The CAPG's Blog
Day 4 - Feb 29 - Catechism on the Blessed Virgin
The Father takes pleasure in looking upon the heart of the most Holy Virgin Mary, as the masterpiece of His hands; for we always like our own work, especially when it is well done. The Son takes pleasure in it as the heart of His Mother, the source from which He drew the Blood that has ransomed us; the Holy Spirit as His temple. The Prophets published the glory of Mary before her birth; they compared her to the sun. Indeed, the apparition of the Holy Virgin may well be compared to a beautiful gleam of sun on a foggy day.
Before her coming, the anger of God was hanging over our heads like a sword ready to strike us. As soon as the Holy Virgin appeared upon the earth, His anger was appeased.... She did not know that she was to be the Mother of God, and when she was a little child she used to say, "When shall I then see that beautiful creature who is to be the Mother of God?" The Holy Virgin has brought us forth twice, in the Incarnation and at the foot of the Cross; she is then doubly our Mother. The Holy Virgin is often compared to a mother, but she is much better still than the best of mothers; for the best of mothers sometimes punishes her child when it displeases her, and even beats it: she thinks she is doing right. But the Holy Virgin does not so; she is so good that she treats us with love, and never punishes us.
The heart of this good Mother is all love and mercy; she desires only to see us happy. We have only to turn to her to be heard. The Son has His justice, the Mother has nothing but her love. God has loved us so much as to die for us; but in the heart of Our Lord there is justice, which is an attribute of God; in that of the most Holy Virgin there is nothing but mercy. Her Son being ready to punish a sinner, Maryinterposes, checks the sword, implores pardon for the poor criminal. "Mother," Our Lord says to her, "I can refuse you nothing. If Hell could repent, you would obtain its pardon."
The most Holy Virgin places herself between her Son and us. The greater sinners we are, the more tenderness and compassion does she feel for us. The child that has cost its mother most tears is the dearest to her heart. Does not a mother always run to the help of the weakest and the most exposed to danger? Is not a physician in the hospital most attentive to those who are most seriously ill? The Heart of Mary is so tender towards us, that those of all the mothers in the world put together are like a piece of ice in comparison to hers. See how good the Holy Virgin is! Her great servant St. Bernard used often to say to her, "I salute you, Mary." One day this good Mother answered him, "I salute you, my son Bernard."
The Ave Maria is a prayer that is never wearisome. The devotion to the Holy Virgin is delicious, sweet, nourishing. When we talk on earthly subjects or politics, we grow weary; but when we talk of the Holy Virgin, it is always new. All the saints have a great devotion to Our Lady; no grace comes from Heaven without passing through her hands. We cannot go into a house without speaking to the porter; well, the Holy Virgin is the portress of Heaven.
When we have to offer anything to a great personage, we get it presented by the person he likes best, in order that the homage may be agreeable to him. So our prayers have quite a different sort of merit when they are presented by the Blessed Virgin, because she is the only creature who has never offended God. The Blessed Virgin alone has fulfilled the first Commandment – to adore God only, and love Him perfectly. She fulfilled it completely.
All that the Son asks of the Father is granted Him. All that the Mother asks of the Son is in like manner granted to her. When we have handled something fragrant, our hands perfume whatever they touch: let our prayers pass through the hands of the Holy Virgin; she will perfume them. I think that at the end of the world the Blessed Virgin will be very tranquil; but while the world lasts, we drag her in all directions.... The Holy Virgin is like a mother who has a great many children – she is continually occupied in going from one to the other.
Source: Lenten Reading plan: Daily readings from St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests, by Fr. Bryan W. Jerabek
Day 5 - Feb 29 - Catechism on the Word of God
My children, the Word of God is of no little importance! These were Our Lord's first words to His Apostles: "Go and teach"… to show us that instruction is before everything.My children, what has taught us our religion? The instructions we have heard. What gives us a horror of sin? What makes us alive to the beauty of virtue, inspires us with the desire of Heaven? Instructions. What teaches fathers and mothers the duties they have to fulfill towards their children and children the duties they have to fulfill towards their parents? Instructions.
My children, why are people so blind and so ignorant? Because they make so little account of the Word of God. There are some who do not even say an Our Father and a Hail Mary to beg of the good God the grace to listen to it attentively, and to profit well by it. I believe, my children, that a person who does not hear the Word of God as he ought, will not be saved; he will not know what to do to be saved. But with a well-instructed person there is always some resource. He may wander in all sorts of evil ways; there is still hope that he will return sooner or later to the good God, even if it were only at the hour of death. Instead of which a person who has never been instructed is like a sick person – like one in his agony who is no longer conscious: he knows neither the greatness of sin nor the value of virtue; he drags himself from sin to sin, like a rag that is dragged in the mud....
My children, you make a scruple of missing holy Mass, because you commit a great sin in missing it by your own fault; but you have no scruple in missing an instruction. You never consider that in this way you may greatly offend God. At the Day of Judgment, when you will all be there around me, and the good God will say to you, "Give Me an account of the instructions and the catechisms which you have heard and which you might have heard," you will think very differently.
My children, you go out during the instructions, you amuse yourselves with laughing, you do not listen, you think yourselves too clever to come to the catechism... do you think, my children, that things will be allowed to go on so? Oh no, certainly not! God will arrange matters very differently. How sad it is! We see fathers and mothers stay outside during the instruction; yet they are under obligation to instruct their children; but how can they teach them? They are not instructed themselves.... All this leads straight to Hell.... It is a pity!...
My children, I will give you an example of what it is not to believe what priests tell you. There were two soldiers passing through a place where a mission was being given; one of the soldiers proposed to his comrade to go and hear the sermon, and they went. The missionary preached upon Hell. "Do you believe all that this priest says?" asked the least wicked of the two. "Oh, no!" replied the other, "I believe it is all nonsense, invented to frighten people." "Well, for my part, I believe it; and to prove to you that I believe it, I shall give up being a soldier, and go into a convent." "Go where you please; I shall continue my journey." But while he was on his journey, he fell ill and died. The other, who was in the convent, heard of his death, and began to pray that God would show him in what state his companion had died. One day, as he was praying, his companion appeared to him; he recognized him, and asked him, "Where are you?" "In Hell; I am lost!" "O wretched man! Do you now believe what the missionary said?" "Yes, I believe it. Missionaries are wrong only in one respect; they do not tell you a hundredth part of what is suffered here."
My children, I often think that most of the Christians who are lost for want of instruction-they do not know their religion well. For example, here is a person who has to go and do his day's work. This person has a desire to do great penances, to pass half the night in prayer; if he is well instructed, he will say, "No, I must not do that, because then I could not fulfill my duty tomorrow; I should be sleepy, and the least thing would put me out of patience; I should be weary all the day, and I should not do half as much work as if I had rested at night; that must not be done."
Again, my children, a servant may have a desire to fast, but he is obliged to pass the whole day in digging and plowing, or whatever you please. Well, if this servant is well instructed, he will think, "But if I do this, I shall not be able to satisfy my master." Well, what will he do? He will eat his breakfast, and mortify himself in some other way. That is what we must do – we must always act in the way that will give most glory to the good God.
A person knows that another is in distress, and takes from his parents what will relieve that distress. He would certainly do much better to ask than to take it. If his parents refuse to give it, he will pray to God to inspire a rich person to give the alms instead of him. A well-instructed person always has two guides leading the way before him – good counsel and obedience.
Source: Lenten Reading plan: Daily readings from St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests, by Fr. Bryan W. Jerabek
Day 3 - Feb 28 - Catechism on the Holy Spirit
O my children, how beautiful it is! The Father is our Creator, the Son is our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is our Guide.... Man by himself is nothing, but with the Holy Spirit he is very great. Man is all earthly and all animal; nothing but the Holy Spirit can elevate his mind, and raise it on high. Why were the saints so detached from the earth? Because they let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit. Those who are led by the Holy Spirit have true ideas; that is the reason why so many ignorant people are wiser than the learned. When we are led by a God of strength and light, we cannot go astray.
The Holy Spirit is light and strength. He teaches us to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and between good and evil. Like glasses that magnify objects, the Holy Spirit shows us good and evil on a large scale. With the Holy Spirit we see everything in its true proportions; we see the greatness of the least actions done for God, and the greatness of the least faults. As a watchmaker with his glasses distinguishes the most minute wheels of a watch, so we, with the light of the Holy Spirit, distinguish all the details of our poor life. Then the smallest imperfections appear very great, the least sins inspire us with horror. That is the reason why the most Holy Virgin never sinned. The Holy Spirit made her understand the hideousness of sin; she shuddered with terror at the least fault.
Those who have the Holy Spirit cannot endure themselves, so well do they know their poor misery. The proud are those who have not the Holy Spirit.
Worldly people have not the Holy Spirit, or if they have, it is only for a moment. He does not remain with them; the noise of the world drives Him away. A Christian who is led by the Holy Spirit has no difficulty in leaving the goods of this world, to run after those of Heaven; he knows the difference between them. The eyes of the world see no further than this life, as mine see no further than this wall when the church door is shut. The eyes of the Christian see deep into eternity. To the man who gives himself up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there seems to be no world; to the world there seems to be no God.... We must therefore find out by whom we are led. If it is not by the Holy Spirit, we labor in vain; there is no substance nor savor in anything we do. If it is by the Holy Spirit,we taste a delicious sweetness... it is enough to make us die of pleasure!
Those who are led by the Holy Spirit experience all sorts of happiness in themselves, while bad Christians roll themselves on thorns and flints. A soul in which the Holy Spirit dwells is never weary in the presence of God; his heart gives forth a breath of love. Without the Holy Spirit we are like the stones on the road.... Take in one hand a sponge full of water, and in the other a little pebble; press them equally. Nothing will come out of the pebble, but out of the sponge will come abundance of water. The sponge is the soul filled with the Holy Spirit, and the stone is the cold and hard heart which is not inhabited by the Holy Spirit.
A soul that possesses the Holy Spirit tastes such sweetness in prayer, that it finds the time always too short; it never loses the holy presence of God. Such a heart, before our good Savior in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, is a bunch of grapes under the wine press. The Holy Spirit forms thoughts and suggests words in the hearts of the just.... Those who have the Holy Spirit produce nothing bad; all the fruits of the Holy Spirit are good. Without the Holy Spirit all is cold; therefore, when we feel we are losing our fervor, we must instantly make a novena to the Holy Spirit to ask for faith and love.... See, when we have made a retreat or a jubilee, we are full of good desires: these good desires are the breath of the Holy Spirit, which has passed over our souls, and has renewed everything, like the warm wind which melts the ice and brings back the spring.... You who are not great saints, you still have many moments when you taste the sweetness of prayer and of the presence of God: these are visits of the Holy Spirit. When we have the Holy Spirit, the heart expands – bathes itself in divine love. A fish never complains of having too much water, neither does a good Christian ever complain of being too long with the good God. There are some people who find religion wearisome, and it is because they have not the Holy Spirit.
If the damned were asked: Why are you in Hell? they would answer: For having resisted the Holy Spirit. And if the saints were asked, Why are you in Heaven? they would answer: For having listened to the Holy Spirit. When good thoughts come into our minds, it is the Holy Spirit who is visiting us. The Holy Spirit is a power. The Holy Spirit supported St. Simeon on his column; He sustained the martyrs. Without the Holy Spirit, the martyrs would have fallen like the leaves from the trees. When the fires were lighted under them, the Holy Spirit extinguished the heat of the fire by the heat of divine love. The good God, in sending us the Holy Spirit, has treated us like a great king who should send his minister to guide one of his subjects, saying, "You will accompany this man everywhere, and you will bring him back to me safe and sound." How beautiful it is, my children, to be accompanied by the Holy Spirit! He is indeed a good Guide; and to think that there are some who will not follow Him. The Holy Spirit is like a man with a carriage and horse, who should want to take us to Pans. We should only have to say "yes," and to get into it. It is indeed an easy matter to say "yes"!... Well, the Holy Spirit wants to take us to Heaven; we have only to say "yes," and to let Him take us there.
The Holy Spirit is like a gardener cultivating our souls.... The Holy Spirit is our servant.... There is a gun; well you load it, but someone must fire it and make it go off.... In the same way, we have in ourselves the power of doing good... when the Holy Spirit gives the impulse, good works are produced. The Holy Spirit reposes in just souls like the dove in her nest. He brings out good desires in a pure soul, as the dove hatches her young ones. The Holy Spirit leads us as a mother leads by the hand her child of two years old, as a person who can see leads one who is blind.
The Sacraments which Our Lord instituted would not have saved us without the Holy Spirit. Even the death of Our Lord would have been useless to us without Him. Therefore Our Lord said to His Apostles, "It is good for you that I should go away; for if I did not go, the Consoler would not come." The descent of the Holy Spirit was required, to render fruitful that harvest of graces. It is like a grain of wheat – you cast it into the ground; yes, but it must have sun and rain to make it grow and come into ear. We should say every morning, "O God, send me Your Spirit to teach me what I am and what You are."
Source: Lenten Reading plan: Daily readings from St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests, by Fr. Bryan W. Jerabek
Day 2 - Feb. 27- Catechism on the Love of God
Our body is a vessel of corruption; it is meant for death and for the worms, nothing more! And yet we devote ourselves to satisfying it, rather than to enriching our soul, which is so great that we can conceive nothing greater – no, nothing, nothing! For we see that God, urged by the ardor of His love, would not create us like the animals; He has created us in His own image and likeness, do you see? Oh, how great is man!
Man, being created by love, cannot live without love: either he loves God, or he loves himself and he loves the world. See, my children, it is faith that we want.... When we have not faith, we are blind. He who does not see, does not know; he who does not know does not love; he who does not love God loves himself, and at the same time loves his pleasures. He fixes his heart on things which pass away like smoke. He cannot know the truth, nor any good thing; he can know nothing but falsehood,because he has no light; he is in a mist. If he had light, he would see plainly that all that he loves can give him nothing but eternal death; it is a foretaste of Hell.
Do you see, my children, except God, nothing is solid – nothing, nothing! If it is life, it passes away; if it is a fortune, it crumbles away; if it is health, it is destroyed; if it is reputation, it is attacked. We are scattered like the wind.... Everything is passing away full speed, everything is going to ruin. O God! O God! how much those are to be pitied, then, who set their hearts on all these things! They set their hearts on them because they love themselves too much; but they do not love themselves with a reasonable love-they love themselves with a love that seeks themselves and the world, that seeks creatures more than God. That is the reason why they are never satisfied, never quiet; they are always uneasy, always tormented, always upset. See, my children, the good Christian runs his course in this world mounted on a fine triumphal chariot; this chariot is borne by angels, and conducted by Our Lord Himself, while the poor sinner is harnessed to the chariot of this life, and the devil who drives it forces him to go on with great strokes of the whip.
My children, the three acts of faith, hope and charity contain all the happiness of man upon the earth. By faith, we believe what God has promised us: we believe that we shall one day see Him, that we shall possess Him, that we shall be eternally happy with Him in Heaven. By hope, we expect the fulfillment of these promises: we hope that we shall be rewarded for all our good actions, for all our good thoughts, for all our good desires; for God takes into account even our good desires. What more do we want to make us happy?
In Heaven, faith and hope will exist no more, for the mist which obscures our reason will be dispelled; our mind will be able to understand the things that are hidden from it here below. We shall no longer hope for anything, because we shall have everything. We do not hope to acquire a treasure which we already possess.... But love; oh, we shall be inebriated with it! we shall be drowned, lost in that ocean of divine love, annihilated in that immense love of the Heart of Jesus! so that love is a foretaste of Heaven. Oh, how happy should we be if we knew how to understand it, to feel it, to taste it! What makes us unhappy is that we do not love God.
When we say, "My God, I believe, I believe firmly," that is, without the least doubt, without the least hesitation... Oh, if we were penetrated with these words: "I firmly believe that You are present everywhere, that You seest me, that I am under Thine eyes, that one day I myself shall see You clearly, that I shall enjoy all the good things You have promised me! O my God, I hope that You wilt reward me for all that I have done to please You! O my God, I love You; my heart is made to love You!" Oh, this act of faith, which is also an act of love, would suffice for everything! If we understood our own happiness in I being able to love God, we should remain motionless in ecstasy....
If a prince, an emperor, were to cause one of his subjects to appear before him, and should say to him, "I wish to make you happy; stay with me, enjoy all my possessions, but be careful not to give me any just cause of displeasure," with what care, with what ardor, would not that subject endeavor to satisfy his prince! Well, God makes the same proposals to us... and we do not care for His friendship, we make no account of His promises.... What a pity!
Day 1 - Feb 26 - Catechism on Salvation
There are many Christians who do not even know why they are in the world. "Oh my God, why have You sent me into the world?" "To save your soul." "And why do You wish me to be saved?" "Because I love you." The good God has created us and sent us into the world because He loves us; He wishes to save us because He loves us.... To be saved, we must know, love and serve God. Oh, what a beautiful life! How good, how great a thing it is to know, to love and serve God! We have nothing else to do in this world. All that we do besides is lost time. We must act only for God, and put our works into His hands.... We should say, on awaking, "I desire to do everything today for You, O my God! I will submit to all that You shall send me, as coming from You. I offer myself as a sacrifice to You But, O God, I can do nothing without You. Do help me!"
Oh, how bitterly shall we regret at the hour of death the time we have given to pleasures, to useless conversations, to repose, instead of having employed it in mortification, in prayer, in good works, in thinking of our poor misery, in weeping over our poor sins; then we shall see that we have done nothing for Heaven. Oh, my children, how sad it is! Three-quarters of those who are Christians labor for nothing but to satisfy this body, which will soon be buried and corrupted, while they do not give a thought to their poor soul, which must be happy or miserable for all eternity. They have neither sense nor reason: it makes one tremble.
Look at that man, who is so active and restless, who makes a noise in the world, who wants to govern everybody, who thinks himself as important, who seems as if he would like to say to the sun, "Go away, and let me enlighten the world instead of you." Some day this proud man will be reduced at the utmost to a little handful of dust, which will be swept away from river to river, and at last into the sea.
See my children, I often think that we are like those little heaps of sand that the wind raises on the road, which whirl round for a moment, and are then scattered.... We have brothers and sisters who are dead. Well, they are reduced to that little handful of dust of which I was speaking. Worldly people say it is too difficult to save one's soul. Yet nothing is easier. To observe the Commandments of God and the Church, and to avoid the seven capital sins; or if you like to put it so, to do good and avoid evil: that is all. Good Christians, who labor to save their souls and to work out their salvation, are always happy and contented; they enjoy beforehand the happiness of Heaven: they will be happy for all eternity. While bad Christians, who lose their souls, are always to be pitied; they murmur, they are sad, they are as miserable as stones; and they will be so for all eternity. See what a difference!
This is a good rule of conduct, to do nothing but what we can offer to the good God. Now, we cannot offer to Him slanders, calumnies, injustice, anger, blasphemy, impurity, night clubs, dancing; yet that is all that people do in the world. Speaking of dances, St. Francis of Sales used to say that "they were like mushrooms, the best were good for nothing." Mothers are apt to say indeed, "Oh, I watch over my daughters." They watch over their attire, but they cannot watch over their hearts. Those who have dances in their houses load themselves with a terrible responsibility before God; they are answerable for all the evil that is done – for the bad thoughts, the slanders, the jealousies, the hatred, the revenge.... Ah, if they well understood this responsibility they would never have any dances. Just like those who make bad pictures and statues, or write bad books, they will have to answer for all the harm that these things will do during all the time they last.... Oh that makes one tremble!
See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save, and an eternity that awaits us. The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away. Let us take care, then. The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well. We have begun badly; let us end well, and we shall go one day and meet them in Heaven.
Source: The Little Catechism of the Curé of Ars St. John Vianney (Patron Saint of Parish Priests)
Prayer for Lent: O Lord who, for our sake, didst fast forty days and forty nights; give us grace to use such abstinence that, our flesh being subdued to the spirit, we may worthily lament and acknowledge our wretchedness, and may obtain perfect remission and forgiveness of Thee, the God of all mercy, who livest and reignest with the Father and Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen
Lenten Reading plan: Daily readings from St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests
There are forty days of Lent – but there are more than forty days listed below! This is because Sundays and the days of the Sacred Triduum are not counted as part of the forty days of Lent. But in our spiritual discipline, it is good to have a certain consistency every day. Therefore, I have included enough daily readings for all of the days from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday.
The texts provided below are taken from the catecheses, exhortations, and sermon excerpts of the Holy Curé of Ars, Saint John Vianney. During the Year for Priests in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI has held up this important saint as a model for all parish priests. His writings contain a great depth of spirituality and wisdom.
These daily readings, which vary in length, will be a spiritual nourishment for all who read them. And as you read them, remember to pray for your priests: who baptized you, confirmed you, married you, anointed you, heard your confessions, and celebrated Mass for you. Your priest prays for you each day in his Mass and Breviary; do not forget to pray for him!
Source: Fr. Bryan W. Jerabek (Huntsville, Alabama, 2010)
Like the earth around its axis
Around the Catholic priesthood human society moves, like the earth around its axis, upon it society depends for its support, its life, its energy, as the planetary system depends on the sun.
No one understands this truth better than the devil and his associates in this world. When they wish to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priests: for, where there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and where there is no sacrifice, there is no religion, no absolution from sin, no preaching of the word of God. What should we do in the Church: the people would say; there is no Mass, our Lord is no longer there; there is no one there with power to forgive sins; there is no one there to preach the word of God; we may as well stay at home.
Oh, how sad would be the state of society were the priest to be banished from the earth! The bonds that unite the husband and wife, the child and the parent, the friend and the friend, would be broken. Peace and justice would flee from the earth. Robbery, murder, hatred, lust, and all the other crimes condemned by the Gospel, would prevail. Hope, the sweet consoler of the afflicted, of the widow and of the orphan, would flee, and in her stead would reign black despair, terror, and suicide. Where would we find the sweet virtue of charity, if the priest were to disappear forever?
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, by Fr. Michael Muller 1885
How can the lighting of a candle before some shrine help us?
The same way in which the offering can help us - by the good motive governing our action: "Whatsoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in name... he shall not lose his reward." (Mark iv 40).
The burning of a small candle is an insignificant action; but if it is done for God's glory and to honor one who is near to God, it becomes a meritorious action. "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Cor. x. 13.) "Whatsoever you do in word or in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Col. iii, 17). There is no reason why a candle could not or should not be burned to God's glory and in the name of Christ. The motive prompting a devout candle before the shrine of our Lord or saint is the very motive that urges a good citizen to drape a flag about the picture or statue of George Washington on February 22. How can a piece of cloth add to Washington's honor or assist the citizens? The representatives of a foreign nation goes to Mount Vernon and places a wreath of flowers upon Washington's tomb. We applaud and deem that our country has been honored. There is no need to explain or analyze that sentiment; it is a natural one, and everybody understands and appreciates it. That same sentiment is elevated to a religious and supernatural sphere when a Catholic burns a candle before the shrine of one of God's heroes. His intention is to honor the memory of that saint and thus give glory to God in whose cause that saint lived and worked and died; he asks the saint to pray to God for him; he begs God to hear and answer the saint's intercession; he is urged to imitate the saint's virtues; he feels inclined to serve God better. In other words, he performs an action which his supernatural motives render pleasing to God and of great benefit to himself.
Source: Our young People, a Home Magazine, Nov. 1916
Understanding Latin at Mass
It is not necessary to understand every word of Latin said by the priest at Catholic Religious services, any more than it is necessary to understand every word enunciated by Caruso or Gadski in grand opera!
Source: Our Young People, 1916
Greater than the prophets
The priest of the Catholic Church is greater than the prophets. The prophets beheld the Redeemer only from afar, in the dim future. The Catholic priest beholds him present before his eyes; he touches the long-wished-for Redeemer with his hands; he offers him up to his heavenly Father;he carries him through the streets; he even feeds on the sacred flesh and blood of the Holy one; he receives Him into his heart, and unites himself most intimately to Him in Holy Communion.
The prophets foretold that, when the fullness of times should come, God would write His laws, not on stone, but on men's hears; he would govern men, not by the law of servile fear, but by the sweet bonds of holy love; that God Himself would dwell in them, and direct them by His grace. Now, this fullness of time for which the prophets sighed, came with Jesus Christ. He gave His grace, His own divine life, to man, and He gave it super-abundantly; and as the ministers of that grace, He chose, not the prophets, not his angels, but the priests of the Catholic Church. O Ineffable dignity!
The Catholic priest has the Patriarchal dignity of Abraham. Abraham is called the Father of the Faithful. The priest is, in reality, the father of the faithful; he makes them the children of God, by preaching the Gospel, and especially by the holy sacrament of baptism. The priest stands at the helm of the Church - the ark of salvation like Noah. He is consecrated forever, according to the order of Melchizedek, he is invested with a dignity far higher that that of Aaron. Aaron offered up only the blood of sheep and oxen, while the priest offers up the Blood of the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The priest has the authority of Moses. Moses led the people of God through the desert, to the promised land; the priest leads the children of God through the desert of this life, to the true land of promise - their home in heaven.
Source: The Catholic Priest by Fr. Michael Muller, 1885
By the brushwood we understand short excerpts from the Scriptures, which wicked men violently tear out of context to support their contentions, and with smoke and fire kill great numbers of people, that is, the smoke of error and the fire of passion, so that the flames of lust might consume the mind of those who are deceived by their evil teachings and so that the darkness of their vicious doctrine might confound them.
These indeed, are the remains that were seen in the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah after these cities had bee destroyed: "Next morning," Scripture says, "Abraham rose early and went to the place where he had stood in the presence of the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all the wide extent of the plain, and there he saw thick smoke rising high from the earth like the smoke of a limekiln." Again when he besieged the town of Thebez with his forces, Abimelech seemed to prefigure the attack on chastity. "There was a tall castle in the middle of the city," as Scripture affirms, "and all the citizens, men, and women, and the princes of the city took refuge there. They shut themselves in and went on to the roof, standing upon the battlements of the castle. The city is the universal Church, the castle of chastity is its high point, in which both men and women, the strong and the weak, take refuge, and also the princes of the city, namely, the order of clerics who wield authority in the Church. And when Abimelech came up to the castle, the battle became more fierce, and, approaching the gate, he tried to destroy it by fire.
In the same way senseless and wanton clerics attempt to set fire to the castle of chastity as they exhort many to follow the example of their voluptuousness and burning madness. Firebrands in hand, they attack the castle of chastity as the impure enkindle the chaste with the flames of their pernicious arguments.
But who will end this battle? On whom does this struggle bestow the trophies of victory?
Scripture says: "And then a woman threw a piece of millstone down on Abimelech and fracture his skull. He called hurriedly to his armor bearer and said: "Draw your sword and dispatch me, or men will say of me: A woman killed him." So the young man carried out the order and killed him.
The Devil knows....
The devil knows that he would meet with a poor reception were he to attack a priest openly; he, therefore, uses every artifice to ensnare him.
Some times he tries to make vice appear less deformed and less shameful than it really is. At other time he points out to the priest the great number of clergy whose lives are no better than his own.
At one time he tempts the priest to presumption, and at another time to despair. Some he emboldens and lulls to sleep by the secret suggestion that they have great virtues which hide their little weaknesses, and that, moreover, they are resolved not to go too far.
There are some who even make virtues of their very vices, who call their sinful attachments by the sacred name of charity. We imagine, says St. Augustine, that whatever we love is good, and that whatever is pleasing is holy.
Again, how many priests have been ensnared by inordinate curiosity! Under the pretext of gaining information, they have been anxious to see everything, to hear everything, to read everything, to know everything, and soon they came to do everything also!
There are certain ties which a wise man does not simply untie or unknit; no, he breaks them off at once. There are moments in our life when we must be able to say with calm, unflinching determination: "Non possumus."
There are victories which can be gained only by flight (St. Aug. Serm 250. De temp.) In order to preserve their chastity unsullied the saints suffered and sacrificed everything. Why did St. Augustine shed so many tears? Why did St. Jerome go through so many night-watches? Why did St. Hilarion keep so many severe fasts? Why did all the saints undergo so many maceration and mortifications? It was that they might preserve unstained the holy virtue of chastity. How many of them have even sacrificed their lives, in order to preserve this virtue, thus uniting the palm of martyrdom with the crown of virginity? The virtue of holy chastity is in itself a miracle of fortitude - a strength which seems to surpass even the fortitude of martyrs. The combat of the martyrs is fierce indeed, but it is not lasting; but the combat of the virgins ends only with their last breath.
Let us glorify and bear God in our body. Let us offer this body to God as a living, holy and pleasing victim. Let us unite the sacrifice of our body with that of the adorable victim which we daily offer on the altar. Where shall we find this mortification of Christ, if not in those who nourish themselves daily with the flesh of Christ? Let us pray that God may forever preserve and increase in us this angelic virtue. Let us pray especially to the Virgin of virgins, that she may obtain for us that glorious crown which is reserved for the virgins in heaven.
A servant of God once saw in purgatory many who were suffering for having committed sins against the virtue of holy purity; but she did not find one priest among them. On asking the reason of this, the angel told her that scarcely one impure priest ever does sincere penance for his sins, and that consequently such unworthy priests are lost.
Source: The Catholic Priesthood by Rev. Fr. Michael Muller, 1885
The Priest has the key to the treasures of Heaven!
All the other gifts of God would avail us nothing without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if there were no one to open the door for you?
Now, the priest has the key of all the treasures of heaven; it is he who opens the door. He is the steward of the Lord's household, the administrator of his goods. Without the priest the passion of our Lord would profit us nothing. Look at the poor heathens. Of what benefit is our Lord's death to them? Alas! They can have no share in the Redemption, so long as they have no priest to apply Christ's blood to their souls.
Ah! To whom shall I compare the priest? There is no created being like him, even in heaven or on earth. In establishing the priesthood God seems to have exhausted all the treasures of His power and mercy. Indeed, in the light of faith, the man disappears altogether in the priest. Faith beholds in him nothing but Jesus Christ, continuing, in him and through him, the work of redemption for the honor of His Father and the salvation of mankind.
Truly, when we see the priest of the Catholic Church, weak and sinful as he is, gifted with powers which angels dare not claim; power to forgive sins, power to announce his word, power to which Satan submits, when we see the priest possessing power over God Himself, possessing power to bear Him, to place Him, to give Him to whom He wills - we cannot help exclaiming in amazement: " O wondrous miracle! O unheard-of power!" A greater power than this God could not give: it is His own almighty power! A greater dignity that this God could not bestow upon a mortal being!
Since God, then, has placed the priests of the Catholic Church upon the thrones of His own power and sanctity, since He has given them the titles of "saviors of the world," since He call them His cooperators in the divine work of redemption, what wonder if He commands all men to hear, to obey, and to honor them, as they are bound to hear, to obey, and to honor God Himself! "He that heareth you," says He, "Heareth me; He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye."
Source: The Catholic Priesthood, Fr. Michael Muller 1885
Our Parish Clergy
You are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I My self am. Isaias XLIII, 10.
The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and in equity, and turned many away from iniquity. Malch. n, 6.
When the faithful throughout the world gather round their altars to hear the Gospel preached to them, or to partake of the Bread of Life, those words of the Savior come home to them, "Where there are two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (1 St. Matt, xviii, 20) words which assure them that His sacred Presence is with them and will continue with them until the end of time. The kind and loving Lord is with us not merely in the words that teach us how to live but rather in the spiritual Food that makes us live.
It is at the Eucharistic Banquet especially, during which we incessantly nourish our souls and gather in spiritual strength, that He truly lives with us. And yet His adorable Presence is not visible to us, but hidden under an impenetrable sacramental veil. This alone is a marvelous condescension on the part of our loving Master. The fact that He is living with us, that He is watching over us, that He is perpetually interceding for us, that His Holy Spirit is influencing our thoughts, words and actions all this is more than poor sinful men could hope for.
But the kind Master was not satisfied with this. He knew that if we had to look ever and only with the eyes of faith, a feeling of longing and incompleteness would soon take possession of our souls, just as the Jews after a time began to loathe the heavenly manna and longed for other food, and He has given us further evidence of His presence and protection. For this purpose He has made us members of a visible society, His Church here on earth, and appoints visible representatives to take His place and look after our interests. These representatives are His pontiffs, His bishops and His priests, with whom He shares His power, and through whose visible agency He continues the ministry of souls, a work which He Himself discontinued as a visible task when He ascended into Heaven. It was preferably to these representatives that His first Pontiff, St. Peter, addressed the words: "Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God and Jesus Christ."
In the design of our Great Shepherd, who likened His Church to a sheepfold, and for its more effective government, this visible Church is divided into minor folds, called dioceses. These again are divided into many subordinate ones, called parishes, every one having at its head its own visible shepherd, the parish priest.
It is easy to gauge the dignity of the man who is placed over one of these subordinate folds, not simply because he works directly for souls, nor because his hands are consecrated to the service of the altar thousands of others share these privileges with him but because he is officially delegated to watch over a certain portion of the great flock, and shares his pastorship with him who was named by Christ Himself to feed the lambs and the sheep. His right to govern is ratified by the Church; she reserves to the parish priest certain jurisdiction over souls which she does not permit others to exercise unbidden; that is to say, even though others have the spiritual power to help souls by conferring the Sacraments, they have not the authority to use it.
Seeing that the Church singles out and confers special privileges on these delegated shepherds, it follows that she desires the faithful to respect not merely the privileges themselves but also the persons who possess them. Our Church teaches us that our parish priest is an ambassador of God, that he is among us as His visible representative. And since we respect God we should respect His ambassador; since we love God with a grateful and tender love, we should show a similar love for the ambassador who represents Him. We listen to God and obey Him when He manifests His will; should we not also submit our judgment and will to him who shares God s authority and who commands in His name? Three duties, therefore, are imperative on us all in our relations with our parish priest, namely, respect, love, obedience.
It is necessary in the present age to insist on the first of these duties, because sectarian hatred of the priestly character tends to show itself, preferably against those who are pastors of souls. If it can succeed in casting contumely on the shepherds, the faith of the flocks is soon weakened, for even Catholics are influenced by evil reports. And this is precisely the end the enemy aims at. Happily in our days the priestly dignity is worthily borne by those who are invested with it; our pastors and leaders of parishes are men who are admirable in their zeal and abnegation. We see among them young men with a long life of service still before them, who fully realize their position and the obligations attached to it, and who are consequently working with a will for God and souls. We see among them other men whose years of strenuous watchfulness have stretched into decades, venerable priests with hair whitened with age, who stand with their hands raised like those of Moses, mediating with God for the flocks entrusted to their care. This is no fanciful picture; every diocese in our country possesses such men; and to show them respect is paying a tribute to their personal virtue as well as to their sublime office. It is not merely their priestly character, which entitles them to our veneration, but their upright lives; and their many acts nobly done call for the respect of all noble minds.
Respect alone, while praiseworthy, is not all that is due to those who, in the mind of the Church, are the fathers of our souls. It is to the parish priest as to a spiritual father that our love should go out. A dutiful child loves him to whom he owes the preservation of his physical being, and he is looked on as an ingrate among men who would withhold his love from the one who provides him with the temporal necessities of life. The parish priest fills a similar role in the spiritual world, and he should have a share in our love. The word "gratitude" is expressive of the just appreciation of a gift. And yet do we always appreciate at their just value the spiritual gifts that come to us through the shepherds of our souls? Baptism, whereby we are made true children of God; absolution, whereby our sins are wiped out; direction, whereby our foot-steps in the rough road of the spiritual life are smoothed down; Holy Communion, whereby our souls are fed and strengthened are all gifts that come to us through the ministrations of our spiritual guide; they surely entitle him to our gratitude and love. We can never hope to give adequate return for favors such as these the things of heaven are not purchasable with gold or silver but we should try to repay, in our own human way, by a grateful thoughtfulness, that is, by the tribute of our prayers and by a genuine affection, the long hours of fatigue in the sick room and in the tribunal of penance, and the other works of the sacred ministry. In return for his labors in our behalf, gratitude for our parish priest should urge us to contribute joyfully to his support, and to soften the roughness of his life by adding to his frugal comforts. The true shepherd of souls looks for very little in this world; one of his chief rewards here below is the affection of his people.
Obedience is the natural outcome of respect and love. We are ready to obey him whom we respect and love, and this is the best way of showing our third and last duty. Our parish priest has been lawfully named a shepherd over a portion of the flock of Christ. He commands with an authority which comes down to him in an unbroken line, through pontiffs and bishops, from the Saviour Himself, who said, "Go teach all nations. . . He who hears you hears Me." When our parish priest, therefore, counsels, urges, commands, he does so with the sanction of the Universal Church and of its Founder whose ambassador he is.
Nor should we be chary in rendering homage to his authority or obedience to his wishes. The privileges of the pastor of souls is to teach by word and example. When he teaches he presupposes a spirit of submission to his voice not only in things that are obligatory, or otherwise commanded, but even very often in things that may be left to our own initiative. Naturally, the advice of one who is teacher and father at the same time, and whose vast experience gives his words a special cogency, should be listened to with becoming respect and submission. This is the dictate of sound common sense. It does not take a philosopher long to decide whether it is more reasonable that the head should obey the other members
of the body or that the body should follow the direction of the head. In all organized communities there must be a chief who rules and directs. When subordination to leadership is lacking the logical result is anarchy of thought and action. Insubordination and opposition, even in minor matters, are always the sources of great evils; in a parish they only too often lead souls to disaster.
It is also our duty as Catholics and as members of Christ's flock, to cooperate with those who are placed in spiritual authority over us. The interests of the Church necessarily demand a certain amount of lay action from her members; to labor for the salvation of souls should surely not be the exclusive privilege of the clergy. Happily, there are many who fully appreciate this truth; there are, in every parish, laymen who are willing to work with their pastor in things affecting the glory of God, and who thereby give both God and His ambassador ineffable consolations. Those laymen have not the sacerdotal halo on their brow, nor have they ever tasted the austere joys of the sacred ministry; but they are the unselfish helpers of God s priests, all the same, and they may look for their share in the reward reserved for those who have been formally chosen for the work of the sanctuary.
If it should happen, that the obligations of family, or state, or age, or health, prevent our lay-folk from cooperating actively in parish work, their zeal should not for that reason be rendered inactive. In prayer they have a powerful lever which they may use whenever they wish. Let parishioners, therefore, pray for their shepherds, that God may preserve them in health and actuate the zeal which their ministry calls for. Let parishioners pray for the works of their pastors, that these works may be meritorious in the sight of the Most High. Sad, indeed, should be the plight of a shepherd of souls who on the Day of Judgment would be forced to say: "Unhappy man that I am! I too have worked among the flocks; yet I am a castaway." If we respect, love and obey our pastors, we shall have done at least our share to prevent such a catastrophe.
Feb. 18: St. Simeon, Bishop and Martyr
St. Simeon was the son fo Cleophas, otherwise called Alpheus, brother to St. Joseph, and of Mary, sister to the Blessed Virgin. He was therefore nephew both to St. Joseph and to the Blessed Virgin, and cousin to Our Savior. We cannot doubt that he was an early follower of Christ, and that he received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, with the Blessed Virgin and the apostles. When the Jews massacred St. James the Lesser, his brother Simeon reproached them for their atrocious cruelty. ST. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, being put to death in the year 62, 29 years after Our Savior's Resurrection, the apostles and disciples met at Jerusalem to appoint him a successor. They unanimously chose St. Simeon, who had probably before assisted his brother in the government of that Church.
In the year 66, in which Sts. Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom at Rome, the civil war began in Judea, by the sedition of the Jews against the Romans. The Christians in Jerusalem were warned by God of the impending destruction of that city. They therefore departed out of it the same year, before Vespasian, Nero's general, and afterwards emperor, entered Judea, and retired beyond Jordan to a small city called Pella, having St. Simeon at their head. After the taking and burning of Jerusalem they returned thither again, and settled themselves amidst its ruins, till Adrian afterwards entirely razed it. The Church here flourished, and multitudes of Jews were converted by the great number of prodigies and miracles wrought in it.
Vespasian and Domitian had commanded all to be put to death who were of the race of David. St. Simeon had escaped their searches; but, Trajan having given the same order, certain heretics and Jews accused the Saint, as being both of the race of David and a Christian, to Atticus, the Roman governor in Palestine. The holy bishop was condemned to be crucified. After having undergone the usual tortures during several days, which, though one hundred and twenty years old, he suffered with so much patience that he drew on him a universal admiration, and that of Atticus in particular, he died in 107. He must have governed the Church of Jerusalem about forty-three years.
Source: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints