Sermons of the Cure of ArsBy: Jean Batiste Marie Vianney - The Cure of Ars+Imprimatur 1901
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
"No man can serve two masters." -St. Matt. vi. 24.
Jesus Christ said to us, my dear friends, that we cannot serve two masters - i.e., God and the wold. You cannot, he says, please both God and the world at the same time. No matter how you may try, you will never succeed. The reason is this, my good friends; they are utterly opposed to each other in their thoughts, their desires, and their actions. What God commands is the very opposite to that which the world promises; the former forbids what the latter allows and favors; the world offers you pleasure, honors and riches; God shows you only tears, repentance, and self-denial; the one leads you upon a - in appearance at least - flowery path, the other upon a thorny path. The one, which is the world, promises to let us enjoy everything we may wish for during this life (though it generally promises more than it can give); at the same time it hides from us the sufferings which await us during eternity. The other, which is Jesus Christ, does not promise us anything of all this, but merely tells us for our consolation that He will be with us and mitigate our sufferings: "Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart; and you shall find rest to your souls."
These, then, my dear friends, are the two masters who demand our whole heart. To which of the two do you wish to belong? All that which the world offers you is only for the present time; fortune, pleasure, honors, will terminate with our life. But if we follow Jesus Christ, who heavily laden with his cross calls us, we shall soon see that the hardships in His service are not as great as we think. He will lead us, and aid us, and console us, and after our suffering, which lasts but a moment, He promises us a happiness which will last as long as He Himself. So as to let you see this clearer, I will show to you, my dear friends, that it is impossible to please God and the world. Either all for God or all for the world; there is no middle way.
It is certain, my friends, that Jesus Christ, while knowing full well that many would retire from the world to devote themselves entirely to Him, that would choose the follies of the cross to spend their life, like His, in sighs, in tears, and in penance to become worthy of the reward which He has promised them, He knew at the same time that many would dessert Him to devote themselves to the world, whose promises are never fulfilled and whose misery is carefully hidden. And that is the reason why He gave us only one heart, so that we could devote ourselves to one master. He tells us expressly that it is impossible to serve God and the world. So soon as we wish to please the one we shall become an enemy to the other.
You know, my dear friends, that the spirit of Jesus Christ is a spirit of the love of God. Now, how can you preserve this spirit when you keep in the company of those who will speak to you only of pleasures and honors, only to laud themselves and to boast of their pretended good qualities and of all they have done or not done? If you are in the company of such a one for any length of time you will become, without noticing it, as proud as he. If you hear somebody continually talk evil of his neighbor you will yourself, without noticing, get a wicked tongue, which carries to every place, wherever you may be, destruction of peace. You know that Jesus Christ, whom you have chosen as your Master, wishes you to keep your heart as pure as possible; but when you associate with the reprobate who does nothing but think and speak of the filthiest and most shameful things, you will become just as bad as he is. You know that your Lord wishes you to love and respect your religion and all that regards your religion, but if you have frequent intercourse with an impious person who scoffs at everything, despises and ridicules the Most Holy, how can you love your religion and fulfill her commandments if these blasphemies are ever dinned in your ears? How can we go to confession to a priest if some godless man has whispered a slander against a priest into our ear and tried to persuade us that it was true and that all priests are thus?
Ah! my good friends, woe to him who follows the world! He is lost! If you wish to be saved you must necessarily flee this world, as otherwise you would think and act like the world and find yourself among those who have been cursed by the Lord.
If you have any further doubts about it, just remember what all the saints did: they considered the world and its pleasures a plague, from which they fled. What else was the reason that the deserts became peopled with so many persons who had before lived in towns and villages, but that they dreaded the world and fled from it for fear that they might become infected and become imbued with the spirit? Yes, my friends,m let us flee from the world, or else we may perish with it. We must not be in accord with the world if we want to be saved. We must wage a continuous war with it; all the saints did that. We must renounce either heaven or the world.
To show you still better to which of the two parities you should belong, we will take a closer look at this world. It consists of three classes: the first is composed of those who are entirely for the world; the second are those who are entirely for God; and the last consists of those people who would like to belong to the world without ceasing to belong to God.
I said, my dear people, that one portion, - the larger, perhaps - is the one which is entirely for the world. To it belong all those who are content when they have suppressed every religious feeling and all thoughts of the life to come, who have done all they could to banish entirely from their mind the terrible thought of the judgement which will be theirs some day. They make use of their knowledge and oftentimes their wealth to draw as many people as possible to their way of thinking. They don't believe in anything, and they glory even in making themselves appear more godless and more profane than they really are, so as to better convince others not to believe the truths, but the falsehoods they have engendered in their hearts. Like Voltaire, who, at the banquet which he gave to his friends the unbelievers, rejoiced over the fact that of all those present, none believed in religion. And yet he himself believed in it, as was proved at the hour of his death. It was then that he eagerly called for a priest to help him to reconcile himself with his God. But it was too late. The good Lord whom he had reviled with such zeal, did to him as he had done to Antioch - He delivered him to the rage of the demons. But let us leave these infidels. You, my dear people, though you are not as good Christians as you ought to be, do not at least, thanks be to the Lord, belong to them.
But, you will ask me, who are those who belong now to God, now to the world? Let me explain, my good friends. Observe them, my dear listeners, from morning until night, from one year's end to the other. These people consider sunday merely as a day of rest and pleasure; they remain in bed longer than on week-days, and instead of turning their heat to God, never give Him a thought. Some think of the amusements they will have on this day - the Lord's day; some, of the visits they will pay to friends. Some will even omit their few morning prayers, thinking it will be time enough to say them in Church before Mass. But they have so much to do before going to Mass so that they arrive at church long after the commencement of Mass. Or the meeting of a friend or anything else that might happen is sufficient to keep them away altogether. Still, to keep up the appearance and to be considered by their neighbors and friends as Christians, they do go once in a while, but with what feelings of unrest and weariness! The only thought they have is:
"Oh, Lord! How long is it going to last? It's too long. I don't think I can go again."
Others, again, don't like the Word of God as pronounced from the altar, the Word of God that has converted so many sinners. They must get out, they say, to get fresh air; they feel depressed, uneasy; and no sooner is the end of the service approaching than they eagerly make for the door even before the priest has had time to leave the altar, and they are again all smiles and merriment. They are too tired to return to Vepers and Benediction. If you ask them why they don't go to Vespers they say:
"Oh, we can't be in church all day. We have other things to do."
These are the people that belong to the world without realizing the fact. But wait. Let us try to make them understand better; only as they are deaf it is very difficult to make them listen to the Word of Life, and as they are blind too, it will be more difficult to make them see their unhappy condition. They have left off saying grace before and after meals or to say the Angelus. And if they do they do it just as a matter of habit, without giving a thought to our dear Lord and His blessed Mother.
Do you know, my good friends, what kind of people these are? They are people who have not lost their faith altogether, who would not wish to give up everything, for they even blame those who absent themselves entirely from divine service; only they do not have courage to break with the world and turn to the good Lord. These people don't want to be damned, but they also don't like to be under any restriction. They hope to be saved without taking much trouble about it. They think God is merciful and certainly did not create them only to destroy them; that He will forgive them in His mercy; that it will be time enough later on to devote themselves to God alone and to rid themselves of their bad habits. If they do think once in a while of the poor use they make of their life, they sigh and maybe some of them will even shed a few tears.
Oh, my dear friends, what a miserable life do those people lead who want to belong to the world without ceasing to belong to God! Let us go into the matter a little further, and you will soon see how inconsistent their way of living is. One moment you will hear them pray to God and perhaps do an act of penance; the next moment you will hear them curse and swear and take the name of the Lord in vain if something goes against their will. This morning you saw them attend Mass and join in the praise of the Lord, and on the same day you will hear them using the most blasphemous language. The same hands which took the holy water and asked God to cleanse them from all sins are used for all kinds of sinful ways; the same eyes which have looked upon the Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament look later in the day at the most indecent objects, and with great pleasure at that. Yesterday you saw a man do an act of charity to his neighbor; to-day you can see him try to cheat him. A moment ago a mother prayed for all kinds of blessings for her children' now she overwhelms them with all sorts of maledictions because they have done something to displease her. Once moment she sends her daughters to church to confession; the next moment she lets them go to a dance. One day she will tell her daughter to be careful and danger of bad company, and the next she will let her be together with young men for hours at a time. Oh, my poor mother, you are of the world. You think you belong to God, by you are deceived. You belong to those of whom Jesus Christ has said: "Woe unto the world!"
Oh, poor world! How unhappy thou art! Continue in this way, and nothing but hell will be they lot. Some would like to make frequent use of the holy sacraments, or at least once a year, but they need a very easy confessor. If their confessor does not find their heart and mind in the right dispositions and refused them absolution, oh! then they are deeply offended and nothing is too bad to say of the poor priest, and yet they know in their own hearts that he cannot give them absolution in the state of sin they are in. Live on, O world! live on in this every-day manner, and you will see what you did not want to see. As if we could divide our heart into two parts! No, my friend: you either belong wholly to God or wholly to the world. You wish to make frequent use of the sacraments? Very well. Quit gambling, keep awy from indecent shows, and quit the saloon. To-day you are willing to approach the sacred tribunal of penance and to receive the Blessed Eucharist, the bead of angels, and in two or three weeks you spend the night in the company of drunkards who are crazed with liquor and, worse still, commit the most abominable acts of impurity. Go on, O world, go on! You will soon be in hell. There they will teach you what you should have done to reach heaven, which you have lost through your own fault.
No, my dear friends, do not let us deceive ourselves. We must sacrifice the world for Jesus Christ or we must sacrifice Jesus Christ for all that which we consider dearest on earth. Besides, there is not one among those attached to the world and who have tried to gain satisfaction from their animal or corrupt instincts - I say there is not one who has been deceived and who did not regret at the hour of his death to have loved the world. Yes, my friends, that is the time when we recognize the vanity and perishableness of all things. We would recognize it now if we would only reflect upon our past life; we would see of how little value life is.
And you, my dear people, you whose growing years are already beginning to bend your heads upon your breasts, you who in your young days chased after the pleasures of this would and thought you would never become tired of them; you have spent many years in the pursuit of these pleasures: dances, gambling, saloons, vanity formed your whole occupation. You put off the return to God again and again. Then when you reached a maturer age you thought of nothing but of accumulating a fortune. And so you have reached old age without having done anything for your salvation. And now, when you have returned from the follies of your youth, when you have ceased your efforts to make a fortune - now, you think, it is time to do better. Don't believe it, my friends. The infirmities of age which are bending you down, your children who despise you - all that will be a new obstacle to your salvation. You thought you belonged to God, and you find out now that you belong to the world, that is, to those who belong now to God and now to the world and who receive their final reward from the latter. You know well enough now that you are deceived if you follow the world. Now, my friends, if somebody deceives us we do not trust him any more, and we are right; but the world deceives us all the time and yet we love it.
At the age of fifteen we say farewell to the pleasures of childhood; we stop running after butterflies and building houses of cards. At the age of thirty we say farewell to the boisterous pleasures of impetuous young manhood; what we delighted in so much begins to weary us. Yes, my friends, we say daily farewell to something in this world. WE are like the traveler who delights in the beauties of the landscape though which passes: as soon as he sees it he must leave it. It is the same with all our possessions and our friends to whom we have such an attachment. And finally we reach the shore of eternity, into which everything passes like into an abyss. Then, my friends, the world disappears forever from our sight, and it is then that we shall recognize how foolish we were in following it. And all that has been told us about sins we will then recognize as being only too true.
"Oh," we shall say, "I have only lived for the world. I have in all my actions only sought the approval of the world, and not all my possessions and my friends of the world are nothing to me! Everything has passed away from my hands. And now I must return to my Creator."
Oh, my dear people, how consoling is this thought for those who have during their life only sought their God! And what despair does it bring to those who have lost sight of their God and the salvation of their souls!
no, my friends, do not let us deceive ourselves. Let us flee, or else we may run the danger of being lost. All our saints have fled and despised the world all their lives. Those who were obliged to live in it lived as if they were not in it. How many of the real great ones have left this world to live in solitude! Let us look at St. Arsenius, who was struck with the idea how difficult it was to obtain salvation in this world, and forthwith left the Emperor's courts to spend his life in the woods, to repent of his sins and do penance. Yes, my dear friends, if we flee from this world, at least as much as it is possible for us to do, we can not perish in this world. St. Augustine gives us a good example of this. He tells us that he once had a friend, a young man who led a perfectly good life. One day he was in the company of his fellow-students, who did not like it that he always lived and acted differently from them. They urged him to go with them to the amphitheater, where there was a prize-fight among men. As our young friend detested such shows, he resisted with all his might. Finally they urged him so much, that he consented with the words:
"Very well. I will go with you, but only my body will be there standing among you. My mind and yes will not partake in this horrible spectacle."So they led him forth, and, while the whole multitude went wild with barbarous delight, the young man took no part and kept his eyes shut. Would that he had also stopped his ears, for at a certain great noise curiosity got the better of him and he opened his yes. That was sufficient to ruin him. The more he say the more delighted was he, and after that there was no need of urging him to visit the place. HE was only too eager to go there and to induce others to go with him.
"Oh, mu Lord!" exclaimed St. Augustine, "who will lead him away from this abyss? The grace of God alone can do it!"
In conclusion, my dear friends, let me say to you: If we do not flee from the world and its pleasures, if we do not hide ourselves away as much as possible, then we run into our ruin and will be lost forever. If you want to belong entirely to God you must be prepared to be despised and rejected by the world. Blessed is he, my friends, who belongs to these, and who follows in the footsteps of the Lord with courage and carries his cross with patience. It is only by doing so that we may obtain happiness of reaching heaven. Amen.
The Secret of the Cure D' Ars
By: Henri Gheon
+ Imprimatur EDM. CAN. Surmont
Westmonasterii: Die va Februarii, MCMXXIX
Excerpt from Chapter 1 - Youth
"Once upon a time there lived in France in the Province of Lyons a little peasant boy, a Christian who from his earliest days loved solitude and loved God.
"As the clever gentlemen in Paris who has made the Revolution prevented people from praying, he used to go with his parents to hear Mass in a barn. The priests were in hiding, and when they were caught their heads were cut off with all available neatness.
"That is why it entered Jean-Marie Vianney's head to become a priest.
"But though he was much given to prayer he had no learning. He tended sheep, he ploughed the fields. He entered his seminary late and failed in all his examinations. But at last, as vocations happened to be scarce, they decided that they might as well take him.
"He was appointed to Ars, and there he stayed till he died, France's least cure in France's least village.
"But, at any rate, he really was
cure there, which doesn't always happen, and he was cure with such thoroughness that France's least village had France's greatest cure, so that the whole of France made pilgrimage to see him.
"Now, he converted all who came to him, and if he had not died, he would have converted the whole of France.
"He cured souls and bodies, he read hearts like a book.
"And the Blessed Virgin visited him, and the foul fiend dragged him by the heels but could not prevent him being a saint.
"They made him a Canon, a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour - and later they beatified him.
"Nut while he lived, he could never make out why.
"Which was a very good proof that he had deserved his glory.
"All this happened in the nineteenth century, which in Paradise, where they know the true value of men, is called "The century of the Cure d'Ars,' but, of course, France could scarcely be expected to know that.
All this is nothing but the truth; but we must look at the reverse of the medal. There we find the drama, the pivot of a thousand other dramas - the man who saved souls, and the price he paid, and the countless souls he saved. Heaven and earth and hell meet in it. To write it properly you would need five or six Balzacs. La Comedie Humaine
is a mere trifle compared with the play that was acted at Ars over a space of thirdy years, and at exactly the same time, with all the threads in the hands of one poor priest.
But we aim lower, since we wish no more than to bring into one honest picture the various traits which witnesses and the three biographers - Monnin, Joseph Vianney and Trochu - put before us in their memoirs and in their books. The matter is measureless, not to be exhausted here. But we shall invent nothing This little book is history.
This weeks Friday Fare ... Food for the Soul
Sermons for the Sundays and Feasts of the Year
By: The Ven. Cure of Ars (Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney) +Imprimatur Michael Augustine, Archbishop of New York New York, September 11, 1901 TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
The Lord gives us the commandment that we should love Him as He loves us, with our whole heart, undivided; with our whole soul and with our whole strength; and He promises us eternal reward if we keep the commandment faithfully, and threatens eternal punishment if we do not keep it. If we are beset by so many trouble in this world, it is because we neglect the commandments of God; for He Himself has said: If you keep my commandments faithfully, I will belss you in many ways; if, however, you transgress them, you will be cursed in everything that you do. If then, dear brethren, we wish to be happy in this world, as far s that is prossible, we have no other means thereto but that of keeping faithfully the commandments of God, and we shall see, that as we turn aside from the path pointed out to us by the commandments of God, soul and body will be unhappy in this as well as in the next world Our eternal blessedness depends upon our faithful observance of the commandments which the good God has given us, but God rewards already in this life those that are faithful to Him, and I will show you to-day. The Happiness of those who obey the commandments of God and the Unhappiness of those who do not.
If, dear brethren, we open the Scriptures, we shall find there, that all those who made it their duty to observe rightly the commandments of God, were always happy, because God never abandons those who make it their duty to do that which He commands them to do. Already Adam is a good example of this. As long as he observed the commandments of the Lord faithfully, he was in a blissful state in ever respect; his body, his soul, his mind and all his senses were directed to God alone; even the angels descended from heaven to bear him company. The bliss of our first parents would have remained the same forever, had they continued faithful to their duties; but this happy state did not last long. The evil spirit envious at such bliss, plunged them into ruin, and robbed them of all their possessions, which they should have enjoyed for all eternity. As soon as they had the misfortune to transgress the Lord's commandments, everything went wrong with them; troubles and cares, sickness, fear of death and judgment and of punishment in another life took the place of their former bliss; their life now was nothing but a state of tears and sufferings.
The Lord said to Moses: "Tell my people that if they faithfully observe my commandments, I will fill them with all kinds of blessings; but if they dare to transgress them, I shall punish them with all kinds of sufferings." God said to Abraham: "Because thou has faithfully kept my commandments, I will bless thee in everything. I will bless all those who bless thee; I shall curse all those who curse thee; out of thy race the Redeemer of the world shall be born." He made known to Abraham's people, when the time had arrived for them to enter into the promised land: "The people who dwelt in this land committed great sins; for this reason I shall drive them out, and put you in their place. But take care not to transgress my commandments. If you keep them faithfully, I shall bless you in and above everything. When you are in the fields or in your houses, I shall bless your children, who will then love you, respect and obey you, and give you all kinds of consolation. I will command the heavens to give you rain at the proper times, as much as will be necessary to water your fields and your meadows; everything will prosper with you." In another place in the scriptures, God says: "If you keep my commandments faithfully I shall watch unceasingly over your preservation; you can be without fear in your houses; I will prevent the wild beasts from harming you; you will be able to sleep in peace; nothing shall disturb you. I will always be with you. I shall walk with you. I am your God, and you will be my people." Again He says to Moses: "Say unto my people, that if they keep my commandments, I will deliver them from all evils that oppress them." And the Holy Ghost says that "he who keeps the commandments of the Lord, is happier than if he possessed all the wealth of the earth."
Now, have you ever considered, that God lays such stress upon the keeping of His commandments, and that He promises such great benefits in return for their faithful observance? You will then agree with me, that our whole happiness consists in keeping faithfully the commandments. To prove to you, dear brethren, that as soon as we transgress the commandments, we can only be unhappy, let David serve us as an example. As long as he trod the path which the commandments prescribed to him, everything prospered with him: he was beloved, esteemed and obeyed by his neighbors. But the very moment that he no longer observed the commandments, his happiness came to an end, and all kinds of trouble beset him. Anxiety and remorse of conscience took the place of that peace and contentedness which he had hitherto enjoyed. Tears and sufferings were his daily bread. As he was one day bemoaning his sins, he was informed that his son Amon had been pierced with a sword by his brother Absalom in a fit of drunkenness. Absalom tried to depose his father, even to kill him, that he might reign in his stead; David was obliged to hide in the woods to escape death. Moreover, the plague slew a large number od David's subjects.
Solomon affords us another example: As long as he kept faithfully the commandments, he had the admiration of the world; his renown reached to the furthermost parts of the earth; the queen of Saba even came from afar to witness the wonders which the Lord had worked in him; but as soon as he had the misfortune no longer to observe the commandments, everything went wrong with him. Upon hearing these examples, even from the Old Testament only, you will agree with me, dear brethren, that all our troubles arise from the fact that we do not observe the commandments of God faithfully, and that if we expect happiness and peace, as far as we may expect to possess such in this world, in this vale of suffering and sorrow, then, I say, the only means of securing these benefits is, to do everything in our power to please God - everything, therefore, that He bids us to do in His commandments.
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"And you shall give testimony, because you are with
me from the beginning." -John xv. 27.
Sermons for the Sundays and Feasts of the Year
By: Cure of Ars Imprimatur 1901
SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
The Followers of Christ Should Give Testimony of Him
When two kingdoms are at war with one another it is easy to distinguish the soldiers for either party by their arms, their uniforms, and their flags. A violent struggle has been going on since the beginning of the world between the King of heaven and earth and the prince of darkness as to which of them the human race should belong. Christ, the Redeemer, by His death and resurrection, has won the victory over hell. Before He entered gloriously into heaven as a conqueror, leading with Him the souls of the just of the old law, as the first-born of His victory, He founded His Church upon earth as His kingdom, in which we should continue to combat against hell, and by His power we should and could complete the victory. Therefore He says to His Apostles, the generals of His kingdom, "You will give testimony of me," and Holy Writ says of them, "With great power did the Apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord." (Acts iv. 33.) The words of Christ apply also to us. We are all obliged to give testimony of Him, not by sermons and miracles, as the Apostles did, but by our lie, by the imitation of Jesus; for as we have all become members of His body, and have received from Christ the name of "Christians," we are obliged to lead a life worthy of this Chief, not to bring disgrace upon His Holy Name, but so to live that in our life the Christian can be distinguished from the non-Christian. This is our testimony of Christ. I will now speak on this subject. In the Canticle of Canticles, the divine Bridegroom says to the soul that loves Him: (Cant. viii. 6): "Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm." We bear this seal of Christ when we imitate Him:
I. In our will.
II. In our words.
III. In our works.
I. I. David expresses that the will of our Redeemer was in these words, which the Holy Ghost permits Him to speak (Ps. xxxix. 8-9): "In the head of the book it is written of me that I should do thy will: O my God, I have desired it
, and thy law in the midst of my heart." But Christ says of Himself (John vi. 38), "Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me," and (John iv. 34) "My food is to do the will of him that sent me"; and the Apostle extols Him, saying (Phil. ii. 8): "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto the death, even the death of the cross." When He descended from the glory of heaven upon earth He sacrificed Himself to the will of His Father. "Thou willest, O my God," He said, as it were, with complete resignation, "that I should be born in a desolated stable; that I should shed my blood at the circumcision; that I should flee before Herod; that I should bear the burdens of the troubles of this earthly life for three and thirty years. Thou willest that I should be betrayed, despised, spit upon, buffeted upon the cheeks and scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross, and suffer the most cruel of deaths. My God, I will it also. I am ready to suffer these and still greater afflictions."
2. Now, dear Christian, behold an act according to this model in thy dispositions. When a thousand disappointments beset you, say, too, "My God, I will it!" When poverty afflicts you, when the calumniator's tongue wounds you, when false friends deceive you, vincible patience imitate Christ, and say, "My God, I will it!" You must have these dispositions, this will; then the life of Christ is your model and you give testimony of Him.
3. How have you acted up to the present? Examine yourself and acknowledge how different your dispositions have often been to those of the Lord. Ah, how many ambitious people are there whose whole thoughts and actions are directed toward the acquisition of honor, recognition, offices, and dignities! How many avaricious people who ponder night and day how to increase their mammon! How many worldlings who think continually of their pleasures! How many revengeful souls who will not forget the insults they have endured! Is this giving testimony of Christ? Do not the heathens do likewise, who give testimony of data?
II. I. Of what kind are the words of Christ the Lord? Peter once said (John vi. 69). "Thou hast the words of eternal life," for all His words were directed to the honor of God, the extirpation of sin, the growth of virtue, and the salvation of souls. Consider this in the seven last sacred words which He spoke from the cross in the midst of His death-agony. First He prayed to the heavenly Father, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke xxiii. 34) These are words of mercy and reconciliation. To the penitent their He said, "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Luke xxiii. 43) - words of blessed promise. He addresses these words to His Blessed Mother, "Woman, behold thy son!" and to His disciple, "Behold thy mother!" (John xix. 26.) What consoling words! In the moment of abandonment He cries out, with entire submission and confidence in God, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. xxxvii. 46) His desire to suffer still more and in the highest degree for the sake of our salvation is proved to us by His cry, "I thirst" (John xix. 28), "It is consummated" (John xix. 30). He says, full of joy, that He has completed our redemption, and He recommends His soul with resignation into the hands of His Father: "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke xxiii. 46.) Now, dear Christians, look at this model and act accordingly in thy words. Whatever you speak must be to the honor of God, and to thine own and thy neighbor's salvation. Speech is given to us, as a servant of God says, to praise God, to the edification of our neighbor.
2. Have your conversations been of this description, dear Christian? Ah, how different have they often been from the Lord's! If we go into the houses and palaces of the rich and powerful, what talk, what conversations are there in vogue? What words do we hear in the halls of learning, in the assembly of the leaders of the people? In the streets we meet the indications of sensual pleasures, in the stores it is vanity; at home, in the workshops, too often, unfortunately, it is unbelief and blasphemy. Where is the place in which reputations are not blasted, slanders, blasphemies, oaths, and especially where improper conversations have not found a home, in our days? Even family life is no longer pure, and words are dropped into the ears of innocent children that poison their souls. Dear Christians, is this giving testimony of Christ? Do not the heathen do likewise, who give testimony of satan?
III. I. Let us consider, in conclusion, the works of the Lord. St. Bernard describes them to us thus: "Under the name of Jesus I picture to myself a man humble and meek of heart, kind, temperate, chaste, merciful - in short, distinguished in every virtue and holiness." Our Lord's own teaching is witness that He was perfect in the practice of all the works which He taught. He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," and from His birth in the stable until His death upon the cross He was Himself the poorest, "for He had not where to lay His head." "Blessed are the meek," He says and He forgives not only the wrong done to Him, but he rewards it with the richest benefits. "Blessed are the sorrowful;" He expiated our sins by His whole body, and wept over them tears of blood. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice;" but His food was to do the will of His Father. "Blessed are the merciful;" He heaped good deeds upon His enemies. "Blessed are the peacemakers;" He made peace between God and man. "Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice sake;" He bears hatred and persecution on account of His teaching until His death.
2. But how do we perform our works? Do you not love your body and your comfort inordinately, and adhere so obstinately to the maxims of the world that you are almost ashamed to be a Christian? Or you love sin, allow your vices to become habits, and have even laid aside all feelings of shame therefore, or you only think of that which is earthly, and live on like the unreasoning animal, constantly pursuing pleasures and sensuality. Unhappy Christian, is this the way to give testimony of Christ? do not the heathen do the same, who give testimony of satan? Is it any wonder that heretics and unbelievers are not converted when they see that Catholics and Christians are worse than they are?
3. Therefore, my dear Christians, behold, and behave according to the model that is shown to you. It is your duty to imitate the teaching and the example of the Redeemer and to practice diligently upon His laws; you must crucify your flesh with its wicked desires; you must not be overcome by adversity, nor dazzled by happiness. It is your duty so to practice the Christian virtues that even unbelievers shall admire them, and say that they are not able to reach to such a high perfection. If this could be said of all Christians, surely the whole world would soon be Christian!
Do not delay, dear Christian, to conform you life to the life of Jesus Christ, and thereby to give testimony of Him. Hear how the Apostle exhorts you (II. Cor. iv. 10): "Always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies." By mortification you must make your life a copy of His life. Your eye should not be overcurious, nor your mouth without shame, nor your sensual desires ungovernable, as the heathens are; your conduct must not correspond with the life of the rich glutton. On the contrary, all those who see your retirement and your modesty must acknowledge that you are not only in name, but in deed and truth a Christian, a follower of the Crucified One, and an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
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Feast of All Saints
Sermons of the Cure d'Ars
"I beseech thee, my son, look upon heave." - II. Mach. vii 28.
To-day, my dear Christians, is a day on which, more than on any other, the faithful look up to heaven and reflect, how supremely happy the saints who enjoy the bliss of heaven at the throne of Go; a day on which, by meditating on the never-ending happiness of the saints, an ardent longing is stirred in our hearts that we may one day take part in this happiness. But to reach this happiness we must not be satisfied with meditation alone. We must consider the way of living of the saints upon earth, and ask the question, How did they obtain their blissful state in heaven? We will consider in turn -
I. The state of the saints on earth and
II. The state of the saints in heaven.
May the Lord bless our meditation.
I. The state of the saints on earth, my dear Christians, was neither pleasant, nor easy, not sweet, as the children of this world desire it or try to make it. No. Theirs was a lot both hard and difficult! They trod the paths which their Saviour himself had pointed out to them in the words: "So likewise every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth cannot be my disciple" (Luke xvi 33). They followed the path on which Jesus Christ had promised them crosses and tribulations with these words: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt. xvi. 24). They followed the path which Jesus calls a "narrow" waythat leadeth to life" (Matt. vii. 14). They followed in the service of God
at threefold hard path - namely, the path of renunciation. They renounced all worldly treasures and goods; they often gave all that they possessed to the poor, and then they themselves led a life of poverty. They wanted to be the disciples of Jesus, who in this world "had nowhere to lay his head" (Matt. viii. 20). They renounced all honors, all the dignities of man. Many of them came of princely and royal families renounced their title to the princely or royal throne which would have given them in the eyes of the world the highest honors, and they lived, unnoticed by the world, a life of greatest humility and retirement, bearing in mind the words of Jesus: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke xviii. 14). They renounced all the pleasures and delights of the world, for they knew that they draw the heart from God and defile the soul with sin, and they sought only their joy in God by leading a holy life in His service, through which they said in the words of the prophet Isaias: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God" Isaias lxi. 10). And by all this renunciation they felt in their souls the highest possible happiness; in them was the world of the Psalmist fulfilled: "Blessed is the man who hath not had regard to vanities" (Ps. xxxix. 5.).
Dear Christians! We all have to-day the desire - yes, even the ardent longing - to enjoy one day with the saints in heaven their glory and their happiness. But let us
consider well that the Christian whose thoughts and actions are only directed toward transitory treasures, honors, and pleasures is not on the path where the joys of heaven are found. Christians must not desire what is earthly but what is heavenly; not what is false, but what is true; not what is temporary and fleeting, but what is eternal and never-ending. Therefore our hearts must not be set upon the treasures, honors, and pleasures of this world, so that we may not miss the end for which we were created -heaven. "For what doth is profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 26.). Our Saviour calls to us Christians and exhorts us to strive after the happiness of heaven with these words: "Seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. vi. 33). "The fool," says St. Ambrose, "holds with them who are of the world; the wise man prefers the eternal glory of heaven" (Serm. 37).
The saints of heaven, I will say further, chose to reachheaven by the way of mortification. The saints got to heaven by their virtues. Virtue and sin cannot dwell together in the soul. So that virtue might grow and strengthen, the saints uprooted the wicked propensity to sin in their flesh by practicing mortification. They considered it the object of their lives daily to mortify the desires of the flesh through the spirit, to overcome them, to struggle against them, and to uproot them entirely. "That was," as one of the saints said, "their work and their struggle." For that reason they fasted strictly; only tasted the poorest kind of food so as to give to their bodies only strength absolutely necessary, St. Makarius, to mortify himself, for seven long years only ate raw herbs and vegetables moistened in water. We know that many of the holy hermits lived on herbs and roots. Besides this strict fasting, they practiced mortification by chastising and scourging their bodies. They wore hair shirts and coarse garments of penance next to the skin, scourged their bodies with heavy cords and whipped themselves till the blood came. At night they did not lie on a soft bed, but most often on the hard ground, and only for a few hours to rest from their labors. We read in the life of St. Casimir, a Polish prince, that he wore a hair shirt in the midst of the gay pleasures and frivolities of the court; of Louis, King of France, that he never left off his hair shirt; of the pious Philip II. of Spain, that on his dying bed he gave his own son Philip a scourge covered with blood, with these words: "Keep this scourge which has so often been stained with my blood."
You see, dear Christians, this is how the saints mortified themselves. They crucified their bodies inclined to sin, rooted out the cause of sin, so as to overcome all the temptations of the wicked one. What would some of the delicate children of the world say to this, those who never do the least harm to their worldliness, nor fast, nor deny their bodies anything, and therefore in time of temptation they are exposed to sin? Do they not think that what the saints did was a great deal too hard? That they did unnecessary things which God did not require of them? If God does not require such a harsh life of penance, still our Saviour's words are there when He says: "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away" (Matt. xi. 12).
Lastly, the saints in heaven chose, so as to reach heaven, the way of the cross and suffering. They understood those words of Jesus: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. xvi. 24). For this reason they endured patiently the dungeon and fetters, the agonies of the stake and the scaffold; allowed themselves to be torn asunder by wild beasts and, like their Lord and Master, be bound to the cross, remembering the worlds of St. Paul: "If we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him" (Rom, viii. 17). That
is why they bore all sufferings, not only with the greatest patience, but also gladly with joy. As St. Paul said of himself: "I am filled with comfort; I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation" (II. Cor. vii. 4). So could these saints say. "Never in my life," cried out St. Dorothy, in the midst of her martyrdom, "have I experienced such joy." and St. Andrew saluted the cross on which he was nailed with these words: "O, thou cherished and ardently longed-for cross! Thou bringest me happiness; therefore I approach thee with joy!" The saints, besides bearing with the greatest joy every pain which God sent them, even prayed to God when they were free from suffering that HE would not send them pleasures, but sufferings. St. Teresa's lifelong desire was "to suffer or to die." St.Francis Xaiver had such a great desire to suffer for Christ that once, when he was filled with consolation and happiness, he cried out, "It is enough, O Lord, it is enough!" while, on the other hand, when tribulation and suffering beset him, he cried: "Still more, O Lord, still more!" He was often heard to say these words: "O Lord, take not this cross away from me, or if so, then give me in its place a heavier one."
My dear Christians, are we not astonished at what the saints have suffered, at the patience which they exhibited in all this suffering, at the longing which they showed for crosses and sufferings? And we complain when we have to suffer a little! We bear with impatience the slightest adversity sent to us from God. Let us remember that "through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God," and let us bear the little suffering which God sends us with patience and submission, so that we may by this, like the saints, obtain the everlasting joys of heaven.
So as to encourage us, let us consider what rewards the saints have obtained in heaven for their hard and difficult lot while on this earth.
My dear Christians, the saints of God have undertaken and borne great things while on earth, and great things will God give them for all eternity, namely, heaven. They renounced everything in this world; they can, therefore, according to God's own promises, expect great things in the other world. They mortified themselves on earth, and therefore they can enjoy themselves for all eternity. And what are the joys which they have received from the Giver of all good gifts? I answer:
(a) Joy without pain. Whenever man has any happiness the pain is not far off. If we enjoy a day of festivity, it is soon followed by a day of suffering. If we enjoy good health it is soon followed by indisposition or probably sickness. Here below our happiness is never perfect; it never lasts long; it is never enduring/ But what is the joy of the saints in heaven? Inchangeable and undisturbed. "Joy and gladness," says the Holy Ghost through the prophet Isaias (li. II). "they shall obtain; sorrow and mourning shall flee away." "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," so we read in the Apocalypse of St. John (xxi. 4): "and death shall be no more; nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more." Oh, true life! Oh, eternal life! Oh, life of never-ending happiness! There is joy without pain; rest without work, abundance without want, life without death, happiness without suffering. St.
Augustine says: "It is easier to say what is not in heaven than what is in heaven." There is found no death, no mourning, no weariness, no weakness, no hunger, n thirst, no heat, no sickness, no infirmity, no sadness, no melancholy. Now these things are not
there. Do you wish to know what is
there? There is an everlasting home where youth never grows old, where love never grows cold, where beauty never fades, where pleasure never ceases. For this reason the angels are portrayed as beautiful, youthful figures, although they have been creatures created for over six thousand years; there nothing decays; nothing loses its strength and beauty.
(b) These joys without suffering are then unspeakable, great joys. "Oh, how great," says the Paslmist David, "is the multitude of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou has hidden from them that fear Thee!" (Ps. xxx. 20). And he himself gives this answer: and Thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of Thy pleasure. For with Thee is the fountain of life; and in Thy light we shall see light" (Ps. xxxv. 9). "For better is one day in Thy courts above thousands" (Ps. lxxxiii. II). And what reward our blessed Lord has Himself promised His servants in heaven with these words: "Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven" (Matt. v. 12). And what was the joy of St. Paul when he was deemed worthy to look into the third heaven! He is not able to describe it, therefore he falters the words: "The eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him" (I. Cor. ii. 9).
The holy fathers of the Church have often taken pains to try to express the sweetness and pleasantness of heavenly joys; but they were not able, as the great thinker St. Augustine himself says, to describe these things as they really are, only in a certain way to feel them. "So great," saysSt. Augustine, comparingly, "is the glory of heavenly bliss that man, if he had only spent a single day there, would give
years of bliss and pleasures of this life for it."
"The reward of the saints in heaven," writes ST. Bernard, "is so great that man cannot measure it, so rich that man cannot give it utterance, and so precious that man cannot price it." And, therefore, to give us an idea of the joys of heaven, he breaks out in these words: "O joy above all joys! Joy that over reachest every joy, and out of thee there is no joy!" "O gaudium super gaudium! gaudium vincens
omne guadium, extra quod non est gaudium!
"Place," writes a great theologian, "all the many great
happinesses which the world has together: the happiness to posses all earthly
treasures, the happiness of all power and honors, all the joys and pleasures of
a worldly life; multiply these happinesses a hundred, a thousand, a million
times, multiply them as much as and as often as you can, and they are not to be
compared with the never-ending joys of heaven. Compare, as in Holy Scripture,
the joys of heaven to a magnificent feast, a brilliant, joyous feast, and you
are still immeasureably short of the truth. As here below, trouble and
suffering, so there above the elect enjoy bliss and joy on all sides; and joy in
Jesus, their Saviour and their King, whose divine gracious countenance they love
to look upon; bliss and joy in Mary, their Mother and their Queen, whose
unutterable beauty delights them; bliss and joy at the exalted thorns which they
themselves occupy and at the glorious crown which adorns their heads; bliss and
joy at the hymns of praise us, by the choirs of heaven; bliss and joy at the
sight of the glory of their triumphant breathern." Truly, the prophet is right
when he says: "With the stream of Thy glory, O Lord, wilt Thou drown
(c) Lastly, the joys of heaven are everlasting. The soul
of man is immortal, and everlasting and eternal is the reward for the souls of
the just. From the kingdom of God the Son in heaven the angel said to Mary: "And
of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke i. 33). Our Divine Saviour says
Himself of the reward of the just: "But the just into life everlasting" (Matt.
xxv. 46). When Christ spoke to His disciples of His return to the Father, He
said also to console them: "So also you now indeed have sorrow, but I will see
you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from
you" (John xvi. 22). That is to say, it shall last forever. And lastly,
writes: "For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, wortketh for
us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (II. Cor. iv.
The eternal joy of heaven! What a glorious reward for the
saints for their short renunciation of earthly things, for a short struggle
with sin, for a short suffering borne with patience! "A short time," says
"does work in this world last; eternal is the rest in heaven: short is the
pain; eternal is the glory: short is the suffering; without end the joy" (in
Ps. 26). Source of Life, when shall I enter into Thy joys, from which no more
will be kept away? Oh true, sweet, and peasant life! O most sure rest, the most
restful happiness." And how long have the saints enjoyed this heavenly
happiness? For many decades, many hundreds of years. And how much of eternity
has passed for them already? Not a moment. And how much longer will they enjoy
the happiness in heaven? Centuries? No, forever! Or thousands of years? No,
forever! Or millions of years? No, forever! Or for as many years as there are
grains of sand on the earth or drops of water in the ocean? No, much longer,
much longer - forever! Oh, you saints in heaven, how inexpressibly happy are
Now, my dear Christians, what are we going to do after the contemplation of the happiness of the saints in heaven? We all wish to cry out with ST. Aloysius: "We want to go to heaven! We want to go to heaven!" And so that we may reach heaven we must place all our though there, and not on this transitory world. As St. Symphorianus was led to the place of martyrdom, his pious mother, who followed him, to give him encouragement to bear his triumphs steadfastly, repeated these words over and over again: "My child, my child, think of everlasting life!" Dear
Christians, when it seems hard for you to renounce the world, to fight against
sin, to return to God after sinning, to lead a Christian life and steadfastly
walk in the paths of virtue; when trials frighten you, which no one is without;
then think of the eternal reward which awaits you in heaven. Consider that for
a little trouble you will receive a great reward, for an easy victory a good,
and for a momentary trouble an everlasting reward. Undertake, therefore, this
light this little, this short trouble which the way of virtue requires, and you
will receive in reutrn a good, a great, and an everlasting reward in heaven.