Father Fabian Abrantowicz

Father Fabian AbrantowiczProfile

He studied at the University of Louvain, earning a doctorate in theology. Ordained a priest in the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary on 9 November 1908. He served in several parishes, and as rector of the Theological Seminary in the diocese of Minsk, Belarus. He joined the Marian Order in 1926. Appointed apostolic administrator of the exarchate of Harbin, Russia from 31 May 1928 to 1939, opening several schools during his tenure. Imprisoned in 1939 for his continued loyalty to Rome, he spent the rest of his life in prison. His Cause for Canonization as a martyr has opened.

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MLA Citation

  • “Father Fabian Abrantowicz“. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Blessed Iuliu Hossu

Blessed Iuliu HossuMemorial

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The son of Ioan Hossu and Victoria Mariutiu. He studied at the Seminary of Cluj, Romania, the seminary of Budapest, Hungary, the University of Vienna, Austria, and the Pontifical Urbanian Athenaeum “De Propaganda Fide,” Rome, Italy. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1906, and one in theology in 1908. Ordained a priest in the archdiocese of Fagaras si Alba Iulia, Romania on 27 March 1910; the ordination was performed by his uncle, Bishop Vasile Hossu. From 1911 to 1914 he served variously as protocolist, archivist, librarian, vicar-general and secretary to the bishop of Gherla, Romania. Military chaplain to the Romanian soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I from 1914 to 1917. Chosen Bishop of Cluj-Gherla, Romania by Pope Benedict XV on 21 April 1917. Apostolic Administrator of Maramures, Romania from 19 July 1930 till 31 January 1931. Apostolic Administrator of Oradea Mare, Romania from 29 August 1941 till 1947. For opposing the state-ordered separation of Byzantine-Rumanian Church from Rome, he was imprisoned in prisons in the Romanian cities of Jilava, Drogoslavele, Sighet, and Gherla from 1948 till 1964, and then at the monastery of Caldrusani in Moara Saraca near Bucharest, Romania from 1964 until his health began to fail in 1970 when he was moved to hospital. Secretlu elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul VI on 28 April 1969, but to prevent additional abuse, this was was not revealed until after the Cardinalsdeath. Martyr.

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Venerated

Beatified

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MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Iuliu Hossu“. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Bishop Antonij Iosifovich Maleckij

Bishop Antonij Iosifovich MaleckijAlso known as

  • Don Bosco of Saint Petersburg

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Graduated from the Saint Petersburg Theological Seminary in Russia. Ordained a priest in 1884. In 1896, he organized the Boys’ Refuge and the first Polish gymnasium, a type of high school. He was arrested in March 1923 during an antiChristian persecution, and sentenced to three years in prison. He returned to Leningrad (Saint Petersburg in January 1926. Chosen Apostolic administrator of Saint Petersburg on 13 May 1926. Arrested again in November 1930, this time he was exiled to Siberia. After much lobbying by international organizations, he was released and allowed to seek medical help in Poland for the severe health problems he had developed. He continued his pastoral duties, but never really recovered and died in 1935. His Cause for Canonization as a martyr has opened.

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MLA Citation

  • “Bishop Antonij Iosifovich Maleckij“. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Servant of God Kamilla Nikolaevna Krušel’Nišckaja

Kamilla Nikolaevna Krušel'NišckajaProfile

Lay woman of the apostolic exarchate of the Russian Byzantine Catholic Church. She studied at the University of Moscow where she became involved with the Dominican tertiaries. She was arrested in 1933 as part of the Communist persecutions of the faith, and sentenced to 10 years in the work camps. She continued to be firm in her faith, to support other imprisonedCatholics, and assist any imprisoned priests. In the Solovki camp she met and married another prisoner, whom she had hoped to convert, but he was an informant and reported her continuing religious activity to the authorities. This led to her confinement in an even more brutal camp, and then to her execution. Her Cause for Canonization as a martyr has opened.

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MLA Citation

  • “Servant of God Kamilla Nikolaevna Krušel’Nišckaja“. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Life of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and Patron of Catholic Schools

photograph of a Saint Thomas Aquinas roundel, Convento de Las Duenas, Salamanca, Spain; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPBirth and Early Life

The thirteenth century was a time of extraordinary intellectual activity, which was not without its dangers. In the enthusiastic pursuit of learning, students flocked by thousands to the great Universities, which, unhappily, were as often schools of infidelity as of faith. The philosophers of the age owned but one master, and he was a heathen. “Aristotle,” says Lacordaire, “was taken to be the representative of wisdom; and, unfortunately, Aristotle and the Gospel did not always agree;” and many, entering on the unexplored sea of thought without a guide, made hopeless ship-wreck of their faith. The great professors who were the oracles of the day were not always proof against the seductions of vanity, and sometimes tried to make themselves a name by striking out bold theories in matters where original speculation is seldom friendly to the faith.

It was amidst the confusion of these new opinions that Saint Thomas Aquinas was given to the world to mark out the limits of Christian philosophy, and to form the separate materials of dogmatic, moral, and speculative theology into one grand and finished structure, whilst at the same time he enriched the Church’s liturgy with some of the most beautiful of its devotional formularies, and displayed in his life and character all the virtues and winning graces of a Saint.

Picturesquely situated in southern Italy on the top of a rugged cliff flanking a spur of the Apennines, gmd overlooking the rushing waters of the Melfi, there stood in mediaeval times the fortress of of Rocca-Secca. Here Saint Thomas was born about the year 1225 (authors are not agreed as to the precise date); and to the neighboring little town of Aquino he owed his surname of Aquinas. The count, his father, was nephew to the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and on his mother’s side, he was descended from the Norman Barons who had conquered Sicily two centuries before. The Aquino family could claim relationship with Saint Gregory the Great, and was allied by blood to Saint Louis of France and Saint Ferdinand of Castille.

The future vocation and sanctity of the little Thomas had been predicted to his mother, the Countess Theodora, by a holy hermit of the name of Bonus; and, whilst he was yet an infant, God’s watchful Providence over him was manifested in a striking manner. A terrific thunderstorm burst over the Castle, and his nurse and his little sister were struck dead in the very chamber in which Thomas slept on unharmed. This circumstance accounts for the great fear of thunder and lightning which the Saint is said to have had throughout life, which caused him often to take refuge in the church during a thunderstorm, even leaning his head against the Tabernacle, so as to place himself as closely as possible under the protection of our Lord.

The words Ave Maria were the first which his baby lips were heard to utter. Long before he could read, a book was discovered to be an unfailing means of drying his tears in all his childish woes; he would delight in handling it, turning over the leaves with infantine gravity.

When only five years old, his education was begun by the monks of the celebrated Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, which was only a few miles distant from Rocca-Secca.

The monks found that their new pupil was a grave, quiet child, who loved to spend much of his time in the church, and was never without a book in his hand. He had considerable influence over his young companions, whom he was always ready to help, and to whom the sweetness of his disposition rendered him very dear; but he cared little for the sports of childhood, in which he seldom took part. One day, when the rest of the merry band were playing in the woods, Thomas was standing apart in silent thought; the monk in charge of the boys inquired the subject of his reflections. The child raised his head and said: “Tell me, master, what is God?” This was his oft-repeated question, and it showed that the whole bent of his mind and heart was already directed heavenward.

At ten years old, he had made such progress in his studies that his parents resolved to send him, under the care of a tutor, to the newly-founded University of Naples. Before doing so, however, they took him to spend some weeks with them at another of their castles at Loreto, a spot afterwards destined to become so famous as the resting-place of the Holy House of Nazareth. A famine prevailed at the time, and Thomas delighted in distributing the abundant alms which his charitable parents had set aside for the poor. He carried his liberality so far that the steward of the castle complained to his father. The Count waylaid the child as he was hurrying with bread to the gate and sternly asked what was hidden under his cloak. Thomas let go the folds, and there fell to the ground, not the food which he had taken, but a profusion of lovely and sweet-scented flowers.

On his arrival in Naples, the extraordinary talents of which he had already given proof under his Benedictine teachers, became more and more manifest, whilst at the same time he made rapid progress in the science of the Saints. He was continually held up as a model to his fellow-students in a way most painful to his humility; but the modesty, sweetness, and gentleness of his character preserved him from envy, and gained for him universal affection. He shunned all occasions of evil, and devoted his leisure hours to prayer and good works. The Dominican church became one of his favorite resorts; and, as he poured forth his soul in prayer before the altar, bright rays of light were more than once seen to issue from his countenance.

A holy Friar, named John of Saint Julian, who had witnessed the wonderful sight, one day said to the pious youth: “God has given you to our Order.” Thomas threw himself on his knees, saying that he had long and ardently desired to take the habit, but that he feared he was unworthy of so great a grace. The Community joyfully admitted the young student; and, whilst still almost a boy, he was publicly clothed in the white habit of Saint Dominic.

The news soon reached the ears of the Countess Theodora, his mother, who, recognizing in the event the fulfillment of the holy hermit’s prophecy, hastened to Naples to congratulate her son. Thomas and the brethren, however, who were ignorant of her dispositions, were much alarmed at the idea of the impending visit, and, in compliance with his own earnest entreaties, the novice was hurried off to the Convent of Santa Sabina in Rome. Thither his mother followed him, but she was unable to induce him to consent to an interview. The General of the Order, Johu the German, was on the point of starting for Paris and resolved to take Thomas and three other companions with him; and they accordingly left Rome together.

When Theodora found herself thus foiled and mistrusted, she became furious against the friars, and sent orders to her two elder sons, who were then serving in the Emperor’s army in Italy, to waylay their brother and bring him back to her. The little party of friars were overtaken and seized as they were taking their midday rest by a wayside fountain. The rough soldiers tried to tear the habit from Thomas’s back; but his stout resistance compelled them to give up the attempt. His companions were suffered to continue their journey, whilst the young novice was carried off to his angry parents at Rocca-Secca.

The Countess was now determined that he should never be a Dominican; and his father, who would gladly have seen him assume the Benedictine habit, that, like one of his uncles, he might rise to the dignity of Abbot of Monte Cassino, was equally determined that he should never belong to the despised mendicant Order he had embraced. Tears, threats and entreaties proving powerless to shake the Saint’s resolution, he was imprisoned in one of the towers of the Castle, where he had to suffer cold, hunger, and every sort of privation.

His two sisters, Marietta and Theodora, to whom he was tenderly attached, vainly endeavored by their affectionate caresses to induce him to yield to his mother’s wishes; but they were themselves won to a life of perfection; and both eventually died in the odor of sanctity, one as a Benedictine Abbess, the other in the married state as Countess of San Severiuo. Through their instrumentality, Thomas was enabled to obtain books and clothes from his Brethren at Naples. During his captivity, which lasted considerably more than a year, he managed to commit to memory the entire Bible and the five books of the “Sentences,” the theological text-book of the time. His earliest writings are said to belong to the same period.

On the arrival of his brothers, Thomas’s constancy was put to a yet more terrible trial. The two young officers conceived the infernal project of introducing a woman of evil life into his chamber; but with a flaming brand snatched from the hearth the Saint indignantly drove her from his presence. With the same brand he then traced a cross upon the wall; and, casting himself on his knees before it, besought of God to grant him the gift of perpetual chastity.

As he prayed, he fell into an ecstacy, during which two angels appeared to him and girded him with a miraculous cord, saying: “We are come from God to invest thee with the girdle of perpetual chastity. The Lord has heard thy prayer; and that which human frailty can never merit, is ensured to thee by the irrevocable gift of God.” The angels girded him so tightly that he uttered an involuntary cry of pain, which brought some servants to the spot; but Thomas kept his secret to himself, and only revealed it on his deathbed to his confessor, Brother Reginald, declaring that from that day the spirit of darkness had never been allowed to approach him. The girdle was worn by the Saint till his death, and is still preserved at the Convent of Chieri in Piedmont.

By this time his family had discovered that his firmness would not be overcome by persecution. Though unwilling to acknowledge themselves beaten, they connived at his escape, and, like Saint Paul, he was let down from the tower in a basket to the Friars, who by appointment were waiting below. They carried off their rescued treasure to Naples, where he was immediately admitted to profession. One more attempt was made to shake his constancy by an appeal to the Pope, who summoned him to Rome; but the Saint pleaded his cause so well that the Holy Father was convinced of the reality of his vocation. In order to satisfy his family, however, and to secure in an important post the services of so gifted a subject, the Pope proposed to make him Abbott of Monte Cassino, whilst still continuing a Dominican. But Saint Thomas implored so earnestly that he might be allowed to remain a simple religious in the Order he had chosen, that his Holiness yielded, and strictly forbade any further interference with his vocation.

To put him beyond reach of further molestation, the General of the Order took him with him to Cologne, where he became the disciple of Blessed Albert the Great, the renowned Dominican professor of the day. When Saint Thomas found himself safe within the convent walls, he devoted himself with ardor to the work of his sanctification. His time was divided between prayer and study. His humility enabled him to conceal his vast powers of mind; and his absolute silence at all the scholastic disputations, rendered more conspicuous by his commanding stature and the portliness of his figure, led his companions to call him “the dumb ox of Sicily.”

A good-natured fellow-student offered to explain the daily lessons to him, an offer which the Saint humbly and gratefully accepted. But one day the young teacher came to a difficult passage, which he interpreted wrongly. Then the Saint’s charity and love of truth triumphed over his humility; and, taking the book, he explained the passage with the utmost clearness and precision. His astonished friend begged in future to be the scholar, to which Thomas consented, on condition his secret should be kept. Shortly after this, a paper written by the Saint and containing a masterly solution of a most abstruse question, fell accidentally into the hands of Blessed Albert. Astonished at the genius it displayed, he next day put the learning of his saintly disciple to a public test, and exclaimed before the assembled students: “We call Brother Thomas ‘the dumb ox;’ but I tell you he will one day make his bellowing heard to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Work in His Order and in the Church

In the summer of 1245, a y ear after Saint Thomas’s arrival at Cologne, the General Chapter commanded Blessed Albert to proceed to Paris in order to take the degree of Doctor in that University, and he obtained permission to take Brother Thomas as his companion. The two Saints set out on foot, staff in hand, carrying on their shoulders the breviary and Bible, to which Brother Thomas added the book of “Sentences.” At midday they rested by some spring to eat the food they had begged on their way. At night they generally found shelter in the guest quarters of some monastery. In this manner they reached the convent of Saint James at Paris, where Saint Tomas became the model of the whole Community, by his spirit of prayer, his profound humility, perfect obedience, and universal charity. He tried to imitate the virtues he observed in his brethren, and judged himself utterly unworthy of living in such saintly company. Never was he known to utter an idle word; when he did speak, the charm of his heavenly conversation filled all who heard him with spiritual consolation. A celestial grace beamed from his beautiful countenance; so that some said they had only to look at him to feel within themselves a renewal of fervor.

A young Franciscan was at this time studying at Paris, Bonaventure by name, to whom Saint Thomas became knit in bonds of closest friendship; they, who were in after ages to be honored in the Church as the Seraphic and Angelic Doctors, were dear to each other on earth as Jonathan and David; and after their three years of study, they were raised together to the degree of Bachelor of Theology, in 1248. In the November of that year, Blessed Albert was sent back to Cologne, again accompanied by Saint Thomas, who taught under his direction. Scholars were not slow to discover that the two Dominican professors excelled all others, and the new school at Cologne was soon filled to overflowing. Saint Thomas’s lessons fully bore out the five principles of teaching which he has himself laid down, viz., clearness, brevity, utility, sweetness, and maturity. He possessed a wonderful gift of communicating knowledge, so that more was learnt from him in a few months than from others in several years.

It was soon after his return to Cologne that the Saint was raised to the priesthood; from that time he seemed more closely than ever united to God. He used to spend many hours of the day and a great part of the night in the church; whilst offering the Holy Sacrifice he shed abundant tears, and the ardor of his devotion communicated itself to those who assisted at his Mass.

After teaching for four years at Cologne, Thomas was ordered by the General Chapter to prepare to take his degree as Doctor. This was a terrible blow to his humility, as he sincerely judged himself unfit for the dignity. On his way to Paris, whither he had now to repair, he preached at the court of the Duchess of Brabant, at whose request he wrote a treatise on the government of the Jews which is full of wisdom and moderation. Later on, he was often consulted on most important matters of state, especially by Saint Louis of France, who was tenderly attached to him. He arrived in Paris in 1252, and from the first his success in teaching was so great that the vast halls of the Convent of Saint James were unable to contain his audience. The University congratulated the Order on the acquisition of so great a treasure, and proposed at once to grant him the license preliminary to the acts required for taking the degree of Doctor, although he was nearly ten years under the age required by the statutes.

But this step was delayed by a dispute which arose between the Friars and the secular Doctors. The quarrel originated in the refusal of the former to take au oath to close their schools whenever the rights of the University were attacked; and it was fanned into a flame by the publication of a book, entitled “The Perils of the Latter Times,” in which the new mendicant Orders were attacked in the most calumnious and scandalous terms. This work, which came from the pen of a Paris Doctor, William de Saint Amour, a man of violent and heretical opinions, was referred by Saint Louis to the judgment of the Pope. Saint Thomas and Saint Bonaventure were summoned to the Papal Court to act as the champions of the regulars, and the pen of Blessed Albert the Great was also called into requisition. Saint Thomas’s eloquent defense procured the condemnation of the book, and delivered the mendicant Orders from destruction; and by the joint exertions of the Pope and Saint Louis, the University was compelled to yield, and to readmit, the Friars to their theological chairs.

On the 23d of October, 1257, two Saints were allowed to take their Doctor’s degree. Saint Thomas’s humility had been so sorely distressed at the idea of this promotion, that he could not bring himself to prepare the preliminary public address until the very eve of the day on which it was to be delivered. Then, as it would seem, by divine inspiration, he chose for his text the words of the 103d Psalm, verse 13: “Thou waterest the hills from Thy upper rooms; the earth shall be filled with the fruit of Thy works,” words which he interpreted to refer to Jesus Christ, Who, as the head of men and angels, waters the heavenly spirits with glory, whilst He fills the Church militant on earth with the fruits of His works through the Sacraments, which apply the merits of His sacred Passion to our souls. But the event gave to this text the character of a prophecy regarding the Saint’s own future career.

In 1259, Saint Thomas was deputed, in concert with Blessed Albert and other learned men of the Order, to draw up ordinances to regulate the studies of the Brethren. A year or two later, he was summoned to Italy to teach in the schools attached to the Papal Court. As these schools followed the Pope from place to place, several of the great cities of Italy and many of the convents of his Order enjoyed for a time the privilege of the Saint’s teaching. It is pleasant to think that the streets of the world’s metropolis have probably been trodden by the feet of the holy Doctor, who is said to have been present at the General Chapter of the Order held in London in 1263.

After being for some time stationed in Rome, he was again appointed to teach in Paris in 1269. The Doctors of the University referred to his decision a controversy which had arisen concerning the sacramental species in the Holy Eucharist. After long and fervent prayer, the Saint put his own opinion on the subject into writing, laid the manuscript at the foot of the Crucifix on the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament, and then prayed as follows: “Lord Jesus, Who art truly present and dost work wonders in this adorable Sacrament, I implore thee to grant that, if what I have written be the truth, Thou wilt enable me to teach it; but that, if it contains anything contrary to the faith, Thou wilt hinder me from proceeding further in declaring it.” Then the other Friars, who were watching, beheld our Lord Himself descend and stand upon the manuscript, and they heard from His Divine lips the words: “Thomas, thou hast written well concerning the Sacrament of My Body.” The Saint immediately fell into an ecstasy, in which he was raised a cubit from the ground.

In 1271 he returned to Italy, and began to teach in Rome. During the following Holy Week he preached in Saint Peter’s on the Passion of our Lord; and those who heard him on Good Friday were moved to tears and ceased not to weep until Easter Day, when his Paschal sermon filled them with holy jubilation. On that day, as he came down from the pulpit, a poor woman who had been hopelessly ill for a long time kissed the hem of his mantle and was immediately cured. Meanwhile the Universities of Paris and of Naples were vying with each other in their efforts to get possession of the great Doctor. Naples gained the day; and the Saint accordingly repaired, towards the end of the summer of 1272, to this the last scene of his labors as a professor.

During all these busy years of teaching, Saint Thomas’s pen had been at work indefatigably, enriching the schools and the Church with invaluable treatises, which fill twenty volumes. Within the narrow limits of these pages it is impossible to do more than name a very few of his most important writings. He commented on the works of Aristotle, and purged the text of the pagan philosopher from everything opposed to the truths of the faith, whilst at the same time he chose the terms of Aristotle’s philosophy as the most scientific classification of the ideas of the human mind, and thus established a complete system of Christian philosophy. His “Summa Against the Gentiles” was written by command of Saint Raymond of Pennafort, the third General of the Order, to combat the false philosophical doctrines introduced by the Saracens, into Spain, which were making their way into the Universities of Europe.

In this work Saint Thomas demonstrates the truth of revealed religion and triumphantly proves that Christianity can never be contrary to sound reason. The holy Doctor has written treatises on the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Creed, commentaries on various parts of Holy Scripture, and answers to sundry questions proposed to him for solution. Pope Urban IV. charged him with the task of collecting all the most beautiful passages of the Fathers of the Church on the Gospels. The result was his “Catena Aurea” or Golden “Chain,” which is entirely made up of quotations, written in great part from memory. The Saint, as he travelled from convent to convent, had read the works, now of one, now of another, of the Fathers, and his marvellous memory enabled him to retain and transcribe the passages bearing on his subject. The most famous of his works is his “Summa of Theology,” at which he labored, in the intervals of teaching and preaching, for the last nine years of his life, and which he did not live to complete.

Of this work, Pope John XXII is reported to have said that Saint Thomas had worked as many miracles as it contains articles; and its value is perhaps best attested by the hatred with which it has ever been regarded by heretics. In 1520, Luther caused it to be burnt in the public square at Wittenberg, and another of the so-called Reformers, Martin Bucer, exclaimed: “Suppress Thomas and I will destroy the Church.” “A vain wish,” remarks Pope Leo XIII, “but not a vain testimony.” At the Council of Trent, three works of reference only were laid on the table of the hall of Assembly: they were the Holy Scriptures, the Pontifical Acts, and the “Summa” of Saint Thomas; and from the “Summa” the Catechism of the Council of Trent was compiled by three Dominican Fathers.

But perhaps Saint Thomas’s chief title to the love and veneration of the faithful generally is the part which he took in the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi. When he presented to Pope Urban IV the first part of his “Catena Aurea,” about 1263, the delighted Pontiff wished in token of gratitude to raise him to the episcopate. But Saint Thomas threw himself on his knees and implored the Holy Father to grant, as the only reward he would ever accept for his labors, that the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, already established through the prayers of the Blessed Juliana and the influence of the Dominican Cardinal Hugh of Saint Cher, in Germany and the Low Countries, should be extended to the Universal Church. Urban gladly consented, and ordered Saint Thomas to write the Office of the Feast.

In this Office each of the responsories at matins is composed of two sentences, one drawn from the Old, and the other from the New Testament, which are thus made to render their united testimony to the great central mystery of Catholic belief. With its hymns, the Vernum Supermini and Pange Lingua we are all familiar, aud specially with their concluding stanzas, the O Salutaris and the Tantum Ergo , always sung at Benediction; and from childhood our hearts have thrilled within us as we walked in processions of the Blessed Sacrament to the strains of the Lauda Sion.

Before presenting his Office to the Pope, Saint Thomas placed it before the Tabernacle, and the miracle formerly worked at Paris was renewed, the words of approval proceeding from the lips of a crucifix still venerated at Orvieto. A similar testimony of Divine approval was granted to the Saint at Naples, and was witnessed by one of the Friars. On this occasion also our Lord spoke to him from a Crucifix which is preserved in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore, saying: “Thou hast written well of Me, Thomas. What reward wilt thou have? ” To which the Saint fervently replied “No other than Thyself, O Lord.”

To the pen of Saint Thomas we are also indebted for the Adoro Te, for beautiful devotions before and after Holy Communion, and many other prayers solid in doctrine and beautiful in expression. It is a tradition that he composed the well-known prayer, the “Soul of Christ, sanctify me,” which was a favorite one of Saint Ignatius, who introduced it into his book of spiritual exercises, though leaving out the lovely petition, “Light of the sacred countenance of Jesus, shine down upon me,” which is found in the old forms of the prayer. This petition occurs in the version of the Anima Christi found in an old prayer-book called the “York Hours,” where it is stated to have been indulgenced by Pope John XXII when said after the elevation at Mass. This prayer-book was published in 1517, four years before the conversion of Saint Ignatius.

Personal Traits

Saint Thomas was tall and inclined to corpulence, with a fine massive head, a lofty forehead, refined and handsome features, and large, gentle eyes beaming with benevolence. His manners were singularly winning and graceful; and his prodigious powers of mind were accompanied by a childlike simplicity of character, which, no less than the purity of his doctrine, gained for him the title of the “Angel of the Schools.” Though raised so high above others by his gigantic intellectual powers, he was the sweetest and most charitable of masters and of fathers, always ready to stoop to the capacity of the youngest and dullest of his scholars.

No matter how important the affair might be on which he was engaged, his cell was always open to his brethren whenever they wished to speak to him, and he would cheerfully turn from the most absorbing occupation to give them his undivided attention. He listened to their difficulties, explained their doubts, and comforted them in their troubles. Nothing that concerned them was trifling in his eyes, and he never showed himself weary of their interruptions and importunities. In return, they bore him the tenderest affection; “Doctor noster,” they loved to call him; and the sincerity of their attachment was amply proved by the bitterness of their grief when he was taken from them.

Long after his death, those who had known him could never speak of him without tears, so dearly did they love him. True son of Saint Dominic, he cared only to speak of God or to God, and could not understand how Religious could take interest in any other topic. If the conversation turned to other subjects, he ceased to take part in it; and he owned to his companions that it surprised him that a Religious could think of anything but God.

And what was perfectly incomprehensible to him was, how any one who knew himself to be in the state of mortal sin could eat, sleep, or be merry. When seculars came to seek advice and consolation from him, he lent them a willing ear, and after solving their doubts and consoling their sorrows, he never failed to tell them some short pious story or to speak a few words of edification, and then dismissed them, their hearts glowing with spiritual joy and divine love.

We can picture Saint Thomas to ourselves enjoying his ordinary recreation of walking tip and down the cloister of his convent, occasionally dragged off by his brethren to take a breath of fresh air in the garden, but sure in such cases soon to be found in some remote corner, absorbed in thought. Of this abstraction of mind, some amusing anecdotes are preserved, as, for example, that which shows him to us dining with Saint Louis, and suddenly striking the table with his hand, exclaiming: “It is all up with the Manichees!” His companion gently endeavored to recall him to the remembrance of the royal presence, whilst the good-natured King instantly summoned a secretary to commit to writing the convincing argument which had just presented itself to the mind of his saintly guest.

Again at Naples, when the Cardinal Legate and the Archbishop of Capua came to visit him, he went to the cloister to receive them, but on the way became so absorbed in the solution of a theological difficulty, that, by the time he arrived, he had forgotten all about the business and the visitors that had called him, and stood like one in a dream. The Archbishop, who had formerly been his pupil, assured the Cardinal that these reveries were perfectly familiar to all who were acquainted with the Saint’s habits. This abstraction of mind at times rendered him insensible to pain, as, for example, when a wax candle once burnt his hand, while he remained in thought, unconscious of the pain.

The austere life of Saint Thomas and his incessant labors increased the natural delicacy of liis constitution, and lie bad frequent attacks of illness, which, however, do not appear ordinarily to have caused him to desist from the labor of composition. Surgery was rough and ready in the thirteenth century; and the extreme sensitiveness of Saint Thomas’s organization rendered its operations very terrible to him. On one occasion, when obliged to undergo a cautery, he begged the infirmarian to warn him of the coming of the surgeons, when he stretched himself on his bed and immediately went into ecstacy, remaining motionless whilst his flesh was burnt by the red-hot irons. His clothes were always the poorest in the convent, and his love of holy poverty was so great that his “Summa Against the Gentiles” was written on the back of old letters and other scraps of paper.

In vain did the. Sovereign Pontiffs press upon his acceptance the Archbishopric of Naples and other ecclesiastical dignities, together with ample revenues; nothing could shake his determination to live and die a simple Religious; and they were obliged to withdraw their offers, being unwilling to afflict one so dear to them. He who was the oracle of his age loved to preach to the poor and lowly; and we are told that they always listened to him gladly and with much fruit to their souls. He was full of compassion for their wants, and even gave away his own clothes to cover them.

Humility was ever his characteristic virtue. So thoroughly had he realized the greatness of God, and his own nothingness, that in a moment of intimacy he was able to say to a friend: “Thanks be to God! never has my knowledge, my title of Doctor, nor any of my scholastic acts aroused in me a single movement of vainglory. If any motion has arisen, reason has instantly repressed it.” From his humility sprang his extreme modesty in the expression of his opinion; never in the heat of disputation or at any other time was he known to lose his unruffled serenity of temper, or to say a word that could wound the feelings of another; and he bore the most cutting insults with imperturbable calmness. His life was full of examples of his spirit of humility and religious obedience.

On one occasion, when, as a young Religious, he was reading in the refectory at Paris, he was told by the official corrector to pronounce a word in a way evidently incorrect. Saint Thomas obeyed, and made the false quantity. When – asked how he could have consented to so obvious a blunder, he replied: “It matters little whether a syllable be long or short; but it matters much to practice humility and obedience.” In later years, when the Saint was teaching at Bologna, a lay brother obtained leave from the Prior to take as companion the first Religious brother whom he should find disengaged. Seeing Saint Thomas, who was a stranger to him, walking up and down the cloister, he addressed himself to him, saying that the Prior wished him to accompany him through the city, where he had business to transact. The Saint, though suffering from lameness, and perfectly aware that the lay brother was under some mistake, immediately obeyed the summons, and went limping through the city after his companion, who, from time to time, found fault with his slowness.

When the lay brother discovered his mistake his apologies were profuse; but the Saint replied, “Don’t be troubled, my dear brother; I am the one to blame. I am only sorry that I could not be more useful.” To those who asked why he did not explain the mistake, he gave this golden answer: “Obedience is the perfection of the Religious life; by it man submits to man for the love of God, as as God rendered Himself obedient unto men for their salvation.”

Saint Thomas was very slow to believe evil of others; he always thought everyone was better than himself; but, when a fault was proved beyond the possibility of a doubt, he wept over it as though he had committed it himself; and his zeal demanded that it should be severely corrected, according to the saying of Saint Augustine, “with charity towards the offender, and hatred against the sin.”

One of the brethren once pressed him to say what he considered the greatest favor he had ever received from God, sanctifying grace, of course, excepted. After a moment’s reflection, he replied: “I think that of having understood whatever I have read.” He remembered everything he had once heard, so that his mind -was like a well-stocked library. He often wrote, dictating at the same time on other subjects to three or four secretaries, and never losing the thread of the arguments.

Of Saint Tomas’s manner of spending his day the following particulars have been preserved. After the short time absolutely necessary for sleep, he would rise in the night and come down to the church to pray, returning to his cell just before the bell rang for matins, that his vigil might pass unnoticed. He would then go down again to office with the community, often prolonging his prayer till daybreak. After preparing by penance, confession, and meditation, he celebrated the first Mass, and for his thanksgiving heard another Mass, which he often served.

He had composed prayers for all his daily actions, some of which are still preserved. At the elevation he was accustomed to repeat the words: “Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory,” with the remaining verses of the Te Deum. Although lawfully dispensed from attendance in choir by his duties of teaching and writing and by the numerous visits of those who sought his advice, he assisted with the rest of his brethren at all the hours of the Divine Office, at which he often shed tears of devotion.

When his morning spiritual exercises were ended, he gave his lectures on Theology or Holy Scripture, after which he returned to his cell and wrote or dictated till dinner-time. He ate but once in the day, and was perfectly indifferent to what was set before him. Indeed, in the refectory he was so absorbed in prayer and thought, as to become quite unconscious of external things, and his plate was often changed or his food taken away by the servers, without any notice on his part.

After dinner he conversed for a short time with the brethren, then refreshed his soul with a little spiritual reading, his favorite book being the Conferences of Cassian. After a short repose, he resumed his labors. Compline in choir with the chanting of the Salve Regina ended the day. The angelic Doctor was full of childlike devotion to Our Blessed Lady. His confessor, Brother Reginald, declared that Saint Thomas had never asked anything through Mary without obtaining it; and the Saint himself specially attributed to her intercession the grace of living and dying in the Dominican Order, according to his own earnest desire.

During the whole of one Lent, he preached on the words: “Ave Maria,” and the same cherished words are to be found in his own hand-writing over and over again on the margin of an autograph copy of the “Summa Against the Gentiles,” recently discovered in Italy. On his death-bed he confided to Brother Reginald that Our Lady had appeared to him several times, and assured him of the good state of his soul and the solidity of his doctrine. The holy Apostles SS. Peter and Paul also favored him with their visits, and explained to him difficult passages of Scripture. The Epistles of Saint Paul were his favorite subjects of meditation, and he was accustomed to recommend them to others for the same purpose. He had a special devotion to Saint Augustine, whose proper Office, still in use in the Dominican Order, he composed from the holy Doctor’s works.

Saint Thomas used to wear round his neck a relic of the virgin martyr, Saint Agnes, of which he once made use to cure Brother Reginald of a fever, which attacked him on a journey to Naples; and from that time we are told the holy Doctor resolved to celebrate the feast of Saint Agnes with special solemnity, and, with a touch of nature that showed human sympathy in the midst of his abstract studies, to have a better dinner provided in the refectory on that day.

“His marvellous science,” says Brother Reginald, “was due far less to the power of his genius than to the efficacy of his prayer. Before studying, entering on a discussion, reading, writing, or dictating, he always gave himself to prayer. He prayed with tears to obtain from God the understanding of His mysteries, and abundant light was granted to his mind.” If he met with a difficulty, he joined fasting and penance to his prayer, and all his doubts were dispelled. On one occasion, Saint Bonaventure, coming to visit him, saw an angel assisting him in his labors.

Among his remarkable sayings may be mentioned the answer he gave to his sister, when she asked him what she must do to become a Saint. “Velle,” he replied, i.e., “Will it.” Being asked what were the signs of the perfection of the soul, he replied: “If I saw a man fond of trifles in conversation, desirous of honor, and unwilling to be despised, I would not believe him perfect, even if I saw him work miracles.”

His Death and Honors Rendered Him by the Church

On the feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6th, 1273, Saint Thomas was saying Mass in the chapel of the Saint in the convent of Naples, when he received a revelation which so changed him that from that time he could neither write nor dictate. Shortly afterwards, in answer to Brother Reginald’s pressing entreaties, he said to him: “The end of my labors is come. All that I have written appears to me as so much straw, after the things that have been revealed to me. I hope in the mercy of God that the end of my life may soon follow the end of my labors.”

He was suffering from illness when he received a summons from the Pope to attend the General Council convoked at Lyons for the reunion of the Greek and Latin Churches. The Saint therefore started from Naples, accompanied by Brother Reginald and some other Friars, on the 28th of January, 1274. On the way he was taken much worse. “If our Lord is about to visit me,” he said to his companions, “it is better he should find me in a Religious house than among seculars.”

As he was not within reach of a Dominican convent, he yielded to the pressing invitation of some Cistercian friends, and allowed them to carry him to their Abbey of Fossa Nuova. He went straight to the church to adore the Blessed Sacrament; and then, as he passed through the cloister, he exclaimed: “Here is the place of my rest for ever.” He was lodged in the Abbot’s room and waited upon with the utmost charity. The monks went themselves to the forest to cut wood for his fire; and on seeing them bringing a load into his chamber, the Saint cried out: “Whence is this that the servants of God should thus serve a man like me, bringing such heavy burdens from a distance?” In compliance with the earnest entreaties of the Cistercians, he began to expound to them the Canticle of Canticles; but he did not live to complete his exposition.

As his end approached, he with many tears made a general confession of his whole life to Brother Reginald, and then asked to be laid on ashes on the ground when the Holy Viaticum was brought to him. On beholding the Blessed Sacrament, he raised himself into a kneeling posture, and said in a clear and distinct voice, whilst the tears chased each other down his face: “I receive Thee, the price of my soul’s ransom; I receive Thee, the Viaticum of my soul’s pilgrimage; for Whose love I have studied, watched and labored, preached and taught. I have written much and have often disputed on the mysteries of Thy law, O my God; Thou knowest I have desired to teach nothing save what I have learnt from Thee. If what I have written be true, accept it as a homage to Thy Infinite Majesty; if it be false, pardon my ignorance. I consecrate all I have ever done to Thee, and submit all to the infallible judgment of Thy Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I am about to depart this life.”

Just before receiving the Sacred Host, he uttered his favorite ejaculation: “Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory, Thou art the Everlasting Son of the Father.” After receiving the Holy Viaticum, he made fervent acts of faith and love-in the words of his own beautiful Adoro Te. On the following day, while receiving Extreme Unction, he calmly answered all the prayers, whilst the voices of the assistants were choked by their sobs. He tried to comfort his own brethren who were inconsolable at their approaching loss, and most gratefully thanked the Cistercians for their charity. One of them asked him what was the best way of living without offending God. “Be certain,” replied the Saint, “that he who walks in the presence of God and is always ready to give Him an account of his actions will never be separated from Him by sin.” They were his last words. Shortly after he fell into his agony and peacefully expired, March 7th, 1274, not having yet completed his 50th year.

On that same day, Blessed Albert, then at Cologne, burst into tears ill the presence of the community, and exclaimed: “Brother Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, who was the light of the Church, is dead. God has revealed it to me.”

At Naples, too, God was pleased to make known the death of the Saint in a miraculous manner. One of the Friars, whilst praying in the church, fell into an ecstasy, in which he seemed to behold the Holy Doctor teaching in the schools, surrounded by a vast multitude of disciples. Saint Paul the Apostle then appeared, with a company of Saints, and Saint Thomas asked him if he had interpreted his Epistles rightly. “Yes,” replied the Apostle, “as far as any one still in the flesh can understand them; but come with me; I will lead you to a place where you will have a clearer understanding of all things.” The Apostle then seemed to lay his hand on Saint Thomas’s mantle and to lead him away; and the Friar who beheld the vision, startled the community by crying out three times in a loud voice: “Alas! Alas! our Doctor is being taken away from us!”

Saint Thomas’s funeral was celebrated at the Abbey with great solemnity. Brother Reginald made a short address, often interrupted by his own sobs and those of his hearers. He declared that, having been for many years Saint Thomas’s confessor, he could solemnly attest that the holy Doctor had never lost his baptismal innocence, and had died as pure and free from stain as a child of five years old. He then mentioned some particular favors which Saint Thomas had forbidden him to reveal during his life-time.

Several revelations of the Saint’s glory were made after his death, of which the following is perhaps one of the most interesting. A fervent disciple of his prayed earnestly that he might know the rank to which his beloved Master had been raised in glory. One day, as he was making his usual petition before the Altar of Our Lady, two venerable personages, encompassed with a marvelous light, suddenly stood before him. One of them was arrayed as a Bishop; the other wore the habit of a Friar Preacher, but it was resplendent with precious stones; on his head was a crown of gold and diamonds; from his neck hung two chains of gold and silver; and an immense carbuncle, in the form of a sun, shone upon his breast, shedding forth rays of light all around. “God has heard your prayer,” said the former; “I am Augustine, Doctor of the Church, sent to acquaint you with the glory of Thomas Aquinas, who reigns with me and who has illuminated the Church with his knowledge. This is signified by the precious stones with which he is covered. That which shines on his breast signifies the right intention with which he has defended the faith; the others denote the books and writings he has composed. Thomas is my equal in glory: but he has surpassed me by the aureola of virginity.”

Saint Thomas was canonized by Pope John XXII at Avignon, 1323. It was not until 1367 that the Dominicans succeeded in obtaining his body, which they conveyed to their convent at Toulouse, where it was received with every demonstration of honor. An annual festival is kept in the Order on January 28th, in memory of this translation, which was accompanied by many miracles. Valuable relics of the Saint have been given to various convents of the Order. At the time of the French Revolution, the Saint’s remains were removed to the crypt of the Church of Saint Sernin at Toulouse, where they still repose.

In 1567, Saint Pius V conferred on Saint Thomas the title of Doctor of the Church; and Pope Leo XIII, by a Brief of August 4th, 1880, instituted him Patron of all Catholic Universities, Academies, Colleges, and Schools.

Hidden Treasures of Holy Mass, by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice; date and artist unknown; Temple Hospital, Acámbaro, Estado de Guanajuato, México; photographed on 22 September 2012 by Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsIt requires great patience to endure the language of some worldlings whom we hear every day saying: “It is only a Mass more or less.” – “It is so hard to be obliged to hear Mass on holidays.” – “The Mass of that priest is as long as one in Holy Week; when I see him go to the altar, I always hurry out of church.” He who speaks thus shows he has little or no esteem for the Most Holy Sacrifice. Do you know what the Holy Sacrifice is? It is the sum of Christianity, the soul of faith, the centre of the Catholic religion, the grand object of all her rights, her ceremonies, and her sacraments: it is, in a word, the summary of all that is good and beautiful in the Church of God. Now, let me beseech you, who read these pages, to ponder seriously on what I say in the following instructions.

It is an absolute certainty that all religions that ever existed from the beginning of the world had a sacrifice as an essential part of the worship they offered to God. But as their religions were either vain or imperfect, so were their sacrifices vain and imperfect. Vainest of all vain things were the sacrifices of the idolaters, nor need we prove this truth of Holy Writ. Those of the Hebrews, although they professed the true religion, are justly called by Saint Paul weak and poor elements (Galatians 4:9), because they could not forgive sin nor confer grace. The one great Sacrifice of our Holy Religion, the Holy Mass alone, is holy, perfect and in every respect complete: for by it the faithful render the highest honor to God, and, at the same time, acknowledge their own nothingness and the supreme dominion He has over all His creatures.

The Royal Prophet called this sacrifice the sacrifice of justice (Psalm 4:5) as it contains the Just One Himself, or rather the Saint of Saints; and because it sanctifies souls by the infusion of divine grace, and replenishes them with the richest gifts of heaven. As it is, then, a sacrifice so holy and so excellent, we will consider briefly some of the great treasures contained in this divine gift. I say some of these treasures, as it would be impossible for us to enumerate or explain them all.

The first question that suggests itself to us regarding the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is: In what does its principal excellence consist? It consists in this – namely, that it is essentially the same, yea, the very same, Sacrifice that was offered on the Cross of Calvary, the only difference being that the Sacrifice of the Cross was bloody and made once for all, and did then satisfy fully for all the sins of the world. The Sacrifice of the Altar, however, is an unbloody Sacrifice which can be repeated throughout all ages, and was instituted in order to apply to each of us the universal atonement which Christ made for us on Calvary.

In a word: the bloody Sacrifice was the instrument of redemption, and the unbloody Sacrifice puts us in possession of it: the one opened to us the treasury of the merits of Christ our Lord, and the other gives us the practical use of that never failing treasury. Hence, we must ever bear in mind that in the Mass there is made not a mere representation nor a simple commemoration of the Passion and Death of the Redeemer, but in a certain true sense there is offered the very same Most Holy Sacrifice that was offered on Calvary.

It may be then said, with all truth, our Redeemer returns to die mystically for us, although He can die no more really; at one and the same time, He is alive and as it were slain again, according to that passage of the Apocalypse, I saw a Lamb standing as it were slam. On Christmas Day the Church represents the birth of our Lord, but our Lord is not then born. At Ascension and Whitsuntide the Church again recalls to mind the ascent of our Lord to heaven, and the coming of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and Disciples; still, it is not true that as each of these festivals return, the Lord ascends to heaven, or that the Holy Ghost visibly descends to earth.

But the same cannot be said of the mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for here there is made no simple representation of a past event, but the very same Sacrifice which was offered on the Cross is here offered, though in an unbloody manner. That same Body, that same Blood, that same Jesus who then offered Himself on Calvary now offers Himself in the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. “The work of our redemption,” says the Church, “is here effected or continued.” Yes, indeed, in the Mass is continuously offered the same Sacrifice which was offered on the Cross. O awful, solemn, and wonderful work of God!

Now tell me sincerely, when you go to the church to hear Mass, do you clearly realize that you are approaching Calvary, to be present at the death of your Redeemer? If this truth sank deeply into your heart, would you dare to enter the holy place with snch a distracting air, or with snch unbecoming apparel? If Magdalen had gone to Calvary, to the foot of the Cross, dressed out, perfumed and adorned, as in the time of her sinful life, what would have been said of her? But what ought to be said, if you profane these holy rites of the dread Sacrifice with careless behavior or sacrilegious thoughts, words or deeds?

Iniquity is detested by God at all times and in all places; but the sins committed under the shadow of the Altar bring down the signal chastisement of God, who says in Holy Writ, “Cursed be he who doth the work of the Lord deceitfully.” Think seriously on this, while I continue to show you other marvels and glories of this most precious treasure.

It seems to me impossible for any religious rite to have a more excellent prerogative than this we have now considered; but its eminence is still more enhanced by having for its priest none other than God Himself, Jesus Christ, the God-Man. In this great Sacrifice three things should never be forgotten: the Priest who offers, the Victim offered, and the Majesty of Him to whom the offering is made. Now reflect on the wonderful glory of the Holy Sacrifice, and let each of these three considerations be deeply impressed on your soul. The priest who offers the victim is the same Man-God Christ Jesus; nor is the sacrifice offered to any other than to God..

Revive then your faith, and recognize as the celebrant not so much the visible priest whom we see at the altar, as our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the primary offerer not only because He has instituted this Holy Sacrifice, and has given to it all its efficacy, through His merits, but also because in each Mass He Himself, for love of us, deigns to change the bread and wine into His Most Holy Body and Most Precious Blood. Behold, then, the grandest privilege of the Most Holy Sacrifice, to have for priest, the God-Man; and when you see the celebrant at the altar, remember that his greatest dignity consists in being the minister or this invisible and eternal Priest, our Divine Redeemer.

Hence it follows that the Sacrifice itself cannot cease to be agreeable to God, no matter what may be the unworthiness of the priest who celebrates, since the principal offerer is Christ our Lord, aud the priest is merely His minister. In the same way a person who gives alms by the hands of a servant is called in all truth the giver, and even though his servant may be sinful or wicked, when the master is good, the alms do not fail to have their reward. Blessed then be God, who hath bestowed on us a most holy Priest, who offers to the Eternal Father this Divine Sacrifice not only in every place – as the Catholic religion is now propagated in most countries of the world – but every day, and even every hour, since the sun rises for others when it sets for us.

At every hour, then, of the day and night this most holy Priest offers to His Father, His Blood, His Soul, and His entire self for us. All this He does as often as the Holy Sacrifice is celebrated in the whole world. O happy should we be if we could assist at all these Masses! O immense treasure! O mine of inexhaustible wealth, thus possessed by us iu the Church of God! What an ocean oi graces in this life, what a fund of glory in the next, would not the devout attendance at this Most Holy Sacrifice procure for us!

But why do I use the word attendance? For those who hear Mass not only fulfill the office of attendants at it, but they are likewise offerers, and have a right to the title of priests according to the Apocalypse. Thou hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests. The celebrant is, as it were, the public minister of the Church in general, and at the same time a meditator for all the faithful, and particularly for those who assist at Mass, with the invisible Priest who is Christ; together with Christ he offers to the Eternal Father, both in behalf of all mankind and of himself, the great price of human redemption.

But the celebrant is not alone in this august function, since all those who assist at Mass unite with him in offering the Holy Sacrifice; and therefore he turns to the people and says, Pray, brethren, that your Sacrifice and mine may be acceptable to God, in order that we may understand that, although he acts the part of principal minister, all those who are present make the great offering with him.

Hence, when you assist at Mass, you perform in a certain manner the office of priest. Will you, then, ever again dare to hear Mass, sitting, whispering, looking here and there, perhaps even sleeping, or will you content yourself with reciting some vocal prayers, and entirely ignoring the tremendous office of priest which you are exercising? Alas! I cannot refrain from crying out, “O dull and senseless world, that will not understand such sublime mysteries!”

How is it possible anyone can remain with a mind distracted and a heart dissipated, at a time when the holy angels fall down in lowly adoration, trembling and astonished at the contemplation of such a stupendous work of Divine Goodness?

You are astonished, perhaps, to hear me call the Mass a stupendous work. But what tongue, human or angelic, can ever describe a power so immeasurable as that exercised by the priest at Mass? And who could have ever imagined that the voice of man, which of itself is not able to raise a straw from the ground, should be endowed with a power so stupendous as to bring the Son of God from heaven to earth.

This power far exceeds that which would be required to move mountains, to dry up seas, or to govern the movements of the heavenly bodies – nay more, it rivals in a certain way that first fiat by which God created all things out of nothing; and in some manner it would seem to surpass that other fiat with which the Blessed Virgin drew down to her bosom the Eternal Word.

The Blessed John Buouo, of Mantua, gave a very beautiful illustration of this to his companion, a hermit, who was unable to imagine how the words of a priest could be endowed with such a tremendous power, as to be able to change the substance of bread into the Body of Jesus Christ, and the substance of wine into His Blood. This unfortunate hermit had moreover, unhappily, consented to these doubts which the devil suggested. The holy servant of God, perceiving the poor sinful man’s error, led him to a fountain from which he drew a vessel of water and gave it to him to drink. After he had drunk he protested that he never before, during his whole life, had tasted such delicious wine.

Then Blessed John Buono said to him, “Dear brother, does not this convince you of the marvelous truth of which you doubt? If through me, a miserable creature, water is changed into wine by Divine Power, how much more ought you to believe, that by virtue of the words pronounced by the priest, which are the words of God, the bread and wine are converted into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. And who shall dare to limit the power of God Almighty?” This so effectually enlightened the mind of the hermit, that, banishing every doubt from his mind, he did great penance for his sins.

Let us have but a lively faith, and it will convince us that the unspeakable excellences contained in this adorable Sacrifice are without number; nor shall we then be surprised to see the miracle repeated thousands and thousands of times, at every hour, and in every place. For the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ enjoys a sort of ubiquity, not granted to other bodies, but bestowed on Him through the merits of His life sacrificed to the will of His Father.

This multiplied existence of our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament was explained to an unbeliever by an ignorant poor woman. The unbeliever was standing in the public street where there was a great crowd and among them this poor woman, and at the moment a priest approached carrying the Blessed Sacrament to a sick person; all the people knelt and adored the Most Blessed Sacrament, as It passed; but the unbeliever alone moved not, nor showed any sign of reverence.

This being seen by the poor woman, she cried out to the man, “O miserable wretch,why do you not show reverence to the true God present in the most holy Sacrament?”

“What true God?” answered the man; “if the true God were there it would follow that there are many Gods, as you say there is one on each of your altars during Mass.”

The woman immediately took a sieve and placing it between the man’s eyes and the sun, told him to look at the rays which shone through the apertures. When he had done so, she said to him, “Tell me now, are there many suns or only one passing through the openings in this sieve?” The man answering that there was but one sun, “then,” replied the woman, “why do you wonder if the God-Man, veiled in the Sacrament, though one, individual and unchanged, should, through excess of love for us, give Himself really and truly present on different altars at the same time?”

This simple illustration convinced the unbeliever, and forced him to acknowledge this great truth of our holy Faith. O holy Faith! a single ray of thy divine light is sufficient to make the most illiterate to answer the captious questions of the enemies of religion. Who shall ever dare to assign limits to the almighty power of God? Saint Teresa had such a conception of the omnipotence of God that she used to say, “The more incomprehensible, deep and abtruse the mysteries of our holy faith are to our understanding, the firmer and more devoutly ought we to believe them.”

She was, indeed, justified in expressing herself thus, knowing that God Almighty can perform works infinitely greater than our limited intelligences can comprehend. Revive, then, your faith, and acknowledge that this Divine Sacrifice is the miracle of miracles, the marvel of marvels, and that its greatest excellence consists in being incomprehensible to our limited understandings. Amazed at such wonderful goodness of God, never cease repeating, “O inestimable treasure I treasure of love, beyond all human comprehension!”

This treasure of the Holy Mass revives our hopes, and encourages us to look for everlasting glory in that Paradise which cannot be lost except through our own folly and sinfulness. If, therefore, it is the duty of a Christian to centre his heart’s affections on our altars, and to perfume them with incense and flowers of the sweetest odor, it is still more necessary to honor them with purity and modesty, since they are the mercy seats from which we derive all good.

And you, O priests, join your hands, and, with hearts thrilling with holy love, gratefully thank the Eternal Father for having placed you in the sweet necessity of often offering to Him this heavenly Victim; and, still more, let us thank Him for the countless blessings we can draw from it, if we be but faithful, not only iu offering it, but in offering it for the sublime ends for which He bestowed a treasure so precious.

If, then, you set little value on the most holy Sacrifice, it is a certain sign that you fail to appreciate the vast gain it bestows on the living and the dead, on the just and sinners, during life and at the hour of death; nay, even after death itself. Imagine, then, you are the debtor of the Gospel, who overwhelmed by the debt of ten thousand talents, and being commanded to pay, excused himself and piteously pleaded for time to satisfy his obligations. “Have patience with me and I will pay thee all.”

This you should also do, Avho owe not only one but many debts to the bank of Divine Justice. You ought to humble yourself, and beg as much time as is needed for hearing Holy Mass, and be sure you will thus fully satisfy all your obligations and pay all your debts to Divine Justice. The Angelic Doctor teaches us what these debts are Avhich each one OAves to God; they are specially four, and each, of them is infinite.

The first is to praise and honor the infinite majesty of God, which is infinitely worthy of all the praise and honor the creature can give Him.

The second is to satisfy for the many sins committed against His Infinite Majesty.

The third is to thank Him for the many favors received from Him.

The fourth is to supplicate Him as the giver of all good gifts.

Now, how can we miserable creatures, who depend on God for the very air we breathe, be able to repay Him for debts so numerous and so weighty? Let me at once, therefore, show you the easiest way of doing so; and let me add that this way of satisfying Divine Justice is one that must console me and you and the world. Let us take care to attend with all possible devotion as many Masses as we can; and let us strive to have them celebrated frequently for our intention; and thus were our debts as countless as the sands on the seashore, and as weighty as they can be, there is not the least doubt but that we shall be able to discharge them all fully and adequately, by the treasury we can draw from the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

But in order that you may have a fuller knowledge of each of these your debts, we shall explain them one by one; and you will then find a subject of great consolation in considering the inexhaustible wealth you possess for their payment in such a rich mine, from which you can draw on all occasions when you assist at Holy Mass.

The first debt which we owe to God is the duty of rendering Him supreme honor. It is a precept of the natural law that every inferior ought to show homage to his superior, and the greater his dignity the greater also ought to be the homage due to him. Hence it follows that, as God is infinitely great, we ought to return Him an homage worthy of His infinite goodness. But where can we miserable creatures find any offering worthy of His infinite grandeur.

Seek as you may among all the creatures of the universe, you will not find one worthy of God. Ah, no, an offering worthy of God must be God Himself. And He, who is seated on the throne of His own infinite greatness, He it is who must descend and lay Himself as a victim on our altars, in order that our homage may perfectly correspond with the eminence of His infinite majesty.

This is what takes place in Holy Mass. Almighty God is here honored as He deserves, because He is honored by God Himself. Jesus Christ, the Man-God, places Himself as our Victim ou the altar, and adores the Most Holy Trinity with an act of incomprehensible submission, such as no one else can offer; for all the offerings of all creatures compared to this self-humiliation of our Divine Redeemer are as the feeble glimmering of the stars before the meridian splendors of the sun. You wonder, perhaps, at this, but you are wrong; for our good Jesus is not only Man, but true and omnipotent God, and by humbling Himself on the altar, He offers to the Most Holy Trinity an infinite homage: so that we who unite with Him in offering this great sacrifice are thus enabled to present to God an homage and honor which is also infinite.

O stupendous truth! Let us repeat it over and over again, since it can never be too deeply engraven on our memories even we, by hearing Holy Mass with devotion can render God an honor and homage that is infinite. Be now confounded for very wonder, reflecting on this great truth, that a soul assisting devoutly at Holy Mass can give God more honor than that which all the Angels and Saints together can render Him with all their adorations. For after all, they, like ourselves, are mere creatures, and their homage is therefore limited and finite, whereas in the Mass, Jesus humbles Himself, a humiliation which is infinite in value and merit, and consequently the homage aud honor which we render through Him in the Mass is an homage and honor which is infinite.

And since this grand truth cannot be doubted, ought we not to congratulate ourselves to be able to satisfy this first debt by assisting worthily at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. O blind world! when will you open your eyes to understand a truth so grand and so important, and which so concerns your welfare. And yet, alas, you have the folly to say, “A Mass more or less matters little.” O dreadful blindness!

Our second debt or obligation, by which we are bound towards God, is to satisfy His justice for our numberless and enormous sins. O what a measureless debt is this! One single mortal sin outweighs in the scale of Divine Justice all the good works of all the Martyrs, and of all the Saints who have ever existed, who live now, or who will live to the end of time. And yet, by means of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, on account of its intrinsic value and holiness, we are enabled to make a complete and adequate satisfaction for all the sins we have ever committed.

But in order that yon may clearly understand how much you are indebted to Jesus Christ, consider seriously what I now say to you. Although He is the very person who has been offended and outraged by our sins, yet, not content with having satisfied Divine Justice for us on Calvary, He has given and continuously gives us the same means of satisfying for our sins, in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

For there is renewed in the Mass that offering which Jesus Christ had already made on the Cross to the Eternal Father for the sins of the whole world; that same Divine Blood which He poured out for the ransom of the entire human race, and the Mass is thus specially applied to each and every one of us, as it is offered for the sins of him who celebrates and for those who assist at so tremendous a sacrifice.

But here I must not be understood to say that the Mass by any means cancels our sins immediately by itself, as the Sacrament of Penance does; but it cancels them mediately by obtaining for us various aids, such as interior impulses, holy inspirations, and actual grace, all of which conduce to a true repentance for our sins, either during Mass, or at some other fitting time. For this reason, no one but God Himself, can know how many souls rise out of the slough of sin through the extraordinary aid they receive from the Most Holy Sacrifice.

Here I must add that although the Mass cannot aid a person in mortal sin by way of propitiation, it however helps him by way of supplication; hence all sinners ought to hear as many Masses as possible, in order that they may obtain the grace of conversion. To souls, however, who live in grace, it gives a wonderful strength, enabling them to remain in their happy state.

But you will now, perhaps, say to me: “It is then sufficient to hear one single Mass, or cause one Mass to be celebrated to get rid of all those weighty debts due to God on account of the many sins we have committed; because the Mass, being of infinite value, we can thereby render to God an infinite satisfaction.” Do not, I beseech you, make such a hasty conclusion. The Mass, it is true, is of infinite value in itself, but Almighty God accepts it only in a finite and limited manner, and in accordance with the greater or less perfection in the dispositions of him who celebrates, for whom it is offered, or who assists at the Sacrifice.

“Whose faith and devotion are known to thee,” says Holy Church, in the Canon of the Mass. The Church thus teaches us by these words of the Canon what great divines hold. “That the greater or less satisfaction applied in behalf by the Sacrifice is determined by the greater or less dispositions of the celebrant or the assistants,” as already mentioned. Consider, then, the folly of those who wish and seek for quickly celebrated Masses; and, what is worse, assist at them with little or no devotion. Consider with shame the culpable indifference of those who never have Masses celebrated for their spiritual and temporal welfare.

It is certain, according to Saint Thomas, that all sacrifices as sacrifices are equal in dignity; but they are not equal as regards the effects that flow from them; hence the greater the actual or habitual piety of the celebrant the greater also will be the fruit of the application of the Mass; so that to make no distinction in this matter is to be indifferent whether the net you fish with be small or large. The same can be said of those who assist at Mass.

Although I most earnestly exhort you to hear as many Masses as you can, I yet feel bound to say, that you must have more regard for the devotion in hearing than for the number heard. If you have more devotion in one single Mass than another man in fifty, you will give more honor to God in that single Mass, and you will derive more beuefit from it, iu the way called ex opere operato, than the other will from his fifty. “In satisfaction,” says Saint Thomas, “the disposition of the person offering is more regarded than the quantity of the oblation.”

It is, indeed, true that (as a grave author asserts) in certain cases one single Mass heard with extraordinary fervor and devotion may satisfy the justice of God for all the transgressions of a great sinner. And this is quite in harmony with what the Council of Trent teaches, namely: “That in the offering of this Holy Sacrifice, God grants the gift of repentance and then by means of this true repentance He pardons sins the most grave and enormous.” Yet, notwithstanding all this, since neither the interior dispositions with which you assist at Mass are manifest to yourself, nor the satisfaction which corresponds thereto, you ought to strive to hear as many Masses as you can, and with all the devotion possible, that you may more surely gain these great fruits of the Most Holy Sacrifice.

Blessed shall you be if you cherish a great confidence in the loving mercy of God, which shines forth so wonderfully in this most Holy Sacrifice. Thrice happy, above all, shall you be if you assist as often as possible with a lively faith and devout recollection at the Holy Sacrifice; for I am certain if you do this with perseverence you may have secure hope of escaping Purgatory and going straight to the bosom of God for ever in heaven. Go then to Mass, go regularly to Mass, and never let such scandalous words escape you as, “A Mass more or less is of little consequence.”

Our third debt is one of gratitude for the countless benefits which our most loving God has bestowed on us. Place together all the gifts and all the graces you have received from God; so many gifts of nature and grace, body, soul, senses, faculties and health, and life itself; add to all these the very life of His Son Jesus Christ, and the death that He suffered for love of us, and does not all this increase a thousand fold the debt you owe to God? But how shall we ever be sufficiently able to thank Him?

If the law of gratitude is observed by the wild beasts, whose fierce nature is often changed into gentleness towards their benefactors, how much more ought it not to be observed by man, gifted as he is with reason and so nobly endowed by the Divine liberality? But, unhappily, our poverty is so great that we have no means of making an adequate return for the least of these countless favors; as the very least of them, coming from the hand of a Majesty so grand, and accompanied as it is by an infinite love, acquires an infinite value and obliges us to an infinite correspondence in the way of reverence and love.

O poor and wretched creatures that we are! If we cannot repay one single benefit, how can we ever be able to pay so many and so countless? Then we are thus placed in the cruel necessity of living and dying, ungrateful to our Supreme Benefactor.

But, thank God, this shall not be, for the manner of showing our gratitude to that good Benefactor and of fully requiting Him for all His favors is taught us by the Royal Prophet, who, led by Divine inspiration, clearly indicates that nothing save the Holy Mass can render due thanks to God.

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits to me?” says this holy King; and then, answering himself, he continues: “I will take the cup of salvation ” (or, according to another version, “I will raise on high the chalice of the Lord,”) that is, I will offer a sacrifice most acceptable to Him, and with this alone I shall satisfy the debt of so many and such favors.

Remember also that the Sacrifice was instituted by our Redeemer principally for this end, that is, to acknowledge the Divine bounty and as a thank-offering to His goodness. Hence it is called the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and the Eucharist or Thank-offering. He Himself gave us the example, when at the Last Supper before consecration, in that first Mass, He raised His eyes to heaven, and gave thanks to His heavenly Father.

O divine thanksgiving, which discovers to us the sublime end for which this tremendous Sacrifice was instituted, and which invites us to conform ourselves to our Head; so that at every Mass at which we assist we may know how to make good use of so great a treasure, by offering it in gratitude to our Supreme Benefactor. And that we may perform this great act with greater zeal and devotion, let us always remember that all Paradise, the Blessed Virgin and the Angels and Saints rejoice when we offer this our tribute of thanks to so great a King.

We read in the life of the Venerable Sister Francesca Famese, that her whole life was troubled with a thousand anxieties how she could return love for love to God. She often lamented to see herself covered over from head to foot with Divine blessings without knowing how to return adequate thanks to her Lord for the least of these benefits bestowed on her. On one of these occasions, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Francesca, and placed the heavenly Babe, her Divine Son, in Francesca’s arms. “Take Him,” she said, “for He is yours, and with Him alone you will easily discharge all your obligations to His Father.”

O, thrice blessed Mass, which places the Son of God not only in our arms, but also in our heart! A little child has been given to us, that we may be able to do with Him, Him alone, what would be otherwise impossible to our human weakness, as most assuredly with Him we can fully and adequately discharge the debt of gratitude we owe to Almighty God. Yea, in the Holy Mass, in a certain way, we give to God something more than what He has bestowed on us, not in reality of course, but in appearance; since once only the Eternal Father has given us His Divine Son in the Incarnation, while we give Him back to Him times without number, in the Most Holy Sacrifice.

Thus it seems we have the advantage, not indeed in the quality of the gift, since nothing greater than the Son of God could have been given us, but in appearance, in returning to Him so often and so continuously the self-same Gift. O great God! O most loving God! Would that we had tongues infinite in number and power to return Thee infinite thanks for so great a treasure! If hitherto it has lain a treasure hidden from you, now that you have begun to know its surpassing value, can you fail to exclaim over and over again, “O treasure of treasures! O treasure beyond all price?”

But the infinite benefit of Holy Mass does not end here, for it enables us also to pay the fourth debt due to God. I have already said that this debt obliges us to supplicate Him and to ask new graces of Him. You know full well that your necessities of soul and body are grievous and manifold; and you feel every moment of your existence how necessary it is to have recourse to Him, as He alone is the chief source, the beginning and the end of all your good, whether temporal or eternal. On the other hand, what heart can you have to ask for His favors, seeing the utter ingratitude which you have shown Him for the many graces already bestowed on you?

Have you not even turned the very graces He gave you into offences against Him? But still, let not your heart lose courage for if you have not deserved these graces our good Jesus has deserved them for you. In fact, for this end He has become a pacifying Victim – a supplicatory sacrifice to obtain from the Eternal Father all things you may require.

In the Holy Mass our dear and beloved Jesus, who is our great High Priest, recommends our cause to His Father, prays for us, and becomes Himself our Advocate. If we knew that the Blessed Virgin was uniting with us in prayer to the Eternal Father, to obtain the graces we desired, what confidence we should have of being heard! What hope, then, what confidence should we not have, when we know that in the Mass, Jesus Himself prays for us, offers His most Precious Blood to the Eternal Father for us, and makes Himself our advocate. O thrice blessed Mass, thou art the mine of all our good!

But we must dig deeper into this mine in order to discover more of the vast treasures it contains. O what priceless gems of grace and virtue be there! O what precious gifts the Holy Mass draws down from Heaven! In the first place it calls down all spiritual graces, all the goods of the soul, such as true sorrow and repentance for sin, victory over temptations, no matter of what kind, whether from external trials, bad companions, and the infernal spirits, or those arising from the internal rebellion of our fallen nature. Yes, the Holy Mass obtains for us all those aids of grace which we need to rise from the mire of sin, to stand erect, and to walk forward iu the ways of God.

It likewise brings us innumerable holy inspirations and internal impulses, which dispose us to shake off tepidity, and excite us to work out our salvation with greater fervor, with a more prompt will, and with a purer and more meritorious intention. These again contain an inestimable treasure, as they are the most efficacious means to obtain from God the grace of final perseverance – on which depends our eternal salvation – and a moral certainly of eternal bliss, as much as that certainty is vouchsafed to man during his mortal pilgrimage.

Furthermore, it calls down temporal blessings, inasmuch as they are conducive to the salvation of the soul; such as health of body, abundance, peace, and the exclusion of the contrary evils, such as pestilences, earthquakes, wars, famines, persecutions, hatreds, calumnies, and injuries of every sort. In a word, the Holy Mass delivers us from all evil and enriches us with every good.

Truly, then, the Mass is the golden key of Paradise, and since the Eternal Father has given us this key, which of all His boundless treasures can He refuse us? He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also with Him given us all things?

We can now easily understand why a holy priest used to say: “No matter how great the graces I ask of God for myself or others, as often as I celebrate Mass, they are nothing compared to the offering I make Him.” He, indeed, reasoned justly when he added: “All the favors that I ask of God, when celebrating Holy Mass, are created and finite things, whereas the gifts I offer to Him are uncreated and infinite, and so to balance the account I become the creditor and He the debtor.” This good priest by no means wished to deny that the power of offering the gift as well as the gift itself came first from God; but putting it thus, he asked great graces in the Holy Sacrifice, and received still greater.

And you, why do you not realize all this? Why is it you do not ask great graces at this favorable time? I earnestly advise and exhort you to ask God in every Mass, the grace to become a saint. Do you think I advise you to ask too much? Well, I tell you it is not too much. Has not our good and loving Master promised us in the Gospel that for a cup of cold water, given in His Name, He will bestow the Kingdom of Heaven? How, then, could He refuse us a hundred heavens, were there so many, in return for the Blood of His beloved Sou, offered to Him on the altar?

How can you, therefore, doubt that He will give you every virtue, and all the perfections required to make you a saint, aud a great saint in heaven? O blessed Mass! Let your heart’s desires be then multiplied a thousand fold, and ask as much as you will; remembering always that you are asking of God, who cannot grow poor by giving, and, therefore, the more you ask, the more will He give you.

Saint Bernard is emphatic on this truth: “More is gained,” he says, “by one single Mass, than by distributing all your goods to the poor, or going on pilgrimages to all the most holy shrines in the world.” O boundless riches of Holy Mass! Let this truth sink deeply into your heart. By hearing or celebrating Holy Mass, considered in itself, and in its intrinsic worth, you can gain more merit before God, than by giving all your goods to the poor, or by going as a pilgrim through the entire world, or visiting with the utmost devotion the famous sanctuaries of Rome, of Compostella, oi Loreto, Jerusalem, and all others throughout the universe.

This grand truth clearly follows from the doctrine laid down by Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, who says: “In each Mass are contained all the fruits, all the graces, yea, all those immense treasures which the Son of God poured out so abundantly upon the Church, His Spouse, in the bloody Sacrifice of the Cross.” Now, pause a while; close this book; read no further at present, but sum up in your mind all the wonderful blessings of Holy Mass; weigh them well in silence; and then can you find any difficulty in believing that one Mass – viewed in its own intrinsic worth and value – is of such efficacy that, according to the Doctors of the Church, it might have sufficed to obtain the salvation of the whole human race?

Let us suppose that our Lord Jesus Christ had not suffered at all on Calvary, and that, instead of the blood}’ Sacrifice of the Cross, he had solely instituted the Mass for our Redemption, and with an express precept that it should be celebrated only once in the entire world. Well, now, had God been pleased to act thus, that a single Mass, celebrated by the poorest priest on earth, would suffice – considered in its intrinsic value – to obtain the conversion of all men. Yes, one single Mass – taking the case we have supposed – would be sufficient to convert all the Mahometans, infidels, schismatics, heretics and bad Christians throughout the world.

At the same time it would close the gates of hell and empty purgatory of all the souls suffering therein. But, alas, we unhappy creatures, thoughtless children of Adam, by our tepidity, want of devotion, and perhaps by our sins and iniquities committed during Mass, we narrow its unbounded extent, and we render its infinite treasures of no value.

Would that I could ascend to the summits of the highest mountains and there cry aloud, so that the whole world might hear me: O foolish people, wretched inhabitants of the earth, what are you doing? Why do you not run to the churches to assist at every Mass celebrated therein? Why not imitate the holy angels, who, according to Saint Chrysostom, descend in legions during Holy Mass and stand before the altar, covered with wings of reverence and holy awe, waiting there during the time of the august Sacrifice, in order to intercede more efficaciously for us, well knowing that this is the most fitting time, the very moment we require to obtain every blessing from Heaven.

Are you not now filled with shame and confusion when you remember how little value you have hitherto set on Holy Mass? But what shall I say of you if you are one of those who have said: a Mass more, or a Mass less, is of little importance!

And before concluding this instruction, let us remind you that it was not by mere accident I told you that one single Mass, as far as its intrinsic value is concerned, is sufficient to empty purgatory of all the souls who are being purified therein, and to lead them to the bosom of God iu Paradise. For this Divine Sacrifice not only aids the souls of the dead in a propitiatory and satisfactory manner for the temporal punishment due to their sins, but it also avails them in a supplicatory manner – that is, it obtains for them their entire deliverance from purgatory.

Hence the custom of Holy Church, which not only offers the Mass for the souls in purgatory but prays for their entire deliverance. In order, then, that you may be excited to compassion for these Holy Souls shut out for a time from the Beatific Vision, let me remind you of the words of Saint Gregory the Great, who in his Dialogues says: “The flames of purgatory are, as it were, the instrument of Divine Justice, operating with such terrible power as to render the agony of the souls therein detained insufferable. These pains,” continues the Saint, “far exceed all the tribulations or martyrdoms that can be witnessed, felt or even imagined in this life.”

But still more excruciating than all this is the pain of loss; because being deprived of the beautiful vision of God, as the Angelic Doctor says, “They experience an indescribable agony and a fierce and burning thirst to behold the Supreme Good, all which is denied to their unceasing yearnings.” Here, now, enter into your own heart and realize the following truth – If you should at any time see your father and mother on the point of being drowned, and if you could save them by merely stretching out your hand, would you not feel yourself bound by the law of charity and of justice to stretch forth that hand to rescue them?

How, then, can you behold with the eyes of faith so many poor souls, perhaps your nearest and dearest friends, in a sea of fire, and yet remain so heartless as not to endure the trifling inconvenience af assisting with devotion at one Mass for their release, or the alleviation of their agonies? What an unfeeling heart is yours! Surely you cannot doubt that even a single Mass can bring exceeding great comfort to these poor souls.

Examples without end prove that charity or holy compassion for the poor souls will redound to your own welfare; but I will confine myself to one well authenticated in the life of Saint Peter Damien. This holy servant of God, left an orphan at a tender age, was taken into the house of one of his brothers who treated him cruelly, making him go barefoot and in rags, and causing him to endure the privations and sufferings of a mendicant. It happened that one day he found a small sum of money on the road. He seemed to himself to have found a treasure.

But how was he to spend it? His miserable state – so poor and so friendless – suggested many ways; but after thinking the matter over and over again, he finally resolved to give it to a priest to celebrate Mass for the Holy Souls in purgatory. From that time forward his fortune was changed. He was adopted by another brother of an amiable disposition who took him into his house, treated him as his own child, clothed him, and sent him to school, whence he came forth a great man and a great saint, an ornament to the College of Cardinals and one of the most illustrious pillars of the Church.

Now you see how one single Mass, obtained at a slight personal inconvenience, all the happiness of this great Saint and Doctor of the Church had its origin. O Most Holy Mass! which at the same time assists the living and the dead! O Most Holy Sacrifice, replete with blessings for time and for eternity! you must bear in mind that the souls in purgatory are so grateful to their benefactors that when once in heaven, they become their advocates. They never cease to intercede for their benefactors until they see them in eternal glory.

I earnestly implore you who read this little work not to close it until you have made a firm resolution of henceforth employing all possible diligence in assisting at Mass, and of causing as many Masses to be celebrated as your means permit, not only for the souls in purgatory, but also for your own soul, and the souls of your friends and benefactors. Two motives should induce you to do this: first, that you may obtain the blessing of a holy death, for it is the opinion of holy and learned divines that there is no more powerful or efficacious means than Holy Mass to obtain this greatest of all graces.

Saint Mechtilde is said to have heard from our beloved Lord Himself, that whoever during life has been accustomed to hear Mass devoutly, shall in death be consoled by the presence of the Angels and Saints and his advocates, who shall safely defend him from all the assaults of the infernal fiends. O what a happy and holy death shall you have, if during life you shall have endeavored to hear Mass as often as possible!

The second motive is, that you yourself may obtain a speedy release from purgatory, and wing your way to eternal glory, since there is no surer means of receiving from God a grace so precious as that of going direct to heaven, or at least with a short purgatory, than Indulgences and the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Popes have drawn largely on the treasures of the Church to aid the Holy souls by the many Indulgences they have granted for them.

And as to the efficacy of the Holy Mass in hastening their deliverance from purgatory, this is already sufficiently proved in what I have already said. But, if you need anything more on this subject, the example and the authority of the great servant of God, John of Avila, the oracle of Spain, ought to suffice. Being asked iu his last hours, on his death-bed, what he most earnestly wished to be done for him after death, he answered, “Masses, Masses.”

And now before dismissing this matter, allow me to give you a counsel of great moment. Try to get all the Masses which you would wish to have celebrated for you after your death offered now whilst you have life and strength. Do not trust to those who may survive you for the fulfillment of this duty. I am the more anxious to impress this on you, as Saint Anselm holds that one Mass heard or celebrated for you during life may, perhaps, be more meritorious than a thousand celebrated after your death.

This truth was understood well by a wealthy Genoese merchant, who at his death left nothing for his own soul. Every one was astonished that a man so rich, so pious and so generous to all could have been so cruel to himself at the hour of death. But after his burial there was found a record in one of his diaries of what he had done for his soul during life. I here copy some of the entries: “Masses caused to be celebrated for my soul, two thousand lire; for the marriage of poor girls, ten thousand; for such and such a holy sanctuary, two hundred;” and so on.

At the end of this book he wrote: “He who wishes to do good, let him do it during life; nor trust to those who may survive him.” A very trite old proverb teaches us “That a taper before gives more light than a torch behind.” Weigh seriously the excellence of Holy Mass, and you will henceforth be astonished at the blindness in which you lived till now, having disregarded a treasure so great, so immense, and which was, indeed, for you a “Hidden Treasure.”

Blessed Alexandru Rusu

Blessed Alexandru RusuMemorial

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One of twelve children of a priest in the Saulia Commune, Mures, Romania. Ordained a priest in the Romanian Greek-Catholic Rite on 20 July 1910. Chosen the first bishop of Maramures, Romania on 17 October 1930. Chosen the archbishop of Fagaras and Alba Iulia, Romania in 1946, a move opposed by the Communist government. For defying the antiChristian authorities, Bishop Alexandru was arrested in October 1948. Confined first in monasteries, he was eventually sent to Sighet prison. He was finally “tried” by a military tribunal in 1957 who found him guilty of treason for remaining faithful to the Catholic church, sentenced him to 25 years, and sent him to Gherla prison where he died. Martyr.

Born

Died

Venerated

Beatified

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Alexandru Rusu“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Blessed Ioan Bãlan

Blessed Ioan BãlanMemorial

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Studied theology in Budapest, Hungary and in Vienna, Austria. Ordained a Romanian Greek-Catholic Rite priest on 7 July 1903. Served in Blaj, Romania, and then Bucharest, Romania in 1909, and then back to Blaj in 1919. Cathedral canon. Rector of the theological academy in 1921. Appointed bishop of Lugoj, Romania on 29 August 1936. Arrested by the Communist authorities in 1948 for remaining in the outlawed Catholic church. Confined first in monasteries, he was eventually sent to Sighet prison. Martyr.

Born

Died

Venerated

Beatified

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Ioan Bãlan“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Blessed Tit Liviu Chinezu

Blessed Tit Liviu ChinezuAlso known as

  • Titu
  • Titus

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Ordained a priest in the Romanian Greek-Catholic Rite on 31 January 1930. Chosen auxiliary bishop of Fagaras si Alba Iulia, Romania and Titular Bishop of Regiana in 1949 and consecrated in secret. Martyred in the Communist persecutions.

Born

Died

Venerated

Beatified

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Tit Liviu Chinezu“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>

Blessed Ioan Suciu

Blessed Ioan SuciuMemorial

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Born into a family of Greek-Catholic priests. Studied at Sant’Atanasio and the Pontificium Institutum Internationale Angelicum in Rome, Italy. Ordained a priest in the Romanian Greek-Catholic Rite on 29 November 1931, and earned a doctorate in theology. Chosen auxiliary bishop of Oradea Mare {Gran Varadino}, Romania and Titular Bishop of Moglaena on 25 May 1940. Chosen Apostolic Administrator of Fagaras si Alba Iulia, Romania in 1942. Arrested in 1948 by Communist authorities for his involvement in Christianity, he was imprisoned until his death 5 years later. Martyr.

Born

Died

Venerated

Beatified

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Blessed Ioan Suciu“. CatholicSaints.Info. 22 March 2019. Web. 25 March 2019. <>