"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]

Monday, March 12, 2018

THE LOVING CHASTISER & How to be Victorious in our Earthly Fight

by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893
"Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the mouth of God."--St. Matt, iv. 4. 

In placing these words before us, brethren, the Church bids us mark the difference between the food of the body and that of the soul. Both are good; but one is good for this life alone, and the other is good for both this life and life everlasting. 

One feeds what must itself finally feed worms, in the grave, and the other feeds the undying spirit unto celestial life. It is good for us to make this contrast at the beginning of Lent, because, during this holy season, abstaining from bodily food we are at the same time more plentifully fed with spiritual food. The mind is strengthened by hearing the truths of religion, while the body is chastened by abstinence from corporal nourishment. This is the triumph of reason over appetite. It is an open profession of our preference of the eternal over the temporal.

The sermons and instructions heard in church during Lent, both at Mass and at the week-day services, are extremely important to all Christians. You may think that you know your religion well enough, but that may never be truly said of God's truth. Religion has new beauties for every succeeding day; and what is often forgotten--life has new needs ever arising, requiring anew the use of the aids of religion, among the most powerful of which is hearing the word of God. Are you a good Christian? Then you need to thank God for it; you need to grow in virtue; you need to be reminded that he who stands should take heed lest he fall; you need to set a good example to others; you need to pray for the conversion of sinners; you need to enjoy more heartily and intelligently the privileges of the Christian state; all of which is helped by attending the Lenten services.

Are you a sinner? Then, in God's name, you must turn your face away from your sins and study the lessons of your hereafter as they are taught in the church between now and Easter. You have too long forgotten that there is a place which the breath of the Lord has kindled, as with a torrent of fire, set apart for such as you. There is a day of wrath, when even the just man shall hardly be saved. What, then, shall become of you? I can see you tossing on a bed of pain, racked with fever, delirious, or, if conscious, screaming with horror at the thought that He whom you have so many times insulted will shortly enter your room and say, "Depart, accursed wretch, into everlasting flames." There is a place of unspeakable joy, filled with angels and saints, towards which you, writhing in the dark abyss, shall reach out your hands in vain. Such are some of the lessons of Eternity taught in the church during Lent. Do you imagine that you can afford to pass them by?

But the great lesson of these sad works of Lent is the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. What can prove love better than suffering? Who has suffered like Jesus Christ? "More than this can no man do, that a man should give up his life for his friend." Our Lord did that for His enemies, you among the rest. By hearing the sermons you will learn to sympathize with Him. That means deep sorrow for sin; calm, deliberate, reasonable, but deep and true sorrow. That, again, means a sorrowful confession of sin, an iron purpose of amendment, avoiding all dangerous occasions, such as bar-rooms, bad plays, foul reading, bad company. And, finally, when you kneel at the Table of the Angels and receive the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord will give you to understand how sweet is His love, how strong is His affection for you.

Let each one, therefore, make up his mind to feast plentifully on the word of God, the Bread of Life, during this Lent, by attending faithfully at all the public services in the church, by assiduous prayer, and by a devout reception of the Sacraments.

How to be Victorious in our Earthly Fight
by Fr. Paolo Segneri, 1892

Laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: looking on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith,: Who, having joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame (Hebrews xii. I, 2).

Consider first, what this fight which is here proposed to thee is. It is the fight in which thou shouldst engage against those three notorious enemies who would rob thee of eternal goods: the inordinate love of wealth, of pleasures, of honours. This is that fight common to all alike on earth. Even the devils, when they tempt thee, can only rouse one of these enemies to assail thee. We must then animate ourselves for this great fight, not merely going forth, but running to it: this we do when we not only accept poverty, suffering, and contempt, our three-fold daily tribulation, but go forth to meet them "by patience," that is, by an invincible spirit of suffering. "Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us."

Consider secondly, that in order to accomplish this it is necessary to put aside all impediments. Of these there are two, "weight, and sin which surrounds us." Weight is sin already committed, which weighs thee down and draws thee on to further sin. "The sin which surrounds" is the occasion leading to new sins, and perhaps close round thee. It is necessary, therefore, to lay down the weight if we would run to the fight; since to run, that is, to encounter suffering, requires great virtue. But how can we hope for this whilst all the forces of our soul are weighed down by sin? It is necessary to cast aside also the occasions of sin if we would fight valiantly. For when thou hast merely put thy sin away, how canst thou hope to be able to refrain with ease from yielding to impurity, to practise austerity and self-denial, to look with contempt upon unlawful gains, to be indifferent to greatness and to glory, whilst thou remainest all the time surrounded by the fascinations which allure thee. This is, without question, simple folly. Consider, then, thy present state, and whether thou art prepared for running to the fight.

Consider thirdly, that when thou hast cast aside all impediments, the next thing is to animate thy valour by the example of Christ, Who willed to suffer so much for thy sake. By this means thou shalt attain that patience, that invincible spirit of suffering, of which mention has been made. Who, then, is this Lord Who has suffered so much for thee? Jesus Himself, a Lord so free from blame, so sensitive to suffering. At the very sight of Him does not thy courage revive? If thou canst not meditate on His Passion in a more exalted manner, take in thy hand thy crucifix, and there, "looking on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith," contemplate that face for thee so pale, those failing eyes, those fleshless bones, those limbs so cruelly racked and torn, and wet with fresh-flowing Blood, and hesitate no longer: one such glance, one only, should be quite enough to move thee to compunction and to give thee strength. Here thou beholdest the brazen serpent, which, if thou fix thy gaze upon it, has power to cure thy weakness. Observe that the words are not, "Looking at the Author," but, "Looking into the Author," in auctorem; hence thou must not look only at His mangled frame to see how much He suffered for thy sake, but through those wide-open wounds thou must penetrate to the interior man, and consider Who has undergone such suffering--God made Man.

Consider fourthly, that for thy greater encouragement this is the same Jesus Who is called the Author and the Finisher of faith, inasmuch as He Who on earth is now the Author of thy faith, by teaching it to the mind, stamping it on the will, confirming it by so many wonders, will hereafter be its Finisher in Heaven, by rewarding it with the clear vision of God, into which faith will melt and be dissolved, and giving place to intuitive knowledge, shall in reality be finished. Jesus, then, both as Author and as Finisher of faith, gives thee encouragement: as Author, by what He promises thee now; as Finisher, by what He will give thee hereafter.

Consider fifthly, that in proposing to thee this great fight, He proposes what He knows by His own experience. Jesus was not obliged to suffer, as thou art, to whom the corruption of thy nature makes it necessary. Joy of every kind was set before Him to take, if He would; and yet, in order to set thee an example, "joy being proposed to Him," He refused to have it; instead of the riches which He could have had in such abundance, He chose poverty; in place of pleasure He chose pain; in place of honour He chose contempt: thus it was He "bore the Cross." Represent to thy mind that the whole life of thy Redeemer was one continued cross, to which He was bound by these three cruel executioners--poverty, pain, contempt. These three He had with Him at the instant of His Birth; they were with Him through life; they were with Him in death. And wilt thou, on the contrary, shrink proudly from them? It is for thee to do as Christ did, and to go forth with high courage to encounter them, when it is in thy power to keep away from them--it is for thee "to run to the fight."

Consider sixthly, that it is not said that Christ overcame shame; it is said that He contemned it, because it is most easily overcome by contempt. It is thy inordinate regard for the opinions of men which makes thee dread the slightest shame. What matters it to thee what people say of thee? Thy true reputation is that which thou enjoyest in Paradise, among the angels and archangels, before the awful throne of the Three Divine Persons. That is the reputation of which thou shouldst take thought. The esteem of men is empty, changeable, unjust, deceitful, fleeting. Let it pass, be it what it may. In short, the one thing needed to conquer shame is to despise it, to contemn contempt.