Friday, February 27, 2009

Spiritual Langour

1. Sometimes we become tired and sleepy. The love of God no longer warms our hearts nor prompts us to perform good works. We experience a kind of disgust for spiritual things and prayer becomes a burden. We no longer feel any pleasure in speaking with God, for our souls have grown arid and cold. We neglect our spiritual exercises and are careless about meditation and the Sacraments. We go on living on the edge of the abyss and never consider the fact that it is a very short step from spiritual inactivity to actual sin.

This kind of langour is not always sinful, however. Sometimes God permits dryness of spirit to test our humility and to make us understand that without Him we are capable of nothing. Saints like St. Theresa and St. Francis de Sales were tried by spiritual aridity. In such cases the only remedy is to be patient and humble and to trust in God. We must ask God to let us die rather than be separated from Him, and to restore to us our former fervent love for Him.

2. Sometimes this state of ineptitude is the result of pride. We are too fond of ourselves. We seek to satisfy ourselves in everything and therefore God abandons us. Whoever seeks God finds Him. Whoever seeks his own ends finds disillusionment and emptiness. God abandons him and allows him to fall humiliatingly in punishment for his pride and self-confidence. St. Peter is an example of this. God withholds spiritual consolations fom the arrogant soul. If our state of tepidity is the result of pride, let us humble ourselves before God. Let us implore Him to deprive us of all worldly consolation rather than of His friendship.

3. More often this langour and inertia is caused by our neglect of the means necessary to preserve our spiritual life. We begin by omitting the prayers and penances which it is our duty to to perform and by postponing Confession and Communion. Without frequent Confession our sins increase like noxious weeds which stifle the good grain. Without Holy Communion we lack the protection and grace of God. Let us examine ourselves and make good resolutions. Fervour of soul, the love of God and a strong and effective inclination to virtue cannot be attributed purely to ourselves. They are the result of God's grace, for which we should pray without ceasing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Catholic Action

1. Catholic action is the participation of the laity, or more correctly their co-operation, in the hierarchical apostolate of the Church. It is not really an innovation. It is as old as the Church herself, although it is only on account of the peculiar circumstances of our times that it has come to be organised in a special manner. From the beginning of Christianity, the laity of both sexes worked energetically alongside the Apostles for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. When St. Paul was writing to the Philippians he urged them to assist those Christian women who had done so mch to spread the Gospel, as well as Clement and his other fellow-workers. "Help them, for they have toiled with me in the gospel, as have Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life." It is evident that even at that time there were laymen and women working in the co-operation with the apostolic hierarchy. Every Christian, moreover, should feel the need to do this. Anyone who has the true faith and is on fire with the love of God and of his neighbour cannot but exert himself so that all men may reach the truth and live in accordance with it, that is, in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel. Anyone who is not motivated by this desire cannot claim to be a genuine and enthusiastic Christian.

2. The need for a lay apostolate has grown tremendously in our day. The scarcity of priests is not the only reason for this. It is true that their numbers are entirely inadequate in many places to meet the spiritual needs of the people. But there is the additional factor that certain spheres cannot easily be penetrated by the clergy. There are many people who never even enter a church. They never have any contact with the priest, who finds it difficult to approach them. He needs a "long arm" which will bear the light where he cannot carry it himself. The lay apostolate can be this "long arm". Catholic workmen can do an amount of good among their fellow workers by word and by example. So can teachers, clerks, doctors, journalists, and the rest. This kind of environmental apostolate is very valuable today. It must be built up into a system of blood-vessels which will carry the stream of Christian life from its heart, which is the priesthood, to the farther extremities of society. Let Christian laymen recognise that this is an honourable vocation which they have received, for it is a participation in the priestly office. Everyone should feel summoned to do everything possible in his own environment to lead souls to Christ.

3. Spiritual formation is necessary for this task. The layman must be sincere and earnest Christian. Otherwise, he will not be able to transmit to others what he has not got himself. He must live the life of the Church and help it to fulfil its saving mission. To say that he must co-operate with the priest is the same as saying that he must co-operate with Christ, for the priest must be another Christ. So it is a high honour which the layman assumes when he dedicates himself to the aposotlate and he will enjoy many consolations.

If anyone deliberately refuses to undertake this apostolate, his faith is neither alive nor active. If our faith is to be sincere and effective, we must first of all undergo a strenous spiritual training, nourished by prayer and by divine grace. As a consequence, we shall work generously to bring about the triumph of the life of Christ in others souls also.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Apostolate of Prayer

1. Everybody cannot be an apostle in the strict sense of the term. Not everybody can dedicate his whole life to the expansion of God's kingdom upon earth and to the conversion of pagans, heretics and sinners. Everybody can do a little in this cause, however. Perhaps you cannot leave your family, as the missionaries do, and travel to distant lands to extend the kingdom of God. Perhaps you cannot enter a convent or dedicate yourself to God as a priest or as a religious, because you have not received this high vocation from God. We know, however, that each of us has some responsibility for his neighbour and must help him whenever possible. "Go surety for your neighbour according to your means." (Ecclus. 29:20)

Now, the Association of the Apostleship of Prayer offers everybody a simple way of doing exactly this. Its object is to promote the glory of God and the salvation of souls, especially by means of prayer in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Besides prayer, we must offer the actions and sufferings of each day. Let us decide to join with all the faithful in offering the prayers, and actions and sufferings of each day to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We shall certainly receive a shower of graces, both for ourselves and our neighbour.

2. The Popes have blessed and endowed with favours and indulgences this Association which St. Pius X has gone so far as to call the most useful of all the pious Associations (Letter to the Director General of the Apostleship of Prayer, 9th April, 1911). If you are not already enrolled, therefore, become a member as soon as possible. By enrolling you undertake the obligations of living a good Christian life and of saying the following short prayer every day:

"Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer You through the Immaculate Heart of Mary the prayers, actions and sufferings of this day."

In this way we unite ourselves to the vast outpouring of prayer and to the precious offering of action and sufferings presented by the whole Church in union with Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

3. When we enrol in the Apostleship of Prayer, we are sure that when we work, suffer, and pray, we are not alone in our efforts, but are united with the Church praying, working, and suffering. Our offerings, united with the prayers, labours and sufferings of many holy souls, find their way through the mediation of the Heart of Mary, our beloved Mother, to the Divine Heart of Jesus. He hears them without fail; He blesses them, and received them on our behalf in propitation for our sins and in supplication for graces for ourselves and for our neighbour.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Examination of Conscience

1. Remember the key to wisdom: "Know yourself." These words were written in Greek in golden letters on the front of the temple of the Delphic Apollo. They were the basic rule of the moral doctrine of Socrates and other philosophers. But if we are to know ourselves well, we must examine ourselves thoroughly. We must place ourselves before ourselves without any concealment or deception and judge ourselves fairly and severely. The examination of conscience is recommended not only by spiritual writers of the Church, but also by pagan philosophers. Seneca's famous words in this regard are worth meditating. "Anger will disappear or subside," he says, "when you know that you have to present yourself for judgment every day. Is there any finer custom than this daily examination of conscience? What peace follows from this examination of ourselves! How tranquil, wise and free the mind becomes, whether it has been praised or reproved, when it has acted as its own secret investigator and critic and has examined its own behaviour. I use this exercise and put myself on trial every day. When the lights are out and silence has fallen...I look back over the entire day and review my words and actions. I hide nothing from myself; I omit nothing. Why should I be afraid of any of my errors when I can say to myself: Take care not to do this again; this time I forgive you." (De Ira, III, 36.)

2. Pope St. Pius X holds greater authority for a Christian. In his "Exhortatio ad Clerum" he strongly recommends the examination of conscience especially at the close of the day. This examination, he says, is necessary for priests, but it is no less necessary for the laity. He recalls the apt words of St. Augustine: Judge your own conscience. Demand an account from it. Dig deep and rend it apart. Discover all the evil thoughts and intentions of the day...and punish yourself for them (Expos. in Ps. 4, n.8). He also quotes the equally relevant words of St. Bernard. Be a searching inquirer into your own integrity of life; examine your conduct every day. See how much you have advanced, or how much you have fallen back...Learn to know yourself...Place all your faults before your eyes. Stand before yourself, as if it were before somebody else, and you will find reasons to weep over yourself (Meditat., Cap. 5 de quotidiano sui ipsius examine). The saintly Pontiff concludes his inspiring address as follows: Experience has proved that anyone who makes a strict examination of his thoughts, words and actions, is more firmly resolved to hate and avoid what is evil and wholeheartedly to love what is good (Acta Pii X, IV, p. 257).

3. It is necessary and profitable, therefore, to end the day with an examination of conscience made in the presence of God. Enter into ourselves; examine our thoughts, words and actions. Examine also the motives behind our actions and see whether they have been distorted or really directed towards God. Examine the sins we have committed, so that we may beg for pardon and form resolutions to do better. See whether we have prayed fervently or distractedly and half-heartedly. See if we have co-operated with the graces and good inspirations which we have been given. See if we have improved or grown worse in our efforts to do good. See if we have been dissipated or close to God. From a close examination of this kind we shall draw an incitement to humility and repentance, as well as to greater determination in the future.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evening Prayer

1. We should pray all the time, because we always need the help of God. They must always pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1) There are certain times, however, when this need of God is greater than usual. This is so when we are tempted, or when we arc threatened by some evil, whether spiritual or physical. Our need is also greater when we have some important decision to make or difficult task to undertake. When we are close to death this need of God is exceptionally urgent.

Apart from these occasions, there is a time every day when we should feel a special need to kneel and pray to God. This is when we are going to bed. Before retiring, we should kneel by the bedside and say our prayers fervently. We have many reasons for praying. (1) We should thank God for His graces during the day. (2) We should ask forgiveness for our lack of co-operation with the gifts He has given us. (3) We should ask the good God to grant us new favours.

2. A page in the story of our lives is closed. For all we know it may be the last. Sleep is a symbol of death. How can we be certain that this night will not be our last? A large number of people die during their sleep. For this reason our night prayers should include an act of sincere contrition for our sins, an act of love for God, our supreme benefactor, and an act of complete resignation to His will. When we are in bed, we should repeat the words of Jesus on the cross. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46; Ps. 30:6) If this prayer is on our lips and in our heart, we can sleep in peace.

3. We must remember, moreover, that during the night we can be assailed by many dangers to soul and body. The devil stops at nothing in his efforts to seduce us. Any one who goes to bed with no other thought than getting a pleasant night's sleep has neglected to ask for God's blessing and is running the risk of yielding to temptation. During these hours of necessary inactivity the devil can come with all his wiles to tempt us. In the beginning there will be idle day-dreams, then impure image, and finally the full-blooded onslaught of temptation. It would be disastrous if we were caught unprepared and without any help from God. But this assistance can be obtained by fervent and constant prayer. If it is always necessary to pray, it is especially necessary when we are inactive and therefore in a state of continual danger from the seductions of the devil. So let our day close with prayer, and from prayer we shall pass on to sleep. Let us offer to God this sleep, so necessary for the restoration of bodily energy. Let us make the intention of offering every breath we draw as an act of obedience and of the love of God.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament

1. After the many plans and worries of the day, it is wonderful to visit a church in the evening and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. There we can adore Jesus and converse lovingly with him. We have spent so many hours surrounded by the noise of the world. It is restful now to spend a quarter of an hour in silent prayer before Jesus, the prisoner of love in the Tabernacle. It is He Who invites us. Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. (Mt. 11:28) There are so many matters worrying us. We need some words of advice which will clear our doubts and strengthen us in suffering. We need words of encouragement to banish our sadness and enliven our faith. We need words of love which will light in our hearts the flame of love for God. We can find all this on our knees before the Tabernacle. Do not end the day without seeking a renewal of Christian strength at the feet of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

2. Let us consider the infinite goodness of Jesus. He became man for us, and spent thirty-three years on earth, doing good and healing all. (Acts 10:38) More than this, He chose to remain with us until the end of time, hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, to be our friend and comforter and the food of our souls. In his infinite power and goodness, is there anything more He could have done for us? All day He waits there, anxious to heal our ills, to console us in our troubles, and to give us the strength to persevere in our journey towards perfection and towards Heaven. Let us listen to that loving voice. Do not be ungrateful for this miracle of infinite goodness. Let us go to Jesus as often as we can, especially in the evening when our day is nearly over. We shall find Him a true friend Who is always ready to listen; better still, He is a friend Who is able and willing to help us.

3. Taste and see how good the Lord is: happy the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 33:9) Many people, unfortunately, place their trust in men and in worldly things. They soon see the mistake they have made and are disillusioned and embittered. It was not so with the Saints. They spent long hours by day and night praying to Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist, and carried away with them reserves of spiritual strength and tranquillity. When they could not visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, many of them would go to some place where they could see a church and remain there in adoration. Whenever duty made it impossible for St. Stanislaus Kostka to remain before the Tabernacle, He asked his Angel Guardian to adore Jesus for him. If we were on fire with love for God, as the Saints were, we should do the same.

Fervour and Tepidity

1. The only choice in the life of a Christian is between fervour and sin. The tepid or negligent soul cannot remain long in the grace of God, and when God's grace is removed, it means the death of the soul. The spiritual life resembles a steep hill. A man cannot stay still. He must keep going upwards or begin to slip downwards. Whoever struggles on up the hill is approaching perfection and Heaven; whoever slips backwards is approaching sin and Hell. There is no middle way. Those who are lukewarm are an object of disgust to their Creator, Who casts them away from Himself. Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, the Holy Spirit says, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth. (Apoc. 3:16)

So it is not enough to be mediocre Christians. The half-hearted and indifferent are already travelling along the slippery path of sin and are on the waiting-list for Hell. It is dangerous for anyone to remain thoughtlessly in this state of spiritual ineptitude. A man who never thinks of his own salvation is suffering from a serious illness. He is running a grave risk of eternal damnation.

2. Our Lord does not command us to be merely virtuous. He commands us to be perfect. You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt. 5:48) He tells us to love Him with our whole heart and our whole soul. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul. (Mt. 22:37) He orders us to renounce everything rather than offend Him, (Luke 14:33) even to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand or foot if it should present an obstacle to our eternal salvation. (Mt. 18:8) How can we remain unmoved and inactive in face of these exhortations? The grade of perfection to which Our Lord calls us cannot be reached without His grace, which we can only obtain by fervent and unceasing prayer. Fervour is the animating principle of the spiritual life. It wins God's gifts for us and makes us almost immune from sin.

3. We can become fervent by eliminating the causes of tepidity. These are: (a) The lack of a living faith. The remedy is frequent meditation on the eternal truths in order to arouse our faith and make us think more constantly of Heaven. (b) The spirit of the world and inordinate attachment to worldly things, Which are like bonds restricting us in our advance towards God. Let us remember that the world passes away and cannot satisfy our souls which have been made for God. Let us seek Him, therefore and love Him above all. (c) Our lack of perseverence in doing good. It is not easy to preserve constant intimacy with God, even at times when we seem to have become spiritually dried up and deprived of all supernatural consolation. It is not easy to persevere in our resistance to the attractions of the world and of sin. It is not easy to pray constantly even when God does not seem to heed us. It is no wonder that we grow tired and discouraged. But let us remember that God rewards His faithful servants by making them fervent in prayer and in action. So let us be constant. We shall be rewarded with spiritual fervour, which will give us the joy and inner peace which conquer every obstacle and arc the prelude to unending happiness with God in Heaven.

Avarice and Ambition

1. The unscrupulous businessman and the careerist have an ugly attitude to life. The former is concerned only with securing the highest possible profits by any means whatever, licit or illicit. The accumulation of money and wealth is like a fever which torments and brutalises the mind and heart. It extinguishes all noble human sentiment; moreover, it destroys religion.

Careerism is a similar kind of viciousness. The careerist is driven by a mad desire to carve out a career for himself at all costs, even if he has to make use of lies, adulation, and bribery in the pursuit of his ambition. His ambition is to win glory and esteem and to hold the highest and most honourable positions, which naturally command the best salaries as well.

The Gospel is severe in its warning to these two classes of people. What does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul? (Mt. 16:25) Seek the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be given you besides. (Mt. 6:33; Lk. 12:31)

2. Although the Gospel stresses so much the necessity of being detached from the things of the world and of striving after the things of Heaven, it is a sad fact that from the early days of the Church up to to the present time greed for money and desire for honour have always been there to do great harm to the faithful.

In his first letter St. Peter exhorted priests to guide and look after their flocks not for the sake of base gain, but eagerly; nor yet as lording it over your charges, but becoming from the heart a pattern to the f lock (I Peter 5:3). He went on to urge the faithful to be humble, obedient and detached from the desires of the world. He told them to entrust their cares to God, their protector. Let us examine how well we follow this counsel and resolve to correct any deficiencies in our behaviour.

3. What is our attitude in regard to these matters? We are not forbidden, naturally, to look after our own affairs and our work. In fact, it is our duty to do so to whatever degree is demanded by the circumstances in which we live. Similarly, it is not forbidden to try and better our social position. All this must be done, however, with a due sense of proportion and by the proper means. The first concern in our life should be the service of God. This is what we were created for; this is what we must wholeheartedly aim at doing. Only in this way can we secure peace of mind and attain eternal salvation. Everything else must be secondary to our ultimate purpose in life. Otherwise God would be in a position inferior to ourselves, and this would be equivalent to robbing for ourselves the honour and glory due to our Creator and Redeemer. Think earnestly about this truth.

The Sacrament of Penance

1. Sin is the shipwreck of the soul. If the sin is serious, it is a fatal shipwreck. Confession is the only plank to which we can safely cling, if we want to be brought back to the harbour of God's grace. Admittedly, in cases of necessity we can regain God's friendship equally well by an act of perfect contrition along with the intention of going to confession. But an act of perfect contritioni demands an act of perfect love of God, which is not altogether easy. There can always be a doubt as to whether we have achieved the necessary degree of perfection. If, on the other hand, we receive the Sacrament of Penance with the proper dispositions, not only will it give us grace, but confidence and peace of mind as well. This sacrament has been very appropriately called the masterpiece of God's mercy. What would be our fate, poor sinners that we are, if God had not given the Apostles and their successors in the priesthood the sacramental power of forgiving sins? We should be very grateful to God for this great gift.

2. We should confess our sins humbly and sincerely. We are obliged to confess at least all the mortal sins which we have committed after Baptism and have never included in a previous good Confession. We should prepare for this Sacrament by making a careful examination of conscience in the presence of God. When we kneel before our confessor, we should remember that, even though he is only a man like ourselves, he is the representative of God. We should confess at least our mortal sins in a clear and exact manner. Whenever possible, we should confess deliberate venial sins in order to be sure of obtaining forgiveness for them. It is very necessary to be sincerely sorry for our sins and to be firmly resolved not to commit them again with the help of divine grace. Perfect contrition, which steins from a pure and disinterested act of love for God, is not necessary. Attrition is sufficient, that is, imperfect sorrow which springs from a lower supernatural motive, such as the fear of hell, the hideousness of sin in so far as it is an offence against God, or the loss of eternal happiness. Let us examine ourselves to ensure that we fulfil all the necessary conditions in our Confessions.

3. St. Charles Borromeo had the habit of going to Confession every day. This was not the result of scruples on his part; it was simply that he was supernaturally enlightened so as to perceive even his smallest faults and he was anxious to remove from his soul the slightest trace of sin. We do not have to follow his example, but weekly or fortnightly Confession is strongly recommended by spiritual writers. It is a great loss to neglect Confession for too long a period. We are deprived of the graces of this Sacrament, our fervour grows cold, and we slip easily from venial into mortal sin. Let us decide to make a good Confession every week whenever we find it possible.

Why Should It Happen To Me?

1. When we are overtaken by some unexpected misfortune or sorrow, or are forced to undertake an unusually difficult job, we often forget to surrender ourselves into the hands of God and pray for help and peace of mind. Instead, we feel annoyed and discouraged and give vent to our feelings in a most unchristian manner. "Why should it happen to me:" This is the reaction of many people in such cases. "It had to happen to me!" they say. They forget that sanctity involves sacrifice, self-denial and resignation to the will of God. The kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force, (I Mt. 11:12) the Gospel says. In other words, if a man wants to win Heaven he must be stern with himself and establish control over any perverse tendencies in his own nature.

2. When Jesus had been scourged and crowned with thorns, He was forced to set out towards the execution-ground on Calvary, carrying the heavy wooden cross. On the way He met a Cyrenean named Simon, who was probably returning from his work in the fields outside the city. The Jews had realised that Jesus had lost so much blood that He was unable to bear the weight any longer. They felt no compassion for Him, but they were anxious to save their victim for the final punishment. With this in mind, they compelled Simon to carry Jesus' cross. The Cyrenean could have said: "Why pick on me? I am tired and must get home . . ." But his eyes met the tired gaze of Our Saviour. He saw that He was covered with wounds and streaming blood. Simon was deeply moved and willingly lifted the Cross which he carried to the place of execution .(Cf. Mt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26)

Picture Jesus, suffering and bleeding on the road to Calvary, and Simon removing the Cross from the shoulders of Our Saviour and transferring it to his own. How can we ever again rebel and complain when we meet with inconvenience or sorrow?

3. When the Saints were confronted by misfortune or suffering, they submitted and thanked God. They understood that this was the price of Heaven. I reckon that the sufferings of the present time, St. Paul writes, are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us.(Rom. 8:18)

"So great is the reward which awaits me," St. Francis of Assisi was fond of saying, "it is a joy for me to suffer." Let our attitude be the same. Then we shall find it easier to win the battles of life and our troubles will be lightened by the brightest of all hopes, the hope of Heaven.

Lord, That I May See!

1. When Jesus was approaching the gates of Jericho one day, a blind man was sitting on the ground, begging for alms. He heard the sound of a crowd on the road and asked what was happening. He was informed that Jesus was passing. Then he experienced a sudden upsurge of faith and shouted out: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on. me!" The people who were in front rebuked him and told him to be quiet. But he cried in an. even louder voice: "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" Then Jesus stopped and turned towards him. He gave orders that the man should be brought nearer to him. "What wouldst thou have me to do for thee?" He asked. "Lord," the blind man replied, "that I may see." Merciful as always, Jesus answered in a tone of command. "Receive thy sight, thy faith has saved thee." Immediately the blind man was able to see, and he followed Our Lord, crying out in praise of God. (Luke 18:35-43; Mark 10:46-52)

Read the simple and vivid account of this incident in the Gospel. Meditate on the infinite goodness of Jesus, Who is always ready to come to our relief. Meditate also on the lively and spontaneous faith of this poor blind man. If our faith were of the same quality as his, we could obtain everything we asked from God.

2. Spiritually, we are all blind to a greater or less extent. Do we understand the infinite truth, beauty and goodness of God, in Whom our true happiness consists? Do we understand the emptiness of the world, despite the glory of its transient beauty which can never satisfy our hearts? Do we understand our own nothingness and our dependence on God for light and grace If we understood all this, then the scales of our spiritual blindness would fall from our eyes. Our faith would be even purer and more heartfelt than that of the poor blind man of Jericho, If we do not possess this lively faith and our eyes are dazzled by the glittering vanities of the world, let us turn to Jesus and beseech Him: "Lord, that I may see! Only the light which conies from You is the true light which illumines every man who comes into this world."(John 1:9)

3. The restlessness and the intensity of living make us see things as different from what they are. But one day the veil of the temple will be rent asunder before our frightened eyes and eternal light will break upon us. Then we shall be blind no longer, but we shall see everything in the light of eternity. Let us place ourselves now in the state in which we should like to find ourselves at that moment. Let us consider ourselves and everything else in the light of eternity. Then our blindness will disappear. Since we shall see everything in God's way we shall direct all our thoughts and actions towards Him.

The Five Tribunals

1. We can distinguish five courts of justice, each of which passes sentence on us. (I) The first is the tribunal of public opinion, of which some people are so afraid. (2) Then there is our own conscience, which shows us what we are and what we ought to be. (3) The third is the tribunal of Penance and (4) the fourth is the civil court. (5) Lastly, there is the judgment seat of God before which we shall have to appear one day with all our sins and our few merits.

Public opinion can be deceived by subterfuge and hypocrisy. Conscience can be ignored, or it can become warped or deadened. The tribunal of Penance can be misused, and we can remain obdurate in our sins. Civil authority can sometimes be evaded; it is also open to deception and corruption. But the tribunal of God is different. We shall be alone before Him --- fraud and deceit will be useless. There will be no excuses, no defense. Everything will be clear, and His judgment will be just and unchangeable. Let us reflect on this while we have time. Let us adopt the necessary remedies, for soon there will be no more time.

2. The tribunal of God is the one for which we must be specially prepared, because our eternal happiness or unhappiness depends on it. Nevertheless, we should not ignore the existence of the others. We have to consider public opinion. It is not that we should be anxious to put up a good appearance before it, but we should try and give good example to our neighbours rather than become the cause of scandal. Let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Mt. 5:16)

Conscience is a court of justice to which we must pay more attention. This is the medium God often uses when He exhorts us to change our lives or to strive towards perfection. The tribunal of Penance is the only sure way for the sinner to return to the friendship of God, although in case of necessity he could obtain pardon by an act of perfect contrition. Finally, we must respect civil authority. All authority comes from God, and for this reason we must obey the civil law in the manner of good citizens.

3. In regard to civil authority, however, one thing should be made quite clear. We are only obliged to obey it when it does not infringe on the rights of God or of the Church. If it should run counter to these we should answer in the words of St. Peter and the other Apostles when they were called before the Sanhedrin: We must obey God rather than men. (Acts. 5:29)

If we had to suffer anything as a result in the cause of God and of the Church, we should count that as our good fortune. Like the Apostles, we should be able to rejoice that we have been found worthy to suffer indignity and ill-treatment for the sake of Jesus' name. (Acts. 5:41)