"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]

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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

Christian Instruction
by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893
"Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."--St. James i. 22 

Brethren, I fancy if St. James were addressing , the Christians of our day he would be inclined to lay a little more stress upon the hearing of the word; for whatever may be said about the ''doers of the Word '' it cannot be denied that the number of those who hear God's Word with advantage might be increased. 

Indeed, there are many for whom a High Mass sermon, in view of its rarity, would be a luxury, and for whom even a fiveminute sermon is long and wearisome. In addressing you, dear brethren, it seems hardly necessary to dwell much upon the importance of hearing God's holy Word, for we have reason to believe you value it most highly. But there are none of us who know too much; we are born in ignorance, and as long as we live we must feel the need of instructions and exhortations on the great questions of the soul--how to live and how to die well. This the Word of God supplies, for, as St. John Chrysostom says: "What food is for the body, the Word of God is to the soul," and if we neglect to nourish our souls with the food, we shall eventually grow wearied and cold in God's service, and die through want of strength.

But the important question is this: how am I to hear the Word of God? Oh! how many Christians have listened to the Word of God, which He Himself declares to be " words of fire," and have profited nothing, have remained cold and indifferent to the warnings of that voice that '' breathes where it listeth''--Christians who fancy they are wise enough and experienced enough, and who never think of applying these burning words to themselves.

How can I hear the Word of God with profit to my soul? "With meekness," says St. James, "receive the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls." Our Lord frequently likens the Word to the seed which the tiller sows in the field. Now, he who sows the seed must first carefully prepare the ground, for the harvest will be in proportion to the care he bestows in the preparation of the ground. The seed is the Word of God; and, dear brethren, your hearts, not your ears, are the ground, and therefore you must prepare your hearts. And how? Just as we must cleanse the ground from all that would prevent the seed from bringing forth good fruit, so must it be with the heart. Is mortal sin there? Turn it out, for it is mortal sin which, like thorns, will choke and destroy the good seed. Receive the Word of God with docility and meekness, with a longing desire to learn from Him through His ministers how to lead a life worthy of our calling. "He who has ears to hear let him hear," says our Lord. Indeed, brethren, we all have ears, and why is it, then, that we do not hear? I will tell you why we do not hear, why the voice of God does not penetrate into our hearts. It is because the soil is not prepared: it is because we come to hear the Word with hearts filled with worldly cares or even evil desires, with deep-rooted attachments to things unlawful, with no intention of learning how to lead better lives. If it were only something new we had to learn, some new doctrine, some new and fanciful creed; but no, it is the same Word that was spoken to the early Christians, only new by its practical application to our hearts.

But now, brethren, mark how St. James would have us not deceive ourselves. It is not enough, he tells us, to come here Sunday after Sunday and listen to the Word of God, but we must be doers of the Word; that is to say, we must carry out practically in our every-day life the lessons and inspirations which have been offered us through the ministry of preaching. For if a man, says he, be a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his natural countenance in a glass; for he beheld himself and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was. Be not like this man, brethren, if you would save your souls. When listening to the Word of God, wherein the wants, the failings, the defects of your souls are mirrored forth, go not your way forgetful of what, through God's grace, has been revealed to you, but with meekness receive the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls, and blessed will you be if you hear the Word of God and keep it.

To encourage the reading of Holy Scripture among Catholics,
Pope Leo XIII. has granted the following indulgence :

Our most holy Lord Leo P. P. XIII., in an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences and Sacred Relics, on the 13th day of December, 1898, kindly granted an indulgence of three hundred days, once every day, to all the Faithful of Christ who should, for at least one quarter of an hour, piously and devoutly read the Holy Gospel,* provided they read an edition that has been approved by legitimate authority. To those who thus read every day for a month a plenary indulgence is conceded once a month, on any day that, having approached worthily the holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion, they pour forth prayers to God for the intentions of His Holiness. These indulgences His Holiness has declared may be offered for the souls detained in the fire of purgatory.
Given at Rome, December 13th, 1898.