On the Catholic Priesthood
Vocation to the Priesthood
What is a vocation to the Priesthood? It is a call from Christ to come and follow Him and become His Priest and help Him in the priestly work of His Church. This work is chiefly: celebrating Mass, administering the Sacraments, giving the blessings of the Church, and preaching the Gospel, and thereby helping other people to gain Heaven. Christ Himself called His first twelve Apostles and Priests. Ever since that time, He has been calling boys and young men to the Priesthood. Christ is God. So this vocation to the Priesthood comes from God. It always has, and it always will come from God. In one way or another, He calls to the Priesthood all those young men whom He has chosen. Without this call, there is no vocation. How did Jesus call His Apostles to the Priesthood? Did He do this with, or without, the help of others? In most cases, He had others helping Him, or at least preparing for the life and work of the Priesthood those who were to be called. One of His helpers was Saint John the Baptist. The chief work of John the Baptist was to tell the people about Jesus and prepare them to follow Him. He was preaching at the River Jordan. Among those who listened to him, were some young men. John was telling them about some of the wonderful things which the Promised Redeemer would do. Then a Man, dressed like other men of his time, was seen walking by. John the Baptist saw this Man, and knew that He was the Promised Redeemer. He said to the people: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I spoke” (John 1, 29). Two young men, John and Andrew, heard these words. They went to Jesus to learn who He was and what He was going to do. They loved Him and became His Apostles. John the Baptist had prepared them for this, and led them to it. In like manner, Jesus chose the other Apostles. After they were prepared with the help of others, He said to each of them: “Come, follow Me.” First, Jesus called the young men to be His Apostles. Then, He taught and trained them month after month until they were able to help Him with His work. Jesus is still calling to the Priesthood those whom He chooses, and training them with the help of others. It is true, He is seen no longer walking among men as a man. But He is still with them. He is with them in company with God the Holy Spirit. And He is with them as the Risen Savior, as the High Priest of His Church; He is with them personally in the Holy Eucharist. He is still calling those whom He chooses to be His Priests. God knows all things. He plans all things according to His own will. If we have a vocation to the Priesthood, God knew this before we came into the world. And He gave us the desire, talent, health, parents, and all else that we would need to follow our vocation. At first we may not know we have a vocation to the Priesthood. But at the proper time, God makes it known to us, sometimes suddenly, more often slowly and by degrees. Before Saint Paul was a Christian, he never even dreamed that he would be a Priest in Christ’s Church. He persecuted the Church which Christ founded. In so doing, he believed he was pleasing God, for he thought that the Jewish religion was still God’s one true Church. Suddenly, Jesus by a miracle struck him with blindness and spoke to him. At once Paul became a Christian, and then an Apostle and Priest. Some boys and young men learn of their vocation to the Priesthood suddenly. But most of them learn of it slowly. Day by day, it becomes clearer to them what God would have them do. A priest, a religious, a sermon, a book, a friend, or something else, inspires them with the thought that they have a vocation, or to be more sure of it. First, they may be in doubt; then they are almost sure; and then they become certain that Jesus is calling them, saying to them: “Come, and follow Me as a Priest.” God has placed each of us on earth to do a special work for Him. As soon as we come to the use of reason, we should begin praying and studying to find out what that work is; then we must fit ourselves to do that work well. If we think Christ is calling us to be a Priest in the diocesan Priesthood or to the Priesthood in the religious life, we should do all we can to make certain of it. We should pray fervently and consider whether we have the necessary health and strength, and whether we can be taught and trained to do the work of the Priesthood well. We must see to it that we keep from mortal sin and spare no effort to keep from all venial sin also. We must resolve to become a Priest not for any earthly pleasure or profit, but solely to help Christ in His Church, saving people from hell, helping them to Heaven, and making them holier and happier. And while we thus plan to be a Priest, we should be living, as well as we can, the life of the Priesthood.
Source: Vocations, Fr. Richard Felix, O.S.B.
The Duties of the Priest
Did you ever think about becoming a Priest? If so, one of your first thoughts was: What are the duties of a Priest? You knew that unless you found joys in the duties of the Priesthood, you could not be happy. And you knew that you could not do your best work for Christ, unless you were happy while doing it. You will find great joy in prayer. The life of a good Priest is a life full of prayer. He says now and then during the day and night the prayers which all other good Catholics say. In addition to these, he prays the liturgical prayers of the Church. Each day he celebrates Mass and says the Divine Office. While saying the Office, he studies in prayer the Bible for fully an hour a day. Then while administering the Sacraments and conducting other services, he says many other prayers in the name of the Church. Assisting at Mass fills your heart with peace and happiness. Each morning the Priest celebrates the Holy Sacrifice. In preparation for this sublime act of worship, he spends some time in prayer; and after the Holy Sacrifice, he again spends considerable time thanking God. Thus in prayer and Sacrifice, he spends another hour each day. Receiving the Sacrament of Penance brings peace and joy to you. Each week the Priest usually spends hours in the confessional. One after another, repenting sinners come and get God’s forgiveness of their sins. Then they go away holy and happy, resolving never to sin again. Your heart is thrilled with the joy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus every time you receive Him in Holy Communion. The Priest brings Jesus from the altar, and under the form of bread, places Him on your tongue in Holy Communion; and you receive Him into your body and soul. For a few moments, the Risen Jesus lives in you as in a living temple; and then as God, He continues to remain with you. You delight to tell others about Jesus and to explain His Gospel to them. Every day the Priest is engaged in this work. He does it while speaking with others. He does it while instructing those who come to him and wish to become Catholics. He does it while preparing children and older people for receiving the Sacraments. And he does it while preaching or giving instructions at Mass and other services. So day after day until death, the Priest spends most of his time doing the work and attending to the worship of God in His Church. You, too, would be very happy doing God’s work. Jesus is “a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”; pray for the day when by receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders you can be made and marked His faithful Priest forever.
Source: Vocations, Fr. Richard Felix, O.S.B.
Day 48 - April 21 - Easter Sunday - Annual Confessions
If Easter were prolonged to Pentecost, you would not go to Confession until Pentecost, or if the latter did not come around for ten years, you would go to Confession only every ten years. Indeed, if the Church did not give you a commandment about it, you would not go to Confession until death. What do you think of that, my dear brethren? Does it not mean that you have neither regret for having offended God, Who requires you to go to Confession, nor love for God, Who requires you to make your Easter Communion? Ah you will say to me, that's all very well. We do not make our Easter duty without knowing why.
Ah! You know nothing at all about it! You do it from habit, to be able to say you have made your Easter duty, or, if you would prefer to speak the truth, you would say that you have added a new sin to your old ones. It is not, therefore, either love of God or regret for having offended Him which makes you go to Confession or make your Easter duty, or even the desire to lead a more Christian life. And here is the proof of it: if you loved God, would you consent to commit sin with such ease, and even with so much enjoyment? If you had a horror of sin, as you should have, would you be able to keep it for a whole year on your conscience? If you had a real desire to live a more Christian life, would we not see at least some little change in your way of living?
No, my dear brethren, I do not wish to talk to you today about those unfortunate people who tell only half their sins through fear of not making their Easter duty or of being refused Absolution – perhaps even for the sake of covering up their shameful lives with the veil of virtue and who, in this state, approach the altar and are going to complete their dreadful work by handing over their God to the Devil and precipitating their sacrilegious souls into Hell.
No, I dare to hope that this does not concern you, but I will continue, nevertheless, to tell you that going to Confession only once a year is not something about which you should feel any peace or satisfaction.
Day 47 - April 20 - Holy Saturday - You Have Not The Time
We can only find our happiness on earth in loving God, and we can only love Him in prayer to Him. We see that Jesus Christ, to encourage us often to have recourse to Him through prayer, promises never to refuse us anything if we pray for it as we should. But there is no need to go looking for elaborate and roundabout ways of showing you that we should pray often, for you have only to open your catechism and you will see there that the duty of every good Christian is to pray morning and evening and often during the day – that is to say, always....
Which of us, my dear brethren, could, without tears of compassion, listen to those poor Christians who dare to say that they have not time to pray? You have not the 71
time! Poor blind creatures, which is the more precious action: to strive to please God and to save your soul, or to go out to feed your animals in the stable or to call your children or your servants in order to send them out to till the earth or to tidy up the stable? Dear God! How blind man is!.... You have not the time! But tell me, ungrateful creatures, if God had called you to die that night, would you have exerted yourselves? If He had sent you three or four months of illness, would you have exerted yourselves? Go away, you miserable creatures; you deserve to have God abandon you in your blindness and leave you thus to perish. We find that it is too much to give Him a few minutes to thank Him for the graces which He is giving us at every instant!.... You must get on with your work, you say.
That, my dear people, is where you are greatly mistaken. You have no other work to do except to please God and to save your souls. All the rest is not your work. If you do not do it, others will, but if you lose your soul, who will save it?
Day 46 - April 19 - Good Friday: Model Your Death Upon That of Jesus Christ
If we were required to die twice, we could jettison one death. But man dies once only, and upon his death depends his eternity. Where the tree falls, there shall it lie. If, at the hour of his death, someone is living in some bad habit, his poor soul will fall on the side of Hell. If, on the other hand, he is in the state of grace, it will take the road for heaven. Oh, happy road!....
Generally speaking, one dies as one has lived. That is one of the great truths which Holy Scripture and the Fathers repeat in many different places. If you live as good Christians, you will be sure to die as good Christians, but if you live badly, you will be sure to die a bad death. The prophet Isaias warns us that the impious man who thinks only of doing evil is in a woeful state, for he will be treated as he deserves. At death he will receive the reward for the work he has done. It is true, however, that sometimes, by a kind of miracle, one may begin badly and finish well, but that happens so rarely that, as St. Jerome puts it, death is generally the echo of life. You think that you will return then to God? No, you will perish in sin....
The Holy Ghost tells us that if we have a friend, we should do him some good before we die. Well, my dear brethren, could one have a better friend than one's soul? Let us do all the good for it that we can, for at the moment when we would like to do our souls good, we shall be able to do no more!.... Life is short. If you defer changing your ways until the hour of your death, you are blind, for you do not know either the time or the place where you will die, perhaps without any assistance. Who knows if you will not go this night, covered in your sins, before the tribunal of Jesus Christ?.... Yes, my dear brethren, as life is, so is death. Do not hope for a miracle, which God but rarely performs. You are living in sin; very well, you will die in sin....
If we desire to die a good death, we must lead a Christian life. And the way for us to prepare for a good death is to model our deaths upon the death of Jesus Christ. Can the life of the good Christian be anything other than that of a man nailed to the Cross with Jesus Christ?
Day 44 - April 18 - Prisoners of Sin
If we understood fully what it is to receive the sacraments, we should bring to the reception of them very much better sentiments than those we do. It is true that the greater number of people, in hiding their sins, always keep at the back of their minds the thought of acknowledging them. Without a miracle, they will not be any the less lost for that.
If you want the reason, it is very easy to give it to you. The more we remain in that terrible state which makes Heaven and earth tremble, the more the Devil takes control of us, the more the grace of God diminishes in us, the more our fear increases, the more our sacrileges multiply, and the more we fall away.
The result is that we put ourselves almost beyond the possibility of returning into favor with God. I will give you a hundred examples of this against one to the contrary. Tell me, my dear brethren, can you even hope that after passing perhaps five or six years in sacrilege, during which you outraged God more than did all the Jews together, you would dare to believe that God is going to give you all the graces which you will need to emerge from this terrible state? You think that notwithstanding the many crimes against Jesus Christ of which you have been guilty, you have only to say: "I am going to give up sin now and all will be over."
Alas, my friends! Who has guaranteed to you that Jesus Christ will not have made to you the same threat He made to the Jews and pronounce the same sentence which He pronounced against them?.... You did not wish to profit by the graces which I wanted to give you; but I will leave you alone, and you will seek Me and you will not find Me, and you will die in your sin!.... Alas, my dear brethren, our poor souls, once they are in the Devil's hands, will not escape from these as easily as we would like to believe.... Look, my dear brethren, at what the Devil does to mislead us.
When we are committing sin, he represents it to us as a mere trifle. He makes us think that there are a great many others who do much worse than we do. Or again, that as we will be confessing the sin, it will be as easy to say four times as twice. But once the sin has been committed, he acts in exactly the opposite way. He represents the sin to us as a monstrous thing. He fills us with such a horror of it that we no longer have the courage to confess it. If we are too frightened to keep the sin hidden, he tells us, to reassure us, that we will confess it at our very next Confession. Subsequently, he tells us that we will not have the courage to do that now, that it would be better to wait for another time to confess it. Take care, my dear brethren; it is only the first step which costs the effort. Once in the prison of the sin, it is very difficult, indeed, to break out of it....
But, you are thinking, I do not really believe that there are many who would be capable of hiding their sins because they would be too much troubled by them. Ah, my dear brethren, if I had to affirm on oath whether there were or were not such people, I would not hesitate to say that there are at least five or six listening to me who are consumed by remorse for their sins and who know that what I say is true. But have patience; you will see them on the day of judgment, and you will recall what I have said to you today. Oh, my God, how shame and fear can hold a Christian soul prisoner in such a terrifying state! Ah, my dear brethren, what are you preparing for yourselves?
You do not dare to make a clean breast of it to your pastor? But is he the only one in the world? Would you not find priests who would have the charity to receive you? Do you think that you would be given too severe a penance? Ah, my children, do not let that stop you! You would be helped; the greater part of it all would be done for you. They would pray for you; they would weep for your sins in order to draw down with greater abundance the mercies of God on you! My friends, have pity on that poor soul which cost Jesus Christ so dearly!.... Oh, my God, who will ever understand the blindness of these poor sinners! You have hidden your sin, my child, but it must be known one day, and then in the eyes of the whole universe, while by one word you would have hidden it forever and you would have changed your hell for an eternity of happiness. Alas, that a sacrilege can lead these poor sinners so far. They do not want to die in that state, but they have not the strength to leave it. My God, torment them so greatly that they will not be able to stay there!
Day 45 - April 18 - Holy Thursday- It is Necessary to be Converted
No, my dear brethren, let us never forget that in order to receive Holy Communion it is necessary to be converted and strong in a true resolution to persevere. When Jesus Christ desired to give His Adorable Body and His Precious Blood to His Apostles, in order to teach them how pure one should be before receiving It, He even went so far as to wash their feet. By that He wishes to show us that we can never be purified enough of our sins, even our venial sins. It is true that the venial sin does not make our Communions unworthy, but it is a cause of our profiting hardly at all by such a great blessing and happiness. The proof of that is very clear when you consider how many times we have received Holy Communion during the course of our lives. And have we become any better?.... No, not at all, and the real cause of that is that practically all the time we are holding onto our bad habits; we do not break ourselves of any one of them more than another. We have a horror of the big sins which kill our souls, but all those little fits of impatience, those grumblings when some worries or troubles befall us, or some disappointments or setbacks – these mean nothing to us. You will admit that in spite of so many Confessions and Holy Communions, you are always the same, that your Confessions are nothing else, nor have they been for years, than a repetition of the same sins, which, although venial, are none the less damaging to the merit of your Holy Communions.
You have been heard to say, with good reason, that you are no better one day than another, but who is stopping you from correcting your faults?.... If you are always the same, it is simply because you do not want to make even small efforts to improve yourself. You do not want to endure anything or to be opposed in anything. You would like everyone to be fond of you and to have a good opinion of you, which is a difficult enough thing.
Let us try hard, my dear brethren, to destroy all that could be in the smallest way displeasing to Jesus Christ, and we shall see how our Communions will help us to make great strides towards Heaven. And the more we do this, the more we shall feel ourselves becoming detached from sin and inclining towards God.... This is what I desire for you.
Day 43 - April 17 - We Are Nothing In Ourselves
Temptation is necessary to us to make us realize that we are nothing in ourselves. St. Augustine tells us that we should thank God as much for the sins from which He has preserved us as for those which He has had the charity to forgive us. If we have the misfortune to fall so often into the snares of the Devil, we set ourselves up again too much on the strength of our own resolutions and promises and too little upon the strength of God. This is very true.
When we do nothing to be ashamed of, when everything is going along according to our wishes, we dare to believe that nothing could make us fall. We forget our own nothingness and our utter weakness. We make the most delightful protestations that we are ready to die rather than to allow ourselves to be conquered. We see a splendid example of this in St. Peter, who told our Lord that although all others might be scandalized in Him, yet he would never deny Him.
Alas! To show him how man, left to himself, is nothing at all, God made use, not of kings or princes or weapons, but simply of the voice of a maidservant, who even appeared to speak to him in a very indifferent sort of way. A moment ago, he was ready to die for Him, and now Peter protests that he does not even know Him, that he does not know about whom they are speaking. To assure them even more vehemently that he does not know Him, he swears an oath about it. Dear Lord, what we are capable of when we are left to ourselves! There are some who, in their own words, are envious of the saints who did great penances. They believe that they could do as well. When we read the lives of some of the martyrs, we would, we think, be ready to suffer all that they suffered for God; the moment is short-lived,we say, for an eternity of reward. But what does God do to teach us to know ourselves or, rather, to know that we are nothing? This is all He does: He allows the Devil to come a little closer to us. Look at this Christian who a moment ago was quite envious of the hermit who lived solely on roots and herbs and who made the stern resolution to treat his body as harshly. Alas! A slight headache, a prick of a pin, makes him, as big and strong is he is, sorry for himself. He is very upset. He cries with pain. A moment ago he would have been willing to do all the penances of the anchorites – and the merest trifle makes him despair! Look at this other one, who seems to want to give his whole life for God, whose ardor all the torments there are cannot damp. A tiny bit of scandal-mongering.... a word of calumny.... even a slightly cold reception or a small injustice done to him.... a kindness returned by ingratitude.... immediately gives birth in him to feelings of hatred, of revenge, of dislike, to the point, often, of his never wishing to see his neighbor again or at least of treating him coldly with an air which shows very plainly what is going on in his heart. And how many times is this his waking thought, just as it was the thought that almost prevented him from sleeping? Alas, my dear brethren, we are poor stuff, and we should count very little upon our good resolutions!
Day 42 - April 16 - We Must Expect Temptation
It is most unfortunate for ourselves if we do not know that we are tempted in almost all our actions, at one time by pride, by vanity, by the good opinion which we think people should have of us, at another by jealousy, by hatred and by revenge. At other times, the Devil comes to us with the foulest and most impure images. You see that even in our prayers he distracts us and turns our minds this way and that. It seems indeed that we are in a state.... since we are in the holy presence of God [sentence incomplete – Trans.]. And even more, since the time of Adam, you will not find a saint who has not been tempted – some in one way, some in another – and the greatest saints are those who have been tempted the most. If Our Lord was tempted, it was in order to show us that we must be also. It follows, therefore, that we must expect temptation. If you ask me what is the cause of our temptations, I shall tell you that it is the beauty and the great worth and importance of our souls which the Devil values and which he loves so much that he would consent to suffer two Hells, if necessary, if by so doing he could drag our souls into Hell.
We should never cease to keep a watch on ourselves, lest the Devil might deceive us at the moment when we are least expecting it. St. Francis tells us that one day God allowed him to see the way in which the Devil tempted his religious, especially in matters of purity. He allowed him to see a band of devils who did nothing but shoot their arrows against his religious. Some returned violently against the devils who had discharged them. They then fled, shrieking hideous yells of rage. Some of the arrows glanced off those they were intended for and dropped at their feet without doing any harm. Others pierced just as far as the tip of the arrow and finally penetrated, bit by bit.
If we wish to hunt these temptations away, we must, as St. Anthony tells us, make use of the same weapons. When we are tempted by pride, we must immediately humble and abase ourselves before God. If we are tempted against the holy virtue of purity, we must try to mortify our bodies and all our senses and to be ever more vigilant of ourselves. If our temptation consists in a distaste for prayers, we must say even more prayers, with greater attention, and the more the Devil prompts us to give them up, the more we must increase their number.
The temptations we must fear most are those of which we are not conscious. St. Gregory tells us that there was a religious who for long had been a good member of his community. Then he developed a very strong desire to leave the monastery and to return to the world, saying that God did not wish him to be in that monastery. His saintly superior told him: "My friend, it is the Devil who is angry because you may be able to save your soul. Fight against him."
But no, the other continued to believe that it was as he claimed. St. Gregory gave him permission to leave. But when he was leaving the monastery, the latter went on his knees to ask God to let this poor religious know that it was the Devil who wanted to make him lose his soul. The religious had scarcely put his foot over the threshold of the door to leave when he saw an enormous dragon, which attacked him. "Oh, brothers," he cried out, "come to my aid! Look at the dragon which will devour me!" And indeed, the brethren who came running when they heard the noise found this poor monk stretched out on the ground, half-dead. They carried him back into the monastery, and he realized that truly it was the Devil who wanted to tempt him and who was bursting with rage because the superior had prayed for him and so had prevented the Devil from getting him. Alas, my dear brethren, how greatly we should fear, lest we do not recognize our temptations! And we shall never recognize them if we do not ask God to allow us to do so.
Day 41 - April 15 - He Will Help US
Yes, my dear brethren, in everything that we see, in everything that we hear, in all we say and do, we are conscious of the fact that we are drawn towards evil. If we are at table, there is sensuality, and gluttony, and intemperance. If we take a few moments of recreation, there are the dangers of flightiness and idle chatter. If we are at work, most of the time it is self-interest, or avarice, or envy which influences us – or even vanity. When we pray, there is negligence, distraction, distaste, and boredom. If we are in pain or any trouble, there are complaints and murmurings. When we are doing well and are prosperous, pride, self-love, and contempt for our neighbor take hold of us. Our hearts swell with pride when we are praised. Wrongs inflame us into rages.
There you see my dear brethren, the thing which made the greatest of the saints tremble. This was what made so many of them retire into the desert to live solitary lives; this was the source of so many tears, of so many prayers, of so many penances. It is true that the saints who were hidden away in the forests were not exempt from temptations, but they were far removed from so much bad example as that which surrounds us continually and which is the cause of so many souls being lost.
But, my dear brethren, we see from their lives that they watched, they prayed, and they were in dread unceasingly, while we, poor, blind sinners, are quite placid in the midst of so many dangers which could lose us our souls! Alas, my dear brethren, some of us do not even know what it is to be tempted because we hardly ever, or very rarely, resist. Which one of us can expect to escape from all these dangers? Which one of us will be saved? Anyone who wanted to reflect upon all these things could hardly go on living, so greatly terrified would he be! However, my dear brethren, what ought to console and reassure us is that we have to deal with a good Father Who will never allow our struggles to be greater than our strength, and every time we have recourse to Him, He will help us to fight and to conquer.
Day 40 -April 14 - Bad Company
My dear brethren, I call that man bad company who is without religion, who does not concern himself with either the commandments of God or those of the Church, who does not recognize Lent or Easter, who seldom comes to church or, if he does come, then only to scandalize others by his irreligious ways. You ought to shun his company; otherwise you will not be long in becoming like him without your even noticing it. He will teach you, with his bad talk as much as by his bad example, to despise the holiest things and to neglect your own most sacred duties. He will begin to turn your devotion into ridicule, to make some jokes about religion and its ministers. He will speak to you at length, in scandalous terms, about the priests or about Confession to such effect that he will cause you to lose entirely your taste for the frequent reception of the Sacraments. He will discuss the instructions of your pastors only in order to turn them into ridicule, and you can be quite certain that if you keep company with him for any length of time, you will see that, without even realizing it, you will begin to lose all taste for anything which is profitable towards the salvation of your soul. I call bad company, my dear brethren, this young or this old slanderer who has nothing but bad and foul words in his mouth.
Take good care, my children, for this type of person has a poison of his own! If you frequent his company, you may be quite certain that you will imbibe it and that, without a miracle of grace, you will die spiritually. The Devil will make good use of this wretch to sully your imagination and to corrupt your heart.
I would call that person bad company, my dear brethren, who is curious or restless or backbiting, who wants to know all that goes on in other people's houses, and who is always ready to form judgments about what he does not see at all. The Holy Ghost tells us that these people are not only hateful to the whole world but are also accursed of God. Fly from them, my dear brethren; otherwise you will become like them. You yourselves will perish with them.
Day 39 - April 13 - Are Your Affairs Going Better?
Another bad habit which is very common in homes and among working people is impatience, grumbling, and swearing. Now, my children, where do you get with your impatience and your grumbling? Do your affairs go any better? Do they cause you any less trouble? Is it not, rather, the other way around? You have a lot more trouble with them, and, what is even worse, you lose all the merit which you might have gained for Heaven.
But, you will tell me, that is all very well for those who have nothing to put up with.... If they were in my shoes they would probably be much worse.... I would agree with all that, my children, if we were not Christians, if we had nothing to hope for beyond what benefits and pleasures we might taste in this world. I would agree if – I repeat – we were the first people who ever suffered anything, but since the time of Adam until the present, all the saints have had something to suffer, and most of them far more than have we. But they suffered with patience, always subject to the will of God, and soon their troubles were finished, and their happiness, which has begun, will never come to an end. Let us contemplate, my dear brethren, this beautiful Heaven, let us think about the happiness which God has prepared for us there, and we shall endure all the evils of life in a spirit of penitence, with the hope of an eternal reward. If only you could have the happiness of being able to say in the evening that your whole day had been spent for God! I tell you that working people, if they want to get to Heaven, should endure patiently the rigor of the seasons and the ill humor of those for whom they work; they should avoid those grumbles and bad language so commonly heard and fulfill their duties conscientiously and faithfully. Husbands and wives should live peacefully in their union of marriage; they should be mutually edifying to each other, pray for one another, bear patiently with one another's faults, encourage virtue in one another by good example, and follow the holy and sacred rules of their state, remembering that they are the children of the saints and that, consequently, they ought not to behave like pagans, who have not the happiness of knowing the one true God.
Masters should take the same care of their servants as of their own children, remembering the warning of St. Paul that if they do not have care for them, they are worse than the pagans, and that they will be more severely punished on the day of judgment. Servants are to give you service and to be loyal to you, and you must treat them not as slaves but as your children and your brethren. Servants must look upon their masters as taking the place of Jesus Christ on earth. Their duty is to serve them joyfully, obey them with a good grace, without grumbling, and look after their well-being as carefully as they would their own. Servants should avoid the growth of too-familiar relationships, which are so dangerous and so fatal to innocence. If you have the misfortune to find yourself in such a situation, you must leave your employment, no matter what it may cost you to do so. Here is an example of those very circumstances wherein you must follow the counsel Jesus Christ gave you when He said that if one's right eye or right hand should be an occasion of sin, one must deprive oneself of them because it is better to go into Heaven lacking an eye or a hand than to be cast into Hell with one's whole body. That is to say, however desirable your position may be, you must leave it at once; otherwise you will never save your soul. Put the salvation of your soul first, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us, because that is the only thing you ought really to have at heart. Alas, my dear brethren, how rare are those Christians who are ready to suffer rather than to jeopardize the salvation of their souls!
Day 38 - April 12 - The Evil Tongues
There are some who, through envy, for that is what it amounts to, belittle and slander others, especially those in the same business or profession as their own, in order to draw business to themselves. They will say such evil things as "their merchandise is worthless" or "they cheat"; that they have nothing at home and that it would be impossible to give goods away at such a price; that there have been many complaints about these goods; that they will give no value or wear or whatever it is, or even that it is short weight, or not the right length, and so on. A workman will say that another man is not a good worker, that he is always changing his job, that people are not satisfied with him, or that he does no work, that he only puts in his time, or perhaps that he does not know how to work. "What I was telling you there," they will then add, "it would be better to say nothing about it. He might lose by it, you know." "Is that so?" you answer." It would have been better if you yourself had said nothing. That would have been the thing to do."
A farmer will observe that his neighbor’s property is doing better than his own. This makes him very angry so he will speak evil of him. There are others who slander their neighbors from motives of vengeance. If you do or say something to help someone, even through reasons of duty or of charity, they will then look for opportunities to decry you, to think up things which will harm you, in order to revenge themselves. If their neighbor is well spoken of, they will be very annoyed and will tell you: "He is just like everyone else. He has his own faults. He has done this, he has said that. You didn't know that? Ah, that is because you have never had anything to do with him."
A great many people slander others because of pride. They think that by depreciating others they will increase their own worth. They want to make the most of their own alleged good qualities. Everything they say and do will be good, and everything that others say and do will be wrong.
But the great bulk of malicious talk is done by people who are simply irresponsible, who have an itch to chatter about others without feeling any need to discover whether what they are saying is true or false. They just have to talk. Yet, although these latter are less guilty than the others – that is to say, than those who slander and backbite through hatred or envy or revenge – yet they are not free from sin. Whatever the motive that prompts them, they should not sully the reputation of their neighbor.
It is my belief that the sin of scandal-mongering includes all that is most evil and wicked. Yes, my dear brethren, this sin includes the poison of all the vices – the meanness of vanity, the venom of jealousy, the bitterness of anger, the malice of hatred, and the flightiness and irresponsibility so unworthy of a Christian.... Is it not, in fact, scandal-mongering which sows almost all discord and disunity, which breaks up friendships and hinders enemies from reconciling their quarrels, which disturbs the peace of homes, which turns brother against brother, husband against wife, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law and son-in-law against father-in-law? How many united households have been turned upside down by one evil tongue, so that their members could not bear to see or to speak to one another? And one malicious tongue, belonging to a neighbor, man or woman, can be the cause of all this misery....
Yes, my dear brethren, the evil tongue of one scandal-monger poisons all the virtues and engenders all the vices. It is from that malicious tongue that a stain is spread so many times through a whole family, a stain which passes from fathers to children, from one generation to the next, and which perhaps is never effaced. The malicious tongue will follow the dead into the grave; it will disturb the remains of these unfortunates by making live again the faults which were buried with them in that resting place. What a foul crime, my dear brethren! Would you not be filled with fiery indignation if you were to see some vindictive wretch rounding upon a corpse and tearing it into a thousand pieces? Such a sight would make you cry out in horror and compassion. And yet the crime of continuing to talk of the faults of the dead is much greater. A great many people habitually speak of someone who has died something after this fashion: "Ah, he did very well in his time! He was a seasoned drinker. He was as cute as a fox. He was no better than he should have been."
But perhaps, my friend, you are mistaken, and although everything may have been exactly as you have said, perhaps he is already in Heaven, perhaps God has pardoned him. But, in the meantime, where is your charity?
Day 37 - April 11 - The Service of The Blessed Virgin
If I wanted to, I would show you that in all walks of life there have been great servants of the Blessed Virgin. I would find for you, among them, those who begged their bread from door to door. I would find for you, among them, those who lived in much the same sort of state in life as many of you. I would find them for you among the wealthy, and in great number, too. We read in the Gospel that our Lord always treated people with great tenderness, except for one type of people whom He treated with severity; these were the Pharisees, and they were so treated because they were proud and hardened in sin. They would willingly have hindered, if they could, the accomplishment of the will of the Father. What is more, our Lord called them "whited sepulchers, hypocrites, brood of vipers, offspring of vipers, who devour the breasts of their mothers."
We can say the same thing on the subject of devotion to the Blessed Virgin. All Christians have a great devotion to Mary except those old and hardened sinners who, for a very long time, having lost the faith, wallow in the slime of their brute passions. The Devil tries to keep them in this state of blindness until that moment when death opens their eyes. Ah! If they had but the happiness to have recourse to Mary they would not fall into Hell, as will happen to them! No, my dear children, let us not imitate such people! On the contrary, let us follow the footsteps of all those true servants of Mary. Belonging to this number were St. Charles Borromeo, who always said his rosary on his knees. What is more, he fasted on all vigils of the feasts of the Blessed Virgin. He was so careful about saluting her on the stroke of the bell that when the Angelus rang, wherever he was, he went down on his knees, sometimes even in the middle of the road when it was full of mud. He desired that his whole diocese should have a great devotion to Mary and that her name would be uttered everywhere with the utmost respect. He had a number of chapels built in her honor.
Now then, my dear brethren, why should not we imitate these great saints who obtained so many graces from Mary to preserve them from sin? Have we not the same enemies to fight, the same Heaven to hope for? Yes, Mary always has her eyes upon us. Do we suffer temptations? Let us turn our hearts towards Mary and we shall be delivered.
Day 36 – April 10 - On Paradise
"Blessed, O Lord, are those who dwell in Your house: they shall praise You for ever and ever."
To dwell in the house of the good God, to enjoy the presence of the good God, to be happy with the happiness of the good God – oh, what happiness, my children! Who can understand all the joy and consolation with which the saints are inebriated in Paradise? St. Paul, who was taken up into the third heaven, tells us that there are things above which he cannot reveal to us, and which we cannot comprehend.... Indeed, my children, we can never form a true idea of Heaven till we shall be there.
It is a hidden treasure, an abundance of secret sweetness, a plenitude of joy, which may be felt, but which our poor tongue cannot explain. What can we imagine greater? The good God Himself will be our recompense: Ego merces tua magna nimis – I am your reward exceeding great. O God! the happiness You promise us is such that the eyes of man cannot see it, his ears cannot hear it, nor his heart conceive it.
Yes, my children, the happiness of Heaven is incomprehensible; it is the last effort of the good God, who wishes to reward us. God, being admirable in all His works, will be so too when He recompenses the good Christians who have made all their happiness consist in the possession of Heaven. This possession contains all good, and excludes all evil; sin being far from Heaven, all the pains and miseries which are the consequences of sin are also banished from it.
No more death! The good God will be in us the Principle of everlasting life. No more sickness, no more sadness, no more pains, no more grief. You who are afflicted, rejoice! Your fears and your weeping will not extend beyond the grave.... The good God will Himself wipe away your tears! Rejoice, O you whom the world persecutes! your sorrows will soon be over, and for a moment of tribulation, you will have in Heaven an immense weight of glory. Rejoice! for you possess all good things in one – the source of all good, the good God Himself.
Can anyone be unhappy when he is with the good God; when he is happy with the happiness of the good God, of the good God Himself; when he sees the good God as he sees himself? As St. Paul says, my children, we shall see God face to face, because then there will be no veil between Him and us. We shall possess Him without uneasiness, for we shall no longer fear to lose Him. We shall love Him with an uninterrupted and undivided love, because He alone will occupy our whole heart. We shall enjoy Him without weariness, because we shall discover in Him ever new perfections; and in proportion as we penetrate into that immense abyss of wisdom, of goodness, of mercy, of justice, of grandeur, and of holiness, we shall plunge ourselves in it with fresh eagerness. If an interior consolation, if a grace from the good God, gives us so much pleasure in this world that it diminishes our troubles, that it helps us to bear our crosses, that it gives to so many martyrs strength to suffer the most cruel torments – what will be the happiness of Heaven, where consolations and delights are given, not drop by drop, but by torrents!
Let us represent to ourselves, my children, an everlasting day always new, a day always serene, always calm; the most delicious, the most perfect society. What joy, what happiness, if we could possess on earth, only for a few minutes, the angels, the Blessed Virgin, Jesus Christ! In Heaven we shall eternally see, not only the Blessed Virgin and Jesus Christ, we shall see the good God Himself! We shall see Him no longer through the darkness of faith, but in the light of day, in all His Majesty! What happiness thus to see the good God! The angels have contemplated Him since the beginning of the world, and they are not satiated; it would be the greatest misfortune to them to be deprived of Him for a single moment. The possession of Heaven, my children, can never weary us; we possess the good God, the Author of all perfections. See, the more we possess God, the more He pleases; the more we know Him, the more attractions and charms we find in the knowledge of Him. We shall always see Him and shall always desire to see Him; we shall always taste the pleasure there is in enjoying the good God, and we shall never be satiated with it. The blessed will be enveloped in the Divine Immensity, they will revel in delights and be all surrounded with them, and, as it were, inebriated. Such is the happiness which the good God destines for us.
We can all, my children, acquire this happiness. The good God wills the salvation of the whole world; He has merited Heaven for us by His death, and by the effusion of all His Blood. What a happiness to be able to say, "Jesus Christ died for me; He has opened Heaven for me; it is my inheritance.... Jesus has prepared a place for me; it only depends on me to go and occupy it. Vado vobis parare locum – I go to prepare a place for you. The good God has given us faith, and with this virtue we can attain to eternal life. For, though the good God wills the salvation of all men, He particularly wills that of the Christians who believe in Him: Qui credit, habeat vitam aeternam – He that believes has life everlasting. Let us, then, thank the good God, my children; let us rejoice – our names are written in Heaven, like those of the Apostles. Yes, they are written in the Book of Life: if we choose, they will be there forever, since we have the means of reaching Heaven.
The happiness of Heaven, my children, is easy to acquire; the good God has furnished us with so many means of doing it! See, there is not a single creature which does not furnish us with the means of attaining to the good God; if any of them become an obstacle, it is only by our abuse of them. The goods and the miseries of this life, even the chastisements made use of by the good God to punish our infidelities, serve to our salvation. The good God, as St. Paul says, makes all things turn to the good of His elect; even our very faults may be useful to us; even bad examples and temptations. Job was saved in the midst of an idolatrous people. All the saints have been tempted. If these things are, in the hands of God, an assistance in reaching Heaven, what will happen if we have recourse to the Sacraments, to that never-failing source of all good, to that fountain of grace supplied by the good God Himself! It was easy for the disciples of Jesus to be saved, having the Divine Savior constantly with them.
Is it more difficult for us to secure our salvation, having Him constantly with us? They were happy in obtaining whatever they wished for, whatever they chose; are we less so? We possess Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; He is continually with us, He is ready to grant us whatever we ask, He is waiting for us; we have only to ask. O my children! the poor know how to express their wants to the rich; we have only our indifference, then, to accuse, if assistance and graces are lacking to us. If an ambitious or a covetous man had as ample means of enriching himself, would he hesitate a moment, would he let so favorable an opportunity escape? Alas! we do everything for this world, and nothing for the other! What labor, what trouble, what cares, what sorrows, in order to gather up a little fortune! See, my children, of what use are our perishable goods? Solomon, the greatest, the richest, the most fortunate of kings, said, in the height of the most brilliant fortune: "I have seen all things that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." And these are the goods to acquire which we labor so much, while we never think of the goods of Heaven!
How shameful for us not to labor to acquire it, and to neglect so many means of reaching it! If the fig tree was cast into the fire for not having profited by the care that had been taken to render it fertile; if the unprofitable servant was reproved for having hidden the talent that he had received, what fate awaits us, who have so often abused the aids which might have taken us to Heaven? If we have abused the graces that the good God has given us, let us make haste to repair the past by great fidelity, and let us endeavor to acquire merits worthy of eternal life.