grace.

 

6. Moreover, deliberate and habitual venial sins not only deprive us of strength to resist temptations, but also of the special helps without which we fall into grievous sins. Be attentive, brethren; for this is a point of great importance. It is certain, that of ourselves we have not sufficient strength to resist the temptations of the devil, of the flesh, and of the world. It is God that prevents our enemies from assailing us with temptations by which we would be conquered. Hence, Jesus Christ has taught us the following prayer, “And lead us not into temptation.” He teaches us to pray that God may deliver us from the temptations to which we would yield, and thus lose his grace. Now, venial sins, when they are deliberate and habitual, deprive us of the special helps of God which are necessary for preservation in his grace. I say necessary, because the Council of Trent anathematizes those who assert that we can persevere in grace without a special help from God. “Si quis dixerit, justificatum vel sine speciali auxilio Dei in accepta justitia perseverare posse, vel cum eo non posse; anathema sit.” (Sess. 6, can. xxii). Thus, with the ordinary assistance of God, we cannot avoid falling into some mortal sin, a special aid is necessary. But this special aid God will justly withhold from tepid souls who are regardless of committing, with full deliberation, many venial sins. Thus these unhappy souls shall not persevere in grace.

 

7. They who are ungenerous to God well deserve that God should not be liberal to them. “He who sows sparingly, shall also reap sparingly.” (2 Cor. 9:6). To such souls the Lord will give the graces common to all, but will probably withhold his special assistance; and without this, as we have seen, they cannot persevere without falling into mortal sin. God himself revealed to B. Henry Suso, that, for tepid souls who are content with leading a life exempt from mortal sin, and continue to commit many deliberate venial sins, it is very difficult to preserve themselves in the state of grace. The venerable Lewis da Ponte used to say, “I commit many defects, but I never make peace with them.” Woe to him who is at peace with his faults! St. Bernard teaches that, as long as a person who is guilty of defects detests his faults, there is reason to hope that he will one day correct them and amend his life, but when he commits faults without endeavoring to amend, he will continually go from bad to worse, till he loses the grace of God. St. Augustine says that, like a certain disease of the skin which makes the body an object of disgust, habitual faults, when committed without any effort of amendment, render the soul so disgusting to God, that he deprives her of his embraces. “Sunt velut scabies, et nostrum decus ita exterminant ut a sponsi amplcxibus separent.” (Hom. 1., cap. iii). Hence, the soul, finding no more nourishment and consolation in her devout exercises, in her prayers, communions, or visits to the blessed sacrament, will soon neglect them, and thus neglecting the means of eternal salvation, she shall be in great danger of being lost.

 

8. This danger will be still greater for those who commit many venial sins through attachment to any passion, such as pride, ambition, aversion to a neighbor, or an inordinate affection for any person. 1st. Francis of Assisi says that, in endeavoring to draw to sin a soul that is afraid of being in enmity with God, the devil does not seek in the beginning to bind her with the chain of a slave, by tempting her to commit mortal sin, Because she would have a horror of yielding to mortal sin, and would guard herself against it. He first endeavors to bind her by a single hair; then by a slender thread; next by a cord; afterwards

 

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by a rope; and in the end by a chain of hell that is, by mortal sin; and thus he makes her his slave. For example, A person cherishes an affection for a female through a motive of courtesy or of gratitude, or from an esteem for her good qualities. This affection is followed by mutual presents; to these succeed words of tenderness; and after the first violent assault of the devil, the miserable man shall find that he has fallen into mortal sin. He meets with the fate of gamesters, who, after frequently losing large sums of money, yield to an impulse of passion, risk their all, and, in the end, lose their entire property.

 

9. Miserable the soul that allows herself to be the slave of any passion. “Behold, how small a fire what a great wood it kindles.” (Jas. 3:5). A small spark, if it be not extinguished, will set fire to an entire wood; that is, an unmodified passion shall bring the soul to ruin. Passion blinds us; and the blind often fall into an abyss when they least expect it. According to St. Ambrose, the devil is constantly endeavoring to find out the passion which rules in our heart, and the pleasures which have the greatest attraction for us. When he discovers them, he presents occasions of indulging them, he then excites concupiscence, and prepares a chain to make us the slaves of hell. “Tune maxime insidiatur adversarius quando videt in nobis passiones aliquas generari, tune fomites movet, laqueos parat.”

 

10. St. Chrysostom asserts, that he himself knew many persons who were gifted with great virtues, and who, because they disregarded light faults, fell into an abyss of crime. When the devil cannot gain much from us, he is in the beginning content with the little; by many trifling victories he will make a great conquest. No one, says St. Bernard, suddenly falls from the state of grace into the abyss of wickedness. They who rush into the most grievous irregularities, begin by committing light faults. “Nemo repente fit turpissimus, a minimis incipiunt qui in maxima proruunt.” (Tract de Ord. vita3). It is necessary also to understand that, when a soul that has been favored by God with special lights and graces, consents to mortal sin, her fall shall not be a simple fall, from which she will easily rise again, but it will be a precipitous one, from which she will find it very difficult to return to God.

 

11. Addressing a person in the state of tepidity, our Lord said, “'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16). "Would you were cold” that is, it would be better for you to be deprived of my grace, because there should then be greater hopes of your  amendment; but, because you lives in tepidity, without any desire of improvement, “I will begin to vomit you out of my mouth.” By these words he means, that he will begin to abandon the soul; for, what is vomited, is taken back only with great horror.

 

12. A certain author says, that tepidity is a hectic fever, which does not excite alarm, because it is not perceived; but it is, at the same time, so malignant that it is rarely cured. The comparison is very just; for tepidity makes the soul insensible to remorses of conscience; and, as she is accustomed to feel no remorse for venial faults, she will by degrees become insensible to the stings of remorse which arise from mortal sins.

 

13. Let us come to the remedy. The amendment of a tepid soul is difficult; but there are remedies for those who wish to adopt them. First, the tepid must sincerely desire to be delivered from a state which, as we have seen, is so miserable and dangerous; for, without this desire, they shall not take pains to employ the proper means. Secondly, they must

 

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resolve to remove the occasions of their faults; otherwise they will always relapse into the same defects. Thirdly, they must earnestly beg of the Lord to raise them from so wretched a state. By their own strength they can do nothing; but they can do all things with the assistance of God, who has promised to hear the prayers of all. “Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and you shall find.” (Luke 9:9). We must pray, and continue to pray without interruption. If we cease to pray we shall be defeated; but if we persevere in prayer we shall conquer.

 

SERMON XX. PALM SUNDAY. - ON THE EVIL EFFECTS OF BAD HABITS.

 

"Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied Matt. 21:2.

 

Wishing to enter Jerusalem, to be there acknowledged as the promised Messiah sent by God for the salvation of the world, the Savior said to his disciples, “Go to a certain village, and you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; loose them, and bring them to me.” “The ass which was tied,” says St. Bonaventure, “denotes a sinner.” This exposition is conformable to the doctrine of the Wise Man, who says, that the wicked are bound by the chains of their own sins. “His own iniquities catch the wicked, and he is fast bound with the rope of his own sins.” (Prov. 5:22). But, as Jesus Christ could not sit on the ass before she was loosed, so he cannot dwell in a soul bound with her own iniquities. If, then, brethren, there be among you a soul bound by any bad habit, let her attend to the admonition which the Lord addresses to her this morning. “Loose the bond from off your  neck, captive daughter of Sion.” (Is. 52:2). Loose the bonds of your sins, which make you the slave of Satan. Loose the bonds before the habit of sin gains such power over you, as to render your conversion morally impossible, and thus to bring you to eternal perdition. This morning I will show, in three points, the evil effects of bad habits.

 

First Point. A bad habit blinds the understanding.

 

Second Point. It hardens the heart.

 

Third Point. It diminishes our strength.

 

First Point. A bad habit blinds the understanding.

 

1. Of those who live in the habit of sin, St. Augustine says, “Ipsa consuetudo non sinit videre malum, quod faciunt.” The habit of sin blinds sinners, so that they no longer see the evil which they do, nor the ruin which they “bring upon themselves; Hence, they live in blindness, as if there was neither God, nor Heaven, nor hell, nor eternity. “Sins,” adds the saint, “however enormous, when habitual, appear to be small, or not to be sins at all.” How then can the soul guard against them, when she is no longer sensible of their deformity, or the evil which they bring upon her?

 

2. St. Jerome says, that habitual sinners “are not even ashamed of their crimes.” Bad actions naturally produce a certain shame; but this feeling is destroyed  by the habit of sin. St. Peter compares habitual sinners to swine wallowing in mire. “The sow that was washed is returned to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Pet. 2:22). The very mire of sin blinds them; and, therefore, instead of feeling sorrow and shame at their uncleanness, they revel and exult in it. “A fool works mischief as it were for sport.” (Prov. 10:23).”Who are glad when they have

 

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done evil.” (Prov. 2:14). Hence, the saints continually seek light from God; for they know that, should he withdraw his light, they may become the greatest of sinners. How, then, do so many Christians, who know by faith that there is a hell, and a just God, who cannot but chastise the wicked, how, I say, do they continue to live in sin till death, and thus bring themselves to perdition? “Their own malice blinded them.” (Wis. 2:21). Sin blinds them, and thus they are lost.

 

3. Job says, that habitual sinners are full of iniquities. “His bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth.” (20:11). Every sin produces darkness in the understanding. Hence, the more sins are multiplied by a bad habit, the greater the blindness they cause. The light of the sun cannot enter a vessel filled with clay; and a heart full of vices cannot admit the light of God, which would make visible to the soul the abyss into which she is running. Bereft of light, the habitual sinner goes on from sin to sin, without ever thinking of repentance. “The wicked walk round about,” (Ps. 11:9). Fallen into the dark pit of evil habits, he thinks only of sinning, he speaks only of sins, and no longer sees the evil of sin. In fine, he becomes like a brute devoid of reason, and seeks and desires only what pleases the senses. “And man, when he was in honor, did not understand, he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them. “ (Ps. 48:13). Hence, the words of the Wise Man are fulfilled with regard to habitual sinners. “The wicked man when he comes into the depth of sin, contemns.” (Prov. 18:3). This passage St. Chrysostom applies to habitual sinners, who, shut up in a pit of darkness, despise sermons, calls of God, admonitions, censures, hell, and God, and become like the vulture that waits to be killed by the fowler, rather than abandon the corrupt carcass on which it feeds.

 

4. Brethren, let us tremble, as David did when he said, “Let not the tempests of water drown me, nor the deep swallow me up; and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.” (Ps. 68:16). Should a person fall into a pit, there is hope of deliverance as long as the mouth of the pit is not closed; but as soon as it is shut, he is lost. When a sinner falls into a bad habit, the mouth of the pit is gradually closed as his sins are multiplied; the moment the mouth of the pit is shut, he is abandoned by God. Dearly beloved sinners, if you have contracted a habit of any sin, endeavor instantly to go out of that pit of hell, before God shall deprive you entirely of his light, and abandon you; for, as soon as he abandons you by the total withdrawal of his light, all is over, and you are lost.

 

Second Point. A bad habit hardens the heart.

 

5. The habit of sin not only blinds the understanding, but also hardens the heart of the sinner. “His heart shall be as hard as a stone, and as firm as a smith’s anvil.” (Job 41:15). By the habit of sin the heart becomes like a stone; and, as the anvil is hardened by repeated strokes of the hammer, so, instead of being softened by divine inspirations or by instructions, the soul of the habitual sinner is rendered more obdurate by sermons on the judgment of God, on the torments of the damned, and on the passion of Jesus Christ, “his heart shall be firm as a smith’s anvil.” “Their heart,” says St. Augustine, “is hardened against the dew of grace, so as to produce no fruit.” Divine calls, remorses of conscience, terrors of Divine justice, are showers of divine grace; but when, instead of drawing fruit from these divine blessings, the habitual sinner continues to commit sin, he hardens his heart, and thus, according to St. Thomas of Villanova, he gives a sign of his certain damnation “Induratio damnationis

 

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indicium;” for, from the loss of God’s light, and the hardness of his heart, the sinner will, according to the terrible threat of the Holy Spirit, remain obstinate till death. “A hard heart shall fare evil at the end.” (Sir. 3:27).

 

6. Of what use are confessions, when, in a short time after them, the sinner returns to the same vices? “He who strikes his breast,” says St. Augustine, “and does not amend, confirms, but does not take away sins.” When you strike your breast in the tribunal of penance, but do not amend and remove the occasions of sin, you then, according to the saint, do not take away your sins, but you make them more firm and permanent; that is, you render yourself more obstinate in sin. “The wicked walk round about.” (Ps. 11:9). Such is the unhappy life of habitual sinners. They go round about from sin to sin; and if they abstain for a little, they immediately, at the first occasion of temptation, return to their former iniquities. St. Bernard regards as certain the damnation of such sinners, “Væ homini, qui sequitur hunc circuitum.” (Serm. xii. sup. Psalmos).

 

7. But some young persons may say, I will hereafter amend, and sincerely give myself to God. But, if a habit of sin takes possession of you, when will you amend? The Holy Spirit declares, that a young man who contracts an evil habit will not relinquish it even in his old age. “A young man, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6). Habitual sinners have been known to yield, even at the hour of death, to the sins which they have been in the habit of committing. Father Recupito relates, that a person condemned to death, even while he was going to the place of execution, raised his eyes, saw a young female, and consented to a bad thought. We read in a work of Father Gisolfo, that a certain blasphemer, who had been likewise condemned to death, when thrown off the scaffold, broke out into a blasphemy, and died in that miserable state.

 

8. “He has mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardens.” (Rom. 9:18). God shows mercy for a certain time, and then he hardens the heart of the sinner. How does God harden the hearts of sinners? St. Augustine answers, “Obduratio Dei est non misereri.” The Lord does not directly harden the hearts of habitual sinners; but, in punishment of their ingratitude for his benefits, he withdraws from them his graces, and thus their hearts are hardened, and become like a stone. “God does not harden the heart by imparting malice, but by withholding mercy.” God does not render sinners obdurate by infusing the malice of obstinacy, but by not giving them the efficacious graces by which they would be converted. By the withdrawal of the sun’s heat from the earth, water is hardened into ice.

 

9. St. Bernard teaches, that hardness or obstinacy of heart does not take place suddenly; but, by degrees the soul becomes insensible to the divine threats, and more obstinate by divine chastisements. “Paulatim in cordis dulitiam itur; cor durum non minis cedit, flagellis duratur.” In habitual sinners are verified the words of David, “And your  rebuke, God of Jacob, they have slumbered.” (Ps. 75:7). Even earthquakes, thunders, and sudden deaths do not terrify an habitual sinner. Instead of awakening him to a sense of his miserable state, they rather bring on that deadly sleep in which he slumbers and is lost.

 

Third Point. A bad habit diminishes our strength.

 

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10. “He has torn me with wound upon wound; he has rushed in upon me like a giant.” (Job 16:15). On this text St. Gregory reasons thus, A person assailed by an enemy, is rendered unable to defend himself by the first wound which he receives; but, should he receive a second and third, his strength will be so much exhausted, that death will be the consequence. It is so with sin, after the first and second wound which it inflicts on the soul, she shall still have some strength, but only through the divine grace. But, if she continue to indulge in vice, sin, becoming habitual, rushes upon her like a giant and leaves her without any power to resist it. St. Bernard compares the habitual sinner to a person who has fallen under a large stone, which he is unable to remove. A person in such a case will rise only with difficulty. “The man on whom the weight of a bad habit presses, rises with difficulty.” St. Gregory says, “Lapis superpositus, cum consuetudine mens in peccato demoratur ut esti velit exsurgere, jam non possit quia moles desuper premit,” (Moral, lib. 26, c. 24).

 

11. St. Thomas of Villanova teaches, that a soul which is deprived of the grace of God, cannot long abstain from new sins. “Anima a gratia destituta diu evadere ulteriora peccata non potest.” (Conc. 4 in Dom. 4 quadrages). In expounding the words of David, “O my God, make them like a wheel, and as a stubble before the wind,” (Ps. 82:14). St. Gregory says, that the man who struggled for a time before he fell into the habit of sin, as soon as he contracts the habit, yields and yields again to every temptation, with as much facility as a straw is moved by the slightest blast of wind. Habitual sinners, according to St. Chrysostom, become so weak in resisting the attacks of the devil, that, dragged to sin by their evil habit, they are sometimes driven to sin against their inclination. “Dura res est consuetudo, quæ nonnunquam nolentes committere cogit illicita,” yes ; because, as St. Augustine says, a bad habit in the course of time brings on a certain necessity of falling into sin. “Dum consuetudini non resistitur, facta est necessitas.”

 

12. St. Bernardino of Sienna says, that evil habits are changed into one’s nature. “Usus veritur in natura.” Hence, as it is necessary for men to breathe, so it appears that it becomes necessary for habitual sinners to commit sins. They are thus made the slave of sin. I say, the slaves. In society there are servants, who serve for wages, and there are slaves, who serve by force, and without remuneration. Having sold themselves as slaves to the devil, habitual sinners are reduced to such a degree of slavery, that they sometimes sin without pleasure, and sometimes even without being in the occasion of sin. St. Bernardino compares them to the wings of a windmill, which continue to turn the mill even when there is no corn to be ground; that is, they continue to commit sin, at least by indulging bad thoughts, even when there is no occasion of sin presented to them. The unhappy beings, as St. Chrysostom says, having lost the divine aid, no longer do what they wish themselves, but what the devil wishes. “Homo perdito Dei auxilio, non quod vult agit, sed quod diabolus.”

 

13. Listen to what happened in a city in Italy. A certain young man, who had contracted a vicious habit, through frequently called by God, and admonished by friends to amend his life, continued to live in sin. One day he saw his sister suddenly struck dead. He was terrified for a short time; but she was scarcely buried, when he forgot her death and returned to the vomit. In two months after he was confined to bed by a slow fever. He then, sent for a confessor, and made his confession. But after all this, on a certain day, he exclaimed, Alas! how late have I known the rigor of divine justice! And turning to his physician, he said, Do not torment me any longer by medicines; for my disease is incurable. I know for certain that

 

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it will bring me to the grave. And to his friends, who stood around, he said, As for the life of this body of mine there is no remedy, so for the life of my poor soul there is no hope. I expect eternal death. God has abandoned me; this I see in the hardness of my heart. Friends and religious came to encourage him to hope in the mercy of God; but his answer to all their exhortations was, God has abandoned me. The writer who relates this fact says, that, being alone with the young man, he said to him, Have courage; unite yourself with God; receive the viaticum. Friend, replied the young man, speak to a stone. The confession which I have made has been null for want of sorrow. I do not wish for a confessor, nor for the sacraments. Do not bring me the viaticum; for, should you bring it, I will do that which must excite horror. He then went away quite disconsolate; and returning to see the young man, learned from his relatives that he expired during the night without the aid of a priest, and that near his room frightful howling were heard.

 

14. Behold the end of habitual sinners! Brethren, if you have the misfortune of having contracted a habit of sin, make, as soon as possible, a general confession; for your past confessions can scarcely have been valid. Go forth instantly from the slavery of the devil. Attend to the advice of the Holy Spirit. “Give not your  ears to the cruel.” (Prov. 5:9). Why will you serve the devil, your enemy, who is so cruel a master who makes you lead a life of misery here, to bring you to a life of still greater misery in hell for all eternity? “Lazarus, come forth. “Go out of the pit of sin; give yourself immediately to God, who calls you, and is ready to receive you if you turn to him. Tremble! this may be for you the last call, to which if you do not correspond, you shall be lost.

 

SERMON XXI. EASTER SUNDAY. - ON THE MISERABLE STATE OF RELAPSING SINNERS.

 

“Be not afraid, you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen; he is not here.” Mark 16:6.

 

I hope, my dear Christians, that, as Christ is risen, you have in this holy paschal time, gone to confession, and have risen from your sins. But, attend to what St. Jerome teaches that many begin well, but few persevere. “Incipere multorem est, perseverare paucorum.” Now the Holy Spirit declares, that he who perseveres in holiness to death, and not they who begin a good life, shall be saved. “But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13). The crown of Heaven, says St. Bernard, is promised to those who commence, but it is given only to those who persevere. “Inchoantibus præmium promittitur, perseverantibus datur.” (Ser. vi. Deinodo bene viv). Since, then, brethren, you have resolved to give yourselves to God, listen to the admonition of the Holy Spirit,   “Son, when you comes to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare your self for temptation.” (Sir. 2:1). Do not imagine that you shall have no more temptations, but prepare yourself for the combat, and guard against a relapse into the sins you have confessed; for, if you lose the grace of God again, you shall find it difficult to recover it. I intend this day to show you the miserable state of relapsing sinners; that is, of those who, after confession, miserably fall back into the sins, which they confessed.

 

1. Since, then, dearly beloved Christians, you have made a sincere confession of your sins, Jesus Christ says to you what he says to the paralytic, “Behold, you art made whole. Sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to you.” (John 5:14). By the confessions which you have

 

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made your souls are healed, but not as yet saved; for, if you return to sin, you shall be again condemned to hell, and the injury caused by the relapse shall be far greater than that which you sustained from your former sins. “Audis,” says St. Bernard, “recidere quam incidere, esse deterius.” If a man recover from a mortal disease, and afterwards fall back into it, he shall have lost so much of his natural strength, that his recovery from the relapse will be impossible. This is precisely what will happen to relaxing sinners; returning to the vomit that is, taking back into the soul the sins vomited forth in confession they shall be so weak, that they will become objects of amusement to the devil. St. Anselm says, that the devil acquires a certain dominion over them, so that he makes them fall, and fall again as he wishes. Hence, the miserable beings become like birds with which a child amuses himself. He allows them, from time to time, to fly to a certain height, and then draws them back again when he pleases, by means of a cord made fast to them. Such is the manner in which the devil treats relapsing sinners. “Sed quia ab hoste tenentur, volantes in eadem vitia dejiciuntur.”

 

2. St. Paul tells us, that we have to contend not with men like ourselves, made of flesh and blood, but with the princes of hell. “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.” (Ephes. 7:12). By these words he wishes to admonish us that we have not strength to resist the powers of hell, and that, to resist them, the divine aid is absolutely necessary, without it, we shall be always defeated; but, with the assistance of God’s grace, we shall, according to the same apostle, be able to do all things and shall conquer all enemies. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). But this assistance God gives only to those who pray for it. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find.” (Matt. 7:7). They who neglect to ask, do not receive. Let us, then, be careful not to trust in our resolutions, if we place our confidence in them, we shall be lost. When we are tempted to relapse into sin, we must put our whole trust in the assistance of God, who infallibly hears all who invoke his aid.

 

3. “He that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12). They who are in the state of grace should, according to St. Paul, be careful not to fall into sin, particularly if they have been ever guilty of mortal sins; for a relapse into sin brings greater evil on the soul. “And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Luke 11:26).

 

4. We are told in the Holy Scriptures, that the enemy “will offer victims to his drag, and will sacrifice to his net; because through them his meat is made dainty.” (Hab. 1:16). In explaining this passage St. Jerome says, that the devil seeks to catch in his nets all men, in order to sacrifice them to the divine justice by their damnation. Sinners, who are already in the net, he endeavors to bind with new chains; but the friends of God are his “dainty meats.” To make them his slaves, and to rob them of all they have acquired, he prepares stronger snares. “The more fervently,” says Denis the Carthusian, “a soul endeavors to serve God, the more fiercely does the adversary rage against her.” The closer the union of a Christian with God, and the greater his efforts to serve God, the more the enemy is aimed with rage, and the more strenuously he labors to enter into the soul from which he has been expelled. “When,” says the Redeemer, “the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, seeking rest, and not finding, he says, I will return into my house, Hence,  I came out.” (Luke 11:24). Should he succeed in re-entering, he will not enter alone, but will bring with him associates to fortify himself in the soul of which he has again got possession. Thus, the second

 

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destruction of that miserable soul shall be greater than the first. “And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Luke 11:26).

 

5. To God, the relapse of ungrateful Christians is very displeasing. Because, after he had called and pardoned them with so much love, he sees that, forgetful of his mercies to them, they again turn their back upon him and renounce his grace. “If my enemy had reviled me, I would verily have borne with it. But you, a man of one mind, my guide and familiar, who didst take sweet meats together with me. “ (Ps. 54:13, etc). Had my enemy, says the Lord, insulted me, I would have felt less pain; but to see you rebel against me, after I had restored my friendship to you, and after I had made you sit at my table, to eat my own flesh, grieves me to the heart, and impels me to take vengeance on you. Miserable the man who, after having received so many graces from God, becomes the enemy, from being the friend of God. He shall find the sword of divine vengeance prepared to chastise him. “And he that passes over from justice to sin, God has prepared such an one for the sword.” (Sir. 26:27).

 

6. Some of you may say, If I relapse, I will soon rise again; for I will immediately prepare myself for confession. To those who speak in this manner shall happen what befell Samson. He allowed himself to be deluded by Delilah, while he was asleep she cut off his hair, and his strength departed from him. Awaking from sleep, he said, “I will go out as I did before, and shake myself, not knowing that the Lord was departed from him.” (Judges 16:20). He expected to deliver himself as on former occasions, from the hands of the Philistines. But, because his strength had departed from him, he was made their slave. They pulled out his eyes, and binding him in chains, shut him up in prison. After relapsing into sin, a Christian loses the strength necessary to resist temptations, because “the Lord departs from him.” He abandons him by withholding the efficacious aid necessary to overcome temptations; and the miserable man remains blind and abandoned in his sin.

 

7. “No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62). Behold a faithful picture of a relapsing sinner. Mark the words no man, no one, says Jesus Christ, who begins to serve me, and looks back, is fit to enter Heaven. According to Origen, the addition of a new sin to one committed before, is like the addition of a new wound to a wound just inflicted. “Cum peccatum peccato adjicitur, sicut vulnus vulneri.” (Hom. 1. in Ps). If a wound be inflicted on any member of the body, that member certainly loses its original vigor. But, if it receives a second wound, it shall lose all strength and motion, without hope of recovery. The great evil of a relapse into sin is, that it renders the soul so weak that she has but little strength to resist temptation. For St. Thomas says, “After a fault has been remitted, the dispositions produced by the preceding acts remain.” (1 p., qu. 86, art. 5). Every sin, through pardoned, always leaves a wound on the soul. When to this wound a new one is added, the soul becomes so weak that, without a special and extraordinary grace from God, it is impossible for her to conquer temptations.

 

8. Let us, then, brethren, tremble at the thought of relapsing into sin, and let us beware of availing ourselves of the mercy of God to continue to offend him. “He,” says St. Augustine, “who has promised pardon to penitents, has promised repentance to no one.” God has indeed promised pardon to all who repent of their sins, but he has not promised to anyone the grace to repent of the faults, which he has committed. Sorrow for sin is a pure gift of God; if he withholds it, how will you repent? And without repentance, how can you obtain

 

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pardon? Ah! the Lord will not allow himself to be mocked. “Be not deceived,” says St. Paul, “God is not mocked.” (Gal. 6:7). St. Isidore tells us, that the man who repeats the sin which he before detested, is not a penitent, but a scoffer of God’s majesty. “Irrisor, et non poenitens est, pui adhuc agit, quod poenitet.” (De Sum. Bono). And Tertullian teaches, that where there is no amendment, repentance is not sincere. “Ubi emendatio nulla, poenitentia nulla.” (De Poenit).

 

9. “Be penitent,” said St. Peter in a discourse to the Jews, “and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19). Many repent, but are not converted. They feel a certain sorrow for the irregularities of their lives, but do not sincerely return to God. They go to confession, strike their breasts, and promise to amend; but they do not make a firm resolution to change their lives. They who resolve firmly on a change of life, persevere, or at least preserve themselves for a considerable time in the grace of God. But they who relapse into sin soon after confession, show, as St. Peter says, that they repent, but are not converted; and such persons shall in the end die an unhappy death. “Plerumque,” says St. Gregory, “mali sic compunguntur ad justitiam, sicut plerumque boni tentantur ad culpam.” (Pastor., p. 3, admon. 31). As the just have frequent temptations to sin, but yield not to them, because their will abhors them, so sinners feel certain impulses to virtue; but these are not sufficient to produce a true conversion. The Wise Man tells us that mercy shall be shown to him who confesses his sins and abandons them, but not to those who merely confess their transgressions. “He that shall confess” his sins, “and forsake them, shall obtain mercy.” (Prov. 28:13). He, then, who does not give up, but returns to sin after confession, shall not obtain mercy from God, but shall die a victim of divine justice. He may expect to die the death of a certain young Englishman, who, as is related in the history of England, was in the habit of relapsing into sins against purity. He always fell back into these sins after confession. At the hour of death he confessed his sins, and died in a manner which gave reason to hope for his salvation. But, while a holy priest was celebrating or preparing to celebrate Mass for his departed soul, the miserable young man appeared to him, and said that he was damned. He added that, at the point of death, being tempted to indulge a bad thought, he felt himself as it were forced to consent, and, as he was accustomed to do in the former part of his life, he yielded to the temptation, and thus was lost.

 

10. Is there then no means of salvation for relapsing sinners? I do not say this; but I adopt the maxim of physicians. “In inagnis morbis a magnis initium medendi sumere oportet.” In malignant diseases, powerful remedies are necessary. To return to the way of salvation, the relapsing sinner must do great violence to himself. “The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Matt. 11:12). In the beginning of a new life, the relapsing sinner must do violence to himself in order to root out the bad habits which he has contracted, and to acquire habits of virtue; for when he has acquired habits of virtue, the observance of the divine commands shall become easy and even sweet. The Lord once said to St. Bridget, that, to those who bear with fortitude the first punctures of the thorns which they experience in the attacks of the senses, in avoiding occasions of sin, and in withdrawing from dangerous conversations, these thorns are by degrees changed into roses.

 

11. But, to use the necessary violence, and to lead a life of regularity, you must adopt the proper means; otherwise, you shall do nothing. After rising in the morning, you must make acts of thanksgiving, of the love of God, and of oblation of the actions of the day. You must

 

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also renew your resolution never to offend God, and beg of Jesus Christ and his holy mother to preserve you from sin during the day. Afterwards make your meditation and hear Mass. During the day make a spiritual lecture and a visit to the most holy sacrament. In the evening, say the Rosary and make an examination of conscience. Receive the Holy Communion at least once a week, or more frequently if your directors advise you. Be careful to choose a confessor, to whom you will regularly go to confession. It is also very useful to make a spiritual retreat every year  in some religious house. Honor the mother of God every day by some particular devotion, and by fasting on every Saturday. She is the mother of perseverance, and promises to obtain it for all who serve her. “They that work by me shall not sin.” (Sir. 24:30). Above all, it is necessary to ask of God every morning the gift of perseverance, and to beg of the Blessed Virgin to obtain it for you, and particularly in the time of temptation, by invoking the name of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation lasts. Happy the man who will continue to act in this manner, and shall he found so doing when Jesus Christ shall come to judge him. “Blessed is that servant, whom, when his Lord shall come, he shall find so doing.” (Matt. 24:46).

 

SERMON XXII. FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. - ON AVOIDING THE OCCASIONS OF SIN.

 

“When the doors were shut, where His disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst.” John 20:19.

 

We find in this day’s gospel that after his resurrection Jesus Christ entered, through the doors were closed, into the house in which the apostles were assembled, and stood in the midst of them. St. Thomas says, that the mystic meaning of this miracle is, that the Lord does not enter into our souls unless we keep the door of the senses shut. “Mistice per hoc datur intelligi, quod Christus nobit apparet quando fores, id est sensus sunt clausi.” If, then, we wish Jesus Christ to dwell within us, we must keep the doors of our senses closed against dangerous occasions, otherwise the devil will make us his slaves. I will show Today the great danger of perdition to which they who do not avoid the occasions of sin expose themselves.

 

1. We read in the Scriptures that Christ and Lazarus arose from the dead. Christ rose to die no more “Christ rising from the dead, dies no more” (Rom. 6:9).; but Lazarus arose and died again. The Abbot Guerric remarks that Christ arose free and unbound; “but Lazarus came forth bound feet and hands.” (John 11:44). Miserable the man, adds this author, who rises from sin bound by any dangerous occasion, he will die again by losing the divine grace. He, then, who wishes to save his soul, must not only abandon sin, but also the occasions of sin, that is, he must renounce such an intimacy, such a house; he must renounce those wicked companions, and all similar occasions that incite him to sin.

 

2. In consequence of original sin, we all have an inclination to do what is forbidden. Hence, St. Paul complained that he experienced in himself a law opposed to reason, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin.” (Rom. 7:23). Now, when a dangerous occasion is present, it violently excites our corrupt desires, so that it is then very difficult to resist them, because God withholds efficacious helps from those who voluntarily expose themselves to the occasion of sin. “He that loves danger shall perish in it.” (Sir. 3:27).”When,” says St. Thomas, in his comment on this passage, “we expose ourselves to danger, God abandons us in it.” St. Bernardine of

 

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Sienna teaches that the counsel of avoiding the occasions of sin is the best of all counsel, and as it were the foundation of religion. “Inter consilia Christi unum celeberrimum, et quasi religiouis fundamentum est, fugere peccatorum occasiones.”

 

3. St. Peter says that “the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). He is constantly going about our souls, endeavoring to enter and take possession of them. Hence, he seeks to place before us the occasions of sin, by which he enters the soul. “Explorat,” says St. Cyprian, “an sit pars cujus aditu penetret.” When the soul yields to the suggestions of the devil, and exposes herself to the occasions of sin, he easily enters and devours her. The ruin of our first parents arose from their not flying from the occasions of sin. God had prohibited them not only to eat, but even to touch the forbidden apple. In answer to the serpent tempting her, Eve said, “God has commanded us that we should not eat, and that we should not touch it.” (Gen. 3:3). But “she saw, took, and eat” the forbidden fruit, she first looked at it, she then took it into her hands, and afterwards eat it. This is what ordinarily happens to all who expose themselves to the occasions of sin. Hence, being once compelled by exorcisms to tell the sermon which displeased him most, the devil confessed that it was the sermon on avoiding the occasions of sin. As long as we expose ourselves to the occasions of sin, the devil laughs at all our good purposes and promises made to God. The greatest care of the enemy is to induce us not to avoid evil occasions; for these occasions, like a veil placed before the eyes, prevent us from seeing either the lights received from God, or the eternal truths, or the resolutions we have made, in a word, they make us forget all, and as it were force us into sin.

 

4. “Know it to be a communication with death; for you art going in the midst of snares.” (Sir. 9:20). Everyone born in this world enters into the midst of snares. Hence, the Wise Man advises those who wish to be secure to guard themselves against the snares of the world, and to withdraw from them. “He that is aware of the snares shall be secure.” (Prov. 11:15). But if, instead of withdrawing from them, a Christian approaches to them, how can he avoid being caught by them? Hence, after having with so much loss learned the danger of exposing himself to the danger of sin, David said that, to continue faithful to God, he kept at a distance from every occasion which could lead him to relapse. “I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep your  words.” (Ps. 118:101). He does not say from every sin, but from every evil way which conducts to sin. The devil is careful to find pretexts to make us believe that certain occasions to which we expose ourselves are not voluntary, but necessary. When the occasion in which we are placed is really necessary, the Lord always helps us to avoid sin; but we sometimes imagine certain necessities which are not sufficient to excuse us. “A treasure is never safe” says St. Cyprian, “as long as a robber is harbored within; nor is a lamb secure while it dwells in the same den with a wolf.” (Lib. de Sing. Cler). The saint speaks against those who do not wish to remove the occasions of sin, and still say, “I am not afraid that I shall fall.” As no one can be secure of his treasure if he keeps a thief in his house, and as a lamb cannot be sure of its life if it remain in the den of a wolf, so likewise no one can be secure of the treasure of divine grace if he is resolved to continue in the occasion of sin. St. James teaches that every man has within himself a powerful enemy, that is, his own evil inclinations, which tempt him to sin. “Every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, drawn away, and allured.” (Jas. 1:14).

 

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If, then, we do not fly from the external occasions, how can we resist temptation and avoid sin? Let us, therefore, place before our eyes the general remedy which Jesus has prescribed for conquering temptations and saving our souls. “If your  right eyes  scandalize you, pluck it out and cast it from you.” (Matt. 5:29). If you find that your right eyes  is to you a cause of damnation, you must pull it out and cast it far from you; that is, when there is danger of losing your soul, you must fly from all evil occasions. St. Francis of Assisi used to say, as I have stated in another sermon, that the devil does not seek, in the beginning, to bind timorous souls with the chain of mortal sin; because they would be alarmed at the thought of committing mortal sin, and would fly from it with horror, he endeavors to bind them by a single hair, which does not excite much fear; because by this means he will succeed more easily in strengthening their bonds, till he makes them his slaves. Hence, he who wishes to be free from the danger of being the slave of hell must break all the hairs by which the enemy attempts to bind him; that is, he must avoid all occasions of sin, such as certain salutations, billets, little presents, and words of affection. With regard to those who have had a habit of impurity, it will not be sufficient to avoid proximate occasions; if they do not fly from remote occasions, they will very easily relapse into their former sins.

 

5. Impurity, says St. Augustine, is a vice which makes war on all, and which few conquer. “The fight is common, but the victory rare.” How many miserable souls have entered the contest with this vice, and have been defeated! But to induce you to expose yourselves to occasions of this sin, the devil will tell you not to be afraid of being overcome by the temptation. “I do not wish,” says St. Jerome, “to fight with the hope of victory, lest I should sometimes lose the victory.” I will not expose myself to the combat with the hope of conquering; because, by voluntarily engaging in the fight, I shall lose my soul and my God. To escape defeat in this struggle, a great grace of God is necessary; and to render ourselves worthy   of this grace, we must, on our part, avoid the occasions of sin. To practice the virtue of chastity, it is necessary to recommend ourselves continually to God, we have not strength to preserve it; that strength must be the gift of God. “And as I knew,” says the Wise Man, “that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, ... I went to the Lord, and besought him.” (Wis. 8:21). But if we expose ourselves to the occasions of sin, we ourselves shall provide our rebellious flesh with arms to make war against the soul. “Neither,” says the Apostle, “yield you your members as instruments of sin unto iniquity.” (Rom. 6:13). In explaining this passage, St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “You stimulate the flesh; you arm it, and make it powerful against the spirit.” St. Philip Neri used to say, that in the war against the vice of impurity, the victory is gained by cowards that is, by those who fly from the occasions of this sin. But the man who exposes himself to it, arms his flesh, and renders it so powerful, that it will be morally impossible for him to resist its attacks.

 

6. “Cry,” says the Lord to Isaias, “all flesh is grass.” (Is. 40:6). Now, says St. John Chrysostom, if all flesh is grass, it is as foolish for a man who exposes himself to the occasion of sin to hope to preserve the virtue of purity, as to expect that hay, into which a torch has been thrown, will not take fire. “Put a torch into hay, and then dare to deny that the hay will burn.” No, says St. Cyprian; it is impossible to stand in the midst of flames, and not to burn. “Impossibile est flammis circumdari et non ardere.” (De Sing. Cler). "Can a man,” says the Holy Spirit, “hide fire in his bosom, and his garments not burn? or can he walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt?” (Prov. 6:27, 28). Not to be burnt in such circumstances would be a miracle. St. Bernard teaches, that to preserve chastity, and, at the same time, to

 

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expose oneself to the proximate occasion of sin, “is a greater miracle than to raise a dead man to life.”

 

7. In explaining the fifth Psalm, St. Augustine says, that “he who is unwilling to fly from danger, wishes to perish in it.” Hence, in another place, he exhorts those who wish to conquer, and not to perish, to avoid dangerous occasions. “In the occasion of falling into sin, take flight, if you desire to gain the victory.” (Serm. ecl. de temp). Some foolishly trust in their own strength, and do not see that their strength is like that of tow placed in the fire. “And your strength shall be as the ashes of tow.” (Is. 1:31 ). Others, trusting in the change which has taken place in their life, in their confessions, and in the promises they have made to God, say, Through the grace of the Lord, I have now no bad motive in seeking the company of such a person; her presence is not even an occasion of temptations, Listen, all you who speak in this manner. In Mauritania there are bears that go in quest of the apes, to feed upon them, as soon as a bear appears, the apes run up the trees, and thus save themselves. But what does the bear do? He stretches himself on the ground as if dead, and waits till the apes descend from the trees. The moment he sees that they have descended, he springs up, seizes on them, and devours them. It is thus the devil acts, he makes the temptation appear to be dead; but when a soul descends, and exposes herself to the occasion of sin, he stirs up temptation, and devours her. Oh! how many miserable souls, devoted to spiritual things, to mental prayer, to frequent communion, and to a life of holiness, have, by exposing themselves to the occasion of sin, become the slaves of the devil! We find in ecclesiastical history that a holy woman, who employed herself in the pious office of burying the martyrs, once found among them one who was not as yet dead. She brought him into her own house, and procured a physician and medicine for him, till he recovered. But, what happened? These two saints (as they might be called one of them on the point of being a martyr, the other devoting her time to works of mercy with so much risk of being persecuted by the tyrants). first fell into sin and lost the grace of God, and, becoming weaker by sin, afterwards denied the faith. St. Macarius relates a similar fact regarding an old man who suffered to be half-burned in defense of the faith; but, being brought back into prison, he, unfortunately for himself, formed an intimacy with a devout woman who served the martyrs, and fell into sin.

 

8. The Holy Spirit tells us, that we must fly from sin as from a serpent. “Flee from sin as from, the face of a serpent.” (Sir. 21:2). Hence, as we not only avoid the bite of a serpent, but are careful neither to touch nor approach it, so we must fly not only from sin, but also from the occasion of sin that is, from the house, the conversation, the person that would lead us to sin. St. Isidore says, that he who wishes to remain near a serpent, will not remain long unhurt. “Juxta serpentem positus non erit din illæsus.” (Lib. 2, Solit). Hence, if any person is likely to prove an occasion of your ruin, the admonition of the Wise Man is, “Remove your  way far from her, and come not nigh the doors of her house.” (Prov. 5:8). He not only tells you not to enter the house which has been to you a road to hell. “Her house is the way to hell.” Prov. 7:27).; but he also cautions you not to approach it, and even to keep at a distance from it. “Remove your  way far from her.” But, you will say, if I abandon that house, my temporal affairs shall suffer. It is better that you should suffer a temporal loss, than that you should lose your soul and your God. You must be persuaded that, in whatever regards chastity, there cannot be too great caution.

 

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If we wish to save our souls from sin and hell, we must always fear and tremble. “With fear and trembling work out your salvation. “ (Phil. 2:12). He who is not fearful, but exposes himself to occasions of sin, shall scarcely be saved. Hence, in our prayers we ought to say every day, and several times in the day, that petition of the OUR FATHER “and lead us not into temptation.” Lord, do not permit me to be attacked by those temptations which would deprive me of your grace. We cannot merit the grace of perseverance; but, according to St. Augustine, God grants it to everyone that asks it, because he has promised to hear all who pray to him. Hence, the holy doctor says, that the Lord, “by his promises has made himself a debtor.”

 

SERMON XXIII. SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. - ON SCANDAL.

 

“The wolf catches and scatters the sheep." 1 John 10:12.

 

The wolves that catch and scatter the sheep of Jesus Christ are the authors of scandal, who, not content with their own destruction, labor to destroy others. But the Lord says, “Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.” (Matt, 18:7). Woe to him who gives scandal, and causes others to lose the grace of God. Origen says, that “a person who impels another to sin, sins more grievously than the other.” If, brethren, there be any among you who has given scandal, I will endeavor this day to convince him of the evil he has done, that he may bewail it and guard against it for the future. I will show, in the first point, the great displeasure which the sin of scandal gives to God; and, in the second, the great punishment which God threatens to inflict on the authors of scandal.

 

First Point. On the great displeasure which the sin of scandal gives to God.

 

1. It is, in the first place, necessary to explain what is meant by scandal. Behold how St. Thomas defines it, “Scandal is a word or act which gives occasion to the ruin of one's neighbor.” (2 ii., q. 45, art. 1). Scandal, then, is a word or act by which you are to your neighbor the cause or occasion of losing his soul. It may be direct or indirect. It is direct, when you directly tempt or induce another to commit sin. It is indirect, when, although you foresee that sinful words or actions will be the cause of sin to another, you do not abstain from them. But, scandal, whether it be direct or indirect, if it be in a matter of great moment, is always a mortal sin.

 

2. Let us now see the great displeasure, which the destruction of a neighbor's soul gives to God. To understand it, we must consider how dear every soul is to God. Ho has created the souls of all men to his own image. “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). Other creatures God has made by a fiat by an act of his will; but the soul of man he has created by his own breath. “And the Lord breathed into his face the breath of life.” (Gen. 2:7). The soul of your neighbor God has loved for eternity. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jer. 31:3). He has, moreover, created every soul to be a queen in Heaven, and to be a partner in his glory. “That by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4). In Heaven he will make the souls of the saints partakers of his own joy. “Enter you into the joy of your  Lord.” (Matt. 25:21. To them he shall give himself as their reward. “I am your  reward exceeding great.” (Gen. 15:1).

 

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3. But nothing can show the value which God sets on the souls of men more clearly than what the Incarnate Word has done for their redemption from sin and hell. “If,” says St. Eucharius, “you do not believe your Creator, ask your Redeemer, how precious you are.” Speaking of the care which we ought to have of our brethren, St. Ambrose says, “The great value of the salvation of a brother is known from the death of Christ.” We judge of the value of everything by the price paid for it by an intelligent purchaser. Now, Jesus Christ has, according to the Apostle, purchased the souls of men with his own blood. “You are bought with a great price.” (1 Cor. 6:20). We can, then, say, that the soul is of as much value as the blood of a God. Such, indeed, is the language of St. Hilary “Tam copioso munere redemptio agitur, ut homo Deum valere videatur.” Hence, the Savior tells us, that whatsoever good or evil we do to the least of his brethren, we do to himself. “So long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40).

 

4. From all this we may infer how great is the displeasure given to God by scandalizing a brother, and destroying his soul. It is enough to say, that they who give scandal rob God of a child, and murder a soul, for whose salvation he has spent his blood and his life. Hence, St. Leo calls the authors of scandals murderers. “Quisquis scandalizat, mortem infert animæ proximi.” They are the most impious of murderers; because they kill not the body, but the soul of a brother, and rob Jesus Christ of all his tears, of his sorrows, and of all that he has done and suffered to gain that soul. Hence, the Apostle says, “Now, when you sin thus against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:12). They who scandalize a brother, sin against Christ; because, as St. Ambrose says, they deprive him of a soul for which he has spent so many years, and submitted to so many toils and labors. It is related, that B. Albertus Magnus spent thirty years in making a head, which resembled the human head, and uttered words, and that St. Thomas, fearing that it was done by the agency of the devil, took the head and broke it. B. Albertus complained of the act of St. Thomas, saying, “You have broken on me the work of thirty years.” I do not assert that this is true; but it is certain that, when Jesus Christ sees a soul destroyed  by scandal, he can reprove the author of it, and say to him, Wicked wretch, what have you done? You have deprived me of this soul, for which I have labored thirty-three years.

 

5. We read in the Scriptures, that the sons of Jacob, after having sold their brother Joseph to certain merchants, told his father that wild beasts had devoured him. “Fera pessima devoravit eum.” (Gen. 37:20). To convince their father of the truth of what they said, they dipped the coat of Joseph in the blood of a goat, and presented it to him, saying, “See whether this be your  son’s coat or not” (v. 32).. In reply, the afflicted father said with tears, “It is my son’s coat, an evil wild beast has eaten him” (v. 33).. Thus, we may imagine that, when a soul is brought into sin by scandal, the devils present to God the garment of that soul dipped in the blood of the Immaculate Lamb, Jesus Christ that is, the grace lost by that scandalized soul, which Jesus Christ had purchased with his blood and that they say to the Lord, “See whether this be your  son’s coat or not.” If God were capable of shedding tears, he would weep more bitterly than Jacob did, at the sight of that lost soul his murdered child and would say, “It is my son’s coat, an evil wild beast has eaten him.” The Lord will go in search of this wild beast, saying, “Where is the beast? where is the beast that has devoured my child?” When he finds the wild beast, what shall he do with him?

 

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6. “I will,” says the Lord by his prophet Hosea, “meet them as a bear that is robbed of her whelps.” (Hosea 13:8). When the bear comes to her den, and finds not her whelps, she goes about the wood in search of the person who took them away. When she discovers the person, oh! with what fury does she rush upon him! It is thus the Lord shall rush upon the authors of scandal, who have robbed him of his children. Those who have given scandal, will say, My neighbor is already damned; how can I repair the evil that has been done? The Lord shall answer, Since you have been the cause of his perdition, you must pay me for the loss of his soul. “I will require his blood at your  hands.” (Ezek. 3:20). It is written in Deuteronomy, “You shall not pity him, but shall require life for life” (19:21).. You have destroyed  a soul; you must suffer the loss of your own. Let us pass to the second point.

 

Second Point. The great punishment which God threatens to those who give scandal.

 

7. “Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.” (Matt, 18:7). If the displeasure given to God by scandal be great, the chastisement which awaits the authors of it must be frightful. Behold how Jesus Christ speaks of this chastisement, “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt, 18:6). If a malefactor dies on the scaffold, he excites the compassion of the spectators, who, at least, pray for him, if they cannot deliver him from death. But, were he cast into the depths of the sea, there should be no one present to pity his fate. A certain author says, that Jesus Christ threatens the person who scandalizes a brother with this sort of punishment, to signify that he is so hateful to the angels and saints, that they do not wish to recommend to God the man who has brought a soul to perdition. “He is declared unworthy   not only to be assisted, but even to be seen.” (Mansi. cap. iii. num. 4).

 

8. St. John Chrysostom says, that scandal is so abominable in the eyes of God, that through he overlooks very grievous sins, he cannot allow the sin of scandal to pass without condign punishment. “Tam Deo horribile est scandalum, ut peccata graviora dissimulet non autem peccata ubi frater scandalizatur.” God himself says the same by the prophet Ezekiel, “Every man of the house of Israel, if he ... set up the stumbling block of his iniquity ... I will make him an example and a proverb, and will cut him off from the midst of my people.” (Ezek. 14:7, 8). And, in reality, scandal is one of the sins which we find in the sacred Scriptures punished by God with the greatest rigor. Of Heli, because he did not correct his sons, who gave scandal by stealing the flesh offered in sacrifice (for parents give scandal, not only by giving bad example, but also by not correcting their children as they ought)., the Lord said, “Behold, I do a thing in Israel, and whosoever shall hear it, both his ears shall tingle.” (1 Kings, 3:11). And speaking of the scandal given by the sons of Heli, the inspired writer says, “Wherefore the sin of the young men was exceeding great before the Lord.” (Ibid. 2:17). What was this sin exceeding great? It was, says St. Gregory, in explaining this passage, drawing others to sin. “Quia ad pecandum alios pertrahebant.” Why was Jeroboam chastised? Because he scandalized the people, he “has sinned, and made Israel sin.” (1 Chron 14:16). In the family of Achab, all the members of which were the enemies of God, Jezebel was the most severely chastised. She was thrown down from a window, and devoured by dogs, so that nothing remained but her “skull, and the feet, and the extremities of her hands.” And why was she so severely punished? Because, “she set Achab on to every evil.”

 

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9. For the sin of scandal hell was created. “In the beginning God created Heaven and earth.” (Gen. 1:1). But, when did he create hell? It was then Lucifer began to seduce the angels into rebellion against God. Lest he should continue to pervert those who remained faithful to God, he was banished from Heaven immediately after his sin. Hence, Jesus Christ said to the Pharisees, who, by their bad example, scandalized the people, that they were children of the devil, who was from the beginning, a murderer of souls. “You are of your father, the devil, he was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8:44). And when St. Peter gave scandal to Jesus Christ, by suggesting to him not to allow his life to be taken away by the Jews, and thus endeavoring to prevent the accomplishment of redemption, the Redeemer called him a devil. “Go behind me, Satan; you are a scandal to me.” (Matt. 16:23). And, in reality, what other office do the authors of scandal perform, than that of a minister of the devil? If he were not assisted by such impious ministers, he certainly would not succeed in gaining so many souls. A scandalous companion does more injury than a hundred devils.

 

10. On the words of Ezechias, “Behold, in peace is my bitterness most bitter” (Is. 38:17)., St. Bernard, in the name of the Church, says, “Peace from pagans, peace from heretics, but no peace from children.” At present the Church is not persecuted by idolaters, or by heretics, but she is persecuted by scandalous Christians, who are her own children. In catching birds, we employ decoys, that is, certain birds that are blinded, and tied in such manner that they cannot fly away. It is thus the devil acts. “When,” says St. Ephrem, “a soul has been taken, she becomes a snare to deceive others.” After having made a young man fall into sin, the enemy first blinds him as his own slave, and then makes him his decoy to deceive others; and to draw them into the net of sin, he not only impels, but even forces him to deceive others. “The enemy,” says St. Leo, “has many whom he compels to deceive others.” (Serm. de Nativ).

 

11. Miserable wretches! the authors of scandal must suffer in hell the punishment of all the sins they have made others commit. Cesarius relates (1. 2, c. 6). that, after the death of a certain person who had given scandal, a holy man witnessed his judgment and condemnation, and saw that, at his arrival at the gate of hell, all the souls whom he had scandalized came to meet him, and said to him, Come, accursed wretch, and atone for all the sins which you have made us commit. They then rushed in upon him, and like so many wild beasts, began to tear him in pieces. St. Bernard says, that, in speaking of other sinners, the Scriptures hold out hopes of amendment and pardon; but they speak of those who give scandal as persons separated from God, of whose salvation there is very little hope. “Lo quitur tanquam a Deo separati, unde hisce nulla spes vitæ esse poterit.”

 

12. Behold, then, the miserable state of those who give scandal by their bad example, who utter immodest words before their companions, in the presence of young females, and even of innocent children, who, in consequence of hearing those words, commit a thousand sins. Considering how the angel-guardians of those little ones weep at seeing them in the state of sin, and how they call for vengeance from God against the sacrilegious tongues that have scandalized them. A great chastisement awaits all who ridicule those who practice virtue. For many, through fear of the contempt and ridicule of others, abandon virtue, and give themselves up to a wicked life. What shall be the punishment of those who bring messages to induce others to sin? or of those who boast of their own wicked actions? Instead of weeping and repenting for having offended the Lord, they rejoice and glory in their iniquities! Some advise others to commit sin; others induce them to it; and some, worse than

 

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the devils, teach others how to sin. What shall we say of fathers and mothers, who, through it is in their power to prevent the sins of their children, allow them to associate with bad companions, or to frequent certain dangerous houses, and permit their daughters to hold conversations with young men? Oh! With what scourges shall we see such persons chastised on the Day of Judgment!

 

13. Perhaps some father of a family among you will say, Then, I am lost because I have given scandal? Is there no hope of salvation for me? No, I will not say that you are past hope the mercy of God is great. He has promised pardon to all who repent. But, if you wish to save your soul, you must repair the scandal you have given. “Let him,” says Eusebius Emmissenus, “who has destroyed  himself by the destruction of many, redeem himself by the edification of many.” (Hom. x. ad Mon). You have lost your soul, and have destroyed  the souls of many by your scandals. You are now bound to repair the evil. As you have hitherto drawn others to sin, so you are bound to draw them to virtue by words of edification, by good example, by avoiding sinful occasions, by frequenting the sacraments, by going often to the church to pray, and by attending sermons. And from this day forward avoid, as you would death, every act and word which could scandalize others. “Let their own ruin,” says St. Cyprian, “suffice for those who have fallen.” (Lib. 1, epis. 3). And St. Thomas of Villanova says, “Let your own sins be sufficient for you.” What evil has Jesus Christ done to you that it is not enough for you to have offended him yourselves, but you wish to make others offend him? This is an excess of cruelty.

 

14. Be careful, then, never again to give the smallest scandal. And if you wish to save your soul, avoid as much as possible those who give scandal. These incarnate devils shall be damned; but, if you do not avoid them, you will bring yourself to perdition. “Woe to the world because of scandals,” says the Lord (Matt. 18:7)., that is, many are lost because they do not fly from occasions of scandal. But you may say, Such a person is my friend; I am under obligations to him; I expect many favors from him. But Jesus Christ says, “If your  right eyes  scandalize you, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you, having one eyes , to enter into life, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” (Matt. 18:9). Although a certain person was your right eyes, you must withdraw forever from her; it is better for you to lose an eyes  and save your soul, than to preserve it and be cast into hell.

 

SERMON XXIV. THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. - ON THE VALUE OF TIME

 

“A little while, and now you shall not see me.” John 16:16.

 

There is nothing shorter than time, but there is nothing more valuable. There is nothing shorter than time; because the past is no more, the future is uncertain, and the present is but a moment. This is what Jesus Christ meant when he said, “A little while, and now you shall not see me. “ We may say the same of our life, which, according to St. James is but a vapor, which is soon scattered forever. “For what is your life? It is a vapor which appears for a little while.” (Jas. 4:14). But the time of this life is as precious as it is short; for, in every moment, if we spend it well, we can acquire treasures of merits for Heaven; but, if we employ time badly, we may in each moment commit sin, and merit hell. I mean this day to show you how precious is every moment of the time which God gives us, not to lose it, and much less to commit sin, but to perform good works and to save our souls.

 

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1. “Thus says the Lord, In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.” (Is. 44:8). St. Paul explains this passage, and says, that the acceptable time is the time in which God has determined to confer his favors upon us. He then adds, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2). The Apostle exhorts us not to spend unprofitably the present time, which he calls the day of salvation; because, perhaps, after this day of salvation, there shall be no salvation for us. “The time,” says the same Apostle, “is short; it remains that .they that weep be as though they wept not; that they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not.” (1 Cor. 7:29-31).Since, then, the time which we have to remain on this earth is short, the Apostle tells those who weep, that they ought not to weep, because their sorrows shall soon pass away; and those who rejoice, not to fix their affections on their enjoyments, because they shall soon have an end. Hence, he concludes, that we should use this world, not to enjoy its transitory goods, but to merit eternal life.

 

2. “Son,” says the Holy Spirit, “observe the time.” (Sir. 4:2-3). Son, learn to preserve time, which is the most precious and the greatest gift that God can bestow upon you. St. Bernardino of Sienna teaches that time is of as much value as God; because in every moment of time well spent the possession of God is merited. He adds that in every instant of this life a man may obtain the pardon of his sins, the grace of God, and the glory of Heaven. “Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam et gloriam.” Hence, St. Bonaventure says that “no loss is of greater moment than the loss of time.” (Ser. xxxvii. in Sept).

 

3. But, in another place, St. Bernardino says that, through there is nothing more precious than time, there is nothing less valuable in the estimation of men. “Nil pretiosius tempore, nil vilius reputatur.” (Ser. ii. ad Schol). You will see some persons spending four or five hours in play. If you ask them why they lose so much time, they answer, To amuse ourselves. Others remain half the day standing in the street, or looking out from a window. If you ask them what they are doing, they shall say in reply, that they are passing the time. And why says the same saint, do you lose this time? Why should you lose even a single hour, which the mercy of God gives you to weep for your sins, and to acquire the divine grace? “Donec hora pertranseat, quam tibi ad agendam poenitentiam, ad acquirendam gratiam, miseratio conditoris indulserit.”

 

4. O time, despised by men during life, how much shall you be desired at the hour of death, and particularly in the other world! Time is a blessing which we enjoy only in this life; it is not enjoyed in the next; it is not found in Heaven nor in hell. In hell, the damned exclaim with tears, “Oh! that an hour were given to us.” They would pay any price for an hour or for a minute, in which they might repair their eternal ruin. But this hour or minute they never shall have. In Heaven there is no weeping; but, were the saints capable of sorrow, all their wailing should arise from the thought of having lost in this life the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time shall never more be given to them. A deceased Benedictine nun appeared in glory to a certain person, and said that she was in Heaven, and in the enjoyment of perfect happiness; but that, if she could desire anything, it would be to return to life, and to suffer affliction, in order to merit an increase of glory. And she added that, to acquire the glory which corresponded to a single Ave Maria,

 

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she would be content to suffer till the Day of Judgment the long and painful sickness which brought on her death. Hence, St. Francis Borgia was careful to employ every moment time for God. When others spoke of useless things; he conversed with God by holy affections; and so recollected was he that, when asked his opinion on the subject of conversation, he knew not what answer to make. Being corrected for this, he said, I am content to be considered stupid, rather than lose my time in vanities.

 

5. Some of you will say, What evil am I doing? Is it not, I ask, an evil to spend your time in plays, in conversations, and useless occupations, which are unprofitable to the soul? Does God give you this time to lose it? “Let not,” says the Holy Spirit, “the part of a good gift overpass you.” (Sir. 14:14). The work men of whom St. Matthew speaks did no evil; they only lost time by remaining idle in the streets. But they were rebuked by the father of the family, saying “Why stand you here all the day idle?” (Matt. 20:6). On the Day of Judgment Jesus Christ shall demand an account, not only of every month and day that has been lost, but even of every idle word. “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the Day of Judgment.” (Matt. 12:36). He shall likewise demand an account of every moment of the time which you shall lose. According to St. Bernard, all time which is not spent for God is lost time. “Omne tempus quo de Deo non cogitasti, cogita te perdisse.” (Coll. 1, cap. viii). Hence, the Holy Spirit says, “Whatsoever your  hand is able to do, do it earnestly, for neither work nor reason. . . .shall be in hell, whither you art hastening.” (Sir. 9:10). What you can do Today defer not till to-morrow; for on tomorrow you may be dead, and may be gone into another world, where you shall have no more time to do good, and where you shall only enjoy the reward of your virtues, or suffer the punishment due to your sins. “Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps. 94:8). God calls you to confess your sins, to restore ill-gotten goods, to be reconciled with your enemies. Obey his call to-day; for it may happen that on tomorrow time may be no more for you, or that God will call you no more. All our salvation depends on corresponding with the divine calls, and at the time that God calls us.

 

6. But some of you will perhaps say, I am young; after some time I will give myself to God. But, remember that the gospel tells us, that Jesus Christ cursed the fig tree which he found without fruit, although the season for figs had not yet arrived. “It was not the time for figs.” (Mark 11:13). By this the Savior wished to signify, that man at all times, even in youth , should produce fruits of good works; and that otherwise, like the fig tree, he shall be cursed, and shall produce no fruit for the future. “May no man here after eat any more fruit of you forever.” (Ibid., v. 14). "Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day; for his wrath shall come on a sudden.” (Sir. 5:8-9). If you find your soul in the state of sin, delay not your repentance nor your confession; do not put them off even till to-morrow; for, if you do not obey the voice of God calling you Today to confess your sins, death may this day overtake you in sin, and tomorrow there may be no hope of salvation for you. The devil regards the whole of our life as very short, and therefore he loses not a moment of time, but tempts us day and night. “The devil is come down unto you having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.” (Rev. 12:12). The enemy, then, never loses time in seeking to bring us to hell, and shall we squander the time which God has given us to save our souls?

 

7. You say, “I will hereafter give myself to God.” But “why” answers St. Bernard, “do you, a miserable, sinner, presume on the future, as if the Father placed time in your power?” (Serm.

 

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38, de Part., etc). Why do you presume that you will hereafter give yourself to God, as if he had given to you the time and opportunity of returning to him whenever you wish? Job said with trembling, that he knew not whether another moment of his life remained, “For I know not how long I shall continue, and whether after a while my Maker may take me away.” (32. 22). And you say, I will not go to confession to-day; I will think of it tomorrow. “Diem tenes,” says St. Augustine, “qui horam non tenes." How can you promise yourself another day, when you know not whether you shall live another hour?” I f,” says St. Teresa, “you are not prepared to die today, tremble, lest you die an unhappy death.”

 

8. St. Bernardino weeps over the blindness of those negligent Christians who squander the days of salvation, and never consider that a day once lost shall never return. “Transcunt dies, salutis et nemo recogitat sibi perire diem ut nunquam rediturum.” (Serm. ad Scholar). At the hour of death they shall wish for another year , or for another day; but they shall not have it, they shall then be told that “time shall be no more.” What price would they not then give for another week, for a day, or even for an hour, to prepare the account which they must then render to God? St. Lawrence Justinian says, that for a single hour they would give all their property, all their honors, and all their delights. “Erogaret opes, honores delicias, pro una horula.” (Vit. Solit., cap. x). But this hour shall not be granted to them. The priest who attends them shall say, Depart, depart immediately from this earth; for your time is no more. “Go forth, Christian soul, from this world.”

 

9. What will it profit the sinner who has led an irregular life, to exclaim at death,! that I had led a life of sanctity! 0! that I had spent my years in loving God! How great is the anguish of a traveler, who, when the night has fallen, perceives that he has missed the way, and that there is no more time to correct his mistake! Such shall be the anguish at death of those who have lived many years in the world, but have not spent them for God. “The night cometh when no man can work.” (John 9:4). Hence, the Redeemer says to all, “Walk While you have light, that the darkness overtake you not.” (John 12: 35). Walk in the way of salvation, now that you have the light, before you are surprised by the darkness of death, in which you can do nothing. You can then only weep over the time which you have lost.

 

10. “He has called against me the time.” (Lam. 1:15). At the hour of death, conscience will remind us of all the time which we have had to become saints, and which we have employed in multiplying our debts to God. It will remind us of all the calls and of all the graces which he has given us to make us love him, and which we have abused. At that awful moment we shall also see that the way of salvation is closed forever. In the midst of these remorses, and of the torturing darkness of death, the dying sinner shall say, O fool that I have been! life misspent! lost years, in which I could have gained treasures of merits, and have become a saint! but I have neglected both, and now the time of saving my soul is gone forever. But of what use shall these wailings and lament. be, when the scene of this world is about to close, the lamp is on the point of being extinguished, and when the dying Christian has arrived at that great moment on which eternity depends?

 

11. “Be you then also ready; for, at what hour you think not, the Son of Man will come.” (Luke 12:40.; The Lord says, “Be prepared.” He does not tell us to prepare ourselves when death approaches, but to be ready for his coming; because when we think least of death, the Son of Man shall come and demand an account of our whole life. In the confusion of death, it

 

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will be most difficult to adjust our accounts, so as to appear guiltless before the tribunal of Jesus Christ. Perhaps death may not come upon us for twenty or thirty years; but it may also come very soon, perhaps in a year  or in a month. If anyone had reason to fear that a trial should take place, on which his life depended, he certainly would not wait for the day of the trial, but would as soon as possible employ an advocate to plead his cause. And what do we do? We know for certain that we must one day be judged, and that on the result of that judgment our eternal, not our temporal, life depends. We also know that that day may be very near at hand; and still we lose our time, and, instead of adjusting our accounts, we go on daily multiplying the crimes, which will merit for us the sentence of eternal death.

 

12. If, then, we have hitherto employed our time in offending God, let us henceforth endeavor to bewail our misfortune for the remainder of our life, and say continually with the penitent King Ezechias, “I will recount to you all my years in the bitterness of my soul.” (Is. 38:15). The Lord gives us the remaining days of life, that we may compensate the time that has been badly spent. “While we have time, let us work good.” (Gal. 6:10). Let us not provoke the Lord to punish us by an unhappy death; and if, during the years that are passed, we have been foolish, and have offended him, let us now attend to the Apostle exhorting us to be wise for the future, and to redeem the time we have lost. “See, therefore, brethren, now you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil,... understanding what is the will of God. “ (Eph. 5:15-17). “The days are evil.” According to St. Anselm, the meaning of these words is, that the days of this life are evil, because in them we are exposed to a thousand temptations and dangers of eternal misery; and therefore, to escape perdition, all possible care is necessary. “What,” says St. Augustine, “is meant by redeeming the time, unless, when necessary, to submit to temporal loss in order to gain eternal goods?” (de Hom. 50, Hom, i). We should live only to fulfill with all diligence the divine will; and, should it be necessary, it is better to suffer in temporal things, than to neglect our eternal interests. Oh! how well did St. Paul redeem the time which he had lost! St. Jerome says, that through the last of the apostles, he was, on account of his great labors, the first in merits. “Paul, the last in order, but the first in merits, because he labored more than all.” Let us consider that, in each moment, we may lay up greater treasures of eternal goods. If the possession of all the land round which you could walk, or of all the money which you could count in a day, were promised you, would you lose time? or would you not instantly begin to walk over the ground, or to reckon the money? You now have it in your power to acquire, in each moment, eternal treasures; and will you, notwithstanding, misspend your time? Do not say, that what you can do Today you can also do tomorrow; because this day shall be then lost to you, and shall never return. You have this day; but perhaps tomorrow will not be given you.

 

SERMON XXV. FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. - ON OBEDIENCE TO YOUR CONFESSOR.

 

“Where are you going?” John 13:16.

 

To gain Heaven we must walk in the path that leads to Heaven. Many Christians, who have faith, but not works, live in sin, intent only on the pleasures and goods of this world. If you say to one of them, you are a Christian; you believe that there is an eternity, a Heaven, and a hell, tell me, do you wish to save your soul? If you do, I will ask you, in the words of this day’s gospel, “Where are you going?” He will answer, I do not know, but I hope to be saved.

 

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You know not whither you are going. How can you hope for salvation from God, if you live in a state of perdition? How can you expect Heaven, if you walk in the way that leads to hell? It is necessary, then, to change the road; and for this purpose you must put yourself in the hands of a good confessor, who will point out to you the way to Heaven, and you must obey him punctually. “My sheep,” said Jesus Christ, “hear my voice.” (John 10:27). We have not Jesus Christ on earth to make us sensibly hear his voice; but, in his stead, he has left us his priests, and has told us, that he who hears them hears him, and he who despises them despises him. “He that hears you hears me, and he that despises you despises me.” (Luke 10:16). Happy they who are obedient to their spiritual father, unhappy they who do not obey him; for, by their disobedience, they give a proof that they are not among the sheep of Jesus Christ. I intend this day to show, in the first point, how secure of salvation are all who obey their confessor; and, in the second point, how great the danger of perdition to which they who do not obey him are exposed.

 

First Point. How secure of salvation are they who obey their confessor.

 

1. In leaving us spiritual fathers to guide us in the way of salvation Jesus Christ has bestowed upon us a great benefit. To obtain salvation we must follow the will of God in all things. What, I ask, is necessary in order to save our souls and to become saints? Some imagine that sanctity consists in performing many works of penance; but were a sick man to perform mortifications which would expose him to the proximate danger of death, he would, instead of becoming a saint, be guilty of a very grievous sin. Others think that perfection consists in long and frequent prayers; but should the father of a family neglect the education of his children and go into the desert to pray, he, too, would commit sin; because, although prayer is good, a parent is bound to take care of his children, and he can fulfill the precept of prayer and attention to their instruction without going into the desert. Others believe that holiness consists in frequent communion; but if, in spite of a just command of her husband, and to the injury of her family, a married woman wished to communicate every morning, she would act improperly, and would have to render an account of her conduct to God. In what, then, does sanctity consist? It consists in the perfect fulfillment of the will of God. All the sins which brings souls to hell proceed from self-will; let us, then, says St. Bernard, cease to do our own will; let us follow the will of God, and for us there shall be no hell. “Cesset propria voluntas, et infernus non erit.” (St. Bern. serm. iii., de Resur).

 

2. But some of you will ask, How shall we know what God wills us to do? This is a matter which, according to David, is involved in great doubts and obscurity. “Of the business that walks about in the dark.” (Ps. 90:6). Many deceive themselves; for passion often makes them believe that they do the will of God, when, in reality, they do their own will. Let us thank without ceasing the goodness of Jesus Christ, who has taught us the secure means of ascertaining the will of God in our regard, by telling us that, if we obey our confessor, we obey himself. “He that hears you, hears me.” In the book of the foundations, chapter 10., St. Teresa says, “Let a soul take a confessor with a determination to think no more of herself, but to trust in the words of our Lord, “He that hears you, hears me.” She adds, that this is the secure way of finding the will of God. Hence, the saint acknowledged that it was by obedience to the voice of her director that she attained to the knowledge and love of God. Hence, speaking of obedience to one’s confessor, St. Francis de Sales adopts the words of Father M. Avila. How much soever you seek, you shall never find the will of God so securely,

 

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as by this way of humble obedience so much recommended and practiced by the ancient saints. (Intro., etc., cap. iv).

 

3. He that acts according to the advice of his confessor, always pleases God when, through obedience, he either practices or omits prayer, mortifications, or communions. He even merits a reward before God when, to obey his confessor, he takes recreation, when he eats or drinks, because he does the will of God. Hence, the Scripture says that “much better is obedience than the victories of fools.” (Sir. 4:17). Obedience is more pleasing to God than all the sacrifices of penitential works, or of alms-deeds, which we can offer to him, he that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds, his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications, by fasts and penitential rigors, offers to him a part of himself and of what belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will, by obedience, gives to him all that he has, and can say, Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.

 

4. Thus, obedience to a confessor is the most acceptable offering which we can make to God, and the most secure way of doing the divine will. Blessed Henry Suson says, that God does not demand an account of what we do through obedience. Obey, says the Apostle, your spiritual fathers; and fear not anything which you do through obedience; for they, and not you, shall have to render an account of your conduct. “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them; for they watch, as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy and not with grief.” (Heb. 13:17). Mark the last words, they signify, that penitents should obey without reply, and without causing pain and sorrow to their confessor. Oh! what grief do confessors feel when penitents endeavor, by certain pretexts and unjust complaints, to excuse themselves from obedience! Let us, then, obey our spiritual father without reply, and let us fear not that we shall have to account for any act which we do through obedience. “They,” says St. Philip Neri, “who desire to advance in the way of God, should place themselves under a learned confessor, whom they will obey in the place of God. They who do so may be assured that they shall not have to render to God an account of their actions.” Hence, if you practice obedience, and if Jesus Christ should ask you on the Day of Judgment why you have chosen such a state of life? why you have communicated so frequently? why you have omitted certain works of penance? you will answer, Lord, I have done all in obedience to my confessor, and Jesus Christ cannot but approve of what you have done.

 

5. Father Marchese relates, that St. Dominic once felt a scruple in obeying his confessor, and that our Lord said to him, “Why do you hesitate to obey your director? All that he directs will be useful to you.” Hence, St. Bernard says, that “whatever a man, holding the place of God commands, provided it be not certainly sinful, should be received as if the command came from God himself” (de Præcep. et Discep., cap. xi).. Gerson relates, that the same St. Bernard ordered one of his disciples, who, through scruples, was afraid to say Mass, to go, and trusting in his advice, to offer the holy sacrifices. The disciple obeyed, and was cured of scruples. Some, adds Gerson, will say, “Would to God that I had a St. Bernard for my director, my confessor is not a St. Bernard.” Whosoever you are that speak in this manner, you err; for you have not put yourself under the care of man because he is learned, but because he is placed over you. Obey him, then, not as a man, but as God. (Tract, de Prsop. ad Miss). You have entrusted the care of your soul to a confessor, not because he is a man of

 

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learning, but because God has given him to you as a guide; and, therefore, you ought to obey him, not as a man, but as God.

 

6. “An obedient man shall speak of victory.” (Prov. 21:28). Justly, says St. Gregory, has the Wise Man asserted, that they who are obedient shall overcome the temptations of hell, because, as by their obedience, they subject their own will to men, so they make themselves superior to the devils, who fell through disobedience. “The obedient are conquerors; because, While they subject their will to others, they rule over the angels that have fallen through disobedience” (in lib. Beg., cap. 10). Cassian teaches, that he who mortifies self-will beats down all vices; because all vices proceed from self-will. “By the mortification of the will all vices are dried up.” He who obeys his confessor, overcomes all the illusions of the devil, who sometimes makes us expose ourselves to dangerous occasions under pretext of doing good, and makes us engage in certain undertakings which appear holy, but which may prove very injurious to us. Thus, for example, the enemy induces certain devout persons to practice immoderate austerities, which impair their health; they then give up all mortifications, and return to their former irregularities. This happens to those who direct themselves; but they who are guided by their confessor are not in danger of falling into such an illusion.

 

7. The devil labors to make scrupulous persons afraid that they will commit sin if they follow the advice of their confessor. We must be careful to overcome these vain fears. All theologians and spiritual writers commonly teach, that it is our duty to obey the directions of our confessors, and conquer our scruples. Natalis Alexander says, that we must act against scruples; and in support of this doctrine, he adduces the doctrine of St. Antonine, who, along with Gerson, censures scrupulous persons for refusing, through vain fears, to obey their confessor, and to overcome scruples. “Beware, lest, while you seek security, you rush into a pit.” Be careful not, through an excess of fear, to fall into the illusions of the devil, by disobeying your director. Hence, all the spiritual masters exhort us to obey our confessors in everything which is not manifestly sinful. B. Hubert, of the order of St. Dominic, says that, “unless what is commanded is evidently bad, it ought to be received as if it were commanded by God” (lib. de Erud. llcl., cap. 1).. Blessed Denis the Carthusian teaches, that “in doubtful matters we must obey the precept of a superior; because, through it may be against God, a subject is excused from sin on account of obedience” (in 2, dis. xxxix., qu. 3).. According to Gerson (tr. de consc. et scrup)., to act against a conscience formed with deliberation, and to act against a fear of sinning in some doubtful matter, are very different things. He adds, that we should banish this fear, and obey our confessor. “Iste timor, quam fieri potest adjiciendus.” In a word, he who obeys his spiritual father is always secure. St. Francis de Sales used to say, that “a truly obedient soul has never been lost;” and that we should be satisfied to know from our confessor that we are going on well in the way of God, without seeking further certainty of it.

 

Second Point. How great is the danger of perdition to which they who do not obey their confessor are exposed.

 

8. Jesus Christ has said, that he who hears his priest, hears him; and that he who despises them, despises him. “Qui vos spernit, me spernit.” (Luke 10:15). “When the Prophet Eliseus complained of the contempt which he had received from the people, after God had charged him with the direction of them, the Lord said to him, “They have not rejected you, but me,

 

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that I should not reign over them.” (1 Kings 8:7). They, then, who despise the advice of their confessors, despise God himself, who has made confessors his own representatives.

 

9. “Obey your prelates,” says St. Paul, “and be subject to them; for they watch, as being to render an account of your souls, that they may do this with joy and not with grief; for, this is not expedient for you.” (Heb. 13:17). Some penitents contend with their confessor, and endeavor to make him adopt their own opinion. This is the cause of grief to spiritual directors. But the apostle says, “this is not expedient for you ;” because, when the confessor finds that you do not obey him, and that it is only with difficulty he can induce you to walk in the straight path, he will give up the direction of your soul. How deplorable the condition of a vessel which a pilot refuses to steer! How miserable the state of a sick man who is abandoned by his physician! When a patient refuses to obey, or to take the medicine which has been prescribed when he eats and drinks what he pleases the physician abandons him, and allows him to follow his own caprice. But, what hope can be entertained of the recovery of such a patient? “Woe to him that is alone, ... he has none to lift him up.” (Sir. 4:10). Woe to the penitent who wishes to direct himself, he shall have no one to enlighten or correct him, he will therefore rush into an abyss.

 

10. To everyone that comes into this world the Holy Spirit says, “You art going in the midst of snares.” (Sir. 9:20). We all, on this earth, walk in the midst of a thousand snares; that is, in the midst of the temptations of the devil, dangerous occasions, bad companions, and our own passions, which frequently deceive us. Who shall be saved in the midst of so many dangers? The Wise Man says, “He that is aware of the snares shall be secure.” (Prov. 11:15). They only who avoid these snares shall be saved. How shall we avoid them? If you had to pass by night through a wood full of precipices, without a guide to give you light, and to point out to you the dangerous passages, you would certainly run a great risk of losing your life. You wish to direct yourself, “Take heed, therefore, that the light which is in you be not darkness.” (Luke 11:45). The light which you think you possess will be your ruin; it will lead you into a pit.

 

11. God wills that, in the way of salvation, we all submit to the guidance of our director. Such has been the practice of even the most learned among the saints. In spiritual things the Lord wishes us to humble ourselves, and to put ourselves under a confessor, who will be our guide. Gerson teaches, that he who neglects the advice of his director, and directs himself, does not require a devil to tempt him, he becomes a devil to himself. “Qui spreto duce, sibi dux esse vult, non indiget dromone tentante, quia factus est sibi ipse dæmon.” (Cons, de Lib. Reg). And when God sees that he will not obey his minister, he allows him to follow his own caprice. “So I let them go according to the desires of their own hearts.” (Ps. 80:13).

 

12. “It is like the sin of witchcraft to rebel, and like the crime of idolatry to refuse to obey.” (1 Kings 15:23). In explaining this text, St. Gregory says, that the sin of idolatry consists in abandoning God and adoring an idol. This a penitent does when he disobeys his confessor to do his own will, he refuses to do the will of God, who has spoken to him by means of his minister; he adores the idol of self-will, and does what he pleases. Hence, St. John of the Cross says that, “not to follow the advice of our confessor is pride and a want of faith.” (Tratt. delle spine, tom, iii., col. 4, 2, n. 8).; for it appears to proceed from a want of faith in the Gospel, in which Jesus Christ has said, “He that hears you, hears me.”

 

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13. If, then, you wish to save your souls, obey your confessor punctually. Be careful to have a fixed confessor, to whom you will ordinarily make your confession; and avoid going about from one confessor to another. Make choice of a learned priest; and, in the beginning, make to him a general confession, which, as we know by experience, is a great help to a true change of life. After having made choice of a confessor, you should not leave him without a just and manifest cause. “Every time,” says St. Teresa, “That I resolved to leave my confessor, I felt within me a reproof more painful than that which I received from him.”

 

SERMON XXVI. FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER. - ON THE CONDITIONS OF PRAYER.

 

“Ask, and you shall receive.” John 16:24.

 

In the thirty-ninth Sermon I shall show the strict necessity of prayer, and its infallible efficacy to obtain for us all the graces which can be conducive to our eternal salvation. “Prayer,” says St. Cyprian, “is omnipotent; it is one; it can do all things.” We read in Ecclesiasticus that God has never refused to hear anyone who invoked his aid. “Who has called upon him, and he has despised him?” (Sir. 2:12). This he never can do; for he has promised to hear all who pray to him. “Ask, and you shall receive.” But this promise extends only to prayer which has the necessary conditions. Many pray; but because they pray negligently, they do not obtain the graces they deserve. “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.” (Jas. 4:3). To pray as we ought, we must pray, first, with humility; secondly, with confidence; and thirdly, with perseverance.

 

First Point. “We must pray with humility.

 

1. St. James tells us, that God rejects the prayers of the proud, “God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble” (4:6).. He cannot bear the proud; he rejects their petitions, and refuses to hear them. Let those proud Christians who trust in their own strength, and think themselves better than others, attend to this, and let them remember that their prayers shall be rejected by the Lord.

 

2. But He always hears the prayers of the humble, “The prayer of him that humbles himself pierces the clouds; and he will not depart till the Most High behold.” (Sir. 35:21). David says, that “The Lord has had regard to the prayer of the humble.” (Ps. 101:18). The cry of the humble man penetrates the Heavens, and he will not depart till God hears his prayer. “You humble yourself,” says St. Augustine, “and God comes to you; you exalt yourself, and he flies from you.” If you humble yourself, God himself comes, of his own accord, to embrace you; but, if you exalt yourself, and boast of your wisdom and of your actions, he withdraws from you, and abandons you to your own nothingness.

 

3. The Lord cannot despise even the most obdurate sinners, when they repent from their hearts, and humble themselves before him, acknowledging that they are unworthy   to receive any favor from him. “A contrite and humble heart, God, you will not despise.” (Ps. l:19). Let us pass to the other points, in which there is a great deal to be said.

 

Second Point. We must pray with confidence.

 

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4. “No one has hoped in the Lord, and has been confounded.” (Sir. 2:11). Oh! How encouraging to sinners are these words! Through they may have committed the most enormous crimes, they are told by the Holy Spirit, that “no man has hoped in the Lord, and has been confounded.” No man has ever placed his trust in God, and has been abandoned. He that prays with confidence obtains whatever he asks. “All things whatsoever you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.” (Mark 11:24). When we pray for spiritual favors, let us have a secure confidence of receiving them, and we shall infallibly obtain them. Hence, the Savior has taught us to call God, in our petitions for his graces, by no other name than that of Father ( Our Father)., that we may have recourse to him with the confidence with which a child seeks assistance from an affectionate parent.

 

5. Who, says St. Augustine, can fear that Jesus Christ, who is truth itself, can violate his promise to all who pray to him? “Who shall fear deception when truth promises?” Is God like men, who promise, and do not afterwards fulfill their promise, either because in making it they intend to deceive, or because, after having made it, they change their intention? “God is not as a man, that he should lie, nor as the son of man, that he should be changed. Has he told, then, and will he not do?” (Num. 23:19). Our God cannot tell a lie; because he is truth itself, he is not liable to change; because all his arrangements are just and holy.

 

6. And because he ardently desires our welfare, he earnestly exhausts and commands us to ask the graces we stand in need of. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7). Why, says St. Augustine, should the Lord exhort us so strongly to ask his graces, if he did not wish to give them to us? “Non nos hortaretur, ut peteremus, nisi dare vellet” (de Verb. Dom., ser. v). He has even bound himself by his promise to hear our prayers, and to bestow upon us all the graces which we ask with a confidence of obtaining them. “By his promises he has made himself a debtor.” (S. Augus., ibid., ser. ii).

 

7. But some will say, I have but little confidence in God, because I am a sinner. I have been too ungrateful to him, and therefore I see that I do not deserve to be heard. But St. Thomas tells us, that the efficacy of our prayers in obtaining graces from God, does not depend on our merits, but on the divine mercy. “Oratio in impetrando non innititur nostris mentis, sed soli divinæ misericordiæ” (2, 2, qu. 178, a. 2, ad. 1). As often as we ask with confidence favors, which are conducive to our eternal salvation, God hears our prayer. I have said, “favors conducive to our salvation ;” for, if what we seek be injurious to the soul, God does not, and cannot hear us. For example, if a person asked help from God to be revenged of an enemy, or to accomplish what would be offensive to God, the Lord will not hear his prayers; because, says St. Chrysostom, such a person offends God in the very act of prayer; he does not pray, but, in a certain manner mocks God. “Qui orat et peccat, non rogat Deum, sed eludit.” (Hom, xi., in Matt, vi).

 

8. Moreover, if you wish to receive from God the aid which you ask, you must remove every obstacle which may render you unworthy   of being heard. For example, if you ask of God strength to preserve you from relapsing into a certain sin, but will not avoid the occasions of the sin, nor keep at a distance from the house, from the object, or the bad company, which led to your fall, God will not hear your prayer. And why? Because “you have set a cloud before you, that prayer may not pass through." (Lam. 3:44). Should you relapse, do not

 

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complain of God, nor say, I have besought the Lord to preserve me from falling into sin, but he has not heard me. Do you not see that, by not taking away the occasions of sin, you have interposed a thick cloud, which has prevented your prayers from passing to the throne of divine mercy.

 

9. It is also necessary to remark that the promise of Jesus Christ to hear those who pray to him does not extend to all the temporal favors which we ask such as a plentiful harvest, a victory in a law-suit, or a deliverance from sickness, or from certain persecutions. These favors God grants to those who pray for them; but only when they are conducive to their spiritual welfare. Otherwise he refuses them; and he refuses them because he loves us, and because he knows that they would be injurious to our souls. “A physician,” says St. Augustine, “knows better than his patient what is useful for him” (tom. 3, cap. ccxii).. The saint adds that God refuses to some, through mercy, what he grants to others as a chastisement. “Deus negat propitius, quæ concedit iratus.” Hence, St. John Damascene says that sometimes, when we do not obtain the graces which we ask, we receive, by not receiving them; because it is better for us not to receive than to receive them. “Etiam si non accipias, non accipendo accepisti, interdum enim non accipere quam accipendo satius est.” (Paral, lib. 3, cap. xv). We often ask poison which would cause our death. How many are there who, had they died in the sickness or poverty with which they had been afflicted, should be saved? But because they recovered their health, or because they were raised to wealth and honors, they became proud and forgot God, and thus have been damned. Hence, St. Chrysostom exhorts us to ask in our prayers what he knows to be expedient for us. “Orantes in ejus potestate ponamus, ut nos illud petentes exaudiat, quod ipse nobis expendire cognoscit.” (Hom. xv. in Matt). We should, then, always ask from God temporal favors on the condition that they will be useful to the soul.

 

10. But spiritual favors, such as the pardon of our sins, perseverance in virtue, the gift of divine love, and resignation to the divine will, ought to be asked of God absolutely, and with a firm confidence of obtaining them. “If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from Heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). If you, says Jesus Christ, who are so much attached to earthly goods, cannot refuse your children the blessings which you have received from God, how much more will your Heavenly Father (who is in himself infinitely good, and who desires to give you his graces more ardently than you desire to receive them). give the good spirit that is, a sincere contrition for their sins, the gift of divine love, and resignation to the will of God to those who ask them? “Quando Deus negabit,” says St. Bernard, “potentibus qui etiam non potentes hortatur ut petant?” (Ser. ii. de S. Andr). How can God refuse graces conducive to salvation to those who seek them, when he exhorts even those who do not pray to ask them?

 

11. Nor does God inquire whether the person who prays to him is a just man or a sinner; for he has declared that “everyone that asks, receives.” (Luke 11:0). ”Everyone,” says the author of the Imperfect Work, “whether he be a just man or a sinner.” (Hom, 18). And, to encourage us to pray and to ask with confidence for spiritual favors, he has said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you.” (John 16:23). As if he said, Sinners, through you do not deserve to receive the divine graces, I have merited them for you from my Father, ask, then, in my name that is, through my merits and I promise that you shall obtain whatsoever you demand.

 

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Third Point. “We must pray with perseverance.

 

12. It is, above all, necessary to persevere in prayer till death, and never to cease to pray. This is what is inculcated by the following passages of Scripture, “We ought always to pray.” (Luke 18:1). “Watch you, therefore, praying at all times” (21:36).. “Pray without ceasing. “ (I Thess. 5:17). Hence, the Holy Spirit says, “Let nothing hinder you from praying always.” (Sir. 18:22). These words imply, not only that we should pray always, but also that we should endeavor to remove every occasion which may prevent us from praying; for, if we cease to pray, we shall be deprived of the divine aid, and shall be overcome by temptations. Perseverance in grace is a gratuitous gift, which, as the Council of Trent has declared, we cannot merit (Ses. 6, cap. xiii).; but St. Augustine says, that we may obtain it by prayer. “Hoc donum Dei suppliciter emereri, potest id est supplicando impetrari.” (de Dono. Per., cap. vi). Hence, Cardinal Bellarmine teaches that “we must ask it daily, in order to obtain it every day.” If we neglect to ask it on any day, we may fall into sin on that day.

 

13. If, then, we wish to persevere and to be saved for no one can be saved without perseverance we must pray continually. Our perseverance depends, not on one grace, but on a thousand helps which we hope to obtain from God during our whole lives, that we may be preserved in his grace. Now, to this chain of graces a chain of prayers on our part must correspond; without these prayers, God ordinarily does not grant his graces. If we neglect to pray, and thus break the chain of prayers, the chain of graces shall also be broken, and we shall lose the grace of perseverance. If, says Jesus Christ to his disciples, one of you go during the night to a friend, and say to him, Lend me three loaves; an acquaintance has come to my house, and I have no refreshment for him. The friend will answer, I am in bed; the door is locked; I cannot get up. But, if the other continue to knock at the door, and will not depart, the friend will rise, and give him as many loaves as he wishes, not through friendship, but to be freed from his importunity. “Although he will not rise and give him because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needs.” (Luke 11:8). Now, if a man will give his loaves to a friend because of his importunity, “how much more,” says St. Augustine, “will God give, who exhorts us to ask, and is displeased if we do not ask?” How much more will the Lord bestow on us his graces, if we persevere in praying for them, when he exhorts us to ask them, and is offended if we do not ask them?

 

14. Men feel annoyed at being frequently and importunately asked for a favor. But God exhorts us to pray frequently; and, instead of being dissatisfied, he is pleased with those who repeatedly ask his graces. Cornelius à Lapide says, that “God wishes us to persevere in prayer, even to importunity.” (in Luke, cap. xi). St. Jerome says, “This importunity with the Lord is seasonable.” (in Luke 11). That God is pleased with frequent and persevering prayer, may be inferred from the words of Jesus Christ, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9). It was not enough to have said ask but he added, seek, knock; in order to show, that, during our whole lives, we should be as importunate in supplicating the divine graces as beggars are in asking alms. Through they should be refused, they do not cease to cry out, or to knock at the door; they persist in asking relief till they obtain it.

 

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15. If, then, we wish to obtain from God the gift of perseverance, we must ask it from him continually and with importunity. We must ask it when we rise in the morning, in our meditations, in hearing Mass, in our visits to the blessed sacrament, in going to bed at night, and particularly when we are tempted by the devil to commit any sin. Thus, we must always have our mouths open praying to God, and saying, Lord, assist me; give me light; give me strength; keep your  hand upon me, and do not abandon me. We must do violence to the Lord. “Such violence,” says Tertullian, “is agreeable to God.” The violence which we offer to God by repeated prayers does not offend him, on the contrary, it is pleasing and acceptable in his sight. “Prayer,” according to St. John Climacus, “piously offers violence to God.” Our supplications compel him, but in a manner grateful to him. He takes great complacency in seeing his mother honored, and therefore wishes, as St. Bernard says, that all the graces we receive should pass through her hands. Hence, the holy doctor exhorts us “to seek grace, and to seek it through Mary, because she is a mother, and her prayer cannot be fruitless.” (de Aquæd). When we ask her to obtain any grace for us, she graciously hears our petitions and prays for us, and the prayers of Mary are never rejected.

 

SERMON XXVII. SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, OR THE SUNDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE ASCENSION. - ON HUMAN RESPECT.

 

“Whosoever kills you, will think that he is offering service to God.” John 16:2.

 

In exhorting his disciples to be faithful to him under the persecution which they were to endure, the Savior said, “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Thus, the enemies of the faith believed that in putting Christians to death they did a service to God. It is thus that many Christians of the present day act. They kill their own souls by losing the grace of God through human respect and to please worldly friends. Oh! how many souls has human respect that great enemy of our salvation sent to hell! I shall speak on this subject today, that, if you wish to serve God and save your souls, you may guard as much as possible against human respect. In the first point, I will show the importance of not being influenced by human respect; and in the second, I will point out the means by which this vice may be overcome.

 

First Point On the importance of not being influenced by human respect.

 

1. “Woe to the world because of scandals.” (Matt, 18:7). Jesus Christ has said, that through the scandals of the wicked, many souls fall into hell. But how is it possible to live in the midst of the world, and not to take scandal? This is impossible. To avoid taking scandal, St. Paul says, we should leave this world. “Otherwise you must needs go out of this world.” (I Cor. 5:10). But it is in our power to avoid familiarity with scandalous sinners. Hence, the Apostle adds, “But now I have written to you not to keep company .... with such an one, not as much as to eat.” (Ibid. v. 11). We should beware of contracting intimacy with such sinners; for, should we be united with them in the bonds of friendship, we shall feel an unwillingness to oppose their bad practices and bad counsels. Thus, through human respect and the fear of contradicting them, we will imitate their example, and lose the friendship of God.

 

2. Such lovers of the world not only glory in their own iniquities. “They rejoice in most wicked things.” (Prov. 2:14). But, what is worse, they wish to have companions, and ridicule all who endeavor to live like true Christians and to avoid the dangers of offending God.

 

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This is a sin which is very displeasing to God, and which he forbids in a particular manner. “Despise not a man that turns away from sin, nor reproach him therewith.” (Sir. 8:6). Despise not those who keep at a distance from sin, and seek not to draw them to evil by your reproaches and irregularities. The Lord declares, that, for those who throw ridicule on the virtuous, chastisements are prepared in this and in the next life. “Judgments are prepared for scorners, and striking hammers for the bodies of fools.” (Prov. 19:29). They mock the servants of God, and he shall mock them for all eternity. “But the Lord shall laugh them to scorn. And they shall fall after this without honor, and be a reproach among the dead forever.” (Wis. 4:18). They endeavor to make the saints contemptible in the eyes of the world, and God shall make them die without honor, and shall send them to hell to suffer eternal ignominy among the damned.

 

3. Not only to offend God, but also to endeavor to make others offend him, is truly an enormous excess of wickedness. This execrable intention arises from a conviction that there are many weak and pusillanimous souls, who, to escape derision and contempt, abandon the practice of virtue, and give themselves up to a life of sin. After his conversion to God, St. Augustine wept for having associated with those ministers of Lucifer, and confessed, that he felt ashamed not to be as wicked and as shameless as they were. “Pudebat me” says the saint, “esse pudentem.” How many, to avoid the scoffs of wicked friends, have been induced to imitate their wickedness! “Behold the saint” these impious scoffers will say; "get me a piece of his garment; I will preserve it as a relic. Why does he not become a monk?” How many also when they receive an insult, resolve to take revenge, not so much through passion, as to escape the reputation of being cowards! How many are there who, after having inadvertently given expression to a scandalous maxim, neglect to retract it (as they are bound to do)., through fear of losing the esteem of others! How many, because they are afraid of forfeiting the favor of a friend, sell their souls to the devil! They imitate the conduct of Pilate, who, through the apprehension of losing the friendship of Caesar, condemned Jesus Christ to death.

 

4. Be attentive. Brethren, if we wish to save our souls, we must overcome human respect, and bear the little confusion which may arise from the scoffs of the enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ. “For there is a shame that brings sin, and there is a shame that brings glory and grace.” (Sir. 4:25). If we do not suffer this confusion with patience, it will lead us into the pit of sin; but if we submit to it for God’s sake, it will obtain for us the divine grace here, and great glory hereafter. “As,” says St. Gregory, “bashfulness is laudable in evil, so it is reprehensible in good.” (Hom. x. in Ezek).

 

5. But some of you will say, I attend to my own affairs; I wish to save my soul; why then should I be persecuted? But there is no remedy; it is impossible to serve God, and not be persecuted. “The wicked loathe them that are in the right way.” (Prov. 29:27). Sinners cannot bear the sight of the man who lives according to the Gospel, because his life is a continual censure on their disorderly conduct; and therefore they say, “Let us lie in wait for the just; because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraids us with transgressions of the law. “(Wis. 2:12). The proud man, who seeks revenge for every insult which he receives, would wish that all should avenge the offences that may be offered to him. The avaricious, who grow rich by injustice, wish that all should imitate their fraudulent practices. The drunkard wishes to see others indulge like himself in intoxication.

 

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The immoral, who boast of their impurities, and can scarcely utter a word which does not savor of obscenity, desire that all should act and speak as they do; and those who do not imitate their conduct, they regard as mean, clownish, and intractable as men without honor and education. “They are of the world, therefore of the world they speak. “(1 John 4:5). Worldlings can speak no other language than that of the world. Oh! how great is their poverty and blindness! She has blinded them, and therefore they speak so profanely. “These things they thought, and were deceived; for their own malice blinded them.” (Wis. 2:21).

 

6. But I say again, that there is no remedy. All, as St. Paul says, who wish to live in union with Jesus Christ must be persecuted by the world. “And all that will live godly in Christ, shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3:12). All the saints have been persecuted. You say, I do not injure anyone; why then am I not left in peace? What evil have the saints, and particularly the martyrs, done? They were full of charity; they loved all, and labored to do good to all; and how have they been treated by the world? They have been flayed alive; they have been tortured with redhot plates of iron; and have been put to death in the most cruel manner. And whom has Jesus Christ the saint of saints injured? He consoled all; he healed all. “Virtue went out from him, and healed all.” (Luke 6:19). And how has the world treated him? It has persecuted him, so as to make him die through pain on the infamous gibbet of the cross.

 

7. This happens because the maxims of the world are diametrically opposed to the maxims of Jesus Christ. What the world esteems, Jesus Christ regards as folly. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor. 3:19). And what is foolish in the eyes of the world that is, crosses, sickness, contempt, and ignominies Jesus Christ holds in great estimation. “For the Word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness.” (1 Cor. 1:18). How, says St. Cyprian, can a man think himself to be a Christian, when he is afraid to be a Christian? "Christianum se putat si Christianum esse veretur” (Ser. v. de Lapsis). If we are Christians, let us show that we are Christians in name and in truth; for, if we are ashamed of Jesus Christ, he will be ashamed of us, and cannot give us a place on his right hand on the last day. “For he that shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man shall be ashamed when he shall come in his majesty.” (Luke 9:26). On the Day of Judgment he shall say, You have been ashamed of me on earth, I am now ashamed to see you with me in Heaven. Begone, accursed souls; go into hell to meet your companions, who have been ashamed of me. But mark the words “he that shall be ashamed of me and of my words.” St. Augustine says, that some are ashamed to deny Jesus Christ, but do not blush to deny the maxims of Jesus Christ. “Erubescunt negare Christum, et non erubescunt negare verba Christi.” (Serm. xlviii). But you may tell me, that, if you say you cannot do such an act, because it is contrary to the Gospel, your friends will turn you into ridicule, and will call you a hypocrite. Then, says St. John Chrysostom, you will not suffer to be treated with derision by a companion, and you are content to be hated by God! “Non vis a conserve derideri, sed odio haberi a Deo tuo?” (Hom. xci. in Act. xix).

 

8. The Apostle, who gloried in being a follower of Christ, said, “The world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14). As I am a person crucified to the world an object of its scoffs and injustice, so the world is to me an object of contempt and abomination. It is necessary to be convinced, that if we do not trample on the world, the world will trample on our souls. But what is the world and all its goods? “All that is in the world is the concupiscence of the

 

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flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16). To what are all the goods of this earth reduced? To riches, which are but dung; to honors, which are only smoke; and to carnal pleasures. But what shall all these profit us, if we lose our souls? “What does  it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Matt. 16: 26).

 

9. He that loves God and wishes to save his soul must despise the world and all human respect; and to do this, everyone must offer violence to himself. St. Mary Magdalene had to do great violence to herself, in order to overcome human respect and the murmurings and scoffs of the world, when, in the presence of so many persons, she cast herself at the feet of Jesus Christ, to wash them with her tears, and dry them with her hair. But she thus became a saint, and merited from Jesus Christ pardon of her sins, and praise for her great love. “Many sins are forgiven her because she has loved much.” (Luke 7:47). One day, as St. Francis Borgia carried to certain prisoners a vessel of broth under his cloak, he met his son mounted on a fine horse, and accompanied by certain noblemen. The saint felt ashamed to show what he carried under his cloak. But what did he do in order to conquer human respect? He took the vessel of broth, placed it on his head, and thus showed his contempt for the world. Jesus Christ, our Head and Master, when nailed to the cross, was mocked by the soldiers. “If you be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matt, 27:40). He was mocked by the priests, saying, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Ibid., v. 42). But he remained firm on the cross; he cheerfully died upon it, and thus conquered the world.

 

10. “I give thanks to God,” says St. Jerome, “that I am worthy   to be hated by the world.” (Epis. ad Asellam). The saint returns thanks to God for having made him worthy   of the hatred of the world. Jesus Christ pronounced his disciples blessed when they should be hated by men. “Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you.” (Luke vi. 22). Christians, let us rejoice; for, if worldlings curse and upbraid us, God at the same time praises and blesses us. “They will curse, and you will bless.” (Ps. 108:28). Is it not enough for us to be praised by God, to be praised by the queen of Heaven, by all the angels, by all the saints, and by all just men? Let worldlings say what they wish; but let us continue to please God, who will give us, in the next life, a reward proportioned to the violence we shall have done to ourselves in despising the contradictions of men. Each of you should figure to himself, that there is no one in the world but himself and God. When the wicked treat us with contempt, let us recommend to God these blind and miserable men, who run in the road to perdition; and let us thank the Lord for giving to us the light which he refuses to them. Let us continue in our own way, to obtain all, it is necessary to conquer all.

 

Second Point. On the means of overcoming human respect.

 

11. To overcome human respect, it is necessary to fix in our hearts the holy resolution of preferring the grace of God to all the goods and favors of this world, and to say with St. Paul, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, . . . .nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” (Rom. 8:38-39). Jesus Christ exhorts us not to be afraid of those who can take away the life of the body; but to fear him only who can condemn the soul and body to hell. “And fear you not them that kill the body; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body into hell.” (Matt, 10:28). We wish either to follow God or the world; if we wish to follow God we must give up the world. “how

 

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long do you halt between two sides?” said Elias to the people. “If the Lord be God, follow him.” (3 Kings 18:21). You cannot serve God and the world. He that seeks to please men cannot please God. “If,” says the Apostle, “I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. “ (Gal. 1:10).

 

12. The true servants of God rejoice to see themselves despised and maltreated for the sake of Jesus Christ. The holy apostles “went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41). Moses could have prevented the anger of Pharaoh by not contradicting the current report that he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. But he denied that he was her son, preferring, as St. Paul says, the opprobrium of Christ to all the riches of the world. “Choosing rather to be afflicted with the people of God;. .. .esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of the Egyptians.” (Heb. 11:25-26).

 

13. Wicked friends come to you and say, What extravagances are those in which you indulge? Why do you not act like others? Say to them in answer, My conduct is not opposed to that of all men; there are others who lead a holy life. They are indeed few; but I will follow their example; for the Gospel says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 20:16). “If,” says St. John Climacus, “you wish to be saved with the few, live like the few.” But, they will add, do you not see that all murmur against you, and condemn your manner of living? Let your answer be, It is enough for me that God does not censure my conduct. Is it not better to obey God than to obey men? Such was the answer of St. Peter and St. John to the Jewish priests, “If it be just in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, judge you.” (Acts 4:19). If they ask you how can you bear an insult? or how, after submitting to it, can you appear among your equals? answer them by saying that you are a Christian, and that it is enough for you to appear well in the eyes of God. Such should be your answer to all those satellites of Satan, you must despise all their maxims and reproaches. And when it is necessary to reprove those who make little of God’s law, you must take courage and correct them publicly. “Them that sin, reprove before all.” (1 Tim. 5:20). And when there is question of the divine honor, we should not be frightened by the dignity of the man who offends God; let us say to him openly, This is sinful; it cannot be done. Let us imitate the Baptist, who reproved King Herod for living with his brother’s wife, and said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matt. 14:4). Men indeed shall regard us as fools, and turn us into derision; but, on the Day of Judgment they shall acknowledge that they have been foolish, and we shall have the glory of being numbered among the saints. They shall say, “These are they whom we had sometime in derision. .. .We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.” (Wis. 5:3-5).

 

SERMON XXVIII. PENTECOST SUNDAY. - ON CONFORMITY TO THE WILL OF GOD.

 

“As the Father has given me commandment, so do I.” John 14:31.

 

Jesus Christ was given to us, by God, as a savior and as a master. Hence, he came on earth principally to teach us, not only by his words but also by his own example, how we are to love God our supreme good, hence, as we read in this days Gospel, he said to his disciples, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father has given me

 

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commandment, so do I.” To show the world the love I bear to the Father, I will execute all his commands. In another place he said, “I came down from Heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38). Devout souls, if you love God and desire to become saints, you must seek his will, and wish what he wishes. St. Paul tells us, that the divine love is poured into our souls by means of the Holy Spirit. “The charity of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us.” (Hom. v. 5). If, then, we wish for the gift of divine love, we must constantly beseech the Holy Spirit to make us know and do the will of God. Let us continually implore his light to know, and his strength to fulfill the divine will. Many wish to love God, but they, at the same time, wish to follow their own, and not his will. Hence, I shall show today, in the first point, that our sanctification consists entirely in conformity to the will of God; and in the second, I shall show how, and in what, we should in practice conform ourselves to the divine will.

 

First Point Our sanctification consists entirely in conformity to the will of God.

 

1. It is certain that our salvation consists in loving God. A soul that does not love God is not living, but dead. “He that loves not, abides in death.” (1 John 3:14). The perfection of love consists in conforming our will to the will of God. “And life in his good will.” (Ps. 29:6).”Have charity, which is the bond of perfection.” (Col. 3:14). According to the Areopagite, the principal effect of love is to unite the wills of lovers, so that they may have but one heart and one will. Hence, all our works, communions, prayers, penances, and alms, please God in proportion to their conformity to the divine will; and if they be contrary to the will of God, they are no longer acts of virtue, but defects deserving chastisement.

 

2. While preaching one day, Jesus Christ was told that his mother and brethren were waiting for him; in answer he said, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in Heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50). By these words he gave us to understand that he acknowledged as friends and relatives those only who fulfill the will of his Father.

 

3. The saints in Heaven love God perfectly. In what, I ask, does the perfection of their love consist? It consists in an entire conformity to the divine will. Hence, Jesus Christ has taught us to pray for grace to do the will of God on earth, as the saints do it in Heaven. “your  will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” (Matt. 6:10). Hence, St. Teresa says, that “they who practice prayer, should seek in all things to conform their will to the will of God.” In this, she adds, consists the highest perfection. He that practices it in the most perfect manner, shall receive from God the greatest gifts, and shall make the greatest progress in interior life. The accomplishment of the divine will has been the sole end of the saints in the practice of all virtues. Blessed Henry Suson used to say, “I would rather be the vilest man on earth with the will of God, than be a seraph with my own will.”

 

4. A perfect act of conformity is sufficient to make a person a saint. Behold, Jesus Christ appeared to St. Paul while he was persecuting the Church, and converted him. What did the saint do? He did nothing more than offer to God his will, that he might dispose of it as he pleased. “Lord,” he exclaimed, “what will  you have me to do? (Acts 9:6). And instantly the Lord declared to Ananias, that Saul was a vessel of election, and apostle of the Gentiles. “This man is a vessel of election to carry my name before the Gentiles.” (Acts 9:15). He that gives his will to God, gives him all he has. He that mortifies himself by fasts and penitential

 

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austerities, or that gives alms to the poor for God’s sake, gives to God a part of himself and of his goods; but he that gives his will to God, gives him all, and can say, Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you I have given you all. It is our heart that is, our will that God asks of us. “My son, give me your  heart.” (Prov. 23:26). Since, then, says the holy Abbot Nilus, our will is so acceptable to God, we ought, in our prayers, to ask of him the grace, not that we may do what he will, but that we may do all that he wishes us to do. Everyone knows this truth, that our sanctification consists in doing the will of God; but there is some difficulty in reducing it to practice. Let us, then, come to the second point, in which I have to say many things of great practical utility.

 

Second Point. How, and in what, we ought to practice conformity to the will of God.

 

5. That we may feel a facility of doing on all occasions the divine will, we must beforehand offer ourselves continually to embrace in peace whatever God ordains or wills. Such was the practice of holy David. “My heart,” he used to say, “is ready; God! my heart is ready.” (Ps. 107:2). And he continually besought the Lord to teach him to do his divine will. “Teach me to do your  will.” (Ps. 142:10). He thus deserved to be called a man according to God’s own heart. “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to my own heart, who shall do all my wills.” (Acts 13:2 2). And why? Because the holy king was always ready to do whatever God wished him to do.

 

6. St. Teresa offered herself to God fifty times in the day, that he might dispose of her as he pleased, and declared her readiness to embrace either prosperity or adversity. The perfection of our oblation consists in our offering ourselves to God without reserve. All are prepared to unite themselves to the divine will in prosperity; but perfection consists in conforming to it, even in adversity. To thank God in all things that are agreeable to us, is acceptable to him; but to accept with cheerfulness what is repugnant to our inclinations, is still more pleasing to him. Father M. Avila used to say, that “a single blessed be God, in adversity, is better than six thousand thanksgivings in prosperity.”

 

7. We should conform to the divine will, not only in misfortunes which come directly from God such as sickness, loss of property, privation of friends and relatives but also in crosses which come to us from men, but indirectly from God such as acts of injustice, defamations, calumnies, injuries, and all other sorts of persecutions. But, you may ask, does God will that others commit sin, by injuring us in our property or in our reputation? No; God wills not their sin; but he wishes us to bear with such a loss and with such a humiliation; and he wishes us to conform, on all such occasions, to his divine will.

 

8. “Good things and evil... are from God.” (Sir. 11:14). All blessings such as riches and honors and all misfortunes such as sickness and persecutions come from God. But mark that the Scripture calls them evils, only because we, through the want of conformity to the will of God, regard them as evils and misfortunes. But, in reality, if we accepted them from the hands of God with Christian resignation, they should be blessings and not evils. The jewels which give the greatest splendor to the crown of the saints in Heaven, are the tribulations which they bore with patience, as coming from the hands of the Lord. On hearing that the Sabeans had taken away all his oxen and asses, holy Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” (Job 1:21). He did not say that the Lord gave, and that

 

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the Sabeans had taken away; but that the Lord gave, and that the Lord had taken away, and therefore he blessed the Lord, believing that all had happened through the divine will. “As it has pleased the Lord, so it is done, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Ibid). Being tormented with iron hooks and burning torches, the holy martyrs Epictetus and Atone said, “Lord, your  will be done in us.” And their last words were, “Be blessed, eternal God, for having given us the grace to accomplish your  will.”

 

9. “Whatsoever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad.” (Prov. 12:21). A soul that loves God is not disturbed by any misfortune that may happen to her. Cesarius relates (lib. x., c. vi)., that a certain monk who did not perform greater austerities than his companions, wrought many miracles. Being astonished at this, the abbot asked him one day what were the works of piety which he practiced. He answered, that he was more imperfect than the other monks; but that his sole concern was to conform himself to the divine will. Were you displeased, said the abbot, with the person who injured us so grievously a few days ago? No, father, replied the monk; I, on the contrary, thanked God for it; because I know that he does or permits all things for our good. From this answer the abbot perceived the sanctity of the good religious. We should act in a similar manner under all the crosses that come upon us. Let us always say, “Youa, Father; for so has it seemed good in your  sight.” (Matt. 11:26). Lord, this is pleasing to you, let it be done.

 

10. He that acts in this manner enjoys that peace which the angels announced at the birth of Jesus Christ to men of good will that is, to those whose wills are united to the will of God. These, as the Apostle says, enjoy that peace which exceeds all sensual delights. “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7). A great and solid peace, which is not liable to change. “A holy man continues in wisdom like the sun; but a fool is changing like the moon.” (Sir. 27:12). Fools that is, sinners are changed like the moon, which increases today, and grows less on tomorrow; Today they are seen to laugh through folly, and to-morrow, to weep through despair; Today they are humble and meek, tomorrow, proud and furious. In a word, sinners change with prosperity and adversity; but the just are like the sun, always the same, always serene in whatever happens to them. In the inferior part of the soul they cannot but feel some pain at the misfortunes which befall them; but, as long as the will remains united to the will of God, nothing can deprive them of that spiritual joy which is not subject to the vicissitudes of this life. “Your joy no man shall take from you.” (John 16:22).

 

11. He that reposes in the divine will, is like a man placed above the clouds, he sees the lightning, and hears the claps of thunder, and the raging of the tempest below, but he is not injured or disturbed by them. And how can he be ever disturbed, when whatever he desires always happens? He that desires only what pleases God, always obtains whatsoever he wishes, because all that happens to him, happens through the will of God. Salvian says, that Christians who are resigned, if they be in a low condition of life, wish to be in that state; if they be poor, they desire poverty; because they wish whatever God wills, and therefore they are always content. “Humiles sunt, hoc volunt, pauperes sunt, paupertate delectantur, itaque beati dicendisunt.” If cold, or heat, or rain, or wind come on, he that is united to the will of God says, I wish for this cold, this heat, this rain, and this wind, because God wills them. If loss of property, persecution, sickness, or even death come upon him, he says, I wish for this loss, this persecution, this sickness; I even wish for death, when it comes, because God wills it. And how can a person who seeks to please God, enjoy greater happiness than that which

 

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arises from cheerfully embracing the cross which God sends him, and from the conviction that, in embracing it, he pleases God in the highest degree? So great was the joy which St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to feel at the bare mention of the will of God, that she would fall into an ecstasy.

 

12. But, how great is the folly of those who resist the divine will, and, instead of receiving tribulations with patience, get into a rage, and accuse God of treating them with injustice and cruelty! Perhaps they expect that, in consequence of their opposition, what God wills shall not happen? “Who resists his will?” (Rom. 9:19). Miserable men! instead of lightening the cross which God sends them, they make it more heavy and painful. “Who has resisted him, and has peace?” (Job 9:4). Let us be resigned to the divine will, and we shall thus render our crosses light, and shall gain great treasures of merits for eternal life. In sending us tribulations, God intends to make us saints. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thess. 4:3). He sends us crosses, not because he wishes evil to us, but because he desires our welfare, and because he knows that they are conducive to our salvation. “All things work together unto good.” (Rom. viii. 28). Even the chastisements which come from the Lord are not for our destruction, but for our good and for the correction of our faults. “Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord....have happened for our amendment, and not for our destruction.” (Jud. 8:27). God loves us so tenderly, that he not only desires, but is solicitous about our welfare. “The Lord,” says David, “is careful for me.” (Ps. 39:18).

 

13. Let us, then, always throw ourselves into the hands of God, who so ardently desires and so anxiously watches over our eternal salvation. “Casting all your care upon him; for he has care of you.” (1 Peter 5:7). He who, during life, casts himself into the hands of God, shall lead a happy life and shall die a holy death. He who dies resigned to the divine will, dies a saint; but they who shall not have been united to the divine will during life, shall not conform to it at death, and shall not be saved. The accomplishment of the divine will should be the sole object of all our thoughts during the remainder of our days. To this end we should direct all our devotions, our meditations, communions, visits to the blessed sacrament, and all our prayers. We should constantly beg of God to teach and help us to do his will. “Teach me to do your  will.” (Ps. 142:10). Let us, at the same time, offer ourselves to accept without reserve whatever he ordains, saying, with the Apostle, “Lord, what will  you have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Lord, tell me what you do  wish me to do I desire to do your  will. And in all things, whether they be pleasing or painful, let us always have in our mouths that petition of the PATER NOSTER - ”your  will be done” Let us frequently repeat it in the day, with all the affection of our hearts. Happy we, if we live and die saying, “your  will be done” “your  will be done!”

 

SERMON XXIX. TRINITY SUNDAY. - ON THE LOVE OF THE THREE DIVINE PERSONS FOR MAN.

 

"Going, therefore teach you all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19).

 

St. Leo has said, that the nature of God is by its essence, goodness itself. “Deus cujus natura bonitas” Now, goodness naturally diffuses itself. “Bonum est sui diffusivum.” And by experience we know that men of a good heart are full of love for all, and desire to share with all the goods which they enjoy God being infinite goodness, is all love towards us his

 

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creatures. Hence, St. John calls him pure love pure charity. “God is charity.” (1 John 4:8). And therefore he ardently desires to make us partakers of his own happiness. Faith teaches us how much the Three Divine Persons have done through love to man, and to enrich him with Heavenly gifts. In saying to his apostles “Teach you all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," Jesus Christ wished that they should not only instruct the Gentiles in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity but that they should also teach them the love which the adorable Trinity bears to man. I intend to propose this day for your consideration the love shown to us by the Father in our creation; secondly, the love of the Son in our redemption; and thirdly, the love of the Holy Spirit, in our sanctification.

 

First Point The love shown to us by the Father in our creation.

 

1. “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn you, taking pity on you.” (Jer. 31:3). My son, says the Lord, I have loved you for eternity, and, through love for you, I have shown mercy to you by drawing you out of nothing. Hence, beloved Christians, of all those who love you, God has been your first lover. Your parents have been the first to love you on this earth; but they have loved you only after they had known you. But, before you had a being, God loved you. Before your father or mother was born, God loved you; yes , even before the creation of the world, he loved you. And how long before creation has God loved you? Perhaps for a thousand years, or for a thousand ages. It is needless to count years or ages; God loved you from eternity. “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” As long as he has been God, he has loved you, as long as he has loved himself, he has loved you. The thought of this love made St. Agnes the Virgin exclaim, “I am prevented by another lover.” When creatures asked her heart, she answered, “No, I cannot prefer you to my God. He has been the first to love me; it is then but just that he should hold the first place in my affections. “

 

2. Thus, brethren, God has loved you from eternity, and through pure love, he has selected you from among so many men whom he could have created in place of you; but he has left them in their nothingness, and has brought you into existence, and placed you in the world. For the love of you he has made so many other beautiful creatures, that they might serve you, and that they might remind you of the love which he has borne to you, and of the gratitude which you owe to him. “Heaven and Earth,” says St. Augustine, “and all things tell me to love you. “ When the saint beheld the sun, the stars, the mountains, the sea, the rains, they all appeared to him to speak, and to say, Augustine, love God; for he has created us that you might love him. When the Abbe de Ranee, the founder of La Trappe, looked at the hills, the fountains, or flowers, he said that all these creatures reminded him of the love which God had borne him. St. Teresa used to say, that these creatures reproached her with her ingratitude to God. While she held a flower or fruit in her hand, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to feel her heart wounded with divine love, and would say within herself, Then, my God has thought from eternity of creating this flower and this fruit that I might love him.

 

3. Moreover, seeing us condemned to hell, in punishment of our sins, the Eternal Father, through love for us, has sent his Son on the earth to die on the cross, in order to redeem us

 

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from hell, and to bring us with himself into Heaven. “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son” (John 3:16)., love, which the apostle calls an excess of love. “For his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sin, has quickened us together in Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5).

 

4. See also the special love which God has shown you in bringing you into life in a Christian country, and in the bosom of the Catholic or true Church. How many are born among the pagans, among the Jews, among the Mohammedans and heretics, and all are lost. Consider that, compared with these, only a few not even the tenth part of the human race have the happiness of being born in a country where the true faith reigns; and, among that small number, he has chosen you. Oh! what an invaluable benefit is the gift of faith! How many millions of souls, among infidels and heretics, are deprived of the sacraments, of sermons, of good example, and of the other helps to salvation which we possess in the true Church. And the Lord resolved to bestow on us all these great graces, without any merit on our part, and even with the foreknowledge of our demerits. For when he thought of creating us and of conferring these favors upon us, he foresaw our sins, and the injuries we would commit against him.

 

Second Point. The love which the Son of God has shown to us in our redemption.

 

5. Adam, our first father, sins by eating the forbidden apple, and is condemned to eternal death, along with all his posterity. Seeing the whole human race doomed to perdition, God resolved to send a redeemer to save mankind. Who shall come to accomplish their redemption? Perhaps an angel or a seraph. No; the Son of God, the supreme and true God, equal to the Father, offers himself to come on earth, and there to take human flesh, and to die for the salvation of men. O prodigy of Divine love! Man, says St. Fulgentius, despises God, and separates himself from God, and through love for him, God comes on earth to seek after rebellious man. “Homo Deum contemnens, a Deo discessit, Deus hominem diligens, ad homines venit.” (Serm. in Nativ. Christ). Since, says St. Augustine, we could not go to the Redeemer, he has deigned to come to us. “Quia ad mediatorem venire non poteramus, ipse ad nos venire dignatus est.” And why has Jesus Christ resolved to come to us? According to the same holy doctor, it is to convince us of his great love for us. “Christ came, that man might know how much God loves him.”

 

6. Hence, the Apostle writes, “The goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared.” (Tit. 3:5). In the Greek text, the words are, “Singularis Dei erga homines apparuit amor." “The singular love of God towards men appeared.” In explaining this passage, St. Bernard says, that before God appeared on earth in human flesh, men could not arrive at a knowledge of the divine goodness; therefore the Eternal Word took human nature, that, appearing in the form of man, men might know the goodness of God. “Priusquam apparet humanitas, latebat beniguitas, sed undo tanta agnosci poterat? Venit in came ut, apparante humanitate, cognosceretur benignitas.” (Serm. i., in Eph). And what greater love and goodness could the Son of God show to us, than to become man and to become a worm like us, in order to save us from, perdition? What astonishment would we not feel, if we saw a prince become a worm to save the worms of his kingdom! And what shall we say at the sight of a God made man like us, to deliver us from eternal death? “The word was made flesh.” (John 1:14). A God made flesh! if faith did not assure us of it, who could ever believe it? Behold then, as St. Paul

 

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says, a God as it were annihilated. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and in habit found as a man. “ (Phil. 2:7). By these words the Apostle gives us to understand, that the Son of God, who was filled with the divine majesty and power, humbled himself so as to assume the lowly and impotent condition of human nature, taking the form or nature of a servant, and becoming like men in his external appearance, although, as St. Chrysostom observes, he was not a mere man, but man and God. Hearing a deacon singing the words of St. John, “and the Word was made flesh,” St. Peter of Alcantara fell into ecstasy, and flew through the air to the altar of the most holy sacrament.

 

7. But this God of love, the Incarnate Word, was not content with becoming flesh for the love of man; but, according to Isaias, he wished to live among us, as the last and lowest, and most afflicted of men. “There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness, and we have seen him despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows.” (Is. 3:2-3). He was a man of sorrows. yes ; for the life of Jesus Christ was full of sorrows. Virum dolorum. He was a man made on purpose to be tormented with sorrows. From his birth till his death, the life of our Redeemer was all full of sorrows.

 

8. And because he came on earth to gain our love, as he declared when he said “I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I but that it be kindled?” (Luke 12:49)., he wished at the close of his life to give us the strongest marks and proofs of the love which he bears to us. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1). Hence, he not only humbled himself to death for us, but he also chose to die the most painful and opprobrious of all deaths. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even unto the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8). They who were crucified among the Jews, were objects of malediction and reproach to all. “He is accused of God that hangs on a tree.” (Deut. 21:23). Our Redeemer wished to die the shameful death of the cross, in the midst of a tempest of ignominies and sorrows. “I am come into the depths of the sea, and a tempest has overwhelmed me.” (Ps. 68:3).

 

9. “In this” says St. John, “we have known the charity of God, because he has laid down his life for us.” (I John 3:16). And how could God give us a greater proof of his love than by laying down his life for us? Or, how is it possible for us to behold a God dead on the cross for our sake, and not love him? “For the charity of Christ presses us.” (2 Cor. 5:14). By these words St. Paul tells us, that it is not so much what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for our salvation, as the love which he has shown in suffering and dying for us, that obliges and compels us to love him. He has, as the same Apostle adds, died for all, that each of us may live no longer for himself, but only for that God who has given his life for the love of us. “Christ died for all, that they also who live, may not live to themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5:15). And, to captivate our love, he has, after having given his life for us, left himself for the food of our souls. “Take you and eat, this is my body.” (Matt. 26:26). Had not faith taught that he left himself for our food, who could ever believe it? But of the prodigy of divine love manifested in the holy sacrament, I shall speak on the second Sunday after Pentecost Let us pass to a brief consideration of the third point.

 

Third Point. On the love shown to us by the Holy Spirit in our sanctification.

 

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10. The Eternal Father was not content with giving us his Son Jesus Christ, that he might save us by his death; he has also given us the Holy Spirit, that he may dwell in our souls, and that he may keep them always inflamed with holy love. In spite of all the injuries, which he received on earth from men, Jesus Christ, forgetful of their ingratitude, after having ascended into Heaven, sent us the Holy Spirit, that, by his holy flames, this divine spirit might kindle in our hearts the fire of divine charity, and sanctify our souls. Hence, when he descended on the apostles, he appeared in the form of tongues of fire. “And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire.” (Acts 2:3). Hence, the Church prescribes the following prayer, “We beseech you, O Lord, that the Spirit may inflame us with that fire which the Lord Jesus Christ sent on the earth, and vehemently wished to be enkindled.” This is the holy fire which inflamed the saints with the desire of doing great things for God, which enabled them to love their most cruel enemies, to seek after contempt, to renounce all the riches and honors of the world, and even to embrace with joy torments and death.

 

11. The Holy Spirit is that divine bond which unites the Father with the Son; it is he that unites our souls, through love, with God. For, as St. Augustine says, an union with God is the effect of love. “Charity is a virtue which unites us with God.” The chains of the world are chains of death, but the bonds of the Holy Spirit are bonds of eternal life, because they bind us to God, who is our true and only life.

 

12. Let us also remember that all the lights, inspirations, divine calls, all the good acts which we have performed during our life, all our acts of contrition, of confidence in the divine mercy, of love, of resignation, have been the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmity; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asks for us with unspeakable groanings.” (Rom. 8:26). Thus, it is the Holy Spirit that prays for us; for we know not what we ought to ask, but the Holy Spirit teaches us what we should pray for.

 

13. In a word, the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity have endeavored to show the love which God has borne us, that we may love him through gratitude. “When,” says St. Bernard, “God loves, he wishes only to be loved. “ It is, then, but just that we love that God who has been the first to love us, and to put us under so many obligations by so many proofs of tender love. “Let us, therefore, love God, because God first has loved us.” (I John 4:19). Oh! what a treasure is charity! it is an infinite treasure, because it makes us partakers of the friendship of God. “She is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God.” (Wis. 7:14). But, to acquire this treasure, it is necessary to detach the heart from earthly things. “Detach the heart from creatures,” says St. Teresa, “and you shall find God.” In a heart filled with earthly affections, there is no room for divine love. Let us therefore continually implore the Lord in our prayers, communions, and visits to the blessed sacrament, to give us his holy love; for this love will expel from our souls all affections for the things of this earth. “When,” says St. Francis de Sales, “a house is on fire, all that is within is thrown out through the windows.” By these words the saint meant, that when a soul is inflamed with divine love, she easily detaches herself from creatures, and Father Paul Segneri, the younger, used to say, that divine love is a thief that robs us of all earthly affections, and makes us exclaim, “What, O my Lord, but you alone, do I desire?”

 

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14. “Love is strong as death.” (Cant. 8:6). As no creature can resist death when the hour of dissolution arrives, so there is no difficulty which love, in a soul that loves God, does not overcome. When there is question of pleasing her beloved, love conquers all things, it conquers pains, losses, ignominies. “Nihil tam durum quod non amoris igne vincatur.” This love made the martyrs, in the midst of torments, racks, and burning gridirons, rejoice, and thank God for enabling them to suffer for him, it made the other saints, when there was no tyrant to torment them, become, as it were, their own executioners, by fasts, disciplines, and penitential austerities. St. Augustine says, that in doing what one loves there is no labor, and if there be, the labor itself is loved. “In eo quod amatur aut non laboratur, aut ipse labor amatur.”

 

SERMON XXX. FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON CHARITY TO OUR NEIGHBOR.

 

“For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38.

 

In this day’s gospel we find that Jesus Christ once said to his disciples, “Be you merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). As your Heavenly Father is merciful towards you, so must you be merciful to others. He then proceeds to explain how, and in what, we should practice holy charity to our neighbor. “Judge not,” he adds, “and you shall not be judged” (v. 37). Here he speaks against those who do not abstain from judging rashly of their neighbors. “For give, and you shall be forgiven” (ibid).. He tells us that we cannot obtain pardon of the offences we have offered to God, unless we pardon those who have offended us. “Give, and it shall be given to you” (v. 38). By these words he condemns those who wish that God should grant whatsoever they desire, and are at the same time niggardly and avaricious towards the poor. In conclusion he declares, that the measure of charity which we use to our neighbor shall be the same that God will use towards us. Let us, then, see how we should practice charity to our neighbor, we ought to practice it, first, in our thoughts; secondly, in words; thirdly, by works.

 

First Point. How we should practice charity to our neighbor in our thoughts.

 

1. “And this commandment we have from God, that he who loves God, love also his brother.” (I John 4:21). The same precept, then, which obliges us to love God, commands us to love our neighbor. St. Catherine of Genoa said one day to the Lord, “My God, you do  wish me to love my neighbor; but I can love no one but you.” The Lord said to her in answer, “My child, he that loves me loves whatsoever I love.” Hence, St. John says, “If any man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar.” (I John 4:20). And Jesus Christ has declared that he will receive, as done to himself, the charity which we practice towards the least of his brethren.

 

2. Hence, we must, in the first place, practice fraternal charity in our thoughts, by never judging evil of anyone without certain foundation. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.” He who judges without certain grounds that another has committed a mortal sin, is guilty of a grievous fault; if he only rashly suspects another of a mortal sin, he commits at least a venial offence. But, to judge or suspect evil of another is not sinful when we have certain grounds for the judgment or suspicion. However, he that has true charity thinks well of all,

 

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and banishes from his mind both judgments and suspicions. “Charity thinks no evil.” (I Cor. 13:5). The heads of families are obliged to suspect the evil which may be done by those who are under their care. Certain fathers and foolish mothers knowingly allow their sons to frequent bad company and houses in which there are young females, and permit their daughters to be alone with men. They endeavor to justify the neglect of their children by saying, “I do not wish to entertain bad thoughts of others.” O folly of parents! They are in such cases bound to suspect the evil which may happen; and, in order to prevent it, they should correct their children. But they that are not entrusted with the care of others, ought to abstain carefully from inquiring after the defects and conduct of others.

 

3. When sickness, loss of property, or any misfortune happens to a neighbor, charity requires that we regret, at least with the superior part of the soul, the evil that has befallen him. I say, “with the superior part of the soul;” for, when we hear of the misfortunes of an enemy, our inferior appetite appears to feel delight; but, as long as we do not consent to that delight, we are not guilty of sin. However, it is sometimes lawful to desire, or to be pleased at, the temporal evil of another, when we expect that it will be productive of spiritual good to himself or to others. For example, it is lawful, according to St. Gregory, to rejoice at the sickness or misfortune of an obstinate and scandalous sinner, and even to desire that he may fall into sickness or poverty, in order that he may cease to lead a wicked life, or at least to scandalize others. Behold the words of St. Gregory, “Evenire plerumque potest, ut non amissa charitate, et inimici nostri ruina lætificet, et ejus gloria sine invidiæ culpa contristet; cum et, ruente eo, quosdam bene erigi credimus, et proficiente illo plerosque injuste opprimi formidamus.” (Lib. xxii., Moral., cap. ii). But, except in such cases, it is unlawful to rejoice at the loss of a neighbor. It is also contrary to charity to feel regret at a neighbor’s prosperity merely because it is useful to him. This is precisely the sin of envy. The envious are, according to the Wise Man, on the side of the devil, who, because he could not bear to see men in Heaven, from which he had been banished, tempted Adam to rebel against God. “But by the envy of the devil death came into the world; and they follow him that are of his side.” (Wis. 2:25). Let us pass to the next point.

 

Second Point. On the charity which we ought to practice towards our neighbor in words.

 

4. With regard to the practice of fraternal charity in words, we ought, in the first place, and above all, to abstain from all detraction. “The tale-bearer shall defile his own soul, and shall be hated by all.” (Sir. 21:31). As they who always speak well of others are loved by all, so he who detracts his neighbor is hateful to all to God and to men, who, although they take delight in listening to detraction, hate the detractor, and are on their guard against him. St. Bernard says that the tongue of a detractor is a three-edged sword. “Gladius equidem anceps, immo triplex est lingua detractoris” (in Ps. 61).. With one of these edges it destroys the reputation of a neighbor; with the second it wounds the souls of those who listen to the detraction; and with the third it kills the soul of the detractor by depriving him of the divine grace. You will say, “I have spoken of my neighbor only in secret to my friends, and have made them promise not to mention to others what I told them.” This excuse will not stand, no; you are, as the Lord says, the serpent that bites in silence. “If a serpent bite in silence, he is nothing better that backbites secretly.” (Sir. 10:11). Your secret defamation bites and destroys the character of a neighbor. They who indulge in the vice of detraction are chastised not only in the next, but also in. this life, because their uncharitable tongues are the

 

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cause of a thousand sins, by creating discord in whole families and entire villages. Thomas Cantaprensis (Apum, etc., cap. 37). relates, that he knew a certain detractor, who at the end of life became raging mad, and died lacerating his tongue with his teeth. The tongue of another detractor, who was going to speak ill of St. Malachi, instantly swelled and was filled with worms. And, after seven days, the unhappy man died miserably.

 

5. Detraction is committed not only when we take away a neighbors character, by imputing to him a sin which he has not committed, or exaggerating his guilt, but also when we make known to others any of his secret sins. Some persons, when they know anything injurious to a neighbor, appear to suffer, as it were, the pains of childbirth, until they tell it to others. When the sin of a neighbor is secret and grievous, it is a mortal sin to mention it to others without a just cause. I say, “without a just cause ;” for, to make known to a parent the fault of a child, that he may correct him and prevent a repetition of the fault, is not sinful, but is an act of virtue; for according to St. Thomas (2, 2, qu. 2, art. 73)., to let others know the sins of a neighbor is unlawful, when it is done to destroy his reputation, but not when it is done for his good, or for the good of others.

 

6. They who listen to detraction, and afterwards go and tell what was said to the person whose character had been injured, have to render a great account to. These are called talebearers. Oh! how great is the evil produced by these tale bearing tongues that are thus employed in sowing discord. They are objects of God’s hatred. “The Lord hates him that sows discord among brethren.” (Prov. 6:16, 19). Should the person who has been defamed speak of his defamer, the injury which he has received may, perhaps, give him some claim to compassion. But why should you relate what you have heard? Is it to create ill-will and hatred that shall be the cause of a thousand sins? If, from this day forward, you ever hear anything injurious to a neighbor, follow the advice of the Holy Spirit. “Have you heard a word against your  neighbor? let it die with you.” (Sir. 19:10). You should not only keep it shut up in your heart, but you must let it die within you. He that is only shut up may escape and be seen; but he that is dead cannot leave the grave. When, then, you know anything injurious to your neighbor, you ought to be careful not to give any intimation of it to others by words, by motions of the head, or by any other sign. Sometimes greater injury is done to others by certain singular signs and broken words than by a full statement of their guilt; because these hints make persons suspect that the evil is greater than it really is.

 

7. In your conversations be careful not to give pain to any companion, either present or absent, by turning him into ridicule. You may say, “I do it through jest;” but such jests are contrary to charity. “All things, therefore,” says Jesus Christ, “that you will that men should do to you, do you also unto them.” (Matt. 7:12). Would you like to be treated with derision before others? Give up, then, the practice of ridiculing your neighbors. Abstain also from contending about useless trifles. Sometimes, certain contests about mere trifles grow so warm that they end in quarrels and injurious words. Some persons are so full of the spirit of contradiction, that they controvert what others say, without any necessity, and solely for the sake of contention, and thus violate charity. “Strive not,” says the Holy Spirit, “in matters which do not concern you.” (Sir. 11:9). But they will say, “I only defend reason; I cannot bear these assertions which are contrary to reason.” In answer to these defenders of reason, Cardinal Bellarmine says, that an ounce of charity is better than a hundred loads of reason. In conversation, particularly when the subject of it is unimportant, state your opinion, if you

 

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wish to take part in the discourse, and then keep yourself in peace, and be on your guard against obstinacy in defending your own opinion. In such contests it is always better to yield. B. Egidius used to say, that he who gives up conquers; because he is superior in virtue, and preserves peace, which is far more valuable than a victory in such contests. St. Joseph Calasanctius was accustomed to say, that “he who loves peace never contradicts anyone.”

 

8. Thus, dearly beloved brethren, if you wish to be loved by God and by men, endeavor always to speak well of all. And, should you happen to hear a person speak ill of a neighbor, be careful not to encourage his lack of charity, nor to show any curiosity to hear the faults of others. If you do, you will be guilty of the same sin which the detractor commits. “Hedge in your  ears with thorns,” says Ecclesiasticus, “and hear not a wicked tongue.” (Sir. 28:28). When you hear anyone taking away the character of another, place around your ears a hedge of thorns, that detraction may not enter. For this purpose it is necessary, at least, to show that the discourse is not pleasing to you. This may be done by remaining silent, by putting on a sorrowful countenance, by casting down the eyes, or turning your face in another direction. In a word, act, says St. Jerome, in such a way that the detractor, seeing your unwillingness to listen to him, may learn to be more guarded for the future against the sin of detraction. “Discat detractor, dum te videt non libenter audire, non facile detrahere.” (S. Hier. ep. ad Nepot). And when it is in your power to do it, it will be a great act of charity to defend the character of the persons who have been defamed. The Divine Spouse wishes that the words of his beloved be a veil of scarlet. “your  lips are as a scarlet lace.” (Cant. 4:3). That is, as Theodoret explains this passage, her words should be dictated by charity (a scarlet lace)., that they may cover, as much as possible, the defects of others, at least by excusing their intentions, when their acts cannot be excused. “If,” says St. Bernard, “you cannot excuse the act, excuse the intention. “ (Serm. xl. in Cant). It was a proverb among the nuns of the convent of St. Teresa, that, in the presence of their holy mother, their reputation was secure, because they knew she would take the part of those of whom any fault might be mentioned.

 

9. Charity also requires that we be meek to all, and particularly to those who are opposed to us. When a person is angry with you, and uses injurious language, remember that a “mild answer breaks wrath.” (Prov. 15:1). Reply to him with meekness, and you shall find that his anger will be instantly appeased. But, if you resent the injury, and use harsh language, you will increase the same; the feeling of revenge will grow more violent, and you will expose yourself to the danger of losing your soul by yielding to an act of hatred, or by breaking out into expressions grievously injurious to your neighbor. Whenever you feel the soul agitated by passion, it is better to force yourself to remain silent, and to make no reply; for, as St. Bernard says, an eyes  clouded with anger cannot distinguish between right and wrong. “Turbatus præ ira oculus rectum non videt.” (Lib. 2 de Consid., cap. xi). Should it happen that in a fit of passion you have insulted a neighbor, charity requires that you use every means to allay his wounded feelings, and to remove from his heart all sentiments of rancor towards you. The best means of making reparation for the violation of charity is to humble yourself to the person whom you have offended. With regard to the meekness which we should practice towards others, I shall speak on that subject in the thirty-fourth Sermon, or the Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

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10. It is also an act of charity to correct sinners. Do not say that you are not a superior. Were you a superior, you should be obliged by your office to correct all those who might be under your care; but, although you are not placed over others, you are, as a Christian, obliged to fulfill the duty of fraternal correction. “He gave to everyone of them commandment concerning his neighbor.” (Sir. 17:12). Would it not be great cruelty to see a blind man walking on the brink of a precipice, and not admonish him of his danger, in order to preserve him from temporal death? It would be far greater cruelty to neglect, for the sake of avoiding a little trouble, to deliver a brother from eternal death.

 

Third Point. On the charity we ought to practice towards our neighbor by works.

 

11. Some say that they love all, but will not put themselves to any inconvenience in order to relieve the wants of a neighbor. “My little children,” says St. John, “let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:18 ). The Scripture tells us that alms deliver men from death, cleanse them from sin, and obtain for them the divine mercy and eternal life. “Alms delivers from death, and the same is that which purges away sins, and makes to find mercy and life everlasting.” (Job 12:9). God will relieve you in the same manner in which, you give relief to your neighbor. “With what measure you shall mete, it shall be measured to you again. “(Matt. 7:2). Hence, St. Chrysostom says, that the exercise of charity to others is the means of acquiring great gain with God. “Alms is, of all acts, the most lucrative.” And St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to say, that she felt more happy in relieving her neighbor than when she was rapt up in contemplation. “Because, she would add when I am in contemplation God assists me; but in giving relief to a neighbor I assist God;” for, every act of charity which we exercise towards our neighbor, God accepts as if it were done to himself. But, on the other hand, how, as St. John says, can he who does not assist a brother in want, be said to love God?” He that has the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him, how does  the charity of God abide in him?” (I John 3:17). By alms is understood, not only the distribution of money or other goods, but every succor that is given to a neighbor in order to relieve his wants.

 

12. If charity obliges us to assist all, it commands us still more strictly to relieve those who are in the greatest need; such as the souls in Purgatory. St. Thomas teaches, that charity extends not only to the living, but also to the dead. Hence, as we ought to assist our neighbors who are in this life, so we are bound to give relief to those holy prisoners who are so severely tormented by fire, and who are incapable of relieving themselves. A deceased monk of the Cistercian order appeared to the sacristan of his monastery, and said to him, “Brother, assist me by your prayers; for I can do nothing for myself.” (Cron. Cist). Let us, then, assist, to the utmost of our power, these beloved spouses of Jesus Christ, by recommending them every day to God, and by sometimes getting Mass offered for their repose. There is nothing ,which gives so much relief to those holy souls as the sacrifice of the altar. They certainly will not be ungrateful; they will in return pray for you, and will obtain for you still greater graces, when they shall have entered into the kingdom of God.

 

13. To exercise a special charity towards the sick, is also very pleasing to God. They are afflicted by pains, by melancholy, by the fear of death, and are sometimes abandoned by others. Be careful to relieve them by alms, or by little presents, and to serve them as well as

 

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you can, at least by endeavoring to console them by your words, and by exhortations to practice resignation to the will of God, and to offer to him all their sufferings.

 

14. Above all, be careful to practice charity to those who are opposed to you. Some say, I am grateful to all who treat me with kindness; but I cannot exercise charity towards those who persecute me. Jesus Christ says that even pagans know how to be grateful to those who do them a service. “Do not also the heathens this?” (Matt. 5:47). Christian charity consists in wishing well, and in doing good to those who hate and injure us. “But I say to you, Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.” (Matt. 5:44). Some seek to injure you, but you must love them. Some have done -evil to you, but you must return good for evil. Such the vengeance of the saints. This is the Heavenly revenge which St. Paulinus exhorts us to inflict on our enemies. “To repay good for evil is Heavenly revenge. “ (Epis. xvi). St. Chrysostom teaches, that there is nothing which assimilates us so much to God as the granting of pardon to enemies. “Nothing makes men so like to God as to spare enemies.” (Hom, xxvii. in Gen). Such has been the practice of the saints. St. Catherine of Genoa continued for a long time to relieve a woman who had endeavored to destroy the saints reputation. On an assassin, who had made an attempt on his life, St. Ambrose settled a sum for his support. Venustanus, governor of Tuscany, ordered the hands of St. Sabinus to be cut off, because the holy bishop confessed the true faith. The tyrant, feeling a violent pain in his eyes, entreated the saint to assist him. The saint prayed for him, and raised his arm, from which the blood still continued to flow, blessed him, and obtained for him the cure of his eyes and of his soul; for the tyrant became a convert to the faith. Father Segneri relates, that the son of a certain lady in Bologna was murdered by an assassin, who by accident took refuge in her house. (Christ. Instr., part 1, disc. 20, n. 20). What did she do? She first concealed him from the ministers of justice, and afterwards said to him, Since I have lost my son, you shall henceforth be my son and my heir. Take, for the present, this sum of money, and provide for your safety elsewhere, for here you are not secure. It is thus the saints resent injuries. With what face, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, can he that does not pardon the affronts which he receives from his enemies, say to God, Lord, pardon me the many insults which I have offered to you? "Qua fronte dices Domino, remitte mihi multa peccata mea, si tu pauca conserve tuo non remiseris?” (Catech. 2). But he that forgives his enemies is sure of the pardon of the Lord, who says, “Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37). And when you cannot serve them in any other way, recommend to God those who persecute and calumniate you. “Pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.” This is the admonition of Jesus Christ, who is able to reward those who treat their enemies in this manner.

 

SERMON XXXI. SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON HOLY COMMUNION.

 

“A certain man made a great supper.” Luke 14:6.

 

In the gospel of this day we read that a rich man prepared a great supper. He then ordered one of his servants to invite to it all those whom he should find in the highways, even though they were poor, blind, and lame, and to compel those who should refuse, to come to the supper. “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (v. 20).. And he added, that of all those who had been invited and had not come, not one should ever partake of his supper. “But I say unto you, that none of those men that were invited shall taste of my supper” (v. 24).. This supper is the holy communion; it is a

 

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great supper, at which all the faithful are invited to eat the sacred flesh of Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament of the altar. “Take you and eat, this is my body.” (Matt. 24:26). Let us then consider today, in the first point, the great love which Jesus Christ has shown us in giving us himself in this sacrament; and, in the second point, how we ought to receive him in order to draw great fruit from the holy communion.

 

First Point. On the great love which Jesus Christ has shown us in giving us himself in this sacrament.

 

1. “Jesus, knowing that his hour was come that he should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. “(John 13:1). Knowing that the hour of his death had arrived, Jesus Christ wished, before his departure from this world, to leave us the greatest proof which he could give of his love, by leaving us himself in the holy Eucharist. “He loved them to the end.” That is, according to St. Chrysostom, “with an extreme love.” St. Bernardino of Sienna says that the tokens of love which are given at death make a more lasting impression on the mind, and are more highly esteemed. “Quæ in fine in signum amicitiæ celebrantur, firmius memoriæ imprimuntur et cariora tenentur.” But, While others leave a ring, or a piece of money, as a mark of their affection, Jesus has left us himself entirely in this sacrament of love.

 

2. And when did Jesus Christ institute this sacrament? He instituted it, as the Apostle has remarked, on the night before his passion . “The Lord Jesus, the same night on which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke and said, “Take and eat, this is my body.” (1 Cor. 11:23-24). Thus, at the very time that men were preparing to put him to death, our loving Redeemer resolved to bestow upon us this gift. Jesus Christ, then, was not content with giving his life for us on a cross, he wished also, before his death, to pour out, as the Council of Trent says, all the riches of his love, by leaving himself for our food in the holy communion. “He, as it were, poured out the riches of his love towards man.” (Sess. 13, cap. ii). If faith had not taught it, who could ever imagine that a God would become man, and afterwards become the food of his own creatures? When Jesus Christ revealed to his followers this sacrament which he intended to leave us, St. John says, that they could not bring themselves to believe it, and departed from him saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?...This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (St. John 6:53, 61). But what men could not imagine, the real love of Jesus Christ has invented and effected. “Take and eat, this is my body.” These words he addressed to his apostles on the night before he suffered, and he now, after his death, addresses them to us.

 

3. “How highly honored, “ says St. Francis de Sales, “would that man fed to whom the king sent from his table a portion of what he had on his own plate? But how should he feel if that portion were a part of the king's arm?” In the holy communion Jesus gives us, not a part of his arm, but his entire body in the sacrament of the altar. “He gave you all,” says St. Chrysostom, reproving our ingratitude, “he left nothing for Himself. “ And St. Thomas teaches, that in the eucharist God has given us all that he is and all that he has. “Deus in eucharistia totum quod est et habet, dedit nobis.” (Opusc. 63, c. ii). Justly then has the same saint called the Eucharist “a sacrament of love; a pledge of love.” “Sacramentum charitatis pignus charitatis.” It is a sacrament of love, because it was pure love that induced Jesus Christ to give us this gift and pledge of love, for he wished that, should a doubt of his having

 

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loved us ever enter into our minds, we should have in this sacrament a pledge of his love. St. Bernard calls this sacrament “love of loves.” “Amor amorum.” By his incarnation, the Lord has given himself to all men in general; but, in this sacrament, he has given, himself to each of us in particular, to make us understand the special love, which he entertains for each of us.

 

4. Oh! How ardently does Jesus Christ desire to come to our souls in the holy communion! This vehement desire he expressed at the time of the institution of this sacrament, when he said to the apostles, “With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you.” (Luke 22:15). St. Laurence Justinian says that these words proceeded from the enamored heart of Jesus Christ, who, by such tender expressions, wished to show us the ardent love with which he loved us. “This is the voice of the most burning charity. “Flagrantissimæ charitatis est vox hæc.” And, to induce us to receive him frequently in the holy communion, he promises eternal life that is, the kingdom of Heaven to those who eat his flesh. “He that eats this bread shall live forever.” (John 6:59). On the other hand, it threatens to deprive us of his grace and of Heaven, if we neglect communion. “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” (John 6:54). These promises and these threats all sprung from a burning desire to come to us in this sacrament.

 

5. And why does Jesus Christ so vehemently desire that we receive him in the holy communion? It is because he takes delight in being united with each of us. By the communion, Jesus is really united to our soul and to our body, and we are united to Jesus. “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him.” (John 6:57). Thus, after communion, we are, says St. Chrysostom, one body and one flesh with Jesus Christ. “Huic nos unimur, et facti summus unum corpus ut una caro.” (Hom. 68. ad Pop. Ant). Hence, St. Laurence Justinian exclaims, “Oh! how wonderful is your  love, O Lord Jesus, who have wished to incorporate us in such a manner with your  body, that we should have one heart and one soul inseparably united with you.” Thus, to every soul that receives the Eucharist, the Lord says what he once said to his beloved servant Margaret of Ipres “Behold, my daughter, the close union made between me and you; love me, then, and let us remain forever united in love, let us never more be separated.” This union between us and Jesus Christ is, according to St. Chrysostom, the effect of the love which Jesus Christ bears us. “Semetipsum nobis immiscuit, ut unum quid simus ardentur enim amantium hoc est." (Hom. lxi). But, Lord, such intimate union with man is not suited to your  divine majesty. But love seeks not reason; it goes not where it ought to go, but where it is drawn. “Amor ratione caret, et vadit quo dicitur, non quo debeat.” (Serm. cxliii). St. Bernardino of Sienna says that, in giving himself for our food, Jesus Christ loved us to the last degree; because he united himself entirely to us, as food is united to those who eat it. “Ultimus gradus amoris est, cum se dedit nobis in cibum quia dedit se nobis ad omnimodam unionem, sicut cibus et cibans, invicem uniuntur.” (Tom. 2, Serm. liv). The same doctrine has been beautifully expressed by St. Francis de Sales. “No action of the Savior can be more loving or more tender than the institution of the Holy Eucharist, in which he, as it were, annihilates himself, and takes the form of food, to unite himself to the souls and bodies of his faithful servants.”

 

6. Hence, there is nothing from which we can draw so much fruit as from the holy communion. St. Denis teaches, that the most holy sacrament has greater efficacy to sanctify souls than all other spiritual means. “Eucharistia maxim am vim habet perficiendæ

 

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sanctitatis.” St. Vincent Ferrer says, that a soul derives more profit from one communion than from fasting a week on bread and water. The eucharist is, according to the holy Council of Trent, a medicine which delivers us from venial, and preserves us from mortal sins. “Antidotum quo a culpis quotidianis liberemur, et a rnortalibus præservemur.” Jesus himself has said, that they who eat him, who is the fountain of life, shall receive permanently the life of grace. “He that eats me, the same shall also live by me.” (John 6:58). Innocent the Third teaches, that by the passion Jesus Christ delivers us from the sins we have committed, and by the Eucharist from the sins we may commit. According to St. Chrysostom, the Holy Communion inflames us with the fire of divine love, and makes us objects of terror to the devil. “The Eucharist is a fire which inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar, being made terrible to the devil.” (Hom. lxi. ad Pop. Ant). In explaining the words of the Spouse of the Canticles, “He brought me into the cellar of wine; lie set in order charity in me” (2:4). St. Gregory says, that the communion is this cellar of wine, in which the soul is so inebriated with divine love, that she forgets and loses sight of all earthly things.

 

7. Some will say, “I do not communicate often; because I am cold in divine love.” In answer to them Gerson asks, Will you then, because you feel cold, remove from the fire? When you are tepid you should more frequently approach this sacrament. St. Bonaventure says, “Trusting in the mercy of God, through you feel tepid, approach, let him who thinks himself unworthy   reflect, that the more infirm he feels himself the more he requires a physician” (de Prof. Rel., cap. 78). And, in “The Devout Life,” chapter xx., St. Francis de Sales writes, “Two sorts of persons ought to communicate often, the perfect, to preserve perfection; and the imperfect, to arrive at perfection.” It cannot be doubted, that he who wishes to communicate should prepare himself with great diligence, that he may communicate well. Let us pass to the second point.

 

Second Point. On the preparation we ought to make in order to derive great fruit from the holy communion.

 

8. Two things are necessary in order to draw great fruit from communion preparation for, and thanksgiving after communion. As to the preparation, it is certain that the saints derived great profit from their communions, only because they were careful to prepare themselves well for receiving the Holy Eucharist. It is easy then to understand why so many souls remain subject to the same imperfections, after all their communions. Cardinal Bona says, that the defect is not in the food, but in the want of preparation for it. “Defectus non in bibo est, sed in edentis dispositione.” For frequent communion two principal dispositions are necessary. The first is detachment from creatures, and disengagement of the heart from everything that is not God. The more the heart is occupied with earthly concerns, the less room there is in it for divine love. Hence, to give full possession of the whole heart to God, it is necessary to purify it from worldly attachments. This is the preparation which Jesus himself recommends to St. Gertrude. “I ask nothing more of you,” said he to her, “than that you come to receive me with a heart divested of your self.” Let us, then, withdraw our affections from creatures, and our hearts shall belong entirely to the Creator.

 

9. The second disposition necessary to draw great fruit from communion, is a desire of receiving Jesus Christ in order to advance in his love. “He,” says St. Francis de Sales, “who gives himself through pure love, ought to be received only through love.” Thus, the principal

 

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end of our communions must be to advance in the love of Jesus Christ. He once said to St. Matilda, “When you communicate, desire all the love that any soul has ever had for me, and I will accept your love in proportion to the fervor with which you wished for it.”

 

10. Thanksgiving after communion is also necessary. The prayer we make after communion is the most acceptable to God, and the most profitable to us. After communion the soul should be employed in affections and petitions. The affections ought to consist not only in acts of thanksgiving, but also in acts of humility, of love, and of oblation of ourselves to God. Let us then humble ourselves as much as possible at the sight of a God made our food after we had offended him. A learned author says that, for a soul after communion, the most appropriate sentiment is one of astonishment at the thought of receiving a God. She should exclaim, “What! a God to me! a God to me!” Let us also make many acts of the love of Jesus Christ. He has come into our souls in order to be loved. Hence, he is greatly pleased with those who, after communion, say to him, “My Jesus, I love you; I desire nothing but you.” Let us also offer ourselves and all that we have to Jesus Christ, that he may dispose of all as he pleases, and let us frequently say, “My Jesus, you are all mine; you have given your self entirely to me; I give myself entirely to you.

 

11. After communion; we should not only make these affections, but we ought also to present to God with great confidence many petitions for his graces. The time after communion is a time in which we can gain treasures of divine graces. St. Teresa says, that at that time Jesus Christ remains in the soul as on a throne, saying to her what he said to the blind man, “What will you that I should do to you?” (Mark 10:51). As if he said, “But me you have not always.” (John 12: 8). Now that you possess me within you, ask me for graces, I have come down from Heaven on purpose to dispense them to you; ask whatever you wish, and you shall obtain it. Oh! what great graces are lost by those who spend but little time in prayer after communion. Let us also turn to the Eternal Father, and, bearing in mind the promise of Jesus Christ “Amen, amen, I say to you, if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23). let us say to him, My God, for the love of this your Son, whom I have within my heart, give me your  love; make me all yours. And if we offer this prayer with confidence, the Lord will certainly hear us. He who acts thus may become a saint by a single communion.

 

SERMON XXXII. THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON THE MERCY OF GOD TOWARDS SINNERS.

 

“There shall be joy in Heaven upon one sinner that does  penance, more than ninety -nine just, who need not penance.” Luke 15:7

 

In this day’s gospel it is related that the Pharisees murmured against Jesus Christ, because he received sinners and eat with them. “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (v. 2).. In answer to their murmurings our Lord said, If any of you had a hundred sheep, and lost one of them, would he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go in search of the lost sheep? Would he not continue his search until he found it?, and having found it, would he not carry it on his shoulders, and, rejoicing, say to his friends and neighbors, “Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost?” (v. 6). In conclusion, the Son of God said, “I say to you, there shall be joy in Heaven upon one sinner that does  penance, more than, upon ninety-nine just, that need not penance.” There is more joy in Heaven upon one sinner who

 

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returns to God, than upon many just who preserve the grace of God. Let us, then, speak Today on the mercy which God shows to sinners, first, in calling them to repentance; secondly, in receiving them when they return.

 

First Point, Mercy of God in calling sinners to repentance.

 

1. After having sinned by eating the forbidden apple, Adam fled from the face of the Lord through shame of the sin he had committed. What must have been the astonishment of the angels when they saw God seeking after him, and calling him as it were with tears, saying, “Adam, where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). My beloved Adam, where are you? These words, says Father Pereyra, in his commentary on this passage, “are the words of a father in search of his lost son.” Towards you, brethren, the Lord acts in a similar manner. You fled from him and he has so often invited you to repentance by means of confessors and preachers. Who was it that spoke to you when they exhorted you to penance? It was the Lord. Preachers are, as St. Paul says, his ambassadors. “For Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors; God, as it were, exhorting by us.” (2 Cor. 5:20). Hence, he writes to the sinners of Corinth, “For Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.” (Ibid). In explaining these words St. Chrysostom says, “Ipse Chris tus vos obsecrat, quid autem obsecrat? Reconciliamini Deo.” Then, says the holy doctor, Jesus Christ himself entreats you, sinners, and what does he entreat you to do? To make peace with God. The saint adds, “Non enim ipse inimicus gerit, sed vos.” It is not God that acts like an enemy, but you; that is, God does not refuse to make peace with sinners, but they are unwilling to be reconciled with him.”

 

2. But notwithstanding the refusal of sinners to return to God, he does not cease to continue to call them by so many interior inspirations, remorses of conscience, and terrors of chastisements. Thus, beloved Christians, God has spoken to you, and, seeing that you disregarded his words, he has had recourse to scourges; he has called you to repentance by such a persecution, by temporal losses, by the death of a relative, by sickness which has brought you to the brink of the grave. He has, according to holy David, placed before your eyes the bow of your damnation, not that you might be condemned to eternal misery, but that you might be delivered from hell, which you deserved. “You have given a warning to them that fear you, that they may flee from before the bow, that your  beloved may be delivered.” (Ps. 59:6). You regarded certain afflictions as misfortunes; but they were mercies from God; they were the voices of God calling on you to renounce sin, that you might escape perdition. “My jaws are become hoarse.” (Ps. 68:4). My son, says the Lord, I have almost lost my voice in calling you to repentance. “I am weary of entreating you.” (Jer. 15:5). I have become weary in imploring you to offend me no more.

 

3. By your ingratitude you deserved that he should call you no more; but he has continued to invite you to return to him. And who is it that has called you? It is a God of infinite majesty, who is to be one day your judge, and on whom your eternal happiness or misery depends. And what are you but miserable worms deserving hell? Why has he called you? To restore to you the life of grace which you have lost. “Return you and live.” (Ezek. 18:32). To acquire the grace of God, it would be but little to spend a hundred years in a desert in fasting and penitential austerities. But God offered it to you for a single act of sorrow; you refused that act, and after your refusal he has not abandoned you, but has sought after you, saying, “And why will you die, house of Israel?” (Ezek. 18:31). Like a father weeping and following his

 

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son, who has voluntarily thrown himself into the sea, God has sought after you, saying, through compassion to each of you, My son, why do  you bring your self to eternal misery? “Why will you die, house of Israel?”

 

4. As a pigeon that seeks to take shelter in a tower, seeing the entrance closed on every side, continues to fly round till she finds an opening through which she enters, so, says St. Augustine, did the divine mercy act towards me when I was in enmity with God. "Circuibat super me fidelis a longe misericordia tua.” The Lord treated you, brethren, in a similar manner. As often as you sinned you banished him from your souls. The wicked have said to God, “Depart from us.” (Job 21:14). And, instead of abandoning you, what has the Lord done? He has placed himself at the door of your ungrateful hearts, and, by his knocking, has made you feel that he was outside, and seeking for admission. “Behold I stand at the gate and knock.” (Rev. 3:20). He, as it were, entreated you to have compassion on him, and to allow him to enter. “Open to me, my sister.” (Cant. 5:2). Open to me; I will deliver you from perdition; I will forget all the insults you have offered to me if you give up sin. Perhaps you are unwilling to open to me through fear of becoming poor by restoring ill-gotten goods, or by separating from a person who provided for you? Am not I, says the Lord, able to provide for you? Perhaps you think that, if you renounce a certain friendship which separates you from me, you shall lead a life of misery? Am I not able to content your soul and to make your life happy? Ask those who love me with their whole hearts, and they will tell you that my grace makes them content, and that they would not exchange their condition, through poor and humble, for all the delights and riches of the monarchs of the earth.

 

Second Point. Mercy of God in waiting for sinners to return to him.

 

5. We have considered the divine mercy in calling sinners to repentance, let us now consider his patience in waiting for their return. That great servant of God, D. Sancia Carillo, a penitent of Father John D’ Avila, used to say, that the consideration of God’s patience with sinners made her desire to build a church, and entitle it “The Patience of God.” Ah, sinners! who could ever bear with what God has borne from you? If the offences which you have committed against God had been offered to your best friends, or even to your parents, they surely would have sought revenge. When you insulted the Lord he was able to chastise you; you repeated the insult, and he did not punish your guilt, but preserved your life, and provided you with sustenance. lie, as it were, pretended not to see the injuries you offered to him, that you might enter into yourselves, and cease to offend him. “You overlook the sins of men for the sake of repentance.” (Wis. 11:24). But how, Lord, does it happen, that you canst not behold a single sin, and that you do  bear in silence with so many? “your  eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you canst not look on iniquity. Why look you upon them that do unjust things, and boldest your  peace?” (Hab. 1:13). You see the vindictive prefer their own before your  honor; you behold the unjust, instead of restoring what they have stolen, continuing to commit theft; the unchaste, instead of being ashamed of their impurities, boasting of them before others; the scandalous, not content with the sins which they themselves commit, but seeking to draw others into rebellion against you; you sees all this, and hold your  peace, and do  not inflict vengeance.

 

6. “Omnis creatura,” says St. Thomas, “tibi factor! deserviens excandescit adversus injustos.” All creatures the earth, fire, air, water because they all obey God, would, by a natural instinct,

 

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wish to punish the sinner, and to avenge the injuries which he does to the Creator; but God, through his mercy, restrains them. But, Lord, you wait for the wicked that they may enter into themselves; and do  you not see that they abuse your  mercy to offer new insults to your  majesty? “You have been favorable to the nation, O Lord, you have been favorable to the nation, art you glorified?” (Is. 26:15). You have waited so long for sinners; you have abstained from inflicting punishment; but what glory have you reaped from your  forbearance? They have become more wicked. Why so much patience with such ungrateful souls? Why do  you continue to wait for their repentance? Why do  you not chastise their wickedness? The same Prophet answers, “The Lord waits that he may have mercy on you.” (Is. 30:18). God waits for sinners that they may one day repent, and that after their repentance, he may pardon and save them. “As I live, says the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezek. 33:11). St. Augustine goes so far as to say that the Lord, if he were not God, should he unjust on account of his excessive patience towards sinners. “Deus, Deus incus, pace tua dicam, nisi quia Deus esses, injustus esses.” By waiting for those who abuse his patience to multiply their sins, God appears to do an injustice to the divine honor. “We,” continues the saint, “sin; we adhere to sin (some of us become familiar and intimate with sin, and sleep for months and years in this miserable state).; we rejoice at sin (some of us go so far as to boast of our wickedness).; and you art appeased! “We provoke you to anger you do  invite us to mercy.” We and God appear to be, as it were, engaged in a contest, in which we labor to provoke him to chastise our guilt, and he invites us to pardon.

 

7. Lord, exclaimed holy Job, what is man, that you do  entertain so great an esteem for him? Why do  you love him so tenderly? “What is man that you should magnify him? or why do  you set your  heart upon him?” (Job. 7:7). St. Denis the Areopagite says, that God seeks after sinners like a despised lover, entreating them not to destroy themselves. “Deus etiam a se aversos amatorie sequitur, et deprecatur ne pereant.” Why, ungrateful souls, do you fly from me? I love you and desire nothing but your welfare. Ah, sinners! says St. Teresa, remember that he who now calls and seeks after you, is that God who shall one day be your judge. If you are lost, the great mercies which he now shows you, shall be the greatest torments which, you shall suffer in hell.

 

Third Point. Mercy of God in receiving penitent sinners.

 

8. Should a subject who has rebelled against an earthly monarch go into the presence of his sovereign to ask pardon, the prince instantly banishes the rebel from his sight, and does not condescend even to look at him. But God does not treat us in this manner, when we go with humility before him to implore mercy and forgiveness. “The Lord your God is merciful, and will not turn away his face from you if you return to him.” (2 Chron. 30:9). God cannot turn away his face from those who cast themselves at his feet with an humble and contrite heart. Jesus himself has protested that he will not reject anyone who returns to him. “And him that cometh to me, I will not cast out.” (John 6: 37). But how can he reject those whom he himself invites to return, and promises to embrace? “Return to me, says the Lord, and I will receive you.” (Jer. 3:1). In another place he says, Sinners, I ought to turn my back on you, because you first turned your back on me; but be converted to me, and I will be converted to you. “Turn to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will turn to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zach. 1:3).

 

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9. Oh! with what tenderness does God embrace a sinner that returns to him! This tenderness Jesus Christ wished to declare to us when he said that he is the good pastor, who, as soon as he finds the lost sheep, embraces it and places it on his own shoulders. “And when he has found it, does  he not lay it upon his shoulders rejoicing?” (Luke 15: 5). This tenderness also appears in the parable of the prodigal son, in which Jesus Christ tells us that he is the good father, who, when his lost son returns, goes to meet him, embraces and kisses him, and, as it were, swoons away through joy in receiving him. “And running to him, he fell upon his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20).

 

10. God protests that when sinners repent of their iniquities, he will forget all their sins, as if they had never offended him. “But, if the wicked do penance for all the sins which he has committed. ...living, he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he has done.” (Ezek. 18:21-22). By the Prophet Isaias, the Lord goes so far as to say, “Come and accuse me, says the Lord. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.” (Is. 1:8). Mark the words, Come and accuse me. As if the Lord said, Sinners, come to me, and if I do not pardon and embrace you, reprove me, upbraid me with violating my promise. But no! God cannot despise an humble and contrite heart. “A contrite and humble heart, O God, you will  not despise.” (Ps. l. 19).

 

11. To show mercy and grant pardon to sinners, God regards as redounding to his own glory. “And therefore shall he be exalted sparing you.” (Is. 30:18). The holy Church says, that God displays his omnipotence in granting pardon and mercy to sinners. “O God, who manifested your  omnipotence in sparing and showing mercy.” Do not imagine, dearly beloved sinners, that God requires of you to labor for a long time before he grants you pardon, as soon as you wish for forgiveness, he is ready to give it. Behold what the Scripture says, “Weeping, you shall not weep, he will surely have pity on you.” (Is. 30:19). You shall not have to weep for a long time, as soon as you shall have shed the first tear through sorrow for your sins, God will have mercy on you. “At the voice of your  cry, as soon as he shall hear, he will answer you.” (Ibid). The moment he shall hear you say, Forgive me, my God, forgive me, he will instantly answer and grant your pardon.

 

SERMON XXXIII. FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - DEATH IS CERTAIN AND UNCERTAIN.

 

"Let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4.

 

In this day’s gospel we find that, having gone up into one of the ships, and having heard from St. Peter, that he and his companions had labored all the night and had taken nothing, Jesus Christ said, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” They obeyed; and having cast out their nets into the sea, they took such a multitude of fishes, that the nets were nearly broken. Brethren, God has placed us in the midst of the sea of this life, and has commanded us to cast out our nets, that we may catch fishes; that is, that we may perform good works, by which we can acquire merits for eternal life. Happy we, if we attain this end and save our souls! Unhappy we, if, instead of laying up treasures for Heaven, we by our sins merit hell, and bring our souls to damnation! Our happiness or misery for eternity depends on the moment of our death, which is certain and uncertain. The Lord assures us that death is certain, that we may prepare for it; but, on the other hand, he leaves us

 

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uncertain as to the time of our death, that we may be always prepared for it two points of the utmost importance.

 

First Point. It is certain that we shall die.

 

Second Point. It is uncertain when we shall die. First Point. It is certain that we shall die.

 

1. “It is appointed unto men once to die.” (Heb. 9:27). The decree has been passed for each of us, we must all die. St. Cyprian says, that we are all born with the halter on the neck, hence, every step we make brings us nearer to the gibbet. For each of us the gibbet shall be the last sickness, which will end in death. As then, brethren, your name has been inserted in the registry of baptism, so it shall be one day written in the record of the dead. As, in speaking of your ancestors, you say, God be merciful to my father, to my uncle, or to my brother; so others shall say the same of you when you shall be in the other world; and as you have often heard the death-bell toll for many, so others shall hear it toll for you.

 

2. All things future, which regard men now living, are uncertain, but death is certain. “All other goods and evils,” says St. Augustine, “are uncertain; death only is certain.” It is uncertain whether such an infant shall be rich or poor, whether he shall enjoy good or ill health, whether he shall die at an early or at an advanced age. But it is certain that he shall die, through he be son of a peer or of a monarch. And, when the hour arrives, no one can resist the stroke of death. The same St. Augustine says, “Fires, waters, and the sword are resisted; kings are resisted, death comes; who resists it?” (in Ps. 12). We may resist conflagrations, inundations, the sword of enemies, and the power of princes; but who can resist death? A certain king of France, as Belluacensis relates, said in his last moments, “Behold, with all my power, I cannot make death wait for a single hour.” No; when the term of life has arrived, death does not wait even a moment “You have appointed his bounds, which cannot be passed.” (Job. 14:5).

 

3. We must all die. This truth we not only believe, but see with our eyes. In every age houses, streets, and cities are filled with new inhabitants, their former possessors are shut up in the grave. And, as for them the days of life are over, so a time shall come when not one of all who are now alive shall be among the living. “Days shall be formed, and no one in them.” (Ps. 138:10). “Who is the man that shall live, and shall not see death?” (Ps. l38:49). Should anyone flatter himself that he will not die, he would not only be a disbeliever for it is of faith that we shall all die but he would be regarded as a madman. We know that all men, even potentates and princes and emperors, have, utter a certain time, fallen victims to death. And where are they now? “Tell me,” says St. Bernard, “where are the lovers of the world? Nothing has remained of them but ashes and worms.” Of so many great men of the world, through buried in marble mausoleums, nothing has remained but a little dust and a few withered bones. We know that our ancestors are no longer among the living, of their death we are constantly reminded by their pictures, their memorandum books, their beds, and by the clothes which they have left us. And can we entertain a hope or a doubt that we shall not die? Of all who lived in this town a hundred years ago how many are now alive? They are all in eternity in an eternal day of delights, or in an eternal night of torments. Either the one or the other shall be our lot also.

 

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4. But, God! we all know that we shall die, the misfortune is, that we imagine death as distant as if it were never to come, and therefore we lose sight of it. But, sooner or later, whether we think or think not of death, it is certain, and of faith that we shall die, and that we are drawing nearer to it every day. “For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.” (Heb. 13:14). This is not our country, here we are pilgrims on a journey. “While we are in the body we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:6). Our country is Heaven, if we know how to acquire it by the grace of God and by our own good works. Our house is not that in which we live; we dwell in it only in passing; our dwelling is in eternity. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” (Sir. 7:5). How great would be the folly of the man, who, in passing through a strange country, should lay out all his property in the purchase of houses and possessions in a foreign land, and reduce himself to the necessity of living miserably for the remainder of his days in his own country! And is not he, too, a fool, who seeks after happiness in this world, from which he must soon depart; and, by his sins, exposes himself to the danger of misery in the next, where he must live for eternity?

 

5. Tell me, beloved brethren, if, instead of preparing for his approaching death, a person condemned to die were, on his way to the place of execution, to employ the few remaining moments of his life in admiring the beauty of the houses as he passed along, in thinking of balls and comedies, in uttering immodest words, and detracting his neighbors, would you not say that the unhappy man had either lost his reason, or that he was abandoned by God? And are not you on the way to death? Why then do you seek only the gratification of the senses? Why do you not think of preparing the accounts which you shall one day, and perhaps very soon, have to render at the tribunal of Jesus Christ? Souls that have faith, leave to the fools of this world the care of realizing a fortune on this earth; seek you to make a fortune for the next life, which shall be eternal. The present life must end, and end very soon.

 

6. Go to the grave in which your relatives and friends are buried. Look at their dead bodies, each of them says to you, “yesterday for me; Today for you.” (Sir. 38:23). What has happened to me must one day happen to you. You shall .become dust and ashes, as I am. And where shall your  soul be found, if, before death, you have not settled your  accounts with God? Ah, brethren! if you wish to live well, and to to have you accounts ready for that great day, on which your doom to eternal life or to eternal death must be decided, endeavor, during the remaining days of life, to live with death before your eyes. “death, your  sentence is welcome.” (Sir. 41:3). Oh! how correct are the judgments, how well directed the actions, of those who form their judgments, and perform their actions, with death before their view! The remembrance of death destroys all attachment to the goods of this earth. “Let the end of life be considered,” says St. Lawrence Justinian, “and there will be nothing in this world to be loved.” (de Ligno Vitæ, cap. 5). yes ; all the riches, honors, and pleasures of this world are easily despised by him who considers that he must soon leave them forever, and that he shall be thrown into the grave to be the food of worms.

 

7. Some banish the thought of death, as if, by avoiding to think of death, they could escape it. But death cannot be avoided; and they who banish the thought of it, expose themselves to great danger of an unhappy death. By keeping death before their eyes, the saints have despised all the goods of this earth. Hence, St. Charles Borromeo kept on his table a death’s head, that he might have it continually in view. Cardinal Baronius had the words, “Memento mori” Remember death” inscribed on his ring. The venerable P. Juvenal Anzia, Bishop of

 

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Saluzo, had before him a skull, on which was written, “As I am, so you shall be.” In retiring to deserts and caves the holy solitaries brought with them the head of a dead man; and for what purpose? To prepare themselves for death. Thus a certain hermit being asked at death, why he was so cheerful, answered, I have kept death always before my eyes; and therefore, now that it has arrived, I feel no terror. But, oh! how full of terror is death, when it comes to those who have thought of it but seldom.

 

Second Point. It is uncertain when we shall die.

 

8. “Nothing,” says the Idiota, “is more certain than death, but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” It is certain that we shall die. God has already determined the year , the month, the day, the hour, the moment, in which each of us shall leave this earth, and enter into eternity; but this moment he has resolved not to make known to us. And justly, says St. Augustine, has the Lord concealed it; for, had he manifested to all the day fixed for their death, many should be induced to continue in the habit of sin by the certainty of not dying before the appointed day. “Si statuisset viam omnibus, faceret abundare peccata de securitate” (in Ps. 144).. Hence, the holy doctor teaches that God has concealed from us the day of our death, that we may spend all our days well. “Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes dies." (Hom. 12. inter 50). Hence, Jesus Christ says, “Be you also ready; for at what hour you think not the Son of Man will come.” (Luke 12:40). That we may be always prepared to die, he wishes us to be persuaded that death will come when we least expect it. “Of death,” says St. Gregory, “we are uncertain, that we may be found always prepared for death.” St. Paul likewise admonishes us that the day of the Lord that is, the day on which the Lord shall judge us shall come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, “The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. 5:2). Since, then, says St. Bernard, death may assail you and take away your life in every place and at every time, you should, if you wish to die well and to save your soul, be at all times and places in expectation of death, “Mors ubique te expectat tu ubique earn expectabis,” and St. Augustine says, “Latet ultimus dies, ut observentur omnes dies." (Hom, 12). The Lord conceals from us the last day of our life, that we may always have ready the account which we must render to God after death.

 

9. Many Christians are lost, because many, even among the old, who feel the approach of death, flatter themselves that it is at a distance, and that it will not come without giving them time to prepare for it. “Dura mente,” says St. Gregory, “abesse longe mors creditur etiam cum sentitur.” (Moral, lib. 8). Death, even when it is felt, is believed to be far off. O brethren, are these your sentiments? How do you know that your death is near or distant? What reason have you to suppose that death will give you time to prepare for it? How many do we know who have died suddenly? Some have died walking; some sitting; and some during sleep. Did anyone of these ever imagine that he should die in such a manner? But they have died in this way; and if they were in enmity with God, what has been the lot of their unhappy souls? Miserable the man who meets with an unprovided death! And I assert, that all who ordinarily neglect to unburden their conscience, die without preparation, even through they should have seven or eight days to prepare for a good death; for as I shall show in the forty-fourth sermon, it is very difficult, during these days of confusion and terror, to settle accounts with God, and to return to him with sincerity. But I repeat that death may come upon you in such a manner, that you shall not have time even to receive the sacraments. And who knows whether, in another hour, you shall be among the living or the dead? The uncertainty of the

 

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time of his death made Job tremble. “For I knew not how long I shall continue, or whether, after a while, my Maker may take me away.” (Job 32:22). Hence, St. Basil exhorts us in going to bed at night, not to trust that we shall see the next day. “Cum in lectulum ad quicscendum membra tua posueris, noli confidere de lucis adventu.” (Inst. ad fil. spirit).

 

10. Whenever, then, the devil tempts you to sin, by holding out the hope that you will go to confession and repair the evil you have done, say to him in answer, How do I know that this shall not be the last day of my life? And should death overtake me in sin, and not give me time to make my confession, what shall become of me for all eternity? Alas! how many poor sinners have been struck dead in the very act of indulging in some sinful pleasure, and have been sent to hell! “As fishes are taken by the hook, and as birds are caught with the snare, so men are taken in the evil time.” (Sir. 9:12). Fishes are taken with the hook while they eat the bait that conceals the hook, which is the instrument of their death. The evil time is precisely that in which sinners are actually offending God. In the act of sin, they calm their conscience by a security of afterwards making a good confession, and reversing the sentence of their damnation. But death comes suddenly upon them, and does not leave them time for repentance. “For, when they shall say peace and security, then shall sudden destruction come upon them.” (1 Thess. 5:3).

 

11. If a person lend a sum of money he is careful instantly to get a written acknowledgment, and to take all the other means necessary to secure the repayment of it. Who, he says, can know what shall happen? Death may come, and I may lose my money. And how does it happen that there are so many who neglect to use the same caution for the salvation of their souls, which is of far greater importance than all temporal interests? “Why do they not also say, Who knows what may happen? Death may come, and I may lose my soul? If you lose a sum of money, all is not lost; if you lose it one way you may recover the loss in another; but he that dies and loses his soul, loses all, and has no hope of ever recovering it. If we could die twice, we might, if we lost our soul the first time, save it the second. But we cannot die twice. “It is appointed unto men once to die,” (Heb. 9:27). Mark the word once, death happens to each of us but once, he who has erred he first time has erred forever. Hence, to bring the soul to hell is an irreparable error. “Periisse semel æternum est.”

 

12. The venerable Father John Avila was a man of great sanctity, and apostle of Spain. What was the answer of this great servant of God, who had led a holy life from his childhood, when he was told that his death was at hand, and that he had but a short time to live?” Oh!” replied the holy man with trembling, “that I had a little more time to prepare for death!” St. Agatho, abbot, after spending so many years in penance, trembled at the hour of death, and said, “What shall become of me? who can know the judgments of God?” And, O brethren, what will you say when the approach of death shall be announced to you, and when, from the priest who attends you, you shall hear these words, “Go forth, Christian soul, from this world?” You will, perhaps, say, Wait a little; allow me to prepare better. No; depart immediately; death does not wait. You should therefore prepare yourselves now. “With fear and trembling work out your salvation.” (Phil. 2:12). St. Paul admonishes us that, if we wish to save our souls, we must live in fear and trembling, lest death may find us in sin. Be attentive, brethren, there is question of eternity. “If a tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall there shall it be.” (Sir. 11:3). If, when the tree of your life is cut down, you fall to the south that is, if you obtain eternal life how great shall be your joy at

 

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being able to say, I shall be saved; I have secured all; I can never lose God; I shall be happy forever. But, if you fall to the north that is, into eternal damnation how great shall be your despair! Alas! you shall say, I have erred, and my error is irremediable! Arise, then, from your tepidity, and, after this sermon, make a resolution to give yourselves sincerely to God. This resolution will insure you a good death, and will make you happy for eternity.

 

SERMON XXXIV. FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON THE SIN OF ANGER.

 

“Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.” Matt. 5:2.

 

Anger resembles fire; hence, as fire is vehement in its action, and, by the smoke which it produces, obstructs the view, so anger makes men rush into a thousand excesses, and prevents them from seeing the sinfulness of their conduct, and thus exposes them to the danger of the judgment of eternal death. “Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.” Anger is so pernicious to man that it even disfigures his countenance. No matter how comely and gentle he may be, he shall, as often as he yields to the passion of anger, appear to be a monster and a wild beast full of terror. “Iracundus,” says St. Basil, “humanam quasi liguram amittit, ferae specimen indutus.” (Hom, xxi). But, if anger disfigures us before men, how much more deformed will it render us in the eyes of God! In this discourse I will show, in the first point, the destruction which anger unrestrained brings on the soul; and, in the second, how we ought to restrain anger in all occasions of provocation which may occur to us.

 

First Point. The ruin which anger unrestrained brings on the soul.

 

1. St. Jerome says that anger is the door by which all vices enter the soul. “Omnium vitiorum jantia est iracundia.” (Inc. 29 Prov). Anger precipitates men into resentments, blasphemies, acts of injustice, detractions, scandals, and other iniquities; for the passion of anger darkens the understanding, and makes a man act like a beast and a madman. “Caligavit ab indignatione oculus meus.” (Job 17:7). My eyes  has lost its sight through indignation. David said, “My eyes  is troubled with wrath.” (Ps. 30:10). Hence, according to St. Bonaventure, an angry man is incapable of distinguishing between what is just and unjust. “Iratus non potest videre quod justum est vel injustum.” In a word, St. Jerome says that anger deprives a man of prudence, reason, and understanding. “Ab omni concilio deturpat, ut donee irascitur, insanire credatur.” Hence, St. James says, “The anger of man works not the justice of God.” (Jas. 1:20). The acts of a man under the influence of anger cannot be conformable to the divine justice, and consequently cannot be faultless.

 

2. A man who does not restrain the impulse of anger, easily falls into hatred towards the person who has been the occasion of his passion. According to St. Augustine, hatred is nothing else than persevering anger. “Odium est ira diuturno tempore perseverans.” Hence, St. Thomas says that “anger is sudden, but hatred is lasting. “ (Opusc. v). It appears, then, that in him in whom anger perseveres hatred also reigns. But some will say, I am the head of the house; I must correct my children and servants, and, when necessary, I must raise my voice against the disorders which I witness. I say in answer, It is one thing to be angry against a brother, and another to be displeased at the sin of a brother. To be angry against sin is not anger, but zeal; and therefore it is not only lawful, but is sometimes a duty. But our anger must be accompanied with prudence, and must appear to be directed against sin, but not

 

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against the sinner; for, if the person whom we correct perceive that we speak through passion and hatred towards him, the correction will be unprofitable and even mischievous. To be angry, then, against a brother’s sin is certainly lawful. “He,” says St. Augustine, “is not angry with a brother who is angry against a brother’s sin.” It is thus, as David said, we may be angry without sin. “Be you angry, and sin not.” (Ps. 4:5). But, to be angry against a brother on account of the sin which he has committed is not lawful; because, according to St. Augustine, we are not allowed to hate others for their vices. “Nee propter vitia (licet). homines odisse” (in Ps. xcviii)..

 

3. Hatred brings with it a desire of revenge; for, according to St. Thomas, anger, when fully voluntary, is accompanied with a desire of revenge. “Ira est appetitus vindicteo.” But you will perhaps say, If I resent such an injury, God will have pity on me, because I have just grounds of resentment Who, I ask, has told you that you have just grounds for seeking revenge? It is you, whose understanding is clouded by passions, that say so. I have already said that anger obscures the mind, and takes away our reason and understanding. As long as the passion of auger lasts, you will consider your neighbor's conduct very unjust and intolerable; but, when your anger shall have passed away, you shall see that his act was not so bad as it appeared to you. But, through the injury be grievous, or even more grievous, God will not have compassion, on you if you seek revenge. No, he says, vengeance for sins belongs not to you, but to me; and when the time shall come I will chastise them as they deserve. “Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time.” (Deut. 32:35). If you resent an injury done to you by a neighbor, God will justly inflict vengeance on you for all the injuries you have offered to him, and particularly for taking revenge on a brother whom he commands you to pardon. “He that seeks to revenge himself, shall find vengeance from the Lord .... Man to man reserves anger, and does  he seek remedy of God? .... He that is but flesh nourishes anger; and does  he ask forgiveness of God? Who shall obtain pardon for his sins?” (Sir. 28:1, 3, 5). Man, a worm of flesh, reserves anger, and takes revenge on a brother, does he afterwards dare to ask mercy of God? And who, adds the sacred writer, can obtain pardon for the iniquities of so daring a sinner? “Qua ironte,” says St. Augustine, “indulgentiam peccatorem obtinere poterit, qui præcipienti dare veniam non acquiescit.” How can he who will not obey the command of God to pardon his neighbor, expect to obtain from God the forgiveness of his own sins?

 

4. Let us implore the Lord to preserve us from yielding to any strong passion, and particularly to anger. “Give me not over to a shameful and foolish mind.” (Sir. 33:6). For, he that submits to such a passion is exposed to great danger of falling into a grievous sin against God or his neighbor. How many, in consequence of not restraining anger, break out into horrible blasphemies against God or his saints! But, at the very time we are in a flame of indignation, God is armed with scourges. The Lord said one day to the Prophet Jeremias, “What see you, Jeremias? And I said, I see a rod watching.” (Jer. 1:11). Lord, I behold a rod watching to inflict punishment. “The Lord asked him again, “What see you? And I said, I see a boiling caldron.” (Ibid., v. 13).. The boiling caldron is the figure of a man inflamed with wrath, and threatened with a rod, that is, with the vengeance of God. Behold, then, the ruin which anger unrestrained brings on man. It deprives him, first, of the grace of God, and afterwards of corporal life. “Envy and anger shortens a man's days.” (Sir. 30:26). Job says, “Anger indeed kills the foolish.” (Job 5:2). All the days of their life, persons

 

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addicted to anger are unhappy, because they are always in a tempest. But let us pass to the second point, in which I have to say many things which will assist you to overcome this vice.

 

Second Point. How we ought to restrain anger in the occasions of provocation which occur to us.

 

5. In the first place it is necessary to know that it is not possible for human weakness, in the midst of so many occasions, to be altogether free from every motion of anger. “No one,” as Seneca says, “can be entirely exempt from this passion. “ “Iracundia nullum genus hominum excipit” (I. 3, c. xii).. All our efforts must be directed to the moderation of the feelings of anger which spring up in the soul. How are they to be moderated? By meekness. This is called the virtue of the lamb that is, the beloved virtue of Jesus Christ. Because, like a lamb, without anger or even complaint, he bore the sorrows of his passion and crucifixion. “He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.” (Is. 53:7). Hence, he has taught us to learn of him meekness and humility of heart. “Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” (Matt. 11:29).

 

6. Oh! how pleasing in the sight of God are the meek, who submit in peace to all crosses, misfortunes, persecutions, and injuries! To the meek is promised the kingdom of Heaven. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.” (Matt. 5:4). They are called the children of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God." (Ibid., v. 9). Some boast of their meekness, but without any grounds; for they are meek only towards those who praise and confer favors upon them, but to those who injure or censure them they are all fury and vengeance. The virtue of meekness consists in being meek and peaceful towards those who hate and maltreat us. “With them, that hated peace I was peaceful.” (Ps. 119:7).

 

7. We must, as St. Paul says, put on the bowels of mercy towards all men, and bear one with another. “Put on you the bowels of mercy, humility, modesty, patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another.” (Col 3:12-13). You wish others to bear with your defects, and to pardon your faults; you should act in the same manner towards them. Whenever, then, you receive an insult from a person enraged against you, remember that a “mild answer breaks wrath,” (Prov. 15:1). A certain monk once passed through a cornfield, the owner of the field ran out, and spoke to him in very offensive and injurious language. The monk humbly replied, Brother, you are right; I have done wrong; pardon me. By this answer the husbandman was so much appeased that he instantly became calm, and even wished to follow the monk, and to enter into religion. The proud make use of the humiliations they receive to increase their pride; but the humble and the meek turn the contempt and insults offered to them into an occasion of advancing in humility. “He,” says St. Bernard, “is humble who converts humiliation into humility.” (Ser. 24. in Can).

 

8. “A man of meekness,” says St. Chrysostom, “is useful to himself and to others.” The meek are useful to themselves, because, according to F. Alvares, the time of humiliation and contempt is for them the time of merit. Hence, Jesus Christ calls his disciples happy when they shall be reviled and persecuted. “Blessed are you when they shall revile you and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:11). Hence, the saints have always desired to be despised as Jesus

 

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Christ has been despised. The meek are useful to others; because, as the same St. Chrysostom says, there is nothing better calculated to draw others to God, than to see a Christian meek and cheerful when he receives an injury or an, insult. “Nihil ita conciliat Domino familiares ut quod ilium vident mansuetudine jucundum.” The reason is, because virtue is known by being tried; and, as gold is tried by fire, so the meekness of men is proved by humiliation. “Gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. “ (Sir. 2:5).”My spikenard, “says the spouse in the Canticles, “sent forth the odor thereof” (1.11). The spikenard is an odoriferous plant, but diffuses its odors only when, it is torn and bruised. In this passage the inspired writer gives us to understand, that a man cannot be said to be meek unless he is known to send forth the odor of his meekness by bearing injuries and insults in peace and without anger. God wishes us to be meek even towards ourselves. When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself, to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself, and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for, while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good. “My heart is troubled; my strength has left me.” (Ps. 37:11).

 

9. Thus, when we receive an insult, we must do violence to ourselves in order to restrain anger. Let us either answer with meekness, as recommended above, or let us remain silent; and thus, as St. Isidore says, we shall conquer. “Quamvis quis irritet, tu dissimula, quia tacendo vinces.” But, if you answer through passion, you shall do harm to yourselves and others. It would be still worse to give an angry answer to a person who corrects you. “Medicanti irascitur,” says St. Bernard, “qui non irascitur sagittanti.” (Ser. vi. de Nativ). Some are not angry, through they ought to be indignant with those who wound their souls by flattery; and are filled with indignation against the person who censures them in order to heal their irregularities. Against the man who abhors correction, the sentence of perdition has, according to the Wise Man, been pronounced. “Because they have despised all my reproofs,. . . .the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” (Prov. 1:30, etc). Fools regard as prosperity to be free from correction, or to despise the admonitions which they receive; but such prosperity is the cause of their ruin. When you meet with an occasion of anger, you must, in the first place, be on your guard not to allow anger to enter your heart. “Be not quickly angry” (Eccles. 7:10). Some persons change color, and get into a passion, at every contradiction, and when anger has got admission, God knows to what it shall lead them. Hence, it is necessary to foresee these occasions in our meditations and prayers; for, unless we are prepared for them, it will be as difficult to restrain anger as to put a bridle on a horse while running away.

 

10. Whenever we have the misfortune to permit anger to enter the soul, let us be careful not to allow it to remain. Jesus Christ tells all who remember that a brother is offended with them, not to offer the gift, which they bring to the altar without being first reconciled to their neighbor. “Go first to be reconciled to your  brother, and then coming you shall offer your  gift.” (Matt. 5:24). And he who has received any offence, should endeavor to root out of his heart not only all anger, but also every feeling of bitterness towards the persons who have offended him. “Let all bitterness,” says St. Paul, “and anger and indignation be put away from you.” (Eph. 4:31). As long as anger continues, follow the advice of Seneca “When you shall be angry do nothing, say nothing, which may be dictated by anger.” Like David, be silent, and do not speak, when you feel that you are disturbed. “I was troubled, and I spoke

 

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not.” (Ps. 76:5). How many when inflamed with anger, say and do what they afterwards, in their cooler moments, regret, and excuse themselves by saying that they were in a passion? As long, then, as anger lasts we must be silent, and abstain from doing or resolving to do anything; for, what is done in the heat of passion will, according to the maxim of St. James, be unjust. “The anger of man works not the justice of God.” (1. 20). It is also necessary to abstain altogether from consulting those who might foment our indignation. “Blessed,” says David, “is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.” (Ps. 1:1). To him who is asked for advice, Ecclesiasticus says. “If you blow the spark, it shall burn as a fire; and if you spit upon it, it shall be quenched.” (Sir. 28:14). When a person is indignant at some injury, which he has received, you may, by exhorting him to patience, extinguish the fire; but, if you encourage revenge, you may kindle a great flame. Let him, then, who feels himself in any way inflamed with anger, be on his guard against false friends, who, by an imprudent word, may be the cause of his perdition.

 

11. Let us follow the advice of the apostle, “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Hom, 12:21). “Be not overcome by evil,” do not allow yourself to be conquered by sin. If, through anger, you seek revenge or utter blasphemies, you are overcome by sin. But you will say, “I am naturally of a warm temper.” By the grace of God, and by doing violence to yourself, you will be able to conquer your natural disposition. Do not consent to anger, and you shall subdue the warmth of your temper. But you say, “I cannot bear with unjust treatment.” In answer I tell you, first, to remember that anger obscures reason, and prevents us from seeing things as they are. “Fire has fallen on them, and they shall not see the sun.” (Ps. 57:9). Secondly, if you return evil for evil, your enemy shall gain a victory over you. “If,” said David, “I have rendered to them that repaid me evils, let me deservedly fall empty before my enemies.” (Ps. 7:5). If I render evil for evil, I shall be defeated by my enemies. “Overcome evil by good. “Render every foe good for evil. “Do good,” says Jesus Christ, “to them that hate you.” (Matt. 5:44). This is the revenge of the saints, and is called by St. Paulinus, Heavenly revenge. It is by such revenge that you shall gain the victory. And should any of those, of whom the Prophet says, “The venom, of asps is under their lips” (Ps. 139:4)., ask how you can submit to such an injury, let your answer be, “The chalice which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). And then turning to God you shall say, “I opened not my mouth, because you have done it” (Ps. 38:10)., for it is certain that every cross which befalls you comes from the Lord. “Good things and evil are from God.” (Eccl 11:14). Should anyone take away your property, recover it if you can; but if you cannot, say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (1. 21). A certain philosopher, who lost some of his goods in a storm, said, “If 1 have lost my goods I will not lose my peace.” And, do you say, If I have lost my property, I will not lose my soul.

 

12. In fine, when we meet with crosses, persecutions, and injuries, let us turn to God, who commands us to bear them with patience; and thus we shall always avoid anger. “Remember the fear of God, and be not angry with your  neighbor.” (Sir. 28:8). Let us give a look at the will of God, which disposes things in this manner for our merit, and anger shall cease. Let us give a look at Jesus crucified, and we shall not have courage to complain. St. Eleazar being asked by his spouse how he bore so many injuries without yielding to anger, answered, I turn to Jesus Christ, and thus I preserve my peace. Finally, let us give a glance at our sins, for which we have deserved far greater contempt and chastisement, and we shall calmly submit to all evils. St. Augustine says, that through we are sometimes innocent of the crime for which

 

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we are persecuted, we are, nevertheless, guilty of other sins which merit greater punishment than that which we endure. “Esto non habemus peccatum, quod objicitur, habemus tamen, quod digne in nobis flagelletur.” (in Ps. Ixviii).

 

SERMON XXXV. SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON THE VANITY OF THE WORLD.

 

“And have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:2.

 

1. Such were the attractions of our Divine Savior, and such the sweetness with which he received all, that he drew after him thousands of the people. Ho one day saw himself surrounded by a great multitude of men, who followed him and remained with him three days, without eating anything. Touched with pity for them, Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude; for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat.” (Mark 8:2). He, on this occasion, wrought the miracle of the multiplication of the seven loaves and a few fishes, so as to satisfy the whole multitude. This is the literal sense; but the mystic sense is, that in this world there is no food, which can fill the desire of our souls. All the goods of this earth riches, honors, and pleasures delight the sense of the body, but cannot satiate the soul, which has been created” for God, and which God alone can content. “ I will, therefore speak Today on the vanity of the world, and will show how great is the illusion of the lovers of the world, who lead an unhappy life on this earth, and expose themselves to the imminent danger of a still more unhappy life in eternity.

 

2. “O you sons of men,” exclaims the Royal Prophet, against worldlings, “how long will you be dull at heart? Why do you love vanity and seek after lying?” (Ps. 4:3). O men, fools, how long will you fix the affections of your hearts on this earth? why do you love the goods of this world, which are all vanity and lies? Do you imagine that you shall find peace by the acquisition of these goods? But how can you expect to find peace, while you walk in the ways of affliction, and misery? Behold how David describes the condition of worldlings. “Destruction and unhappiness in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.” (Ps. 13:3). You hope to obtain peace from the world; but how can the world give you that peace which you seek, when St. John says, “that the whole world is seated in wickedness?” (I John 5:19). The world is full of iniquities; Hence, worldlings live under the despotism of the wicked one that is, the Devil. The Lord has declared that there is no peace for the wicked who live without his grace. “There is no peace to the wicked.” (Is. 48:22).

 

3. The goods of the world are but apparent goods, which cannot satisfy the heart of man. “You have eaten,” says the Prophet Aggeus, “and have not had enough.” (Ag. 1:6). Instead of satisfying our hunger they increase it. “These,” says St. Bernard, “provoke rather than extinguish hunger.” If the goods of this work! made men content, the rich and powerful should enjoy complete happiness; but experience shows the contrary. We see every day that they are the most unhappy of men; they appear always oppressed by fears, by jealousies and sadness. Listen to King Solomon, who abounded in these goods, “And behold all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” (Sir. 1:14). He tells us, that all things in this world are vanity, lies, and illusion. They are not only vanity, but also affliction of spirit. They torture the poor soul, which finds in them a continual source, not of happiness, but of affliction and bitterness. This is a just punishment on those who instead of serving their God with joy, wish to serve their enemy the world which makes them endure the want of every good. “Because you didst not

 

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serve the Lord your  God with joy and gladness of heart you shaft serve your  enemy in hunger, and thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things. “(Deut. 28:47-48). Man expects to content his heart with the goods of this earth; but, howsoever abundantly he may possess them, he is never satisfied. Hence, he always seeks after more of them, and is always unhappy. Oh! happy he who wishes for nothing but God; for God will satisfy all the desires of his heart. “Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the requests of your  heart.” (Ps. 36:4). Hence, St. Augustine asks, “What, miserable man, do  you seek in seeking after goods? Seek one good, in which are all goods.” And, having dearly learned that the goods of this world do not content, but rather afflict the heart of man, the saint, turning to the Lord, said, “All things are hard, and you alone repose.” Hence, in saying, “My God and my all,” the seraphic St. Francis, through divested of all worldly goods, enjoyed greater riches and happiness than an the worldlings on this earth. yes ; for the peace which fills the soul that desires nothing but God, surpasses all the delights which creatures can give. They can only delight the senses, but cannot content the heart of man. “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7). According to St. Thomas, the difference between God, the sovereign good, and the goods of the earth, consists in this, that he more perfectly we possess God, the more ardently we love him, because the more perfectly we possess him, the better we comprehend his infinite greatness, and therefore the more we despise other things; but, when we possess temporal goods, we despise them, because we see their emptiness, and desire other things, which may make us content. “Summum bonum quanto perfectius possidetur, tanto magis amatur, et alia contemnuntur. Sed in appetitu temporalium bonorum, quando habentur, contemnentur, et alia appetuntur.” (S. Thom, 1. 2, qu. 2, art. 1, ad. 3).

 

4. The Prophet Hosea tells us that the world holds in its hand a deceitful balance. “He is like Chanaan” (that is the world).; “there is a deceitful balance in his hand.” (Hosea 12:7). We must, then, weigh things in the balance of God, and not in that of the world, which makes them appear different from what they are. What are the goods of this life? “My days, “said Job, “have been swifter than a post, they have passed by as ships carrying fruits.” (Job 9:25-26). The ships signify the lives of men, which soon pass away, and run speedily to death; and if men have labored only to provide themselves with earthly goods, these fruits decay at the hour of death, we can bring none of them with us to the other world. We, says St. Ambrose, falsely call these things our property, which we cannot bring with us to eternity, where we must live forever, and where virtue alone will accompany us. “Non nostra sunt, quæ non possumus auferre nobiscum, sola virtus nos comitatur.” You, says St. Augustine, attend only to what a rich man possessed; but tell me, which of his possessions shall he, now that he is on the point of death, be able to take with him? "Quid hie habebat attendis, quid secum fert, atteudo?” (Serm. xiii. de Adv. Dom). The rich bring with them a miserable garment, which shall rot with them in the grave. And should they, during life, have acquired a great name, they shall be soon forgotten. “Their memory has perished with a noise.” (Ps. 9:7).

 

5. Oh! That men would keep before their eyes that great maxim of Jesus Christ. “What does  it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26). If they did, they should certainly cease to love the world. What shall it profit them at the hour of death to have acquired all the goods of this world, if their souls must go into hell to be in torments for all eternity? How many has this maxim, sent into the cloister and into the desert? How many martyrs has it encouraged to embrace torments and death! In the history

 

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of England, we read of thirty kings and queens, who left the world and became religious, in order to secure a happy death. The consideration of the vanity of earthly goods made St. Francis Borgia retire from the world. At the sight of the Empress Isabella, who had died in the flower of youth , he came to the resolution of serving God alone. “Is such, then,” he said, “the end of all the grandeur and crowns of this world? Henceforth I will serve a master who can never die.” The day of death is called “the day of destruction.” “The day of destruction is at hand” (Deut. 32:35)., because on that day we shall lose and give up all the goods of the world all its riches, honors, and pleasures. The shade of death obscures all the treasures and grandeurs of this earth; it obscures even the purple and the crown. Sister Margaret of St. Anne, a Discalced Carmelite, and daughter of the Emperor Rodolph the Second, used to say, “What do kingdoms profit us at the hour of death?” “The affliction of an hour makes one forget great delights.” (Sir. 11:29). The melancholy hour of death puts an end to all the delights and pomps of this life. St. Gregory says, that all goods which cannot remain with us, or which are incapable of taking away our miseries, are deceitful. “Fallaces sunt que nobiscum permanere non possunt, fallaces sunt que mentis nostræ inopiam non expellunt.” (Hom. xv. in Luc). Behold a sinner whom the riches and honors, which he had acquired made an object of envy to others. Death came upon him when he was at the summit of his glory, and he is no longer what he was. “I have seen the wicked highly exalted, and lifted up like the cedars of Libanus; and I passed by, and lo! he was not; and I sought him, and his place was not found.” (Ps. 36:35, 38).

 

6. These truths the unhappy damned fruitlessly confess in hell, where they exclaim with tears, “What has pride profited us? or what advantage has the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.” (Wis. 5:8-9). What, they say, have our pomps and riches profited us, now that they are all passed away like a shadow, and for us nothing remains but eternal torments and despair? Dearly beloved Christians, let us open our eyes, and now that we have it in our power, let us attend to the salvation of our souls; for, if we lose them, we shall not be able to save them in the next life. Aristippus, the philosopher, was once shipwrecked, and lost all his goods; but such was the esteem which the people entertained for him on account of his learning, that, as soon as he reached the shore, they presented him with an equivalent for all that he had lost. He then wrote to his friends, and exhorted them to attend to the acquisition of goods, which cannot be lost by shipwreck. Our relatives and friends who have passed into eternity exhort us, from the other world, to labor in this life for the attainment of goods which are not lost at death. If at that awful moment we shall be found to have attended only to the accumulation of earthly goods, we shall be called fools, and shall receive the reproach addressed to the rich man in the gospel, who, after having reaped an abundant crop from his fields, said to himself, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your  rest, eat, drink, make good cheer. But, God said to him, You fool, this night do they require your  soul of you, and whose shall those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:9-20). He said, “they require your  soul of you,” because to everyman his soul is given, not with full power to dispose of it as he pleases, but it is given to him in trust, that he may preserve and return it to God in a state of innocence, when it shall be presented at the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge. The Redeemer concludes this parable by saying, “So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God” (v. 21).. This is what happens to those who seek to enrich themselves with the goods of this life, and not with the love of God. Hence, St. Augustine asks, “What has the rich man if he has not charity? If the poor man has charity, what is there that he has not?” He that possesses all

 

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the treasures of this world, and has not charity, is the poorest of men; but the poor who have God possess all things, through they should be bereft of all earthly goods.

 

7. “The children of this world,” says Jesus Christ, “are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” (Luke 16:8). how wise in earthly affairs are worldlings, who live in the midst of the darkness of the world! “Behold,” says St. Augustine, “how much men suffer for things for which they entertain a vicious love.” “What fatigue do they endure for the acquisition of property, or of a situation of profit! With what care do they endeavor to preserve their bodily health! They consult the best physician, and procure the best medicine. And Christians, who are the children of light, will take no pains, will suffer nothing, to secure the salvation of their souls! God! at the light of the candle which lights them to death, at that hour, at that time, which is called the time of truth, worldlings shall see and confess their folly. Then each of them shall exclaim, that I had led the life of a saint! At the hour of death, Philip the Second, King of Spain, called in his son, and having shown him his breast devoured with worms, said to him, Son, behold how we die; behold the end of all worldly greatness. He then ordered a wooden cross to be fastened to his neck; and, having made arrangements for his death, he turned again to his son, and said, My son, I wished you to be present at this scene, that you might understand how the world in the end treats even monarchs. He died saying, Oh, that I had been a lay brother in some religious order, and that I had not been a king! Such is the language at the hour of death, even of the princes of the earth, whom worldlings regard as the most fortunate of men. But these desires and sights of regret serve only to increase the anguish and remorse of the lovers of the world at the hour of death, when the scene is about to close.

 

8. And what is the present life but a scene, which soon passes away forever? It may end when we least expect it. Cassimir, King of Poland, while he sat at table with his grandees, died in the act of raising a cup to take a draught; thus the scene ended for him. The Emperor Celsus was put to death in seven days after his election; and the scene closed for him. Ladislaus, King of Bohemia, in his eighteenth year , while he was preparing for the reception of his spouse, the daughter of the King of France, was suddenly seized with a violent pain, which took away his life. Couriers were instantly dispatched to announce to her that the scene was over for Ladislaus, that she might return to France. “The world,” says Cornelius à Lapide, in his comment upon this passage, “is like a stage. One generation passes away, and a new generation comes. The king does not take with him the purple. Tell me, villa, O house, how many masters had you?” In every age the inhabitants of this earth are changed. Cities and kingdoms are filled with new people. The first generation passes to the other world, a second comes on, and this is followed by another. He who, in the scene of this world, has acted the part of a king is no longer a king. The master of such a villa or palace is no longer its master. Hence, the Apostle gives us the following advice, “The time is short; it remains that... they that use this world be as if they used it not; for the fashion of this world passes away.” (I Cor. 7:29-30). Since the time of our dwelling on this earth is short, and since all must end with our death, let us make use of this world to despise it, as if it did not exist for us; and let us labor to acquire the eternal treasures of Heaven, where, as the Gospel says, there are no moths to consume, nor thieves to steal them. “But lay up to yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth does  consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” (Matt. 6:20). St. Teresa used to say, “We should not set value on what ends with life; the true life consists in living in such a manner as not to be afraid of death.”

 

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Death shall have no terror for him who, during life, is detached from the vanities of this world, and is careful to provide himself only with goods which shall accompany him to eternity, and make him happy forever.

 

SERMON XXXVI. SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. - ON THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.

 

“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.” Matt. 7:18.

 

Then the gospel of this day tells us, that a good plant cannot produce bad fruit, and that a bad one cannot produce good fruit. Learn from this, brethren, that a good father brings up good children. But, if parents be wicked, how can the children be virtuous? Have you ever, says the Redeemer, in the same gospel, seen grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? “Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?” (v. 16). And, in like manner, it is impossible, or rather very difficult, to find children virtuous, who are brought up by immoral parents. Fathers and mothers, be attentive to this sermon, which is of great importance to the eternal salvation of yourselves and of your children. Be attentive, young men and young women, who have not as yet chosen a state of life. If you wish to marry, learn this day the obligations, which you can contract with regard to the education of your children; and learn also that, if you do not fulfill them, you shall bring yourselves and all your children to damnation. I shall divide this sermon into two points. In the first, I shall show how important it is to bring up children in habits of virtue; and in the second, I shall show with what care and diligence a parent ought to labor to bring them up well.

 

First Point. How very important it is to bring up children in habits of virtue.

 

1. A father owes two obligations to his children; he is bound to provide for their corporal wants, and to educate them in habits of virtue. It is not necessary at present to say more on the first obligation, than that there are some fathers more cruel than the most ferocious of wild beasts; for these do not forget to nourish their offspring; but certain parents squander away in eating and drinking, and gaming, all their property, or all the fruits of their industry, and allow their children to die of hunger. But let us come to the education, which is the subject of my discourse.

 

2. It is certain that a child’s future good or ill conduct depends on his being brought up well or ill. Nature itself teaches every parent to attend to the education of his offspring. He who has given them being ought to endeavor to make life useful to them. God gives children to parents, not that they may assist the family, but that they may be brought up in the fear of God, and be directed in the way of eternal salvation. “We have,” says St. Chrysostom, “a great deposit in children; let us attend to them with great care.” (Hom, ix., in 1 ad Tit). Children have not been given to parents as a present, which they may dispose of as they please, but as a trust, for which, if lost through their negligence, they must render an account to God. The Scripture tells us, that when a father observes the divine law, both he and his children shall prosper. “That it may be well with you and your  children after you, when you shall do that which is pleasing in the sight of God.” (Deut. 12:25). The good or ill conduct of a parent may be known, by those who have not witnessed it, from the life which his children lead. “For by the fruit the tree is known. “ (Matt. 12:33).”A father, “ says Ecclesiasticus, “who

 

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leaves a family, when he departs this life, is as if he had not died; because his sons remain, and exhibit his habits and character. His father is dead, and he is as if he were not dead; for he has left one behind him that is like himself.” (Sir. 30:4). When we find a son addicted to blasphemies, to obscenities, and to theft, we have reason to suspect that such too was the character of the father. “For a man is known by his children.” (Sir.11:30).

 

3. Hence, Origen says, that on the Day of Judgment parents shall have to render an account for all the sins of their children. “Omnia quæcumque delinquerint filii, a parentibus requiruntur." (Grig., Lib. 2, in Job). Hence, he who teaches his son to live well, shall die a happy and tranquil death. “He that teachs his son ...when he died he was not sorrowful, neither was he confounded.” (Sir. 30:3-5). And he shall save his soul by means of his children; that is, by the virtuous education which he has given them. “She shall be saved through child-bearing.” (1 Tim. 2:15). But, on the other hand, a very uneasy and unhappy death shall be the lot of those who have labored only to increase the possessions, or to multiply the honors of their family; or who have sought only to lead a life of ease and pleasure, but have not watched over the morals of their children. St. Paul says, that such parents are worse than infidels. “But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8). “Were fathers or mothers to lead a life of piety and continual prayer, and to communicate every day, they should be damned if they neglected the care of their children. “Would to God that certain parents paid as much attention to their children as they do to their horses! How careful are they to see that their horses are fed and well trained! And they take no pains to make their children attend at catechism, hear mass, or go to confession. “We take more care” says St. Chrysostom, “of our asses and horses, than of the children. “(Hom, x., in Matt).

 

4. If all fathers fulfilled their duty of watching over the education of their children, we should have but few crimes and few executions. By the bad education, which parents give to their offspring, they cause their children, says St. Chrysostom, to rush into many grievous vices; and thus they deliver them up to the hands of the executioner. “Majoribus illos malis involvimus, et carnificum manibus damus.” (Serin, xx., de divers). Hence, in Lacedemon, a parent, as being the cause of all the irregularities of his children, was justly punished for their crimes with greater severity than the children themselves. Great indeed is the misfortune of the child that has vicious parents, who are incapable of bringing up their children in the fear of God, and who, when they see their children engaged in dangerous friendships and in quarrels, instead of correcting and chastising them, rather take compassion on them, and say, “What can be done? They are young; they must take their course.” Oh! What wicked maxims! what a cruel education! Do you hope that when your children grow up they shall become saints? Listen to what Solomon says, “A young man, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6). A young man who has contracted a habit of sin will not abandon it even in his old age. “His bones,” says Job, “shall be filled with the vices of his youth , and they shall sleep with him in the dust.” (Job 20:11).

 

When a young person has lived in evil habits, his bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth , so that he will carry them with him to death; and the impurities, blasphemies, and hatred to which he was accustomed in his youth , shall accompany him to the grave, and shall sleep -with him after his bones shall be reduced to dust and ashes. It is very easy, when they are small, to train up children to habits of virtue; but, when they have come to manhood, it is

 

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equally difficult to correct them, if they have learned habits of vice. But, let us come to the second point that is, to the means of bringing up children in the practice of virtue. I entreat you, fathers and mothers, to remember what I now say to you; for on it depends the eternal salvation of your own souls, and of the souls of your children.

 

Second Point. On the care and diligence with which parents ought to endeavor to bring up their children in habits of virtue.

 

5. St. Paul teaches sufficiently, in a few words, in what the proper education of children consists. He says that it consists in discipline and correction. “And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord.” (Ephes. 6:4 ). Discipline, which is the same as the religious regulation of the morals of children, implies an obligation of educating them in habits of virtue by word and example. First, by words, a good father should often assemble his children, and instill into them the holy fear of God. It was in this manner that Tobias brought up his little son. The father taught him from his childhood to fear the Lord and to fly from sin. “And from his infancy he taught him to fear God and to abstain from sin. “ (Tob. 1:10). The Wise Man says that a well educated son is the support and consolation of his father. “Instruct your  son, and he shall refresh you, and shall give delight to your  soul.” (Prov. 29:17). But, as a well instructed son is the delight of his father’s soul, so an ignorant child is a source of sorrow to a father’s heart; for the ignorance of his obligations as a Christian is always accompanied with a bad life. Cantipratensis relates (lib. 1, cap. 20). that, in the year  1248, an ignorant priest was commanded, in a certain synod, to make a discourse. But while he was greatly agitated by the command, the devil appeared to him, and instructed him to say, “The rectors of infernal darkness salute the rectors of parishes, and thank them for their negligence in instructing the people; because from ignorance proceed the misconduct and the damnation of many.” The same is true of negligent parents. In the first place, a parent ought to instruct his children in the truths of faith, and particularly in the four principal mysteries. First, that there is but one God, the Creator, and Lord of all things; secondly, that this God is a remunerator, who, in the next life, shall reward the good with the eternal glory of Heaven, and shall punish the wicked with the everlasting torments of hell; thirdly, the mystery of the holy Trinity that is, that in God there are Three Persons, who are only one God, because they have but one essence; fourthly, the mystery of the incarnation of the Divine Word the Son of God, and true God, who became man in the womb of Mary, and suffered and died for our salvation. Should a father or a mother say, I myself do not know these mysteries, can such an excuse be admitted? That is, can one sin excuse another? If you are ignorant of these mysteries you are obliged to learn them, and afterwards teach them to your children. At least, send your children to the catechism. Oh! what a misery to see so many fathers and mothers who are unable to instruct their children in the most necessary truths of faith, and who, instead of sending their sons and daughters to the Christian doctrine on festivals, employ them in messages, or other occupations of little moment; and when grown up they know not what is meant by mortal sin, by hell, or eternity. They do not even know the Creed, the Pater Noster, or the Hail Mary, which every Christian is bound to learn under pain of mortal sin.

 

6. Religious parents not only instruct their children in these things, which are the most important, but they also teach them the acts which ought to be made every morning after

 

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rising. They teach them, first, to thank God for having preserved their life during the night; secondly, to offer to God all the good actions which they will perform, and all the pains which they shall suffer during the day; thirdly, to implore of Jesus Christ and most holy Mary to preserve them from all sin during the day. They teach them to make every evening an examination of conscience and an act of contrition. They also teach them to make every day the acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, to recite the Rosary, and to visit the Blessed Sacrament. Some good fathers of families are careful to get a book of meditations read, and to have mental prayer in common for half an hour every day. This is what the Holy Spirit exhorts you to practice. “Have you children? Instruct them and bow down their neck from their childhood.” (Sir. 7:25). Endeavor to train them from their infancy to these religious habits, and when they grow up they shall persevere in them. Accustom them also to go to confession and communion every week. Be careful to make them go to confession when they arrive at the age of seven, and to communion at the age of ten. This is the advice of St. Charles Borromeo. As soon as they attain the use of reason make them receive the sacrament of confirmation.

 

7. It is also very useful to infuse good maxims into the infant minds of children. Oh! what ruin is brought upon his children by the father who teaches them worldly maxims! “You must,” some people say to their children, “seek the esteem and applause of the world. God is merciful; he takes compassion on certain sins.” Miserable the young man who sins in obedience to such maxims. Good parents teach very different maxims to their children. Queen Blanche, the mother of St. Louis, King of France, used to say to him, “My son, I would rather see you dead in my arms than in the state of sin.” Oh! brethren, let it be your practice also to infuse into your children certain maxims of salvation, such as, “What will it profit us to gain the whole world, if we lose our own souls? Everything on this earth has an end; but eternity never ends. Let all be lost, provided God is not lost.” One of these maxims well impressed on the mind of a young person will preserve him always in the grace of God.

 

8. But parents are obliged to instruct their children in the practice of virtue, not only by words, but still more by example. If you give your children bad example, how can you expect that they will lead a good life? When a dissolute young man is corrected for a fault, he answers, Why do you censure me, when my father does worse. “The children will complain of an ungodly father, because for his sake they are in reproach. “(Sir. 41:10). How is it possible for a son to be moral and religious, when he has had the example of a father who was accustomed to utter blasphemies and obscenities; who spent the entire day in the tavern, in gaming and drunkenness; who was in the habit of frequenting houses of bad fame, and of defrauding his neighbor? Do you expect that your son will go frequently to confession, when you yourself approach the tribunal of penance scarcely once a year? Children are like apes; they do what they see their parents do. It is related in the fables, that a crab-fish one day rebuked its young for walking crookedly. They replied, Father, let us see you walk. The father walked before them more crookedly than they did. This is what happens to the parent who gives bad example. Hence, he has not even courage to correct his children for the sins which he himself commits.

 

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9. But through he should correct them, by words, of what use is his correction when he sets them a bad ex ample by his acts? It has been said in the council of Bishops, that “men believe the eyes rather than the ears.” And St. Ambrose says, “The eyes convince me of what they see more quickly than the ear can insinuate what is past.” (Serm. xxiii., de S. S). According to St. Thomas, scandalous parents compel, in a certain manner, their children to lead a bad life. “Eos ad peccatum, quantum in eis fuit obligaverunt” (in Ps. xvi).. They are not, says St. Bernard, fathers, but murderers; they kill, not the bodies, but the souls of their children. “Non parentes, sed peremptores.” It is useless for them to say, “My children have been born with bad dispositions.” This is not true; for, as Seneca says, “you err, if you think that vices are born with us; they have been engrafted.” (Ep. 94). Vices are not born with your children, but have been communicated to them by the bad example of the parents. If you had given good example to your sons, they should not be so vicious as they are. O brethren, frequent the sacraments, assist at sermons, recite the Rosary every day, abstain from all obscene language, from, detraction, and from quarrels; and you shall see that your sons will go often to confession, will assist at sermons, will say the Rosary, will speak modestly, and will fly from detraction and disputes. It is particularly necessary to train up children to virtue in their infancy, “Bow down their neck from their childhood;” for when they have grown up and contracted bad habits, it will be very difficult for you to produce, by words, any amendment in their lives.

 

10. To bring up children in the discipline of the Lord, it is also necessary to take away from them the occasion of doing evil. Hence, a father must, in the first place, forbid his children to go out at night, or to go to a house in which their virtue might be exposed to danger, or to keep bad company. “Cast out,” said Sarah to Abraham, “this bondwoman and her son.” (Gen. 21:10). She wished to have Ishmael, the son of Agar the bondwoman, banished from her house, that her son Isaac might not learn his vicious habits. Bad companions are the ruin of young persons. A father should not only remove the evil which he witnesses, but he is also bound to inquire after the conduct of his children, and to seek information from domestics and from externs regarding the places which his sons frequent when they leave home, regarding their occupations and companions. Secondly, he should take from them every musical instrument, which is to them an occasion of going out at night, and all forbidden weapons, which may lead them into quarrels or disputes. Thirdly, he should dismiss all immoral servants; and, if his sons be grown up, he should not keep in his house any young female servant. Some parents pay little attention to this; and when the evil happens, they complain of their children, as if they expected that tow thrown into the fire should not burn. Fourthly, a father ought to forbid his children ever to bring into his house stolen goods such as fowl, fruit, and the like. When Tobias heard the bleating of a goat in his house, he said, “Take heed, lest perhaps it be stolen; restore you it to its owners.” (Tob.. 2:11). How often does it happen that, when a child steals something, the mother says to him, “Bring it to me, my son.” Parents should prohibit to their children all games, which bring destruction on their families and on their own souls, and also masks, scandalous comedies, and certain, dangerous conversations and parties of pleasure. Fifthly, a father should remove from his house romances, which pervert young persons, and all bad books, which contain pernicious maxims, tales of obscenity, or of profane love.