Category Archives: Catechism

Prayer/Meditation (and subsequent chapters)

The following excerpts are from a book entitled The Spiritual Combat. By Lorenzo Scupoli. A book that subsequently, St. Francis de Sales carried with him for 18 years!


PRAYER
WE HAVE SHOWN that distrustfulness of self, confidence in God, and proper application of the faculties of the soul are the indispensable weapons of conquest in the spiritual combat. Yet a far more important weapon is prayer, since by it are obtained, not only the above-specified virtues, but everything requisite for our salvation. Prayer is the channel of all Divine grace; by it God is compelled, as it were, to grant us the strength of Heaven, and destroy by our weak hands the fiercest of our foes. But in order to receive full benefit from our prayer, the following method should be observed:
1. We must desire sincerely to serve God with ardent fervor in the manner most agreeable to Him; and this desire will be enkindled within our breasts if we consider three things attentively. The first is that Almighty God deserves our homage and service by reason of the excellence of His sovereign being, His goodness, beauty, wisdom, power, and His ineffable, infinite perfection. The second is that God in Heaven became man on earth to consecrate a life of thirty-three years to the cause of our salvation. He condescended to dress our wounds with His own hands, and heal them, not with oil and wine, but with His own precious blood and immaculate body, torn and disfigured by cruel whips, thorns, and nails. The third point is our realization of the obligation to observe His law, and discharge every duty, since this is the only way we can expect to triumph over the devil, to become masters of ourselves, and children of God.

2. We must have a vibrant, living faith and a firm confidence that God will not refuse the assistance necessary to serve Him faithfully and work out our salvation. A soul rekindled with this holy confidence is like a sacred vessel, into which Divine Mercy pours the treasures of His grace; and the larger the vessel, the greater the abundance of Heavenly blessings it receives through prayer. For how can God, Whose power is limitless, and Whose goodness is alien to all deception, ever refuse His gifts to those whose petitions He has encouraged, and whose perseverance and faith He has promised to reward with the blessings of the Holy Spirit?

3. But our motive for prayer must be the will of God rather than the will of self. We must apply ourselves to this divinely appointed duty because He has commanded it, and we must wish no more than that which is in utter conformity to God’s plan. Thus, our intention will not be to make the Divine will subservient to our own, but rather, to transform the human will so that it is in complete harmony with the Divine. The reason for this humble accedence to the Divine will is the perversity of our own, tainted as it is with a blind self-love. Guided by ourselves alone, we would err and stumble, but the will of God, essentially just and holy, cannot be mistaken. Thus the will of God should be the will of men, since not to follow the former is to go astray. Let us, then, be most solicitous that all our petitions be agreeable to God, and if doubts arise concerning the concurrence of the human with the Divine, let a humble submission to Divine Providence accompany our requests. If, however, the things we ask are, by their very nature, pleasing to Him, such as grace, virtue, etc., then let us beg them with a view to pleasing and serving His Divine Majesty, rather than for any other consideration, however creditable.

4. If we wish our prayers to be efficacious, our actions must suit the petitions, and we must exert much energy in making ourselves worthy of the favors we ask. For prayer and interior mortification are inseparable, and he that seeks a particular virtue, without making a serious effort to practice it, only tempts God.

5. Before we ask anything of God, we ought to thank Him most humbly for the innumerable benefits He has graciously bestowed upon us. Let us say to Him: “O Lord, Who after creating me, didst mercifully pay the price of my redemption, delivering me from the fury of myriad enemies, come now to my assistance; and forgetting my past ingratitude, bestow upon me this favor I now ask.” If, however, at the very time we seek to attain a particular virtue, we find ourselves tempted to the contrary vice, let us thank God for granting us the opportunity of practicing the virtue in question, and look upon the occasion as a favor.

6. As the entire force and efficacy of prayer is attributed solely to the goodness of God, at the conclusion of our petitions we should constantly remember the merits of our Savior’s life and passion, and His promise to graciously hear our requests, with one or the other of these sentences:

A) “I beseech Thee, O Lord, through Thy infinite mercy, to grant my petition.”

B) “Through the merits of Thy Son, bestow this favor on me.”

C) “Be mindful, O God, of Thy promises, and hear my prayers.” Again, we may have recourse to the intercession of the blessed Mother and the other Saints; for they prevail much with God, Who is pleased to honor them, in proportion to the honor they accorded Him on earth.

7. We must persist in prayer, since God certainly cannot overlook our humble perseverance. For if the pleadings of the widow in the Gospel prevailed with the wicked judge, how can our pleadings be ignored by God, Who is infinitely good? Thus, although our favors may not be immediately granted, and may even appear to be ignored by God, we must not lose our confidence in His infinite goodness, nor desist from prayer. For God possesses both immense power and will to grant us those things conducive to our ultimate welfare. Therefore, if we are not wanting in ourselves, we shall inevitably obtain what we ask for, something better, or perhaps both. As for the rest, the more we churlishly think ourselves slighted by God, the more we should hold ourselves in contempt. But in considering our misery, we should contemplate the Divine mercy, and far from lessening our confidence in Him, we must increase it; for the steadier we remain in situations attended by fear and diffidence, the greater will be our merit. Finally, let us never cease to thank God, blessing equally His wisdom, His goodness, His charity, whether He grants or refuses our petition. Whatever happens, let us be undisturbed, contented and resigned to divine Providence in all things. 

MENTAL PRAYER

MENTAL PRAYER is the elevation of our minds to God, asking of Him either expressly or tacitly those things of which we stand in need. We ask for them expressly when we say in our hearts: “O my God, grant me this request for the honor of Thy holy name”; or “Lord, I am firmly convinced that this petition is Thy will, and for Thy greater honor, I ask this petition. Accomplish, therefore, Thy Divine will in me.” When harassed by the attacks of the enemy, let us say: “Come swiftly, O Lord, to my assistance lest I fall a prey to my enemy”; or “O God, my refuge and my strength, help me speedily, lest I perish.” When temptation continues, we must continue the same prayer, courageously resisting the foe; and when the fury of the combat has passed, let us address ourselves to the Almighty, imploring Him to consider our weakness in the face of the enemy’s strength: “Behold, my God, Thy creature, the work of Thy hands, a man redeemed by Thy precious blood. And behold Satan trying to carry him from Thee to utterly destroy him. It is to Thee I fly for aid, and it is in Thee that I place my entire confidence, for I know that Thou alone art infinitely good and powerful. Have pity on a miserable creature who stumbles blindly, though willfully, into the path of his enemies, as do all who forsake the assistance of Thy grace. Help me therefore, my only hope, O sole strength of my soul!” We tacitly ask favors of God when we present to Him our necessities, without making any particular request. Placing ourselves in His Divine presence, we acknowledge our incapacity to avoid evil or do good without His aid. We are nevertheless inflamed with a desire of serving Him. Thus we must fix our eyes upon Him, waiting for His assistance with unbounded confidence and utter humility. 

The confession of our weakness and the desire to serve Him, this act of faith so performed, is a silent prayer which will infallibly obtain our request from Heaven. The more sincere the confession, the more ardent the desire, and the more lively the faith, the greater will be the efficacy of the prayer before the throne of God. There is another method of prayer similar to this, but more concise, consisting as it does in but a single act of the soul. The soul presents her requests to the Almighty, adverting to a favor already asked and still sought, although not formally expressed. Let us endeavor to cultivate this kind of prayer, and employ it on all occasions; for experience will convince us that nothing is more easy, yet nothing more excellent and efficacious.

MEDITATION

WHEN A CONSIDERABLE length of time is to be spent in prayer, it is advisable to make a meditation on some feature of our Savior’s life or passion; the reflections naturally arising from such meditation should then be applied to the particular virtue we are striving to attain. If, for instance, you need patience, contemplate the mystery of your Savior scourged at the pillar.

Consider first the blows and revilements hurled at Him by the soldiers as they brutally drag their innocent victim to the appointed place as ordered.

Secondly, consider Him stripped of His garments, exposed to the piercing cold. 

Thirdly, picture those innocent hands, bound tightly to the pillar.

Fourthly, consider His body, torn with whips until His blood moistened the earth. And finally, envision the frequency of the blows, creating new wounds, reopening others on that sacred body. Dwelling on these or similar details, calculated to inspire in you a love of patience, you should try to feel within your very soul the inexpressible anguish so patiently borne by your Divine Master.

Then consider the excruciating agony of His spirit, and the patience and mildness with which that agony was endured by Him Who was ready to suffer even more for God’s glory and your welfare. Behold, then, your Master, covered with blood, desiring nothing more earnestly than your patient acceptance of affliction; and be assured that He implores for you the assistance of the Heavenly Father that you may bear with resignation, not only the cross of the moment, but the crosses to come. Strengthen, therefore, by frequent acts your resolution to suffer, with joy; and, raising your mind to Heaven, give thanks to the Father of mercies, Who didst send His only Son into this world to suffer indescribable torments, and to intercede for you in your necessities. Conclude your meditation by beseeching Him to grant you the virtue of patience, through the merits and intercession of this beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased.

ANOTHER METHOD OF MEDITATION

THERE IS ANOTHER method of prayer and meditation besides the one to which we have adverted. In this latter method, having considered the poignant sufferings of your Savior and His patient endurance of them, you proceed to two other considerations of equal importance. The one is the consideration of Christ’s infinite merits, and the other, of that satisfaction and glory which the eternal Father received from His obedience—an obedience unto death, even the death of the Cross. You must represent these two considerations to the Divine Majesty, as two powerful means of obtaining the grace you seek. This method is applicable, not only to all the mysteries of Our Lord’s passion, but to every exterior or interior act He performed in the course of His passion.
A METHOD OF PRAYER BASED ON THE INTERCESSION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN

BESIDES THE METHODS of meditation already mentioned, there is another which is addressed particularly to the Blessed Virgin. We first consider the eternal Father, then Jesus Christ Our Lord, and finally, the Blessed Mother. With regard to the eternal Father, there are two considerations. The first is the singular affection He cherished from all eternity for this most chaste Virgin whom He chose to be the mother of His Divine Son. The second is the eminent sanctity He was pleased to bestow upon her and the many virtues she practiced in her lifetime. 

Meditating on the affection of the eternal Father for our Lady, you must begin by raising your mind above all created beings; look forward to the vast expanses of eternity, enter into the heart of God, and see with what delight He viewed the person destined one day to become the mother of His Son; beseech Him by that delight to give you sufficient strength against your enemies, especially those who most grievously afflict you. Contemplate, then, the virtues and heroic actions of this incomparable Virgin; make an offering of each or all of them to God, as they are of such efficacy as to obtain for you divine assistance in your particular necessities. 

After this address yourself to Jesus, begging Him to be mindful of that loving mother who for nine months carried Him in her womb, and from the moment of His birth paid Him the most profound adoration. For this was her acknowledgment that this Child was at once God and man, her Creator and her Son. With compassion she saw Him poorly accommodated in a humble stable, nourished Him with her pure milk, kissed and embraced Him a thousand times with maternal fondness, and through His life and at His death, suffered for Him beyond expression. Present this picture to the Savior, that He may be compelled, as it were, by such powerful motives, to hear your prayers. Appeal to the Blessed Virgin herself, reminding her of her commission from all eternity, to be the Mother of Mercy and the refuge of sinners, and that after her divine Son, you place your greatest confidence in her intercession. Present to her the fact, asserted by the learned and confirmed by miracles, that no one ever called upon her with a lively faith, and was left unaided. Finally, remind her of the sufferings of her Son for your salvation, that she may obtain of Him the grace necessary to make proper use of His sufferings for the greater glory of that loving Savior.

God Bless BJS!!

Existence of Purgatory

 

Both reason and faith tell us that there is a middle ground of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin before it can enter the glory of heaven. “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apoc. 21:27). Christ said, “Amen, I say to thee, thou will not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny” (Matt. 5:26). Even persons who deny the existence of purgatory instinctively pray for their loved ones who have died. This would be great inconsistency if their reason did not tell them that their prayers would do the dead good. Prayers are useless for those in heaven or hell.

    What is purgatory? –Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who die in the state of grace, but are guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their sins.

  1. Purgatory is a middle state where souls destined for heaven are detained and purified. Souls in purgatory cannot help themselves, for their time for meriting is past. But they can be helped by the faithful on earth, by prayers and other good works.In some places, at eight o’clock at night, the church bells sound, to admonish the faithful to pray for the souls in purgatory. This hour is in commemoration of Christ’s prayer in the garden. We should then kneel and pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and the Requiem aeternam: “Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them,” etc. 
  2. Belief in the utility of praying for the dead automatically includes belief in the existence of purgatory. If there were no purgatory, it would be useless to pray for the dead, because saints in heaven need no help, and those in hell are beyond aid.And we can be sure there will be no more purgatory after the General judgment; because the reason for its existence will have passed. 
  3. Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not fully satisfied God’s justice for mortal sins already forgiven.
       

    1. A boy steals an apple from a stall in the market; this is a venial sin punishable in purgatory. Some argue that God is a good God, and will not punish such slight sins with the pains of purgatory. We must remember, nevertheless, that the judgments of God are different from those of men, as His holiness is far above human holiness.“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Let us reverence God’s holiness and justice, as we have loving confidence in His mercy. 
    2. A man commits a cruel murder. This is a mortal sin which, unrepented and unconfessed, will send him to hell.The man repents, confesses, and obtains absolution for his sin; the guilt therefore is removed. But justice requires that he make up for the evil he has done; this atonement takes place in purgatory, unless he makes full satisfaction before death.

     

  4. The doctrine of purgatory is eminently consoling to the human heart. It consoles us when our loved ones die. Purgatory is a bond of union making us realize that death is not an eternal separation for the just, but only a loss of their bodily presence.Purgatory gives us an assurance that we are still in touch with our beloved dead. We are consoled by the knowledge that we can still help them with prayer, as in life we so helped them.
    Is the doctrine of the existence of purgatory reasonable? –The doctrine of the existence of Purgatory is not only reasonable, but its negation is eminently contrary to reason; it is taught in Holy Scripture, and has been taught by the Church from the very beginning.

  1. The doctrine of a middle state of purgation is taught in the Old Testament,and was firmly believed in by the Hebrews.After a battle, Judas Machabeus ordered prayers and sacrifices offered up for his slain comrades. “And making a gathering, he sent twelve drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For, if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Mach. 12:43-46). 
  2. When Our Lord came on earth, He purified the Jewish Church of all those human changes that with the years had crept into its usages and beliefs. But He never reproved anyone for belief in a middle state of purgation, or prayers for the dead.On the contrary, Christ more than once implied the existence of purgatory. He said “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world, or in the world to come” (Matt. 12:32). When Our Lord said that a sin will not be forgiven in the next life, He left us to conclude that some sins will be thus forgiven. But in the next life, sins cannot be forgiven in heaven: “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apoc. 21:27). Neither can sins be forgiven in hell, for out of hell there is no redemption. They must therefore be forgive middle state, Purgatory. 
  3. Belief in the existence of Purgatory is a continuous and solemn teaching of the Church. From St. Paul, the early Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, on through the ages, the Church has taught the existence of Purgatory, and the correlated doctrine of the usefulness of praying for the dead.From the beginning Christians prayed for the dead at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The oldest books used at Mass contain prayers for the dead.The doctrine of Purgatory was given solemn definition by the Council of Trent as follows: “There is a purgatory, and the souls there detained are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the most acceptable, sacrifice of the altar.”

    This dogmatic definition contains three points of faith that all Catholics are compelled to believe: (a) that there is a purgatory; (b) that after death souls suffer there for their sins; (c) that the living can extend assistance to such souls.

     

  4. Reason demands belief in the existence of purgatory. If a man dies with some slight stain on his soul, a sin of impatience, or an idle word, is he fit to enter heaven? God’s sanctity forbids it: “There shall not enter into it anything defiled” (Apoc. 21:27) . But must such a soul be consigned to hell? God’s mercy and justice forbid it.Therefore reason concludes the existence of a middle and temporary state of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin before it can be admitted into the perfect holiness and bliss of heaven. “Amen, I say to thee, thou wilt not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny” (Matt. 5:26). 
  5. Among nearly all peoples there has persisted a belief that souls must undergo some sort of purification after death. This would point to the doctrine of purgatory.The Greek story of Prometheus implies a place of purgation. The Egyptians and others believed in the transmigration of souls. Legends and myths of all nations, as well as burial customs, indicate belief in the possibility of helping the dead.

Particular Judgment

 

Complete justice will not be done in this life, but in the next. Then everything will be weighed in the balance of God’s justice, and punished or rewarded. If on earth we have obeyed the commandments of God and of the Church we shall be given an eternal reward in heaven (1). If we have obeyed all the commandments, but die with unforgiven venial sin, or without having satisfied for forgiven mortal sin, we shall be sent to purgatory (2). Alas for us if we die with even one mortal sin! For then we shall be banished from the sight of God and suffer torments in hell forever (3).

    What is the judgment called which will be passed on each one of us immediately after death? –The judgment which will be passed on each one of us immediately after death is called the particular judgment.The existence of the particular judgment can be deduced from the parable of Dives and Lazarus; a soul is shown rewarded immediately after death.

  1. As soon as each soul leaves the body at death it undergoes the Particular judgment, at which its eternal destiny is decided. “We must all be manifested at the judgment seat of Christ.” “It is appointed unto men to die once, but after this comes the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). “Every one of us will render an account for himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).Let us remember that even while the relatives gather around the bed of the departed one, even while his body is still warm, the particular judgment is gone through and finished; the judgment is passed, and the soul gone to his reward or punishment. If we remember this, we shall be more fervent in praying for the dead, in helping others die a happy death, so that without fear they may meet God at the judgment. 
  2. Jesus Christ is the Judge at the Particular Judgment. Before Him each soul must stand. The soul will stand in the awesome presence of God the Son, to give an account of its whole life: of every thought, word, act, and omission.“Neither does the Father judge any man, but all judgment he has given to the Son” (John 5:22). 
  3. A man’s whole life will be spread before him like a great picture. He will remember everything, although he might have forgotten much at the moment of death. How he will wish then that he had done only good! We are not to suppose that the soul will go to heaven before Christ to be judged. God enlightens each soul in such a manner that it fully knows Christ has passed a true judgment on it.“Of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). The judgment will embrace even the good which has been neglected: a strict account will have to be rendered of the use we made of the talents and graces given to us. Even good actions badly performed will come under scrutiny, careless communions, hasty confessions, etc. Only then shall we know the exactness with which God sees and measures every act, word, and even intention in our deepest thought. 
  4. The good and the evil that the soul has done will be weighed in the balance of God’s justice. Then the sentence will be passed by Jesus Christ alone, without the intervention of witnesses. This sentence is final and will never be reversed. The soul will learn the sentence, the reasons for it, and its absolute justice.“But of every one to whom much has been given, much will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).
    What are the rewards or punishments appointed for men after the particular judgment? –The rewards or punishments appointed for men after the particular judgment are heaven, purgatory, or hell.“With what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2). As we have loved God and our fellow-men during life, so we shall be given the proper reward or punishment.

  1. He who dies in his baptismal innocence, or after having fully satisfied for all the sins he committed, will be sent at once to heaven.The just will enter into everlasting life (Matt. 25:46). Only those souls enter heaven who are free from all sin, and from the penalty due to sins which have been forgiven. Nothing defiled can enter heaven (Apoc. 21:27). 
  2. He who dies in the state of grace, but is in venial sin, or has not fully atoned for the temporal punishment due his forgiven sins, will be sent for a time to purgatory.The souls in purgatory are saints, because they are sure of going to heaven. In purgatory they cannot commit any more sin, not even the slightest. They only long for God. 
  3. He who dies in mortal sin, even if only with one single mortal sin, will be sent at once to hell.“For the hope of the wicked is as dust, which is blown away with the wind, and as a thin froth which is dispersed by the storm: and a smoke that is scattered abroad by the wind: and as the remembrance of a guest of one day that passeth by” (Wis. 5:15). By mortal sin a man cuts himself off from God. It is really he himself that sends himself to hell. God’s desire would be to see all His creatures with Him in heaven.
    How should we prepare for the judgment? –We should prepare for the judgment by being most careful to lead a good life and die a happy death. 

  1. We should do all the good we can, so that God may forgive the evil we may do. We should not only obey carefully all the Commandments of God and the Church, but do good works in prayer and alms-deeds, practicing charity for the love of God. How can we be careless about a matter of such importance, when we are absolutely certain of being judged by God! “For what shall I do, when God shall rise to judge?” (Job 31:14). 
  2. We should do voluntary works of penance, for love of God, in expiation of any sins we may have the misfortune to commit. The “Imitation of Christ” says on this topic: “In all things look to the end, and how thou wilt stand before the strict Judge, from Whom there is nothing hid; Who takes no bribes, and receives no excuses, but will judge that which is just. … Be, therefore, now solicitous for thy sins, that in the day of judgment thou mayest be in security with the blessed. … Then shall the poor and humble have great confidence, and the proud fear on every side. Then it will appear that he was wise in this world, who for Christ’s sake learned to be a fool and despised. … Then shall the flesh that was afflicted exult more than if it had always fared in delights. … Then a pure and good conscience shall bring more joy than learned philosophy. Then shall the contempt of riches far outweigh all treasures of the children of earth. … Learn to suffer now in little things, that thou mayest be delivered from more grievous sufferings. … All is vanity except to love and serve God alone” (Bk. I, chap. 24). 
  3. We should never go to sleep without being prepared never to awake on earth again, but in the presence of our judge. Let us examine our conscience every day, make acts of contrition for our sins, confess them, and resolve to avoid them in the future.

This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.God Bless BJS!!

Death

 

Respect for the dead requires that cemeteries be properly kept. We should remember that the bodies of the buried will one day rise again to join immortal souls and live forever with God. Respect for the dead would also advise us to give up the recent fad of dolling up corpses, painting their faces to make them seem alive, as if they were prepared for some flighty show.

    What happens at death? –At death the soul is separated from the body.

  1. The soul is judged by God, and rewarded with heaven, punished with hell, or sent for a time to be cleansed in purgatory. The body begins to corrupt and returns to the dust from which it came.St. Peter spoke of the body as a tabernacle for the soul: “the putting off of my tabernacle is at hand” (2 Pet. 1:14). At death, “the dust returns to its earth, from whence it came, and the spirit returns to God, Who gave it” (Eccles. 12:7). The only exceptions have been the bodies of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, which rose to join their souls, and are now in heaven. 
  2. All men must die, because death is a consequence of original sin. “Therefore as through one man sin entered into this world and through sin death, and thus death has passed into all men” (Rom. 5: 12) .By their sin our first parents lost the immortality of the body, for God condemned them to die. “Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return” (Gen. 3:19). Even Jesus Christ and His Mother submitted to death. 
  3. No one knows when, where, or how he will die. All we know is that we shall die, and that when our hour strikes, nobody can take our place.God has mercifully hidden from us the hour of our death. If we knew when we should die, we might be overcome by fear when the moment approached. Some, besides, might lead sinful lives in the hope of repenting just before their death. 
  4. We must therefore always be ready to die. Death comes “as a thief in the night”, when we least expect it. We must live as if every moment were the last of life, always ready to appear before our Divine judge.“Therefore you must also be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matt. 24:44).
    How should we prepare for death? –We should prepare for death by leading a good life, avoiding sin, and doing good. 

  1. We must keep in God’s grace and love, so that when the Angel of Death comes, we may welcome him as one who takes us home to see the face of our loving Father. The good do not fear death.Let us die with joy, saying to God, as Holy Simeon did: “Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace” (Luke 2:29). Let us imitate St. Paul, who says, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will give to me in that day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)St. Augustine exclaims: “O how sweet it is to die, if one’s life has been a good one!” For such as he, “to die is gain.” To the just man death is only a passing into a better life. It is a journey to his everlasting home, where his heavenly Father dwells. Death is to be feared only by the sinner, for it is the end of his earthly pleasures, and the beginning of his eternal punishment. 
  2. As a man lives, so he dies. Holy Scripture says: “As the tree falls, the trunk will lie” (Eccl. 11:3). We should often recall the thought of death and eternity so that we may avoid sin. “In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin” (Ecclus. 7:40) . Those who put off reforming their lives in the hope of a death-bed repentance are like a traveler who starts packing when the train whistles for departure.Let us picture the death of a just man, one who all his life has done good and avoided evil. He has often seen people taken away suddenly, when they least expected it, and made up his mind to be always ready to die and face his judge. He has hoped he would, at the end of his life, die with the Last Sacraments, a priest, and his family by his side. But his obligations have taken him into the wilderness; there he is dying, with only the guide at his side. But he is at peace, and a smile is on his lips, for he is ready to die: being always in the state of grace, he is ready to meet his judge anywhere, any time. He knows the judge will smile, too, and welcome him as a good son, a friend. 
  3. We should also have our temporal affairs in order when we die. This is why adults should make a will in order that no confusion may arise as to the disposition of their property after their death. A sudden death is not to be desired, for then we may not be able to put in order our spiritual and temporal affairs.This is why in the Litanies we pray: “From a sudden and unprovided death, deliver us, O Lord!”
    What are cemeteries? –Cemeteries are the burial grounds for the dead.

  1. The word “cemetery” comes from the Greek, and means sleeping-place;there the bodies of the dead sleep till Judgment Day.It is the custom to engrave the letters R. I. P. (Requiescat in pace. May he rest in peace) on headstones. 
  2. Cemeteries are solemnly consecrated. Catholics should be buried in a Catholic cemetery, if there is one; at least the grave should be blessed.Some day the bodies of the just will rise in glory, and unite with their souls in heaven; is it befitting their high destiny to bury them like animals in unconsecrated ground? The bodies are buried facing the east, as a symbol of the hope the deceased placed in Christ, Light of the soul. 
  3. Cemeteries should be properly kept. They should be such as to invite everyone to go there and pray for the departed.We should go regularly to the cemetery to see to it that the graves of our beloved dead are clean and well kept, and to pray for them. If when they were alive we liked to visit them, why shouldn’t we continue to visit them even now that they are dead? Such visits would attest to our living faith in the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body. It is true the souls of the dead are not in their graves, but the bodies there will some day be inhabited again by the souls. Our prayers in the presence of the bodies are the proof of our love for our dear dead. 
  4. Apostates, heretics, schismatics, the excommunicated, suicides, duellists, Masons, and public sinners, are not permitted to be buried in a consecrated Catholic cemetery.The refusal of the Church to give Christian burial to her bad children does not mean that she sentences them to damnation: judgment of the dead is in the hands of God. It is merely a public expression of her condemnation of sin, and a disciplinary measure so that her other children may avoid falling into such sins. Non-Catholics are not permitted burial in a Catholic cemetery, because since they did not belong to the Church during life, there is no reason for including them in the burial grounds for members of the Church, at death. 
  5. The Church forbids cremation not because it is in itself wrong or contrary to divine Law, but because it is in opposition to the Jewish and Christian tradition. In cases of great pestilences, when it is impossible to bury the dead in time to prevent wider spread, the Church permits cremation.Cremation has been advocated by anti-Christians with the express purpose of destroying belief in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. The Fathers of the Church defended the custom of burial, by reason of the resurrection of the body, and the respect due it as the temple of the Holy Spirit. The day may come when the Church may grant permission for cremation.

This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.God Bless BJS!!

​The Forgiveness of Sins

 

Christ taught about the forgiveness of sins in the parable of the Prodigal Son (1). He instituted the Sacrament of Penance for the forgiveness of sins when He said to the Apostles: (4) “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain they are retained.”

    What is meant in the Apostles’ Creed by “the forgiveness of sins”? –By “the forgiveness of sins” in the Apostles’ Creed is meant that God has given to the Church, through Jesus Christ, the power to forgive sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if sinners truly repent. 

  1. In the Old Law, sins were forgiven through the merits of the Redeemer that was to come. In the New Law they are forgiven through the merits of the Redeemer Who has come.Pointing to Christ, St. John the Baptist said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” 
  2. We can obtain forgiveness of sin, because Christ the Redeemer merited forgiveness for us by His death. The Church has power to remit sins through the merits of Jesus Christ, “in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins” (Col. 1:14).During life, Christ actually forgave sin. For example, He forgave Mary Magdalen, the paralytic, and the good thief. In curing the paralytic, He said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins -then he said to the paralytic –“Arise, take up thy pallet and go to thy house” (Matt. 9:6). 
  3. Christ gave to His Apostles and disciples and their successors power to forgive sins. He said: “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).This power to forgive sins was not given to the Apostles alone, since men of later ages would need forgiveness as much as men of Apostolic times. The power, therefore, must also remain in the successors of the Apostles. 
  4. It is true, as the enemies of the Church assert, that man cannot forgive sins. Man, by his own individual power, can never forgive the smallest sin. But he can forgive all sins, with the power and authority God gave him, as minister of God, acting in God’s place. Or is God limited because man is sinful? “These things I write to you in order that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just” (1 John 2:1).From the very beginning the Church has exercised this power, through the sacraments of Penance and Baptism, and even through Extreme Unction.
    How may sins be remitted or forgiven? –Sins may be remitted or forgiven by various means, according to the kind and gravity of the sin: by Baptism, by Penance, and by good works. 

  1. Original sin is remitted through Baptism. When we are baptized, we become children of God, and heirs of heaven.None but children of God, the baptized, can have a pass to God’s eternal home. 
  2. Actual sin is remitted by Baptism, by Penance, by Extreme Unction, and by good works. Such good works are: prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds.Good works cannot remit grave or mortal sin; they can only dispose a person to the state of mind which leads him to the Sacrament of Penance. 
  3. The guilt of forgiven sins never returns. Once forgiven, a sin is forgiven forever. If after our sins have been forgiven we commit a new sin, or sins like the ones already forgiven, we are guilty of new sins.A man tells five lies. He repents and confessing his sin, obtains forgiveness. After a month he tells five lies again. He is guilty of having told only five lies, not ten.
    What is vice? –Vice is a habit of sin formed by repeated acts of sin. 

  1. One who makes a practice of stealing has the vice of theft. One who habitually drinks to intoxication has the vice of drunkenness. One who frequently sins against chastity has the vice of impurity.If one commits robbery and ever after avoids that sin, he has committed the mortal sin of robbery, but he has no vice. Similarly one may be completely intoxicated once, but if he resolves never again to drink, and sticks to his resolution, he has no vice. 
  2. A vice is easily acquired. This is one reason why we must be very careful not to commit sin. If we should be so unhappy as to fall into sin, we must at once cut off the possibility of forming vice by contrition, penance, and a resolution not to sin again.After the first fall, one more readily yields to the next temptation. Each yielding weakens the will for the next. Thus step by step one who starts a sin will soon find himself the slave of a vicious habit. “He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little” (Ecclus 19:1). 
  3. A vice is easy to break off in the beginning, difficult to break when fully formed, but always capable of being overcome by a resolute will with God’s grace.It is easy enough to uproot a very young tree. But when it has grown into a mighty tree, it becomes extremely difficult. The vice having been firmly formed, it becomes a necessity and is impossible to break without extraordinary grace. This impossibility often leads many vicious persons to despair and to final impenitence. But God can do all things. One therefore who has contracted a habit of sin must have recourse to God, who will strengthen him, so that he can conquer his vice, by patient acts of virtue and a constant exertion of the will.
    Can all sins be forgiven? –Yes, all sins, however great, can be forgiven, through the infinite merits of Christ, Who is God.The repentant sinner is told in Scripture: “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow” (Is. 1:17) 

  1. God is always ready to forgive our sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if we are truly sorry for them. No actual sin can be forgiven without sorrow and repentance on the part of the sinner.Our Lord said: “I say to you that, even so, there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety-nine just who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:7). 
  2. The sin against the Holy Ghost which Christ warned us would not be forgiven in heaven or on earth is persistent impenitence, the sin of one who rejects conversion and dies in mortal sin. One guilty of this sin can never obtain forgiveness of God, because at the hour of death he continues to thrust God away from him.A man mortally wounded cannot have any hope of cure if he not only refuses to listen to his doctors, but shuts his mouth against all medicines, and kicks away all medical instruments and help. Even Judas would have been pardoned if he had asked for forgiveness and made a sincere act of contrition before his death.

This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.God Bless BJS!!

​One Body in Christ: Communion of Saints

 

The illustration shows the continuous communication in the three portions of the Church spiritually united in Jesus Christ. The members on earth send up prayers to the angels and saints for themselves and for the poor souls in purgatory. They in turn are helped by the intercession of the saints and angels, and by the graces obtained thereby. The poor souls pray for the members on earth.

    Why is the Catholic Church called the Mystical Body of Christ? –The Catholic Church is called the Mystical Body of Christ, because its members are united by supernatural bonds with one another and with Christ, their Head, thus resembling the members and head of the living human body.

  1. The term “Mystical Body of Christ” is derived from St. Paul’s metaphor: “He is the head of his body, the Church” (Col. 1:18) . Again: “You are the body of Christ, member for member” (1 Cor. 12:27). “We, the many, are one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5).Jesus Himself used a similar symbol: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither” (John 15:5-6). 
  2. In the Mystical Body, Christ as Head wills to be helped by His Body. Thus He rules the Church, but does so indirectly, through the hierarchy, human authority.In a similar manner the human head, to live, has need of the rest of the body. The hierarchy is the material on which is formed the Image of Christ, God. The acts, ceremonies, ritual, liturgy of the Church,-all these are outward signs of the inward reality of the union of the members with one another and with their Head, Christ; they are visible manifestations of a common supernatural life in the Godhead. 
  3. Among the members of the Mystical Body of Christ there exists an interdependence; so that although each one has his own individual function, yet he does not live for himself alone, but for the entire Body. Every good he does perfects the Body, of which he is a part.Similarly, the eye, or the foot, or the arm of a man is useless existing alone and apart from the rest of his body. Here is an example of the interdependence among members of the Church: Suppose a Catholic prays to recover from a grievous illness, and he does not recover; there is no evident answer to his prayers. Yet, do they go to waste? God lets no good work “go to waste”; the merits of the prayers are not lost for the Mystical Body. 
  4. Because of the interdependence among the members, and between members and Head, of the Mystical Body, there follows a continuouscontribution and distribution of merits and graces, profiting all towards eternal life. This supernatural fellowship, this mystical union and interdependence, is presented to us in the Apostles’ Creed in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.
    What is meant by “the Communion of Saints” in the Apostles’ Creed? –By “the Communion of Saints” is meant the union of the faithful on earth, the blessed in heaven, and the souls in purgatory, with Christ as their Head.There is only one Mystical Body, only one Church. But this Church has three aspects: the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant.

  1. The saints and angels in heaven compose the Church triumphant,because they have gained the crown of victory. The souls in purgatory compose the Church suffering, because they still have to expiate for their sins before they can enter heaven. The faithful on earth compose the Church militant, because they have to struggle ceaselessly against the enemies of their souls.The Church triumphant, the Church suffering and the Church militant compose one Church united in Christ, members of a body whose head is Christ: “So we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another’ (Rom. 12:5). 
  2. All the members of the Church are of one family, and share in the spiritual treasures of the Church. However, not all members of the Church Militant fully enjoy the benefits of the communion of saints, but only those in a state of grace.“Dead members” do not lose all the benefits of the communion of saints, for the Church prays publicly for them, and particular members in the state of grace often send up petitions for them. Thus they may receive the grace to repent and recover sanctifying grace. Hence a Catholic who still belongs to the Church, although a great sinner, may have more hope of being converted than one who cuts himself off from the Church.
    How do the members of the Communion of Saints help one another? –The members of the Communion of Saints help one another by prayer and intercession, and by the merits of their good works. 

  1. The faithful on earth can help one another by practicing supernatural charity and, especially, by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.St. Peter was freed from prison by the prayers of the faithful. St. Stephen’s prayer obtained the conversion of St. Paul. The prayers of St. Monica led to the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. This is why today, on all occasions, Catholics ask for each other’s prayers, and pray for those in need. They give the spiritual alms of prayers continually, even when they cannot perform the corporal works. 
  2. The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, can relieve the sufferings of the souls in purgatory by prayer, fasting, and other good works, by indulgences, and by Masses offered for them.St. Augustine says: “Prayer is the key by which we open the gates of heaven to the suffering souls.” In the Memento after the consecration at every Mass, a special petition is made for the souls of the faithful departed. The poor souls cannot merit anything; they depend upon their brothers in Christ on earth and in heaven to help them attain their eternal home as soon as possible. 
  3. The souls in purgatory pray to the angels and saints, and pray for the living.They cannot merit anything, either for themselves or for the living, but they intercede for us. 
  4. Through the communion of saints, the blessed in heaven can help those in purgatory and on earth by praying for them. The faithful on earth should honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them, because they are worthy of honor and as friends of God will help the faithful on earth.This is why we pray to the saints and angels that they may intercede for us before God, Whom they see face to face. “Rendering thanks to God the Father, who has made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). 
  5. The doctrine of the communion of saints is one of the most consolingdogmas of the Church. When our loved ones die, they are not separated from us forever. Whether in heaven or purgatory, they still love us and pray for us.We should be happy to call saints and angels our brothers. We should implore their intercession, not only for ourselves, but also for our other brothers, the poor souls in purgatory.

This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.God Bless BJS!!

​The Gates of Hell

 

In the castle of Fontainebleu Napoleon forced the Pope to give up the States of the Church, promising an annual income of two million francs. In the same castle Napoleon was himself later forced to sign an abdication and was promised a yearly income of the same amount. When the Pope excommunicated Napoleon, he answered that the words of an old man would not make the arms drop from the hands of his soldiers. In the Russian campaign, because of the intense cold, this actually happened. He kept Pius VII prisoner for five years; he himself was later a prisoner for seven years. Four days after ordering the union of the States of the Church with France, he lost the battles of Aspern and Erlingen.

    What was the end of the leaders of persecution, schism, and heresy? –Many of the leaders of persecution, schism, and heresy came to a bad end. 

  1. Of the first persecutors, several died violent deaths. The death of Judas is the type for his imitators. It is related that: Herod, the murderer of the Holy Innocents, died in unspeakable tortures. 
    Herod, the murderer of James the Apostle, was devoured by worms.
     
  2. Of the persecutors in Rome, Nero was deposed, and in despair stabbed himself. 
  3. Domitian was assassinated. 
    Hadrian became insane. 
    Marcus Aurelius, despondent over the ingratitude of his only son, starved himself to death. 
    Septimus Severus, whose life had been attempted by his only son, died in despair. 
    Decius died miserably in a swamp, during a battle. 
    Valerian was flayed alive by the Persians. 
    Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber. 
    Diocletian died from a loathsome disease. 
    Julian the Apostate was struck down by a lance on the field of battle, and died crying: “Galilean, Thou hast conquered!”
     
  4. The case of Napoleon is instructive.
    Drunk with power, Napoleon seized Rome in 1808, declaring himself the “successor of Charlemagne”. He banished Cardinals and bishops, and carrying off Pope Pius VII, held him prisoner in Savona. Enemies of the Church exulted: “The Papacy is ended! The Emperor has devoured the Pope!” They forgot the divine promise to Peter: “The gates of hell shall not prevail!”; on that promise was based the ancient saying: “Who eats of the Pope dies like a beast.” On the same day that Napoleon died in exile at St. Helena, Pope Pius VII was celebrating his own feast day in Rome.
     
  5. Heretics and schismatics have shared the same fate. Arius burst asunder during a triumphal procession. Voltaire died in despair. The Greek Schismatics fell under the Turkish yoke in 1453, on Pentecost, the feast of that Holy Ghost about whom they had expressed doubts.Truly history has shown the truth of the words of Holy Scripture; “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
    Why can no other church except the Catholic Church be the True Church of Christ? –No other church except the Catholic Church can be the True Church of Christ, because no other church possesses the marks of unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.Truth cannot change; hence the constantly changing doctrines of non-Catholic churches can not be true. They also differ in their government. Some recognize the temporal ruler as their spiritual head. Others have ministers whom they call bishops, deacons, elders. The majority reject such titles.

  1. There are hundreds of churches and Christian denominations, each different from the others; they do not possess the mark of unity. They differ in even the essentials of faith. They cannot agree, and keep dividing and subdividing year by year. Their only similarity appears to be their opposition to the Catholic Church.Such churches are multiplying. In the United States there are over two hundred religious bodies. They arise, then pass away, to give place to other denominations. Realizing the great handicap of disunity, efforts have been made by various groups of churches to organize. General councils and conferences of different bodies have been held; but there is no vital result for unity. This is of course because, though agreement may be general concerning matters such as social work, beneficent societies, and the like, no agreement can be found in the essentials of faith and doctrine. This is the result of free interpretation of the Bible, and the repudiation of Peter’s successor, Vicar of Christ. 
  2. The denominations and their founders are not holy in the same sense or degree as the Catholic Church and its Founder are holy. Many non-Catholics are upright and good because they have retained many doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church.Many founders of non-Catholic churches were far from holy. Luther, the founder of Protestantism was an apostate friar, who married a nun who had left her convent and turned against her vows. During his life he taught contradictory doctrines, some of them immoral. Henry VIII, the founder of Anglicanism, married five women successively, after divorcing his lawful wife; he had two put to death.No denomination is catholic, or universal. These non-Catholic churches are everywhere, but are different everywhere.A regional or national Church cannot be the true Church, since it cannot teach all nations, as Christ commanded.No heretical Christian denomination is apostolic. The Protestant churches are some 1500 years later than the Church founded on the Rock of Peter.Not even their teachings come down from the Apostles. Their ministers cannot trace their succession from the Apostles. Not one teaches all the doctrines of the Apostles. How then could they be the Church founded by Christ?
    What should be the attitude of Catholics towards those who do not belong to the True Church? –Catholics should observe an attitude of understanding towards them, because the majority of those who do not belong to the True Church are in good faith.

  1. Catholic teachings are not easy to understand at first sight; many Catholic practices require sacrifice. Towards such a religion there is bound to be prejudice.To be obliged to go to Mass every Sunday under pain of mortal sin; to have to confess to a priest, who is another human being like ourselves; to condemn divorce and birth control; to observe fasts and abstinence;-these are not easy doctrines.No wonder in looking for relief, man often, however unconsciously, seeks motives for not accepting the Church that commands its members to obey such precepts, to accept such doctrines.When Our Lord first announced the institution of the Holy Eucharist, many of the disciples said, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” (John 6:62). And they no longer went with Jesus. 
  2. Catholics should above all try to give good example; nothing is more effective in the eyes of non-Catholics than the exemplary lives led by good Catholics.“Behave yourselves honorably among the pagans; that, whereas they slander you as evildoers, they may through observing you by reason of your good works glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Catholics should often pray for the conversion of those outside the Church, praying with the Good Shepherd for only one Fold. 
  3. While avoiding useless discussions that generally end in bitter quarrels, Catholics should try to show the beauty, the truth of the Catholic Church.In our friendly discussions with non-Catholics we should not be always on the defensive, but should try to see whether they can trace the origin of the authority of their ministers to the Apostles, whether their church can be proved the True Church by the possession of the four marks. Often our non-Catholic friends criticise the Catholic Church on account of some devotional practices like holy water, candles, etc., as if such practices belonged to the essentials of faith.

This article has been taken from “My Catholic Faith” I am not the author merely the distributor.God Bless BJS!!