"To serve God is to reign." - St. Antoninus
PICTORIAL LIVES OF THE SAINTS WITH REFLECTIONS FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR
May 10.—ST. ANTONINUS, Bishop.
ANTONINUS, or Little Antony, as he was called from his small stature, was born at Florence in 1389. After a childhood of singular holiness, he begged to be admitted into the Dominican house at Fiesole; but the Superior, to test his sincerity and perseverance, told him he must first learn by heart the book of the Decretals, containing several hundred pages. This apparently impossible task was accomplished within twelve months; and Antoninus received the coveted habit in his sixteenth year. While still very young, he filled several important posts of his Order, and was consulted on questions of difficulty by the most learned men of his day; being known, for his wonderful prudence, as "the Counsellor." He wrote several works on theology and history, and sat as Papal Theologian at the Council of Florence. In 1446 he was compelled to accept the archbishopric of that city; and in this dignity earned for himself the title of "the Father of the Poor," for all he had was at their disposal. St. Antoninus never refused an alms which was asked in the name of God. When he had no money, he gave his clothes, shoes, or furniture. One day, being sent by the Florentines to the Pope, as he approached Rome a beggar came up to him almost naked, and asked him for an alms for Christ's sake. Outdoing St. Martin, Antoninus gave him his whole cloak. When he entered the city, another was given him; by whom he knew not. His household consisted of only six persons; his palace contained no plate or costly furniture, and was often nearly destitute of the necessaries of life. His one mule was frequently sold for the relief of the poor, when it would be bought back for him by some wealthy citizen. He died embracing the crucifix, May 2d, 1459, often repeating the words, "To serve God is to reign."Reflection
.—"Alms-deeds," says St. Augustine, "comprise every kind of service rendered to our neighbor who needs such assistance. He who supports a lame man bestows an alms on him with his feet; he who guides a blind man does him a charity with his eyes; he who carries an invalid or an old man upon his shoulders imparts to him an alms of his strength. Hence none are so poor but they may bestow an alms on the wealthiest man in the world."READ MORE ABOUT ST. ANTONINUS AND VIEW A MAP SHOWING WHERE HIS RELICS ARE OVER AT ALL THE SAINTS AND PETER AND PAUL
This Weeks Friday Fare ...... Food for the Soul Our Lady of La Salette
ANECDOTES AND EXAMPLES FOR THE CATECHISM
By: Rev. Francis Spirago +Imprimatur 1908
Q. Which are the chief means by which we satisfy God for the temporal punishment due to sin?A. The chief means by which we satisfy God for the temporal punishment due to sin are:-Prayer.
"HOLY FATHER, PUT IN YOUR HAND."
We ought to pray that not our will but God's will be done. One of the popes ordered a plan for a new church to be designed by an architect. When it was ready, the architect sent it by his little boy for the Holy Father's inspection. The Pop approved highly of the design, and to show his satisfaction at seeing his wishes so well carried out, he called the boy into his room, and opening a drawer which was filled with ducats, said: "Put in your hand, my boy, and take as many as you can hold." The child looked up at the Pope and said: "Holy Father, put your hand in; it is much larger than mine." Let us learn from this child how we ought to act toward almighty God. We ought not to pray that our will may be done, but rather to exclaim: "Thy will be done, O Lord." For God knows far better than we do what is good for us, and He will do more for us than we can ask or think.Fasting.
On September 19th, 1846, on Mt. La Salette, in the south of France, Our Lady appeared to two young shepherds, Melany and Maximin. Her eyes were full of tears, and she complained that her Son's arm was getting so heavy she could hardly prevent it falling and crushing the world for its sins. She named three sins especially: blasphemy, profanation of Sunday, and disregard for laws of fasting and abstinence.Almsgiving.
COMMAND THAT THESE TONES BE MADE BERAD
The superfluous ornaments of the rich would relieve much distress. Louis, duke of Burgundy, a grandson of the French king, Louis XIV, who was educated by the celebrated Bishop Fenelon, displayed from his earliest years great kindness of heart. At a time when provisions were very scarce in Paris, he was one day coming from Versailles when he was followed and beset by a hungry crowd, begging for alms. He gave away all the money he had with him, but still the people came flocking up in ever increasing numbers clamoring for bread. Then he detached from his breast the decorations, set with precious stones, which he wore; and handing them to his attendant, said: "Sell these, and command that they be made bread."
A BEGGER SHARES WITH OTHERS THE BREAD GIVEN HIM
In a manufacturing town both parents of a certain family worked in a factory; they were out the whole day and only returned home in the evening. Thus the children were left alone in the house all day. One morning there was a knock at the door. One of the children ran to open it, and saw a beggar who asked for an alms. The child replied: "I have nothing to give you; we are poor ourselves and often have nothing to eat." The mendicant went away on hearing this. In the afternoon of the same day there was again a knock on the door. The same child went to open it, and saw before him the self-same beggar. He repeated what he had said in the morning, but the beggar said: "I have not come to ask anything of you; on the contrary, I have brought you something/" He then took from his pocket several slices of bread and butter wrapped in paper, together with a few coppers, saying: "Give those to your mother. I have begged them for you." The poor are often more liberal in giving than the rich.
THE EMPEROR LUDWIG II AND THE VILLAGE PASTOR
Almsgiving earns an eternal reward. One day, in the year 855, when the German Emperor Ludwig was out hunting, he lost his way. Toward evening he heard a bell, the Angelus, ring out from the steeple of the village church. He bent his steps in the direction whence the sound came, and reached a village of the name of Katzenhausen. He went to the presbytery and begged the worthy priest, Pastor Wulfhelm, to give him a night's lodging. The priest made the unknown but distinguished guest, welcome; he entertained him hospitably, and had a bedchamber prepared for him. The next morning the stranger heard Mass, expressed his thanks to his host, and asked what he was indebted to him. Wulfhelm answered: "You are a sportsman; some time or other send me a piece of leather for a girdle." The stranger promised to do so, and took his leave. Weeks and months went by, and the village priest thought no more of his high-born guest. One day a messenger on horseback stopped at the gate of the humble presbytery, and handed in a large envelope bearing the imperial seal. This letter contained the announcement of Wulfhelm's appointment to the bishopric of Munster. God deals with us in much the same manner as this emperor did. When we have long ago forgotten acts of kindness which we performed toward the needy, He rewards them with eternal felicity.
"Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, distributed them to those reclining." St. John, 6:11.
Recently shared with us from the St. Catherine Academy Gazette
, such a lovely lesson we thought we would share it yet again.MEAL PRAYERTalks on the Sacramentals
A Catholic Army chaplain of World War II was relating some of his experiences. Speaking of
starvation in war-torn Europe, he described what he saw in an American Army camp in France. Every day a group of boys and girls of all sizes and ages, but with one common longing for food, would search among the empty food cans thrown out from the Army kitchen With painstaking perseverance the children would scrape every speck of food from the cans. After they had gathered whatever they could find each child placed his precious findings on the ground, knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and said a prayer before his miserable meal. Many of the soldiers were touched to tears.
Millions of people are starving to death in the world today. Millions do not know when there next meal is coming from. Millions cannot remember when they had their last fully satisfying dinner. Yes, millions are like those famished French children-they pick up every scrap and speck of food, no
matter where or when they find it. And many of them are grateful to the point of thanking God for theses miserable scraps.
In the midst of all this starvation you and I have plenty to eat. Once in a while we may be hungry, but we always know that in time we will have something to eat. The Lord has been boundlessly good to us American's. He has spared us the sufferings of starvation. He has made our fields and
gardens yield bounteously. How many of us thank Almighty God for every meal? How many of us remember to repeat a meal prayer three times a day? How many of us show appreciation to the Lord who provides for us?
Strictly speaking, it is not a sin to omit your meal prayer. However it is sinful never to say a prayer at meals. It is thoughtless and ingratitude of the rankest kind.
The Old and the New Testaments are full of examples of God's people praying for God's blessings on what they were about to eat, thanking God for the food which He made grow. We read that even the pagans would pause to think of their gods before they sat down to eat. But the best example is that our Lord, who gave thanks when He multiplied food to feed the crowd in the desert. The early Christian centuries are filled with reports of this pious practice.
"Prayer," writes Tertullian, "begins and ends the meal."
"When we sit down to the table," St. Anthanasius tells us, 'and take the bread to break it, we make the sign of the cross over it three times, and return thanks. After the repast we renew our thanksgiving by saying thrice: "The good and merciful Lord has given food to them that fear Him. Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost."
Why should we pray at all our meals?
1. It is the intelligent and thoughtful thing to do. It shows that we realize where food comes from. It shows that we think of Him who has made this meal possible. It distinguishes us from the mere animal. The story is told of a seven year-old boy who was invited to lunch at the home of a playmate. As soon as everyone was seated, and the food was served, the family began to eat without a prayer.
"Don't you pray before you eat?" asked the guest.
"We just don’t take time for it," admitted the mother as she flushed a deep purple.
The visitor thought a moment and then blurted out:
"Your just like my dog-he starts right in."
2. Saying grace at meals is common courtesy. What would you think of a person to whom you gave a meal, who would not take time to thank you for it? After all, every meal we eat is a gift of God.
3. Saying a meal prayer is good hygiene; it is good for the health. The benefit of meal depends almost entirely upon the condition of your stomach, a very sensitive organ. If you are angry, over-excited, hurried or worried, the stomach becomes tense. It’s glands do not function properly. It briefly, has a calming effect upon the entire system, especially upon the stomach. It soothes the nerves and the digestive organs, and that is good for the health.
4. Praying at meals is often the only chance and the only time we have during our busy day to direct our thoughts to God. We are supposed to "pray always." Since we cannot and do not at all time think of God during the work-a-day hours, we should be all the more thoughtful about remem-
bering the Lord at definite times. Meal times are particularly precious.
5. Offering thanks at meals is the best way to incline God to grant further blessings of soul and body. We are eager to do another favor for the person who expresses his thanks. We are hesitant to go out of our way for one who never shows gratitude. So with God, He will continue to bless those who express their thanks for the blessings of food. He will withdraw His favors from those who never thank Him.
Meal prayers are a daily sacramental, a means of grace and heavenly help, and assistance to health of soul and body, a source of blessing throughout the day.
Picture yourself scraping your meal bit by bit from cans on a garbage pile. Picture yourself; picture your children searching among the leavings and garbage of other people for a bite or handful to eat. Then remember that God has spared us this suffering, this disgust. He has been bounteously good. Be sure to bless Him, be sure to thank Him, be sure to pray to Him every time you sit down to that thrice-daily blessing of a meal. Amen.
The internet is full of treasures and especially those that bring back the traditions of the Faith. Everyonce in a while one really special treasure is given to us. A little teacher's guide called Christian Doctrine Teachers Manual
was written in 1904 (imprimatur with the same date) and details the basics of what a Catholic child should learn in their Faith from 1st through 8th grade. Its a great guide full of names of lots of old books that are gems in themselves! The Patron Saints for each grade's Catholic Children's Journal was taken from this book and now another printable inspired by the same. Each grade in this book has prayers that should be learned by the student listed at the beginning of each section. Since our children already know many of the prayers sort of out of grade level order I decided to make a chart to track the ones they know and the ones they need to learn. In our home we learn in many different ways using the three learning styles. This form also serves as a way to track our different learning. To use the form in this way simply write the activity you do down and the date. Say you happen to do the Willson's lovely "Our Father ; A printing book for Children" during school today (for religion, writing etc.). Write down that under activitty and then make an 'x' under the Our Father slot. Perhaps on the next day you have your child recite the 'Our Father' aloud as memory work. Under activity write 'recite Our Father' then mark an x under Our Father. Another day you decide to have the child read the story about Our Father in Heaven, mark that on your list with an 'x' under Our Father.This can work all across the board as well. Say you are learning the Angelus .. you can mark down your activity that you are using to teach it and not only mark an 'x' under Angelus but also under the 'Hail Mary' as they share similar stories. In this way you can track what prayers need worked on, which forms of learning you are using and perhaps which forms of learning should be added so that the child fully understands not only the words of the prayer and the form but also the meaning what he/she is saying.Eventually I hope to have all the prayers listed on the forms typed up and added to our site. Its down the list on a very long to-do list of projects. For your reference the e-book versions of the Christian Doctrine Teacher's Manual can be found free online. Please feel free to share with us ways in which you help your children learn the wonderful prayers of Holy Mother Church! God bless!
The following excerpts were taken from the book entitled:
“THE FAITH THAT NEVER DIES”
Imprimatur: Michael Augustinus,
Archbishop of New York, 1900
Do My Christian readers clearly understand what it truly is to be a Christian? It certainly is not, as some people with slightly confused ideas appear to imagine, merely to abstain from murdering or plundering your neighbor. To do this is just to escape being a villain, that is all.
To be a Christian is not merely to be a good father, a good husband, a good son, a good workman, and industrious and honorable man, a good comrade, etc.; that is only to be an honest man, and a Christian is something more than an honest man.
To be a Christian is not merely to respect religion, to consider it good and useful, to acknowledge that Christianity has inspired noble deeds; that is imply to judge fairly, and to possess the good sense of an intelligent man: in order to hold such opinions as these nothing is needed but to rise above vulgar prejudices, and to despise the pointless sneers of a shallow philosophy.
Lastly, to be a Christian is not merely to observe certain exterior practices, such as to hear Mass regularly, to abstain, or even to go to confession. These practices, although very excellent, are nevertheless only means by which to become and to remain a true Christian. Then what is the Christian life? And what is a true Christian?
A Christian is a baptized man, who believes with his whole heart all that is taught, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the Pope and the Bishops, who have been entrusted by the Saviour to spread the Christian religion throughout the world; a man, moreover, who observes, as far as human weakness will allow, all the commandments of God and the laws of the Church; and who earnestly strives to the best of his power to imitate Jesus Christ, his God, his Saviour, and his great example.
A Christian is a man who loves God before all things, who would choose to suffer anything rather than to offend Him, who detests sin in others, and still more in himself; he is a man who loves and practices the right, who battle constantly and perseveringly with all his evil passions, and who, in spite of the evil inclinations which will sometimes rage powerfully within him, is still pure and humble, patient and merciful, indulgent to the faults of others, patient and resigned in misfortune.
A Christian is a man who is constant in prayer, and who follows in the footsteps of his Lord and Master, and thus, ever looking to Jesus, learns from Him the daily lessons of virtue that he needs. He pardons his enemies, even as Jesus Christ pardoned His. Like Him he goes about doing good. He loves all men, but especially the poor, the forsaken and the insignificant. In prosperity his heart is ever detached from earth, and lifted up to that heavenly home where the only true good is to be found. In poverty and suffering he is calm and full of hope, remembering that to the sorrows of Calvary succeeds the joy of the resurrection and that, it is only through the cross that we can gain the crown.
A Christian, then, is a living copy of Jesus Christ; a man who loves what Jesus Christ loves, condemns what He condemns, and judges in all things as He judges; and in this man, His faithful servant, Jesus Christ Himself does, in a manner, still live and walk with men.
Such is the true Christian, such we all ought to be, such we should all become or remain!
There is no position in life in which it is impossible to be a Christian. In poverty or wealth, in health or sickness, in youth or age, it is all one; and we should each, without exception, be holy, and should model our lives by that perfect pattern which we have just sketched out. Are we true Christians? Do we possess that humility, that singleness of heart, that disinterestedness and the purity of life, which constitute the Christian character? Let the conscience of each of us answer this question! Alas! Mine does not respond to it very readily – and reader, what of yours?
Let us, then, take courage, and turn to the Lord our God. Pagans, perhaps, until now, let us make haste to become Christians. If our own weakness causes us to shrink from such great and serious duties, let us have recourse to that powerful aid which the mercy of God has placed in the bosom of the Church. Let us pray, let us frequent the sacraments; let us seek in the confession of our sins a remedy for the past, and in frequent communion strength fro the future. Let us make a vigorous effort, not shrink from any trouble that is required of us by God; does He not deserve it from us? Life passes quickly! Let us work while it is day: blesses is that servant whom He shall find watching; a few hours of weariness, a few hours of brave and patient fighting, and then, to the passing trials of this earthly probation succeeds the eternal rest, the unutterable gladness promised by the Saviour.
FEAR OF HUMAN OPINION
“I would willingly fulfill my religious duties, but I am afraid of ridicule.” – Then you are afraid to go to heaven, and not afraid to go to hell? You must have a very singular courage and a remarkable determination! O man, feeble and faithless! You are indeed faint-hearted, and should blush for your own weakness and dishonor; for what, I ask, is a greater dishonor than cowardice?
Respect for human opinion in matters of religion is the greatest cowardice of all. It is a voluntary renunciation of that which is holiest and most sacred in man – his conscience. It is a weak abandonment of our most essential rights and of our most important duties! That of leading holy Christian lives, of accomplishing our destiny here, and of saving our soul hereafter! Such cowardice is something worse than weakness; it is a folly and a sin.
You are afraid to say your prayers, to avoid evil company and places of temptation, to go to church, to serve God. And what could be more deserving of honor than a conscientious fulfillment of such duties as these? Prayer, the service of God, and obedience to His law are the marks which most perfectly distinguish us from creatures without reason. For the animal destitute of reason has no eternal destiny, and fulfills all the laws of its being when conscious only of the passing moments of its limited existence. But you yourself are here on earth only that you may hereafter go to heaven; and time for you is nothing but a prelude to eternity. HEAVEN AND ETERNITY! Behold the end and aim of life, the end which should reign supreme above all others, and without which everything is lost. Therefore by not daring to serve God during your life, you willfully renounce both heaven and eternity; you sacrifice God, your own salvation, your own soul, and your own happiness, even as you sacrifice your duty and your conscience to a miserable fear of man, which is a thousand times unworthy of a Christian, and is despicable in a man.
“I should be ridiculed,” you say! What a grievous affliction! What effect would it have upon you? You can surely afford to despise what is so utterly beneath your notice. Supposing men laughed at you because you ate when you were hungry, and drank when you were thirsty, and warmed yourself when you were cold, because you loved your mother, because you were not a scoundrel. I am speaking seriously – would you change, do you think, and try to act in some manner which would give greater satisfaction to those who thus criticized you? You will not trouble yourself to answer such a question? There is that which is more reasonable, more natural, more lawful, and more necessary still; obedience to God your Creator, the practice of religion, and the keeping of His commandments. To fear to be a Christian is to fear to be a reasonable being, it is to fear to be a good, conscientious, and honorable man.
Go, therefore, to confession, coward that you are! And fear God rather than man!
For many years the world has been devastated by a fatal and terrible sickness, which has made dreadful ravages, in all places at one and the same time: in France, England, Italy, Europe, whether the air be bad or good, the people civilized or barbarous, the whole world suffers from its fatal and deathly influence; and for centuries victims have succumbed to it. You doubtless imagine that I am referring to some one of those scourges which we call pestilence, cholera, typhus fever, etc.: but no; the evil that I would point out to you is still more terrible, and causes the death of a still greater number of men; it not only affects the body, but it also poisons the soul, and its fatal effects endure beyond the portals of the grave.
This deplorable evil is negligence. This it is which causes the ruin of whole families and plunges them into the frightful miseries to which they sooner or later succumb. This epidemic is so much the more to be dreaded because there are no signs which give warning of its terrible approach, and it seizes a man before he suspects it is near; it draws him little by little from his duties to God, and soon after from his duties to his family and toward his fellow-men. This scourge is one of the fatal fruits of original sin.
The first symptoms show themselves, then, on being confronted by some difficulty, you stop, hesitate, and address such words to yourself as these: I cannot! It is too difficult! I have no time! I will do it on some other occasion, but not now! It is not worth the trouble of beginning, because I shall never be able to go on! It is beyond my capabilities! Oh! then, while there is yet time, ask yourself quickly these two questions, and answer them by the light of your own conscience.
1st, What should I do if I were quite assured that directly I had accomplished that which now appears to be impossible, I should receive five pounds as the price of my efforts? 2nd, What should I also do if I were equally certain that I should receive a hundred stripes directly I had yielded to those insidious suggestions of negligence, which I believe at this moment that I cannot resist?
These two questions, with the answer which your conscience cannot fail to give, will prove a sure and simple remedy against the evil I have pointed out to you.
I HAVE NO TIME
Out of ten persons who do not fulfill their religious duties, there are at least six or seven who will say to you when you speak to them about it, “I should be glad enough to do so, but I have not time; every one must gain their living. Religion is good for people with nothing else to do, who can live without working.”
Nothing is more false than such reasoning as this, nothing could be more opposed to the spirit of Christianity; religion is made for all, even as God is the Father of all; and if there were any distinction to be made among men, it would, unquestionably, be the poor and the insignificant who would take precedence in the sight of God.
This is a very common error among the working classes, especially in large towns; and we must say that it entirely results from ignorance. They have and absurd idea of religion – they believe that it solely consists of a very great number of outward observances; and the daily work which is absolutely necessary to workmen in order to gain a living, being evidently incompatible with such practices, they solve the difficulty by the habitual words, which they lay down as an axiom, but which are in truth an unconscious blasphemy: “I have no time.” But tell me, my friend, how much time does it take to love God? How much time do you need to think of Him sometimes during the course of the day; to ask Him to bless you, to crown your efforts with success, and to give you the rest of heaven after your sorrows and weariness of earth? How much time does it take to keep from swearing, to honor your father and mother and lawful superiors, to abstain from drinking, to pardon your enemies, not to return evil for evil, to bear with the faults of others? How much time does it take to be chaste and pure, to turn from evil thoughts, to avoid sinful conversation, to shun such and such a bad companion who would be sure to lead you into wrong? Does it take much time to repent when we have done some wicked foolish thing? Still more, does it take much time to pray morning and evening? In five minutes, in ten minutes at the most, this great duty can be perfectly fulfilled; and where is the man who cannot, if he so will, spare some few minutes, at the beginning and at the end of the day?
But then, you will say, religion commands so many other things. You must hear mass on Sundays and Holydays. You must go to confession, and go to communion, and does not all that take time? That is what I mean when I say I have no time. And what do those who are quite as busy as you are, and often much more busy and still more in need of gaining a salary, and who yet do all that, and more than that? I know some who never pass one week without receiving the sacraments. How do they find time to fulfill their duties? What they do, you can do. It is the will that is wanting, and not the time. The reason that you do not find time, just as they find time, is because you have not the deep conviction that they have of the vital necessity of religion. You consider the body before the soul; they consider the soul before the body. Not that they neglect their families and their own bodily requirements, no; only they know the value and the difference of things, and rule their lives according to the truth.
What would you say if your employer attempted to deprive you of the time to eat? You would leave him, and you would say: First of all, we must live! I say to you still more emphatically: first of all, even before the life of your body, take thought for your soul, which is the noblest part of your self; your soul, which makes of you a man, since through the body we are only animals; it is the soul which makes the man, and distinguishes him from the beast.
The eternal salvation of your soul may not be taken away from you by any living creature, and if any one should attempt to rob you of the most sacred of your rights, then is the time to practice the great Christian rule: To lose everything rather than to lose God.
But it is my calling, you add, which prevents me from attending to my salvation. Is that true? Answer me carefully; for if, after having well reflected, you still answered “yes,” I would say to you: then you must give it up, and find some other. What will it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your own soul?
Therefore, say no longer, I have no time to be a Christian, for you only deceive yourself. Say, if you wish, I have not as much time, or as many opportunities, as I should wish. That may be so, but, after all, it is but the heart and the will to serve Him that God requires, and for this there is no question of time. To him who will not give to God his time, God will refuse His eternity.
Abbot Gueranger, O.S.B.
The Liturgical Year
Time After Pentecost Vol. II Imr. 1927
By: Dom Gueranger
For the forth time in her year, holy Church comes claiming from her children the tribute of penance, which, from the earliest ages of Christianity, was looked upon as a solemn consecration of the seasons. The historical details relative to the institution of the Ember-days will be found on the Wednesdays of the third week of Advent and of the first week of Lent; and on those same two days, we have spoken of the intentions which Christians should have in the fulfillment of this demand made upon their yearly service. The beginnings of the winter, sprint, and summer quarters were sanctified by the abstinence and fasting, and each of them, in turn, has received heaven's blessing' and now autum is harvesting the fruits which divine mercy, appeased by the satisfactions made by sinful man, has vouchsafed to bring forth from the bosom of the earth, notwithstanding the curse that still hangs over her. (Gen.. iii. 17) The precious seed of what, on which man's life mainly depends, was, confided to the soil in the season of the early frost, and, with the first fine days, peeped above the ground; at the approach of glorious Easter, it carpeted our fields with its velvet of green, making them ready to share in the universal joy of Jesus' resurrection; then, turning into a lively image of what our souls ought to be in the season of Pentecost, its stem grew up under the action of the hot sun; the golden ear promised a hundred-fold to its master; the harvest made the reapers glad; and, now that September has come, it calls on man to fix his heart on that good God, who gave him all this store, Let him not think of saying, as that rich man did, after a plentiful harvest of fruits: "My soul! thou has much goods laid up for many years! Take thy rest, eat, drink, make good cheer!" And God said to that man: "Thou fool! this night do they require thy soul of thee; and whos shall those things be which thou has provided?" (St. Luke xiii. 16-21) If we would be truly rich before God, if we would draw down His blessing on the preservation, as well as on the production, of the fruits of the earth, let us, at the beginning of this last quarter of the year, have recourse to those penitential exercises whos beneficial effects we have always experienced in the past. The Church gives us the commandment to do so, by obliging us, on these three days, unless we be lawfully dispensed.
We have already spoken of the necessity of private penance for the Christian who is at all desirous to make progress in the path of salvation. But in this, as in all spiritual exercises, a private work of devotion has neither the merit nor the efficacy of the one that is done in company with the Church, and in communion with her public act; for the Church, as bride of Christ, communicates an exceptional worth and power to works of penance done, in her name, in the unity of the social body. St. Leo the Great is very strong on this fundamental principle of Christian virtue. We find him insisting on it in the sermons he preached to the faithful of Rome, on occasion of the fast, which was then called the fast of the seventh month. "Although," says he, "it be lawful for each one of us to chastise his body by self-imposed punishments, and restrain, with more or less severity, the concupiscence's of the flesh which war against the spirit, yet need is that, on certian days, a general fast be celebrated by all. Devotion is all the more efficacious and holy, when the whole Church is engaged in works of piety, with one spirit and one soul. Everything, in fact, that is of a public character is to be preferred to what is private; and it is plain, that so much the greater is the interest at stake, when the earnestness of all is engaged upon it. As for individual efforts, let each one keep up his fervour in them; let each one, imploring the aid of divine protection, take to himself the heavenly armour, wherewith to resist the snares laid by the spirits of wickedness; but the soldier of the Church (ecclesiasticus miles), though he may act bravely in his own private commands (specialibus proeliis), yet will he fight more safely and more successfully, when he shall confront the enemy in a public engagement; for in that public engagement, he has not only his own valor to which to trust, but he is under the leadership of a King who can never be conquered, and engaged in a battle fought by all his fellow-soldiers; so that, being in their company and ranks, he has the fellowship of mutual aid." (St. Leo, Serm. iv., De Jejun. sept. Mensis.)
Another year, when preaching for the same occasion, this eloquent pontiff and doctor of the Church was even more energetic and length, in putting these great truths before the people; would to God the words of such a Pope as Leo the Great could make themselves heard by our present generation, and induce us Christians to mistrust the individualistic tendencies of modern piety. Fortunately, the words of saint exist, and in all their 'pontifical eloquence'; we invite our readers to peruse his sermons; we have only space for short selection from his third sermon on the fast of the seventh month (our September Ember-days).
"God has sanctioned this privilege, that what is celebrated in virtue of a public law is more sacred than that which depends on a private regulation. The exercise of self-restraint which an individual Christian practices by his own will is for the advantage of that single member; but a fast undertaken by the Church at large includes everyone in the general purification. God's people never is so powerful as when the hearts of all the faithful join together in the unity of holy obedience, and when, in the Christian camp, one and the same preparation is made by all, and one and the same bulwark protects all... See, most dearly beloved, here is the solemn fast of the seventh month urging us to profit by this invincible unity... Let us raise up our hearts, withdraw from worldly occupations, and steal some time for furthering our eternal welfare... The plenary remission of sin is obtained when the whole Church unites in the like prayer and the like confession; for, if the Lord promises that when two or three shall, with a holy and pious unanimity, agree to ask Him anything whatsoever, it shall be granted to them, (St. Matt. xviii. 19, 20) what can be refused to many thousands, who are all engaged in observing one and the same practice of religion, and in praying with one and the same spirit? In the eyes of God, my dearly beloved, it is a great and precious sight, when all Christ's people are earnest at the same Offices; and when, without any distinction, men and women of every grade and order are all working together with one heart. To depart from evil and do good (PS. xxxiii, 15), that is the one determination of them all. They all give glory to God for the works He achieves in His servants. They all unite in returning hearty thanks to the loving Giver of all blessings. The hungry are fed; the naked are clad; the sick are visited; and no one seeketh his own profit, but that of others... By this grace of God, who worketh all in all (1 Cor. xii. 6.), the fruit is common, and the merit is common; for the affection of all may be the same, although all are not equally rich; and those who have less to bestow can rejoice in the liberality of others. There is nothing inordinate in such a people as that; there are no variances; for all the members of the whole body are alkike in the energy of the same piety.... The beauty of the whole becomes the excellence of each memeber.... Let us, then, embrace this blessed solidity of holy unity, and with the same resolution and the same good will, let us enter upon this solemn fast. (St. Leo, Serm. iii. De Jejun sept. Mensis)."
Let us not, in our prayers and fasts, forget the new priests and other ministers of the Church, who, on Saturday next, are to receive the imposition of hands. The September ordination is not usually the most nurmerous of those given by the biship during the year. The sublime function, to which the faithful owe their fathers and guides in the spiritual life, ahs, however, a special interest at this period of the year, which, more than any other, is in keeping with the present state of the world in its rapid decline towards ruin. Our year, too, is on the fall, as we say. The sun, which we beheld risingat Christmas as a giant who would burst the bonds of frost asunder and restrain the tyranny of darkness, now, as though he had grown wearied, is drooping towards the horizon; each day we see him gradually leaving that glorious zenith, where we admired his dazzling splendour on the day of our Emmanuel's Ascension; his fire has lost its might; and though he still on the day of our Emmanuel's Ascension; his fire has lots its might; and though he still holds half has lost its might; and though he still holds half the day as his, his disc is growing pale. All this fortells the approach of those long nights, when nature, stripped of all her loveliness by angry storms, seems as though she would bury herself for ever in the frozen shroud which is to bind her. So is it with our world. Illumined as it was by the light of Christ, and glowing with the fire of the Holy Ghost, it sees, in these our days, that charity is growing cold (St. Matt. xxiv. 12), and that the light and glow it had from the Sun of justice are on the wane. Each revolution takes from the Church some jewel or other, which does not come back to her when the storm is over; tempests are so frequent, that tumult is becoming the normal state of the times. Error predominates, and lays down the law. Iniquity abounds. It is our Lord Himself who said: "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find, think ye, faith on earth?" (St. Luke xviii. 8)
Lift up your heads, then, ye children of God! for your redemption is at hand. (Ibid. xxi. 28-31) But, from now until that time shall come when heaven and earth are to be made new for the reign that is to be eternal, and shall bloom in the light of the Lamb, the Conqueror (Apoc. xxi.), days far worse than these must dawn upon the world of ours, when the elect themselves would be deceived, if that were possible! (St. Mark xiii. 22) How important is it, in these miserable times, that the pastors of the flock of Christ be equal to their perilous and sublime vocation! Let us then fast and pray; and how numerous soever may be the losses sustained in the Christian ranks, of those who once were not faithful in the practices of penance, let us not lose courage. Few as we may be, let us group ourselves closely round the Church, and implore of Jesus, her Spouse, that He vouchsafe to multiply His gifts in those whom He is calling to the now more than ever dread honour of the priesthood; that He infuse into them His divine prudence, whereby they may be able to disconcert the plans of the impious; His untiring zeal for the conversion of ungrateful souls; His perseverance even until death, in maintaining without reticence or compromise the plenitude of that truth which He has destined for the world, and the unviolated custody of which is to be, on the last day, the solemn testimony of the bride's fidelity.