On the Catholic Priesthood
Jesus Christ having so dignified chastity in His own person left it to His priests as the most beautiful adornment of their priesthood and the greatest glory of their ministry. A priest whose reputation is clean and whose morals are pure is dear to the heart of God and useful to His Church; whereas, on the contrary, a priest whose morals are not beyond reproach, a pastor who is not chaste, what sort of a priest, what sort of a pastor is he?
Whoever the priest is who does not strive to do something more than his predecessors have done, who does not seek out new means by which to draw men from the torrent of iniquity in which they are being lost, is a priest who suffers himself to be beaten by the wicked, and a pastor who sleeps while the wolves are devastating his fold.
Be up and doing, then ye priests and pastors of souls; set to work promptly with all earnestness and zeal to do something for these men.
My God, if only priests clearly understood and fully appreciated the tremendous power which unity of doctrine, unity of hierarchy and, above all, their divine mission confer upon them; if only they had a living faith and an abiding trust in Him from whom they received their mission; if only they worked with the zeal, charity and disinterestedness of the first Apostles, the whole world would be subdued and kneel at their feet. They are more potent than statesmen with all their political craft and subterfuge; they are more potent than even kings and emperors with their armies; they are the depositories of a great moral force which alone can move the world.
Forward, then, O priests of the Lord; forward, with the sword of the Word and the shield of faith, all obedient to the same Head, all animated with the same spirit; diocesan priests and regulars, young men with the oil of consecration still fresh upon your hands, old men, veterans of the Sanctuary, forward, as one man; vice and error will flee at your approach, victory will be yours and the world will be saved.
Vocation to Missions Among the Infidels
And He spoke to them this parable, saying, What man of you that hath an hundred sheep,
and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go
after that which was lost till he find it ? And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders,
rejoicing." — St. Luke xv. 3—5.
Go after that which was lost.
In this Parable Jesus Christ indicates Himself, Who (says St. Gregory) left the choirs of
Angels in Heaven, and, in order to fill up the number of His flock in Heaven, sought lost
man upon earth. And the Priest who leaves the charge of devout souls in order to visit
the land of infidels, and to seek the salvation of those lost souls towards whom Jesus
has such compassion, is a follower of this Good Shepherd, Who came down upon earth
to seek the lost sheep.
Most necessary is it to have pity on those who are perishing (says St. Cyril). This is a most
noble vocation, for it is similar to that of the Son of God ; most glorious is this destiny, which
renders the Missionary a partaker of the Apostolate. The Apostles were to "sit upon thrones "
(St. Luke xxii. 30) — to be " the salt of the earth," "the light of the world," "the light put upon a
candle-stick" (St. Matt. v. 13, 14, 15); and the rewards promised to them — " the hundredfold "
of that which they had left, and the thrones" on which they should "judge the twelve tribes of Israel"
(St. Matt. xix. 28) — represent the infinite value of the recompense reserved for them, and for all
those who are partakers of the Apostolical ministry. Happy those who " are numbered with them
and have part in this ministry" (Acts i. 17) ! whereas to many others God says, " Thou hast no part
nor lot in this matter, for thy heart is not right in the sight of God " (Acts viii. 2 1 ).
What worldly glory can be put in comparison with that of a man thus truly Apostolical ?
How many good works, what great virtue, what abundant merits, are his! How sweet will death
become to him ! How superabundant his happiness in Heaven !
The Priesthood of the Word made flesh
St. Cyril of Jerusalem teaches that Christ was Priest before all ages, anointed by the Father in His eternal generation, so that His Priesthood had not its beginning in time, but is immutable. This Priesthood consisted not in humiliations, in sufferings, in prayers, but in knowing the Father, in acknowledging Him as the source of the Godhead, and Himself as true God of true God. It consisted (according to St. Thomas) in saying to Him, "Thou art my Father," " I am in Thee, and Thou in Me; I love Thee and honor Thee with an infinite love and infinite glory; for infinite is the love which Thou bearest Me, and infinite the glory which Thou hast communicated to Me." He united this Priesthood with His temporal Priesthood when He assumed human nature; taking from us (as St. Augustin says) that which He would offer for us. The Word (says St. Ambrose) appeared clothed with flesh, in His dignity of King and of Judge, and full of sacerdotal justice. Our guilt could not be cancelled without a sacrifice, and therein a sacrifice was sought. The Son (says St. Gregory) took our nature, but not our sin, and offered Himself a sinless Victim. His Incarnation was itself a Sacrifice which lasted His whole mortal life, was consummated upon the Cross, and is continued in glory at the Right Hand of the Father, and on our altars on earth. In the womb of Mary (says Dionysius of Alexandria) the King of Glory was made a High Priest; and He continueth such for ever, now that He has entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption. Let us adore our great High Priest, in Whose hands is our salvation. Source: Meditations For the use of the Clergy, Oblates of St. Charles
Do Not Be Afraid
Do not be afraid, if you find yourselves in the minority. "Woe to you when men shall bless you!" You must be censured if you are the disciples of Jesus Christ. The world that hated Him will not love you. "The disciple is not above his master, not the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord." "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household?" And therefore, if you have the mark of the world's hatred upon you, accept it; press it to your bosom. It is the token that you are the disciples of the true and only Master. If you have the world's favor and sunshine, look to yourselves.
There is a dark future before the world. What it may be, God alone knows. The Church will have to suffer; but there is a light upon it, and that light can never fade. We are in evil times, marked deeply by the four great evils of which I have spoken. Around us are "evil men and seducers, who grow worse and worse, erring, and driving into error. " "Many shall come in my name," our Lord has said, "and seduce many"; and because of their iniquity the love and the charity of the many shall wax cold. Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be wars and pestilences in many places. But the end is not yet. This is only the beginning of troubles. Keep close to the footsteps of the Master who spoke those words; and, when these signs are in the sky and upon the earth, remember that He also said, "When these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption is at hand."
Thanks to the Holy Spirit for Celibacy
The Holy Spirit decreed that this obligation should be specially imposed on Priests, in order that
they might not be hindered from prayer, and from the daily celebration of the holy mysteries ;
as St. Jerome and St. Peter Damian declare. In this state, also (as St. Ambrose says), Priests have
a better title to speak in praise of chastity, and to urge the practice of it, since they give
example of it in their own person. It enables them also to gain greater respect from the laity
(as St. Augustin explains). Moreover, in a state of chastity, Priests can consecrate themselves
wholly to the service of the Church and the sanctification of souls, and are able to bestow
their ecclesiastical revenues on the poor.
Let us, then, give thanks to the Holy Spirit for having made us Priests of the Latin Church,
and for having given us so many brilliant examples of chastity among her clergy.
Our Best Help in the Spiritual Life
In the Catholic Church, our greatest treasure, and the source of our strength and consolation, is the Most Adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, offered with faith and hope, with thanksgiving and love, in union with the merits and intentions of the Divine Victim, the Son of the Living God.
It has been well said that the Mass, the Sacrifice offered on our altars, is, to the Catholic , the sun of Christianity, the soul of Faith, the center of the Christian religion, the grand object of all the Church's rites, ceremonies and Sacraments - the summary, in a word, of all that is good and beautiful in Divine worship and the service of God.
It is no mere form of prayer, but a great and solemn Sacrificial Act offered through Jesus Christ unto the supreme honor of God alone, our Creator and Sovereign Lord. At this august Action, the faithful assist intelligently and fruitfully even when they are so far from the Altar that they cannot hear what is said. At no time since the creation of man was the world without visible sacrifices offered to God. In the Prophecy of Daniel it is foretold that at the coming of Antichrist "the continual sacrifice shall be taken away" (xii,2); and one of the chief acts of the so-called Reformation in the sixteenth century was to suppress this holy Oblation.
Alas! how great is the loss which they suffer who neglect to hear Mass, a loss which they will most bitterly regret, at least in the life beyond the grave.
Some laugh at the custom of hearing daily Mass, and say: "No one that wishes to get on in the world can do such a thing." If they succeed in putting together some wealth, how dearly that success is bought if it drew them on to neglect even Sunday Mass and other grave obligations! When they come to die, how little consolation will such riches give! Will not those persons cry out then, "What hath pride profited us, or the boasting of riches brought us? These things are passed away like a shadow." In the next live, if they see the faithful souls who loved Holy Mass, and lived for God only, they will say: "We, fools, esteemed their life madness and their end without honor. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints" (Wisd. v.6)
Our model in offering the Holy Sacrifice in union with the priest is our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross, offering her Divine Son unto the honor of God for the redemption of the world. We should associate ourselves with her, and desire to have the same perfect disposition of soul as she had on Calvary, and we should ask of her to intercede for us that we may worthily offer the Adorable Sacrifice and share in all its benefits. Everyone who assists at Mass is an offerer of the Sacrifice with the priest. The prayers said in the plural number by the celebrant for those who are present, the mention by him of the people as offerers, and the responses spoken aloud by the server, all show that the persons present at the Mass are true offerers of the Sacrifice, and are liturgically associated with the priest.
Reapers of the Harvest
To hasten the triumph of the Church, all must be animated by an energetic and practical spirit of zeal, and must labor as Apostles to spread the faith according to their opportunities. Bearing in mind that union is strength, they should maintain perfect charity with one another and with their pastors. It is too often forgotten what important help and encouragement they can give the clergy by fervent prayer for the increase of vocations, for ecclesiastical students and for all priests, the young, the middle-aged and the old, for the strong and zealous as well as for those who are weak and in affliction, and they can help too, by showing sincere respect for the priestly office, and heartfelt sympathy in a priest's trials.
Let fervent petitions, then, ascend daily to the Lord of the harvest that He may send forth many true laborers intro the harvest; and let each of us work for God with courage, with unbounded confidence in Heaven's protection, and with genuine love towards all men, that we may lead all to Christ, and to the possession and consolation of the truth as revealed by Him. Then shall there finally be "one body and one spirit, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all" (Eph. iv. 4-6). And the Church shall rejoice in the fulfillment of the Divine promise: " The Gentiles shall walk in thy light and Kings in the brightness of thy rising...and the children of them that afflict thee shall come bowing down to thee, and all that slandered thee shall worship the steps of thy feet, and shall call thee the City of the Lord, the Sion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. Lx. 3-14).
Doctrine of the Church
The doctrine of the Church is unchangeable in the sense that it cannot contradict itself; it is also unchangeable in the sense that nothing can be added to the deposit of revelation. But there is a sense in which the treasure of revealed doctrine is susceptible of development. If we cannot add to it, we can nevertheless gain a clearer and more certain knowledge of its content. In this sense the Church, like every organized body and every living being, is subject to the conditions of growth and development.
Wonderful to say, God makes use of the same means to stimulate the growth and development of doctrine in His Church that the powers of hell make use of to corrupt it, namely, the assaults of unbelief and heresy. There must be also heresies, says St. Paul. These are the inevitable results of the free will of man and of the imperious tendency within him to rebel against the authority of God. But such waywardness and rebellion go only so far as God in His providence permits them to go; they manifest themselves at a time prefixed by Him, and their success is always in the order and measure best suited to the carrying out of His designs.
The author having shown how error proceeds, that it first attacks the unity of God, next the dogma of the Incarnation, next that of the Blessed Trinity, and lastly that of human free will and grace; how the Doctors of the Church by their learning and writings repelled these assaults, and how the Church brought the successive conflicts to a close as they arose by her infallible decisions, thus setting up one by one the columns which sustain the edifice of divine science, goes on to point out how St. Thomas brought together all these scattered materials, arranging and coordinating them in a magnificent synthesis, and presenting them in his Summa in a structure at once systematic and complete.
How happy an alliance, he goes on to say, between revealed truth and the fundamental laws of the human mind! How naturally the teachings of the Fathers fit into this plan, and with such method that one would say that it had all been thought out a priori! How intimate the connection of dogma with dogma! What wonderful analogies are presented at every step, in the consideration of which the mind is borne on to the origin of all things! Above all, what admirable unity! God is considered in His essence and His inner life; He is considered as He manifests Himself externally in the double creation of spirit and matter, and in the creation of man, the precious link which binds the two together; He is considered in His relation to creatures, as leading them back to Himself by the moral law and grace, by the Incarnation and the Sacraments, by rewarding the good and punishing the evil. Here is the whole of theology; here in a sense is the entire universe, with the motive of its being, its origin and its destiny. What book can be compared with a book like this, which sets forth these truths in a style so clear and so graceful, and as luminous as the azure sky! What science is comparable with this science?
Of all sciences, says Aristotle, speaking of philosophy, there is none that surpasses this in dignity, because there is none more divine. Now, a science can be divine in two senses, either because it appertains to God or because it treats of the things of God. The science in question claims this double prerogative, first because God is its object, inasmuch as He is the Principle and Cause of everything that exists; and next because He is its subject, it being wholly occupied with Him. (Metaph. Lib.1) Who does not see that this eulogy of philosophy properly applies only to theology?
To learn more about St. Thomas: Aquinas 101
Spiritual Helps to Attain and Perfect the Gift of Christian Manhood
In suggesting what may be of assistance in securing the perfection to which we are called as disciples of Christ, I do no think it necessary to refer to sinful practices and habits. I wish rather to direct attention to positive aids enabling one to live a praiseworthy and noble life in the sight of God and men.
1. And, first, we must prize above all earthly possessions the gift of Faith, and grow in the love of it day by day. That gift is the root of supernatural justification. Without Faith it is impossible to please God and win the reward which He has promised.
We learn by Faith the mysteries of religion and the over-ruling action of Divine Providence in this world. Human reason, St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, can never acquire positive certitude of revealed truths without supernatural means, and hence theology (and not philosophy) is the source of true wisdom, for it is founded on the Word of God. By a lively and firm faith we conquer our spiritual enemies and surmount the obstacles to our attainment of eternal life. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, our faith" ( I John. v. ) But this precious inheritance of Faith can be lost; and it behoves us to avoid the dangers in the midst of which it may perish. We must walk with circumspection and caution, and shun the presumptuous belief that to lose it is impossible. We should never read infidel or heretical publications, or take part in any kind of non-Catholic worship, or join societies condemned by the Church, or engage in mere controversy, which has never converted anyone. But we must have a full and accurate knowledge of our religion and be able to explain clearly to honest inquirers the various articles and practices of Catholic belief. Hence, one of the most useful branches of study to which laymen can devote themselves is the Catholic doctrine, with its many interesting questions connected with Scripture, history and natural science. For the Church wishes all her children to have an intelligent knowledge of her teaching. Each one, like Sir Thomas More, Daniel O'Connell and so many men of genius and worth in the past, should be able to give a reason for the Faith that is in him and thus, while he aims at being truly religious, he will take care to show that he is, also, intellectual.
2. The peculiar temptations of young men and women spring mainly from the lustihood of the flesh, which wars against the soul. In the fight against such temptations all will be materially helped by promptitude in asking with confidence the intercession of the Mother of God, and by earnest imitation of her virtues, especially her purity. In the heat of the conflict, what need we have of her prayers and her example in this respect! "Who shall bring you forward" (these are Cardinal Newman's words), "in the narrow way if you live in the world, but the thought and patronage of Mary? What shall give you patience and endurance when you are wearied out with the length of the conflict with evil, with the unceasing necessity of precautions, with the irksomeness of observing them, with the tediousness of their repetition, with the strain upon your mind, with your forlorn and cheerless condition, but a loving communion with her? She will comfort you in your discouragements, solace you in your fatigue, raise you after your falls, reward you for your successes. She will show you her Son, your God and your all. When your spirit within you is excited, or relaxed, or depressed, when it loses its balance, when it is restless and wayward, when it is sick of what it has and hankers after what it has not, when your eye is solicited with evil and your mortal frame trembles under the shadow of the Tempter, what will bring you to yourselves, to peace and health, but the cool breath of the Immaculate and the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon? It is the boast of the Catholic religion that it has the gift of making the young heart chaste; and why is this but that it gives us Jesus Christ for our food and Mary for our nursing Mother? Fulfill this boast in yourselves; prove to the world that you are following no false teaching, vindicate the glory of your Mother Mary (whom the world blasphemes) in the very face of the world by the simplicity of your deportment, and the sanctity of your words and deeds. Go to her for the royal heart of innocence. She is the beautiful gift of God which outshines the fascinations of a bad world, and which no one ever sought in sincerity and was disappointed. " ("Discourses to Mixed Congregations.")
3. The last help which I will mention, is devoted personal love of Him who, besides being God, was the greatest, the most perfect man that ever trod this earth, even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And why should we not love Him with an everlasting love which knows not limit; He loves us, though He foresaw our sins; He love us with love that cannot change, for is is as immutable as Himself, who is God. He loves with a compassionate love, for He has taken our human natures, and He is moved with pity to see the weakness, weariness, troubles and temptations of His brethren. For us men and for our salvation the Son of God was born into this world and led a life of poverty and suffering, and preached His Gospel and founded His glorious Church, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail; for us He was condemned and scourged and crucified. He died for our iniquities, and rose from the dead for our justification, and hath ascended into Heaven, there to make intercession for us at the right hand of His Father and prepare a place, that where He is we may be also, united with Him in perfect love and bliss for endless ages. In return for His faithfulness and affection, we must be faithful, too, and fight as good soldiers of Christ for the advancement of God's Kingdom in our own hearts and as far as we have the power, in the hearts of all men. The most persuasive truth of the doctrines revealed by Him to His Church, is the virtuous lives of His followers, for actions speak louder than words. We shall pray, then, for His grace, devoutly worship Him in the Blessed Sacrament, unite with Him in the Adorable Sacrifice of the Altar, and receive Him as often as possible in Holy Communion. Thus, through His Almighty help, we shall become valiant in Faith and strong in love, and perfect in Christian Manhood, until (To Him be the praise!) the Apostle's words are verified in us, "you are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. "
You Have overcome the Wicked One.
In our pilgrimage through this world to eternity we are beset by many enemies, and in particular by the fallen angels, foes watchful, cunning, strong, cruel, proud of former victories - in Scripture phrase, raging lions lying in wait for the prey. Powerful and crafty as is the demon, he is overcome by all whom God's grace has raised to the nobility of Christian manhood. Whether the tempts with the love of gold, the desire of pleasure, or the longing for influence and power, they withstand successfully his assaults, and although they see multitudes yielding to him and becoming his slaves, they, because they are strong and the word of God abideth in them, overcome the wicked one, and remain steadfast in God's service and friendship. Like the seraph Abdiel in the camp of Satan's host, they are
Amond the faithless."
The Word of God Abideth in You
When men are, as Christians, feeble, unstable, childish, the Word of God abides not in them. That holy Word strikes no root in their soul, and fruit it cannot bear. They boast of their science, ability, experience, and knowledge of the world, but in all that goes to make a man they are wanting, for they are slaves to appetite and passion, to the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Of them Christ's saying is true, "Everyone that heareth these my words and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the wind blew, and they beat upon that house and it fell, and great was the fall thereof. " ( Matt. vii, 26-27)
The world is loud in praise of its politicians and warriors, but "better is he who rules his spirit than the taker of strong cities." Wheresover the Word of God abides, there the Spirit of God dwells, and there, also, dwells true freedom. For with the help of Heaven man then becomes a conqueror of himself and casts off the yoke of concupiscence and selfishness. The Spirit of the Lord is within him as "a fount of water, springing up unto eternal life, " to refresh and strengthen him in his triumphant struggle with the world, the flesh, and the spirits of evil.
Manhood is Spiritual Strength
The first Characteristic of Christian Manhood is Spiritual Strength.
"I write unto you because you are strong."
The true man is strong in character, in his principles and resolutions. He does not halt half-hearted and fickle between two opinions; nor is he a reed which bends with every wind that blows; but rather a fair and stately tree that has struck its roots deep into the earth by the running waters. He is so strong in faith and hope and integrity of heart that he generates confidence and courage in all who are brought into contact with him. earnest, patient, self-reliant, he resolutely breasts the storms of life, and becomes the carver, or master, of his own fate. Whatever noble object he undertakes to compass, he pursues with determination and perseverance, and, as he knows religion and virtue to be worthy of esteem, he consecrates to them the best that he has to give. To Christ and His cause he devotes his whole being - body, mind, and soul/ and, vivified as he is by Divine grace, he labors until attains "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ." (Ephes. IV.13).
A Man who is a man....
not only in stature and years, but in the full and perfect sense of the word, is the glory of our nature, of the human; and the life which he leads is an honor to the religion that has made him what he is, and a source of salutary influence to all who know him, bay, even to the world at large. "Every noble life," says Ruskin, "leaves the fiber of it interwoven for ever in the work of the world." The example of such a life gives light and strength to men when they are tempted to despair, and inspires them with courage to grapple with difficulties and struggle till they achieve success.
There are those who. though they reach maturity, and even old age, remain mere children in character. They have no stability or firmness of mind, and they are as froward and impatient as in the days when they played with toys. Impulse and unworthy motive rule them, and they know not what it is, in the practical details of conduct, to be guided by principle. In a Christian, whose very name signifies one who denies himself and follows Christ, it is childishness to live for the pursuit of pleasure, to love display, to cherish thoughts of vanity, to be greedy of men's praise, and to seek deliberately after the enjoyment of comforts and luxuries. There are multitudes of young men who do all this, and moreover, live in sin and under the yoke of sinful habits. in weakness of Character they are veritable children, and yet they call those men fools, and milksops who, with steadfast energy, strength, and courage, overcome themselves and, in the highest sense, "scorn delights and live laborious days." No one, man or woman, merits the name of Christian who has not attained manhood in Christ and put away the childishness that is swayed by inefficacy of purpose, the fear of ridicule, and the inordinate desire of visible things, as if life on earth were never to end.