"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Sunday, January 14, 2018

SHOWING FORTH OUR FAITH by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

The manifestation of our Lord to the nations in the persons of the three wise men is what holy Church bids us consider to-day. We think this a fit occasion to remind you that the laity have a duty to make manifest our Lord and His doctrines as well as the clergy. It is the will of God that all who have acknowledged Jesus Christ and believe His doctrine should preach Him and it to others. We pass by the divinely given office of teaching which parents enjoy and which others who share their dignity must partake of, including those who assist in the household, and teachers and guardians; of such the honor and duty is to train children in the doctrine and discipline and correction of the Lord. 

What we wish more particularly to insist upon is the missionary office of every Catholic, especially in these days of error and inquiry. Now, it is a characteristic of all spiritual good that it is in some sense communicable. The priest cannot, indeed, give his office to another, but he holds it to give the truth and the grace of Christ. "Freely [that is to say, gratis] you have received, freely give." So with the layman; every grace he has has been received not only for himself but also for others. The Christian heritage is the common property of all the sons of God; it is the destiny to which all mankind has been called. The Infant King of man is enthroned in the arms of Mary, the second Eve and the mother of all living, and His arms are stretched out to embrace and make sons of God of all the children of men. He who claims to be the brother of Jesus Christ is unworthy of the title unless in mind and act he assists Him to establish His kingdom in every heart of man. The Catholic who hugs the truth up to himself alone is not worthy of it: he is selfish. He will be condemned for hiding his talent.

But somebody might answer: "Father, what you say is plain enough theoretically; but, to come down to actual fact, can you tell me how I can practically show people the truth? First, by word of mouth. Scarcely a day passes but that you can say a plain, strong word for the cause of Christ. The air is full of objections to religion, and every objection should be met on the spot and refuted. If any one denies, in your hearing, the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, or any other truth of religion, it is your duty to affirm these fundamental truths at once, and it is a great honor to do so. If you say you have no learning, I answer, that the highest learning is not so good a quality as sincere conviction; and I answer again that those who assail the truth in common conversation are generally the reverse of learned. The enemies of religion are, for the most part, as ignorant as they are bold. Learning is good, but it is not learning we need most. We need to have sincere convictions, and we need to have the courage of them. "I believed," says the Psalmist, "and therefore did I speak." Truth sounds so well that its bare mention is a powerful argument. Furthermore, the honest Christian who defends his religion will not be without the divine assistance to do it well.

But we should not only defend the truth; we should attack error. If you have friends who are in error, you can do them no better service than to set them right. This must be done with discretion, to be sure. But do not be too anxious about discretion. When you see error attack it; in such cases kindliness is the chief rule for securing a hearing. It is amazing that men and women can piously love the truths and practices of religion, and live along from day to day without vigorously attacking the error and vice everywhere about them. What coward is so mean as the pious coward?

Finally, a good life is a manifestation of our Lord and His doctrine of wonderful force and attractiveness. Be chaste, temperate, charitable, kindly mannered; be industrious, neat, truthful--these simple virtues will be like a pulpit from which you can preach your supernatural faith. As a tippling, lying, loafing Catholic is a hindrance to his religion, so is the contrary character the recommendation of religion.

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