Sunday, June 15, 2008

Interior Silence

1. Many people allow themselves to be swept away in the confusion of the world around them. Modern life has become a whirling machine which snatches men up into its enormous rotators and carries them with it. Not only has it become difficult to remain Christian, but it is even difficult to continue to be a man.

We cannot cast aside the natural gifts of intellect, free will, and personal dignity which God has given us. Still less can we renounce the dignity of being Christians. This dignity can be retained by interior recollection, which will be nourished by divine grace if we ask for it and will find its external expression in good works. A man must be able to detach himself from the din of modern life and spend an occasional moment in recollection. No matter what is going on around him he must be able to find time to raise his mind to God. Otherwise he will realise one day that life has passed him by like a cloud, or, worse still, like a lost battle. We shall not be tormented with useless regrets on our deathbed if we think about this now.

2. God speaks readily when our souls are silent. He cannot be heard in the noise of the world. But we do not have to abandon our normal way of life in order to find a little interior recollection. It is enough to pause for a moment and remember God's presence. Once we have formed the habit of doing this, it becomes quite easy at any time and in any place. We may be walking along the street or in the middle of our work. We may be in a room full of people chatting together. Wherever we are, we shall be able to pause and raise our minds to God. If we acquire this habit, we can lead peaceful lives on a completely supernatural level.

3. It is much easier to recollect ourselves in the Church in front of the altar. For this reason one could not sufficiently recommend a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every morning before going to work and every evening before going to bed.

The ideal is always daily Mass and Holy Communion. This will be tiring and my be inconvenient. But God is infinitely good and will handsomely reward us for anything we do out of love for Him or for our own spiritual welfare.

The Will

1. The coat of arms of the great city of Chicago bears the motto "I will." With this forceful approach to its programme of expansion, it was not long before it became one of the largest cities in America. It grew to be a wealthy industrial centre, in which skyscrapers, factories and churches sprang up side by side.

When it is said with sincerity and determination, this little phrase, "I will," is capable of producing amazing results both in the physical and spiritual order. St. Thomas Aquinas was once asked by a nun what were the requirements for sanctity. He replied that the chief thing necessary was a strong and decisive act of the will, which would be certain to be reinforced by divine grace. The Saints began every project by making a sincere and definite resolution to succeed. They were weak creatures like the rest of us, but they knew that if they wanted something intensely enough God would grant whatever miracles they needed. The father who asked Jesus to heal his son pleaded: If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us, to which Jesus replied: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes (Mk. 9:16-22). The same answer could be given to any of us who say that we are anxious to beome holy. Anything is possible if we really want it, because God will do the rest.

2. St. Paul seems to contradict this idea when he writes: There is question not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy. (Rom. 9:16)

What he says is true. Our will is inadequate to effect anything without the grace of God. But it is equally true that the grace of God is not sufficient without an act of the will on our part. God created us as intelligent beings with the marvellous gift of free will. Because He respects the liberty which He gave us He will not compel us by His grace to become holy. He only assists us. His assistance is absolutely necessary, because of ourselves we are incapable of forming a good intention, let alone performing a good action. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, St. Paul says elsewhere, to think anything, as for ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. (2 Cor. 3:5)

It is necessary, therefore, that our resolutions should be accompanied by the grace of God. We should pray fervently and make firm decisions. We must pray for divine grace, but it depends on our own will to ensure that God's grace produces results in us. This is the only way in which we can become perfect.

3. We are assured of this by St. Paul and by all the Saints. I can do all things in him who strengthens me, (Phil. 4:13) wrote the Apostle of the Gentiles. By the grace of God I am what I am, and hsi grace in me has not been fruitless --- in fact, I have laboured more than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (I Cor. 15:10)

So let us go forward. Be determined. Work hard. Above all, pray humbly and fervently for the grace of God, without which we can do nothing that is good.

The Duties of Our State

1. Everyone finds himself in a certain position in life. He may be there either through force of circumstances or through somebody else's desire or through some secret inspiration from God. In any case, each of us is in a certain sense place, and God either wills it or permits it. We should not complain about our state in life. No matter what that state is, we can either be saved or damned for all eternity. In any position we can do a great deal of good or a great deal of evil, according to the way in which we co-operate with the grace of God. We should not envy the positions of others. This would be unjust, because it would be tantamount to questioning the arrangements of Providence, which gives everyone the graces necessary in his particular state. It would also be injurious, in so far as we should be worried and disturbed instead of working peacefully and earnestly in the place assigned to us by God.

2. Some are called by God to the lofty state of the priesthood or of the religious life. This is a very great grace. We should co-operate generously and do our best to overcome any obstacles we meet. Others are called to become good Christian fathers and mothers and to rear a family. This is a most important role, because the proper education of children and the future of the Church and of society depend on it. Every position has its obligations, which each of us should work hard to fulfil in every detail. The grace appropriate to our state will be available to us. But this grace has to be balanced by a sincere determination on our part to carry out carefully the duties of our state. Let us examine ourselves in this regard. If we discover that we have been neglectful or deficient in any way, let us resolve to put things right.

3. Let us be content or at least resigned in the position in which Providence has placed us. Let us pay special attention to those things which we are obliged to do. Anything which is not necessary should be left until later, even if it is more pleasant or seems more worthwhile in itself. Let us never become involved in business which is incompatible with our state or dangerous to our eternal welfare. Let us not make light of minor offences against the duties of our station. Smaller transgressions gradually become greater. Above all, let us try and sanctify our calling. It is one thing to work conscientiously, another to work in a spirit of holiness. Even pagans can do their duty earnestly. Doing our duty is only a help to our eternal salvation if it is done with God's grace for the purpose of serving Him, for His love and glory. This should be our manner of behaviour. If it is, we can claim to have sanctified our state in life and to have made our work holy.

The Order of the Day

1. Monks and nuns can have a fixed daily rule of life, but this is not possible for everybody. However, everybody will find it useful to have a general timetable capable of being bvaried to suit different circumstances. In constructing a general rule of life for ourselves, we should keep two things in mind, namely the division of the day into periods and the way in which we shall behave during these periods.

It is hopeless to begin the day without any pre-arranged plan. Either there is going to be order or disorder. If there is disorganisation, it will produce two results. (1) There will be hurry and confusion in fulfilling those duties which have been left over until the end of the day. (2) There will be protracted periods of idleness, during which we shall persuade ourselves that there will be plenty of time to get everything done before nightfall.

To avoid such a situation, everyone should have a timetable adopted to his requirements. Naturally, it should be capable of any reasonable variations which circumstances may suggest, but in the meantime it will help us to get through our day calmly and with results.

2. Besides organising our day on the basis of a timetable, it is wise to work out in advance the way in which we shall behave during the different hours. It is easy to be taken by surprise, carried away by events, and as a result to waste time or do things badly. We should make up our minds as to how we should behave in the presence of God and in the presence of men. Concerning our relations with God, the best resolution is to begin the day by prayer and, if possible, a visit to the Church. Our ideal will be to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion. During the day, especially in moments of trial, we shall raise our minds and hearts to God by means of short ejaculations. We shall live in the presence of God; we shall live in His life. We shall end the day by making a visit, however brief, to the Blessed Sacrament, and by saying our evening prayers. When we are going to sleep we shall say certain prayers and remember the presence of God. This is a day in the life of a good Christian. How many can say they spend their day like this?

3. Once we have decided on our manner of behaviour towards God, it is necessary to determine how we shall act in regard to our neighbour. We can have quite a number of unexpected matters to which we must attend during the day, but normally we have a good idea what kind of people we shall be dealing with. There will be people who are an occasion of sin. We must ry to avoid these, but if that is not possible we must be on our guard and rely on the weapons of divine grace to protect us. There will be troublesome and annyoing people, with whom we must be patient and restrained. There will be people who are in want, either materially or spiritually, whom we must enlighten and assist. We shall meet difficulty and complicated problems, to deal with which we must ask God for insight and prudence. If we live in intimate union with Our Lord, we shall be competent to deal with all the business of the day, especially with the unexpected.

The Early Hours of the Day

1. Waking up in the morning is like being raised to life again. Sleep, which is necessary for the restoration of energy, is an image of death. During those hours of sleep it was as if you did not exist any longer. Your mind was unconscious, your limbs inactive. Now God gives you life once more and the strength to live it. Your first thoughts, therefore, should be directed towards Him. When the sun rises, all creation sings hymns of praise to God. The flowers shake the night-dew from their petals and send up their perfume to their Creator. The birds drawing their heads from beneath their warm wings, sing their morning canticles. Now, man is master of the universe. Therefore he should gather together these perfumes and these voices and offer them to God along with the homage and adoration of his whole being.

2. Unfortunately, there are many who never give the slightest thought to God when they rise in the morning. Or perhaps they think that a quick, mechanical sign of the cross satisfies all their religious obligations. A good Christian could not behave in this fashion. He kneels to say his morning prayers, and raises his mind and heart to God in acts of thanksgiving, reparation and love. Only in this way can he begin the day with peace and confidence, knowing that during it he will have continual need of God's assistance. If hitherto you have not behaved like this, make up your mind to begin every day in future by offering yourself to God along with all your work, plans, and worries. This offering will be a wonderful spiritual advantage throughout the day.

3. If possible, it is desirable to begin the day by visiting Jesus. He is always in the tabernacle waiting patiently and lovingly for us to visit Him. Why could we not spend at least one half-hour with Him? There are twenty-four hours in the day. Must we spend them in sleep, work, amusement and conversation without ever pausing to speak with Jesus? What about Mass and Holy Communion? It is true that we are not obliged to go to Mass on weekdays, nor have we a strict obligation to recieve Holy Communion except during the Paschal period. But a genuine Christian should not be satisfied with doing only what is commanded under pain of mortal sin. He should love Jesus so much that he will experience an urgent need of communication with Him. He should be ready to sacrifice a little of his early-morning sleep for the purpose of receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. There is no surer way of being able to resist the temptations of the day and of acquiring peace of spirit. The practice of daily Communion can transform a man's life.

The Causes of Discontent

1. It is hard to find anyone in this world who is really content. Some grumble about poor health, others about not having enough to live on, other about an unsuccessful career. Some complain about the lack of sympathy and the ingratitude of men; other about constant temptation, spiritual dryness and the discouragement of frequently falling into sin. Still other are confined to a bed of pain for weeks, months or even years at a time. There are some, too, who must endure mental suffering which is greater than any physical pain. Perhaps they have lost a loved one who was the centre of their own life upon earth, or perhaps they are suffering from a loss of reputation, the result of some calumny or of some moment of weakness on their own part. In short, this world can be compared, to quote St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, to an unsatisfactory hotel in which we must spend the night while we are waiting for the breaking of an eternal day in which we shall be able to see God. He is fortunate who knows how to live contentedly or at least resignedly in this poor boarding-house until the dawn of that better life which is the only object of our earthly journey.

2. There are a few people in the world however, who are always content. They walk lightly upon the earth, for their minds are already with God in Heaven and their hearts are united to Him. Have they any anxieties or disappointments? They have, and they feel them deeply. But sorrow can make them bow their heads only for a moment, and then they reaise them cheerfully again. They understand that they are suffering for God, even as they live and work only for Him. Therefore their reaction to every sorrow or humiliation is always the same: Deo Gratias! If God wants it this way, I must be satisfied, too. May His holy will be done in all things. These people are the Saints who are never lacking in the Church. The Apostles rejoiced in the insults and ill-treatment they received from the Sanhedrin. They departed from the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41). Do we desire to possess also the only kind of contentment it is possible to have on earth? Let us do our best to become holy. That is the only way open to us.

3. There is only one reason for our dissatisfaction. It is given by St. Augustine, profound observer that he was of the human heart: "You have made us for Yourself alone, O God, and our will always be uneasy until they rest in You." (Confessions, I, 1:1) If anyone rushes in all directions looking for happiness, he will never find it. The created things of this world cannot satisfy our hearts, which are on a far higher plane than they are. Worse still, a man may look for happiness in pleasure or in sin, but he will find only bitterness and disgust. Let us look to God alone. If we do everything for Him, a gleam of eternal happiness will brighten up our earthly pilgrimage.


1. By self-love we mean here an inordinate love of self. We are not forbidden to love ourselves. In fact, this is something natural to us and therefore intended by God. We should love ourselves, however, in a properly ordered manner. In the first place, we must love God above everything and therefore more than ourselves. God is our creator, and our Redeemer and our final end. Everything comes to us from Him, and for this reason everything must return to Him. We should not be self-centred, but God-centred. In other words, we must direct all our actions towards God, not towards ourselves. We cannot set our own ego in the place which belongs to God, still less above Him. To do so would be equivalent to robbing God, because everything is His and we ourselves belong to Him. If we have any intelligence at all, let us remember that God gave it to us. If we have sound health, strength or good looks, let us remember that these are His gifts. If we have amassed a great store of cultural or artistic learning as a result of our own ability and study, let us not become too attached to it nor look for praise and admiration. It is God Who gave us this ability and the energy and enthusiasm to cultivate it. Honour and glory are due to God alone.

2. "Self-love dies three days after ourselves," St. Francis de Sales was accustome to remark. What he meant was that it is very difficult to think and act only for God, without our won ego raising its head and stealing some of His glory. It is hard to be humble in the presence of God. But it is harder still to be humble before men. When anybody genuflects in front of the altar and begins to pray in the presence of God, it is not too difficult for him to bow his head and recognise his own weakness and dependence. But it is different among other men. In the presence of men we are easily tempted to display ourselves and our endowments. We feel displeased when we are not noticed nor praised. Let us steer clear of the esteem of men. Humility is the foundation of every virtue. If we are not humble, we can never become holy.

3. There are three tiny blossoms which can scarcely be seen --- those of the corn, the olive, and the vine. Nevertheless, from these we receive grain, oil and win --- three very precious commodities. These three little blossoms are almost invisible in comparison with other larger flowers, such as that of the magnolia, which do not yield any useful fruit. They should present us with a starting-point for meditation. Would we like our actions to be valuable in the sight of God and bring forth fruit? Let us be humble and suppress love of self. Then God will look on us with favour. He will give us His grace and make fertile the work which we do purely for Him. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

The Love of Our Neighbour

1. The Gospel not only commands us to love God above all things, but also to love our neighbour as ourselves (Cf. Mt. 13:35-40). The Christian love of our neighbour flows necessarily from the love of God. Our Creator loves all men as His own sons. Therefore we ought to love on another as brothers, even as Our Lord loves us. We should see in our neighbour, especially if he is in need, the person of Christ himself, our elder brother, the first-born among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).

If men sincerely loved on another, not merely as brothers, but as much as they love themselves, what problems would be solved! Who can say how many evils would be abated and how many sorrows would be assuaged? To transform the world it would be enought to put into practice the first great commandment of the Gospel, which is the commandment of charity. Admittedly, the world would not become an earthly paradise, for any such Utopia is an impossibility. But it would become a dignified dwellingplace of brothers loving and helping one another. Love is the fulfilment of the Law, (Rom. 13:10) St. Paul very truly says. Have charity, which is the bond of perfection. (Col. 3:14)

2. But who really loves his neighbour as if he were himself? Only the Saints. Jesus loved us not only as much as He loved Himself, but much more than this, because He gave His life and His own precious blood for our salvation. The Saints, who lived the life of Christ and followed His example, saw Jesus in all their fellowmen. Therefore they loved them as themselves and even more than themselves. One could cite thousands of instances of heroic charity in the lives of the Saints. The example of St. Paul will suffice, however. He said that his life was so much the life of Christ that it was not he himself who was living any longer, but Christ in him. But he also claimed to be continually driven by charity, so far as to desire even separation from Christ if that would save or help his brothers (Rom. 9:3). Do we possess this sincere and active love of our neighbour? Let us examine oursleves in this regard. Let us remember that if we are lacking in this charity towards our brothers in Jesus, we are not genuine Christians.

3. A few hundred yards from the centre of a big city one often finds groups of hovels in which large numbers of families are living, herded together in poverty. There in the winter time these poor people suffer from the cold and damp. Often their homes are badly roofed and they have not even a loaf of bread to kill the pangs of hunger. Not very far away there are luxurious mansions and expensive villas ... and up and down the stress drift splendidly upholstered cars, carrying men and women for whom the only thing in life that matters is pleasure.

"Love your neighbour as yourself," the Gospel says. How far we still are from the realisation of this command. Men would need to go to these poor hovels to do the Spiritual Exercises. They would need to live in these places for at least a month. Many ideas would be changed and many hearts transformed if this were done. The slums, cabins, caves, and other hovels in which men have to live, bear sad testimony to the fact that the Gospel has not yet been understood by man, and that Christian charity has still a long way to go. Consider before God if you are responsible, even in some small way, for this wretched state of affairs. From the resolution of contributing as far as possible to the relief of so much want and suffering.

The Love of God

1. God's law is founded on love. We read in the Gospel how the Pharisees asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus replied: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as theyself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. (Mt. 22:37-40)

If a man wants to know if he is living a good Christian life, therefore, all he has to do is ask himself if he loves God above everything and his neighbour as himself. If he lacks this love, he is not a true Christian; everything else is insignificant, if not uselss. "Love God," says St. Augustine "and do what you will." Why so? Because if anyone loves God sincerely, he does not offend Him. Moreover, he serves Him diligently and promotes His honour and glory by every means in his power. Nor does he find it very difficult to do this. Love gives wings to his feet and pours enthusiasm and fervour into his heart. "He who loves does not feel tired," says St. Augustine. "Where there is love" adds St. Bernard. "there is no weariness, but a gentle pleasure instead."

2. If we really know God, we should love Him above all created things. I have loved You too little, My God, said St. Augustine in his Confessions, because I have not know You well enough. If we knew God, we should recognise that He is infinite beauty, goodness and wisdom. We should realise that the beauty of creatures is like a passing cloud, for it is a vague and distant reflection of the eternal beauty of God. We should realise that the wisdom of men is only a ray of God's light which comes from Him and must return to Him. Finally we should perceive that men are good only in so far as they do their best to respond to the inspirations of grace which God has placed in their hearts. God alone is in Himself and of Himself supremely true, beautiful, good, wise and holy. Created things are only an invitation to love God, their Creator. God alone, therefore, is supremely lovable in Himself. In the apt words of St. Bernard, "God Himself is the reason why we should love God; and the measure of our love should be measureless." Let us not allow ourselves to become entangled in the empty passing things of this world, but let us raise our minds and hearts to God.

3. We must love God not only as our Creator and Lord, but also as our Redeemer and Saviour. God's goodness in having created us is immense. Being infinite, He had no need of us. He created us in order to give us a participation in His infinite power, wisdom and beauty. The goodness of God in heaving become man and shed His blood for our salvation, however, is such a tremendous mystery that only the infinite love of God for us could provide any kind of an explanation. But this infinite love demands equal love on our part. Obviously it, cannot be equal, since we are poor, limited creatures. So we should love God, as the Gospel says, above all things and with the whole strength of ours souls. "We have come to know, and have believed, the love that God has in our behalf," (I John 4:16) says St. John. We must believe firmly and effectually to the point of charity. Charity works miracles. It has worked miracles in the Saints. It will do the same for us in the spiritual life and in our external apostolic work. There is only one thing necessary, and that is for us to have this ardent charity, which is the bond of perfection. (Col. 3:14)

The Use of Creatures

1. God has created all things for Himself, as He is the most perfect being and the final end of all things. He has made man supreme in the world, however, and has made all other creatures subject to him (Cf. Gen. 1:28). This God-given supremacy over the universe continues even after the fall of Adam. It can no longer be exercised without trouble and suffering as it was in the state of innocence, however. Now it must be acquired by hard manual labour, and by keen intellectual resarch and study.

After man's disobedience to God, even the relationship which existed between him and created things was disturbed. But these things are still a ladder which leads to God if they are properly used. They are a distant reflection of His beauty and omnipotence. The heavens, says the Psalmist, declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Ps. 18:2)

Let us listen to the voice of creation, for it speaks to us of God. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wept when she beheld the fragile beauty of a flower, and said "How great is God's love for us!" St. Francis of Assisi saw the image of the common Creator everywhere around him and called all these things including fire and water, his brothers and sisters. He even conversed with them in a simple way. He looked upon death itself as the good sister who was to free him from the slavery of the body and unite him to God.

2. The Saints understood clearly what our attitude to creatures should be. Created things should be a reflection of eternal beauty which entices us to love God, the source and origin of all things. They should form a ladder which makes it easy for us to ascend towards God and to achieve unity with him. But is this what creatures really mean to us? Or do they, more often than not, lead us away from God? Perhaps we are held up too frequently by our love for creatures and tend to forget God. The passing loveliness of this earth causes us to forget the everlasting beauty for which we are destined. Worse still, the use of creatures may divert us from God altogether and cause us to disobey His law. Let us examine ourselves thoroughly on this point. Let us see if it is necessary to alter the direction of our thoughts and desires and to purify our hearts in such a way that we shall think, love and act for God alone.

3. St. Ignatius of Loyola investigates this subject in his Spiritual Exercises. He writes that we ought to use things in so far as they bring us nearer to our final end. We ought to avoid things completely, he continues, in so far as they separate or distract us from this end. The function of creatures in our regard is to lead us nearer to God, to remind us of God, and to make us love God. But if they are a source of scandal to us, we must avoid them. The Gospel is very strict on this matter when it says: If thy hand or foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut if off and cast it from thee (Mt. 5:29-30). This means that we must be ready to give up anything rather than endanger our souls and risk the loss of divine grace.

Doing Everything For The Love of God

1. The beginning of perfection consists in doing the will of God even in our smallest actions. But to do everything for the love of God is the summit of Christian perfection. If we aimed always at doing God's will and acting from the motive of love for Him, we should be contented and at peace, because we should be holy. The saints are the only people who remain calm and undisturbed in the midst of worldly adversity. They are always content because they live in God. Their lives are in full conformity because they live in God. Their lives are in full conformity with His Will, guided by His love, and dedicated to His service. As a result, they live in a kind of spiritual stratosphere far above the storms of this world. There they are above the clouds of pride, ambition, avarice and all the other major vices. There they see and contemplate everything in the light of God. Let us become saints. Then we shall have solved all the problems of life.

2. As St. John says, God is love; he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God dwells in him (I John 4:16). Since He is love, God longs to be loved by us. Our actions should come from, and be accompanied by, our love for Him. Love therefore is the fulfilment of the Law (Rom. 13:10), writes St. Paul. We must perform all our actions, therefore, for the love of God. The alchemists of old made a great many experiments in the hope of being able to transform base metals into gold. What was possible in the physical order, however, is quite possible in the moral and spiritual order. We can transform all our actions into pure gold by means of the love of God. There is a story told about a sculptor who was chiselling out a small statue which was to be placed on the highest pinnacle of the temple. He was striving after perfection in the tiniest details, as if it would be possible for the statue to be inspected at close quarters. Somebody asked him why he was so particular and careful in his work, and he replied; "I am not working for those who are looking up from below, but for Him Who is looking down from above. I am working for god alone!"

3. In one of his letters Luther wrote that he was so busy that he had no time to read his Breviary nor to offer Holy Mass. There is no doubt that it was this estrangement from prayer and from the love of God which caused him to finish up as he did. Our work must be based on charity and the interior life, so that we may always be united with God. Otherwise, every action of ours, no matter how good it may appear, is sterile and valueless in the sight of God. Today also there are many people busily engaged in apostolic work, but they have no interior life nourished by charity. This is what is known as the heresy of action. Everything we do is useless and even harmful if our external activity is not accompanied by a flourishing interior life enriched by divine grace. St. Gregory the Great paraphrases the words of the Gospel as follows: "Our Lord says: If anyone love Me, let him keep my commandments. Love is proved by action. This is why St. John (I John 2:4) says that the man who claims to love God and does not keep His commandments is a liar. We love God sincerely if we keep His commandments and avoid the immoderate pleasures of our age. Anyone who surrenders without reserve to the unlawful desires of this world certainly does not love God, because he is acting contrary to His will." (Homil. 30 in Ev.)

Religion and Action

1. Jesus says in the Gospel: I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The world was lost in the darkness of error and in the entanglement of vice. Jesus came to point out the only path which leads to truth and to virtue. But He was not satisfied merely to show the way and to preach the truth. There were philosophers who had spoken eloquently and taught wisely on the subject of truth and the virtues. Nobody, however, was able to give men the strength to follow their precepts. Many could have repeated the words of the poet: "Video meliora proboque deteriora sequor;" (Ovid., Metam., VII, 20,21) "I see what it is better to do, but I do what is worse." Jesus, on the other hand, not only taught the way and the truth, but by His grace gave men a spark of the divine life which was in Him. The Christian religion is more than a system of doctrines to be firmly held. It is more than a system of private and public worship of God and veneration of His saints, more than a mere collection of rites to be observed. It should also be a way of life in full conformity with the moral precepts given by Jesus Christ. He is declared to be not only the way and the truth, but our very life, in the sense that He transfuses into us His own divine life by means of His grace, with which we must co-operate generously if we wish to be true Christians.

2. Anyone who fails to correspond with the grace of God is not living the life of Jesus. Without the life of Jesus he is a dead limb, a withered branch cut away from the vine. It is not enough to say "Lord, Lord!" in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, but it is necessary to do the will of our Heavenly Father (Cf. Mt. 7:21). The grace of God must produce an abundant harvest of good works, no matter what sacrifices this may cost us. Otherwise, God's gift would have been bestowed in vain and before the Supreme Judge one day would be a reason for a terrible retribution instead of a reward. Let us think seriously about this. Has the spirit of religion become reduced to an empty form of belief and ritual action, or are we really living what we believe? Meditate with attention on these words of St. James: What will it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but does not have works? Can the faith save him? And if a brother or a sister be naked and in want of daily food, and one of you say to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled", yet you do not give them what is necessary for the body, what does it profit? So faith too, unless it has works, is dead in itself. (James 2:14-17)

Even the devil believes, but he is damned for ever (Cf. James 2:19). Religion pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to give aid to orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world. (James 1:27).

3. If we wish to be true and sincere Christians it is not enough to believe, nor is it enough to attend the ceremonies of religion. We must act like true Christians. As St. Gregory the Great writes, "we shall really be faithful Christians only when we practice in our actions what we promise in our words." (Homil. 29) Since Christianity is above everything else the religion of charity, it is essential that we should be on fire with the love of God and of our neighbour. As St. Augustine says, faith without charity is the faith which the devil possesses. (De Carit., 10.)

Religion and Devotion

1. St. Thomas concisely expresses the nature of religion in these words: "The object of religion is to give honour to the One God because He is the first principle of creation and order in the universe." (Summa, II-II, q. 81, a. 3)

We know that everything is the work of God. Everything depends on Him both for its being and for its continued existence. This is so from man down to the minutest insect, from the stars in the sky to the invisible atom. It is true that man and the other creatures also work. In fact, the universe is a gigantic workshop. But God is the one and only cause of man and of the whole of nature. We are only instruments of the divine omnipotence. Now, justice demands that we give everyone his due. Everything belongs to God. Therefore, man ought to humble himself before God in an act of adoration and loving obedience. From the highest mountains to the depths of the valley, from the stars of the firmament to the tiny flowers of the fields, all creation unconciously sings of the glory of God. In the same way man, a creature of intelligence and free will, should offer himself and all his faculties in an act of complete homage to his Creator and Lord. But there is more to it than that. God is not only our Creator and Lord, He is also our Redeemer. The eternal Word of God became man out of love for us. He gave us His teaching and commandments. He redeemed us with His precious blood and left us the Church as our mother and our infallible teacher of truth. So, if religion is to be complete, it will oblige us to be obedient to whatever God has revealed and to whatever the Church which He founded commands and teaches us.

2. Religion, however, should not be a cold, mechanical practice of obedience to the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church. Deep spiritual devotion and supernatural charity are necessary as well as religion. In other words, religion should not be merely external, but should spring from the mind and heart; this is devotion, which is the spirit of religion. "Devotion," writes Aquinas, "seems to be the determination to give one's self readily to the service of God."(Summa, II-II, q. 82, a.2, ad 1) But this determination should be lovingand effective because, as St. Thomas also observes, "charity generates devotion." (Summa, II-II, q. 82, a. 2, ad. 2)

St. Francis de Sales analysed and expanded these ideas. "True and living devotion," he writes, "presupposes the love of God; indeed, it really is a true love of God ... but a love ... which has reached that height of perfection at which it not only causes us to act, but to act zealously, frequently and promptly" (Filotea, Bk. I, C. 1) ... He continues: "Since devotion consists in an unique degree of charity, it not only makes us prompt, active and zealous in the observance of all the divine commands, but incites us furthermore to perform readily and lovingly as many good works as we can ... even if they are only recommended or suggested." (Ibid.) From this solid and sincere devotion flows that taste for divine things, that inner gentleness and peace of spirit which the Saints enjoyed even in the midst of sorrow and disillusionment.

3. We must not be satisfied simply to carry out the acts of religion, however exactly. We must fulfil them with love. It is the spontaneous homage of the mind and heart that God wants most of all. The body must also pay its tribute of subjection to its creator, but if the mind and heart are cold and distracted, this tribute is worthless. There is no religion without devotion. This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Mt. 15:8; Mark 7:6). Consider this complaint of Our Lord. Let us earnestly examine our conduct. Religion is useless if it is not fed by the active fire of charity. Anyone who is content to go to Mass on feast-days and stand in the church silently and indifferently, like a candlestick without a candle, is not a true and sincere Christian. Religion must be deeply felt. It must be penetrated by devotion and charity. Only then will it inspire real Christian activity.


1. We are entitled to set aside time for lawful repose and for meditation and prayer. But real idleness is always a sin. It can easily be the cause of graver faults and of our spiritual ruin. God gave us material and spiritual powers as our talents, which we must employ for profit and not bury uselessly in the earth. The servant who received five talents from God and increased the sum by another five was rewarded by the praise of his Lord and admission into the kingdom of Heaven. He dealt in a similar manner with the other servant who had received two talents and doubled them by his industry. But the lazy servant, who buried the talent he had received and met his master with empty hands, was condemned and flung in the darkness of Hell (Cf. Mt. 25:15-30). This is a frightening lesson which the Gospel teaches us. It should make us think about the fact that one day we shall have to render an account to God of all the gifts which He has bestowed on us. Has He given us a great deal? If so, we shall have to account for it all. Has he given us only a small amount? Even so, we shall have to account for every bit of it. Consider the immense responsibility which becomes ours along with the gifts of God. Let us resolve to employ these to the best of our ability, so that when we appear before Him our hands will not be empty, but filled with gains.

2. Idleness is forbidden by God because work is His commandment. He had already told Adam and his successors: In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread (Gen. 3:19).

St. Paul warns us: If any man will not work, neither let him eat (2 Thess. 3:10). This is a universal law which embraces people of all classes and circumstances. God commands everyone to work. Therefore, anybody who disobeys this law without reason sins against God. Those who lead leisurely, inactive lives should meditate seriously on this law of God. The fact that they possess large fortunes does not excuse them from this divine law. They must engage in some work, either mental or manual. It may be for themselves, or it may be for their needy brothers who live in want or in illness and cannot fend for themselves. We are all brothers in Jesus. It is not right that one brother should live in poverty and wretchedness, while another idly enjoys a life of plenty and of pleasure.

3. There is another weighty reason which should prevent us from living in idleness. The Holy Spirit warns us that: Idleness is an apt teacher of mischief (Ecclus. 33:29) and he who follows idle pursuits is a fool (Prov. 12:11). In other words, sloth is a great stupidity and is the father of the vices. If anyone is inactive, he learns nothing. Since our bodily and spiritual faculties were made for action, it necessarily follows that when they are not working for a good or useful purpose, they find an outlet in other directions which lead to disorder and sin. Without work and prayer, there is only inactivity which leads to sinl. It is fatal to remain idle. God warns us that we must render an account of every idle word (Mt. 12:36). St. Thomas notes that an idle word is usually a venial sin, but can also be a mortal sin (Summa, II-II, q. 72, a.5). What should be said, then, of those who live idleness, while there is so much work to be done for the glory of God, for our own good, and for the good of others? Anyone who loves God is never idle, says St. Jerome. The love of God works wonderful things; if it does not, it cannot be called love.

Work and Sanctity

1. A man who does not work cannot be a saint. But it is not enought to work alone, just as it is not enough to pray alone, in order to become holy. Either on its own is too little. Perfection consists in praying and working. This is how Jesus spent His Life. The Apostolic Constitution "Sponsa Christi" urges even the contemplative Orders to devote themselves to work. It assures them that work will prove no obstacle to their growth in perfection, but will be "a powerful and consistent exercising of all the virtues and the pledge of an effective combination of the contemplative and active life after the example of the Holy Family at Nazareth (A.A.S., 1951, p. 13.)" We must sanctify our work with prayer. The Benedictines have practised throughout the centuries their celebrated motto Ora et labora, "Pray and work." By means of it they transformed the world during the darkest centuries of the Church. They converted impenetrable forests into fertile plains. They set up centres of work and study which later became flourishing cities. They appeased the barbarians who were threatening to destroy civilisation. They built monasteries and cathedrals. Above all, they preached the Gospel to the people and bound them together in the brotherhood of Christian charity. This is an illustration of what can be accomplished by work united with prayer. It produces holiness in the individual and through him in human society.

2. Everything we do, whether we are working with our hands, or with our minds, can and should be made holy by offering it to God. The peasant who toils in the heat of the sun or in the hardship of winter to wring a living from the hard soil, the workman who strikes the anvil with his hammer, or who extracts coal from the bowels of the earth or who controls some complicated piece of machinery in order to produce the press, electricity, or other services for men; all these can and should raise their minds frequently in adoration and thanksgiving to those who are engaged in intellectual work, dedicated to the study of the different branches of knowledge, human and divine, should remember that light comes from Heaven, not from the earth. They should, therefore, ask in their prayers for God's harm than good. It fills the soul with pride and dries up the heart. It can lead, as experience has shown us, to the destruction instead of the well-being of the human race. Students and scientists must be investigators of the mysteries of God as well as those of the universe. Only in God will they find an answer to the problems of the spirit.

There are some who work both with their minds and hearts. These include priests, teachers, doctors, good sisters sacrificing their lives in the hospitals, the mothers of families, and many others. Their work will be especially frutiful if it is united in a spirit of faith and charity with their prayers.

3. Everybody imagines that there are innumerable problems in the world to be solved. As a matter of fact, there are, but they can be all reduced to one in the end, the problem of sanctity. If we are all saints, or at any rate sincerely trying to put into practice the maxims of the Gospel, all the other questions would be answered. For a Christian, work should mean the employment of his bodily and spiritual energies for the glory of God, for his own benefit and for the common good. He can work to earn his daily bread, for personal satisfaction, for the advancement of science, art or society. These are all good motives. But the Christian must also have a higher motive. Even as he is living for eternity, so must he work for eternity. He must realise that God will admit us to Heaven if we have worked for love of Him and in union with Him. Like everything else in our lives, work must be raised to a supernatural level. We must work patiently because it is our duty and the will of God. In this way we shall make use of the talents which God has given us, not only for our own benefit but also as a means of helping so many of our fellowmen who are dependent on us. Then work will be something else besides an expenditure of energy and an atonement for our sins. It will be a pleasure, because we shall know that God is counting every moment of sacrifice which we are willingly enduring for His sake.


1. God created man master of the world. He commanded him to populate it and to rule it (Cf. Gen. 1: 28). He placed him in an earthly paradise, to till it and to keep it (Gen. 2:15).

As long as man remained in the state of innocence, however, work was a pleasure. It gave him the joy of collaborating with God in the work of creation. Today work is still a pleasure. By working we co-operate with God, because it was His intention that the resources of the earth should be exploited by human industry and intelligence and should benefit both the individual and society. Work is a noble occupation, because it involves co-operation with God's work of creation and conservation. If anybody tries to deprive it of its lofty human character and to reduce it to the level of mere toil, regarding it as nothing more than an instrument of production or a handy system of exchange, he is debasing the worker and robbing him of all spiritual incentive.

2. Since the fall of Adam, work is not only a pleasure, but a burden and an atonement as well. It is deceitful to hold out the promise of a paradise of workers, a possibility in which no intelligent person could be expected to believe. The so-called plan for workers, designed to create a paradise upon earth, produces only a system of regimentation in which men cease to be free and become insignificant parts of the all-powerful sate mechanism. We must oppose this degradingly materialistic conception of labour. Work is a command of God Who, after the sin of Adam, told him and his sons: In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread (Gen. 3:19).

Let us accept from God this high responsibility of co-operating with Him in His work of creation and redemption. Let us accept it alike when it is a pleasure and when it is a sacrifice. Let us accept it with the cheerfulness of the Saints, or at least with resignation. Let us realise that by working we purify our souls and atone for our sins. We also make ourselves useful to our brothers on earth, because the work of our hands and of our minds exercises a social function, especially on behalf of the abandoned classes. It is an apostolate of expiation and redemption for large numbers of souls who are sunk in ignorance and sin.

3. Work is both a right and a duty. It is a right because God created the wealth of the earth for all men. All men, therefore, have the right to exploit these resources and to receive the reward of their labour. If anyone denies or obstructs this fundamental right to work, he is opposing God and committing a grave injustice against his fellowmen and against society. If society does not provide work for all its citizens, it become an unjust organisation capable of bringing into being all types of disorder. If anyone has the opportunity of providing employment and does not do so, he is sinning. If anyone has great wealth and stores it away uselessly, enjoying it himself in pleasant idleness, not only does he sin, but he can sin very seriously. They are guilt of grave sin also who through selfishness do not pay a just wage to their employees, or who through greed for profit create an unchristian and inhuman social gulf between employees and their employers. Meditate seriously on these sacrosanct principles, which have their basis in the Gospel.

Work is also a duty. Everybody must work, either manually or intellectually. So God decreed to Adam in the garden of Eden. St. Paul says very clearly: If any man will not work, neither let him eat (2 Thess. 3:10).

It is wonderful to see how anxious Jesus was to sanctify labour, first of all as a humble workman for thirty years, then as Teacher and Redeemer for the last three years of His life. This is a magnificent example for manual and intellectual workers alike. It is an example which the Saints followed until they had exhausted all their strength.

The Purification of Our Lady

1. Today the church commemorates the presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple and the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These ceremonies were carried out in order to comply with a twofold Mosaic law. One part of this law referred to women who had become mothers; the other part was concerned with first-born male children. According to the first law a mother was officially regarded as impure for forty days after she had given birth to a child. When this period was over she had to present herself in the temple and make an offering of a lamb and a turtledove. If she were poor, she could substitute a second young pigeon for the lamb (Cf. Lev. 12). The second law (Cf. Es. 13:2; 34:19; Num. 8:16; Lev. 27:26) commanded the mother to offer and consecrate to God her first-born son. She was to do this in memory of the miracle in Egypt when the Angel of God destroyed all the first born sons of the people of the country and spared those of the Israelites. In later times when the ritual worship of God became the special obligation of the tribe of Levi, the first-born sons of the other tribes had to be presented in the temple and bought back by an offering.

It is quite clear that Jesus and Mary were not bound by this twofold law. But they voluntarily subjected themselves to it in order to give an example of humility and obedience.

2. When we meditate on the subject of this feast, we find two outstanding examples to be imitated. The first is given by Mary. She was perfectly pure and holy, conceived without original sin and full of grace. She knew well that she had conceived her Divine Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. So she was not obliged to observe the humiliating law of purification. Nevertheless, she fulfilled it and gave God the offering of the poor as a lesson for us in humility and poverty. It is so easy for us to excuse ourselves from obeying the law and to make a display of our special privileges before others. Let us learn from Mary to love silent submission and detachment from worldly wealth and honours.

The other example is given us by Jesus. Being God, there was no need for Him to be bought back in the same way as the first-born sons of the Israelites. He was the Saviour Who had come to redeem the human race from sin and make them heirs to the kingdom of Heaven. But He said of Himself: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil (Mt. 5:17). A few days earlier He had submitted to the painful and humiliating rite of circumcision. Now He allows Himself to be offered in the temple as a victim of expiation for all mankind. These are glorious examples, before which our pride should bow in shame. We should be moved to offer ourselves to God lovingly and without reserve.

3. In the Gospel narrative of St. Luke (Cf. Luke 2:22-31) another character also appears. He intrudes upon the scene without any apparent right to be there, but he had been inspired by God. This is the old and saintly Simeon. He was not a priest. He was an upright man, careful in his observance of the law, who was waiting longingly for the coming of the promised Redeemer. The Holy Spirit dwelt in him and had revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Saviour. He was inspired to go to the Temple, where he saw Jesus. He took Him in his arms and was overcome by joy. Then he blessed God and declared that he was prepared to accept death now that he had been able to see and embrace the Saviour as God had promised. Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace (Luke 2:29). It was a beautiful way to meet death, to be able to hold Jesus close to his heart and see his long life of hope and expectation rewarded by the loving embrace of his Lord. Let us try and live like Simeon, with our minds and hearts turned towards Jesus. Let us think chiefly of Him, love Him above everything else, and work only for Him. Then our death will be as beautiful as His. In fact we shall have been even more fortunate, for we can go further than receiving Jesus in our arms. We shall be able to receive Him into our hearts. He will be at hand to give us the supernatural strength which we shall need on our great journey into eternity.

True Peace

1. Everybody desires peace, but very few people possess it. A good many profound and beautiful definitions have been attempted. Cicero called it "tranquilla libertas," which one might translate as "undisturbed freedom". His general idea was that there can be no peace without liberty. St. Augustine defined it as "hominum ordinata concordia" (De. Civ. Dei, XIX, 13) or "ordered agreement among men". St. Thomas followed on the same lines when he said that peace was "tranquillitas ordinis" (Summa, II-II, q. 29, a. 1 ad. 1) or "tranquillity of order." There are three necessary elements in peace. They are order, harmony, and liberty. Right order is the most important. Everything in us must be in its proper place. As we have shown in the preceding meditation, our lower faculties must be entirely subordinate to right reason, and this must be completely subject to the law of God.

Every act of rebellion against this proper order creates confusion in our nature and makes peace impossible. Furthermore, there must be harmony and agreement. This means that our minds must voluntarily accept and embrace this just order, and not merely endure it with reluctance. As St. Thomas says, peace is an act of charity; it comes indirectly from justice and directly from charity (Summa, II-II, q. 29; a. 1, ad. 3). We have perfect peace when this just order holds sway within us, provided that we are not enduring it as if it were a yoke, but lovingly accepting it under the inspiration of divine charity. This is that genuine peace which gives us the liberty of the sons of God, that freedom from evil with which Christ has set us free (Cf. Gal. 4:31; 2 Cor. 3:17). True peace flourishes in an atmosphere of goodness and perishes when it encounters evil. Whether it is in the field of social relations or in the spiritual life, peace without liberty is not peace at all, but slavery and death.

2. when He came into the world, Jesus proclaimed peace. The Angels hovering over His humble manger sang, songs of glory to God on high and of peace to men of good will on earth. During His earthly pilgrimage He often spoke of peace. When He forgave sinners their faults, He said to each of them: God in peace, and sin no more (Luke 7:50; 8:48; John 8:11). When He was leaving this earth He bequeathed His peace to His Apostles as if it were a sacred heirloom: Peace I leave with yo, my peqace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14:27). We can see from these words that the peace of Jesus is not the same as worldly peace. The Church in its liturgy implores from God that peace which the world cannot give. When the world speaks of peace, it means nomrally the external, public peace which flows from respect for the law and for the established regime. This is peace; there is no doubt about that. It is necessary and is a gift from God. But it is not enough. We need the inner peace of soul of which we have already spoken, for it is the only true and solid foundation for external peace. Without this peace of soul, external peace is uncertain and fleeting. We have said that true peace is based on three things: Right order, harmony, and liberty. But in order to obtain full and perfect peace still one more thing is necessary; complete and loving abandonment to the will of God. The beginning of real peace and holiness lies in doing the will of God in every detail. The perfection of peace and holiness is to do the will of God in everything purely from love for Him. Dante expresses this profound idea when he describes the peace of the blessed in Heaven, now unshakeable in their joyful compliance with the divine will.

"E la sua volontate é nostra pace:
Ella é quel mare, al qual tutto si move
ciò ch' ella crea e che natura face."
(Paradiso, III, 85-87)

"His will is our repose:
He is the ocean into which everything flows
Which He has created in the universe."

3. This absolute and loving abandonment to the will of God in all things bring complete inner peace, but it does not exclude conflict. Interior peace is the result of the practice of virtue and therefore of the struggle against evil. When Our Lord had repeated several times that He had given us His peace, He said also: Do not think that I have come to send peace upon the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace ((Mt. 10:34). These apparently contradictory words of Our Lord are explained by the fact that the peace of Jesus does not consist inactivity, but demands action and strife and the conquest of evil. It is a militant peace which Our Lord desires us to possess. Only when we have controlled our passions, when we have made our wills entirely subject to the will of God and have renounced ourselves so that the justice and charityof Jesus Christ can triumph in us, only then shall we reach those serene heights where storms from below cannot come near us and the peace of God reigns supreme.

We find examples of this true and perfect peace among the Saints, Martyrs and Apostles. We read of the Apostles that they departed ... rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41). This is an example of that genuine peace which is the result of victory in the combat against evil and of complete and loving submission to the will of God.

Blessed are Those Who Love Peace

1. Blessed are the peacemakers, Our Lord says, for they shall be called children of God (Mt. 5:9).

All those who are in the state of grace, and therefore living on the supernatural plane, are the adopted sons of god and sharers in His divine nature (Cf. 2 Peter 1:4), which they will enjoy one day in the Beatific Vision. Our Saviour, however, refers to those who love peace as being in a special way the sons of God. Why is this? St. Augustine offers the real explanation (Cf. De Serm. Domini, lib. I, Cap. 2). God is perfect peace and harmony. In Him there is no conflict. His being and His activity are identical. He is perfect unity and simplicity, eternal and unaffected by the limitations of space and time. Now, the son should be a living image of the father. Those who reflect, although necessarily in a limited way, this peace, harmony and serene activity in their own personality, deserve to be called in a special way the sons of God. They are the true lovers of peace.

2. How can one achieve this calmness of approach and manner of behaviour? We can consult St. Augustine again (Ibid.). It is particularly necessary that the faculties and movements of our lower nature should be under control and subjects to right reason. It is reason which should govern us. It should guide us constantly and exercise complete control over all those parts of our nature which are common to men and animals. It is disastrous if the desires of the flesh rebel against the spirit, and worse still if they gain the upper hand. Then there can be no more peace of heart. There is no longer that reflection of the divine harmony which the grace of God had bestowed on us. There is only slavery, the slavery which takes away liberty and peace. It is very necessary, therefore, that "that part of man which is the highest and most perfect should rule without opposition the remaining parts which are common to men and animals; but in its turn this supreme faculty, that is, the intellect or reason, should be subject to God Almighty." (Ibid.)

It is clear from thse words that peace in us is the result of two kinds of necessary obedience, the obedience to right reason of the lower faculties, and the obedience of right reason to God, our Creator.

"This is the peace which God gives on earth to men of good will; this is the most perfect wisdom." (Ibid.)

3. Peace is especially opposed to sentiments of anger and hatred against our brothers. It commands us to love and help them. Hatred is the heritage of Cain, because God says that he who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (I John 3:15). A man who hates his brother may not actually kill him, but he is guilty of murdering him in his heart. As a result he loses peace of soul, because, as St. Augustine point out (Sermon 82), by hating somebody you create disorder in yourself and destroy that divine harmony which was the gift of divine grace and charity.

If we wish to preserve interior peace, we must cast out from our hearts every vestige of hatred for our neighbour and entertain love, understanding and forgiveness for all. By loving our enemies we place ourselves above them by an act of true Christian nobility. We imitate Jesus, Who forgave His executioners and prayed for them from the Cross. A fit of anger is like a moment of madness. It is a great misfortune for anyone to yield to it. He speaks and acts like aman who has lost his reason and allows himself to be carried away by blind passion. When the moment of insanity is over, he will be ashamed of himself and of all that he has said and done.

It is necessary to be masters of ourselves and of our feelings. Never speak or act until anger has subsided within you. By persevering in co-operation with the grace of God, preserve that inward calmness which is a reflection of the peace of God.

How to Guard Holy Purity

1. Purity of heart is a quality which attracts everybody, even those who are evil themselves. It makes a man seem like an angel in human form, for it shines from his countenance. Unfortunately, the virtue of purity is as difficult as it is beautiful. It is fatal for anyone to cast himself into the mire. The first sin of impurity is a disaster, because it is often the first link in a tragic chain which makes him the slave of his lower impulses and of the tyrannical enemy of souls, the devil.

We must resist the earliest suggestions of the flesh by every means in our power, both natural and supernatural.

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that none of the passions dethrones reason so much as sensuality (Summa, II-II, q. 53, a. 6). St. Augustine warns us also in his Confessions that lust has its cause ina perverse will and if anybody surrenders to it he acquires the evil habit. If this habit is not resisted, the sin becomes a frightening necessity. Resist from the beginning if you wish to avoid ruin and the slavery of the devil, who cunningly uses this passion to capture souls. If a man is overcome by violent temptation and falls into sin, however, he should not lose courage. God is infinitely good and merciful. He knows our weakness. When anyone falls, let him rise immediately. Let him return to God by repenting and making a good confession. Let him resolve to make any sacrifice rather than fall again.

2. Because it is so difficult to preserve the angelic purity of the soul, it is absolutely essential to make good use of the measures favoured for this purpose by the masters of the spiritual life. The first of these is prayer; the spirit of prayer will keep us close to God. If our mind and heart are united to God in the performance of every action, we will never allow ourselves to be separated from Him by impurity. This spirit of prayer must be based on humility and the consciousness of our continual need of God, and must be kept alive by love for Him.

The second measure is to avoid the occasions of sin. "Sensuality is best conquered by flight." (Summa, I-II, q. 35) St. Thomas advises us. "He who loves danger will perish in it." (Ecclus. 3:25) Battles like this said St. Francis de Sales, are won by the soldiers who retreat. As soon as an impure thought or image intrudes itself, drive it away as if a serpent were attacking you. It is fatal to allow the thought or image to gain ground, for at this stage victory becomes extremely difficult.

Thirdly, it often helps to occupy the mind and imagination immediately with things in which we are interested. The greatest danger of all in these moments of temptation is idleness.

3. Let us examine our conscience now and we shall perceive that every time we have fallen in any way it was always because we did not put into practice the remedies suggested. So let us not lose courage but renew our determination to employ at the first sign of danger the necessary means of defending our purity. It will be a hard struggle at times. But the grace of God will never let us down as long as we do our best to co-operate with it. Each one of us should remember that God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it (I Cor. 10:13). Our first reward will be the exhilaration of having fought hard and won.

Blessed are the Clean of Heart

1. Understood in its entirety as embracing its higher grade, that is, perpetual virginity consecrated to God, purity of heart is a gift which only Christianity can give (Encyclical, Sacra Virginitas, Pope Pius XII, 1954). If we have been called to recieve this wonderful gift, let us humbly thank God. It is a sublime dignity to belong, body and soul, to God.

Sacred Scripture says of men: What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him a little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet (Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:7). But under a certain aspect those who are living in virginity can be said to be superior to the angels. Since an angel has no body, he offers god only the homage of his spirit. A virgin, on the other hand, must bear the burden of an earthly body. He must offer continually on the altar of his heart (and often after a heroic battle) not only his soul with its appetitites and will, but also all the impulses and lower faculties which wage war against the soul (I Peter 2:11).

This is a double sacrifice, which St. Ambrose calls a continual martyrdom of body and soul. But the reward lies in the joy and peace which flow from this perpetual offering of soul and body to the Immaculate Lamb. This happiness is a compensation for any conflict which must be endured, and is a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.

2. There is a purity of heart and chastity which is an obligation for everybody, even for those who are married or preparing for marriage. Everybody is obliged to avoid any act of impurity in so far as it is opposed to his own particular state, to the natural law and to the divine law. Do not think that this degree of chastity is any easier than the first. Sometimes the obligations it imposes are even more difficult than those of absolute virginity.

There is only one rememdy for impurity. It is the practice of virtue to the point of sacrifice. Only a man who is ready with the help of God to make any sacrifice can preserve purity of heart. It is a hard struggle, but only those who win can see God. Our Lord has said: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8). Only the clean of heart will be able to see and enjoy Him for ever in Heaven and by means of His grace will be able to see Him in a less perfect manner on earth. St. Thomas says that mental blindness is the main effect of impurity (Summa, II-II, q. 53, a. 6). This is because anyone who gives himself up to impurity loses all spiritual enlightenment and easily loses his faith as well. He no longer sees God, and he does not believe any more, because his heart is steeped in the mire of impurity. The sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him and he cannot understand ... (I Cor. 2:14) He is like the blind mole which creates its own dark little underground world and cannot see the sky any more.

3. St. Paul warns us in the following words: Do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and bear him in your body (I Cor. 6: 19-20)

We who are temples of the Holy Ghost, redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus, must keep unsullied the purity of our hearts, the lily of our innocence. We must do this no matter what sacrifices it may cost us. Those stern words from the Gospel, if thy right eye is an occasion of sin to thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee (Mt. 5:29), refer in a special way to the obstacles we must overcome and the sacrifices we must make to preserve this beautiful virtue. There can be no half-measures. We must be prepared to go to any length, even to accept death if necessary, like St. Maria Goretti. Even as we should be ready to face martyrdom for the faith, so we must be ready to face martyrdom in order to preserve purity of soul.

Blessed are the Merciful

1. If we want God to show mercy on us, we must be merciful to those who are in material or spiritual distress.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Mt. 5:7)

Let us recall the Gospel parable about the king who was making out the accounts of all his servants. One man was brought before him who owed him the enormous sum of ten thousand talents. He had no means of paying the debt. In order to obtain at least some compensation, the king ordered that this servant should be sold, together with is wife and children. But the servant wept and implored, so that the king was moved with pity and pardoned him completely. When the servant had left the king's presence, he met a fellow servant who owed him a small sum, namely, one hundred pieces of silver. He threw himself angrily upon him and caught him by the throat, demanding that he should pay the debt immediately. The unfortunate fellow began begging for mercy with tears in his eyes, but it was no use. He was flung into prison and condemned to forced labour until such time as the debt would be paid. Soon afterwards the king came to hear of this incident. He was furious with the cruel servant and ordered him to be put in prison and severely punished (Mt. 18:23-25).

This prable refers to all of us. What debts we have contracted before God! Nevertheless, He is prepared to forgive us everything, provided that we are also merciful towards our fellowmen. This should be a comforting assurance.

2. Some day each one of us will stand before the judgment seat of God and will have to render an account of all his actions. Are we anxious that God will be merciful to us at that crucial moment? Let us be forgiving and charitable towards others now. It is clear from the words of the Gospel that we shall be pardoned or condemned largely in accordance with the measure of our mercifulness and charity. God will show mercy towards us as we show mercy towards others. In fact, the Eternal Judge will say to the good: "Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me." Then he will turn to the wicked and deliver this terrible sentence. "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me ... Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for me." (Mt. 25: 34-46)

These are terrifying words. They should persuade us to exercise charity towards all who are suffering in any way.

3. Works of mercy can be either corporal or spiritual. The former cannot be practised much by those who are poor, but any generous-minded Christian can perform the latter. Sometimes there is greater charity in speaking a kind word than in giving a large alms. Often it is worth more in the sight of God to comfort a sorrowful heart or to revive in some soul a dying hope than it is to fill a hungry belly. There are so many spiritual miseries which are crying out to be assuaged. The suffering of the soul is much deeper than that of the body. This is why anything done to soothe and encourage the soul is so valuable before God. We can also do something about the remorse, disgust and darkness which are the result of the state of sin. If we can succeed in enlightening or healing one of these poor souls, we shall have accomplished a work of mercy which is most beautiful and meritorious in the eyes of God.

The Rich

1. Sacred Scripture has some very severe and terrible things to say to the rich. Woe to you rich! for you are now having your comfort (Luke 6:24). Amen I say to you, with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven. And further I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 19:23-24; Cf. Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25). St. James adds: Come now, you rich, weep and howl over your miseries which will come upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted, and their rust will be a witness against you, and will devour your flesh as fire does. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the labourers who reaped your fields, which have been kept back by you unjustly, cry out, and their cry has entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have feasted upon earth, and you have nourished your hearts on dissipation in the days of slaughter. (James 5:1-5)

These passages are not concerned with the rich as such, for men like Abraham, Job, and St. Louis, the King of France, were very wealthy. They are directed against those who have become absorbed in their wealth (Mark 10:24) and have grown deaf to the rightful promptings of justice and of charity.

Nevertheless, it is not only the wealthy and unjust who should reflect seriously on these stern words, but also those who have more than they need in life and are never moved by compassion for their less fortunate fellowmen. Can we be counted amonst these?

2. Wealth is a gift from God. Therefore it is good, like everything else which comes from God. Wordly wealth, as St. Thomas says, can be an instrument of virtue. But is good only in so far as it leads to holiness. If it interferes with the practice of virtue, it is evil. (Summa Contra Gentiles, Bk III, 134)

God created the wealth of the earth, not for a few, but for all mankind. All men have the right, therefore, to draw their means of subsistence from the earth. If any individual with large private possessions, however lawfully acquired, battles against this right to live, he commits a grave sin. This could happen either because a man is lacking in justice or in charity. Both justice and charity are commanded by God, however, and it matters very little whether a man goes to hell because he has offended against justice or because he has offended against charity. Hell is Hell in either case.

Let us examine ourselves and see if we are lacking in either of the virtues. It is certain that there would not be so much misery and want in the world if the Gospel teaching on the virtues of justice and charity had ever really triumphed.

3. A very rich man who was convinced that he was a good Christian went to confession one day. He discussed his doubts and worries about the passages in Sacred Scripture which have just been quoted. The peance which he received from the confessor was that he should go and read and meditate in a certain city suburb. This area was full of cabins and cabes where large numbers of poor, abandoned people were seeking out an existence. He drover there in his large streamlined car. He stopped and began reading slowly. After a while he became greatly affected and wept ... He has left his car and, as if driven by some irresistible force, began to distribute all the money which he had with him to those poor people. At last he understood fully, and without the need of any glossary, the command of Our Lord: Give that which remains as alms; and behold, all things are clean to you (Luke 11:41). From that day he was no longer a self-complacent Christian, but a just and charitable rich man.

We can all learn a lot from this story. Even if we are not rich, we certainly have a little more than we need. Let us give it to the poor. They are suffering members of the Mystical Body of Christ. We shall never be worthy members of this Mystical Body if we do not see the image of Jesus Christ in His poor.

Blessed are the Poor

1. "Blessed are the rich." This is the judgment of the world. But Jesus says: Blessed are you poor (Luke 6:20). Whom are we to believe? Naturally, we must believe Jesus. A certain amount of confusion could arise, however, in our understanding of this maxim. It becomes clear from the context of St. Luke, and still clearer in the words of St. Matthew, who writes: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt. 5:3). It is necessary, therefore, as St. Jerome and others have commented, to be poor in our detachment from our possessions.

If a poor man longs for riches, and envies and hates the wealthy because of their possessions, he is not poor in spirit. So he cannot receive the blessing of which Our Lord spoke. In the same way, a rich man may be attached to his great wealth. Perhaps he aims at nothing else but to increase it and, because he is thinking of it all the time, neglects his duty to God and to his neighbour. Above all, love of riches may cause him to be lacking in justice and charity. The behaviour of such a man is contrary to the law of God. Meditate carefully on this point and do not neglect to make whatever resolutions seem necessary.

2. Detachment from riches implies the obligation of using them as a means of reaching eternal life and in accordance with the principles of justice and charity. This is a positive commandof God which nobody can ignore without falling into sin to a greater or less extent. But over and beyond this general rule there is an evangelical counsel to which only the privileged few are called in their search for perfection. This evangelical counsel says to us: "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (Mt. 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33, 18:22)

If we have received this great call to evangelical perfection, we must listen to it and follow Jesus promptly and generously. But even if our vocation does not lie in that direction, let us take care not to become too attached to the passing things of this world. Our hearts were not made for them, but for God.

Remember the striking words of St. Paul: Brethren, the time is short; it remains that those who have wives be as if they had none; and those who weep, as though not weeping; and those who rejoice, as thou not rejoicing; and those who buy, as thou not possessing; and those who use the world, as thou not using it, for this world as we see it is passing away. (I Cor. 7:29-31)

3. Those who are really poor should not be too disturbed. If they are resigned to their poverty and are not consumed by the desire for riches, the blessing of the Gospel is theirs.

Let them remember that when Jesus became Man in order to redeem us, He did not choose to be wealthy. He chose to be the poorest of men. Similarly, Our Blessed Lady, St. Joseph and all the Saints were free from all desire of worldly possessions, so that there was room in their hearts only for God, their supreme good.

Let them remember also for their consolation that it is much easier for them to gain Heaven, because they are not weighed down by worldly cares.


1. A Christian cannot be satisfied with mediocrity. He must strive for perfection. This is the command of Jesus. You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48). The same counsel is given in the Old Testament. You shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy (Lev. 11:44). The Apostles had the habit of referring to all the Christians of their time as holy. For instance, St. Paul addresses the faithful of the church of Ephesus in this way (Eph. 1:1), while St. Peter describes the Christian community as a holy nation, a purchased people (I Peter, 2:9).

We cannot be content with half-hearted efforts, but must work hard to become holy. I come, says Jesus, that they may have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Some day we shall either be saints in Heaven or among the damned in Hell. Whoever is satisfied with mediocrity betrays the mssion of Christ. He returns ingratitude for His infinite goodness and squanders His divine grace.

2. There is no such thing as half-way virtue.

Virtue is a struggle and a sacrifice. It presupposes a generous heart which gives itself to Jesus without reserve. Did He not give Himself completely for our sakes? Did He not die upon the cross for our salvation and reopen Heaven, which had been closed to us by sin? Moreover, did He not remain hidden in our midst under the Eucharistic speices in order to become our sustenance and our support?

When we are faced with such goodness and generosity, can we be so niggardly as to offer God only a part of ourselves and perhaps a part which is worthless and perishable, as CAin did when he offered sacrifices from his fields and flocks? God would certainly turn away from us and refuse our gift. And then we should be lost for ever.

3. Mediocrity in the spiritual life inevitably paves the way for sin. Indifference at prayer, listlessness in practicing charity, and habitual neglect of our duties in life lead first to deliberate venial sin and finally to mortal sin. If we are not generous with Jesus, Jesus will cease to be generous with us. He will no longer shower us with His graces. Deprived of this heavenly dew, our souls will grow dry and incapable of producing fruits worthy of eternal life.

Let us get rid of any tendencies toward lassitude. Let us revive the divine charity in ourselves. Let us make firmer resolutions and pray more fervently that the grace of God will make us capable of greater effort.

Following Jesus

1. When we have renounced ourselves and have embraced our cross with resignation and love, we must follow Jesus. We must follow Him in a special way as the infallible Teacher of truth. The teachings of men cannot satisfy our intellects. Still less can they satisfy our hearts. What they teach is either incomplete or false. This is proved by the fact that the doctrines of men have succeeded and replaced one another down through the centuries, while "the word of the Lord endures forever." (I Peter, 1:25)

The teaching of Christ produces an extraordinary renovation in the individual, in the family, and in society. It is this renewal which we call Christianity and Christian civilisation. There is a wide chasm between paganism and Christianity. This gulf would be even wider only for the fact that Christianity has not yet been fully put into practice throughout the universe. There is only one reform necessary. This is to realise the Christian ideal everywhere. We must begin by carrying it out ourselves. Let us follow Jesus, Who is saying to us: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) "He who follows Me does not walk in darkness." (John 8:12)

Let us follow our divine Master and we shall be sure that we are travelling towards Heaven.

2. Jesus is not only Truth; He is also Life. He is not only our Teacher: He is our Saviour as well. He has given us something which human philosophers could never give. For He hs given us more than doctrine; He has also given us the means of putting it into practice in our lives. He has given us grace and the Sacraments. He has given us Himself in the Blessed Eucharist. It would be impossible for us to carry out His divine precepts if He did not gie us the necessary spiritual strength to do so. We should be grateful to Jesus for His goodness and mercy. We should cherish the gifts which He has given us for our sanctification.

Follow Jesus, the Giver of grace and holiness. Make advantageous use of His Sacraments. Above all, receive the nourishment of His Divine Body with fervour and with love. In this Sacrament we can discover the unique spiritual force which makes men saints.

3. Jesus is also the Divine Model wom we ought to follow and imitate. In Him the virtues possess both the infinite splendour of the Divinity and the gentle appeal of glorified Humanity. Jesus does not dazzle us with His brightness, but kindly invites us to love and follow Him. Learn from me, He says, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. (Mt., 11:29) After He has indicated humility, meekness and interior peace as the foundations of the spiritual life, He invites us to take up the yoke of His law and assures us that we shall find it light. (Mt. 11)

If we follow Jesus, even though we are bowed with Him beneath the weight of the Cross, we shall experience even in this life a reflection of the peace and joy which will be our reward in Heaven.