The CAPG's Blog
What the Mass is and for what end it is to be offered
From the beginning of the world the servants of God were always accustomed to offer Sacrifice to Him, by way of acknowledging His sovereignty and paying their homage to Him ; and in all ancient religions, true or false, this worship of Sacrifice was always regarded as a most solemn act of religion, due to the Deity worshiped.
In the law of nature, and in the law of Moses, there was a great variety of Sacrifices : some bloody, in which the victim was slain ; others unbloody. Some were called Holocausts, or whole burnt-offerings, in which the whole host or victim was consumed in fire upon God’s altar, for His honor and glory : others were called Sin-offerings, which were offered for sins ; others were offerings of Thanksgivings ; others were pacific or Peace-offerings, which were offered for obtaining favors of God— the word “ peace ” in the Scripture style signifying all manner of good and prosperity.
All these Sacrifices of the law of nature, and of the law of Moses, were of themselves but weak and needy elements (Gal. IV. 9), and only figures of a Sacrifice to come, viz., that of Jesus Christ; in consideration of which Sacrifice only, and of the faith of the offerers, by which they believed in the Redeemer to come, those ancient Sacrifices were then accepted by the Divine Majesty, when they were accompanied with the inward sacrifice of the heart; but not for any intrinsic worth or dignity of the things offered, for no other blood but the Blood of Christ could wash away sins. Hence, St. Paul says (Heb. x . 5), quoting from the 39th Psalm : Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not have : but Thou hast fitted to Me a Body. This gives us to understand that, by reason of the insufficiency of the Sacrifices of the old law, Christ Himself would come to be our Sacrifice, and would offer up His own Body and Blood for us.
Accordingly, our Savior Jesus Christ, at the time appointed by His Father, having taken flesh for us, was pleased to offer Himself a Sacrifice for us, dying upon the Cross for the sins of the whole world. By this one offering we were completely redeemed, inasmuch as our ransom was paid, and all mercy, grace, and salvation were purchased for us. Neither can there now be any need of His dying any more, or purchasing any other graces for us than those for which He has already paid the price of His Blood.
Nevertheless, for the daily application of this one eternal Redemption to our souls, and that the mercy, grace, and salvation which He has purchased for us may be actually communicated to us, He not only continually appears in our behalf in the Sanctuary of Heaven, there representing and offering to His Father His Passion and Death for us, but He has also instituted the Blessed Eucharist, the night before His Passion, in which He bequeathed us His Body and Blood, under the sacramental veils, not only to be received by us as a Sacrament, for the food and nourishment of our souls, but also (mystically delivered) to be offered and presented by His ministers to His Father as a Sacrifice : not by way of a new death, but by way of a standing Memorial of His death ; a daily celebrating and representing of His death to God, and an applying to our souls of the fruits thereof.
This Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, daily offered under the forms of bread and wine, in remembrance of His Passion, is what we call the Mass. This is the solemn Liturgy of the Catholic Church. This is that pure Offering which is made to God in every place among the Gentiles, according to the prophecy of Malachi (I. 10 , 11). By this, Christ is a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 109), whose Sacrifice was bread and wine (Gen. xv.)
This Sacrifice of the Mass is the same in substance with that which Christ offered for us upon the Cross; because both the Victim offered, and the Priest or principal Offerer, is the same Jesus Christ. The difference is only in the manner of the offering ; because upon the Cross our Savior offered Himself in such a manner as really to shed His Blood and die for us ; whereas now He does not really shed His Blood, or die. And therefore this is called an unbloody Sacrifice; and that of the Cross a bloody Sacrifice.
By virtue of this essential sameness, the Sacrifice of the Mass completely answers all the different ends of Sacrifice, and that in a way infinitely more effective than any of the ancient Sacrifices. Christ is here both Priest and Victim, representing in person and offering up His Passion and Death to His Father.
This Sacrifice of the Mass is offered up to God, in the Catholic Church, first as a daily remembrance of the Passion of Christ: This do for the commemoration of Me (I Cor. XI. 24) ; secondly, as a most solemn worship of the Divine Majesty ; thirdly, as a most acceptable thanksgiving to God, from whence it has the name of Eucharist ; fourthly, as a most powerful means to move God to show mercy to us in the forgiveness of our sins, for which reason we call it propitiatory ; and, lastly, as a most effectual way to obtain of God all that we need, coming to Him, as we here do, with Christ and through Christ.
For these ends both Priest and people ought to offer up the Sacrifice of the Mass — the Priest, as Christ’s minister and in His person ; and the people, by the hands of the Priest ; and both the one and the other by the hands of the Great High-Priest Jesus Christ. And with this offering of Christ, both the one and the other should make a total offering of themselves also by His hands and in union with Him.
Source: A Manual Of Prayers For The Use Of The Catholic Laity: Prepared And Published By Order Of The Third Plenary Council Of Baltimore 1888
For carrying on Divine worship, ruling the Church, and administering the Sacraments, a Priesthood is required, and it belongs to God alone to institute the Priesthood.
In the Old Law, God chose and raised to the Priesthood Aaron, his children and descendants, and they were to be assisted in their priestly functions by the members of the tribe of Levi; and thus the Priesthood was transmitted to posterity simply by family descent. In the New Law the means instituted by Christ for the transmission of the Priesthood was not by limiting it to one family or tribe, but by having the Sacrament of Holy Order conferred on those Christians whom the Apostles and their Successors should choose among the baptized, and ordain for that dignity and office.
Holy Order, then, is a Sacrament by which Bishops, Priests, and other Ministers of the Church are ordained, and receive power and grace to perform their sacred duties.
The Sacramental character of Holy Order is manifest in Holy Scripture. St. Paul, in his Epistles to St. Timothy, says: "Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given by prophecy, with imposition of the hands of the Priesthood." (I Timothy IV. 14.) "I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. (2 Timothy I. 6.)
Here we have all the essentials of a Sacrament - the outward sign - the inward grace annexed - and divine appointment; for, as we have before said, God alone can make outward signs to be means of grace.
Source: Catholic Belief: or A Short and simple exposition of Catholic Doctrine by Very Rev. Joseph Faa Bruno 1878
Of the Celibacy of the Clergy.
Q. What is the reason why the Catholic clergy are not allowed to marry?
A. Because at their entering into Holy Orders, they make a solemn promise to God and the Church to live continently. Now the breach of such a promise as this would be a great sin; witness St. Paul (I Tim. v. II, 12), where speaking of widows that are for marrying, after having thus engaged themselves to God, he says: "They have damnation, because they have cast off their first faith"; that is their solemn engagement made to God.
Q. But why does the Church receive none to Holy Orders but such as are willing to make this solemn engagement ?
A. Because she does not think it proper that they, who by their office and function ought to be wholly devoted to the service of God, and the care of souls, should be diverted from these duties by the distractions of a married life. (I Cor. VII. 32, 33.) "He that is unmarried, careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord : but he that is married, careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife."
Q. But was it always the law of the Church that the clergy should abstain from marriage?
A. It was always a law in the Church that bishops, priests, and deacons shall not marry after having received Holy Orders; and we have not one example, in all antiquity, either in the Greek or Latin Church of any such marriage; but, it has been at some times, and in some places, as at present among the Greeks, permitted for priests and deacons, to continue with their wives which they had married before their ordination, though even this was disallowed by many ancient canons.
The 27th of the Apostolic canons allows none of the clergy to marry but those that are in the minor Orders, that is, lectors and cantors. The Council of Neo- caesarea, which was more ancient than that of Nice, in its first canon, orders that if a priest marries he would be deposed. The Council of Ancyra, which was held about the same time, orders the same thing with regard to deacons, except they protested at the time of their ordination that they could not live unmarried, and were therefore presumed to be dispensed with by the bishop. (Council Ancyra, Can. 10.)
The great Council of Nice, in the third canon forbids clergymen to have any women in their house, except it be mother, sister, or aunt, etc., a caution which would never have been thought of if they had been allowed to have wives.
In the West the Council of Illiberis, which was held about the close of the third century, canon 33 commands bishops, priests, deacons and sub-deacons to abstain from their wives, under pain of degradation. The second Council of Aries (can. 2) ordains that no married man be made priest, unless he promise conversion, that is to live continently. The second Council of Carthage (can. 2) ordains that bishops, priests and deacons should live continently, and abstain from their wives; and this because the Apostles so taught, and all antiquity observed. Ut quod Apostoli docuerunt, et ipsa servavit antiquitas, nos quoque custodiamus. And the fifth
Council of Carthage, anno 598, can. 2, ordains, in like manner, that all bishops, priests and deacons should abstain from their wives, or be deposed. There are many other ancient canons to the like effect, as well as decrees of the ancient Popes; as of Siricius, in his epistle to Himmerius, bishop of Tarragona, c. 7; of Innocent I in his epistle to Victricius, bishop of Roan c. 9; of St. Leo the Great, epist. 82, to Anastasius, c. 3 and 4.
Hence St. Epiphanius, who flourished in the East in the fourth century, in his great work against all heresies (Haer. 59), writes thus: "The Church does not admit him to be a deacon, priest, bishop, or sub-deacon, though he be a man of one wife, who makes use of conjugal embraces." He adds that this "is observed in those places chiefly in which canons of the Church are exactly kept which being directed by the Holy Ghost, aims always at that which is most perfect; that those who are employed in divine functions may have as little as can be of worldly distractions." And St. Jerome, Epist. 50. "Bishops," says he, "priests and deacons are chosen either virgins or widowers, or from the time of their priesthood perpetually chaste." He affirms the same in his book against Vigilantius, by the name of the Churches of the East, and of Egypt, and of the See Apostolic; and of all bishops, in his book against Jovinianus. See also Origen, Homily 13, upon Numbers; Eusebius, 1. I. Demonst Evang. c 9; and St. John Chrysostom, Homily de Patientia Job.
If you ask the reason why the Church has insisted so much in all ages upon this point of discipline, besides the reason alleged above out of St. Paul (1 Cor. VII 32, 33), "The reason of single life for the clergy," says Mr. Thorndyke, an eminent Protestant divine, in his letters at the end of Just Weights and Measures, p. 239, "is firmly grounded by the fathers and canons of the Church upon the precept of St. Paul, forbidding man and wife to part, unless for a time to attend unto prayer. (1 Cor. VII. 5.) For priests and deacons being continually to attend upon occasions of celebrating the Eucharist, which ought continually to be frequented; if others are to abstain from the use of marriage for a time, then they always." Thus far Mr. Thorndyke.
Q. But were not the Apostles married?
A. Some of them were before they were called to the apostleship; but we do not find that they had any commerce with their wives after they were called by Christ. St. Jerome expressly affirms that they had not. (Epist. 50.) And this seems to be dear from St. Matt, (XIX 27), where St. Peter says to our Lord, "Behold, we have forsaken all things, and followed thee"; for, that amongst the ALL which they had forsaken, wives also were comprehended, is gathered from the enumeration made by our Saviour in the 29th verse, where he expressly nameth wives.
Q. But does not St. Paul say (Cor. IX. 5), "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other Apostles, " etc.?
A. The Protestant translation has willfully corrupted the text in this place; it should have been translated a woman, a sister. The Apostle speaks not of his wife, for it is visible he had none, from 1 Cor. XII. 7, 3. But he speaks of such pious women, as, according to the custom of the Hebrew nation, waited upon the Apostles and other teachers, serving them in necessaries; as they had done also upon our Lord in the time of His mortal life. (See St. Luke VIII. 2, 3.) Though St. Paul, that he might be less burdensome to the faithful, chose rather to serve himself and live by the work of his own hands.
Q. Does not the Apostle (I Tim. III. 2 and 12), require that bishops and deacons should be "the husband of one wife?"
A. The meaning of the Apostle is not that every bishop, priest or deacon should have a wife, for he himself had none; and he declares (I Cor. VIII. 8): "I say to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I." But his meaning is, that none should be admitted to be a bishop, priest or deacon, that had been married more than once, which law has ever since been observed in the Catholic Church: for since it was not possible in those days of the first preaching of the Gospel (when there were few or no converts, either among the Jews or Gentiles, but such as were married), to have found a sufficient number of proper ministers, if they had not admitted married men, they were consequently obliged to admit such to the ministry; but still with this limitation provided they had not been twice married. But now the Church has a sufficient number of such as are trained up to a single life, and are willing to embrace perpetual continency ; and therefore prefers such to the ministry, and is authorized so to do by the Apostle (I Cor. VIII. 32, 33, 38). And if after having consecrated themselves to God in this kind of life, they should be for looking back, and engaged in a married life, they are expressly
condemned by the same Apostle. (I Tim. V. 12.)
Q. Is it not said (Heb. xm. 5), " Marriage is honorable in all?"
A. The Protestant translation has strained the text to make it say more than the original, which may as well be rendered in the imperative mood, thus: "Let marriage be honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; for whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" as the next verse which is rendered in the Protestant translation by the imperative, "Let your conversation be without covetousness," etc. So that the true meaning of this text is, that married persons should not dishonor their holy state by any liberties contrary to the sanctity of it ; but not to allow marriage to those who have chosen the better part, and consecrated themselves by vow to God.
Q. But is not forbidding marriage called a doctrine of devils ? (I Tim. IV. 3.)
A. It certainly was so in those of whom the Apostle there speaks, viz., the Gnostics, the Marcionites, the Encratites, the Manicheans, and many other heretics, who absolutely condemned marriage as the work of the devil. For our part, nobody reverences marriage more than we do; for we hold it to be a Sacrament, and forbid it to none but to those that have voluntarily renounced it to consecrate themselves more wholly to the divine service: and in such as these St. Paul condemns it as much as we. (See I Tim. V. 12.) That these same heretics also condemned absolutely the use of all kinds of meat, not on fasting-days only (as was also practiced by the Church), but at any time whatsoever; because they looked upon all flesh to be from an evil principle. So that it is evident these were the men of whom the Apostle (I Tim. IV.) intended to speak.
Q. But do you think that a vow of continency so strictly obliges any person, that it would be a sin in such a person to marry?
A. Yes, most certainly; because the law of God and nature requires that we should keep our vows to God (Deut. XXIII. 21, 22, 23). "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform." (Psal. LXXVI. II.) "Vow and pay unto the Lord your God." (Eccles. V. 4.) " Pay that which thou hast vowed. Better it is that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay." For if it be a crime to break our faith with man, how much more with God ? If you say that the state of continency is not more acceptable to God than that of marriage, and therefore cannot be the proper matter of a vow, you contradict the doctrine of the Apostle: (Cor. VII. 38), "He that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; but he that giveth her not doth better."
Hence St. Augustine (L. de bono Viduiatis, c. II), affirms that the breach of such a vow of chastity is worse than adultery: and St. John Chrysostom (ad Theodorum Lapsum), "Though you call it marriage a thousand times, yet I maintain it is much worse than adultery." Hence the Council of Illiberis, can. 13; the fourth Council of Carthage, can. 104; and the great Council of Chalcedon, can. 15, excommunicate those who presume to marry after such a vow. What would the Church of those ages have thought of a religion introduced into the world by men that had notoriously broken through those most solemn engagements, and who raised the fabric of their pretended reformation upon thousands of broken vows ?
Q. But all have not the gift of continency ; why then should the first reformers be blamed, if, finding they had not the gift, they ventured upon marrying with nuns?
A. Continency is not required of all, but such as have by vow engaged to keep it: and therefore, before a person engages himself by vow, he ought certainly to examine whether he has a call from God, and whether he can to through with what he thinks of undertaking: but after he has once engaged himself by vow, he is not now at liberty to go back; but may assure himself, that the gift of continence will not be denied him, so that he uses proper means to obtain and preserve it, particularly prayer and mortification, which because Luther laid aside, by quitting his canonical hours of prayer and other religious exercises, to which he had been accustomed in his convent, no wonder if he lost the gift of continency, which he owns he enjoyed whilst he was a popish friar : " Whilst I was a religious (says he), I observed chastity, obedience and poverty: and, in short, being wholly disengaged from the cares of this present life, I wholly gave myself up to fasting, watching and prayer." (In Gal. 2, 15, t. 5, Wittemb. fol. 291. 2.) But as soon as he commenced reformer, to demonstrate that he was changed for the worse, he declares he had so far lost this gift that he could not possibly live without a woman. (Sermon de Matrim., L 5, fol. 119, 1.)
Q. But does not Christ say, concerning continency (St. Matt, XIX II), "All men cannot receive this saying:" and St. Paul (Cor. VII. 9), "If they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn?"
A. No; both these texts are willfully corrupted in the Protestant Testament. Where he speaks not of such as have vowed chastity, but of other Christians, whom he advises rather to marry than to burn with unlawful lust here, and for unlawful lust hereafter. And the same advice is most frequently inculcated by Catholic divines. But as for those that have vowed chastity, they must make use of other means to prevent this burning, particularly prayer and fasting. But what a wretched case must that of the adversaries of the celibacy of the clergy be when to maintain it they have in so many places willfully corrupted the Scripture! and what a melancholy case it must be, that so many thousands of well-meaning souls should be wretchedly deluded with the pretense of God's pure word, when instead of this, they have nothing put in their hands but corrupted translations, which present than with a mortal poison, instead of the food of life!
Source: Our Church Her Children And Institutions, Volume 1. 1908
The Glorious Destiny of the Clergy
I. They Are Not Of The World.
II. They Are Of God.
III. How Few Such Are Found!
"And He said to them: How is it that you sought Me? did you not know that I must be about My Father's business? And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them."—St. Luke ii. 49, 50.
1. How is if that you sought Me? These are the first words of our Divine Lord which the Evangelist records. These words, and those which follow them, contain a declaration of the mystery of the Incarnation, and its end; they reveal to us the dedication of Jesus to His Father's glory, and our salvation, and He puts them in the mouth of all those whom He associates with Him in His Priesthood, in order that they may give the same answer to the men of the world, if, at any time, they seek to divert them from their Ministry. So did He answer His Mother, not to blame her three days' search for Him, but, as Venerable Bede tells us, to cause her to raise her eyes to His Heavenly Father, to Whom His whole life was due. Now let us pass from the Head of all Priests to His Members; from Christ to ourselves, who have here a most important lesson given us. If, when the duties of His Priesthood were in question, He answered His Blessed Mother in this manner, shall we be too harsh if we give the like answer to the men of the world? O Minister of God, should the world seek to regain thee, to bind thee anew to itself, and, with manifold solicitations urge thy return, answer it in these words: "How is it that you sought me?" God has chosen thee, and separated thee from this world: "you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world" (St. John xv. 19); and thou hast chosen God for the portion of thine inheritance ; therefore, as St. Isidore warns thee, thou oughtest to serve Him alone. Stand on thy guard, for many blandishments, many promises will the World make use of, to draw thee to itself; it will set its fatal snares in order to involve thee in worldly actions, and to divert thee from the care of the Sanctuary. So St. Peter Damian. But Jesus has put this great answer in thy mouth, and note well this, "how is it 1" for, says St. Augustine, all that the world offers is nothing, is "What?" a trifle which deludes and bewitches: "the bewitching of vanity" (Wisd. iv. 12); and yet this nothing, this trifle, puts thee in peril of losing everything, of losing thine eternal happiness. Whosoever of the Sacred Order, says St. Peter Damian, desires to live innocently, must not often tread in the world's ways, lest he fall into the meshes of its snares.
2. Did you not know that I must be about My Fathers business! The men of the World do not understand the high destiny of the Priesthood, and sometimes even Priests themselves do not realize it; but our Great High Priest has taught it to us in a few words: "I must be about My Father's business." St. Bonaventure observes that these words are explained by those other words of our Savior, " I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent me" (St. John vi. 38); and Metaphrastes says, that Jesus meant to show, that he who goes wandering about among earthly matters will not attain perfection. The Priest should be "a man of God;"that is, God's alone: "but thou, O man of God, fly these things" (1 Tim. vi. n); and St. Chrysostom remarks on this expression, that the Saints were called "Men of God," because they preserved in themselves the image of God, pure and entire. In this sense was this title given to Moses (Deut. xxxiii. 1), to Samuel (1 Kings ix. 6), and to Elias (4 Kings i. n). How can we be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ if we are not even giving ourselves to the promotion of God's glory? If a great part of our thoughts, words, and actions are directed to earthly goods, shall we be Saints, "Men of God "? St. Charles impressed upon his priests, that they were not to waste in idle or vain occupations such time as was free from the Divine Offices, Ecclesiastical functions, and other necessary actions, but that he who is called to the work of the Lord, should meditate day and night on His Law. We have a Heavenly Father, Who has given us all that we possess, and He has given it us for Himself; we have a Heavenly Father, Who has incorporated us with His Son, and He would have us followers of this great pattern; we have a Heavenly Father, Who beholds us with an infinite penetration, and Who will amply reward all our merits; why, then, do we occupy ourselves with aught else but His service? Every moment, says St. Bernard, that we have not employed for Him, let us count as lost, and lost for eternity.
3. And they understood not. St. Bonaventure observes that Christ gave His Apostles an example of speaking of the hidden wisdom of God, and of speaking of it in a mystery: "we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, which is hidden" (1 Cor. ii. 7). He spoke of His Divinity, and they understood not what He spoke to them, says Venerable Bede. What a lesson for us! Jesus speaks of His dedication to His Father's glory, and Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, does not understand him. This mysterious circumstance, mentioned by the Evangelist, clearly signifies that the destiny of the Clergy, and our high aim, will frequently be misunderstood; and, therefore, we must not wonder at the many prejudices which exist, rooted not only in the minds of laymen, but even of ecclesiastics also: "and they understood not." They understand not that Holy Orders have consecrated us to God, have made us so many victims to His Eternal Majesty; and that, therefore, freed from all secular affairs, we ought to serve God alone. So St. Peter Damian. They understand not, in short, that, at our Ordination, we bound ourselves to God, to promote His glory; to the Church, to render Her service; to the Faithful, to procure their salvation; to ourselves, to save our souls. They understand not that, though we may be neither parish priests, nor benefited priests, still the intimation given us by the Bishop when he ordained us Priests, exists, and that the same duties are imposed on us. They understand not that the Council of Trent, in admitting to the Priesthood him who has a patrimony instead of
a benefice, does not free him from those obligations, but imposes them even on him. "The senseless man shall not know, nor will the fool understand these things" (Ps. xci. 7). But let us persuade ourselves of their truth; let us endeavor to persuade our brethren, who are in error, of their truth; let us impress those truths on the young whose feet are directed towards the Sanctuary, repeating to them continually those words of the Apostle: "You are not your own" (1 Cor. vi. 19).
"The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places: for my inheritance is goodly to me."—Ps. xv. 6.
"The Lord is my portion, said my soul."—Lament, iii. 24.
As from the beginning Religion in some form has always existed, consequently at the same time there has also always been a priesthood, that is to say, ministers of sacred things, "ancients," "elders" or priests. Such was Adam; such were Enoch, Noe, Melchizedek, Abraham, and after them under the Mosaic Law the ministers of Religion the High-priest, priests and Levites. (That is: men of the tribe of Levi, from which should be recruited the ministers of the Mosaic Worship. ) However, these were but a figure of and a preparation for the Priesthood of the New Law. In the New Law Jesus Christ is the sole Redeemer, the sole Mediator, the sole Intermediary between Heaven and Earth, and consequently the sole Priest. But according to the general arrangements of His Providence He has willed that certain men should be His earthly and temporary deputies such are the Catholic bishops and priests. Hence the Sacrament of Holy Orders which consecrates them and gives to them the powers and the graces necessary for the exercise of their sacred functions: to offer the Sacrifice of the adorable Body and Blood of our divine Savior; to remit the sins of men; to dispense supernatural life by means of the Sacraments; to teach the truths of religion; to preside at public worship and to render to the faithful from their birth to their death all the services in the spiritual order which they may need for the sanctification and the salvation of their souls.
On our part we have duties towards our priests: to listen to their instructions; to help them in their ministry; to defend them against calumny; and, as far as our means permit us, to provide for their material wants whilst they themselves are consecrating their lives to insure to us all spiritual blessings.
The word Orders (from the Latin Ordo, in the sense of rank, class, social condition) is applied very rightly to the Sacrament by which the hierarchy of the ministers of the Church is created from the minor orders to the sub-deaconship, deaconship, priesthood and episcopate. (We have seen already that the word, priest (presbyter) signifies aged man, ancient, a venerable man; in the primitive Church, the priests were always chosen from amongst the elders.)
Those who receive this Sacrament are the fewer in number. But everywhere God calls whom He wishes without any merit on their part to labor for the salvation of their brethren.
This "call of God" is what we term a location. Those thus called should respond: God will be faithful to them. In the Church the Pope or Sovereign Pontiff is as Bishop of Rome the successor of St. Peter, and the first of the Bishops of the whole Church. The Bishops alone like the Apostles constitute the Priesthood in its complete fullness; it is be cause of this that they alone administer the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Once a priest, forever a priest; nothing can take away this stamp of priesthood which will remain for all eternity. But to hear confessions, every priest must be approved of for this office, and must receive jurisdiction from the bishop, as every bishop receives jurisdiction from the Pope. (Jurisdiction, that is the power to judge or to exercise spiritual authority. )
Once consecrated sub-deacon, the priest is bound: 1st to recite daily the devotional exercises called the Divine Office in which he prays in the name of the whole Church; 2nd to observe celibacy and continence; that is, not to marry and to preserve perfect purity of heart. St. Paul tells us: "He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided." (I. Cor. VII. 32.)
The Latin Church thus imposes celibacy on her priests so that they may have no other family than that of the souls confided to their care; that they may be able to devote themselves exclusively to the service of these souls; and that they may be freer to consecrate themselves to every kind of ministry, whether in Christian or Pagan lands.
In such circumstances, therefore, it is only just that their material wants should be supplied by the faithful in accordance with the words of St. Paul. (I. Cor. IX.)
The first Catholic priests were St. Peter, who was Pope, the Apostles, who were bishops and those of the Faithful who were chosen and consecrated as priests and missionaries. Throughout the ages since the beginning of time this priesthood has been continued, and so it will be until the end of the world. When there are no longer priests, there will be no longer a Church, and so the world will come to an end.
Source: Credo: A short exposition of Catholic Belief. 1919 1920
The Holy Mass
The daily celebration of the Mass over the whole Christian world fulfills the prophecy contained in the first chapter of Malachias V.11.
"For from the rising of the sun, even to the going down, My Name is great among the Gentiles" (i.e., among those who were to form the present Christian world); "and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My Name a clean oblation; for My Name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts."
The Mass is this fore-told sacrifice, and clean oblation. It is offered from the rising to the going down of the sun; and it is the self-same sacrifice as that offered once in a bloody manner upon the Cross, but now in an unbloody manner on every Catholic altar. The self-same Christ is at once the High-Priest and the Victim.
The Sacrifice of the Mass is not inconsistent with the truths that, firstly, there is but One Sacrifice; secondly, that the merits of the Sacrifice of the Cross are all-sufficient; and, thirdly, that Christ, having once died, can do so no more. The Mass and the Oblation on Calvary are one, because there is the same Divine victim, Jesus Christ, in each case. It is not held to create new merits by adding to those gained on the Cross, but only apply daily those so gained.
Christ does not die on the Altar, yet remains a perfect victim. Death is not essential for a sacrifice, as we learn by the old anti-type of the offering of Mass, when the Scape-Goat, being offered up as a sacrifice to God, was afterwards allowed to go free into the wilderness. (Lev. xvi, 10.)
Sacrifice has always been the one supreme from of Divine worship, and nothing more perfectly shows forth the death of the Lord, till he come (i. Cor. xi, 26), and so well obeys the Divine injunction on this matter, as the offering of the Holy Mass.
The Holy Eucharist is at the same time a sacrifice in itself and also a memorial of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Sacrifice of the Mass does not lose its rightful claim to be a sacrifice because it is at the same time commemorative of another sacrifice. "The action of the Last Supper looked forward to that action on Calvary, as the action of the Holy Mass looks backwards upon it. As the shadow is cast by the rising sun towards the west, and as the shadow is cast by the setting sun towards the east, so the Holy Mass is, I may say, the shadow of Calvary, but it is also the reality: (Cardinal Manning - Glories of the Sacred Heart).
The words of the Mass were not primarily intended to be recited or even followed by the people. The Congregation only assist at the action, priests alone being set apart to sacrifice by the reception of the powers conferred in the Sacrament of Holy Orders; and non-Catholics, if uninformed, are naturally surprised to find a priest celebrating Mass recite much of it in silence. As a proof of the former proposition, there is a portion of the Mass still called the Secret; and in ancient times a screen was drawn between the priest and the laity, so that the latter were not permitted even to see the act, yet were considered as duly participating in all its merits by their mere presence. Today the laity are rather recommended to follow the words, and these are set down in all their prayer-books in English and Latin; yet every one assisting at Mass is free to use any private form of prayer and meditation.
We have strong confirmation of the antiquity of the Mass in the writings of the pagan Romans, whose calumnies show that the Mass was always the one principal service of the early Christians. These writers refer to the slanderous stories of their times, that the Christians killed an infant and ate its flesh at their religious meetings. Such misrepresentations were very common, and prove that the primitive Christians did sacrifice and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in their Holy Communions. Those pagan tales with their half-truths are evidently founded on the celebration of the Holy Mass wherein Christ is sacrificed.
The words of the Mass are almost solely derived from Scripture, and could the Catholic Church more practically and more publicly venerate its Divine inspiration than in this full use of the Bible in its greatest act of worship?
Source: Guide to a Catholic Church: for non-Catholic Visitors, by Fox, WL and O'Gorman, RA. 1904
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The Mass is the unbloody Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. Through it God has given us the Blessed Eucharist, His living Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity. Through it He Himself is "with us all days," dwelling in the tabernacles of our altars as truly as he dwells in Heaven.
The word Mass is from the Latin missa, derived from the verb mittere, to send, and signifies a sending away, a dismissal. In the ancient liturgy of the Church there were two dismissals at the Holy Sacrifice:
1. That of the catechumens, those partly instructed and not yet baptized after the Gospel and sermon, and 2. that of the faithful at the end of the Mass - still preserved in our Masses by the announcement "Ite Missa Est" ("Go, it is the dismissal") gradually came to denote the service itself. The French from, "Messe," was modified in England into "Maesse," " Masse, and finally "Mass".
In the early centuries of the Church the Mass was known as the Breaking of Bread, the Lord's Supper, the Solemnity of the Lord, the Sacrifice, the Holy Liturgy and the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving.
A priest who offers the Mass is called its celebrant.
Source: The Visible Church, Her government, ceremonies, sacramentals, festivals and devotions; a compendium of the "Externals of the Catholic Church". Fr. John F. Sullivan 1920
Decorum in Church
When you enter the church, go to your place as quietly as possible. Some people make a great deal of noise in getting in their seats. This is calculated to disturb the congregation, and is exceedingly unbecoming. The church is the temple of the living God, not merely because it is dedicated to his service, but because he dwells therein. The very walls of is are sanctified. It is at all times holy, and is therefore always to be entered with the respect due to the house of God. "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."
Do not walk up the aisles with an air of pride, such as the people of the world may put on in a ballroom. You may be regarded by the world as rich, intelligent, and accomplished; in the church, you are a poor, blind, and sinful being, and should come in all humility to implore the grace and mercy of God.
It is still more necessary to observe these rules, if you enter the church after Mass has commenced. If you happen to enter during the elevation or communion, kneel by the door, and remain there during the more solemn parts of the Mass; you can afterward retire quietly to your place.
You should assist with attention at the holy Sacrifice. When you are not reading your prayer-book, keep your eyes fixed on the altar on which that adorable Sacrifice is offered, and never gaze around in the church.
Do not leave the church until the priest is retiring from the altar to the sacristy. Those who are the last to come to it, and the first to rush out of the church, seldom derive any benefit from Mass, and often do not hear it properly. The practice of all pious Catholics is, to spend some time after Mass in thanksgiving.
Do not remain standing before the church, as if you had no other object in coming than to see and be seen. If you have time before Mass, say the Rosary, or the Stations of the Cross; employ the time in spiritual reading, or in adoring Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Remember what those who have gone before you in the faith endured that they might be present at the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and reflect with what attention and piety they must have assisted at it. During the early persecutions, no churches could be built. The divine mysteries could not be celebrated anywhere in public. The faithful were compelled to go into subterranean vaults, called catacombs, where Mass was offered on the tombs of martyrs. The candles we burn on our altars remind us of those days, and of the brightness of faith that made them days, not of mourning, but of joy.
To assist properly at Mass is one of the most important acts of Christian life; and hence the Church declares it to be mortal sin to neglect to hear Mass on Sundays or Holydays.
The Memory of these martyrs teaches us that persecutions suffered by the priesthood are precious
"Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the Wise Men, was exceeding angry, and sending, killed all the men children,"
I. When They Are Raised Against The Innocent.
II. When They Proceed From Hatred To Christ.
III. When They Are Borne In Defense Of Christ.
1. Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the Wise Men. The Magi might appear culpable in the eyes of Herod for not having made known to him the abode of the Child, as he had enjoined them; but these children neither had committed, nor could have committed, any fault whatever; so that St. Augustine puts these words in the mouths of the mothers :. "If it is a crime it is mine; if it is not, deliver us."
Herod therefore was unjustly enraged against them. In like manner, when persecutors have no just ground of complaint against Priests; when they are "innocent and upright" (Ps. xxiv. 21); when their imprudence has not excited persecution (for it often happens that " the tongue of the fool is his ruin," Eccl. v. 15), let them not grieve; the wrong rests with their enemies. Let them, on the contrary, rest in tranquillity of conscience, and say with the Apostle: "I rejoice in my sufferings " (Col. i. 24); let them remember that they have a share in the eighth Beatitude: "Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matt. v. 10). St. Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, observes that our Savior does not name the persons who persecute, but only the motive for persecution, "for justice' sake;" whether you are persecuted by idolaters, or by heretics, or by Christians whom you have perhaps corrected for their faults, if it is for justice' sake, your advantage is the same. Therefore consider not who persecutes you, but why you are persecuted. Let Priests remember that they are the ministers of Him Who said, "They have hated Me without cause " (St . John xv. 25) ; that many of their predecessors have sung with the Prophet, "Princes have persecuted Me with out cause" (Ps. cxviii. 161); and that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. iii. 12). Priests are more exposed to such persecution than other men, because they are "set up a wall for the House of Israel" (Ezekiel xiii. 5), which the enemies of the City assail. By Thy help, O my God, make me "a wall of iron" (Ezekiel iv. 3).
2. He was exceeding angry. The wrath and hatred of Herod were not, says St. Leo, directed against the children for their own sake, but for the sake of the Messiah, whom he sought to destroy in the cradle; and therefore they died martyrs, and are venerated as such by Holy Church. For which reason, observes St . Augustine, no honor shown them by the tyrant could have profited them so greatly as did his hatred. In like manner Priests are often objects of the hatred of unbelievers, because these men hate Christ and His Gospel, His Church and His Heavenly Father. He forewarned His Priests of this when He ordained them, saying, your enemies "have hated both Me and My Father" (St. John xv. 24); and remember that "if the world hate you, know you that it hath hated Me before you" (ib. 18); and it hates you precisely "because . . I have chosen you out of the world" (ib. 19); and as this hatred was the cause " that they have persecuted Me," so will it be the cause that " they will also persecute you" (ib. 20). Therefore let us arm ourselves with these forewarning, let us fear the love of the world more than its hatred, and let us not flatter ourselves that the world can love the members whilst it hates the Head. As St. Augustine says, we ought, for the love of Christ, to endure the hatred of the world along with our Head. Let us pray to God to give us patience and courage under the persecutions to which He shall see fit to subject us, and may all Priests who in any part of the world are now suffering the persecutions of the wicked, by His grace triumph over them; and we and they shall owe our eternal blessedness to those very persecutions.
3. Killed all the men children. The Innocents, by their death, saved the life of the Divine Child, for the tyrant, believing Him to be included in the general massacre, no longer sought Him. Moreover they proclaimed the name of the new-born King, "not by speaking, but by dying;" for, as St. Leo says, this atrocious act caused His birth to be made known even in the Capital of the World, where a foundation was thus laid for the promulgation of the Gospel. Priests are in like manner often persecuted for defending Christ; and here let us recollect that he who defends the truth, defends Christ, for He said: "I am . . . the Truth" (St. John xiv. 6). He who defends Wisdom, Justice, or .any other Virtue, defends Christ, for He is Wisdom itself, Justice itself, Virtue itself. "He is made unto us of God, wisdom, and justice " (1 Cor. i. 30); "Christ the power of God" (1 Cor. i. 24); "He who defends the Church defends Christ, for He is the Head of the Church" (Eph. v. 23). Blessed, then, are we if in such a cause we suffer calumny, sarcasm, oppression, or even death. St. Ambrose tells us that there is nothing we should fear so much, that nothing is so dangerous before God, and contemptible before men, as silence when it is our duty to denounce sin.
"In God I have put my trust, I will not fear what flesh can do against me." —Ps. lv. II.
"Thou deliverest them that wait for Thee, O Lord, and savest them out of the hands of the nations."—Eccles. li. 12.
How Bright will be the Splendor of the Indelible Character of Order in Holy Priests
- Because this is the only dignity which will remain in that Day.
- Because it will shine, not only in the soul, but also in the body
- Because it will then be given in recompense for the endurance of past reproaches.
When these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand."—St. Luke xxi. 28.
1. Look up. Behold, O Priests, in the last great day, the extinction of all dignities. Now, the great ones of this world die, but greatness dies not; sovereigns die, but sovereignty lives on, for, as one prince dies, another succeeds him; hence the wise man beheld the great of the earth hunted and trodden down by those who came after them: "I saw all men living, that walk under the sun, with the second young man who shall rise up in his place" (Eccles. iv. 15). Then greatness itself, sovereignty itself, shall vanish, and Jesus Christ shall appear, in His full power, the only Great One, the only and sovereign Lord. "Great is our Lord, and great is His power" (Ps. cxlvi. 5). Magistrates, princes, emperors, will sleep the sleep of death, and in the resurrection no remains of authority will be found in their hands: "They have slept their sleep, and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands " (Ps. lxxv. 6). They were great as long as the scene of their life was on this world's stage; but, as St. Paul says to the Corinthians (i vii. 31)," The fashion of this world passeth away." But it is not so with Priests: their character is indelible; their dignity alone will remain to all eternity, and be resplendent in the face of the universe. If it remain indelible for the punishment of the reprobate, it will equally remain indelible for the recompense of the elect, as says St. Augustine. And, as he says again, when Jesus Christ our Lord comes to judgment, He will not efface His own character in His ministers.
2. And lift up your heads. Then holy Priests will lift up their sacred heads—those heads which had received the imposition of hands—they will raise them out of the dust of the tomb, in which their natural body was sown, "to be raised a spiritual body," as says St. Paul (i Cor. xv.); that is, they will be endowed with the gifts meet for a spiritual body. They themselves will see, and the world will see, their dignity. The sacerdotal character will be resplendent even in their bodies; for, as St. Thomas teaches, the glory of the body will be caused by the glory of the soul, and this glory will be spiritual in the soul, and corporeal in the body; and the greater the glory of the soul, the greater will be the glory of the body. Those members will be more especially resplendent which were employed in the functions of the ministry, which nourished men daily with the Flesh of Jesus Christ, and which preserved holy chastity in the midst of temptation. Hence it was that the first Priests of the New Testament groaned within themselves, "waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of their bodies" (Rom. viii. 23). Then shall their voices be raised to praise God, those voices which glorified Him during their mortal life; and with their bodily eyes shall they see the glory of their divine Head. For as Isaias says (lii. 8), "the voice of thy watchmen: they have lifted up their voice, they shall praise together: for they shall see eye to eye." May these considerations aid us to keep our bodies in sanctity and honor; let us not abandon them to corruption and concupiscence: "in sanctification and honor, not in the passion of lust" (1 Thess.lv. 4, 5)
3. Because your redemption is at hand. Then, O Priests, shall you be freed from the calumnies of the world, and your prayer, "Redeem me from the calumnies of men" (Ps. cxviii. 134), will be fully answered. The world knew not Christ; it despised Him and calumniated Him: neither does the world recognize the dignity of His Priests; it despises them and calumniates them:"We are without honor . . . even unto this hour" (1 Cor. iv.10, n). But then the scene will change, and the world will see, as says St . Prosper, that Priests were the ornament of the Church; that, as St . Augustine says, they were angelical men; that, as St . Clement says, they were, after God, terrestrial gods. St. Cyril remarks that God ordered Moses to number the people in order to show that He kept His elect numbered in the book of life; but He ordered the Levites to be numbered apart, in order to show that Priests are written down in other books. So does this holy father explain the prophecy of Daniel, "The judgment sat and the books were opened " (Dan. vii. 10). Then shall worldly men behold with the dark envious eyes of Aman how the King of kings causes His Mordechais to be honored: "thus shall he be honored whom the king hath a mind to honor" (Esther vi. 9). Let us then bear injuries with meekness, let us bear labors with patience, and all the trials to which it is the will of our King to expose us, with the certain hope of future happiness. The day will come when God will recompense us for all we have suffered. Let us not lose our confidence in God, which will have a great reward; rather let us revive it during this holy season of Advent, which brings to our remembrance the mercies of our Savior.
"Judge my judgment and redeem me: quicken Thou me for Thy word's sake."—Ps. cxviii. 154.
"O Lord, have mercy on us; for we have waited for Thee."—Is. xxxiii. 2.
The Shepherds, in receiving the Angel’s tidings, were a figure of watchful priests
I. They Were The First To Be Called.
II. They Were The First To Be Enlightened.
III. They Were The First To Be Comforted.
"And there were in the same country, shepherds watching, and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear: and the Angel said to them: Fear not."—St. Luke ii. 8, 9, 10.
1. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them. The shepherds who kept watch over their flocks by night, were a figure of Priests, who, as St. Ambrose says, in the night time of this present life sleep not, but watch in order to guard the souls committed to their care from the assaults of their spiritual enemies; and it was fitting, as St. Ambrose says further, "that shepherds should be found watching, and that they should be the first to receive the Heavenly Tidings, that He, the Good Shepherd, the Pattern of Shepherds, was born." Therefore all Priests who teach or direct souls, should remember that they especially are called upon to adore the new-born Child. Venerable Bede says, "Mystically speaking, they signify the pastors of the flock, teachers also, and rulers of faithful souls." Let us then be the first at the manger; let us contemplate this great mystery; let us be the first to attract the glance of the Divine Child, and let us melt into tears of tenderness, love, and compunction. He says to us: Come, make haste, and buy of Me without price, at the expense of only asking, the wine of strength, and the milk of consolation: "Come, make haste, buy wine and milk . . . without any price" (Isa. lv. 1). "Come, eat My Flesh, and drink My Blood; this is your food, this is your drink, and therefore am I born in Bethlehem," that is, in " the House of Bread." "Come eat My bread, and drink the wine which I have mingled for you" (Prov. ix. 5). Come, you who are afflicted with misery, oppressed by the weight of your ministry. "Come to me all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you" (St. Matt. xi. 28). Let us go, then; "let us go over to Bethlehem," let us imitate the shepherds, who came with haste, and let us be the first to offer tribute to the new-born Monarch; for the princes of the people ought to go before the people in their acts of homage.
2. And the brightness of God shone round about them. The light which shone round about the shepherds is an image of the divine light with which worthy ministers of God are invested; and, as St. Gregory says, the greater their vigilance for the salvation of souls, the greater will be the light of grace which enlightens them; and the more solicitous they are for the welfare of their flocks, so much the more will they merit to understand divine truths better than others. God, who predestined us to the priesthood, Who enlightened us with His heavenly light from our earliest years, and gave us a clearer knowledge of His Son than He gave to the rest of the Faithful: "He hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor. iv. 6). When we studied Dogmatic Theology, we learned the treatise, De Incarnatione, in order that the sublime teaching of this great mystery might be impressed on our minds; we have often instructed the ignorant in it, we have confuted unbelievers, we have defended its truth. One step more remains for us to take, and it is this; to nourish our minds and hearts with the Faith and sound doctrine, by imploring the descent of the divine light into our souls, and so shall we be "good ministers of Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. iv. 6). Therefore let us hasten to adore the Divine Child; let us study Him, the pattern of humility, patience, and every virtue; let us say to Him, with St. Bernard: "The meaner Thou makest Thyself for me, the dearer Thou art to me." Let Thy grace be made manifest in us, bestow on us abundance of light, for Thou hast "destroyed death, and brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel" (2 Tim. i. 10).
3. Fear not. The Angel took away all fear from the hearts of the shepherds; much more will Jesus Christ take away all fear from the hearts of His Priests. He says to them now from the manger, by His infant cries, what, on another occasion, He said in words: "It is I, fear ye not" (St. Matt. xiv. 27). I am Who am, and you are My ministers; whom should you fear? I am come, not to give you the spirit of fear, which was in the Old Law, but the spirit "of power, and of love, and of sobriety" (2 Tim. i. 7). Preach My Gospel without shame, without weariness, without diffidence: "be not ashamed of the testimony of Our Lord . . . but labor with the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Tim. i. 8). Three times to-day you will offer the mighty Sacrifice which is the source of all strength, which, as Holy Church declares, was the support of the martyrs amidst their torments; three times to-day you will eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, so that in the strength of that food you may walk, even to "the Mount of God" (3 Kings xix. 8). And we will answer Him: Jesus, be Thou my strength: come to me, come to my soul, live in me; or, with St. Ambrose, we may say, For otherwise what would Thy coming into the world profit me 1
"Say to my soul, I am thy Salvation."—Ps. xxxiv. 3. "The Lord is my strength, and my praise, and He is become my salvation." —ha. xii. 2.
In the Birth of Jesus Christ Mary gives three very useful lessons to the ministers of the Sanctuary
I. Accomplishing the days of her child-bearing.
II. Bringing forth the Son of God.
III. Showing Him her love and her reverence.
"Her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered, and she brought forth her firstborn Son; and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. "St. Luke ii. 6, 7.
1. Her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. Mary completed the period of her pregnancy, during which Jesus Christ, as perfect Man as well as God, had dwelt in a frightful prison: "Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb." Of His own choice had He remained full nine months as it were dead, without opening an eye, without moving a hand or a foot: "I am made free among the dead" (Ps. Ixxxvii. 6); and yet, by David His father, He shows us that He did not leave this prison without regret, nor save by the express command of His Father who drew Him thence : "Thou art He that hast drawn Me out of the womb" (Ps. xxi. 10). And why was this? He was content with this abode because Mary entertained Him so well: " while the King was at His repose, my spikenard sent forth the odor thereof" (Cant. i. n). The virtues of the Blessed Virgin perfumed the Child with a most sweet odor, but it was her humility which especially pleased Him; humility, which, as St. Bernard says, exhaled its odor—that is, its accustomed odor—because God is accustomed to be pleased with humility. The Virgin declares that the Word made flesh made her womb His tabernacle: "He rested in my tabernacle" (Eccles. xxiv. 12).
We Priests receive within us daily the same Son of God, the same
Son of Mary; how do we entertain Him? Is He well pleased with our
reception of Him? Does He go away satisfied when the sacred species are
consumed? Humble thyself, beholding the condescension of a God, and, as
says St. Athanasius, "acknowledge thyself a sinner; pour forth prayer to
God with a contrite heart." If men expect gratitude and love on account
of some slight benefit rendered them, how much greater right has Jesus
Christ to expect it when He communicates Himself to us. Hence, concludes
St. Chrysostom, "it is but just for men to offer thanksgiving."
2. And she brought forth her first-born Son. Mary brought forth her Divine Son as her first-born; that is, her only Son; for, as St. Jerome says, the only child must be the first-born; and she brought Him forth without detriment to her virginity: "behold a Virgin . . . shall bear a son" (Isa. vii. 14). As a word is conceived without corruption of the mind, so it issues from the heart without corruption; hence it was fitting that the Body of the Word should come forth without corruption from His Mother's womb. Besides, it was not fitting that He who came to heal what was corrupt, should corrupt what was sound; nor, says St. Thomas, was it fitting that He who commanded men to honor their parents, should, in His birth, diminish the honor of His Mother.
We Priests bring forth
Jesus Christ in the hearts of the Faithful, but do we remain uncorrupted
when discharging this office of our Ministry? How many defects, how
many grievous faults, it may be, are committed in administering the
Sacrament of Penance! What ruin to him who enters on it rashly, who
exercises it imprudently! St. Basil requires a confessor to be "an
upright man," and goes on to point out all the virtues with which he
should be adorned, in order that he may not stain his own heart, nor
himself lose the purity which he is restoring to others. St. Bonaventure
demands knowledge in a confessor, that he may not render himself guilty
of other men's perdition; and the Supreme Pontiff, Innocent III., would
have him prudent, discreet. cautious, in order that he may question and
direct his penitents well, without injuring himself or them. How can we
attain this without the special protection of the Blessed Virgin? Let
us ask the Mother to pray to her Divine Child for us; for, as St.
Bernard says, the Son cannot reject His Mother, but will certainly grant
3. And laid Him in a manger. Mary profoundly adored the Child, embraced Him in her arms, pressed Him to her bosom, carried Him to the crib, and wrapped Him in poor but clean swaddling clothes. So did she show her affection, so did she second His great desire to be born in the extreme of poverty, humiliation, and suffering. The joy of the mother, as St. Bonaventure says, was immense, but immense also was her sorrow that she could not better entertain her Son. We also, when we bring forth Christ in the hearts of the Faithful, ought to have joy, like the Apostle, who said: "In this I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (Phil. i. 18); but at the same time we should be sad, with a sorrow which is "according to God" (2 Cor. vii. 10), when we see sin have dominion in the world; when we see those who have been converted returning to their vomit; when we see venial sins abounding in ourselves and in others. Mary attentively considered the mystery of the manger, of the swaddling clothes, and of the animals which lay beside the Child; as Cornelius a Lapide says, she recognized in these objects an emblem of the world and an image of sins and of sinners. She made herself a Mediatrix with the Mediator in order to obtain for all sinners reconciliation with God. Let us also have recourse to this Mediatrix, that she may obtain for us freedom from the bonds of sins, and that from the condition of beasts we may pass to the condition of the sons of God; for, as St. Bernard says: "There is need of a mediator with that Mediator; and there is no mediator better than Mary."
"For the glory of Thy Name deliver us."—Ps. lxxviii. 9. "Rule Thou over us and Thy Son."—Judg. viii. aa.
The Condemnation of Priests
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them" St. Martt. VII. 19,20
1. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit: Our Saviour had spoken of false Prophets, and in their person had signified wicked Priests : He had enjoined His disciples to avoid them, but He had not enjoined them to punish them. He fills them with fear, threatening them with the punishment of God (says St. Chrysostom). A wicked Priest has, indeed, need of threats rather than of promises, and for his amendment he has need to think of the former rather than of the latter. And, did he but reflect on the tremendous truth which is here inculcated — that is to say, that a Priest may be condemned for failing to produce good fruit — then surely he would never bring forth those many evil fruits which may be traced to him. He would shrink from incurring that dreadful curse, " You shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary . . . you shall bear the sins of your priesthood" (Numb, xviii. 1).
If we are branches of that great Vine, which is Jesus Christ, we ought to remember His word, " Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He will take away;" and again, "If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth " (St. John xv. 2, 6). Let us, then, fear the fulfillment of so terrible a menace ; let us fear the teeth of the dragon (says St. Bernard); let us fear the belly of hell, the roaring of fierce beasts that stand ready to devour, the worm that ever gnaws, the fire that always burns, the smoke, the brimstone, the whirlwind, and the exterior darkness. It may be that our death is near, and that " the axe is already laid to the root of the tree " (St. Matt. iii. 10) ; it may be the Watcher and the Holy One has already cried aloud from heaven, " Cut down the tree " (Dan. iv. 1 1 ). Whither shall we then flee from the wrath of the Lamb ? Why do we not now by penance forestall this fatal stroke ?"
2. Shall be cut down. What terrible words are these ! They point to separation from the heavenly kingdom, which separation is incomparably more terrible than eternal fire ; although (as St. Chrysostom says) many fear hell more than they fear the loss of heaven. But the loss of a kingdom, and that the kingdom of God, will be most terrible for Priests, who have held the keys of it, who have opened it to others, and who will hear from the lips of devils that they have lost it, as the devils have lost it, without hope of recovery : " Thou also art wounded as well as we, thou art become like unto us" (Is. xiv. 10). — " Shall be cut down." They shall be separated from the Eternal Father Who had communicated to them immense power, Who had confided to them His Son, Who had made them Ministers of His mercies, but Who now says, " I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured " (Deut. xxxi. 17). — " Shall be cut down. " What an awful punishment is that of Priests — to be separated from Christ, to become the object of His hatred, and to hate Him and curse Him, through all eternity, after having been so familiarly associated with Him — after having called Him down so many times from heaven, held Him in their hands, taken Him for food, dispensed Him to the Faithful ! The punishment of ten thousand hells could not equal this (says St. Chrysostom). — "Shall be cut down". How terrible for Priests to be separated for all eternity from the Holy Spirit, by Whom they were anointed, illuminated, sanctified, and made the instruments of diffusing Him on Whom the Angels, whose name and office they have borne, "desire to look!" (i Pet. i. 12). — "Shall be cut down." Surely, nothing ought to be so terrible to Priests who still retain their faith as the thought of losing for all eternity the sight, the possession, the enjoyment of the Blessed Trinity, with Whom they have been so closely associated on earth.
3. Shall be cast into the fire. The fire which is kindled by God's wrath is "a fire full of wisdom;" that is, it punishes each one according to the number and heinousness of his sins. Hence the sins of Priests, which are most heinous — because of their contempt of Divine light, their ingratitude for the Divine benefits, and because of the fatal consequences of such sins — will bring upon them a more severe and intense suffering than those of any others. Supreme is God's indignation against His reprobate Ministers, and therefore against them in an especial manner is " a fire kindled in His wrath, which shall burn even to the lower heir' (Deut. xxxii. 22). The breath of Almighty God, which, when breathed upon them, gave His Priests power to remit sins, will then be "as a torrent of brimstone" to punish their iniquity (Is. xxx. 33). Let us consider that the devils have already prepared a dwelling for us, and desire to see us precipitated into that furnace of fire ; " for Topheth is prepared from yesterday, deep and wide ; the nourishment thereof is fire and much wood." (Ibid.) What anguish for Priests to see themselves changed from shining stars into firebrands of hell !
O Jesus, Author of the Priesthood, and Supreme High Priest, abandon not Thy unworthy Minister. Convert me and save me.
" Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword, my only one from the hand of the dog." — Ps. xxi. 21.
" Which of you can dwell with devouring fire ? Which of you shall dwell with everlasting burnings ? " — Is, xxxiii. 14.
Prayer for Priests Who Have Become Unfaithful to Their Vocation
Divine Savior Jesus Christ, Thou are the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. Oh, be in a very special way the Good Shepherd of those poor lost priests who are also appointed by Thee to be leaders of Thy people, but who have broken the oath of their holy ordination and have become unfaithful to their exalted calling. Bestow upon these poorest of the poor the very fullness of that pastoral solicitude with which Thou dost so faithfully seek the sheep that are lost! Touch their hearts with the irresistible ray of grace which emanates from Thine all-merciful love! Enlighten their minds and strengthen their wills, that they may turn away from all sin and error and come back to Thy holy altar and to Thy people. O most compassionate Savior! Remember that Thou didst once redeem the souls of Thine erring priests with Thy Precious Blood and in infinite preferential love didst impress upon them the indelible character of the priesthood. Put wholly to shame those miserable helpers of Satan who lay snares for the virtue of priests and endanger the holy ideal of the priesthood. Most graciously accept our prayers and sacrifices for poor priests who have gone astray and hear our earnest petition. Amen
obtain for us holy priests.
St. John-Mary Vianney, model of sacerdotal holiness,
obtain for us holy priests.
St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionary priests,
obtain for us holy priests.
St. Therese of the Child-Jesus and of the Holy Face, victim offered for the sanctification of priests,
obtain for us holy priests.
Saints and Servants of God, obtain for us holy priests.
Imprimatur - Bishop John F. Null (April 18, 1948)
Source: Cure d'Ars Prayer Group
The Attacks Made by Heretics upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
The persecutions which the evil enemy has stirred up at various times against the most holy sacrifice of the Mass are a proof how sacred a thing it must be, and how obnoxious to the devil; otherwise he would not attack it with such violence. (...)
From the days of the apostles until the present time the holy sacrifice of the Mass has had no more vehement opponent than the unhappy Martin Luther, who not only attacked but decried this divine mystery. He did not do this of himself, nor when he first apostatized, but at a later period, and at the instigation of the devil. In fact the deluded man himself acknowledges in his writings that his teaching comes from the devil, and only at the suggestion of the evil one has he abolished the Mass as an act of idolatry, although he must have known full well that the devil is the hater of all that is good, and teaches mankind naught but what is evil.