Our apologies again for our little 'time out' on the blog, it seems we are still having issues which will hopefully be resolved soon. The winners of the Assumption Day giveaway have been posted on the giveaway post and have been notified via email, congrats to all those who won! Also the winner of the Holy Simplicity Planner and tabs has been announced over at All the Saint's books on the original giveaway post. Thank you to all who entered and God bless!
God the Teacher of Mankind- Vol 1
The Greatest and First Commandment
By: Rev. Fr. Michael Muller
12. Which are the spiritual works of mercy?
1, To convert the sinner; 2, to instruct the ignorant; 3, to. counsel the doubtful; 4, to comfort the sorrowful; 5, to bear wrongs patiently; 6, to forgive injuries; 7, to pray for the living and the dead.
1. To correct the sinner.
It is an article of our holy faith that the Son of God descended from heaven, became man, and died on the infamous gibbet of the cross, for no other purpose than to save mankind from perpetual destruction. His whole life was devoted to this end. For this purpose alone he established his Church on earth. Every christian, therefore, ought to be inflamed with zeal for the salvation of souls.
Now, what is the meaning of zeal for the salvation of souls. It is a desire to see God truly loved, and honored, and served by all men. Those who are inflamed with this beautiful fire endeavor to communicate it to the whole world. If they perceive that God is offended, they weep and lament; they feel interiorly devoured and consumed by the fervor of their zeal. "Who should be looked upon as a man consumed with the zeal for the house of God" "He who ardently desires to prevent offenses against God, and endeavors to induce those who have sinned to weep, and weeps and groans himself when he sees God dishonored." With such a zeal the saints of the Old Law were inflamed. "I found my heart and my bones,'' says Jeremiah (Xx., 9, 10.), "secretly inflamed as with a fire that even devoured me: and I fainted away, not being able to resist it; because I heard the blasphemies of many people." "I was inflamed with zeal for the God of armies," says Elias, because the children of Israel have broken their covenant." (III. Kings xix., 10.) "A fainting has taken hold of me," says the Royal Prophet, "because sinners have forsaken thy law; and my zeal hath made me pine away, because my enemies forgot thy commandments." (Psalm cxviii., 53.) These holy men were thus afflicted at the sight of the license with which the wicked violated the law of God. The sorrow of their minds passed into the humors of their body, and even into their very blood, as it were. "I beheld the wicked," says David; "I pined away; because they kept not thy commandments." (Ps. cxvi.ii.,158.) "Mine eyes became fountains of water; because they observed not thy law." (Ibid., 136.) It was the violence of his zeal that made David melt into tears when he beheld the infinite majesty of God offended. This zeal made St. Paul write to the Romans: "I speak the truth in Christ; I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart; for I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh." (Rom. ix., 1-3.)
How much have the saints not done for the salvation of their neighbors? Let us hear what the great Apostle of the Gentiles says of his own labors, troubles and sufferings for the salvation of men. In his epistles to the Corinthians he writes as follows: "Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst; and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode; and we labor with our own hands; we are reviled and we bless; we are persecuted and we suffer it; we are blasphemed and we entreat; we are made as the refuse of this world, the off scouring of all even until now." (I. Cor. iv., 11, 13.) "Our flesh had no rest, but we suffered all tribulation: combats without, fears within." (II. Cor. vii,, 5.) "In many more labors, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods; once I was stoned; thrice I suffered ship wreck; a night and a day was I in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. In labor and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." (II. Cor. xi., 23-27)
Were a St. Francis Xavier to appear among us he could tell us how, for the sake of the barbarians, he climbed mountains and exposed himself to innumerable dangers to find those wretched beings in the caverns, where they dwelt like wild beasts, and lead them to God.
A St. Francis de Sales could tell us how, in order to convert the heretics of the province of Chablais, he risked his life by crossing a river every day for a year, on his hands and knees, upon a frozen beam, that he might preach the truth to those stubborn men.
A St. Fidelis could tell us how, in order to bring back the heretics of a certain place, he risked his life by going to preach to them.
But here one may say : "I am not a priest, and, therefore, I cannot preach to sinners and convert them." To convert sinners, it is not necessary that you should be a priest. Your neighbor, for instance, has given up the practice of his religion for many years. He is sick and expected to die soon. Cannot you pay him a visit, speak kindly to him, and induce him to send for the priest and be reconciled to God? His salvation may depend on your visit, on a few kind words of exhortation and encouragement.
A certain Catholic once went to see a dying sinner. The unhappy man had led a long life of sin, and was now obstinate. He did not wish to hear of God or the priest. The good, zealous Catholic tried every means-tears, promises, threats, prayer ; but all in vain. The dying wretch was hardened. At last the zealous Catholic fell on his knees and begged God to give him this soul, and offered, for his sake, to endure any pain that he would inflict on him. An interior voice then said to him : "Your request shall be granted, but only on condition that you are willing to fall back into your former illness." He had formerly been subject to violent fits of colic. The good Catholic offered himself generously. He then once more spoke to the dying man, and found him quite changed-in the very best dispositions. He made his confession with every sign of true sorrow, and offered up his life in atonement of his sins. He received all the sacraments, and died in the arms of his true Catholic friend. The prayers of the good Catholic were heard; but no sooner had he returned home than he was seized with the most violent pains, which continued to increase until at last he died, the victim of his christian zeal for the salvation of a soul.
To relieve the wants of the body is undoubtedly an act of great charity; but to heal the wounds of the soul is an act of far greater charity. Now it is by admonition and counsel that we contribute towards the healing of the spiritual wounds of our neighbor. It is even a formal precept of the Gospel to do what is in our power to heal the wounds of our neighbor's soul, that is, to admonish him when he is in mortal sin or in danger of falling into it. "If thy brother transgress in thy presence," says our Lord,"reprimand and correct him.' 1 (Matt. xviii., 15.) If you neglect to correct the sinner, says St. Augustine, you become thereby worse than himself. So all who have Christian charity, whether superiors or inferiors, are bound to admonish and correct those who follow evil ways, if they have sufficient influence and authority over them, and have good reason to hope that the correction will be useful. Should the first admonition be fruitless, we are bound to repeat it several times, when we have good reason to hope that it will finally prove useful.
We are obliged to perform this act of charity: 1, when the sin of our neighbor is certain, but not when it is doubtful 2, when there is no other person capable of giving the admonition, and when it is not expected that any one else will give it; 3, when there is no reason for a prudent fear that, by correcting our neighbor, we shall suffer a grievous loss or inconvenience. For, if we have a good reason to fear that the correction will be attended with a considerable loss or inconvenience to ourselves, we are excused from the obligation of making it, because it is only an act of charity which is not obligatory under those circumstances. Parents, however, are obliged to their children, even attended with great inconvenience.
Has an inferior a right to correct his superior? Every act extends to all that is within the sphere of its power, as the sight, for instance, embraces all that is visible. Now as charity comprises all men without exception, it orders us to exercise fraternal correction without distinction of persons. The inferior, therefore, has a right to correct his superior when he sees him in fault or in error. But this must be done in a mild, prudent, respectful manner; for those who are above us in age or authority, merit respect and veneration. "An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father.' (l Tim. v., 1.)
Has one, who himself is in fault or sin, a right to correct another? To exercise this right, no more than the use of reason is needed. Now, sin does not destroy the natural gift of man. But he who attempts to direct others in the path of virtue and justice, must, first of all, begin to correct himself, otherwise he cannot be supposed to act with a charitable motive. If he, therefore, shows signs of repentance and amendment, and acts with a spirit of humility, he can exercise fraternal correction. What is to be done if the correction does not avail anything, but might, on the contrary, irritate the culprit and make him more obstinate? If his conduct is an annoyance or a scandal to the public, his superior ought to rebuke him and even take severe measures against him if necessary. A judge feels no reluctance to condemn a culprit in spite of his recriminations and the affiiction of his family. However, in all such cases, the means must always be proportioned to the end.
Ought a private admonition precede a public denunciation? If the crime is public, there is no necessity of making any mystery of the correction to be given to the criminal. "Them that sin reprove before all, that the rest also may fear." (1 Tim. v., 20.) If the crime or transgression is private, no public denunciation or revelation should be made, unless in case of something detrimental to the public or of a conspiracy against the state. In similar cases, we ought to imitate the skilful physician, who first strives to heal the wound if possible; but if he cannot succeed, he has recourse to amputation, in order to save the life of his patient. A superior, therefore, should not have recourse to extreme measures, when there is hope that a private admonition will reclaim the sinner. Unless things transpire before the eyes of the public, justice and charity require the superior to keep all secret and leave all rest in the hands of God.
In what manner should correction be made? To correct one is an act of charity. Therefore, correction should be made in the spirit of charity. A reproof is a kind of food which is always difficult to digest. Fraternal charity should, then, so sweeten it as to destroy its bitterness, or else it will be like those fruits which cause pain in the stomach. Charity does not seek its own advantage, but the honor of God. Bitterness and severity proceed only from passion, vanity and pride. A good remedy used at an improper time often becomes a deadly poison.
Now, it is easy to know when the correction we make proceeds from charity. Truth proceeds from charity when we speak it only from the love of God and for the good of him whom we reprove. It is better to be silent than to speak a truth ungraciously; for this is to present a good dish badly cooked, or to give medicine unseasonably.
But is this not to keep back the truth unjustly? By no means; to act otherwise is to bring it forth unjustly, because the real justice of truth and the truth of justice reside in charity. That truth which is not charitable proceeds from a charity which is not true. A judicious silence is always preferable to an uncharitable truth.
Hence, in correcting others, we should remember the following advice given by the saints upon this subject:
1. Good example must precede the correction, otherwise it may justly be said: "Physician, cure thyself."
2. Patience must defer it, because, reproof being a bitter remedy, it should be applied, generally speaking, only when every other means has proved useless.
3. It must be given with charity, lest, while striving to heal one wound, we inflict several others.
4. Humility must accompany it by accusing ourselves and assuming thus a part of the disgrace of him whose weakness we have discovered.
5. We ought to be very careful to give a reproof in so mild a manner as to lessen the bitterness of this remedy to which nature is utterly averse. It thus becomes efficacious and strikes at the very root of the evil.
6. In reproving we should pay attention to the nature of the fault, its consequences, and to the degree of virtue in the delinquent.
7. It is sometimes advisable, before reproving a person, to point out to him the nature and greatness of the fault,and then request him to punish himself for it. The penance of a contrite heart is great when it sees itself kindly dealt with. We must blame the offence; but spare the offender.
8. When any one has corrected, a fault, forget the past and treat him as if nothing had happened, according to what holy Scripture says: "Despise not a man that turneth away from sin, nor reproach him therewith :remember that we are all worthy of reproof." (Ecclus. viii., 6.) It is in this way that we heal wounds without leaving a scar. We read in the life of St. Alphonsus, that his firmness towards those who persevered in their faults, was changed into mercy when he saw them contrite. He loved with an exceedingly great love those who amended their conduct after his admonitions. He pressed them to his bosom, forgot their faults, and never again alluded to the pain they had caused him. "I am informed," writes the saint in his book Preparation for Death, "that the celebrated Signore Pietro Metastasio has published a little book in prose, in which he expresses his detestation of his writings on profane love and declares that, were it in his power, he would retract them and make them disappear from the world, even at the cost of his blood. I am told, that he lives retired in his own house, leading a life of prayer. This information has given me unspeakable consolation; because his public declaration and his most laudable example will help to undeceive many young persons who seek to acquire a great name by similar compositions on profane love. It is certain, that by his retraction, Signore Metastasio has deserved more encomiums than he would deserve by the publication of a thousand poetic works: for these he might be praised by men, but now he is praised by God. Hence, as I formerly detested his vanity in priding himself on such compositions (I do not speak of his sacred pieces, which are excellent and deserving of all praise), so now I shall never cease -to praise him; and were I permitted, I would kiss his feet, seeing that he has voluntarily become the censor of his own works, and that he. now desires to see them banished from the whole world at the expense, as he says, even of his own blood."
9. In reproving our neighbor great regard should be paid to his disposition. Sometimes a courteous little admonition, such as the reproving glance cast by our Lord at St. Peter, may be sufficient. In many cases it may be advisable to give the reproof in such a manner that it will appear rather as praise than blame.
"If a word chastises, cast the rod away, If a look suffices, have no word to say."
10. Never reprove any one when you are excited. A physician who is suffering from delirium or any other violent disorder should be first cured himself before he at tempts to prescribe for others.
11. The faults of those who sin more from weakness and ignorance than from any other reason, should move us to pity rather than to severity. We should kindly encourage them to amend their faults and avoid relapsing into them.
12. Whether we make corrections in public or in private, we should never use opprobrious expressions, such as fool, simpleton, and the like. We should seem to advise rather than to reprove saying, for example: "Does it not appear to you, that such and such a thing is an abuse' That whoever acts so, and so, exposes himself to censure? This manner of acting is more convincing and effective than any other. Prudence, then, requires us to prefer it to a more arbitrary course.
13. We must not be astonished at seeing one troubled at a reproof, or taking it badly. If the culprit is wanting in humility, we must not, on this account, be wanting in charity by forgetting our christian dignity, and allowing aversions and ill-feelings to take root in our heart.
14. If a correction is to be given to a person whose dignity is to be respected, we should give it so as to reprove ourselves at the same time, speaking in the first person of the plural number, saying, for instance: "How much do we all offend God. We all have our faults, but we ought to be careful to avoid such and such faults."
15. There are certain persons who easily find fault with others. They themselves are generally the most guilty. It is one of their secret artifices to turn the eyes of others upon the faults of their neighbor, in order to keep them turned away from their own. You should never pay particular attention to what these great talkers say. Much less should you ever reprove any one with out having given him a hearing. To believe what you hear without further inquiry, and reprove instantly, is to expose yourself to a thousand evils and agitations.
16. Generally speaking, it is not advisable to reprove one on the spot for his faults. Medicine must not be given to a person who is in high fever, except in ex traordinary cases. You should take time to consider the matter before God, and to reflect on the best and most useful manner of making correction, especially when the fault is of a serious nature, and the offender is of a hasty temperament. Then when a favorable moment presents itself, ask with all humility and confidence, the guilty person to be kind enough to allow you, though full of faults yourself, to call his attention to something for his own benefit.
In order to gain the affection and confidence of the offender, you may first praise modestly his good qualities. Then, place, with great delicacy, before him his fault, reminding him of its unhappy consequences, and propose to him the proper remedy. To this you may add, that you yourself were obliged to use this remedy in order to correct your own faults.
17. Never reveal the name of the person who reported the fault. Nay, if you have reason to fear that the guilty person may easily suspect the one that spoke of him and conceive a dislike for him, it is better to make no reproof, because peace and union with our neighbor should be preferred to every thing else.
18, Always conclude a reproof with some encouraging words, saying, for instance, that God allows such faults, in order to keep us humble and to increase our soiicitude in acquiring virtue.
19. Under certain circumstances, it is advisable to give the admonition publicly without naming the guilty person. This should be done,
a. When the evil is deeply rooted; for in this case it is not prudent to admonish individuals privately;
b. When the offender has a good heart, but is too weak in virtue to take a reproof in the proper spirit;
c. When it is to be feared that others may commit the same fault, if the warning is not given in public.
20. Correct the aged by way of sweet entreaty ; for it is not very easy to manage them; they are not vezy flexible. The sinews of their soul as well as of their body have grown stiff. Hence the way of entreaty is the best manner of admonishing them.
21. Before giving a reprimand, recommend yourself to the Lord. Humble yourself in his presence and acknowledge that you are more faulty and, consequently, more blame-worthy than your neighbor.
St. Vincent de Paul says that those who are spiritually sick, ought to be more tenderly treated than those who are corporally sick. "I beg you," he wrote to a Superior who had notified him of the desire of a lay-brother to leave the Congregation, "to assist and encourage him to resist the temptation, but do it mildly and affectionately, seeming rather to advise than to reprove him, as is our custom." He also tells us, that although during his whole life, he gave a sharp reproof three times only, yet each time he was forced to regret it, because, notwithstanding the apparent just reason for reproving sharply, the correction proved fruitless, while on the contrary, those reproofs which he had given mildly, were always effective.
St. Juliana Veronica occupied the post of Mistress of Novices for several years. During this time she had two novices who were of a head-strong disposition. One of them received her charitable admonitions in such ill part, that they produced not the least amendment. She was therefore expelled by the Chapter. However, St. Veronica obtained for her, from the Blessed Virgin, the grace of being received into another convent, where she corrected her faults. The other novice forgot herself so far as to strike her Mistress in the face, and with such violence as to bruise her lips. The holy woman, grieved at the scandal, and at the excommunication which the novice drew upon herself by this act, implored of God so earnestly her amendment that she shed tears of blood. For a time, the rebellious Sister did better; but her amendment was not permanent. One day, when she was again kindly reproved by St. Veronica for not fulfilling her duty, she felt so terribly provoked, and pushed the saint so roughly that she would have fallen, had not those standing near her come to her assistance. The prudent Superior said nothing about the affair at the time, as she knew that a reproof would be useless, nay, even injurious, because the offender was under the influence of passion. She merely remarked to those who insisted upon the punishment of the novice, that it was necessary to have patience, and that her only grief was that God had been offended. At the next Chapter, however, she calmly reproved and punished the fault. The fruit of this moderation was, that the delinquent entered into herself, and blushing with confusion at the sin she had committed, performed the penance imposed upon her. From that time forward, she watched so carefully over herself, that she lived and died a true religious.
A short time after Father Lallemant had been appointed Rector of the College of Bourges, the brother baker came to him, one day, and rather rudely complained of having too much to do; he told the Rector to see to the matter and put some one else in his place. The Father calmly listened to him; and promised to relieve him. He then went himself quietly into the bake-house and began kneading the dough with the greatest diligence. After the brother had become calm again, he returned to the bake-house, and found, to his great surprise, the Father Rector doing his work for him. He immediately threw himself at his feet and begged his pardon, being filled with confusion at his fault, and moved by the meekness and humility of so compassionate a Superior.
Father Lallemant acted thus on all similar occasions, so prudently using lenity that every one readily conceded to him whatsoever he desired. Be used to say that experience daily taught him more and more, that discipline should be kept up in the Company with extreme mildness; that the Superiors ought to study to make themselves obeyed rather from love than from fear; that the way to maintain regularity is not by rigor and penances, but by the paternal kindness of the Superiors and their diligence in attending to the wants of inferiors; and in preserving and increasing in them the spirit of piety and prayer.
One day St. Vincent de Paul heard that one of his priests was too inactive during the missions, and that severity towards the people prevailed over charity in his sermons. He wrote to him as follows : "I write to you, dear Sir, to inquire your news and to communicate to you ours. How do you feel after your great fatigue? How many missions have you given ? Do the people seem disposed to profit by your labors ? Do these labors produce the desired fruit? It would be a great consolation for me to be informed in detail of all you have done. From other houses of the Congregation I have received good accounts, thanks be to 'God ! Their labors are to their great content blessed with happy results. The strength which God has given to Mr. N. is truly wonderful. For nine months he has been laboring in the country, and his missions, according to the Vicar-general, the religious of the place, and others, have done incalculable good. This result is ascribed solely, to the mildness and charity with which this gentleman seeks to win the hearts of these poor people. This induces me to recommend more earnestly than ever the practice of these virtues. If God deigned to bless our first missions, it was evidently on account of the kindness, humility and sincerity with which we entreated everyone. Yes, if God deigned to make use of the most miserable among us, that is of myself, to convert sinners and heretics, it was, as they themselves unanimously admitted, in consequence of thy patience and benevolence with which I constantly acted towards them. Even the galley-slaves were won in this manner. When I dealt severely with them, all my efforts were vain, whilst, contrary, when I pitied them, praised their resignation, kissed their chains, sympathized with them in their misfortune, or told them that their sufferings were their purgatory in this life, they listened to me and took the necessary means to save their souls. I beg you, therefore, my dear Sir, to help me to thank God eamestly for these favors and to beg of Him to bestow the grace, upon all our Missioners, to act towards every one, privately and publicly, even towards the most hardened sinners, with meekness, charity and humility, and never to make use of wounding words, or bitter reproaches, or preach severe sermons. I doubt not, Sir, that as far as you are concerned, you will carefully avoid a manner of acting which is so exceedingly unbecoming a Physician of souls, and which instead of winning hearts and leading them to God, only estranges and embitters them. Christ, our Lord, is the eternal delight of both angels and men: we must also try to be the delight of our fellow-creatures, so as to lead them to their eternal happiness."
Thus St. Vincent knew how to draw the attention of his priests to their faults and imperfections, without wounding their feelings. He excused them as far as he could, manifested his love and esteem for them, and reproved so modestly and humbly, that none ever felt abashed or dis couraged, but, on the contrary, all were i)dified and encour aged by his very reproofs.
To the Superior of one of his houses, who greatly exaggerated the difficulties of his office, Vincent gave the following answer : " What you write to me is both true and not true. It is true in respect to those who do not like to be contradicted by any one; who wish everything to be conducted according to their opinion and will; who desire to be obeyed by all without opposition or delay, and who would like to see their every command approved of. What you write is not true, however, in regard to those who consider themselves as the servants of others, and who, while they perform the duties of Superior, keep constantly in mind their model, Jesus Christ, who bore with the rudeness, jealousy, want of faith, and other faults of His disciples, and who said that He had come into the world not to be served, but to serve. You used formerly to go through your duties patiently, humbly and cheerfully, and I know well that you only design now in using these exaggerated expressions, is to explain your difficulties better and to induce me to remove you from your post of Superior."
It was, however, by no means the opinion of St. Vincent, that Superiors should connive at every thing in their subjects. He wished that the guilty should always be reprimanded and even punished, insisting, nevertheless upon the reproof being given in the spirit of meekness and in accordance with the above-quoted principles.
He was once told that one of his priests, a very zeal ous man, who at that time was the Superior of a Seminary, treated the Seminarians too harshly. In a letter to this priest, he reproves him in the following manner: "I believe all that you have written, quite as readily as if I had seen it with my own eyes, and I have too many proofs of your zeal for the good of the Seminary to doubt your words. For this very reason, I have with held my judgment in regard to the complaints which have reached me of your severe government, until I should have learned from yourself the true state of things. In the meanwhile, I beg of you to reflect seriously upon the manner in which you act, and to resolve to correct, with the help of God's grace, whatever may be displeasing to Him in your conduct. Although your intention may be good, yet the Divine Majesty is offended, and the following are a few of the evil consequences of such conduct: "First, the Seminarians leave the house dissatisfied; virtue becomes distasteful to them ; the consequence of which is, that they may fall into sin and ruin their souls ; and this, merely because they were, by your severity, too soon forced out of the school of piety. Secondly, they talk against the Seminary and are the cause of others not going, who otherwise would have come to receive the instructions and graces necessary for their vocation. Thirdly, the bad reputation of one house easily reflect upon all the others of the Society, paralyzing the members thereof in their ministry, so much so that the good which the Lord, until now, has deigned to perform by their instrumentality, immediately commences diminishing more and more. To say that, heretofore, you have not noticed these faults in your own person, betrays, no doubt, a want of humility on your part. For were you possessed of that degree of humility which Jesus Christ requires of Missionary Priests, you would not hesitate for a moment to believe, that you were the most imperfect of all and guilty of all these things. You would attribute to a hidden blindness your not noticing in yourself those defects which are so easily discovered by others, and for which you have already been reprimanded. I have learned, that you do not like correction. Should this be so, 0 ! how much should you fear for yourself! How far does your virtue fall short of that of the Saints who annihilated themselves before the world and were rejoiced at seeing their little failings made known to others. Are we not to imitate Jesus Christ, who, notwithstanding His innocence, suffered the bitterest and most unjust reproaches, without even opening His mouth to avert the disgrace from His sacred person. My dear Sir, let us learn from Him to be meek and humble of heart. These are virtues which you and I must continually ask of Him, and to which we must always attend, in order not to be drawn away by the opposite passions, which make us destroy with one hand what we have built up with the other. May God enlighten us with His holy Spirit to discover our blindness and to submit to those whom He has given us forguides."
To the Superior of a mission-house, he wrote as follows: ''God be praised that you went yourself to do what Mr. N. refused to do. It was very good that you preferred doing this, rather than insisting any longer upon obedience to your command. There are some people, who, although devout and pious, and having a great horror for sin, will still from time to time commit some faults through human frailty; we must bear with them, and not excite them still more. As God otherwise blesses this gentleman in the confessional, I think we ought to connive a little at his caprices, so much the more as they are of no serious nature. With regard to the other priest of whom you write, I hope that this word has escaped him from want of reflection, rather than from real malice. Even the most discreet when surprised by passion, may say something of which they soon after repent. Finally, there are men who show aversion to persons as well as to offices, but who still do much good. Alas! it cannot be otherwise; live with whom you please, you will stlll have something to suffer, as well as some thing to merit. I hope, that he, of whom I speak, will still be gained, if we use towards him charitable forbearance and kind corrections. Do pray for him, as I unceasingly do for your whole community."
To another Superior he wrote : " The priest of whom you make this report, is a pious man; he practises virtue, and before he entered our Congregation, he enjoyed a great reputation in the world. If he now manifests a restless spirit, meddling with temporal affairs and those of his family, and thus becomes a subject of annoyance to his brethren in religion, he must be borne with in meekness. If he had not this fault, he would have another; and if you had nothing to suffer, you would have no occasion to practise charity. Your Superiorship would, moreover, bear little resemblance to that of our Divine Redeemer who chose, for Himself, imperfect and uneducated disciples, both to manifest His charity and patience, and to give an example to those who have to direct others. I beseech you, my dear Sir, to imitate this Divine Model. From Him you will learn not only how to bear with your brethren, but also how to treat them, in order to free them more and more from their defects. Certainly on the one hand, we must not allow, through human interest, evils to increase or to take deeper root, but on the other hand we must try to remedy them by degrees and in a charitable manner. "You, for you are exposed to the observation of all, and one single unkind look on your part, if noticed by the people, would make so bad an impression upon them as to paralyze all your labors. I hope you will follow my advice."
If all these admonitions and reproofs were, or seemed to be, of no avail, still Vincent did not lose courage, but continued to bear patiently, to pray, and to hope that God would, in the end, show mercy to these strayed sheep. This perseverance he also recommended to others. ·when Superiors of the different houses re- quested him to send such and such a priest to another house, he recommended patience to them, reminding them of the common lot of all men to have faults. If any of his subjects acted otherwise than he had told him, he would say only : "Sir, had you followed my advice, you would have succeeded better in your under taking." Sometimes he would not say anything at all.
St. Francis de Sales was one evening visited by a nobleman. His servant forgot to put lights in the house and in the room of the prelate, so that the bishop was obliged to accompany the stranger to the gate, in the dark. The only reproof which the Saint made to the servant, consisted in this: "Do you know, my dear friend, that two little pieces of candle would have been of greater value to us to-day than ten dollars. " Once one of the servants of St. Francis de Sales returned home rather late at night, being quite intoxicated. He knocked at the door, but no one answered, all having gone to sleep. The Saint, who alone was still awake, went to open the door, and seeing that his servant was intoxicated to such a degree as not to be able to walk, he took him by the arm and conducted him to his bed-room; there, after having undressed him and taken off his shoes and stockings, he laid him on his bed, covered well and retired.
The Saint, on meeting him alone next morning, said to him: " O, my dear friend, you were no doubt, very sick last night!" On hearing this the servant fell on his knees, and, bathed in tears, begged the prelate's pardon. The holy bishop touched by his sorrow, gave him, though a severe, yet a paternal reproof; he reminded him of the danger to which he exposed himself of losing his soul, and imposed upon him the penance of mixing a certain quantity of water with his wine at table. The culprit accepted the penance, and was, from that time, so faithful that he never again committed a similar fault. "One day," says the bishop of Belley, "I was to preach at the Church of the Visitation. Being aware that our Saint would be present, and that a large concourse of people was expected, I felt a little personal anxiety on the occasion, and I prepared in good earnest. When we had retired to his house, and were alone together, ' Well,' he said, 'you have given general satisfaction to-day; people went away exclaiming, mirabilia! at your fine and elegant panegyric. I only met with one individual who was not satisfied.' 'What can I have said,' I replied, 'to displease this person ' Well I have no desire to know his name.' 'But I, for my part,' said the Saint, 'have a great desire to tell it to you.' 'Who is he then, that I may endeavor to give him satisfaction?' 'If I had not great confidence in you, I should not name him; but as I know you well, I willingly do so. Do you see him here if I looked around, and saw no one but himself. 'It is you, then,' I said. He replied. 'Certainly,' I re-joined ; 'I should have valued your approbation alone,more than that of the whole congregation. Thank God, I have fallen into the hands of one who wounds only that he may heal! What, then, did you find fault with? For I know that your indulgence will not excuse anything in me !' 'I love you too much,' he resumed, 'to flatter you; and if you had loved our Sisters after this fashion, you would not have amused yourself in puffing up their minds, instead of edifying them; in praising their state of life, instead of teaching them some humiliating and more salutary doctrine. It is with the food of the mind as with that of the body. Flattery is windy; and windy food, like vegetables, is not nutritious. We ought, in preaching, to provide, not empty food, the memory of which perishes with its utterance, but meat which will endure to life everlasting. We must never, indeed, ascend the pulpit, without the special object of building up soener or other of the walls of Jerusalem, by teaching the practice of a certain virtue, or the means of avoiding a certain vice; for the whole fruit of preaching consists in making the people do away with sin and practise virtue.
'0 Lord!' exclaimed David, 'l will teach the unjust Thy ways, and the wicked shall be converted unto Thee.'·
''What sort of conversion,' I retorted, 'could I preach to souls delivered from the hands of their enemies, the devil, the flesh, and the world, and serving God in holiness of life?' 'You should have taught them,' he said, 'to take heed, since they stand, not to fall; to work out their salvation according to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, with fear and trembling; and not to be without fear, even with respect to sin forgiven. You described them to us as so many saints; it costs you nothing to canonize the living.
You must not place pillows under elbows in this way, nor give milk to those who need bitter herbs and wormwood.''My object,' I said, 'was to encourage and fortify them in their holy undertaking.' 'We must, without running the risk of exciting presumption and vanity. It is always safer to humble our hearers, than to exalt them to high and admimble things above their reach. I feel persuaded, that another time you will be cautious in this respect.' The next day he made me preach at a Convent of the Nuns of St. Clare. He was present, and the congregation was not less numerous than on the preceding day. I took care to avoid the pit-fall he had pointed out to me; my discourse was very simple, both in words and ideas, aiming at nothing except edification. I proceeded with much method, and pressed home my subject. Our Saint, on our return, came to see me in my apartment, which, in fact, was his own ; for when I was on a visit to him, he always gave me his room. After tenderly embracing me, he said, 'Truly, I loved you dearly yesterday, but much more to-day. You are, indeed, quite after my own heart; and if I am not much mistaken, you are also according to God's heart, who, I believe, has been pleased with your sacrifice. I could not have believed, you would have been so yielding and condescending. It is a true saying, that the 'obedient man shall speak of victory.' You have conquered yourself to-day. Do you know that most of your hearers said, 'To-day is very unlike yesterday,' and they were not as much pleased this time as the last; but the individual, who was not satisfied yesterday, is wonderfully pleased to-day. I grant you here poignance for all your past faults. You have fulfilled all my wishes to-day ; and if you persevere, you will do much service for the Lord of the vineyard. Preaching must not seek its strength in in the words and notions of human wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. If you faithfully adhere to this method, God will give to your labors a full and honorable increase; you will become prudent in the words of mystical wisdom, and will possess the science of the saints, the science that makes saints. What, after all, do we desire to know, save Jesus, and Jesus crucified.'"
One day Cardinal Cheverus learned that a parish priest was at open warfare with his parish. He went to the place with the'view of re-establishing peace. The pastor in question was a man of irreproachable life and ardent zeal, but of an excitable disposition which some times hurried him beyond all bounds. It was from this defect that the dispute originated. A child had been brought to him for baptism whose godmother had neglected to make her Easter communion. Adhering rigidly to ancient regulations, he would not permit her to stand sponsor, which so exasperated the parents, that they refused to seek a substitute, preferring to leave their infant unbaptized: On his arrival, M. de Cheverus begged the pastor to withdraw his opposition ; but in vain. The Cardinal then directed one of the priests who accompanied him to perform the ceremony, in order that the poor child might no longer remain the victim of a quarrel. Irritated at this beyond all self-control, the pastor gave the most insulting language to his archbishop. The meek prelate opposed nothing but silence and calmness to the storm. He repaired to the church, where he ascended the pulpit and invited all the parishioners to peace and union with their parish-priest, on whom he pronounced an elaborate eulogium, detailing all the good qualities of which he was possessed. "You have,'' he said, " but one complaint to make of him; he has, you say, a hasty and violent temper; alas! my friends, who is without defects If I were to remain twenty-four hours among you, you would perhaps discover so many' faults in me that you would not be able to tolerate me: you see but one in your pastor; forgive then that single fault in consideration of so many virtues." Having finished his discourse, the Cardinal went to the sacristy, where he found the priest, abashed and ashamed, and, embracing him with the utmost kindness, he said : "My dear friend, I love you with my whole heart; how shall we begin the service" Seeking by this means to do away with the recollection of the offence which had been committed, and prove his condescension in regard to every thing which was not inimical to his duty. The service over, the Cardinal called upon those of the parishioners who were 'the most embittered against the pastor, and spoke to them so impressively that they declared themselves ready to do whatever he wished. The reconciliation was forthwith accomplished; the kiss of peace was given, all sat down to the same table, and every heart was united in that of the Archbishop. Thus did he everywhere spread the dominion of charity, and illustrate by his example the words of the Apostle: "Charity is sweet and patient, not hasty to anger, but pardoneth and suffereth much." St. Alphonsus' manner of correcting may be seen from the following letter, which he addressed to a Superior, of his Congregation : "To speak with all freedom, I remark above all, that I do not believe that your Reverence wishes me to treat you with too much consideration, in regard to obedience, to whom nothing can be said for fear of giving offence.
I have a better opinion of your Reverence, and I believe that you desire what is best and most pleasing to God. Now let me tell what I desire to see in you. Your Reverence knows how much I have always esteemed you; I have given you proofs of this on several occasions. It would pain me very much were I to be told, as some time ago, that your Reverence is a holy man indeed, but unfit for the rectorship for the following reasons: first, because, when Superior, you would be seldom at home; secondly, that you would at the same time busy yourself with too many affairs, write too many letters, trouble yourself about so many things that would not concern you, and introduce so many devotions to which you seem to be attached that the regular observance of the rule would soon suffer. I know of course, and every one acknowledges, that your Reverence does not go out for the sake of pleasure, or for some other similar reason, but from the motive of pleasing God in every thing; but ne· quid nimis! Now that you are in the Congregation, and especially now that you have been made rector, you must be convinced, that you can do nothing more conducive to the glory of God, than to take good care of , the well-being and regular observance of your community which is one of the most fervent, nay, even the most fervent of all we have. The number of your subjects being small at present, this regularity cannot be so perfect as yet; however, you must endeavor to make it as perfect as circumstances will allow. As regards going out, your Reverence knows from your own experience, that if the head be wanting, all the rest is in disorder. Nevertheless, do not forbid you to go out on an important affair for the good of the house or the Congregation, or when the greater glory of God is in question; but should your Reverence wish to take part in all that contributes to the glory of God in your diocese, you could never be at home. The greatest glory you can render to God is the accomplishment of his holy will. I repeat it therefore, henceforth, your Reverence must mind only the good of the house and the Church, Mater Domini; and the regular observance of the rule, that none of the things may come true which some have predicted of your Reverence. I speak with all charity, because I esteem you, and esteem you very much, and because I have a good opinion of you, trusting that you belong to the number of those who endeavor to sanctify themselves in the Congregation like Fathers Cafaro, Villani, Mazzini and others, who have renounced their own will; and that you do not resemble those who wish to be treated too delicately, and whom I will treat thus, but of whom I foresee that they will never sanctify themselves, because they do not obey blindly."
A small note to apologize that there will be no Feria Friday post this week and also that the Assumption Giveaway winners will be delayed.
We are having sine technical difficulties with our computer and large post is too much for an iPhone ;)
Thank you for your patience and have a blessed weekend!
Illustrious Women of the Bible
By: Bernard O'Reilly
WE return to the tent which Sara's death left empty, and to the son on whom had been poured forth for nearly forty years the treasures of a heroic mother's love, like the waters of a sealed fountain suddenly let loose.
During two years, at least, the rock-cave of Machpelah, that held her remains, had been for Isaac the dearest spot on all the earth, and the goal, we can easily believe, of his frequent, if not his daily, pilgrimages. It was now time to accomplish what must have been her most sacred duty, had she lived, and what may have been among her most anxious thoughts in her dying hour: Abraham bethought him of choosing a wife for his son.
It is, in all history, the most ancient, authentic record of a bridal. Nothing can replace here the simple solemnity of the Bible text. Eliezer, his oldest servant, and superintendent of his household, is summoned by Abraham, now in his one hundred and fortieth year, "That I may make thee swear (so the patriarch addresses him) by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that thou take not a wife for my son of the daughters of the Chanaanites, among whom I dwell; but that thou go to my own country and kindred, and take a wife from thence for my son Isaac. The servant answered, If the woman will not come with me into this land, must I bring thy son back again to the place from whence thou earnest out? And Abraham said, Beware thou never bring my son back again thither. The Lord God of heaven, who took me out of my father's house and out of my native country, . . . he will send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take from thence a wife for my son. But, if the woman will not follow thee, thou shalt not be bound by thy oath: only bring not my son back thither again."
Eliezer swears as he is bidden. He is himself thoroughly penetrated with the deep religious spirit that moves his master and friend; and he sets forth on a journey with a princely train, bearing costly presents, and guided, as the patriarch had fore told, by God's angel.
They retraced the path f0llowed by Abraham and Sara well nigh a century before, as they journeyed from Mesopotamia to the land of promise. Along the valley of the Jordan, and between the snow-clad mountains near which it has its source, on to the plain of Damascus, and thence westward and north ward across the Upper Euphrates and its tributaries, Eliezer and his company speed, till they are on the outskirts of that same Haran where Nachor separated from Abraham, and where Thare, their father, is buried. The populous city is called "the city of Nachor."
The aged servant had lived all his lifetime in a supernatural atmosphere: he was familiar with the miracles of protection wrought in favor of his master and his family. In so important a matter as the selection of a wife for Isaac, his great faith prompted him to ask of God a direct and sensible aid. It was evening when they came in view of Haran. Making his wearied camels lie down near a well outside the town, he waited for the usual coming of the women to draw water at that hour. Then lifting his heart to heaven, "0 Lord, the God of my master Abraham," he prays, "meet me to-day, I beseech thee, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I stand nigh the spring, . . . and the daughters of the inhabitants of this city will come out to draw water. Now, therefore, the maid to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher that I may drink, and she shall answer, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let it be the same whom thou hast provided for thy servant Isaac."
The performance of a kindly act of hospitality to a thirsty wayfarer, without even inquiring who and whence he is, and the further humanity of attending to the need of the poor dumb animals patiently waiting yonder a helping hand, such are the tokens by which the fit companion of God's chosen one is to be known. "He had not yet ended these words within himself," when, just as the setting sun was flooding the lovely hill-country with his golden light, the procession of maidens streamed out of the city.
Behold! "an exceeding comely maid, and a most beautiful virgin ... having a pitcher on her shoulder . . . went down to the spring, and filled her pitcher, and was coming back. And the servant ran to meet her."
What he had asked as a token of the divine pleasure happens to the letter. " Drink, my lord. And quickly she let down the pitcher upon her arm, and gave him drink. . . . And, pouring out the pitcher into the troughs, she ran back to the well to draw water; ... and she gave to all the camels. But he, musing, beheld her in silence, desirous to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not."
He forthwith inquires whose daughter she is, and "Is there any place in thy father's house to lodge ? And she answered, I am the daughter of Bathuel, the son of Melcha, whom she bore to Nachor.... We have good store of both straw and hay, and a large place to lodge in." She is Abraham's grand-niece, therefore the large-hearted daughter of a hospitable house. Beauty, purity, generosity of spirit, true piety, true religion, with Abraham's kindred blood, all are there that can grace the wife of Isaac.
" The man bowed himself down, and adored the Lord, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who hath not taken away his mercy and truth from my master, and hath brought me the straight way into the house of my master's brother."
"Then the maid ran, and told in her mother's house all that she had heard. And Rebecca had a brother named Laban, who went out in haste to the man to the well, . . . and said to him, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord: why standest thou without?" There is then a warm and religious welcome for the travelers, who come from afar to bind together anew the long separated portions of a once united family. But weary though Eliezer is, and bountiful as is the table set before him, one question must be answered, ere he will touch their hospitable fare. " I will not eat till I tell my message." He then relates briefly the story of Abraham's miraculous career, his present position and affluence, the errand on which he is sent, his prayer to God at the well that evening, and the divine answer to it: he now requires that of Bathuel and Laban, Rebecca's brothers.
"The word hath proceeded from the Lord," they reply. "We can not speak any other thing to thee but his pleasure. Behold! Rebecca is before thee: take her, and go thy way, and let her be the wife of thy master's son, as the Lord hath spoken."
Again the grateful Eliezer prostrates himself in adoration and thanksgiving. "And bringing forth vessels of silver and gold, and garments, he gave them to Rebecca for a present. He offered gifts, also, to her brothers and to her mother. And a banquet was made; and they ate and drank together, and lodged there."
We have had but a glimpse of the beautiful bride, like a thing of light amid the falling shades of evening ; and this glimpse has revealed some of the nobler qualities of the woman. But in the East at all times, and especially in the patriarchal age, maidens are given away by their male relatives, without their own inclinations being consulted. Is Rebecca willing to become the bride of a man she has never seen ?
Far as Haran is from Hebron and Beersheba (the well of the oath), Abraham's present abode, the fame of his wisdom, his adventures, his power and affluence, and even his victory over the Mesopotamian kings, must have reached his brother's home. Then Isaac is the worthy son of so illustrious a sire; and, besides the wealth to which he is heir, the divine promises concerning him and his race can not but be known to his nearest of kin.
But Rebecca soon speaks for herself. With the morrow's dawn Eliezer resolved to begin his return journey. Vainly his hosts beg that the bride " stay for ten days with us." The success that has crowned his mission, Eliezer considers to be only a motive for immediate departure. "Stay me not; for the Lord hath prospered my way. . . . And they said, Let us call the maid, and ask her will." She is sent for, and asked, " wilt thou go with this man? " The answer comes, prompt and unhesitating, "I will." It is the response of a God-given love in a young, pure heart, for a worthy object. Such alone can enable the timid girl to tear herself away from all the dear ties of home, kindred, and country, to place herself under a stranger's guidance, face the ventures of a long and perilous journey, to be the life-companion of one she only knows by fame.
"So they sent her away, and her nurse, and Abraham's servant and his company, wishing prosperity to their sister.... Rebecca and her maids, being set upon camels, followed the man, who with speed returned to his master."
He bore with him now a treasure far more precious than the gold and the silver and the precious stuffs with which his camels were laden when he passed northward along the course of the Jordan. He needed both secrecy and speed, the perfect knowledge of the safest by-paths, the trust reposed in his prudence by his followers, and his own faith in the invisible guardians who watched over himself and his little band, to pass unchallenged and unmolested through the brutal and godless race, who were the worthy kinsmen of Sodom, and the other recently whelmed " cities of the plain."
The meeting of bride and bridegroom occurs at the very well in the desert at which the fugitive Agar was blessed with her vision of Ismael's future greatness, and which she thence named Beer-la-hai-roi, "the well of Him that liveth, and seeth me." Abraham and his family had been obliged, either from the number of their flocks, or the jealousy of the populations around Hebron, to migrate for a time to the untenanted country in the extreme south of Palestine.
A single line in the sacreu text lets us into the secret of the bridegroom's character and habits. As the train, led by Eliezer, was approaching unperceived, "Isaac was walking along the way to the well. . . . He was gone forth to meditate in the field, the day being now well spent." Rebecca's chosen husband is then a man of quiet ways and meditative mood, such an one as we should expect Sara's son to be, nursed by her so tenderly in the autumn of her eventful life, with mind and heart fed by the wonderful lessons of his mother's personal experience, and the study of the mysterious destinies in store for himself and his progeny. This disposition had been confirmed by the tragic occurrences of Mount Moriah, as well as by the aversion which he felt for Ismael's wild and roving life.
To this man, so thoughtful, gentle, and retiring, is Rebecca brought from the far Syro-Mesopotamian hills, like a stream of pure water from the northern solitudes, which falls into the calm bosom of the Galilean Lake. "And, when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw camels coming afar off Rebecca also, when she saw Isaac, lighted off the camel; " and, being told by Eliezer who it was, "she quickly took her cloak, and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all that he had done; who brought her into the tent of Sara his mother, and took her to wife; and he loved her so much, that it moderated the sorrow which was occasioned by his mother's death."
For thirty-five years more, Abraham dwelt near his son, watching the peaceful current of his wedded life. But for twenty years no offspring blessed this union with Rebecca. Then to their prayers were given Jacob and Esau.
No need to dwell at any length on the well-known story of the two boys, their adverse dispositions; the partiality of Rebecca for her younger son, how he played upon his elder brother's impatient and headlong appetite, to make him barter away the priceless boon of his birthright, annexed to which were the divine " promises ; " and how, counseled by his fond mother, Jacob deceived his father (who was no less partial to Esau), so as to obtain the solemn blessing which gave him the full privileges of primogeniture and headship in the family.
The Scripture distinctly points out this twofold partiality of the parents, so tenderly united in their own conjugal affection, yet so unhappily divided in their love for their sole offspring. This partiality, and the artifice conjointly practiced by Rebecca and her favorite on the blind and dying patriarch, have been a fertile theme of conflicting commentaries for Christian and Jewish theologians alike.
This much, at least, may strike every reader of the Bible as evident: that well informed as Esau must have been of the manifold prerogatives attached in that age, and in his own family above all, to the quality of first-born son, he displayed a brutal contempt thereof, in even entertaining a proposition to barter them away for a mess of pottage, and a sacrilegious levity in confirming the exchange by the solemnity of an oath. Hence St. Paul (Heb. xii. 16) calls him "a profane (sacrilegious) person." " Esau swore to him. . . . And so, taking bread and the pottage of lentils, he ate and drank, and went his way; making little account of having sold his first birthright" (Gen. xxv. 33, 34).
This unbridled sensuality, coupled with the uncontrollable violence of his nature, may account for the mother's preference of the boy in whom shone forth so conspicuously the gentleness and tender piety she worshiped in her husband. She judged, and judged rightly, that one who could not for a brief space restrain his appetite, and whose anger was as fierce as the head long torrent, would not be fit to govern a large household, or control the precarious destinies of a patriarchal tribe, in a strange land, and among jealous or hostile populations. Still less could a man who held in contempt his own most sacred rights, and the most awful forms of religion, be trusted with the headship of a race on which depended the religious future of all mankind.
Then, again, it is no less certain that Rebecca, beside these motives of preference, had been warned by God himself, before she had given birth to her boys, that they represented " two nations" and "two peoples ; " that " one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger." This prediction comes to us bearing the seal of divine authority. The mother, to whom it was directly made, had, therefore, God's own warrant for considering Jacob as preferred of Heaven itself. Nor is it improbable that Jacob was apprised of its import before he obtained the cession of Esau's birthright.
When this transaction took place between the brothers, they had reached man's estate, though their age is not mentioned: they were seventy-seven when Isaac fancied he was on his death bed. In the interval, and in his fortieth year, Esau, to the grief, if not to the horror, of his parents, married two Chanaanite wives, who, being idolaters, brought with them a fatal element of division into a family whose affections and hopes were expected to be set, above all else, on the worship and protection of the one true God.
Thus Esau, who had already, by a free and solemn covenant, transferred his birthright to his brother, had no just claim to the paternal blessing which went with the birthright, and of which the whole tenor of his life made him most unworthy. Jacob was in fact the rightful heir, the elder brother. When, at his mother's bidding, he substitutes himself for Esau, and even calls himself by that name, there is, in the light of God's supernatural providence over that family, every reason to believe that Rebecca acted under the impulse of divine inspiration. The divine will had manifested itself before the birth of these boys : her direction of Jacob's conduct had been in conformity with that will, and she was now only fulfilling the last condition necessary in order that the " elder should serve the younger."
Such is the line of reasoning pursued on this delicate subject by Saint Gregory-the-Great, the Venerable Bede, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and others. Still, in seeking to justify what may appear blameworthy in the conduct of saintly personages living under a code of morality far less perfect than that of the gospel, they do not attempt to palliate injustice, or to excuse falsehood, in itself always and everywhere essentially wrong. As in the deception practiced by Abraham upon Pharao and Abimelech, and a similar one afterward practiced by Isaac upon the son and successor of the same Abimelech, so here we can not help wishing that the patriarchs had manifested both a stricter regard for the truth, and a firmer trust in that special providence vouchsafed to them so visibly and so constantly.
Rebecca was aware that her younger son was God's choice; that to him it was reserved to be the father and ruler and priest of the family from which alone should come the race selected to preserve to the world the true faith and hope in the promises made to Adam, and more solemnly reiterated to Abraham; that for Jacob alone was kept in store the supernatural blessing annexed to the covenant made with the latter.
Indeed Jacob's very name, supplanter (if not bestowed in after years by tradition, and thus recorded by the historian), was a perpetual note of warning to the elder brother. We can not imagine that Isaac was left in ignorance of the prediction made to his wife, and of the change it imported in the respective positions of his sons. This knowledge is not inconsistent with predilection for Esau; for men, as well as women, often love those who are closely connected with them for the very qualities which they are conscious of not possessing themselves. Woman likes strength in man, because she is weak and dependent, and will not lean on a reed: hence she abominates effeminacy, as indicating the utter absence of what she needs as a complement to her own nature. And the gentle, timid, and sickly Isaac may have loved in his eldest son the manly, robust, and warlike qualities which made him "a hunter and a man of the field," both because he and his younger son lacked them, and because, in these troublous Eastern climes, a strong arm to wield the lance and the sword, and a bold, intrepid spirit, could alone found a family, enlarge its possessions, and defend them against all comers.
It would, therefore, seem that the most natural and simple course for a mother initiated into God's secrets, like Rebecca, to pursue toward a God-fearing though unwisely-loving father, like Isaac, was to remind him of the divine preference, already justified in Esau's personal character, in his disregard of parental authority, his contempt of the law of God and sacred things, in his having sacrilegiously bartered away his right of primogeniture, both in its temporal and spiritual aspects; and to insist that 'the solemn death-bed blessing should be given to him who was, both by God's ordinance and his brother's deliberate act, the rightful heir to the covenant promises and blessing. That, in stead of this, any kind of deceit or subterfuge was resorted to, find excuses or extenuating circumstances m the conduct of Rebecca and Jacob.
Finally: they acted in a certain good faith. And in an age of unholy violence, when cunning was the only defense of the weak, that they ignorantly believed in the blamelessness of their stratagem, we may well suppose; for such is the opinion of many among the wisest and purest even of our race.
In this view, we must understand that Rebecca knew she ran no risk when Jacob hesitated to assume the proposed disguise, lest he should bring upon himself " a curse instead of a blessing." "Upon me be this curse, my son," replies the mother: "only hear thou my voice, and go." There is no need here of seeming a heroic act of maternal love, where the issue was so surely known to the speaker.
When Esau returned too late, and Isaac had discovered his mistake, the former reveals the facts, till then kept secret from his parent. "He (Jacob) hath supplanted me, lo! this second time. My first birthright he took away before; and now this second time he hath stolen away my blessing." But that blessing in its mightiest import was never designed for him; nor had he ever done aught to merit it. Hence, when urged to bestow a second blessing on the disinherited, Isaac answers, "In the fat of the earth and in the dew of heaven from above shall thy blessing be. Thou shalt live by the sword, and serve thy brother.
"Esau, therefore, always hated Jacob, ... and he said in his heart, The days will come of the mourning of my father, and I will kill my brother Jacob."
The domestic tragedy goes on deepening in the tents of the dying patriarch. The idolatrous wives of Esau shared their husband's passions; and Rebecca especially was made to feel the weight of their resentment. "And Rebecca said to Isaac, I am weary of my life, because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the stock of this land, I choose not to live."
Her quick ear has also heard the mutterings of Esau's fratricidal wrath, or it has found a free echo in the curses of his wives. So she bids him "flee to Laban ... to Haran." "And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, saying, Take not a wife of the stock of Chanaan, but go ... to the house of Bathuel, thy mother's father, and take thee a wife thence of the daughters of Laban thy uncle. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee to increase, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people."
And so, as the century of her life drew towards its close, Rebecca remained alone by the bedside of her sick husband, whom God was to restore and preserve for many years more, her motherly heart burthened by many cares, grief arising from Esau's evil ways, and anxiety for him who is now on the road to far-off Haran. These two were never more to meet upon earth.
But into the web of her life, so full of graceful and threatening scenes, we have to weave other bright figures from her native hills.
We live in such a modern time where most of the world is based on scientific this and that and where the Catholic spirit is most commonly set aside. One would think these times were new and rare and that the enemies we fight in our day are something unknown.
Today we are sharing the Syllabus of Errors Condemned by Pius IX which will show that many of these things are hundreds of years old and the battle is still raging on. Please note than when reading this the errors are listed- that is the items that are FALSE… these statements are condemned by the Church and as Catholics we cannot hold to any of them without denying a part of our Faith. For clarification's perp uses, I have added in bold the word condemned after each item as it can sometimes be confusing. Also the source of the document the Church put forth in the formal condemnation of each item is listed after the error is stated.
Syllabus of Errors Condemned by Pius IX
PANTHEISM, NATURALISM AND ABSOLUTE RATIONALISM
1. There exists no Supreme, all-wise, all-provident Divine Being, distinct from the universe, and God is identical with the nature of things, and is, therefore, subject to changes. In effect, God is produced in man and in the world, and all things are God and have the very substance of God, and God is one and the same thing with the world, and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, good with evil, justice with injustice. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
2. All action of God upon man and the world is to be denied. -- Ibid.This error is condemned by the Church.
3. Human reason, without any reference whatsoever to God, is the sole arbiter of truth and falsehood, and of good and evil; it is law to itself, and suffices, by its natural force, to secure the welfare of men and of nations. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
4. All the truths of religion proceed from the innate strength of human reason; hence reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at the knowledge of all truths of every kind. -- Ibid. and Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9, 1846, etc. This error is condemned by the Church.
5. Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
6. The faith of Christ is in opposition to human reason and divine revelation not only is not useful, but is even hurtful to the perfection of man. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
7. The prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth. This error is condemned by the Church.
II. MODERATE RATIONALISM
8. As human reason is placed on a level with religion itself, so theological must be treated in the same manner as philosophical sciences. -- Allocution "Singulari quadam," Dec. 9, 1854. This error is condemned by the Church.
9. All the dogmas of the Christian religion are indiscriminately the object of natural science or philosophy, and human reason, enlightened solely in an historical way, is able, by its own natural strength and principles, to attain to the true science of even the most abstruse dogmas; provided only that such dogmas be proposed to reason itself as its object. -- Letters to the Archbishop of Munich, "Gravissimas inter," Dec. 11, 1862, and "Tuas libenter," Dec. 21, 1863. This error is condemned by the Church.
10. As the philosopher is one thing, and philosophy another, so it is the right and duty of the philosopher to subject himself to the authority which he shall have proved to be true; but philosophy neither can nor ought to submit to any such authority. -- Ibid., Dec. 11, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
11. The Church not only ought never to pass judgment on philosophy, but ought to tolerate the errors of philosophy, leaving it to correct itself. -- Ibid., Dec. 21, 1863. This error is condemned by the Church.
12. The decrees of the Apostolic See and of the Roman congregations impede the true progress of science. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
13. The method and principles by which the old scholastic doctors cultivated theology are no longer suitable to the demands of our times and to the progress of the sciences. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
14. Philosophy is to be treated without taking any account of supernatural revelation. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
III. INDIFFERENTISM, LATITUDINARIANISM
15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862; Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. -- Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9, 1846. This error is condemned by the Church.
17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. -- Encyclical "Quanto conficiamur," Aug. 10, 1863, etc. This error is condemned by the Church.
18. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church. -- Encyclical "Noscitis," Dec. 8, 1849. This error is condemned by the Church.
IV. SOCIALISM, COMMUNISM, SECRET SOCIETIES, BIBLICAL SOCIETIES, CLERICO-LIBERAL SOCIETIES
Pests of this kind are frequently reprobated in the severest terms in the Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9, 1846, Allocution "Quibus quantisque," April 20, 1849, Encyclical "Noscitis et nobiscum," Dec. 8, 1849, Allocution "Singulari quadam," Dec. 9, 1854, Encyclical "Quanto conficiamur," Aug. 10, 1863.
This error is condemned by the Church.
V. ERRORS CONCERNING THE CHURCH AND HER RIGHTS
19. The Church is not a true and perfect society, entirely free- nor is she endowed with proper and perpetual rights of her own, conferred upon her by her Divine Founder; but it appertains to the civil power to define what are the rights of the Church, and the limits within which she may exercise those rights. -- Allocution "Singulari quadam," Dec. 9, 1854, etc. This error is condemned by the Church.
20. The ecclesiastical power ought not to exercise its authority without the permission and assent of the civil government. -- Allocution "Meminit unusquisque," Sept. 30, 1861. This error is condemned by the Church.
21. The Church has not the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion. -- Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
22. The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church. -- Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, "Tuas libenter," Dec. 21, 1863. This error is condemned by the Church.
23. Roman pontiffs and ecumenical councils have wandered outside the limits of their powers, have usurped the rights of princes, and have even erred in defining matters of faith and morals. -- Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect. -- Apostolic Letter "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
25. Besides the power inherent in the episcopate, other temporal power has been attributed to it by the civil authority granted either explicitly or tacitly, which on that account is revocable by the civil authority whenever it thinks fit. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
26. The Church has no innate and legitimate right of acquiring and possessing property. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856; Encyclical "Incredibili," Sept. 7, 1863. This error is condemned by the Church.
27. The sacred ministers of the Church and the Roman pontiff are to be absolutely excluded from every charge and dominion over temporal affairs. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
28. It is not lawful for bishops to publish even letters Apostolic without the permission of Government. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856. This error is condemned by the Church.
29. Favours granted by the Roman pontiff ought to be considered null, unless they have been sought for through the civil government. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
30. The immunity of the Church and of ecclesiastical persons derived its origin from civil law. -- Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
31. The ecclesiastical forum or tribunal for the temporal causes, whether civil or criminal, of clerics, ought by all means to be abolished, even without consulting and against the protest of the Holy See. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856; Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852. This error is condemned by the Church.
32. The personal immunity by which clerics are exonerated from military conscription and service in the army may be abolished without violation either of natural right or equity. Its abolition is called for by civil progress, especially in a society framed on the model of a liberal government. -- Letter to the Bishop of Monreale "Singularis nobisque," Sept. 29, 1864. This error is condemned by the Church.
33. It does not appertain exclusively to the power of ecclesiastical jurisdiction by right, proper and innate, to direct the teaching of theological questions. -- Letter to the Archbishop of Munich, "Tuas libenter," Dec. 21, 1863. This error is condemned by the Church.
34. The teaching of those who compare the Sovereign Pontiff to a prince, free and acting in the universal Church, is a doctrine which prevailed in the Middle Ages. -- Apostolic Letter "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
35. There is nothing to prevent the decree of a general council, or the act of all peoples, from transferring the supreme pontificate from the bishop and city of Rome to another bishop and another city. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
36. The definition of a national council does not admit of any subsequent discussion, and the civil authority car assume this principle as the basis of its acts. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
37. National churches, withdrawn from the authority of the Roman pontiff and altogether separated, can be established. -- Allocution "Multis gravibusque," Dec. 17, 1860. This error is condemned by the Church.
38. The Roman pontiffs have, by their too arbitrary conduct, contributed to the division of the Church into Eastern and Western. -- Apostolic Letter "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
VI. ERRORS ABOUT CIVIL SOCIETY, CONSIDERED BOTH IN ITSELF AND IN ITS RELATION TO THE CHURCH
39. The State, as being the origin and source of all rights, is endowed with a certain right not circumscribed by any limits. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
40. The teaching of the Catholic Church is hostile to the well- being and interests of society. -- Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9, 1846; Allocution "Quibus quantisque," April 20, 1849. This error is condemned by the Church.
41. The civil government, even when in the hands of an infidel sovereign, has a right to an indirect negative power over religious affairs. It therefore possesses not only the right called that of "exsequatur," but also that of appeal, called "appellatio ab abusu." -- Apostolic Letter "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851 This error is condemned by the Church.
42. In the case of conflicting laws enacted by the two powers, the civil law prevails. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
43. The secular Dower has authority to rescind, declare and render null, solemn conventions, commonly called concordats, entered into with the Apostolic See, regarding the use of rights appertaining to ecclesiastical immunity, without the consent of the Apostolic See, and even in spite of its protest. -- Allocution "Multis gravibusque," Dec. 17, 1860; Allocution "In consistoriali," Nov. 1, 1850. This error is condemned by the Church.
44. The civil authority may interfere in matters relating to religion, morality and spiritual government: hence, it can pass judgment on the instructions issued for the guidance of consciences, conformably with their mission, by the pastors of the Church. Further, it has the right to make enactments regarding the administration of the divine sacraments, and the dispositions necessary for receiving them. -- Allocutions "In consistoriali," Nov. 1, 1850, and "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
45. The entire government of public schools in which the youth- of a Christian state is educated, except (to a certain extent) in the case of episcopal seminaries, may and ought to appertain to the civil power, and belong to it so far that no other authority whatsoever shall be recognized as having any right to interfere in the discipline of the schools, the arrangement of the studies, the conferring of degrees, in the choice or approval of the teachers. -- Allocutions "Quibus luctuosissimis," Sept. 5, 1851, and "In consistoriali," Nov. 1, 1850. This error is condemned by the Church.
46. Moreover, even in ecclesiastical seminaries, the method of studies to be adopted is subject to the civil authority. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856. This error is condemned by the Church.
47. The best theory of civil society requires that popular schools open to children of every class of the people, and, generally, all public institutes intended for instruction in letters and philosophical sciences and for carrying on the education of youth, should be freed from all ecclesiastical authority, control and interference, and should be fully subjected to the civil and political power at the pleasure of the rulers, and according to the standard of the prevalent opinions of the age. -- Epistle to the Archbishop of Freiburg, "Cum non sine," July 14, 1864. This error is condemned by the Church.
48. Catholics may approve of the system of educating youth unconnected with Catholic faith and the power of the Church, and which regards the knowledge of merely natural things, and only, or at least primarily, the ends of earthly social life. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
49. The civil power may prevent the prelates of the Church and the faithful from communicating freely and mutually with the Roman pontiff. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
50. Lay authority possesses of itself the right of presenting bishops, and may require of them to undertake the administration of the diocese before they receive canonical institution, and the Letters Apostolic from the Holy See. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856. This error is condemned by the Church.
51. And, further, the lay government has the right of deposing bishops from their pastoral functions, and is not bound to obey the Roman pontiff in those things which relate to the institution of bishoprics and the appointment of bishops. -- Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852, Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851.
52. Government can, by its own right, alter the age prescribed by the Church for the religious profession of women and men; and may require of all religious orders to admit no person to take solemn vows without its permission. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856. This error is condemned by the Church.
53. The laws enacted for the protection of religious orders and regarding their rights and duties ought to be abolished; nay, more, civil Government may lend its assistance to all who desire to renounce the obligation which they have undertaken of a religious life, and to break their vows. Government may also suppress the said religious orders, as likewise collegiate churches and simple benefices, even those of advowson and subject their property and revenues to the administration and pleasure of the civil power. -- Allocutions "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852; "Probe memineritis," Jan. 22, 1855; "Cum saepe," July 26, 1855. This error is condemned by the Church.
54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction. -- Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
55. The Church ought to be separated from the .State, and the State from the Church. -- Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852. This error is condemned by the Church.
VII. ERRORS CONCERNING NATURAL AND CHRISTIAN ETHICS
56. Moral laws do not stand in need of the divine sanction, and it is not at all necessary that human laws should be made conformable to the laws of nature and receive their power of binding from God. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
57. The science of philosophical things and morals and also civil laws may and ought to keep aloof from divine and ecclesiastical authority. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
58. No other forces are to be recognized except those which reside in matter, and all the rectitude and excellence of morality ought to be placed in the accumulation and increase of riches by every possible means, and the gratification of pleasure. -- Ibid.; Encyclical "Quanto conficiamur," Aug. 10, 1863. This error is condemned by the Church.
59. Right consists in the material fact. All human duties are an empty word, and all human facts have the force of right. -- Allocution "Maxima quidem," June 9, 1862. This error is condemned by the Church.
60. Authority is nothing else but numbers and the sum total of material forces. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
61. The injustice of an act when successful inflicts no injury on the sanctity of right. -- Allocution "Jamdudum cernimus," March 18, 1861. This error is condemned by the Church.
62. The principle of non-intervention, as it is called, ought to be proclaimed and observed. -- Allocution "Novos et ante," Sept. 28, 1860. This error is condemned by the Church.
63. It is lawful to refuse obedience to legitimate princes, and even to rebel against them. -- Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9, 1864; Allocution "Quibusque vestrum," Oct. 4, 1847; "Noscitis et Nobiscum," Dec. 8, 1849; Apostolic Letter "Cum Catholica." This error is condemned by the Church.
64. The violation of any solemn oath, as well as any wicked and flagitious action repugnant to the eternal law, is not only not blamable but is altogether lawful and worthy of the highest praise when done through love of country. -- Allocution "Quibus quantisque," April 20, 1849. This error is condemned by the Church.
VIII. ERRORS CONCERNING CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE
65. The doctrine that Christ has raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament cannot be at all tolerated. -- Apostolic Letter "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
66. The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract and separate from it, and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial benediction alone. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
67. By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble, and in many cases divorce properly so called may be decreed by the civil authority. -- Ibid.; Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852. This error is condemned by the Church.
68. The Church has not the power of establishing diriment impediments of marriage, but such a power belongs to the civil authority by which existing impediments are to be removed. -- Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
69. In the dark ages the Church began to establish diriment impediments, not by her own right, but by using a power borrowed from the State. -- Apostolic Letter "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
70. The canons of the Council of Trent, which anathematize those who dare to deny to the Church the right of establishing diriment impediments, either are not dogmatic or must be understood as referring to such borrowed power. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
71. The form of solemnizing marriage prescribed by the Council of Trent, under pain of nullity, does not bind in cases where the civil law lays down another form, and declares that when this new form is used the marriage shall be valid. This error is condemned by the Church.
72. Boniface VIII was the first who declared that the vow of chastity taken at ordination renders marriage void. -- Ibid. This error is condemned by the Church.
73. In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage, and it is false to say either that the marriage contract between Christians is always a sacrament, or that there is no contract if the sacrament be excluded. -- Ibid.; Letter to the King of Sardinia, Sept. 9, 1852; Allocutions "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852, "Multis gravibusque," Dec. 17, 1860. This error is condemned by the Church.
74. Matrimonial causes and espousals belong by their nature to civil tribunals. -- Encyclical "Qui pluribus," Nov. 9 1846; Damnatio "Multiplices inter," June 10, 1851, "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851; Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852. This error is condemned by the Church.
IX. ERRORS REGARDING THE CIVIL POWER OF THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF
75. The children of the Christian and Catholic Church are divided amongst themselves about the compatibility of the temporal with the spiritual power. -- "Ad Apostolicae," Aug. 22, 1851. This error is condemned by the Church.
76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church. -- Allocutions "Quibus quantisque," April 20, 1849, "Si semper antea," May 20, 1850. This error is condemned by the Church.
X. ERRORS HAVING REFERENCE TO MODERN LIBERALISM
77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship. -- Allocution "Nemo vestrum," July 26, 1855. This error is condemned by the Church.
78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. -- Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852. This error is condemned by the Church.
79. Moreover, it is false that the civil liberty of every form of worship, and the full power, given to all, of overtly and publicly manifesting any opinions whatsoever and thoughts, conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people, and to propagate the pest of indifferentism. -- Allocution "Nunquam fore," Dec. 15, 1856. This error is condemned by the Church.
80. The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization.- -Allocution "Jamdudum cernimus," March 18, 1861. This error is condemned by the Church.
The faith teaches us and human reason demonstrates that a double order of things exists, and that we must therefore distinguish between the two earthly powers, the one of natural origin which provides for secular affairs and the tranquillity of human society, the other of supernatural origin, which presides over the City of God, that is to say the Church of Christ, which has been divinely instituted for the sake of souls and of eternal salvation.... The duties of this twofold power are most wisely ordered in such a way that to God is given what is God's (Matt. 22:21), and because of God to Caesar what is Caesar's, who is great because he is smaller than heaven. Certainly the Church has never disobeyed this divine command, the Church which always and everywhere instructs the faithful to show the respect which they should inviolably have for the supreme authority and its secular rights....
. . . Venerable Brethren, you see clearly enough how sad and full of perils is the condition of Catholics in the regions of Europe which We have mentioned. Nor are things any better or circumstances calmer in America, where some regions are so hostile to Catholics that their governments seem to deny by their actions the Catholic faith they claim to profess. In fact, there, for the last few years, a ferocious war on the Church, its institutions and the rights of the Apostolic See has been raging.... Venerable Brothers, it is surprising that in our time such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church. But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects. It is from them that the synagogue of Satan, which gathers its troops against the Church of Christ, takes its strength. In the past Our predecessors, vigilant even from the beginning in Israel, had already denounced them to the kings and the nations, and had condemned them time and time again, and even We have not failed in this duty. If those who would have been able to avert such a deadly scourge had only had more faith in the supreme Pastors of the Church! But this scourge, winding through sinuous caverns, . . . deceiving many with astute frauds, finally has arrived at the point where it comes forth impetuously from its hiding places and triumphs as a powerful master. Since the throng of its propagandists has grown enormously, these wicked groups think that they have already become masters of the world and that they have almost reached their pre-established goal. Having sometimes obtained what they desired, and that is power, in several countries, they boldly turn the help of powers and authorities which they have secured to trying to submit the Church of God to the most cruel servitude, to undermine the foundations on which it rests, to contaminate its splendid qualities; and, moreover, to strike it with frequent blows, to shake it, to overthrow it, and, if possible, to make it disappear completely from the earth. Things being thus, Venerable Brothers, make every effort to defend the faithful which are entrusted to you against the insidious contagion of these sects and to save from perdition those who unfortunately have inscribed themselves in such sects. Make known and attack those who, whether suffering from, or planning, deception, are not afraid to affirm that these shady congregations aim only at the profit of society, at progress and mutual benefit. Explain to them often and impress deeply on their souls the Papal constitutions on this subject and teach, them that the masonic associations are anathematized by them not only in Europe but also in America and wherever they may be in the whole world.
To the Archbishops and Bishops of Prussia concerning the situation of the Catholic Church faced with persecution by that Government....
But although they (the bishops resisting persecution) should be praised rather than pitied, the scorn of episcopal dignity, the violation of the liberty and the rights of the Church, the ill treatment which does not only oppress those dioceses, but also the others of the Kingdom of Prussia, demand that We, owing to the Apostolic office with which God has entrusted us in spite of Our insufficient merit, protest against laws which have produced such great evils and make one fear even greater ones; and as far as we are able to do so with the sacred authority of divine law, We vindicate for the Church the freedom which has been trodden underfoot with sacrilegious violence. That is why by this letter we intend to do Our duty by announcing openly to all those whom this matter concerns and to the whole Catholic world, that these laws are null and void because they are absolutely contrary to the divine constitution of the Church. In fact, with respect to matters which concern the holy ministry, Our Lord did not put the mighty of this century in charge, but Saint Peter, whom he entrusted not only with feeding his sheep, but also the goats; therefore no power in the world, however great it may be, can deprive of the pastoral office those whom the Holy Ghost has made Bishops in order to feed the Church of God.
A blessed Assumption Day to you all !!!
This weeks Feria Friday post is a little different. To celebrate we are giving away some lovely books about the blessed mother, see below for details. For a coloring page, word search and other Assumption Day resources please visit yesterdays post. May God bless this most favorite feast of the Blessed Mother, her Assumption into heaven!
Golden Thoughts on the Feast of the Assumption
Manual of the Holy Catholic Faith +Imprimatur
Lift up your hearts," the celebrant says in the Mass. ""We have them with our Lord," is the answer. Those words are spoken of our hearts and are said in our name. It behooves us, therefore, to have them above and to keep them there. It ought not to be a difficult thing for us to raise up our hearts, for we picture all that is great and noble as being up there above us. "What is the beauty of the earth compared to heaven?" St. Ignatius used to exclaim—the mere natural heaven, with its sublime secrets. What a fascination there is in the stars for great and small alike ! It is the mystery of the heavens that fascinates children, the unravelling of it that attracts the scientist.
If ever our hearts ought to be above, it should be on the Feast of our Lady's Assumption, when our Queen is taken up for her coronation. We may fancy to ourselves all that is lovely in this world, recall all the barbaric splendor of early times, or the magnificent pageant of modern days, and think of these rejoicings as something like our Mother's homeward going. But we feel in our hearts that it was not so, that our ideas and therefore our language fail altogether when we think and speak of Heavenly things. What we men do upon earth to honor each other is child's play compared to the honor awaiting us above. The fact of Mary's Assmnption is known by tradition only—tradition and common sense. We have the beautiful story of the eleven Apostles at the death-bed of the Immaculate Mother, of her burial at their hands, of the late arrival of St. Thomas, of the re-opened tomb, of the lilies springing from its emptiness to show where the spotless one had lain. No trace of Mary's remains has ever been found. No relics have ever enriched her loving children. And this because her Divine Son did not allow His Mother to see corruption. There was not within her the element of decay, for she had never been defiled by sin. Surely there is no miracle here; the miracle would have been had she followed nature's laws and seen corruption.
"Our nature's solitary boast" Wordsworth, the Protestant poet, calls Mary. And we look up to her and see her in her glory, triumphant over death and all things evil. We see her there body and soul, and hope rises in our hearts. One day we too shall see eternal glory, we poor frail creatures with war in our members and failure in our memories. We have but to fight to the last. Though we fail a hundred times a day we shall win in the end. There is no improvided death for those who fight; it is only for those who give up the warfare. So we look up into our Mother's face and praise her and congratulate her and rejoice with her, as one who has achieved grandly what we are striving after humbly. And we gain strength by the sight.
As the Church year passes we watch our Lord come down from Heaven, live as a little Child playing by His Mother's side; we see Him grow mature and preach to all men in the cornfields and in the streets of the towns; we see Him die a criminal's death. Then we adore Him at His Resurrection, at His glorious Ascension, and kneel with the Apostles and the Blessed Mother for that wonderful blessing that sends us home rejoicing. He died, but He left as a pledge of His love His own Mother to be our comfort and support. But her days of bliss came too. Like her Son, she passed through the portals of death; like Him, she went up body and soul into Heaven—He by His own miraculous power, she assumed by His.
This is why we have our hearts above—our human hearts. God is our only end, and Jesus our Way to the end. Mary by His side shows us our human nature in its perfection and lures us homeward, upward. And so poets have looked upon her and written of her beauty; painters
have imaged her forth, and saints have meditated upon her in wondering delight. It is good for us, too, to see one of our race in finished glory, in happiness complete, and to rejoice with her in her bliss.
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Glories of Mary
Excerpt from the Introduction:
I know that there are innumerable books, both great and small, which treat of the glories of Mary; but as these are rare or voluminous, and not according to my plan, I have endeavored to collect in a small space, from all the authors at my command, the most select and pithy sentences of the Fathers and theologians, in order to give devout persons an opportunity, with little effort or expense, to inflame their ardor by reading of the love of Mary, and especially, to present materials to priests which may enable them to excite by their sermons devotion to the divine mother. Read more about the Glories of Mary...
Devotion of the Holy Rosary
Fr. Muller stresses his great acclamation of the devotion upon which the salvation of great multitudes of sinners rests. The heartfelt recitation of the Rosary and meditation is the best thank you we can give to Mary for her unfathomable mercies. We learn the history of the Rosary, what the Rosary is, the benefits, devotions, temporal blessings. We must say the Rosary with humility, for a lawful object, with fervor, and we must say it with confidence.
Read more about Devotion to the Holy Rosary
Month of Mary
From the Introduction: ...To all the faithful, therefore, devotion to our Blessed Mother is of supreme importance. It is not a mere beauty of Catholic worship, a graceful accessory, an exquisite adornment, or a lawful consolation. It is an essential element in all Christian piety. Without it, holiness is simply impossible. Read more about the Month of Mary
True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
All those who are likely to read this book love God, and lament that they do not love Him more; all desire something for His glory - the spread of some good work, the success of some devotion, the coming of some good time. I cannot think of a higher work or a broader vocation for any one than the simple spreading of this peculiar devotion of the Venerable Grignon De Montfort. Read more about the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin...
Novena to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
A Novena is a series of religious exercises continued for nine days in succession. It is one of the most efficacious means of obtaining favors from Heaven, for it imposes perseverance, a virtue which is necessary for every successful prayer. The associates are urged to sanctify their novena by a good Confession and fervent Holy Communion. Impr 1904. 24 page booklet. Read more about the Novena to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
By: Washbourne Imprimateur 1908
This is the crowning feast of our Blessed Lady. On this day the Church celebrates her departure from this world, and the triumphant entrance into Heaven, not only of her soul, but, according to pious belief (though not of faith), of her body also. Try and imagine the respect, honour, and admiration with which she was received by the whole heavenly court. Words fail us when we try to express with what love and graciousness the Most Holy Trinity welcomed her; how the Father received her as His daughter, the Son as His mother, and the Holy Ghost as His spouse.
What does Mary do for us from the heights of Heaven? She intercedes for us, she pleads our cause, she obtains and distributes heavenly favors. She is a queen of mercy. Her power equals her goodness. Let us, therefore, pray to her in all our wants of body and soul. Let us, above all, implore her to obtain for us a good death, and that constant fidelity to grace which will procure it.
If we are really anxious to be devout to our Blessed Mother, and to obtain her protection, we must strive daily to rid ourselves of sin, which offends her Divine Son, and, moreover, earnestly endavour to imitate her virtues- viz., her love for God, her humility, purity, patience, and conformity with the Divine Will.
"Look down on us thy children,
O Mother dear! look down;
The Mother's face beams kindly
When other faces frown.
Though thou art Queen of Heaven,
And reign'st in joy above,
Yet still, O dearest Mother!
Look down on us with love."
Example.- St. Stanislaus Kostka
One day this amiable Saint was asked if her loved the Virgin Mary. Immediately his face flushed and beamed with angelic sweetness, and raising his eyes towards Heaven, he replied: 'She is my mother; what can I say more?"
Later on, in his eighteenth year, speaking to Father Emmanuel Sa about the Feast of the Assumption, which was approaching, he exclaimed, "O Father, what a happy day for the Saints when our Lady entered Heaven! I feel confident that they celebrate the memory of it every year, and I hope to be present the next time." His youth and good health prevented any serious notice being taken of his remark. Shortly after he began to show signs of weakness, then got so ill that he received the last Sacraments on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption. When asked if he was willing to die or live, according to God's holy will, he replied, "My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready." He then lay peacefully, with his eyes raised to Heaven or towards and image of our Lady, which he pressed to his lips frequently. After midnight he began to fail fast. Suddenly his face changed, and a wonderful radiance rested on it as he gazed on our Lady, who appeared to him surrounded by a number of virgins, who came to bear his soul to Paradise. As the sun rose on the Feast of the Assumption he breathed his last, surrounded by the Father and Brothers, who shed abundant tears as they kissed his hands and fee reverently.
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Illustrious Women of the Bible
By: Bernard O'Reilly
IF the "bondwoman " and her wayward boy were dismissed with a brief mention in the preceding chapter, it is not because they are personages of little importance, but because they are so very important that they should have a separate notice.
For, if we trace back to the great princess and her son the line from which sprung the founders of Christianity and the parents of modern civilization, we are also bound to acknowledge in the tribes descended from Agar and Ismael the authors of a kindred creed and a parallel civilization, second only to Christianity in widespread influence. This shall be made manifest when we have studied a little more leisurely the historical figures of mother and son.
Abraham, after his return from Egypt, and his separation from Lot, dwelt for several years near that same Hebron where he and Sara now await the resurrection-day. An Amorrhite chief, named Mambre, allowed him to pitch his tents in a grove of lordly oaks, and to pasture his numerous flocks in the ad joining vale. It was while there, that the allied kings of Mesopotamia swooped down on the valley of the Jordan to punish a revolt of Chanaanite princes, and carried away into captivity the population spared by the sword. Among these were Lot and his family. Abraham, uniting his armed dependents with those of Mambre, followed the victors to the head-waters of the Jor dan, defeated them with great slaughter, rescued the captives, and returned to the "vale of Mambre," hailed and blessed as a conqueror and a savior. It was at this period, while in the very height of wealth,power, and fame, and while the land resounded with his praises, that Sara, despondent at her own childless condition, gave as wife to her lord " a handmaid, an Egyptian, named Agar " (Gen. xvi. 1). For ten years had Sara lived on amid these fertile valleys, with their setting of majestic mountain scenery, her husband's position becoming daily higher among the great ones of the land; but the devoted wife's eyes looked in vain for the coming of the heir to all this wealth and greatness. In the very first age of the world, and during the lifetime of Adam and Eve, polygamy was introduced into the family by Cain's evil brood. The practice of adding to the one lawful wife and mother inferior wives, no matter by what appellation dignified or disgraced, became general: the good themselves, even among the posterity of Seth, and, later, among the most favored descendants of Sem, yielded to the force of custom. We see it practiced by the patriarchs, apparently in good faith; and jurists and theologians have ever been divided as to its necessity and lawfulness, even at a period when humanity was in its cradle, and the young earth craved hands to till it or gather the spontaneous fruits of its teeming soil.
In these patriarchal households, none but a slave could be such an inferior wife. Bondage was an element inseparable from a condition so humiliating; and bondage was the fate of the vanquished in lawful war, or of the captives made in the incessant forays in which men indulged from the earliest historical times. War, slavery, and polygamy, like the fearful proneness to idolatry, are hard to account for in these primitive ages. God, who had given man free will, had to bear with its excesses and abuse, even as religion had to tolerate bondage and polygamy.
Agar was probably one of the female slaves bestowed on the princess by the Egyptian monarch, when he restored her with all honor to her husband. Some traditions say that she was herself of royal blood, a daughter of the Pharaohs. Her name is identical with the Arabic Hajir, "flight." Was she some nobly-born maiden, captured in a raid like that in repelling which her present master had just distinguished himself? Did she see her home leveled, her parents massacred before the Egyptian raider had put the yoke on her neck? Egypt, in that day, extended its empire as far as Nubia and Abyssinia, and sought for slaves around those very lakes where we are now trying to trace the waters of the Nile to their head-spring. Perhaps it was because the high-spirited girl again and again broke her yoke, and fled from captivity and dishonor, that she was named Hagar, for names, in that early age, had a meaning and a purpose.
Certain it is that hers was not a tame soul ; and the sequel shows her to be gifted with ardent and devoted affection. Perhaps this very trait in her character had endeared her to Sara, herself so unselfish and single-hearted. Nor is there room to doubt, that in choosing Agar to be mother to the heir of all her husband's possessions, to be mother of the child that she intended herself to adopt and love as her own, Sara gave her handmaid no equivocal proof of her confidence and esteem.
But there was, most likely, a great difference in their respective ages. So long as there had been no thought of raising Agar above the level of her fellow-servants, she looked up to the stately beauty of her lady with an admiration which was sincere, because shared by all who gazed on a countenance from which years had not taken away a single grace, while stamping it with a serener majesty. But with the prospects of maternity came new thoughts and new aspirations. It is not that the Bible narrative gives any hint that Abraham transferred to the hand maid a share, though never so slight, of the abiding respect and tenderness with which he regarded her whose whole being was interwoven with his own. In accepting Agar, he yielded to Sara's urgent prayer, while still hoping that the wife of his youth would yet bear the son on whose head should rest all the glories of God's renewed promises.
It may be, that, of Agar's companions, some sought her favor in her elevation, and first whispered comparisons injurious to their mistress; while others were but too ready to report to Sara, exaggerated or distorted, the very words of disparagement or "contempt they had themselves suggested." At all events, she "despised her mistress" (Gen. xvi. 4).
Jealousy, especially in such as Sara, aged, childless, conscious of a long life's unbounded devotion to one blessed and honored of God and men alike, and conscious, too, of being the unselfish benefactress of the slave who would be her rival, - is all the more terrible, that it appears most just. " The Lord judge between me and thee!" Such is the passionate appeal of the lawful wife, who thinks her own place in her husband's heart usurped by another, and er shadowed by unworthy assumptions of superiority.
There surely was moral imperfection in the choice made by Sara, and consented to by Abraham, both because it was a departure from the original and divinely intended unity of marriage, and because it implied a distrust in God's power or willingness to give to Sara a son. And there is as surely injustice in Abraham's giving over to the unreasoning wrath of a jealous woman, one who, though but a slave, was now the mother of his child. " Behold thy handmaid is in thy own hand: use her as it pleaseth thee. And, when Sarai afflicted her, she ran away."
Nothing more powerfully moves the attentive reader to implicit trust in the truthfulness of the sacred writers than the simplicity with which they relate what is really or apparently censurable in the acts they record, as well as what is most praiseworthy. Polygamy is opposed to the perfection, at least, of nature's holiest institution: slavery is a condition that violates the dearest rights of humanity. See how nature, when wronged, soon turns on the evil-doer to plague him! Use is said to the mistress of her offending slave. That the " use," under the circumstances, soon became "ill-usage," and that the correction degenerated into intolerable oppression, the sequel tells but too well.
But He who made not man for slavery, but destined all, from the beginning, to the exalted "freedom of the children of God," will know when and how to repair the wrongs inflicted by the abuse of man's liberty and power. It was the duty of the patriarch, as father, king, teacher, lawgiver, and judge in his own household, to instruct the poor slave given over to him in Egypt. Indeed, Philo says expressly that Abraham and Sara, as well by their saintly examples as by word of mouth, brought their Egyptian handmaiden to the knowledge and worship of the true God. Nevertheless, they fail, in the hour of passion and wrong, to show her, in their forbearance, kindness, and parental reproof, an image of the divine mercy toward the erring. The poor, vain, hot headed, impulsive thing is made to feel, that, although a half-wife in the family, and about to become a mother, she is still but a slave. The yoke so galls her neck, that she flies, turning her face toward her native land.
The desert of Sur, into which the maddened woman plunges headlong, is now well known to the reading public from the detailed and graphic accounts published by travelers and scientific men. Even with skillful guides, and all the comforts and protection money can buy, there are great dangers in the appalling solitudes, with their trackless wastes and labyrinthine valleys, shut in by naked and jagged mountain walls.
How far she had sped on her desperate journey is not told; but she had lain down, sore of foot, and sorer of heart, by the brink of one of the fountains that dot, at rare intervals, the tracks leading toward Egypt. God, who knows of what a mixture of strength and weakness even the noblest souls are made, did not turn his eye away for one moment from the forlorn fugitive. She was his creature, whatever else she was; and he had a mission for her and her posterity. She had been also taught to call on his name in the hour of need. Perhaps her heart-cry had gone up to him before she sank down in exhaustion or in slumber beneath the scanty shade of the little oasis. Lo! God's angel stands by her. "Agar, handmaid of Sarai, whence earnest thou? and whither goest thou?"-" I flee from the face of Sarai, my mistress."-" Return," is the injunction of the heavenly messenger,-" return to thy mistress, and humble thyself under her hand."
It is hard for the soul torn with a tempest of passion to listen to the divine Voice, even when it speaks in no dark or doubtful accents; and acquiescence seems impossible, when one is com-manded to do what is most repugnant to the inner sense of justice. But the Author of our being knows how to touch its springs of action, and, while respecting the innate freedom of our will, to present to it such motives of action, and supply such incentives toward overcoming our inclination, that the victory of his grace becomes a sweet act of obedience. See how he deals with the rebellious spirit before us !
" Behold! [the angel here speaks in God's own name] . . . thou shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Ismael [whom God hears] ; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. He shall be a wild man: his hand will be against all men, and all men's hands against him; and he shall pitch his tents over against all his brethren." So, before the eyes of this outcast and fugitive, the veil of futurity is lifted by the divine Hand, and the destinies of her babe and his posterity are disclosed. Through the long procession of ages, Ismael, living in his children, shall continue to believe in the God of Abraham; and the tents of the wild desert race shall never be far from those of the sons of Sara, whether these still hold their inheritance in Palestine, or mourn in captivity along the Mesopotamian rivers, or be dispersed by the sword of the Roman conqueror among the descendants of Japhet. There will be hostility between them, notwithstanding. No more bitter enemies of the religion and race of Israel have ever existed than the twelve sons of Ismael and their progeny, both before Mohammed and since.
In that vision, the fond mother most likely only dwelt with rapture on what flattered her ambition, the long line of war like and conquering tribes that were to look back to herself, and hail her Mother and Princess. Nor, though the Arabian sway has disappeared from Spain and Northern Africa, lingering like a sickly vegetation in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, has the progeny of Ismael yet ceased to possess in Arabia Proper the elements of an empire, warlike, cultivated, and as fanatical as the hordes which Mohammed or Omar first led to victory.
It can be truly said of the formidable Wahhabee power, nursed amid the beautiful and desert-bound valleys of Central Arabia, that their hand is against every man, and every man's hand against them. God only, who in the present prepares the elements of future empires, revolutions, and civilizations, as he holds in his hand the nebular matter of future worlds in the dark and distant abysses of space, God alone knows and can foretell what is to come of these two or three millions of Ismaelites concealed in the very heart of a continent till the dawning of the fated day that lets them loose upon the nations.
Well might Agar exclaim as the Voice ceased, the preter natural splendors disappeared, and the mysterious form of the speaker receded from her view, "Thou the God who hast seen me! " The light of that countenance had fallen upon her in her darkest hour, and made the wilderness appear a paradise. She would go back to her mistress now, and bear the worst. God watched over her: therefore would she bide the fulfillment of his gracious promises, and meanwhile accept the humiliations that awaited her.
But no further mention is made of punishment or hard usage. With the return of the lost one, humanity asserted its claims in the bosom of Sara; and nature, its obligations in that of Abraham. They both welcomed the birth of Ismael with joy ; but the mother had her own mighty secret, and she could afford to conceal her exultation. Besides, with the knowledge of her boy's destinies, a feeling of just gratitude toward her mistress could now show itself in the offices of a more respectful love, and in the thousand graceful ways in which a heart so satisfied could pay the homage of its reverence and regard to a benefactress.
The sturdy boy had reached his thirteenth year when God made his solemn covenant with Abraham, and distinctly foretold the birth of Isaac. Sara's son alone is God's choice: from him is to spring the God-Man, in whom is the fullness of grace and blessing. While listening " flat on his face" to these joyous tidings, Abraham sends up one brief petition for the son already born; it sounds like a sob from a heart agonized at the prospect of some great impending evil: "Oh that Ismael may live before thee ! " (Gen. xvii. 18.)
The answer comes promptly: With Isaac "and his seed after him," shall the "perpetual covenant" be made; "and as for Ismael I have also heard thee. Behold, I will bless him, and multiply him exceedingly."
"The very same day" was Ismael initiated, by that sacrament prefigurative of baptism, into the special service of the Most High; nor since that day, despite the admixture of idolatrous rites in their worship, and often downright idolatry, despite their lawless life of desert warfare, blood, and pillage, have even the wandering Bedaween tribes, descended of Abraham's eldest son, omitted to set this seal of consecration on their sons. Much more so has this fidelity to, traditional usage characterized the more direct descendants of Ismael, dwelling in the civilized communities of Central Arabia.
Even when the heir of the promises is born, and the whole surrounding country, as has ever been the Eastern custom, flock to the tent of the patriarch to celebrate the event, no instance is related of Agar's having resented by word or deed the supplanting of her boy in the homage of the entire household. Still it was but natural that both the slave and her son should keenly feel the change thereby produced in their own prospects, and in the attitude of all around them. Elder brothers, when fast approaching man's estate, and enjoying that consciousness of unlimited strength and length of years inseparable from their age, are but ill disposed to admit the superiority of a younger brother, and he a babe. Ismael was fond of warlike sports from early boyhood, and, though probably informed by both his parents of the divine promises concerning himself, he did not feel disposed to give up tamely to the infant Isaac the lovely alpine regions of Chanaan, with their exhaustless pasture-lands, broad lakes, majestic river, and delightful climate, for the mysterious and dreaded wildernesses that lay beyond, and the dark chances of building up there an independent and rival nation.
The headlong petulance and violence derived from his mother's African blood would break out more than once, disturbing the peace of the patriarch's tent, and filling his soul with forebodings of future strife. Isaac was only a nursling, and could not be a playfellow for his boisterous brother. Besides, Sara watched both with that jealous affection that no word or look escapes. In Isaac's third or fifth year came the "weaning feast," celebrated with a splendor in keeping with the rank and wealth of the parents. In the midst of the festivities, Sara noticed a burst of Ismael's fierce temper toward his younger. The text is obscure; but it hints at "mockery," or "violence," or habitual "persecution" (Gal. iv. 29), which on that day culminated in some scandalous outbreak. That spirit could no longer be overlooked. Isaac was but a child, whose meek and unresisting nature was like clay in the hand of the potter; and Abraham had long passed his hundredth year. If death should cut off the father before his heir had reached man's estate, who could protect the latter against the jealous violence of his brother, abetted and egged on by Agar's fiery ambition?
So these two mothers and their sons must part. "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son Isaac. Abraham took this grievously for his son. And God said to him, Let it not seem grievous to thee for the boy and for thy bondwoman. In all that Sara hath said to thee hearken to her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. But I will make the son also of the bondwoman a great nation, because he is thy seed." This assurance from on high came to the patriarch in the night. He could no longer hesitate, since God himself commanded the separation, and took Agar and Ismael thenceforward under his own immediate care. " So Abraham rose up in the morning, and, taking bread and a bottle (a skinful) of water, put it upon her shoulder, delivered the boy to her, and sent her away."
Among the hardy and temperate peoples of the East, bread and wholesome water are to this day the staff of life, and the staple of the travelers' food as they hurry across the desert. The inspired writer omits the loving words of comfort with which the venerable man encouraged both mother and son to depart, and to commit themselves wholly to the care of that true Father who had just renewed the prophecy of Ismael's greatness, and of his own especial providence over him.
Words of comfort fall chillingly on a mother's heart when thus turned adrift into the solitude of the wide world, withont home, protector, or friend among all mankind, and while the door of her child's father is irrevocably closed upon her. It was the second time that she directed her steps toward the desolate tracts of Southern Palestine.
"She departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Bersabee (Beersheba). And, when the water in the bottle was spent, she cast the boy under one of the trees that were there. And she went her way, and sat over against him a great way off, as far as a bow can carry ; for she said, I will not see the boy die. And, sitting over against, she lifted up her voice, and wept." Man, even the most hardened, is moved by a mother's tears falling fast over a dying child, particularly an only one: how much more He who made the mother's heart, and created love and compassion there, like unfailing springs of succor and comfort for human misery! And He who has placed such deep wells of tenderness in woman's soul, doth he not possess mercy-the power to pity, to help, to save -in its infinitude? Forgetful and blind that we are! In our distress of to-day, we see only what is dark and desolate in our pathway : we conjure up a thousand difficulties and dangers that beset us as with a wilderness over which there is no road, and we think not even of God's miracles of deliverance wrought for us yesterday, nor of his nearness to us in our present need.
With the wailing of the poor mother arose cries of distress from Ismael. " And God heard the voice of the boy ; and an angel of God called to Agar from heaven, saying, What art thou doing, Agar? Fear not ; for God hath heard the voice of the boy from the place wherein he is. Arise, take up the boy, and hold him by the hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes; and she saw a well of water, and went and filled the bottle, and gave the boy to drink. And God was with him: and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became a young man, an archer."
To mothers oppressed with care, and bereft, to all appearance, of all earthly aid and resource, what a lesson is here! But why limit its teaching and consolations to them? There are few homes within this broad Christian land, in which hours of darkness and desolation do not fall, blotting out every green and refreshing spot on the face of the earth, and quenching the light of every star in the heavens. God himself, in these terrible moments, we think, has utterly forsaken us, withdrawing the presence that once filled the soul with joy and song. Oh! when we deem him far off, that ear is close to our lips, listening to the first whisper of our prayer, that heart is throbbing to pour forth its grace, and the succoring hand already outstretched to raise up the poor sufferer.
In the Arabian traditions, the desert in which Agar and Ismael wandered is placed near Mecca. There, too, is shown the fountain which the angel caused to burst forth for the boy's need. All the honors paid by the Israelites to Isaac and Sara the Arabs transfer to Agar and Ismael. She is the princess who introduced into Arabia the long robes, still distinctive of Arab women, and whose touch is sure protection to the stranger or the culprit, as if Agar still cast over them her royal mantle.
The last act related of her is her choosing an Egyptian wife for her son, probably from among her own kinsfolk. It was a fresh addition of wild impulsiveness to the blood she had given him. Was she present at the death of Sara, or the burial of Abraham? On all this, history is silent; but it is not likely that she ever returned to the scenes of her bitter humiliation. Her tomb, it is claimed, is in Mecca, with that of her son; the presence of their relics being one of the chief causes that render the spot so peculiarly sacred to Mohammedans.
A well-known passage of St. Paul (Gal. iv.) establishes a parallel between Sara and Agar and their respective offspring. Agar the bondwoman represents the religious system solemnly promulgated in fear from Mount Sina, whose privileges were local and temporary, and whose rewards were earthly: a slave herself, she could only beget slaves, subject to the yoke of the Mosaic ceremonial law. Sara, on the contrary, prefigures the Church, born of Christ, promulgated as a law of love on Calvary ; the true spouse of Christ, a free mother, and giving birth to free children, opening her arms to the whole human race, bestowing on them the divine adoption, and with it conferring the right of co-heirship to a supernatural eternity.
Without pursuing the comparison, one reflection may be indulged in: that the Christian Church is the continuation and completion of the Jewish ; that the one leads to the other, and finds in her the realization of the promises made to the patriarchs. We possess and adore what was foreshown to Abraham and to Moses, to Isaias and to Daniel; and, wondrous phenomenon, unlike every thing else in the present and the past, there are the synagogue and the church side by side on every land, after a lapse of nearly nineteen centuries, believing both in the same Redeemer, with this difference, that the Jew still looks forward to his coming, while the Christian believes in him as already come. There is that ancient race, as distinct from all others with whom it mixes as oil is from water: it lives and subsists side by side with the great Christian society to which it has given birth, just as the seed-leaves of some marvelous tropical tree, which never wither or fall off, remain a part of the giant trunk that issued from them, even when the latter shoots up, and towers above the lords of the forest. Nor is it to be forgotten that the race of Agar, even when becoming the apostle of a monstrous creed, rejected alike by Jew and by Christian, has always professed its belief in the God of Abraham, and proclaimed Christ Jesus to be his true prophet.
It must be our duty, as a new epoch draws nearer the nations to each other, to labor, by saintly lives and miracles of beneficence, to win our way to the hearts of the children of Sara and Agar. If we live as we ought, and love them truly, they will be ready to confess that, where true charity is, there, also is the true faith.
We are joining the 'Not Back to School Blog Hop' over on our Catholic Education blog this month!
Check out week 1- Our curriculum choices
Week 2- Our non-school room post (where we store our school stuff and where we do school!)
Also keep your eyes peeled over at All the Saints Books as we should have a Holy Simplicity Planner tutorial up soon along with a give away ;-)
Praying you all are having a blessed week!