Monthly Archives: November 2015

Christ the Child King is coming!

Advent begins today. Let us prepare our hearts and souls for the coming of Our newborn Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Taken from The Liturgical Year by Fr. Gueranger:

This Sunday, the first of the ecclesiastical year, is called, in the chronicles and charts of the middle ages, Ad te levavi Sunday, from the first words of the Introit (To Thee have I lifted up my soul…); or, Aspiciens a longe, from the first words of the one of the responsories of Matins (Looking from afar, I see the power of God coming…).

The Station is at St. Mary Major’s. The Stations, marked in the Roman Missal for certain days in the year, were formerly processions, in which the whole clergy and people of Rome went to some given church, and there celebrated the Office and Mass. This usage, which dates from the earliest period of the Roman Church, and of which St. Gregory the Great was but the restorer, continued to exist in some measure in later times, though with less solemnity and concourse of the people.

It is under the auspices of Mary—in the splendid basilica which possesses the Crib of Bethlehem, and is therefore called, in ancient documents Sancta Maria ad Praesepe—that the Roman Church recommences, each year, the Sacred Cycle. It would have been impossible to select a place more suitable than this for saluting the approach of the Divine Birth, which is to gladden Heaven and earth, and manifest the sublime portent of a Virgin Mother. Let us go in spirit to this august temple, and unite in the prayers which were, for so long a time, being offered up there, and which we will now explain.

In the night Office, the Church commences the reading of the Book of Isaias, who, of all the Prophets, has the most distinctly and explicitly foretold the Messias; and She continues this same Book until Christmas Day inclusively. Let us strive to enter into the teaching of the holy prophet, and let the eye of our faith affectionately recognize the promised Savior in the descriptions, sometimes consoling and sometimes terrifying, under which Isaias depicts Him.

The first words of the Church, in the still of midnight, are these: Regem venturum Dominum, venite adoremus. Come, let us adore our Lord and King, Who is about to come to us.

This first duty of adoration complied with, let us listen to the oracle of the prophet Isaias, delivered to us by the Holy Church:

The vision of Isaias, the son of Amos, which he saw concerning Juda and Jerusalem, in the days of Ozias, Joathan, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda. Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have brought up children, and exalted them: but they have despised Me. The ox knoweth his Owner, and the ass his Master’s crib: but Israel hath not known Me, and My people hath not understood. Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children. They have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. For what shall I strike you any more, you that increase transgression? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein; wounds, and bruises, and swelling sores; they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil.

These words of the holy prophet, or rather of God Who speaks to us by the prophet, should make a deep impression on the children of the Church, at this opening of the holy period of Advent. Who could hear without trembling this voice of Our Lord, Who is despised and unknown, even at the very time when He is coming to visit His people? Lest men should be terrified at the splendor of His majesty, He divested Himself of it; and far from acknowledging the divine power of Him Who thus humbled Himself out of love for them, these men have refused even to know Him; and the crib where He lay after His birth, had, at first, but two dumb animals to honor or notice it (aside from His Mother and St. Joseph). Do you feel, Christians, how just are the complaints which your God here makes? And how your indifference for all His love is an insult? He calls Heaven and earth to witness; He utters anathema against the sinful nation, His ungrateful children. Let us honestly confess that we, too, have not known the value of our Jesus’ visit to us, and that we have but too faithfully imitated the obduracy of the Jews, who heeded not the bright light when it burst upon their darkness. In vain did the angels sing on that December night; in vain did shepherds receive and welcome the invitation to adore the Babe and know Him; in vain did the Magi come from the East, asking where they were to find the crib of the King that was born. At this last example, the city of Jerusalem was somewhat moved; but the astonishment was only for a moment, and the old indifference soon stifled the good tidings.

Thus it is, O Jesus, that Thou comest unto darkness, and darkness does not comprehend Thee. We beseech Thee, let our darkness comprehend the Light, and desire it. The day will come when Thou wilt disperse the spiritual and voluntary darkness of men by the awful light of Thy justice. Thy glory, O sovereign Judge, will be magnificent on that day, and we love to think upon Thy having it; but during these days of our life on earth, deliver us from Thy wrath. We are one great wound from the sole of the foot unto the top of the head; Thou knowest not where to strike: be then a Savior, O Jesus, in this Advent, for which we are now preparing. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad; come, and raise up thishead which shame and vile passions bow down to the earth. Come, and comfort this heart oppressed with sin and fear. We confess it, our wounds are deep and sore; come, Thou good Samaritan, pour in Thy soothing oil and heal them.

The whole world is in expectation of its Redeemer; come, dear Jesus, show Thyself to it by granting it salvation. The Church, Thy Bride, is now commencing another year, and Her first word is to Thee, a word which She speaks in the anxious solicitude of a mother for the safety of her children; She cries out to Thee, saying, “Come!” No, we will go no farther in our journey through the desert of this life without Thee, O Jesus! Time is passing quickly away from us; our day is perhaps far spent, and the shades of our life’s night are fast coming on; arise, O divine Sun of justice. Come! guide our steps and save us from eternal death.

The Epistle is from St. Paul to the Romans, Ch. 13:

Brethren, know that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Savior, then, who is coming to us is the clothing which we are to put on over our spiritual nakedness. Here let us admire the goodness of God, Who, remembering that man hid himself after his sin, because he was naked, vouchsafes Himself to become man’s clothing, and to cover with the robe of His Divinity the misery of human nature. Let us, therefore, be on the watch for the day and the hour when He will come to us, and take precautions against the drowsiness which comes of custom and self-indulgence. The light will soon appear; may its first rays be witness of our innocence, or at least of our repentance. If our Savior is coming to put over our sins a covering which is to hide them forever, the least that we, on our part, can do, is to retain no further affection for those sins, else it will be said of us that we refused salvation. The last words of this Epistle are those which caught the eye of St. Augustine, when, after a long resistance to the grace which pressed him to give himself to God, he resolved to obey the voice which said to him: “Tolle, lege; take and read.” They decided his conversion; he immediately resolved to abandon the worldly life he had hitherto led, and to put on Christ Jesus. Let us begin this very day, and imitate this Saint. Let us long for that dear and glorious clothing with which the mercy of our heavenly Father is so soon to cover us; and let us say with the Church these touching words of the Gradual, which we cannot repeat too often during this time of the year:

None of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded, O Lord. Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me: and teach me Thy paths. Alleluia, alleluia. Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy: and grant us Thy salvation. Alleluia.

In the Gospel of today, taken from St. Luke, Ch. 21, Holy Church turns Her attention to the Second Coming of Christ:

At that time: Jesus said to His disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea, and of the waves; men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world: for the powers of the heavens shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass look up, and lift up your heads; because your redemption is at hand…

Thou art to come, then, O Jesus, in all the terror of the Last Judgment, and when men least expect Thee. In a few days Thou art coming to us to clothe our misery with the garment of Thy mercy; a garment of glory and immortality to us; but Thou art to come again on a future day, and in such dread majesty that men will wither away with fear. O our Savior! condemn us not on that day of the world’s destruction. Visit us now in Thy love and mercy; we are resolved to prepare our souls. We desire that Thou shouldst come and be born within us, so that when the convulsions of nature warn us of Thy coming to judge us, we may lift up our heads, as Thou biddest Thy faithful disciples do, who, when the rest of men shall tremble at the thunder of Thy judgment, will have confidence in Thee, because they have Thee in their hearts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all my readers! Be thankful for our great and glorious Catholic Faith.

Psalm 137

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, with all my heart, (for You have heard the words of my mouth); in the presence of the angels I will sing Your praise; I will worship at Your holy temple and give thanks to Your Name, Because of Your kindness and Your truth; for You have made great above all things Your Name and Your promise. When I called, You answered me; You built up strength within me. All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to You, O Lord, when they hear the words of Your mouth; And they shall sing of the ways of the Lord: “Great is the glory of the Lord.” The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly He sees, and the proud He knows from afar. Though I walk amid distress, You preserve me; against the anger of my enemies You raise Your hand; Your right hand saves me. The Lord will complete what He has done for me; Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of Your hands.

Thanksgiving to Christ by St. Anselm of Cantebury

 O Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Salvation: we praise Thee and we give Thee thanks! And though we be unworthy of Thy gifts, and though we cannot offer unto Thee a fitting devotion, yet let Thy loving kindness supply for our weakness. Before Thee, O Lord our God, all our desires are known, and whatsoever our heart rightly wills is a result of Thy grace. Grant that we may attain a genuine love of Thee. Let not Thy grace be unfruitful in us, Lord! Perfect that which Thou hast begun! Give that which Thou hast made us to long for. Convert our tepidity to fervent love of Thee, for the glory of Thy holy Name. Amen.

Litany of Thanksgiving

 

A lesser known prayer to be prayed in thanksgiving to God for our spiritual and temporal things.  This should especially be prayed during this time, with Thanksgiving Day right around the corner.

Litany of Thanksgiving
by Pope Pius VI. (1717 – 1799)

Lord, have mercy on me.
Christ, have mercy on me.
Lord, have mercy on me.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on me.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on me.
Holy Ghost, true God have mercy on me.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on me.

Thou Who hast from all eternity decreed the good which Thou hast hast done me,
have mercy on me. *

Thou Who for my individual benefit hast displayed Thy omnipotence, wisdom, and goodness, *
Thou, Who each instant loadest me with new favors, *
Thou, Who even when I offended Thee, didst not withdraw from me Thy liberal hand, *

For creating me in preference to so many others, and making me to Thy image,
I thank Thee, O my God. **

For raising me to a supernatural end, and giving me an immortal soul, **

For making me capable of knowing, loving, and possessing Thee forever. **

For providing me with a healthy body, undeformed limbs, and undisturbed senses, **

For appointing so many creatures to serve me, **

For giving me an angel as my guide and protector, **

For having preserved and nourished me, like a good father, to this day, **

For having redeemed me from hell by the passion, and death of Thy Son, **

For having called me to the Catholic Church; for having instituted the seven sacraments for my salvation, and for having afforded me so many other means of salvation, **

For not having yet rejected nor condemned me after my committing so many offenses, **

For having preserved me from innumerable evils, both spiritual and corporal, for having given such abundant blessing to my affairs, my labors, and undertakings, **

For all Thy grace and all thy benefits, natural and supernatural, **

For the pains, exterior and interior, by which Thou hast tried me, for the paternal chastisements and corrections by which Thou hast warned me, **

For all the benefits which I have not yet well considered; for all the graces which I have, alas, abused; for all the graces and benefits which Thou wouldst have granted me had not my malice prevented, **

For all the graces and all the benefits which Thou hast granted to the holy angels and all Thy elect, for all the graces and all the benefits which Thou hast granted to all other men, Thy creatures, **

In union with the thanksgiving which the Church militant on earth has rendered Thee and will render Thee hereafter, **

In union with the thanksgiving which the Church triumphant in heaven has rendered Thee and will render Thee eternally, **

Let us pray:

O God Who hast vouchsafed to display in me, the most unworthy of Thy creatures, Thy admirable liberality, I pray Thee, by Thy tender goodness, to add to Thy numberless benefits this grace, that I may in the future be truly grateful for them, and employ them for my salvation and my neighbor’s good, in order that by their good use, and by grateful and reciprocal love I may deserve to arrive where, with all Thy Saints, I shall enjoy Thy love, and praise Thee forever. Amen.

 

Inclination to sin

 

A short sermon from St. John Vianney on temptations:

We are all inclined to sin, my children; we are idle, greedy, sensual, given to the pleasures of the flesh. We want to know every thing, to learn every thing, to see every thing; we must watch over our mind, over our heart, and over our senses, for these are the gates by which the devil penetrates. See, he prowls round us incessantly; his only occupation in this world is to seek companions for himself. All our life he will lay snares for us, he will try to make us yield to temptations; we must, on our side, do all we can to defeat and resist him.

We can do nothing by ourselves, my children; but we can do every thing with the help of the good God; let us pray Him to deliver us from this enemy of our salvation, or to give us strength to fight against him. With the Name of Jesus we shall overthrow the demons; we shall put them to flight. With this Name, if they sometimes dare to attack us, our battles will be victories, and our victories will be crowns for heaven, all brilliant with precious stones.

See, my children, the good God refuses nothing to those who pray to Him from the bottom of their heart. St. Teresa, being one day in prayer, and desiring to see the good God, Jesus Christ showed to the eyes of her soul His divine Hands; then, another day, when she was again in prayer, He showed her His Face. Lastly, some days after, He showed her the whole of His Sacred Humanity.

The good God who granted the desire of St. Teresa will also grant our prayers. If we ask of Him the grace to resist temptations, He will grant it to us; for He wishes to save us all, He shed His Blood for us all, He died for us all, He is waiting for us all in heaven; we are two or three hundred here: shall we all be saved, shall we all go to heaven? Alas! my children, we know nothing about it; but I tremble when I see so many souls lost in these days.

See, they fall into hell as the leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter. We shall fall like the rest, my children, if we do not avoid temptations; if, when we cannot avoid them, we do not fight generously, with the help of the good God,–if we do not invoke His Name during the strife, like St. Antony in the desert. This saint having retired into an old sepulcher, the devil came to attack him; he tried at first to terrify him with a horrible noise; he even beat him so cruelly, that he left him half dead and covered with wounds. ” Well,” said St. Antony, ” here I am, ready to fight again; no, thou shalt not be able to separate me from Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.” The spirits of darkness redoubled their efforts, and uttered frightful cries. St. Antony remained unmoved, because he put all his confidence in God. After the example of this saint, my children, let us be always ready for the combat; let us put our confidence in God; let us fast and pray; and the devil will not be able to separate us from Jesus Christ, either in this world or the next.

 

Why we have Temptations (Pt. 1)

 

An old mediation on temptation and sin.  Our Faith is a timeless Faith. What has always been taught by the Church remains the same today.

 

Temptations
by Bishop Ehrler, 1891

For love of us, our Saviour became man, partly, to redeem us from the yoke of sin, and partly, to show us, by His example, the right path to heaven. Temptations interpose the greatest obstacles to our salvation. Therefore, our Redeemer suffered himself to be tempted, that we might learn from him how to overcome the tempter. He is the skilful General who has taught his soldiers by word and example the grand science of spiritual combat. My beloved brethren, allow me, today, to make known to you the laws which govern this science. There are chiefly three points wherein Satan seeks to ensnare us.

I. The lusts of the flesh;
II. The frowardness of the understanding; and
III. The pride of life.

How should a man meet these temptations? Let him only compare divine joys with the base gratifications afforded by these three sources of temptation, and he will find it impossible to yield to the latter.

I. Consider:


1. That the world promises carnal pleasures to its votaries; but
2. That joy in God is far sweeter and more lasting.

1. How empty and transitory are those pleasures which are always followed by pain! Manifold are the vexations and miseries which forbidden enjoyments cause the children of this world! Men often risk their honor and good name,–yea, even put their lives in danger for some vile amusement of an idle hour. What torment can be compared with that of a man who loves and sees that he is not loved in return; who spends his money and lavishes his gifts in vain; who cannot gratify his guilty passions; or, who lives in continual dread lest his evil deeds should come to light?

Jealousy, fear, love itself, torment him, and he needs no other scourge than the sharp stings of his own passionate heart. Can this be called pleasure?

2. On the contrary, divine love gives to man a true and lasting happiness. God can find no greater satisfaction than in himself, and where can we seek for greater happiness than in God? This happiness is as eternal as its Object. Death itself cannot terminate it, but, on the contrary, only gives to it a fresh beginning. Even in this life, the love of God sweetens all trials and labors; for the true lover fears no labor; all difficulties and obstacles are cheerfully overcome for the sake of the beloved. In short, a soul that has tasted of the heavenly manna of interior satisfaction in God, will certainly have a disgust for the flesh-pots of Egypt. ” O taste, and see that the Lord is sweet.” (Ps. 33:9)

Remember II.
That if the world proposes to you doubts and objections to faith,

1. God is the eternal truth;
2. He cannot error or make a mistake.

1. Man frequently prefers to pry into divine mysteries rather than believe in them. Some must know the why and the wherefore of everything. “Why do the wicked prosper?” they question. “And wherefore are the good oppressed?” They would fain weigh the dogmas of faith in the scales of their own finite reason. They would decide points of doctrine according to their own fancy, rather than by the revelation of God and the decrees of His holy Church. There are ignorant people who will argue upon Predestination, and the possibility of Transubstantiation. What pleasure can they find in such discussions? They belong to “the unlearned and unstable ” of whom the apostle complains that they wrest the Word of God to their own destruction. As a just punishment, they fall from one doubt into another. They bewilder themselves and others–they become perverts.

2. How complete would be the satisfaction of these unhappy men, if, turning from all disputed questions, they would fix their eyes upon the truth and infallibility of God! The divine mysteries are unfathomable. “Thy judgments, O Lord, are a great deep,” (Ps. 35:7) which human reason may admire, but can never fathom! Many natural causes of material things must ever remain hidden from our comprehension,–how much less, then, are we able to understand the sublime and secret mysteries of God! Shall we be foolish enough to declare that because we cannot comprehend a thing, therefore, it is impossible! That because we do not know why this or that happens, therefore it is not well that it should happen!

III. Remember again:

1. That if the world promises you great honors and exalted dignities,
2. That the kingdom of God is greater and nobler than all these.

1. Worthless, indeed, are all the dignities of this world! In a short time, they “shall come to nothing, and vanish like smoke.” (Ps. 36: 20.) No sooner has a man attained the pinnacle of fame, than he is carried off by death. “Thou seest a man in an elevated position; thou esteemest him as noble and exalted,” says St. Ambrose, “soon thou learnest that another has succeeded him, and thou askest: Where is the former incumbent who was so noble and distinguished? Thou art simply told: He has disappeared.” It is not necessary now, my beloved, to enlarge upon the inconstancy of fortune, the envy of inferiors, the misrepresentations of enemies, and the fear of losing the grace of God. To all of these even the highest positions are liable.

2. Let a man compare this so-called happiness with the genuine satisfaction of the Christian who enjoys the grace and love of God. A brief comparison between the finite and the Infinite will plainly show the emptiness of all worldly dignities. The kingdom of God is greater, its grades are nobler, its dignities are eternal. And to what a height of honor are not those raised to whom our Saviour said: “You also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matth. 19:28.) “Thus shall he be honored, whom the king hath a mind to honor.” (Esth. 6: 9.)

You now know, beloved brethren, the laws of the spiritual combat. There is nothing more to do but to encourage you in the warfare. Keep yourselves in constant practice, and if the tempter assails you, say to him: “Begone, Satan! Why do you flatter me? That which engages my love is far sweeter than anything that you can offer me! ” O my dear Christians, you have enlisted under the banner of Christ; then, I beseech you, with St. Paul: “In all things, taking the shield of faith, and taking unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, (which is the word of God),” (Ephes. 6: 16,) ” put ye on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the snares of the devil.” (Ibid. 11 verse.)

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The Purpose of Temptations

“Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted
by the devil.” (Matt. 4: 1.)

The mysterious temptation of our Lord in the desert, while it can only be explained and understood in connection with his dignity as the Messias, is nevertheless a great source of consolation for Christian souls. As the devil approached our first parents, Adam and Eve, in order to seduce them from obedience to God, so he approaches every member of the human family, for the same nefarious end. “Be sober and watch,” says the Prince of the Apostles, “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist ye, strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalleth your brethren who are in the world ” (1 Pet. 5: 8, 9,); and St. Paul adds: “Put ye on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the snares of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers: against the rulers of the world of this darkness: against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Ephes. 6: 11, 12.)

From within and without, through our friends and through our enemies, through the world, the flesh and the devil, the toils of temptation are continually cast around our souls. No place is so holy or secluded that Satan cannot find entrance; no man is so secure in virtue and perfection that he cannot seize and afflict him. Day and night, openly and concealed, he aims his poisonous arrows at us. Every one according to his condition and particular circumstances of life, has particular temptations. These temptations are as manifold as life is many-sided, out of everything on earth, the devil knows to make a snare for the ruin of souls. Before the door of our hearts, sin ever lurks, seeking an entrance into the secret sanctuary of the soul.

Why does our good God permit all these varied temptations? Does He will our destruction? Is it really His intention to plunge us into sin? Impossible; for God being Eternal Holiness cannot will evil, and being Mercy itself, he desires all men to be saved. “Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted of God: for God is not the tempter of evils: and he tempteth no man. But every man is tempted, being drawn away by his own concupiscence, and allured.” (James 1:13, 14.) To fathom God’s holy intentions, as well as to consider how we are to conduct ourselves when temptations assail us, is the purpose of this morning’s instruction. I propose, then, to answer the following questions:

I. Why does the Lord permit us to be attacked by so many temptations? and
II. Being attacked, how can we resist these numerous temptations?

I. Temptations are the touchstone of our fidelity to God. Our life upon earth is merely a probation for our eternal life in heaven. Temptations are the plummet wherewith God sounds every side of our hearts in order to measure the depths of our love for him. Can we, then, wonder that the Lord permits us to be tempted in various and almost innumerable ways? We must be tested for eternal life and for the heaven that awaits us. Through the efforts of our own free will, must we be made worthy of the bliss of the Hereafter. God could, indeed, create us without our aid, but He cannot save us without our co-operation. Heaven and its felicity are not merely the free gift of divine love and mercy; they are the reward of merit after the battle of life. Even those perfect spirits, the Angels of heaven, to whom the Lord granted the contemplation of the Beatific Vision from the moment of their creation, had to be proved and tried before they could be confirmed in glory,–so that that which had been given them as a free gift might become to them the merited reward of their free will. The obedience of Adam and Eve was tested in the Garden of Eden at the foot of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord leads every human being to this same tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not only once, but time and again, until the great novitiate for eternal life is finished.

1. God has given us various powers and faculties, of body and soul, that all being tried and tested by temptation may be employed for his service. Our eyes must be tried in order to ascertain whether, being led astray by the deceitful phantoms of sin, they are directed to evil, rather than to the true and unchangeable goods of heaven. Our ears must be tested in order to know whether they are open to evil and eagerly listen to it, or, on the contrary, open to God and his holy word, and closed to sinful words and discourses. Our tongue, our hands and feet, and all the members and senses of our body must be tested, in order to find out whether they serve the world, rather than God. For the same purpose, God searches the various powers and faculties of the soul, in order to test their fidelity to Him, and their real love for Him. He tries our understanding, to see if in the holy obedience of faith it bows to the teachings of revelation or rather relies upon its own narrow conceits. He searches our heart and our memory, the imagination and the will, and all the depths of our souls in order to discover whether we love him or adore another before Him. He tries the king upon his throne, and the lowest beggar among his subjects; he tries the father and the mother, the son and daughter, the master and the servant, the rich and the peer–everyone according to his calling and position in life, in order to test and to reward each man according to the depth of his love and the strength of his fidelity.

2. Temptations have a still wider range and purpose. The worth and greatness of our virtue lie in them. Without temptation, there is no virtue. A person may be innocent, but innocence is no virtue. Man becomes virtuous only by resisting temptations. There is as great a difference between innocence and virtue, as there is between life and strength,–a baby has life but no strength. There is no victory without battle. That only deserves the name of virtue which has been tried in the warfare against evil, and against the passions of the heart.

3. Every virtue is opposed by its contrary vice. Unbelief sends its doubts and objections into the soul of man in order to destroy or, at least, diminish the strength and zeal of faith. The spirit of impurity presents its sinful images before the chaste soul, and endeavors to cast the fires of sinful lust into its pure depths. Benevolence is opposed by avarice, humility and meekness are assailed by pride and hatred. As every being in nature has its enemy, every animal its adversary, every tree its worm, every flower and plant its dangerous and poisonous insect, so every virtue has a vice for its enemy, and the power of virtue must be tested by the conflict with its enemy. Only in heaven there is no conflict, no temptation.

4. When a nation enjoys a long-continued peace, and its army remains inactive for many years, the bravery of its soldiers and the skill of its generals cannot be known or appreciated. But when the enemy approaches, and the troops are threatened on every side: when on the field of battle, bombs, bullets, and shots are flying right and left, when they fight man to man, the courage and bravery of the soldiers are tried, and the talent of their leaders manifested. If there were no temptation, there would be no true and perfect virtue. How beautifully this truth is exemplified in Abraham. That heroic servant of God was devoted in strong and living faith to the Lord who chose him to be the progenitor of a new race. But never in his life did his strong confidence in God’s word and the sublime grandeur of his faith shine forth more brightly than when he stood upon Mount Moriah, knife in hand, ready, at the divine command, to offer up his only son in sacrifice. Then the Lord said to him: “By my own self have I sworn, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea-shore.” (Gen. 22: 16,17.) Joseph of Egypt practiced the virtue of chastity in his father’s house, but his purity shines forth more resplendently before our eyes, when we see him fleeing from the wicked temptress, and cast into prison on account of his virtue. Should we have ever heard of the chastity of Susanna, if temptation had not revealed it to us?

5. The more violent and protracted the temptation, the greater a person’s virtue. Therefore, the Lord said to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22: 31.) He permitted the Apostles to fall into divers temptations and troubles that their virtue might shine forth more brilliantly to all succeeding generations. Thus, God leads us, my brethren, into conflict with temptation, that our virtue may come forth victorious. He tests the strength of our faith through skepticism and interior doubts, and through the examples of infidelity that surround us in the world. He tries the purity of our hearts by the impure and sinful desires which arise within us. He seeks to reveal in their full splendor our love for God and our neighbor through temptations to tepidity and idleness of heart, and through unkind thoughts against our brethren. Every temptation affords the Christian a fresh opportunity for the perfect practice of some beautiful virtue.

If the life of man according to the will of God, is a never-ending trial, an enduring temptation, his reward will be so much the greater, the more his fidelity and love are tried by the fiery ordeal. Innumerable are the consoling promises which God has made to those who resist temptations. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1: 12.) “My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations: knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. And patience hath a perfect work, that you maybe perfect and entire, deficient in nothing.” (James 1: 2-4.) “My dearest, think not strange the burning heat that is to try you, as if some new thing happened to you: but rejoice, being partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that when His glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet. 4: 12, 13.) ” Now, no chastisement for the present seemeth to bring with it joy but sorrow; but afterwards, it will yield to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice.” (Hebr. 12:11.) The kingdom of heaven must be won by hard fighting, for it suffers violence. The heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God, will not descend from heaven to earth, in order to catch us up painlessly into its bright recesses, but with labor and toil and sweat we must ascend to it, and force an entrance into its pearly walls. “To him that overcometh,” says Christ, “I will give the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth but he that receiveth it.” (Apoc. 2: 17.)

II.  I have said that only those who successfully stand the test of the great trial of life shall receive the crown of glory, hence, I ask myself that other question, How shall we come forth victorious over temptation?

1. We must walk at all times in humility and in the fear of God. ” Let him that thinketh himself to stand, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10: 12.) The weakness, frailty, and corruption of our nature are greater than we are aware of, and though we have overcome a temptation once, twice, yea, a hundred times, we must not presume on our success, for the tempter will repeat and renew his attack. Three times did he tempt Jesus in the desert, and each time he proposed to him a different temptation. He is a crafty and cunning adversary. He spies out our inclinations and wishes, and adroitly makes use of our habits and needs. He holds riches before the eyes of the poor man, and pictures to him the happiness to be found in their possession, so that, before long, the hand is stretched out to take the property of its neighbor. If he does not go that far, he, at least, looks discontentedly and enviously at his neighbor’s goods, and murmurs at, or curses, his own lot. In the heart of the rich man, he awakens insatiable desires, he tries to lead him to pride and avarice, and to a sinful use of his wealth. In the heart of him who is inclined to sensuality, he excites impure thoughts, imaginations, and desires. For the irritable man he prepares the temptation to impatience, and stirs up anew the fire of hate in his heart. Others are tempted by the devil in a different manner, but he invariably seizes upon the weak side. Often he does not at once suggest any thing very wicked and sinful. He has obtained his object if the Christian relaxes some of his strictness, and gives in, ever so little, to his suggestions. He disguises himself as an angel of light, and represents evil under the appearance of good. Or, he places on the tongues of those who are sinfully inclined, excuses for evil. He calls out to them: “Once is no time.” “It is not even a sin.” “Others also do it.” “The temptation is too vehement!” “What does it matter if you have sinned!” “You can confess your sins, and you will be all right!” and by such reasoning, he seeks to deceive the heart of man. He even quotes Scripture, (as he did to our Saviour), when it suits his purpose to make the evil and forbidden thing appear good and laudable.

Should we not, then, walk in the continual fear of God? ” Watch ye and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26: 41.) Should not our repeated relapses into past sins make us more cautious and fearful? Some of the greatest saints have fallen through the cunning of the wicked enemy of our souls. The cedars of Lebanon were cast down, and torn up by the roots in battle with the demon. All human virtue stands upon an unsteady foundation, and only the fear of God is able to preserve grace in our hearts; for the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

2. The pious Christian, although fearful in temptation, must not, however, lose courage. He will remember the words of the Lord: “In the world you shall have distress, but have confidence; I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33.) Through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the throne of the Prince of darkness has been shaken and overthrown; and Satan can no longer injure us. A residue of power is left to him, it is true, but no more than is necessary to test our fidelity and virtue. He dare not overstep the boundaries which have been marked out for him. God will not permit us to be tempted above our strength. Even the strongest and most lasting temptation is appointed by Him for the salvation of our souls.

Rain and sunshine, storms and gentle breezes, winter and summer are necessary for the life of nature, and the prosperity of all created beings; and only by these alternations, a strong and healthy life is developed upon the face of the earth. In like manner, temptations are necessary in the spiritual life; and the Lord sends as many trials and temptations to each one, as is useful and salutary for his soul. But although we must live in the continual fear of God, yet we have no reason to despond or be disheartened. The divine wisdom and love have fixed the measure of temptations for us, in order that through peace and war, through rain and sunshine, through joys and sorrows, He may lead us to the heavenly felicity.

Remember, too, that our good God has given us all the necessary weapons whereby we may overcome our temptations. A general refuses to lead his soldiers to battle, if they are not well armed and equipped, and enabled to fight with success. Jesus Christ Who went forth in the armor of his holy humanity to fight and conquer the Evil One, has left us His weapons, so that we, in our turn, may not be overcome in the warfare. His all-powerful grace by which we can do all things, supports us in the strife; He Himself takes part in the battle; He is with us when the enemy attacks us, and He fights with and for us. If we should be tempted above our strength, we shall conquer in His might.

With the shepherd boy David, then, we must go forth in the name of the Lord, and the wicked enemy with all his temptations will fall powerless before us. What we cannot do of ourselves, we can do in Him Who strengthens us. Supported by Him, we can overcome every temptation; and every victory we gain over the devil, will add a new brightness to our crown of heavenly glory.

3. But although through the gracious assistance of God, we are strengthened and enabled to come forth victorious from every temptation. we are strictly bound, nevertheless, to avoid the dangerous occasions of sin. “Seek the Lord in simplicity of heart: for He is found by them …. tempt him not, and he showeth Himself to them that have faith in Him;. (Wisd. 1: 2.) “He that loveth danger shall perish in it.” (Eccl. 3: 27.) Our Saviour Himself admonishes us to pray to His heavenly Father: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6: 13.) We may, indeed, expect with firm confidence that the Almighty will be a helper and deliverer to us in every temptation, but shall we dare to implore His help, if we willfully place ourselves in the danger of sin? Will the Lord grant us His assistance in such a case? Would you cast yourself into the fire, in the hope that God might rescue you? If you do not avoid dangerous companionship, if you deliberately return to a place in which you have repeatedly fallen into sin, you must not be astonished, if the grace of God forsakes you and the temptation overcomes you. God helps only those who strive to co-operate with, and make themselves worthy of His grace. He who knowing the weakness of his heart, yet rushes anew into fresh dangers, is not worthy of the help of God.

4. Moreover, he who wishes to overcome temptations must carefully avoid the beginning, or the first step in sin. A Christian hardly ever falls at once into the depth of vice, or by one misstep sinks into the abyss of wickedness and iniquity; the descent into sin is generally gradual. The sinful thought arises gently and almost imperceptibly in the soul. Like a spark of fire, it seeks for fuel; and if it be not extinguished at once, it grows ere long into a lively imagination. The imagination begets the desire, and the desire becomes stronger and more vehement each moment; and then, from a vehement desire to an evil action is a very short step. When the first step is once taken, the second and the third follow in quick succession; and finally, the sinner descends, step by step, into the deepest abyss of vice.

5. The flight from dangerous occasions, and the guarding against the beginning of sin, are especially necessary in temptations against holy purity. In common warfare he who flees before the enemy is accounted a coward; but in temptations of the flesh, Christian heroism is shown not by meeting and fighting with, but by running away from the foe. He who is not ready to practise this heroism will be overcome by the tempter.

6. Finally, I would add one more remedy to the foregoing ones, which will strengthen us in our warfare with temptations. If you wish to come forth victorious, you must make use of the means of grace which God has placed within your reach, and which are at your disposal. These means are Prayer and the Holy Sacraments. Through prayer and the reception of the holy Sacraments, the Christian really becomes invincible. Prayer obtains for us the help of God, and supported by His almighty grace, we are, so to say, almighty, and can do what we please according to these words of St Paul: ” I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4: 13.)

The strength and support which are granted to us through prayer, will be increased and confirmed by the reception of the holy Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist. The Sacrament of Penance breaks down the power of Satan in our hearts, and cleanses us from all sin. The Sacrament of the Altar makes us invincible. ” If God be for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8: 31.) The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the strong and mighty God who first overcame the temptations of the old serpent, will fight in us and through us; for He will effect and perform in us that which we cannot accomplish by our own strength. If in every temptation, we cry to heaven in fervent prayer, and frequently receive the God of grace and of strength, the victory shall assuredly be ours.

As Jesus after being baptized by John in the river Jordan was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil, so from our coming into the world until our going out of it, we shall be tempted and sorely tried by the same evil spirit, who, not content with being miserable himself, desires to make all others miserable as well. But we have a Saviour God, Jesus Christ, to Him we must lift up our eyes and hearts in every temptation. With courage, then, let us struggle and fight, as He has done, that when our great trial, our novitiate for heaven, is finished, the Angels of God may come to meet us in order to conduct us, crowned, into the mansions of eternal bliss. Amen.

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Prayer for the Tempted and Afflicted

O God, Who justifiest the ungodly that repent, and wouldst not the death of a sinner; we humbly entreat Thy Majesty to protect Thy servants with Thy heavenly assistance, who trust in Thy mercy, and preserve them by Thy continual protection; that they may constantly serve Thee, and by no temptation be separated from Thee; through, Our Lord etc. Amen

 

We were born to fight

One of the best pieces of St. Joan of Arc.

God gives the victory to those who fight, worthily, with a cause, for His greater Glory and for the exaltation of His Holy Church.

“I make an urgent appeal to the earth. I call on the true disciples of the living God who reigns in Heaven; I call on the true followers of Christ made man, the only true Saviour of men; I call on my children, the true faithful, those who have given themselves to me so that I may lead them to my divine Son, those whom I carry in my arms, so to speak, those who have lived on my spirit. Finally, I call on the Apostles of the Last Days, the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who have lived in scorn for the world and for themselves, in poverty and in humility, in scorn and in silence, in prayer and in mortification, in chastity and in union with God, in suffering and unknown to the world.  It is time they came out and filled the world with light. Go and reveal yourselves to be my cherished children. I am at your side and within you, provided that your faith is the light which shines upon you in these unhappy days.  May your zeal make you famished for the glory and the honour of Jesus Christ. Fight, children of light, you, the few who can see. For now is the time of all times, the end of all ends.”  ~Our Lady of LaSalette

“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”  ~St. Joan of Arc

“Act and God will act.”  ~St. Joan of Arc

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”  ~St. Joan of Arc

The reality of Purgatory

During this Month of the Holy Souls, I offer a sermon from Archbishop Lefebvre, given on November 1, 1978 in Econe, Switerzerland:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My dear friends and my dear brethren: The Church has the custom of associating the souls in Purgatory with the Feast of All Saints. In fact, from this evening (Vespers of All Souls Day), the Church asks us to pray for the souls in Purgatory and tomorrow the entire day is consecrated to them. The priests who will celebrate three Masses tomorrow, to beseech Our Lord to deliver the souls from Purgatory, may apply to each of their Masses a plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory. This is why, during these few moments, I would like to draw your attention to, and have you reflect upon, the reality of Purgatory and upon the devotion, which we should have for the souls who are suffering in this place of purification.

First of all, does Purgatory exist? If one were to believe all that is written today, even by members of the Catholic Church, one would be tempted to believe that Purgatory is a medieval fable! No! Purgatory is a dogma – a dogma of our Faith. Whoever refuses to believe in Purgatory is a heretic. In fact, already in the thirteenth century, the Second Council of Lyons solemnly affirmed the existence of Purgatory. Then, in the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent in particular, solemnly affirmed against the negations of the Protestants, the necessity in preserving the Faith, of believing in the existence of Purgatory. It is therefore certain that this is a dogma of our Faith, which is especially affirmed and supported by Tradition – more than by Sacred Scripture. Sacred Scripture does, however, offer passages, which make allusion, as clearly as possible, to the existence of Purgatory. We have, moreover, in an epistle which is used by the Church in Masses offered for the intention of the souls in Purgatory, the account of the “Machabees” where Judas Machabee sent a sum of twelve thousand talents to Jerusalem asking the priests of offer a sacrifice for the intention of the soldiers who had died in combat in order that they might be delivered from their afflictions and enter heaven. Sacred Scripture adds: “It is a salutary thought to pray for our dead.” Saint Paul also makes allusion to the souls in Purgatory when he says that certain souls enter heaven immediately and others quasi per ignem; that is, who enter heaven as well but by fire, making allusion certainly to the purification necessary for these souls who would not be perfectly prepared to enter heaven. It is by these allusions and particularly by Tradition, which is transmitted to us by the Apostles and by the Fathers of the Church, that the Church has founded her Faith in the existence and in the reality of Purgatory.

Why does Purgatory exist? It exists because we must obviously enter heaven in the most perfect purity. It is inconceivable that souls may enter the vision of God, enter into union with God, a union which surpasses all that our mind is able to imagine, all that we am able to conceive, enter into Divinity Itself, to participate in the light of God – with any dispositions which would be contrary to this light, contrary to the glory of God, to the purity of God, to the sanctity of God?it is inconceivable! This why those who have died in the state of grace but are not perfectly purified from the penalty which is due to sin after the sin has been pardoned, and also those who die with venial sins, must pass through this place of purification which renders them worthy to be present before God in the Blessed Trinity. It is then something, which is entirely normal, for we must not forget that even if the sin is pardoned, there remains in us a disorder, which was established by the sin. Without a doubt, the moral fault no longer exists because it has been pardoned by the Sacrament of Penance; however, it remains that our soul has been wounded; our soul has suffered a disorder, which must be repaired. This may be compared in a certain way to the penitent who has sinned by stealing from his neighbor. Not only must be accuse himself to Our Lord in the sacrament of Penance and receive absolution, but he must also reimburse the sum which is stolen. One may compare this, I would say, to all sins, which we have committed. We have created a disorder, we have created an injustice, and we must repair this injustice even after the sin has been pardoned. This is why the souls in Purgatory remain there until the moment when they are perfectly purified from the penalties due to their sins, which have been forgiven.

What is the state of the souls in Purgatory? Are the souls in Purgatory able to acquire merit for themselves by which they might abridge their time of purification? No, henceforth the souls in Purgatory are not able to gain merit for themselves. Why? Since they are no longer here upon earth, they are no longer like us – in the state in which one is able to gain merit. We have the choice to make, and by the fact that we choose good in place of evil we merit a recompense. The souls in Purgatory no longer have this choice to make. They are definitively fixed in their grace, in sanctifying grace. They have the certitude of being among the elect, and this causes a profound joy, and unalterable joy. They know that henceforth they are destined for heaven. But they suffer as well from an indescribable suffering because they know much better than we what God is and what He has promised us by grace, the glory that is waiting for us in heaven. They suffer severely front the thought that they are not yet able to approach God and to live with Him for eternity. They are also tormented by remorse at the thought of the goodness of God and of the charity of God of which they are witnesses. They understand well the charity which God has had for them: for they had sinned and separated themselves from God and it is for this that they stiffer. They know that they suffer justly for the sins, which they had committed, and to be purified in order to arrive in the glory of the Lord.

“The Church has a treasury of merits which she is able to place at the disposal of souls who truly wish to employ these merits for the souls in Purgatory “

Thus, as a consequence, the souls in Purgatory are not able to abridge their sufferings.

How then would they be able to render their admittance into heaven more rapid? They count upon us. Yes, they count upon us. It is we who, by the unity of the Mystical Body, are able to merit for them. The union that we in the Church Militant have with the souls in Purgatory and the fact that we are able to merit for these souls are founded upon the unity of the Mystical body. The Church Suffering and the Church Militant are united in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we are able to merit for them, we may ask Our Lord Jesus Christ in our prayers and, in particular, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that the souls in Purgatory be more rapidly delivered from their sufferings; and, indeed, we must do so. It is a duty for us because these souls who are suffering count upon us for their deliverance. We are able to do so therefore by our prayers and, in particular, in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are able to do so by our penances, penances which we must do as well in order to atone for the penalty which is due to us for sins which have been pardoned, and in order to diminish our Purgatory and, if it pleases God, and if God wishes, that we not pass through Purgatory but rather go directly to heaven to join Him. We must therefore perform sacrifices for the souls in Purgatory and also profit from the treasure which the Church places at our disposal, the treasure of the merits of the saints, of all those who have lived here on earth. The Church has a treasury of merits, which she is able to place at the disposal of souls who truly wish to employ these merits for the souls in Purgatory. The Church asks us to perform certain prayers, to acquire these merits and to apply them to the souls in Purgatory. This is what we can do for them! It is a considerable encouragement for us, an encouragement to sanctify ourselves. If we truly understood what the souls in Purgatory suffer, we would do all that we possibly could for our part to deliver them and to avoid Purgatory ourselves.

Concerning the indulgences which the Church gives: it is good to know that these repose upon a perfectly known truth of the church in which we must believe, the reality of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Council of Trent itself requests that we avoid entering into the subtlety of the number of indulgences, of any calculation, which would be made of any estimation more or less exact. One may wonder for example, if by one Mass said at a privileged altar, one Mass consequently which is said at an altar where one receives a plenary indulgence that one may apply to the souls in Purgatory. Is it absolutely certain the soul for whom the indulgence has been applied will be immediately delivered from its penalties and go to heaven? As a rule? yes. Theoretically? yes. Why? It is because the plenary indulgence is given specifically by the Church for the complete remission of the penalties, which are due to a sin after it has been pardoned. However, as the Council of Trent well explained, it depends upon God to give this indulgence. This indulgence then depends upon God. God sees the disposition of souls and consequently it is He who is ultimately the Judge of all things and of that which these souls must suffer in Purgatory and of the penalties, which they must expiate. As a consequence, one is not able to arrive in an absolutely mathematical manner at the conclusion, that from the moment one has performed a certain act or certain prayer, the soul is necessarily and absolutely delivered from Purgatory. This depends upon Divine Justice. We should hope and we should think that God judging all the merits, which have been acquired by the Church, applies them to these indulgences and we may truly hope that these souls are delivered.

This is why we must meditate upon the reality of Purgatory, to be united to the souls of our brethren, of our parents, of our deceased friends and of the entire innumerable multitude of souls who have no one among their acquaintances who prays for them. We must then pray often for the souls in Purgatory. The magnificent liturgy of the dead thus inspires us. Unfortunately, one must say that today the manner in which the reform (of Vatican II) has touched these prayers and modified them has been a great sorrow for the Church.

In addition, I think it is good to make allusion equally to the reform of the Council (Vatican II) concerning the cremation of bodies. I think that one may make allusion to this at the moment when one is speaking of our dear deceased. It is written in Canon Law that those who, in vie manner or another, express the desire to have their bodies cremated after their death are to be deprived of ecclesiastical burial. It is the law that they are to be thus deprived. Without a doubt the Church, at the Council, has changed this law but these things are abominable! Since from the beginning of its existence the Church has willed that bodies, which are temples of the Holy Ghost, which have been sanctified by Baptism, sanctified by the Sacraments, sanctified by the presence of the Holy Ghost, sanctified by the reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, that these bodies be venerated. It is noted in Canon Law that even the members of a Christian, of a Catholic which are amputated in a hospital be interred and they must not be burned. See what great veneration the Church has for members, which have been sanctified by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ! We then, absolutely, refuse this abominable custom, which is, moreover, a masonic custom. Canon Law makes allusion to the associations in which it is requested that bodies be cremated and these associations are precisely masonic associations. One truly wonders how one has been able to accept such things without having been influenced by these masonic associations. We must maintain a very great respect for the bodies of the deceased, for those who have been sanctified and we must bury them as Christians have always done. We must honor our dead and honor our cemeteries. The tombs and graves should be maintained perfectly in order to show the faith, which we have that the bodies will one day be resurrected.

There you have, my dear brethren, our thoughts on the occasion of All Souls Day, which we will celebrate tomorrow. Let us live in union with the souls in Purgatory and let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, who assisted at the burial of her Son, to ask Him to give us the love and respect, which she had, for the Body of her Divine Son. Let us ask Him to give us also the respect for the bodies of those faithful who have died, our deceased friends and relatives.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.