Diocese of Ratzeburg, Germany

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  • “Diocese of Ratzeburg, Germany“. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 June 2017. Web. 22 June 2017. <>

My Catholic Faith #001 – Religion and the End of Man

My Catholic Faith: Religion and the End of ManIn creating us, God gave us the power and right to choose which path we should follow in life: either the path of obedience, or the path of disobedience to His commandments. The first seems wearisome and full of thorns, but reward comes in the end: happiness with God. The second seems full of pleasures and roses, but punishment awaits the traveler at the end: eternal damnation in hell.

Each must choose for himself. We may find the choice a hard struggle. We shall be strengthened in the choice of the difficult path if we remember that we belong to God, that He loves us, that He will help us and is waiting for us at the end of the road – of obedience.

What is the Destiny of Man?

Man’s high destiny is to go to God, because man comes from God, and belongs entirely to God.

1. Our reason tells us that Someone made us. That Someone is God.

“For all men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works did not discern the artisan” (Wisdom 13:1). “For since the creation of the world his (God’s) invisible attributes are clearly seen – his everlasting power also and divinity – being understood through the things that are made” (Romans 1:20).

2. Our reason also tells us that God must have made us for some purpose. God made man to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy forever with Him in the next. God made us for Himself. The end of man, as of all creation, is the glory of God; to manifest the divine perfections, to proclaim the goodness, majesty, and power of God.

“The Lord has made everything for his own ends (Proverbs 16:4). Whether he wishes to or not, man must manifest God’s perfections, dominion, and glory.

3. Through glorifying God, man is destined to share His everlasting happiness in heaven. Man was created chiefly for the life beyond the grave; this present one is merely a preparation for the eternal life.

In this life we are exiles, wanderers, pilgrims. Heaven, the Home of God, is our true country, our true Home. “For here we have no permanent city, but we seek for the city that is to come” (Hebrew 13:14).

4. We belong to God. Since we are His creatures, we have certain duties towards God which we must fulfill. Religion teaches us what these duties are.

What is Religion?

Religion is the virtue by which we give to God the honor and service due to Him alone as our Creator, Master, and Supreme Lord.

It is by religion that we know, love, and serve God as He commands us to know, love and serve Him. It is by religion, then, that we fulfill the end for which we were made, and so save our soul.

To practice religion, we must:

1. Believe all the truths revealed by God.

In religion we learn about God and His perfections. We learn what is right and what is wrong. We learn about the future that He has prepared for us.

2. Carry out in our lives what we learn about the duties we owe to God, about His commandments and wishes. Mere knowledge of God is not religion, and will avail us nothing. The devil has a perfect knowledge of God, but he has no religion. Religion is not a matter of feeling; it is a matter of will and of action. It is service of God.

Our Lord says: “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28).

How can we prove that all men are obliged to practice religion?

We can prove that all men are obliged to practice religion, because all men are entirely dependent on God, and must recognize that dependence by honoring Him and praying to Him.

God gives us no choice in the matter. It is by religion that we fulfill the purpose for which we were created. By believing what God has revealed, we know God. By knowing God, we cannot help but love Him. By practicing what we learn and obeying God’s commands, we serve Him. “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21).

Many people spend their lives in a vain pursuit of riches, honors, and pleasures. But these never satisfy the heart of man even on earth. Besides, they have to be left behind when the hour of death comes.

From whom do we learn to know, love, and serve God?

We learn to know, love, and serve God from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who teaches us through His Church.

1. The study in which Jesus Christ teaches us about God and how to know, love, and serve Him, is the study of Religion. It is the most important study anyone can undertake. The neglect of this study is the root cause of crime in the world at present, because God is the foundation of the moral order.

Our salvation is much more important than a knowledge of physics, poetry, or history. All our science and knowledge, with our wealth and honors, will be profitless if we do not save our soul. “What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

2. To study religion we need to listen to a good teacher. The deacon Philip asked the Ethiopian reading Holy Scripture, “Do you then understand what you are reading?” But he said, “Why, how can I unless someone shows me?” (Acts 8:31)

Who are those that advocate no study of religion?

Those that advocate no study of religion are generally termed free thinkers, agnostics, skeptics, and rationalists.

1. These thinkers claim that all problems can be solved by the use of the intellect alone, without necessity of any dogma or authority.

“Freedom of thought” has a pleasant sound, but it is against reason; by it the mind is fettered by error. We submit our minds freely to natural and scientific truth; that is true freedom. If there is no freedom of thought in mathematics, why in religion?

2. “Freedom of thought” is evidently a contradiction; we are not free to think what is not the truth. There are fundamental laws that bind the intellect.

For instance, are we free to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, even if it appears to do so?

3. The intelligent man, in order to attain the kind of freedom humanly possible, should find out to which authority he must submit; he must discover which is the Law. And this is why the rational man studies Religion, to find out this fundamental Law.

+ KNOW GOD BETTER TO LOVE HIM MORE +
– from My Catholic Faith, A Manual of Religion, by the Most Revered Louis Laravoire Morrow, S.T.D., Bishop of Krishnagar, 1949

On “Not Three Gods”, by Saint Gregory of Nyssa

illustration of Saint Gregory of Nyssa; by Francesco Bartolozzi after Domenichino, 19th century; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsTo Ablabius.

You that are strong with all might in the inner man ought by rights to carry on the struggle against the enemies of the truth, and not to shrink from the task, that we fathers may be gladdened by the noble toil of our sons; for this is the prompting of the law of nature: but as you turn your ranks, and send against us the assaults of those darts which are hurled by the opponents of the truth, and demand that their hot burning coals and their shafts sharpened by knowledge falsely so called should be quenched with the shield of faith by us old men, we accept your command, and make ourselves an example of obedience, in order that you may yourself give us the just requital on like commands, Ablabius, noble soldier of Christ, if we should ever summon you to such a contest.

In truth, the question you propound to us is no small one, nor such that but small harm will follow if it meets with insufficient treatment. For by the force of the question, we are at first sight compelled to accept one or other of two erroneous opinions, and either to say there are three Gods, which is unlawful, or not to acknowledge the Godhead of the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is impious and absurd.

The argument which you state is something like this: Peter, James, and John, being in one human nature, are called three men; and there is no absurdity in describing those who are united in nature, if they are more than one, by the plural number of the name derived from their nature. If, then, in the above case, custom admits this, and no one forbids us to speak of those who are two as two, or those who are more than two as three, how is it that in the case of our statements of the mysteries of the Faith, though confessing the Three Persons, and acknowledging no difference of nature between them, we are in some sense at variance with our confession, when we say that the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is one, and yet forbid men to say there are three Gods? The question is, as I said, very difficult to deal with: yet, if we should be able to find anything that may give support to the uncertainty of our mind, so that it may no longer totter and waver in this monstrous dilemma, it would be well: on the other hand, even if our reasoning be found unequal to the problem, we must keep for ever, firm and unmoved, the tradition which we received by succession from the fathers, and seek from the Lord the reason which is the advocate of our faith: and if this be found by any of those endowed with grace, we must give thanks to Him who bestowed the grace; but if not, we shall none the less, on those points which have been determined, hold our faith unchangeably.

What, then, is the reason that when we count one by one those who are exhibited to us in one nature, we ordinarily name them in the plural and speak of so many men, instead of calling them all one: while in the case of the Divine nature our doctrinal definition rejects the plurality of Gods, at once enumerating the Persons, and at the same time not admitting the plural signification? Perhaps one might seem to touch the point if he were to say (speaking offhand to straightforward people), that the definition refused to reckon Gods in any number to avoid any resemblance to the polytheism of the heathen, lest, if we too were to enumerate the Deity, not in the singular, but in the plural, as they are accustomed to do, there might be supposed to be also some community of doctrine. This answer, I say, if made to people of a more guileless spirit, might seem to be of some weight: but in the case of the others who require that one of the alternatives they propose should be established (either that we should not acknowledge the Godhead in Three Persons, or that, if we do, we should speak of those who share in the same Godhead as three), this answer is not such as to furnish any solution of the difficulty. And hence we must needs make our reply at greater length, tracing out the truth as best we may; for the question is no ordinary one.

We say, then, to begin with, that the practice of calling those who are not divided in nature by the very name of their common nature in the plural, and saying they are many men, is a customary abuse of language, and that it would be much the same thing to say they are many human natures. And the truth of this we may see from the following instance. When we address any one, we do not call him by the name of his nature, in order that no confusion may result from the community of the name, as would happen if every one of those who hear it were to think that he himself was the person addressed, because the call is made not by the proper appellation but by the common name of their nature: but we separate him from the multitude by using that name which belongs to him as his own – that, I mean, which signifies the particular subject. Thus there are many who have shared in the nature – many disciples, say, or apostles, or martyrs – but the man in them all is one; since, as has been said, the term man does not belong to the nature of the individual as such, but to that which is common. For Luke is a man, or Stephen is a man; but it does not follow that if any one is a man he is therefore Luke or Stephen: but the idea of the persons admits of that separation which is made by the peculiar attributes considered in each severally, and when they are combined is presented to us by means of number; yet their nature is one, at union in itself, and an absolutely indivisible unit, not capable of increase by addition or of diminution by subtraction, but in its essence being and continually remaining one, inseparable even though it appear in plurality, continuous, complete, and not divided with the individuals who participate in it. And as we speak of a people, or a mob, or an army, or an assembly in the singular in every case, while each of these is conceived as being in plurality, so according to the more accurate expression, man would be said to be one, even though those who are exhibited to us in the same nature make up a plurality. Thus it would be much better to correct our erroneous habit, so as no longer to extend to a plurality the name of the nature, than by our bondage to habit to transfer to our statements concerning God the error which exists in the above case. But since the correction of the habit is impracticable (for how could you persuade any one not to speak of those who are exhibited in the same nature as many men? – indeed, in every case habit is a thing hard to change), we are not so far wrong in not going contrary to the prevailing habit in the case of the lower nature, since no harm results from the mistaken use of the name: but in the case of the statement concerning the Divine nature the various use of terms is no longer so free from danger: for that which is of small account is in these subjects no longer a small matter. Therefore we must confess one God, according to the testimony of Scripture, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord, even though the name of Godhead extends through the Holy Trinity. This I say according to the account we have given in the case of human nature, in which we have learned that it is improper to extend the name of the nature by the mark of plurality. We must, however, more carefully examine the name of Godhead, in order to obtain, by means of the significance involved in the word, some help towards clearing up the question before us.

Most men think that the word Godhead is used in a peculiar degree in respect of nature: and just as the heaven, or the sun, or any other of the constituent parts of the Godhead is fitly adapted to that which it represents to us, as a kind of special name. We, on the other hand, following the suggestions of Scripture, have learned that that nature is unnameable and unspeakable, and we say that every term either invented by the custom of men, or handed down to us by the Scriptures, is indeed explanatory of our conceptions of the Divine Nature, but does not include the signification of that nature itself. And it may be shown without much difficulty that this is the case. For all other terms which are used of the creation may be found, even without analysis of their origin, to be applied to the subjects accidentally, because we are content to denote the things in any way by the word applied to them so as to avoid confusion in our knowledge of the things signified. But all the terms that are employed to lead us to the knowledge of God have comprehended in them each its own meaning, and you cannot find any word among the terms especially applied to God which is without a distinct sense. Hence it is clear that by any of the terms we use the Divine nature itself is not signified, but some one of its surroundings is made known. For we say, it may be, that the Deity is incorruptible, or powerful, or whatever else we are accustomed to say of Him. But in each of these terms we find a peculiar sense, fit to be understood or asserted of the Divine nature, yet not expressing that which that nature is in its essence. For the subject, whatever it may be, is incorruptible: but our conception of incorruptibility is this – that that which is, is not resolved into decay: so, when we say that He is incorruptible, we declare what His nature does not suffer, but we do not express what that is which does not suffer corruption. Thus, again, if we say that He is the Giver of life, though we show by that appellation what He gives, we do not by that word declare what that is which gives it. And by the same reasoning we find that all else which results from the significance involved in the names expressing the Divine attributes either forbids us to conceive what we ought not to conceive of the Divine nature, or teaches us that which we ought to conceive of it, but does not include an explanation of the nature itself. Since, then, as we perceive the varied operations of the power above us, we fashion our appellations from the several operations that are known to us, and as we recognize as one of these that operation of surveying and inspection, or, as one might call it, beholding, whereby He surveys all things and overlooks them all, discerning our thoughts, and even entering by His power of contemplation into those things which are not visible, we suppose that Godhead, or θεότης, is so called from θέα, or beholding, and that He who is our θεατής or beholder, by customary use and by the instruction of the Scriptures, is called θεός, or God. Now if any one admits that to behold and to discern are the same thing, and that the God Who superintends all things, both is and is called the superintender of the universe, let him consider this operation, and judge whether it belongs to one of the Persons whom we believe in the Holy Trinity, or whether the power extends throughout the Three Persons. For if our interpretation of the term Godhead, or θεότης, is a true one, and the things which are seen are said to be beheld, or θεατά, and that which beholds them is called θεός, or God, no one of the Persons in the Trinity could reasonably be excluded from such an appellation on the ground of the sense involved in the word. For Scripture attributes the act of seeing equally to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. David says, See, O God our defender: and from this we learn that sight is a proper operation of the idea of God, so far as God is conceived, since he says, See, O God. But Jesus also sees the thoughts of those who condemn Him, and questions why by His own power He pardons the sins of men? For it says, Jesus, seeing their thoughts. And of the Holy Spirit also, Peter says to Ananias, Why has Satan filled your heart, to lie to the Holy Ghost? (Acts 5:3) showing that the Holy Spirit was a true witness, aware of what Ananias had dared to do in secret, and by Whom the manifestation of the secret was made to Peter. For Ananias became a thief of his own goods, secretly, as he thought, from all men, and concealing his sin: but the Holy Spirit at the same moment was in Peter, and detected his intent, dragged down as it was to avarice, and gave to Peter from Himself the power of seeing the secret, while it is clear that He could not have done this had He not been able to behold hidden things.

But some one will say that the proof of our argument does not yet regard the question. For even if it were granted that the name of Godhead is a common name of the nature, it would not be established that we should not speak of Gods: but by these arguments, on the contrary, we are compelled to speak of Gods: for we find in the custom of mankind that not only those who are partakers in the same nature, but even any who may be of the same business, are not, when they are many, spoken of in the singular; as we speak of many orators, or surveyors, or farmers, or shoemakers, and so in all other cases. If, indeed, Godhead were an appellation of nature, it would be more proper, according to the argument laid down, to include the Three Persons in the singular number, and to speak of One God, by reason of the inseparability and indivisibility of the nature: but since it has been established by what has been said, that the term Godhead is significant of operation, and not of nature, the argument from what has been advanced seems to turn to the contrary conclusion, that we ought therefore all the more to call those three Gods who are contemplated in the same operation, as they say that one would speak of three philosophers or orators, or any other name derived from a business when those who take part in the same business are more than one.

I have taken some pains, in setting forth this view, to bring forward the reasoning on behalf of the adversaries, that our decision may be the more firmly fixed, being strengthened by the more elaborate contradictions. Let us now resume our argument.

As we have to a certain extent shown by our statement that the word Godhead is not significant of nature but of operation, perhaps one might reasonably allege as a cause why, in the case of men, those who share with one another in the same pursuits are enumerated and spoken of in the plural, while on the other hand the Deity is spoken of in the singular as one God and one Godhead, even though the Three Persons are not separated from the significance expressed by the term Godhead, – one might allege, I say, the fact that men, even if several are engaged in the same form of action, work separately each by himself at the task he has undertaken, having no participation in his individual action with others who are engaged in the same occupation. For instance, supposing the case of several rhetoricians, their pursuit, being one, has the same name in the numerous cases: but each of those who follow it works by himself, this one pleading on his own account, and that on his own account. Thus, since among men the action of each in the same pursuits is discriminated, they are properly called many, since each of them is separated from the others within his own environment, according to the special character of his operation. But in the case of the Divine nature we do not similarly learn that the Father does anything by Himself in which the Son does not work conjointly, or again that the Son has any special operation apart from the Holy Spirit; but every operation which extends from God to the Creation, and is named according to our variable conceptions of it, has its origin from the Father, and proceeds through the Son, and is perfected in the Holy Spirit. For this reason the name derived from the operation is not divided with regard to the number of those who fulfill it, because the action of each concerning anything is not separate and peculiar, but whatever comes to pass, in reference either to the acts of His providence for us, or to the government and constitution of the Godhead, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and that very power of superintendence and beholding which we call Godhead, the Father exercises through the Only-begotten, while the Son perfects every power by the Holy Spirit, judging, as Isaiah says, by the Spirit of judgement and the Spirit of burning (Isaiah 4:4), and acting by Him also, according to the saying in the Gospel which was spoken to the Jews. For He says, If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils (Matthew 12:28); where He includes every form of doing good in a partial description, by reason of the unity of action: for the name derived from operation cannot be divided among many where the result of their mutual operation is one.

Since, then, the character of the superintending and beholding power is one, in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as has been said in our previous argument, issuing from the Father as from a spring, brought into operation by the Son, and perfecting its grace by the power of the Spirit; and since no operation is separated in respect of the Persons, being fulfilled by each individually apart from that which is joined with Him in our contemplation, but all providence, care, and superintendence of all, alike of things in the sensible creation and of those of supra-mundane nature, and that power which preserves the things which are, and corrects those which are amiss, and instructs those which are ordered aright, is one, and not three, being, indeed, directed by the Holy Trinity, yet not severed by a threefold division according to the number of the Persons contemplated in the Faith, so that each of the acts, contemplated by itself, should be the work of the Father alone, or of the Son peculiarly, or of the Holy Spirit separately, but while, as the Apostle says, the one and the selfsame Spirit divides His good gifts to every man severally (1 Corinthians 12:11), the motion of good proceeding from the Spirit is not without beginning – we find that the power which we conceive as preceding this motion, which is the Only-begotten God, is the maker of all things; without Him no existent thing attains to the beginning of its being: and, again, this same source of good issues from the will of the Father.

If, then, every good thing and every good name, depending on that power and purpose which is without beginning, is brought to perfection in the power of the Spirit through the Only-begotten God, without mark of time or distinction (since there is no delay, existent or conceived, in the motion of the Divine will from the Father, through the Son, to the Spirit): and if Godhead also is one of the good names and concepts, it would not be proper to divide the name into a plurality, since the unity existing in the action prevents plural enumeration. And as the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe (1 Timothy 4:10), is spoken of by the Apostle as one, and no one from this phrase argues either that the Son does not save them who believe, or that salvation is given to those who receive it without the intervention of the Spirit; but God who is over all, is the Saviour of all, while the Son works salvation by means of the grace of the Spirit, and yet they are not on this account called in Scripture three Saviours (although salvation is confessed to proceed from the Holy Trinity): so neither are they called three Gods, according to the signification assigned to the term Godhead, even though the aforesaid appellation attaches to the Holy Trinity.

It does not seem to me absolutely necessary, with a view to the present proof of our argument, to contend against those who oppose us with the assertion that we are not to conceive Godhead as an operation. For we, believing the Divine nature to be unlimited and incomprehensible, conceive no comprehension of it, but declare that the nature is to be conceived in all respects as infinite: and that which is absolutely infinite is not limited in one respect while it is left unlimited in another, but infinity is free from limitation altogether. That therefore which is without limit is surely not limited even by name. In order then to mark the constancy of our conception of infinity in the case of the Divine nature, we say that the Deity is above every name: and Godhead is a name. Now it cannot be that the same thing should at once be a name and be accounted as above every name.

But if it pleases our adversaries to say that the significance of the term is not operation, but nature, we shall fall back upon our original argument, that custom applies the name of a nature to denote multitude erroneously: since according to true reasoning neither diminution nor increase attaches to any nature, when it is contemplated in a larger or smaller number. For it is only those things which are contemplated in their individual circumscription which are enumerated by way of addition. Now this circumscription is noted by bodily appearance, and size, and place, and difference figure and colour, and that which is contemplated apart from these conditions is free from the circumscription which is formed by such categories. That which is not thus circumscribed is not enumerated, and that which is not enumerated cannot be contemplated in multitude. For we say that gold, even though it be cut into many figures, is one, and is so spoken of, but we speak of many coins or many staters, without finding any multiplication of the nature of gold by the number of staters; and for this reason we speak of gold, when it is contemplated in greater bulk, either in plate or in coin, as much, but we do not speak of it as many golds on account of the multitude of the material – except when one says there are many gold pieces (Darics, for instance, or staters), in which case it is not the material, but the pieces of money to which the significance of number applies: indeed, properly, we should not call them gold but golden.

As, then, the golden staters are many, but the gold is one, so too those who are exhibited to us severally in the nature of man, as Peter, James, and John, are many, yet the man in them is one. And although Scripture extends the word according to the plural significance, where it says men swear by the greater (Hebrews 6:16), and sons of men, and in other phrases of the like sort, we must recognize that in using the custom of the prevailing form of speech, it does not lay down a law as to the propriety of using the words in one way or another, nor does it say these things by way of giving us instruction about phrases, but uses the word according to the prevailing custom, with a view only to this, that the word may be profitable to those who receive it, taking no minute care in its manner of speech about points where no harm can result from the phrases in respect of the way they are understood.

Indeed, it would be a lengthy task to set out in detail from the Scriptures those constructions which are inexactly expressed, in order to prove the statement I have made; where, however, there is a risk of injury to any part of the truth, we no longer find in Scriptural phrases any indiscriminate or indifferent use of words. For this reason Scripture admits the naming of men in the plural, because no one is by such a figure of speech led astray in his conceptions to imagine a multitude of humanities, or supposes that many human natures are indicated by the fact that the name expressive of that nature is used in the plural. But the word God it employs studiously in the singular form only, guarding against introducing the idea of different natures in the Divine essence by the plural signification of Gods. This is the cause why it says, the Lord our God is one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4), and also proclaims the Only-begotten God by the name of Godhead, without dividing the Unity into a dual signification, so as to call the Father and the Son two Gods, although each is proclaimed by the holy writers as God. The Father is God: the Son is God: and yet by the same proclamation God is One, because no difference either of nature or of operation is contemplated in the Godhead. For if (according to the idea of those who have been led astray) the nature of the Holy Trinity were diverse, the number would by consequence be extended to a plurality of Gods, being divided according to the diversity of essence in the subjects. But since the Divine, single, and unchanging nature, that it may be one, rejects all diversity in essence, it does not admit in its own case the signification of multitude; but as it is called one nature, so it is called in the singular by all its other names, God, Good, Holy, Saviour, Just, Judge, and every other Divine name conceivable: whether one says that the names refer to nature or to operation, we shall not dispute the point.

If, however, any one cavils at our argument, on the ground that by not admitting the difference of nature it leads to a mixture and confusion of the Persons, we shall make to such a charge this answer – that while we confess the invariable character of the nature, we do not deny the difference in respect of cause, and that which is caused, by which alone we apprehend that one Person is distinguished from another – by our belief, that is, that one is the Cause, and another is of the Cause; and again in that which is of the Cause we recognize another distinction. For one is directly from the first Cause, and another by that which is directly from the first Cause; so that the attribute of being Only-begotten abides without doubt in the Son, and the interposition of the Son, while it guards His attribute of being Only-begotten, does not shut out the Spirit from His relation by way of nature to the Father.

But in speaking of cause, and of the cause, we do not by these words denote nature (for no one would give the same definition of cause and of nature), but we indicate the difference in manner of existence. For when we say that one is caused, and that the other is without cause, we do not divide the nature by the word cause , but only indicate the fact that the Son does not exist without generation, nor the Father by generation: but we must needs in the first place believe that something exists, and then scrutinize the manner of existence of the object of our belief: thus the question of existence is one, and that of the mode of existence is another. To say that anything exists without generation sets forth the mode of its existence, but what exists is not indicated by this phrase. If one were to ask a husbandman about a tree, whether it were planted or had grown of itself, and he were to answer either that the tree had not been planted or that it was the result of planting, would he by that answer declare the nature of the tree? Surely not; but while saying how it exists he would leave the question of its nature obscure and unexplained. So, in the other case, when we learn that He is unbegotten, we are taught in what mode He exists, and how it is fit that we should conceive Him as existing, but what He is we do not hear in that phrase. When, therefore, we acknowledge such a distinction in the case of the Holy Trinity, as to believe that one Person is the Cause, and another is of the Cause, we can no longer be accused of confounding the definition of the Persons by the community of nature.

Thus, since on the one hand the idea of cause differentiates the Persons of the Holy Trinity, declaring that one exists without a Cause, and another is of the Cause; and since on the one hand the Divine nature is apprehended by every conception as unchangeable and undivided, for these reasons we properly declare the Godhead to be one, and God to be one, and employ in the singular all other names which express Divine attributes.

Officiorum ac Munerum – The Prohibition and Censorship of Books, by Pope Leo XIII, 25 January 1897

Pope Leo XIII

To Our Venerable Brethren, all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops of the Catholic World In Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See

Venerable Brethren Health and Apostolic Benediction

Of all the Official Duties which We are bound most carefully and most diligently to fulfill in this Supreme Position of the Apostolate, the Chief and Principal Duty is to watch assiduously and earnestly to strive that the Integrity of Christian Faith and Morals may suffer no diminution. And this, more than at any other times, is especially necessary in these days, when men’s minds and characters are so unrestrained that almost every Doctrine which Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, has committed to the custody of His Church, for the welfare of the human race, is daily called into question and doubt. In this warfare, many and varied are the stratagems and hurtful devices of the enemy; but most perilous of all is the uncurbed freedom of writing and publishing noxious literature. Nothing can be conceived more pernicious, more apt to defile souls, through its contempt of Religion, and its manifold allurements to sin. Wherefore the Church, who is the custodian and vindicator of the Integrity of Faith and Morals, fearful of so great an evil, has from an early date realized that remedies must be applied against this plague; and for this reason she has ever striven, as far as lay in her Power, to restrain men from the reading of bad books, as from a deadly poison. The early days of the Church were witnesses to the earnest zeal of St. Paul in this respect; and every subsequent age has witnessed the vigilance of the Fathers, the commands of the Bishops, and the Decrees of Councils in a similar direction. Historical Documents bear special witness to the care and diligence with which the Roman Pontiffs have vigilantly endeavored to prevent the unchecked spread of heretical writings detrimental to the public. History is full of examples. Anastasius I solemnly condemned the more dangerous writings of Origen, Innocent I those of Pelagius, Leo the Great all the works of the Manicheans. The decretal letters, opportunely issued by Gelasius, concerning books to be received and rejected, are well known. And so, in the course of centuries, the Holy See condemned the pestilent writings of the Monothelites, of Abelard, Marsilius Patavinus, Wycliff and Huss. In the fifteenth century, after the invention of the art of printing, not only were bad publications which had already appeared condemned, but precautions began to be taken against the publication of similar works in the future. These prudent measures were called for by no slight cause, but rather by the need of protecting the public Morals and welfare at the time; for too many had rapidly perverted into a mighty engine of destruction an art excellent in itself, productive of immense advantages, and naturally destined for the advancement of Christian culture. Owing to the rapid process of publication, the great evil of bad books had been multiplied and accelerated. Wherefore Our predecessors, Alexander VI and Leo X, most wisely promulgated certain definite Laws, well suited to the character of the times, in order to restrain printers and publishers within the limits of their duty. The tempest soon became more violent, and it was necessary to check the contagion of heresy with still more vigilance and severity. Hence Leo X, and afterwards Clement VII, severely prohibited the reading or retaining of the books of Luther. But as, owing to the unhappy circumstances of that epoch, the foul flood of pernicious books had increased beyond measure and spread in all directions, there appeared to be need of a more complete and efficacious remedy. This remedy Our predecessor, Paul IV, was the first to employ, by opportunely publishing a list of books and other writings against which the faithful should be warned. A little later the Council of Trent took steps to restran the ever-growing license of writing and reading by a new measure. At its command and desire, certain chosen Prelates and Theologians not only applied themselves to increasing and perfecting the Index which Paul IV had published, but also drew up certain Rules to be observed in the publishing, reading, and use of books; to which Rules, Pius IV added the Sanction of his Apostolic Authority. The interests of the public welfare, which had given rise to the Tridentine Rules, necessitated in the course of time certain alterations. For which reason the Roman Pontiffs, especially Clement VIII, Alexander VII, and Benedict XIV, mindful of the circumstances of the period and the dictates of prudence, issued several Decrees calcultated to elucidate these Rules and to accommodate them to the times. The above facts clearly prove that the Chief Care of the Roman Pontiffs has always been to protect civil society from erroneous beliefs and corrupt morals, the twin causes of the decline and ruin of States, which commonly owes its origin and its progress to bad books. Their labors were not unfruitful, so long as the Divine Law regulated the commands and prohibitions of civil government, and the Rulers of States acted in unison with the Ecclesiastical Authority. Every one is aware of the subsequent course of events. As circumstances and men’s minds gradually altered, the Church, with her wonted prudence, observing the character of the period, took those steps which appeared most expedient and best calculated to promote the salvation of men. Several prescriptions of the Rules of the Index, which appeared to have lost their original opportuneness, she either abolished by Decree, or, with equal gentleness and Wisdom, permitted them to grow obsolete. In recent times, Pius IX, in a Letter to the Archbishops and Bishops of the States of the Church, considerably mitigated Rule X. Moreover, on the eve of the Vatican Council, he instructed the learned men of the Preparatory Commission to examine and revise all the Rules of the Index, and to advise how they should be dealt with. They unanimously decided that the Rules required alteration; and several of the Fathers of the Council openly professed their agreement with this opinion and desire. A Letter of the French Bishops exists urging the necessity of immediate action in “republishing the Rules and whole Scheme of the Index in an entirely new form, better suited to our times and easier to observe.” A similar opinion was expressed at the same time by the Bishops of Germany, who definitely petitioned that “the Rules of the Index might be submitted to a fresh revision and a rearrangement.” With these Bishops many Bishops of Italy and other countries have agreed. Taking into account the circumstances of our times, the conditions of society, and popular customs, all these requests are certainly justified and in accordance with the maternal affection of Holy Church. In the rapid race of intellect, there is no field of knowledge in which Literature has not run riot, hence the daily inundation of most pernicious books. Worst of all, the civil laws not only connive at this serious evil but allow it the widest license. Thus, on the one hand, many minds are in a state of anxiety; whilst, on the other, there is unlimited opportunity for every kind of reading. Believing that some remedy ought to be applied to these evils, We have thought well to take two steps which will supply a certain and clear Rule of action in this matter. First, to diligently revise the Index of books forbidden to be read; and We have ordered this revised edition to be published when complete. Secondly, We have turned Our attention to the Rules themselves, and have determined, without altering their nature, to make them somewhat milder, so that it cannot be difficult or irksome for any person of good-will to obey them. In this we have not only followed the example of Our Predecessors, but imitated the maternal affection of the Church, who desires nothing more earnestly than to show herself indulgent, and, in the present, as in the past, ever cares for her children in such a manner as gently and lovingly to have regard to their weakness. Wherefore, after mature deliberation, and having consulted the Cardinals of the Sacred Congregation of the Index, We have decided to issue the following General Decrees appended to this Constitution, and the aforesaid Sacred Congregation shall, in the future, follow these exclusively, and all Catholics throughout the world shall strictly obey them. We will that they alone shall have the force of Law, abrogating the Rules published by Order of the Sacred Council of Trent, and the Observations, Instructions, Decrees, Monita, and all other Statutes and Commands whatsoever of Our Predecessors, with the sole exception of the Constitution Sollicila et provida of Benedict XIV, which We will to retain in the future the fullforce which it has hitherto had.

GENERAL DECREES CONCERNING THE PROHIBITION AND CENSORSHIP OF BOOKS.

ARTICLE I Of The Prohibition of Books

CHAPTER I Of the Prohibited Books of Apostates, Heretics, Schismatics, and Other Writers

1. All books condemned before the year 1600 by the Sovereign Pontiffs, or by Ecumenical Councils, and which are not recorded in the new Index, must be considered as condemned in the same manner as formerly, with the exception of such as are permitted by the present General Decrees. 2. The books of apostates, heretics, schismatics, and all writers whatsoever, defending heresy or schism, or in any way attacking the foundations of Religion, are altogether prohibited. 3. Moreover, the books of non-Catholics, ex professo treating of Religion, are prohibited, unless they clearly contain nothing contrary to Catholic Faith. 4. The books of the above-mentioned writers, not treating ex professo of Religion, but only touching incidentally upon the Truths of Faith, are not to be considered as prohibited by Ecclesiastical Law, unless proscribed by special Decree.

CHAPTER II Of Editions of the Original Text of Holy Scripture and of Versions not in the Vernacular

5. Editions of the Original Text and of the ancient Catholic versions of Holy Scripture, as well as those of the Eastern Church, if published by non-Catholics, even though apparently edited in a faithful and complete manner, are allowed only to those engaged in Theological and Biblical Studies, provided also that the Dogma of Catholic Faith are not impugned in the Prolegomena or Annotations. 6. In the same manner, and under the same conditions, other versions of the Holy Bible, whether in Latin or in any other dead language, published by non-Catholics, are permitted.

CHAPTER III Of Vernacular Versions of Holy Scripture

7. As it has been clearly shown by experience that, if the Holy Bible in the vernacular is generally permitted without any distinction, more harm than utility is thereby caused, owing to human temerity: all versions in the vernacular, even by Catholics, are altogether prohibited, unless approved by the Holy See, or published, under the vigilant care of the Bishops, with Annotations taken from the Fathers of the Church and learned Catholic writers. 8. All versions of the Holy Bible, in any vernacular language, made by non-Catholics are prohibited; and especially those published by the Bible Societies, which have been more than once condemned by the Roman Pontiffs, because in them the Wise Laws of the Church concerning the publication of the Sacred Books are entirely disregarded. Nevertheless, these versions are permitted to students of Theological or Biblical Science, under the conditions laid down above (No. 5).

CHAPTER IV Of Obscene Books

9. Books which professedly treat of, narrate, or teach lewd or obscene subjects are entirely prohibited, since care must be taken not only of Faith but also of Morals, which are easily corrupted by the reading of such books. 10. The books of classical authors, whether ancient or modern, if disfigured with the same stain of indecency, are, on account of the elegance and beauty of their diction, permitted only to those who are justified on account of their duty or the function of teaching; but on no account may they be placed in the hands of, or taught to, boys or youths, unless carefully expurgated.

CHAPTER V Of Certain Special Kinds of Books

11. Those books are condemned which are derogatory to Almighty God, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Saints, or to the Catholic Church and her Worship, or to the Sacraments, or to the Holy See. To the same condemnatin are subject those works in which the idea of the inspiration of Holy Scripture is perverted, or its extension too narrowly limited. Those books, moreover, are prohibited which professedly revile the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, or the Clerical or Religious State. 12. It is forbidden to publish, read, or keep books in which sorcery, divination, magic, the evocation of spirits, and other superstitions of this kind are taught or commended. 13. Books or other writings which narrate new apparitions, revelations,visions, prophecies, miracles, or which introduce new devotions, even under the pretext of being private ones, if published without the Legitimate permission of Ecclesiastical Superiors, are prohibited. 14. Those books, moreover, are prohibited which defend as lawful, duelling, suicide, or divorce; which treat of Freemasonry, or other societies of the kind, teaching them to be useful, and not injurious to the Church and to Society; and those which defend errors proscribed by the Apostolic See.

CHAPTER VI Of Sacred Pictures and Indulgences

15. Pictures, in any style of printing, of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints, or other Servants of God, which are not conformable to the sense and Decrees of the Church, are entirely forbidden. New pictures, whether produced with or without Prayers annexed, may not be published without permission of Ecclesiastical Authority. 16. It is forbidden to all to give publicity in any way to apocryphal indulgences, and such as have been proscribed or revoked by the Apostolic See. Those which have already been published must be withdrawn from the hands of the Faithful. 17. No books of indulgences, or compendiums, pamphlets, leaflets, etc., containing grants of indulgences, may be published without permission of competent Authority.

CHAPTER VII Of Liturgical Books and Prayer Books

18. In Authentic Editions of the Missal, Breviary, Ritual, Ceremonial of Bishops, Roman Pontifical, and other Liturgical Books approved by the Holy Apostolic See, no one shall presume to make any change whtsoever; otherwise such new editions are prohibited. 19. No Litanies–except the ancient and common Litanies contained in the Breviaries, Missals, Pontificals, and Rituals, as well as the Litany of Loretto, and the Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus already approved by the Holy See–may be published without the examination and approbation of the Ordinary. 20. No one, without license of Legitimate Authority, may publish books or pamphlets of Prayers, Devotions, or of Religious, Moral, Ascetic, or Mystic Doctrine and Instruction, or others of like nature, even though apparently conducive to the fostering of Piety among Christian people; otherwise they are to be considered as prohitibed.

CHAPTER VIII Of Newspapers and Periodicals

21. Newspapers and periodicals which designedly attack Religion or Morality are to be held as prohibited not only by the natural law but also by the Ecclesiastical Law. Ordinaries shall take care, whenever it be necessary, that the Faithful shall be warned against the danger and injury of reading of this kind. 22. No Catholics, particularly Ecclesiastics, shall publish anything in newspapers or periodicals of this character, unless for some just and reasonable cause.

CHAPTER IX Of Permission to Read and Keep Prohibited Books

23. Those only shall be allowed to read and keep books prohibited, either by Special Decrees or by these General Decrees, who shall have obtained the necessary permission, either from the Apostolic See or from its delegates. 24. The Roman Pontiffs have placed the Power of granting Licenses for the reading and keeping of prohibited books in the hands of the Sacred Congregation of the Index. Nevertheless the same Power is enjoyed both by the Supreme Congregations of the Holy Office, and by the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda for the Regions subject to its Administration. For the city of Rome this Power belongs also to the Master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace. 25. Bishops and other Prelates with quasi-Episcopal Jurisdiction may grant such License for individual books, and in urgent cases only. But if they have obtained from the Apostolic See a General Faculty to grant permission to the faithful to read and keep prohibited books, they must grant this only with discretion and for a just and reasonable cause. 26. Those who have obtained Apostolic Faculties to read and keep prohitibed books may not on this account read and keep any books whatsoever or periodicals condemned by the Local Ordinaries, unless in the Apostolic Indult express permission be given to read and keep books by whomsoever prohibited. And those who have obtained permission to read prohibited books must remember that they are bound by grave precept to keep books of this kind in such a manner that they may not fall into the hands of others.

CHAPTER X Of the Denunciation of Bad Books

27. Although all Catholics, especially the more learned, ought to denounce pernicious books either to the Bishops or to the Holy See, this Duty belongs more especially to Apostolic Nuncios and Delegates, Local Ordinaries, and Rectors of Universities. 28. It is expedient, in denouncing bad books, that not only the title of the Book be expressed, but also, as far as possible, the reasons be explained why the book is considered worthy of censure. Those to whom the denunciation is made will remember that it is their Duty to keep secret the names of the denouncers. 29. Ordinaries, even as Delegates of the Apostolic See, must be careful to prohibit evil books or other writings published or circulated in their Dioceses, and to withdraw them from the hands of the faithful. Such works and writings should be referred by them to the judgment of the Apostolic See as appear to require a more careful examination, or concerning which a decision of the Supreme Authority may seem desirable in order to procure a more salutary effect.

ARTICLE II Of the Censorship of Books

CHAPTER I Of the Prelates entrusted with the Censorship of Books

30. From what has been laid down above (No. 7), it is sufficiently clear what persons have Authority to approve or permit editions and translations of the Holy Bible. 31. No one shall venture to republish books condemned by the Apostolic See. If, for a grave and reasonable cause, any particular exception appears desirable in this respect, this can only be allowed on obtaining beforehand a License from the Sacred Congregation of the Index and observing the conditions prescribed by it. 32. Whatsoever pertains in any way to causes of Beatification and Canonization of the Servants of God may not be published without the approval of the Congregation of Sacred Rites. 33. The same must be said of collections of Decrees of the various Roman Congregations: such collections may not be published without first obtaining the License of the Authorities of each Congregation, and observing the conditions by them prescribed. 34. Vicars Apostolic and Missionaries Apostolic shall faithfully observe the Decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda concerning the publication of books. 35. The Approbation of books of which the Censorship is not reserved by the present Decrees either to the Holy See or to the Roman Congregations belongs to the Ordinary of the place where they are published. 36. Regulars must remember that, in addition to the License of the Bishop, they are bound by a Decree of the Sacred Council of Trent to obtain leave for publishing any work from their own Superior. Both permissions must be printed either at the beginning or at the end of the book. 37. If an author, living in Rome, desires to print a book, not in the city of Rome but elsewhere, no other Approbation is required beyond that of the Cardinal Vicar and the Master of the Apostolic Palace.

CHAPTER II Of the Duty of Censors in the Preliminary Examination of Books

38. Bishops whose Duty it is to grant permission for the printing of books shall take care to employ in the examination of them, men of acknowledged Piety and Learning, concerning whose faith and honesty they may feel sure that they will show neither favor nor ill-will, but, putting aside all human affections, will look only to the Glory of God and the welfare of the people. 39. Censors must understand that, in the matter of various opinions and systems, they are bound to judge with a mind free from all prejudice, according to the Precept of Benedict XIV. Therefore they should put away all attachment to their particular country, family, school, or institute, and lay aside all partisan spirit. They must keep before their eyes nothing but the Dogmas of Holy Church, and the common Catholic Doctrine as contained in the Decree of General Councils, the Constitutions of the Roman Pontiffs, and the unanimous teaching of the Doctors of the Church. 40. If, after this examination, no objection appears to the publication of the book, the Ordinary shall grant to the Author, in writing and without any fee whatsoever, a License to publish, which shall be printed either at the beginning or at the end of the work.

CHAPTER III Of the Books to be Submitted to Censorship

41. All the faithful are bound to submit to preliminary Ecclesiastical Censorship at least those books which treat of Holy Scripture, Sacred Theology, Ecclesiastical History, Canon Law, Natural Theology, Ethics, and other Religious or Moral subjects of this character; and in general all writings specially concerned with Religion and Morality. 42. The Secular Clergy, in order to give an example of respect towards their Ordinaries, ought not to publish books, even when treating of merely natural arts and Sciences, without their knowledge. They are also prohibited from undertaking the management of newspapers or periodicals without the previous permission of their Ordinaries.

CHAPTER IV Of Printers and Publishers of Books

43. No book liable to Ecclesiastical Censorship may be printed unless it bear at the beginning the name and surname of both the Author and the Publisher, together with the place and year of printing and publishing. If in any particular case, owing to a just reason, it appears desirable to suppress the name of the Author, this may be permitted by the Ordinary. 44. Printers and publishers should remember that new editions af an approved work require a new Approbation; and that an Approbation granted to the original text does not suffice for a translation into another Language. 45. Books condemned by the Apostolic See are to be considered as prohibited all over the world, and into whatever Language they may be translated. 46. Booksellers, especially Catholics, should neither sell, lend, nor keep books professedly treating of obscene subjects. They should not keep for sale other prohibited books, unless they have obtained leave through the Ordinary from the Sacred Congregation of the Index; nor sell such books to any person whom they do not prudently judge to have the right to buy them.

CHAPTER V Of Penalties Against Transgressors of the General Decrees

47. All and every one knowingly reading, without Authority of the Holy See, the books of apostates and heretics defending heresy; or books of any Authors which are by name prohibited by Apostolic Letters; also those keeping, printing, and in any way defending such works; incur ipso facto excommunication reserved in a special manner to the Roman Pontiff. 48. Those who, without the Approbation of the Ordinary, print, or cause to be printed, books of Holy Scripture, or notes of commentaries on the same, incur ipso facto excommunication, but not reserved. 49. Those who transgress the other prescriptions of these General Decrees shall, according to the gravity of their offense, be seriously warned by the Bishop, and, if it seem expedient, may also be punished by Canonical Penalties. We Decree that these presents and whatsoever they contain shall at no time be questioned or impugned for any fault of subreption, or obreption, or of Our intention, or for any other defect whatsoever; but are and shall be ever valid and efficacious, and to be inviolably observed, both Judicially and extra-Judicially, by all of whatsoever rank and pre-eminence. And We declare to be invalid and of no avail, whatsoever may be attempted knowingly or unknowingly contrary to these, by any one, under any Authority or pretext whatsoever; all to the contrary notwithstanding. And We will that the same Authority be attributed to copies of these Letters, even if printed, provided they be signed by the hand of a notary, and confirmed by the seal of some one in Ecclesiastical Dignity, as to the indication of Our will by the exhibition of these presents. No man, therefore, may infringe or temerariously venture to contravene this Document of Our Constitution, Ordination, Limitation, Derogation, and Will. If any one shall so presume, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God, and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

Meditation for the first Friday of the Month of the Sacred Heart

detail of a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, by Ott Frères, 1892; Church at the Saint-Bernard-Abbé de Donnenheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France; photographed on 27 June 2016 by Ralph Hammann; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsIt is Sweet to Die in the Heart of Jesus.

At the hour of our death, when life, like a false friend, is about to forsake us, we must, in a special manner, increase our confidence in the heart of Jesus.

It is said that our Lord appeared one day to a holy soul who had conjured him to grant to a pious person a happy passage from this life, and addressed to her these consoling words:

“My daughter, where is the pilot who, having brought into port a vessel laden with precious stones, throws it into the sea at the moment of his arrival? Can you suppose that, after having granted so many graces to this soul in the course of her life, that I shall abandon her at the end thereof?”

Let us lean on the heart of Jesus; and driven on the stormy sea of this world, under the protection which he grants to those who love him, we shall one day triumphantly enter the desired port, and enjoy the eternal blessings of that holy guidance.

Death was always precious in the sight of God, for Jesus was to pass through its portal; it is precious to him still, for Jesus has died.

No one who is devout to the heart of Jesus will fail to find at the moment of his death more excellent and abundant treasures than he had ever expected to receive. Death, to himself precious, will not our Lord render it inexpressibly so to us? Faith cannot mistake the proofs of his tenderness. If we may venture to say so, the exile of the being he created is a sorrow to him as much as to the soul itself: for, like a tender father, God desires that his children should be with him in his kingdom. Of all the hours of life, this is the one which is the most precious in the sight of God, exerts the greatest power over his love, and for this very reason has such a mighty influence over his mercy and justice.

In order to receive the fullness of the new life to be merited by repentance through the divine reparation, every man must undergo the frightful trial of death; but is not this trial, caused by sin, like all other trials, a token of love on the part of God? Without death, life could not attain to its end; without death how could the soul ever reach eternal life?

The rebel angel escaped the sentence of death, but for him there was no resurrection. It is decreed that man should die, or rather, the soul cleansed by the blood of our Lord, and vivified by his love, passes into eternity before the body which it shall one day glorify, and united together, are called by Jesus to reign in heaven in a state so exalted that it could not have been won by primeval innocence.

Even in this world, without awaiting the eternal glorifying of humanity, the most beloved amongst the friends of God experience through their whole being a marvellous transformation which robs death of its terrors, and wholly disengages them from this transitory world. The interior light by which they are led is no longer human, but divine, through Jesus, and a supernatural love is substituted for that natural love which they made their law; and not only are their criminal affections destroyed, but the love of God above all things, gives them, even in this life, a foretaste of heaven. They feel no longer that engrossing care for the preservation of the body, but sigh after death, crying incessantly to God, with Saint Paul, Cupis dissolvi et esse cum Christo. They exult when they hear the clock strike, at the thought that one hour less remains for them to pass in this exile; death is no longer a passage of sorrow, but the desired way by which they shall go to the Lord; they sigh after it, they desire it, and would fain hasten the moment of its approach by the ardour of their desire for the enjoyment of a never-ending eternity. One single thing restrains them; it is when the perfection of love imposes on them a law of charity yet stronger, which would detain them in tins world for the glory of God, and the good of their brethren; “for,” says Saint Theresa, “thus do souls arrive at a strict union with Jesus.”

Thus ardently they have desired to die, in order to enjoy the presence of our Lord; this is their martyrdom at their exile being prolonged; yet they are so inflamed with the desire of knowing him, of making his name hallowed, of being useful to the souls of others, that far from sighing after death, they would wish to live for many years, even amidst the greatest sufferings, too happy in being able to add to the glory of their divine Master.

Perfect submission in death is an act of entire adoration, a magnificent profession of faith and praise; its beauty consists in the cheerful and ready sacrifice which the creature makes to the Creator of the life which, he had given, shadowing forth God’s power, in all its grandeur. Death beholds the soul already in adoration annihilated at the thought of the near approach of eternity; this, we may well imagine, is the kind of death the angels love to contemplate. The soul takes to itself no merit, places no trust on the way in which it has served God, and desires to possess even the smallest consolation the Church can bestow. It is specially attracted by the sanctity of God, which makes it aspire to become pure, pure almost beyond conception, in order to appear before the inviolable majesty of God, relying only on his mercy, never losing its confidence in the greatness of the divine compassion, but fearing lest its offences may be beyond the reach of pardon – dying the death of a child, fixing its eyes on the countenance of its tender Father. Why then, when in a state of grace, should we entertain a fear of death? “Who dwells in love, dwells in God, and God abides in him.” He who loves God is then sure of his grace; and dying in this state, is certain of enjoying for ever the sovereign good in the habitations of the elect. And can such a one fear death? David has, however, said, that no living man is entirely pure in the sight of God. Thus no one should have the presumption to hope for salvation through their own merits; for except Jesus and Mary, no one was ever exempt from sin. But we need not fear death when we have a true sorrow for our faults, and place our confidence in the merits of Jesus, who came on this earth in order to redeem and save sinners, for whom he shed his blood, for whom he died. “The blood of Jesus Christ,” says the apostle, “cries more loudly in favour of sinners than the blood of Abel for vengeance against Cain.” Grace transforms into a brilliant light that which by its nature was plunged in darkness and obscurity, and the plaintive cry of our misery is changed into a song of triumph; for the fetters which yet separate the soul of the dying from the heavenly Jerusalem are so near being severed asunder, that the triumphant alleluias of heaven mingle with the lamentations of earth, and the last gaze of repentant love is tenderly fixed on the crucifix, till earth fades from its view.

The transit of the creature from time to eternity is dear to the Creator; for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Let us throw aside, then, these vain fears of death, and regard it as a tribute which all must pay to nature. Let us be ready cheerfully to leave this world when our Lord shall call us to the land where the saints await us, and where we shall meet those who have instructed us in the faith, and whose victory will in some measure supply for the negligence with which we have performed our own duties towards our heavenly Father.

Let us unite ourselves to these glorious troops of blessed spirits who are seated in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; into which the good thief entered in triumph after a life of sin, and now enjoys, in the company of the elect, the ineffable delights of paradise; where there is neither darkness nor storms, intense heat, excessive cold, sickness, nor sorrow and where there is no need of the light of the sun, because the Sun of Justice alone enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem.

example

The Graces of the Last Hour.

We read the following touching account, in the life of Saint Gertrude, The saint once heard a preacher insist strongly on the strict obligation of a dying person to love God above all things, and to entertain for their sins a contrition founded on love. She believed this to be an exaggerated doctrine, and that if pure love was necessary, very few persons would die in the proper dispositions. She became interiorly disturbed, and a cloud obscured her mind; but our Lord himself vouchsafed to dispel her fears; telling her, “that in the last struggle, if the dying person had during life sought to please him, and to lead a Christian life, he would so mercifully reveal himself, that his love would penetrate into the inmost folds of the heart, causing it by his presence to make acts of the most perfect contrition;” and, added our Lord, “I would have my elect to know, with what a great desire I wish them to be united to me at that important moment. Let this be made known, so that men may rely no less on this last merciful grace, than on all the others which my love has lavished upon them.”

Let us propagate this consoling truth, so well calculated to inflame our hearts with the most lively love for so merciful a God.

Practice – Let us pray to the agonising heart of Jesus for the eighty thousand persons who, it is computed, die daily in this world.

O sweet Jesus! grant that I may die the death of those devoted to thy divine heart.

– from The Manual of the Sacred Heart, 1866; it has the Nihil obstat of Gul A. Johnson, S.T.D.

Meditation for the Eve of the First Friday of the Month of the Sacred Heart

detail of a stained glass rose window of the Sacred Heart, date and artist unknown; Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; photographed by Nheyob; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsOn the Confidence which we should Repose in the Heart of Jesus.

Of those who make profession of piety but few know Jesus Christ and the treasures of his mercy; thus they give themselves up but imperfectly to his love.

Nothing can be more pleasing to the loving heart of Jesus than the child-like and unlimited confidence which we testify in him. It is related in the life of Saint Gertrude, that one day, as she reflected on the extraordinary graces which she had received, she asked herself, How the revelations with which she had been favoured could be made known to mankind with the greatest profit to their souls? Our Lord vouchsafed her this reply:

It would be good, he said, for man to know, and never to forget, that I, their God and Saviour, am always present in their behalf before my heavenly Father. This should never be forgotten, that when through human frailty their hearts incline to sin, I offer for them my merciful heart; and when they offend God by their works, I present to him my pierced hands and feet, in order to appease the anger of divine justice.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, says the great apostle, is the mediator between God and man. He is now ascended into heaven, in order to aid our prayers by his powerful mediation. “Fail not,” says the devout Blosius, “to offer your good works and pious exercises to the most sweet heart of Jesus, in order that he may purify and perfect them, for his heart, so full of tenderness, takes delight in so divine a work. He is always ready to perfect in you whatever he sees imperfect or defective. Confidence is a key to the heart of Jesus. What may we not obtain from our fellow-creatures by the confidence we place in them? How much more, then, will it not obtain from God? How marvellous will be its effects if united with an absolute dependence on him!

Thus, when animated by faith, Peter walked on the waters as on dry land; but from the moment that fear entered his mind, the waters lost their sustaining power, and his compassionate Master, extending his hand, said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

On another occasion also, the tempest threatened to engulf the apostles, but Jesus said to them, having commanded the winds and the sea, “Where is your faith? why art you timid, have you then no faith?” In order to inspire us with a more lively confidence, our Lord Jesus Christ vouchsafed himself to teach us the prayer which we address to God, so that our heavenly Father, touched by the words of his own Son, might refuse us nothing which we ask in his name; for this he would have us call him by the sweet name of Father. But still not enough, in order to dispel all our diffidence, he carries his condescension even so far as to promise by a solemn oath to be always ready to listen to us. Amen, amen, dico vobis, si quid petientis, hoc faciam. “Timid souls,” he says, “I swear to you by myself, who am the way and the eternal truth; by myself, who hate falsehood, and who will punish perjury with eternal damnation; by myself, who can no more lie nor deceive than I can cease to be that which I am, I swear to you that I will grant what you ask of me.” These are thy promises, O my God, says Saint Augustine, and who can fear being deceived when he relies on the promises made by un-created Truth? When an upright man pledges you his word, you would believe that you erred if you showed after this any doubt or fear. “But if we receive the testimony of man,” says Saint John, ” His testimony of God, is it not greater?” Our divine Saviour holds himself so honoured by this confidence, that in a thousand passages in the gospel he attributes more to the miraculous efficacy of prayer than to his own mercy. Not saying to those who have recourse to him, “It is my goodness and my power,” but, “It is thy faith, thy confidence, which has saved thee.” Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed to Saint Gertrude that he who prayed to him with confidence was sure to obtain his request, that he could not do otherwise than listen to his prayers. “Whatever may be the grace you request,” says our Lord, “be sure of obtaining it, and it will be granted you.” This it is which Saint John Climacus expresses in a like manner, when he says, ” Every prayer offered up with confidence exercises over the heart of God a kind of violence, but a violence which is sweet and pleasing to him.” Saint Bernard compares the divine mercy to an abundant spring, and our confidence to the vessel which we make use of in order to draw these saving waters. The larger the vessel, the greater the abundance of the grace we shall bring away. Moreover, this is conformable to the prayer of the Psalmist, who sues for a mercy in proportion to his confidence. “Fiat misericordia tua Domine super nos, quemadmodum, speravimus in te.” = “Let thy mercy be upon us, O Lord, according to the hopes we have placed in thee.”

God has declared that he will protect and save all those who put their trust in him. “Let them be glad, then,” exclaims David; “let all those rejoice who hope in thee, O my God, for they shall be happy for all eternity, and thou wilt never cease to dwell in them.” He elsewhere says, “He who places his trust in the Lord shall dwell under the protection of the God of heaven.” “Yes, Lord,” says Saint Bernard, “it is hope alone which opens to us the treasure of thy mercies.” “The efficacy of prayer,” says Saint Thomas, “is drawn from faith, which believes in the promises of God, and confidence in the holy promises which he has made to us.”

We see, in short, in the sacred writings that the Son of God seems to take the faith of those who address themselves to him, as the rule for the help and the graces which he grants them, not only doing what they wish, but in the manner in which they ask it.

Grace is attached to confidence; it is a kind of axiom that he who puts his trust in God shall never be confounded. And the wise man defies a contrary example to be cited amongst all the nations of the world. “But our souls should be filled with consolations,” says Saint Ambrose, “when we remember that the graces which God grants us are always more abundant than those which we ask,” also “that the fulfilment of his promises always exceeds our hopes,” as says Ecclesiastes. “Let us have then a firm confidence” as Saint Paul recommends us, since the Lord has promised to protect whosoever hopes in him; and when obstacles present themselves which seem very difficult to overcome, let us say with the apostle, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me?

Who indeed was ever lost after having placed his trust in God?

But we need not always seek a sensible confidence, it will suffice if we earnestly desire it; for true, confidence is an utter dependence on God, because he is good, and wishes to help us; because he is powerful, and able to help us; because he is faithful, and has promised to help us.

example

The venerable Mary of the Incarnation relates that it was revealed to her on a certain occasion that the Eternal Father was. insensible to her prayer. She sought to know the cause, and an interior voice said to her, “Petition me through the heart of my Son, through which I will hear thee.” Address yourselves to the heart of Jesus, the ocean of love and mercy, and he will obtain for you, pious soul, and also for all poor sinners, the most signal graces.

Some time before her death, Saint Mechtilda earnestly asked of our Lord an important grace in behalf of a person who had asked her to pray for her. Seized with fear at the sight of the terrible judgements with which the justice of God would visit this soul, she was weeping bitterly, when our Lord addressed to her these consoling words, “My daughter, teach the person for whom you pray that she must seek all she desires through my heart.”

There is no heart so hard as not to be softened by the heart of Jesus, nor any soul so disfigured by the leprosy of sin that his love cannot purify, console, and heal.

– from The Manual of the Sacred Heart, 1866; it has the Nihil obstat of Gul A. Johnson, S.T.D.

Saint Cyril of Caesarea

Pictorial Lives of the Saints illustration for Saint Cyril, MartyrAlso known as

  • Cyril of Kayseri

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Raised in a wealthy pagan family, in his youth Cyril was baptized in secret. When his family learned of his conversion, his father banished him from the family estate. Cyril was imprisoned for his faith, and ordered by local officials to renounce Christianity and sacrifice to idols; he refused. Martyr.

Died

Canonized

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MLA Citation

  • “Saint Cyril of Caesarea“. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 June 2017. Web. 22 June 2017. <>

My Bible History, OT 12 – The Sacrifice of Isaac

The Sacrifice of IsaacAbraham and Sara were at last given a son whom they named Isaac. They loved him with all their hearts, because he had been sent as God had promised, to gladden them in their old age.

Abraham loved Isaac so much that God decided to prove whether he did not care more for his son than for his God. To prove Abraham’s faith, God one night commanded him, “Take Isaac and go to a mountain that I shall show you. There offer Me your son as a sacrifice.”

Abraham’s heart was filled with grief. But he had always obeyed God, and he wanted to continue obeying him. Therefore he prepared to do what God asked.

Abraham cut wood for the sacrifice. With two servants and his son, he set out to find the place that God would show him for the sacrifice.

Abraham and his companions traveled for three days until they came to the foot of a mountain, Mount Moriah. Abraham said to his servants. “Remain here with the ass. Isaac and I shall go up the mountain to sacrifice. Wait for our return.”

Abraham placed the wood upon the shoulders of Isaac. He himself carried the fire, and a knife. Then he and Isaac went up the mountain. As they ascended, Isaac inquired, “Father, we have fire and wood. But where is the victim for the sacrifice?”

“God will furnish a victim for the sacrifice,” Abraham replied.

Finally they came to the place for the sacrifice. Making an altar, they arranged the wood on it. Then Abraham bound Isaac and laid him upon the wood. With knife upraised, he was on the point of sacrificing Isaac when an angel called, “Abraham, do not kill your son. God knows now that you truly love Him, for you are ready to sacrifice Isaac at His command.”

How happy Abraham was! Looking around, he saw a sheep caught by the horns in some bushes. He took the sheep and offered him to God as a sacrifice instead of Isaac his son.

Isaac willingly carrying the wood up Mount Moriah is a figure of Jesus Christ carrying His Cross, as the willing divine Victim about to be offered up in sacrifice upon it.

– from My Bible History in Pictures, by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, D.D., 1934; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael J O’Doherty of Manila, Philippines

My Bible History, OT 11 – The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha

The Destruction of Sodom and GomorrhaIn time the flocks of Abraham and Lot increased, and quarrels arose between their herdsmen. Abraham loved peace, and therefore suggested that he and Lot separate. Lot went to live in Sodom, while Abraham remained at Hebron.

One day three strangers came to Abraham’s tent. He knew at once that one represented the Lord and that the other two were angels. He went with them some distance on their way to Sodom.

God told Abraham that He was about to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrha because their people had committed many impurities.

Abraham was filled with pity for the people. He asked, “Will You destroy the just with the wicked? If there be fifty just men there, will you spare the cities for their sake?”

And the Lord said, “I will.”

But Abraham continued interceding for the cities. Finally God promised, “I will not destroy them for the sake of ten just men.” Abraham then returned home, but the two angels went on to Sodom.

The two angels went to the house of Lot. He received them gladly. But when the people learned of the arrival of the strangers, many surrounded Lot’s house, wishing to do them harm. However, the wicked plan did not work out because the people were miraculously struck with blindness, and could not enter. The angels told Lot of the coming destruction of Sodom, in which there were not even ten just men.

Early the next morning the angels led Lot, his wife, and his two daughters out of the city. The angels warned them not to look back, but to flee the place at once. Out of curiosity, Lot’s Wife looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

God rained brimstone and fire upon Sodom and Gomorrha. Everything – people, cattle and houses – was destroyed. The place Where the cities were located was turned into a lake, what we now call the Dead Sea. No fishes can live in the sulphurous water of this lake: neither can plants grow on the shore. It is a fearful and lasting proof of God’s punishment of sins of impurity.

– from My Bible History in Pictures, by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, D.D., 1934; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael J O’Doherty of Manila, Philippines

My Bible History, OT 10 – The Promise to Abraham

The Promise to AbrahamAt Haran, in the midst of a wicked world, there lived a good man named Abram. He was chosen to carry on the knowledge of the true God, Whom others had forgotten.

Therefore God called Abram and said to him, “Abram, leave your country, and go to the Land of Chanaan.”

Abram did as God commanded him. He was obedient, although it was hard for him leave his old home and his friends. With his Wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and his servants and flocks, he went to Chanaan.

To reward him, God made him this promise: “I will give you and your children the land of Chanaan. You shall be the father of a great people. Through you all nations shall be blessed.”

From that time on, because God had promised the Land of Chanaan to Abram, it was called “The Promised Land.”

God blessed Abram. In the following years He gave him great riches. His flocks increased rapidly. Yet, though Abram was already very old, God had not given him a son. Remembering how God had promised that he should be the father of a great people, Abram prayed fervently. He asked. “Shall I die without children, shall I have to give all my riches to the son of one of my servants?”

God heard Abram’s prayer, and in the night called him out of his tent and said: “Look up, Abram, and try to count the stars in the sky, if you can. Your children and your children’s children shall be as numerous as those stars. They shall inherit this land that I promised to you.”

Abram believed all that God told him, and waited patiently for a son. One day, God said to him, “Your name from now on shall be Abraham, and not Abram, because you shall be the father of many nations. And your wife’s name shall be Sara, and no longer Sarai, because she shall be the mother of princes. For I will fulfill My promise to you, and will give you a son. I will bless him. He shall be the father of kings and nations. You shall name him Isaac.”

Because Abraham obeyed whatever the Lord commanded him, God blessed him all his days.

– from My Bible History in Pictures, by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, D.D., 1934; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael J O’Doherty of Manila, Philippines