274 Q. Which are the effects of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction? A. The effects of Extreme Unction are: first, to comfort us in the pains of sickness and to strengthen us against temptations; second, to remit venial sins and to cleanse our soul from the remains of sin; third, to restore us to health when God sees fit.
*275 Q. What do you mean by the remains of sin? A. By the remains of sin I mean the inclination to evil and the weakness of the will, which are the result of our sins and which remain after our sins have been forgiven.
"Remains of sin"—that is, chiefly the bad habits we have acquired by sin. If a person does a thing very often, he soon begins to do it very easily, and it becomes, as we say, a habit. So, too, a person who sins very much soon begins to sin easily. This Sacrament therefore takes away the ease in sinning and the desire for past sins acquired by frequently committing them.
*276 Q. How should we receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction? A. We should receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction in a state of grace and with lively faith and resignation to the will of God.
*277 Q. Who is the minister of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction? A. The priest is the minister of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
The Sacraments that the priest administers in the house are the Sacraments for the sick; namely, Penance, Viaticum, or Holy Communion, and Extreme Unction. The other Sacraments may be administered there in special cases of necessity. You should know what things are to be prepared when the priest comes to administer the Sacraments in your house. They are as follows: A small table covered with a clean white cloth, and on it a crucifix and one or two lighted candles in candlesticks; some holy water in a small vessel, with a sprinkler which you can make by tying together a few leaves or small pieces of palm; a glass of clean water, a tablespoon, and a napkin for the sick person to hold under the chin while receiving; also a piece of white cotton wadding, if the priest should ask for it.
Then you may have ready in another place near at hand some water, a towel, and a piece of bread or lemon for purifying the priest's fingers; but these things are not always necessary: still, it would be better to have them ready in case the priest should require them, so as not to keep him waiting. Every good Catholic family should have all these things put away carefully in the house. It would be well, though it is not necessary, to keep a special spoon, napkin, etc., for that purpose alone. Sometimes persons are taken ill very suddenly in the night, and when the priest comes they have none of the things they should have; and if their neighbors are as careless as themselves, they will not have them either: so the priest is delayed in giving the Sacraments, or is obliged to administer them in a way that is always disrespectful to Our Lord. If we would make such preparations for the coming of a friend to our house, why should we be so careless when Our Lord comes? If a friend comes when we are not prepared to receive him, we feel very much ashamed, and make a thousand excuses for our want of thought. Therefore provide the things necessary for the administration of these Sacraments in your house, and keep them though they may be seldom if ever required in your family.
When Our Lord comes to visit your house receive Him with all possible respect and reverence. Some good Catholics have the very praiseworthy practice of meeting the priest at the door with a lighted candle when he carries the Blessed Sacrament, and of going before him to the sickroom. This can be done where there is only one family living in the house, or at least in the apartment. All who can do this should do it, because it is in keeping with the wish of the Church. In olden times, and even now in Catholic countries, the priest brings the Blessed Sacrament in procession to the sick. He goes vested as for Benediction, accompanied by altar boys with lighted candles and bells. The people kneel by the way as Our Lord passes. Our Lord is carried in procession always in the church and on the feast of Corpus Christi, on Holy Thursday, and during the Devotion of Forty Hours. The Church would like to have this solemn procession in honor of Our Lord every time the Blessed Sacrament is brought from one place to another. But this cannot always be done in the streets, because there are many persons not Catholics who would insult Our Lord while passing along; and in order to prevent this, the priest brings the Blessed Sacrament to the dying without any outward display. But we should always remember the very great respect due to Our Lord, and do all we can to show it when possible.
278 Q. What is the Sacrament of Holy Orders? A. Holy Orders is a Sacrament by which bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church are ordained and receive the power and grace to perform their sacred duties.
"Other ministers," means deacons and subdeacons, properly so-called. When a young man goes to study for the priesthood—after he has discovered that God has called him to that sacred office—he passes several years in learning what is necessary, and in fitting himself for his sacred duties. After some time he receives what is called tonsure; that is, on the day of ordination the bishop cuts a little hair from five places on his head, to show that this young man is giving himself up to God. The tonsure is a mark of the clerical state, and in Catholic countries it is made manifest by keeping a small circular spot on the crown of the head shaved perfectly clean. It reminds the cleric or priest of having dedicated himself to God, and also of the crown of thorns worn by Our Blessed Saviour. For this reason some of the holy monks shaved all the hair from their head, with the exception of a little ring, which resembles very much a wreath or crown of hair encircling the head. You often see them thus represented in holy pictures.
After the young student has received the tonsure and studied for a longer time, he receives the four Minor Orders, by which he is permitted to touch the sacred vessels of the altar, and do certain things about the church which laymen have not the right to do, especially to serve Mass. After more preparation he becomes a subdeacon, and then he may wear vestments and assist the celebrant at Solemn Mass. At a Solemn Mass there are three priests in vestments. The priest standing on the platform of the altar and celebrating Mass is called the celebrant; the one who stands just behind him, generally one step lower, is called the deacon, and the one who stands behind the deacon and on the lower step is called the subdeacon. The one who directs the whole ceremony, and gives signs to the others when to stand, sit down, or kneel, is called the Master of Ceremonies.
When speaking of the Mass, I forgot to tell you something about the different kinds of Masses—that is, different as far as the ceremonies are concerned, for they are all alike in value. First we have the Low Mass, such as the priest says every day and at the early hours on Sundays. It is called low, because there is no display in ceremony about it. Next we have the High Mass—called Missa Cantata (sung)—at which the priest and choir sing in turn. Lastly, we have the Solemn High Mass, at which we have three ministers or priests, and singing by both ministers and choir, as well as all the ceremonies prescribed by the Church. When any of these Masses are said in black vestments they are called Requiem Masses, because the priest offers them for the rest or happy repose of the soul of some dead person or persons, and the word requiem means rest. Vespers is a portion of the Divine Office of the Church. It is sung generally on Sunday afternoon or evening in the church, and is usually followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It is not a mortal sin to stay from Vespers on Sundays, even willfully, because there is no law of the Church obliging you to attend. Nevertheless all good Catholics will attend Vespers when possible.
To continue about the ministers of the Church: When the subdeacon is ordained a deacon, he can wear still more of the priestly vestments, and also baptize solemnly, preach, and give Holy Communion. After a time the deacon is ordained a priest, and receives power to celebrate Mass and forgive sins. If afterwards the priest should be selected by the Holy Father to be a bishop, he is consecrated; and then he has power to administer Confirmation and Holy Orders, ordaining priests and consecrating bishops. Thus you see there are grades through which the ministers of the Church must pass. First the tonsure, then Minor Orders, then subdeaconship, then deaconship, then priesthood. Nuns, Sisters, Brothers, etc., are not, as some might think, ministers of the Church, because they have never received any of the Holy Orders.
The ordained ministers of the Church can perform the duties of any office for which they have ever been ordained, but not the duties of any office above that to which they have been ordained. For example, a subdeacon cannot take the place of a deacon at Mass, nor a deacon the place of a priest; but a priest may take either of their places, because he has, at one time, been ordained to both these offices.
Altar boys should never forget that they are enjoying a very great privilege in being allowed to take the place of an ordained minister of the Church, and serve Mass without being ordained acolytes.
In olden times princes and noblemen used to seek for this wonderful favor, and count themselves happy if they secured it. Think of it! To stand so near our Blessed Lord that they are able to see His sacred body resting upon the altar, and to offer the wine, which a few minutes later is changed into His very blood!
*279 Q. What is necessary to receive Holy Orders worthily? A. To receive Holy Orders worthily it is necessary to be in the state of grace, to have the necessary knowledge, and a divine call to this sacred office.
"Knowledge"—that is, to be able to learn and to have learned all that a priest should know.
"Divine call," explained before in the explanation of vocation, a word that means call. (See Lesson 6, Q. 51.)
*280 Q. How should Christians look upon the priests of the Church? A. Christians should look upon the priests of the Church as the messengers of God and the dispensers of His mysteries.
"Messengers." Our Lord said to His Apostles: "As the Father sent Me, I also send you." That is, as the heavenly Father sent His Beloved Son, Our Lord, into the world to save men's souls, so Our Lord sends His Apostles and their successors through the world to save souls. God told the priests of the Old Law that if they did not warn the people of coming dangers they would be held responsible for the people; but if they warned the people and the people did not heed, then the people would be responsible for their own destruction. So, too, in the New Law the priests warn you against sin, and if you do not heed the warning the loss of your soul will be upon yourself. Therefore you should take every warning coming from the ministers of God as you would from Himself, for it is really God that warns you against sin, and the priests are only His agents or instruments. "Dispensers"—that is, those who administer the Sacraments.
*281 Q. Who can confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders? A. Bishops can confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
"Confer"—that is, give or administer. So can a cardinal, if he be a bishop, and so can the Holy Father, who is always a bishop, and called bishop of Rome, while Pope of the whole Church. It will be well here to give some explanation about cardinals—who they are, and what they do. In the United States the President has about him ten prominent men selected by himself, and called his Cabinet. They are his advisers; he consults them on all important matters, and assigns to them various duties. The Holy Father, who is also a ruler—a spiritual ruler—not of one country, but of the whole world, has also a Cabinet, but it is not called by that name: it is called the Sacred College of Cardinals. There are seventy cardinals, to whom the Pope assigns various works in helping him to govern the Church. Some of these cardinals are in different parts of the world, as our own cardinals right here in America. There are cardinals in England, France, Germany, Canada, Spain, etc., but a certain number always remain in Rome with the Holy Father. When a bishop is made cardinal he is raised in dignity in the Church, but he does not receive any greater spiritual power than he had when only a bishop. The cardinals, owing to their high dignity, have many privileges which bishops have not. Their greatest privilege is to take part in the election of a new Pope when the reigning Pope dies.
The Pope dresses in white, the cardinals in red, the bishops in purple, and the priests and other ministers in black. A "Monsignor" is also a title of dignity granted by our Holy Father to some worthy priests. It gives them certain privileges, and the right to wear purple like a bishop. The "Vicar General" is one who is appointed by the bishop in the diocese, and shares his power. In the bishop's absence he acts as bishop in all temporal and worldly matters and also in some spiritual things, concerning the diocese. A diocese is the extent of country over which a bishop is appointed to rule, as a parish is the extent over which a pastor is appointed to administer the Sacraments and rule under the direction of the bishop. Pastors are also called rectors. Pastor means a shepherd, and rector means a ruler; and as all pastors rule their flocks, pastor and rector mean about the same.
An archbishop is higher than a bishop, though he has no more spiritual power than a bishop. The district over which an archbishop rules contains several dioceses with their bishops, and is called an ecclesiastical province. The bishops in the province are called suffragan bishops, because subject in some things to the authority of the archbishop, who is also called the metropolitan, because bishop of a metropolis or chief city of the province over which he presides.
The archbishop can wear the pallium, a garment worn by the Pope, and sent by him to patriarchs, primates, and archbishops. It is a band of white wool, worn over the shoulders and around the neck after the manner of a stole. It has two strings of the same material and four black or purple crosses worked upon it. It is the symbol of the plenitude of pastoral jurisdiction conferred by the Holy See. Morally speaking, it reminds the wearer how the good shepherd seeks the lost sheep and brings it home upon his shoulders, and how the loving pastor of souls should seek those spiritually lost and bring them back to the Church, the true fold of Christ.
Lesson 26 ON MATRIMONY
282 Q. What is the Sacrament of Matrimony? A. The Sacrament of Matrimony is the Sacrament which unites a Christian man and woman in lawful marriage.
"Christian," because if they are not Christians they do not receive the grace of the Sacrament.
*283 Q. Can a Christian man and woman be united in lawful marriage in any other way than by the Sacrament of Matrimony? A. A Christian man and woman cannot be united in lawful marriage in any other way than by the Sacrament of Matrimony, because Christ raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament.
"Lawful." Persons are lawfully married when they comply with all the laws of God and of the Church relating to marriage. To marry unlawfully is a mortal sin, in which the persons must remain till the sin is forgiven. "Sacrament." Before the coming of Our Lord persons were married as they are now, and even lawfully according to the laws of the Old Testament or old religion; but marriage did not give them any grace. Now it does give grace, because it is a Sacrament, and has been so since the time of Our Lord. Before His coming it was only a contract, and when He added grace to the contract it became a Sacrament.
*284 Q. Can the bond of Christian marriage be dissolved by any human power? A. The bond of Christian marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power.
"Dissolved"—that is, can married persons ever—for any cause—separate and marry again; that is, take another husband or wife while the first husband or wife is living? Never, if they were really married. Sometimes, for good reason, the Church permits husband and wife to separate and live in different places; but they are still married. Sometimes it happens, too, that persons are not really married although they have gone through the ceremony and people think they are married, and they may think so themselves. The Church, however, makes them separate, because it finds they are not really married at all—on account of some impeding circumstance that existed at the time they performed the ceremony. These circumstances or facts that prevent the marriage from being valid are called "Impediments to Marriage." Some of them render the marriage altogether null, and some only make it unlawful. When persons make arrangements about getting married they should tell the priest every circumstance that they think might be an impediment. Here are the chief things they should tell the priest—privately, if possible. Whether both are Christians and Catholics; whether either has ever been solemnly engaged to another person; whether they have ever made any vow to God with regard to chastity, the religious life, or the like; whether they are related and in what degree; whether either was ever married to any member of the other's family—say sister, brother, or cousin, etc.; whether either ever was a godparent in Baptism for the other or for any of the other's children; whether either was married before, and what proof can be given of the death of the first husband or wife; whether they really intend to get married; whether they are of lawful age; whether they are in good health or suffering from some sickness that might prevent their marriage, etc. They should also state whether they live in the parish, and how long they have lived in it. They should give at least three weeks' notice before their marriage, except in special cases of necessity. They should not presume to make final arrangements and invite friends before they have made arrangements with their pastor; because if there should be any delay on account of impediments it would cause them great inconvenience. Let me take an example of a fact that would render the marriage invalid or null though the persons performing the ceremony might not be aware of it. Suppose a woman's husband went to the war, and she heard after a great many years that he had been killed in battle, and she, believing her first husband to be dead, married another man. But the report of the first husband's death turns out to be false, and after a time he returns. Then the Church tells the woman—and she knows it now herself—that the second marriage was invalid, that is, no marriage, because it was performed while the first husband was still living. She must leave the second man and go back to her husband. You see in that case the Church was not dissolving or breaking the marriage bond, but only declaring that the woman and second man were not married from the very beginning, although they thought they were, being ignorant of the existing impediment, and the priest also being deceived performed the ceremony in the usual manner. If it ever happens, therefore, that you hear of the Church permitting persons, already apparently married, to separate and marry others, it is only when it discovers that their first marriage was invalid, and by its action it does not dissolve the bond of marriage, but simply declares that the marriage was null and void from the beginning, as you now easily understand. Thus persons might unwittingly marry with existing impediments that would render their marriage invalid or illicit. Such things, however, happen very rarely, for the priest would discover the impediments in questioning the persons about to marry.
Protestants and persons outside the Catholic Church teach that the marriage bond can at times be dissolved, but such doctrines bring great evil upon society. When the father and mother separate and marry again, the children of the first marriage are left to take care of themselves, or receive only such care as the law gives them. They are left without Christian instruction and the good influence of home. Then persons who are divorced once may be divorced a second or third time, and thus all society would be thrown into a state of confusion, and there would be scarcely any such thing as a family to be found. It is bad enough at present, on account of divorces granted by the laws and upheld by Protestants; and only for the influence and good public opinion created by the teaching and opposition of the Catholic Church, it would be much worse. Again, if husbands and wives could separate for this or that fault, they would not be careful in making their choice of the person they wish to marry, nor would their motives be always holy and worthy of the Sacrament.
285 Q. Which are the effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony? A. The effects of the Sacrament of Matrimony are: first, to sanctify the love of husband and wife; second, to give them grace to bear with each other's weaknesses; third, to enable them to bring up their children in the fear and love of God.
The union and love existing between a husband and wife should be like the union and love existing between Our Lord and His Church. The grace of the Sacrament helps them to have such a love. "Weaknesses"—that is, their faults, bad dispositions, etc. "Bring up their children." This is their most important duty, and parents receive grace to perform it, and woe be to them if they abuse that grace! Children should remember that their parents have received this special grace from God to advise, direct, and warn them of sin; and if they refuse to obey their parents or despise their direction, they are despising God's grace. Remember that nothing teaches us so well as experience. Now your parents, even if God gave them no special grace, have experience. They have been children as you are; they have been young persons as you are; they have received advice from their parents and teachers as you do. If your parents are bad, it is because they have not heeded the advice given them. If they are good, it is because they have heeded and followed it. The years of your youth quickly pass, and you will soon be thrown out into the world, among strangers to provide for yourselves, and will perhaps have no one to advise you. If you neglect to learn while you have the opportunity you will be sorry for it in after life. If you waste your time in school, you will leave it knowing very little, and an ignorant man can never take any good position in the world; he can seldom be his own master and independent; he must always toil for others as a servant. God gives us our talents and opportunities that we may use them to the best of our ability, and He will hold us accountable for these. It is good and praiseworthy to raise ourselves and others in the world if we do so by lawful and proper means. You may have the opportunity of getting a good position, and will not be able to take it because you are not sufficiently educated. Many young men live to be sorry for wasting time in school, and try to make up for it by studying at night. You cannot really make up for lost time. Every moment God gives you He gives for some particular work, and He will require an account from you, at the last day, for the use you made of your time. Besides, you can learn with greater ease while you are young. But what shall I say of neglecting to learn your holy religion? If you neglect your school lessons you will not be successful in the world as businessmen or professional men; but if you neglect your religious lessons, you will be miserable, not merely in this world, but in the next, and that for all eternity. Again, will you not feel ashamed to say you are a Catholic when persons who are not Catholics ask you the meaning of something you believe or do, and you will not be able to answer? When they tell falsehoods against your religion, you will not, on account of your ignorance, be able to refute them. Almost the only time you have to learn the truths and practices of your holy religion is during the instructions at Sunday school or day school, and after a few years you will not have this advantage. When you grow up you may hear a sermon, and if you attend early Mass, only a short instruction, on Sundays; and if you do not know your Catechism, you will be less able to profit by the instructions given. Therefore the time to learn is while you are young, have sufficient leisure, and good, willing teachers to explain whatever you do not understand.
When you attend Sunday school, bear in mind that your teachers have frequently to sacrifice their time or pleasure for your sake, and that you should not repay them for their kindness by acts of disobedience, disrespect, and stubbornness. By spending your time in idleness, in giving annoyance to your teacher, and in distracting others who are willing to learn, you show a want of appreciation and gratitude for the blessings God has bestowed upon you, and please the devil exceedingly; and as God will hold you accountable for all His gifts, this one—the opportunity of learning your religion—will be no exception.
286 Q. To receive the Sacrament of Matrimony worthily, is it necessary to be in the state of grace? A. To receive the Sacrament of Matrimony worthily it is necessary to be in the state of grace, and it is necessary also to comply with the laws of the Church.
"The laws," laws concerning marriage. Laws forbidding the solemnizing of marriage at certain times, namely, Advent and Lent; laws forbidding marriage with relatives, or with persons of a different religion or of no religion; laws with regard to age, etc.
*287 Q. Who has the right to make laws concerning the Sacrament of marriage? A. The Church alone has the right to make laws concerning the Sacrament of marriage, though the State also has the right to make laws concerning the civil effects of the marriage contract.
"Civil effects"—that is, laws with regard to the property of persons marrying, with regard to the inheritance of the children, with regard to the debts of husband and wife, etc.
*288 Q. Does the Church forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all? A. The Church does forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all.
*289 Q. Why does the Church forbid the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all? A. The Church forbids the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion or no religion at all because such marriages generally lead to indifference, loss of faith, and to the neglect of the religious education of the children.
We know that nothing has so bad an influence upon people as bad company. Now, when a Catholic marries one who is not a Catholic, he or she is continually associated with one who in most cases ignores the true religion, or speaks at least with levity of its devotions and practices. The Catholic party may resist this evil influence for a time, but will, if not very steadfast in the faith, finally yield to it, and, tired of numerous disputes in defense of religious rights, will become more and more indifferent, gradually give up the practice of religion, and probably terminate with complete loss of faith or apostasy from the true religion. We know that the children of Seth were good till they married the children of Cain, and then they also became wicked; for, remember, there is always more likelihood that the bad will pervert the good, than that the good will convert the bad. Besides the disputes occasioned between husband and wife by the diversity of their religion, their families and relatives, being also of different religions, will seldom be at peace or on friendly terms with one another. Then the children can scarcely be brought up in the true religion; for the father may wish them to attend one church, and the mother another, and to settle the dispute they will attend neither. Besides, if they have before them the evil example of a father or mother speaking disparagingly of the true religion, or perhaps ridiculing all religion, it is not likely they will be imbued with great respect and veneration for holy things. There is still another reason why Catholics should dread mixed marriages. If the one who is not a Catholic loses regard for his or her obligations, becomes addicted to any vice, and is leading a bad life, the Catholic party has no means of reaching the root of the evil, no hope that the person may take the advice of the priest, or go to confession or do any of those things that could effect a change in the heart and life of a Catholic. For all these very good reasons and others besides, the Church opposes mixed marriages, as they are called when one of the persons is not a Catholic. Neither does the Church want persons to become converts simply for the sake of marrying a Catholic. Such conversions would not be sincere, and would do no good, but rather make such converts hypocrites, and guilty of greater sin.
*290 Q. Why do many marriages prove unhappy? A. Many marriages prove unhappy because they are entered into hastily and without worthy motives.
"Hastily"—without knowing the person well or considering their character or dispositions; without trying to discover whether they are sober, industrious, virtuous, and the like; whether they know and practice their religion, or whether, on the contrary, they are given to vices forbidden by good morals, and totally forgetful of their religious duties. In a word, those wishing to marry should look for enduring qualities in their lifelong companions, and not for characteristics that please the fancy for the time being. They should, besides, truly love each other. Again, the persons should be nearly equals in education, social standing, etc., for it helps greatly to secure harmony between families and unity of thought and action between themselves.
"Worthy motives." The motives are worthy when persons marry to fulfill the end for which God instituted marriage. It would, for example, be an unworthy motive to marry solely for money, property, or other advantage, without any regard for the holiness and end of the Sacrament. There are many motives that may present themselves to the minds of persons wishing to marry, and they will know whether they are worthy or unworthy, good or bad, if by serious consideration they weigh them well and value them by their desire to please God and lead a good life.
Every person's motive in getting married or in entering into any new state of life should be that he may be able to serve God better in that state than in any other.
*291 Q. How should Christians prepare for a holy and happy marriage? A. Christians should prepare for a holy and happy marriage by receiving the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist; by begging God to grant them a pure intention and to direct their choice; and by seeking the advice of their parents and the blessing of their pastors.
They should pray for a long time that they may make a good choice. They would do well to read in the Holy Scripture, in the Book of Tobias (8), of the happy marriage of Tobias and Sara, and how they spent their time in prayer both before and after their marriage, and how God rewarded them. Advice is very necessary, as marriage is to last for life, and is to make persons either happy or miserable. They should ask advice from prudent persons, and should try to learn something of the former life of the one they wish to marry. They should know something about the family, whether its members are respectable or not, etc. It is an injustice to parents for sons or daughters to marry into families that may have been disgraced, or that may bring disgrace upon them. Sometimes, however, parents are unreasonable in this matter: they are proud or vain, and want to suit themselves rather than their children. Sometimes, too, they force marriage upon their children, or forbid it for purely worldly or selfish motives. In such cases, and indeed in all cases, the best one to consult and ask advice from is your confessor. He has only your spiritual interests at heart, and will set aside all worldly motives. If your parents are unreasonable, he will be a just judge in the matter, and tell you how to act.
I have now explained all the Sacraments, but before finishing I must say a word about the Holy Oils. We have seen that oil is used in the administration of some Sacraments. There are three kinds of oil blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday, namely, oil for anointing the sick, called "oil of the infirm"; oil to be used in Baptism and in the ordination of priests, called "oil of catechumens" (catechumens are those who are being instructed for Baptism); the third kind of oil is used also in Baptism, in Confirmation, and when the bishop blesses the sacred vessels, altars, etc.; it is called "holy chrism." Therefore the Sacraments in which oil is used are: Baptism, in which two kinds are used; Confirmation, Extreme Unction, and Holy Orders.
Lesson 27 ON THE SACRAMENTALS
292 Q. What is a sacramental? A. A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sin.
It is not the sacramental itself that gives grace, but the devotion, the love of God, or sorrow for sin that it inspires. For example, a person comes into the church and goes around the Stations of the Cross. The stations are a sacramental. In looking at one station he sees Our Lord on trial before Pilate; in another he sees Him crowned with thorns; in another, scourged; in another, carrying His Cross; in another, crucified; in another, dead and laid in the tomb. Before all these pictures he reflects on the sufferings of Our Saviour, and begins to hate sin, that caused them. Then he thinks, of his own sins, and begins to be sorry for them. This sorrow, caused by going around the stations, brings him grace that remits venial sins. When we receive the Sacraments we always get the grace of the Sacraments when we are rightly disposed; but in using the sacramentals, the more devotion we have the more grace we receive.
"Increase devotion." If we knelt down before a plain white wall we could not pray with the devotion we would have kneeling before a crucifix. We see the representation of the nails in the hands and feet, the blood on the side, the thorns on the head; and all these must make us think of Our Lord's terrible sufferings. The picture of a friend hanging before us will often make us think of him when we would otherwise forget him. So also will the pictures of Our Lord and of the saints keep them often in our minds.
*293 Q. What is the difference between the Sacraments and the sacramentals? A. The difference between the Sacraments and the sacramentals is: first, the Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ and the sacramentals were instituted by the Church; second, the Sacraments give grace of themselves when we place no obstacle in the way; the sacramentals excite in us pious dispositions, by means of which we may obtain grace.
The Church can increase or diminish the number of the sacramentals, but not the number of the Sacraments.
294 Q. Which is the chief sacramental used in the Church? A. The chief sacramental used in the Church is the Sign of the Cross.
295 Q. How do we make the Sign of the Cross? A. We make the Sign of the Cross by putting the right hand to the forehead, then on the breast, and then to the left and right shoulders; saying, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
It is important to make an exact cross, and to say all the words distinctly. From carelessness and habit some persons do not make the Sign of the Cross, though they often intend to bless themselves. They put the hand only to the forehead and breast, or forehead and chin, or forehead and shoulders, etc. Some do not even touch the forehead. All these, it is true, are some signs and movements of the hand, but they are not the Sign of the Cross. Therefore, from childhood form the good habit of blessing yourself correctly, and you will continue to do it properly all your life.
296 Q. Why do we make the Sign of the Cross? A. We make the Sign of the Cross to show that we are Christians and to profess our belief in the chief mysteries of our religion.
The cross is the banner or standard of Christianity, just as the stars and stripes—the flag of the United States—is our civil standard, and shows to what nation we belong.
*297 Q. How is the Sign of the Cross a profession of faith in the chief mysteries of our religion? A. The Sign of the Cross is a profession of faith in the chief mysteries of our religion because it expresses the mysteries of the Unity and Trinity of God and of the Incarnation and death of Our Lord.
*298 Q. How does the Sign of the Cross express the mystery of the Unity and Trinity of God? A. The words: "In the name" express the Unity of God; the words that follow, "of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" express the mystery of the Trinity.
*299 Q. How does the Sign of the Cross express the mystery of the Incarnation and death of Our Lord? A. The Sign of the Cross expresses the mystery of the Incarnation by reminding us that the Son of God, having become man, suffered death on the Cross.
Besides these chief mysteries, we will find, if we think a little, that the Sign of the Cross reminds us of many other things. It reminds us of the sin of our first parents, which made the Cross necessary; it reminds us of the hatred God bears to sin, when such sufferings were endured to make satisfaction for it; it reminds us of Christ's love, etc.
300 Q. What other sacramental is in very frequent use? A. Another sacramental in very frequent use is holy water.
301 Q. What is, holy water? A. Holy water is water blessed by the priest with solemn prayer to beg God's blessing on those who use it, and protection from the power of darkness.
The priest prays that those who use this water may not fall into sin; may be free from the power of the devil and from bodily diseases, etc. Therefore when they do use the water they get the benefit of all these prayers, because the priest says: "If they use it, God grant them all these things."
302 Q. Are there any other sacramentals besides the Sign of the Cross and holy water? A. Besides the Sign of the Cross and holy water there are many other sacramentals, such as blessed candles, ashes, palms, crucifixes, images of the Blessed Virgin and of the saints, rosaries, and scapulars.
"Candles," blessed on the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin (see Butler's Lives of the Saints, Feb. 2, Feast of the Purification). The Church blesses whatever it uses. Some say beautifully that the wax of the candle gathered by the bees from sweet flowers reminds us of Our Lord's pure, human body, and that the flame reminds us of His divinity. Again, candles about the altar remind us of the angels, those bright spirits ever about God's throne; they remind us, too, of the persecution of the Christians in the first ages of the Church, when they had to hear Mass and receive the Sacraments in dark places, where lights were necessary that priests and people might see. Again, lights are a beautiful ornament for the altar, and in keeping with holy things. Lights are a sign of joy: hence the very old custom of lighting bonfires to express joy. So we have lights to express our joy at the celebration of the Holy Mass. Again, if we wish to honor any great person in the Church or State, we illuminate the city for his reception. So, too, we illuminate our altars and churches for the reception of Our Lord, that we may honor Him when He comes in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and is present at Benediction.
"Ashes" are placed on our heads by the priest on Ash Wednesday, while he says: "Remember, man, thou art but dust and unto dust thou shalt return." They are a sign of penance, and so we use them at the beginning of Lent.
"Palms," to remind us of Our Lord's coming in triumph into Jerusalem, when the people out of respect for Him threw palms, and even their garments, beneath His feet on the way, singing His praises and wishing to make Him king. Yet these same people only one week later were among those who crucified Him. Do we not also at times honor Our Lord, call Him our king, and shortly afterwards insult and, as far as we can, injure Him by sin? Do we not say in the Our Father, "Hallowed, or praised, be His name," and blaspheme it ourselves?
"Crucifix," if it has an image of Our Lord upon it; if not it is simply a cross, because crucifix means fixed to the cross.
"Images"—that is, statues, pictures, etc.
"Rosaries," called also the beads. The rosary or beads is a very old and very beautiful form of prayer. In the beginning pious people, we are told, used to say a certain number of prayers, and keep count of them on a string with knots or beads. However that may be, the Rosary, as we now have it, comes down to us from St. Dominic. He instructed the people by it, and converted many heretics. In the rosary beads here are fifty-three small beads on which we say the "Hail Mary" and six large beads on which we say the "Our Father." In saying the Rosary, before saying the "Our Father" on the large beads, we think or meditate for a while on some event in the life of Our Lord, and these events we call Mysteries of the Rosary. There are fifteen of these events taken in the order in which they occurred in the life of Our Lord; and hence there are fifteen Mysteries in the whole Rosary. First we have the five Joyful Mysteries. (1) The Annunciation—that is, the angel Gabriel coming to tell the Blessed Virgin that she is to be the Mother of God. (2) The Visitation, when the Blessed Virgin went to visit her cousin St. Elizabeth—the mother of St. John the Baptist, who was six months older than Our Lord. Elizabeth said to her, "Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb"; and the Blessed Virgin answered her in the beautiful words of the Magnificat, that we sing at Vespers while the priest incenses the altar. (3) The Nativity, or birth of Our Lord, which reminds us how He was born in a stable, in poverty and lowliness. (4) The Presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple. According to the law of Moses, the people were obliged to bring the first boy born in every family to the temple in Jerusalem and offer him to God. Then they gave some offering to buy him back, as it were, from God. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, who kept all the laws, took Our Lord and offered Him in the temple—although He Himself was the Lord of the temple. Nevertheless others did not know this, and the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph observed the laws, though not bound to do so, that their neighbors might not be scandalized in seeing them neglect these things. They did not know, as she did, that the little Infant was the Son of God, and need not keep the law of Moses or any law, because He was the maker of the laws. We should learn from this never to give scandal; and even when we have good excuse for not observing the law, we should observe it for the sake of good example to others; or at least, when we can, we should explain why we do not observe the law. (5) The fifth Joyful Mystery is the finding of the child Jesus in the temple. All the men and boys, from twelve years of age upward, were obliged, according to the Old Law, to go up to Jerusalem and offer sacrifice on the great feasts. On one of these feasts the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and Our Lord went to Jerusalem. When His parents and their friends were returning home Our Lord was missing. He had not accompanied them from the city. Then the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph went back to Jerusalem and sought Him with great sorrow for three days. At the end of that time they found Him in the temple sitting with the doctors of the law asking them questions. Our Lord obediently returned with His parents to Nazareth. At thirty years of age He was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. The baptism of John was not a Sacrament, did not give grace of itself; but, like a sacramental, it disposed those who received it to be sorry for their sins and to receive the gift of faith and Baptism of Christ. The eighteen years from the time Our Lord went down to Nazareth after being found in the temple till His baptism is called His hidden life, while all that follows His baptism is called His public life. It is very strange that not a single word should be given in the Holy Scriptures about Our Lord during His youth—the very time young men are most anxious to be seen and heard. Our Lord knew all things and could do all things when a young man, and yet for the sake of example He remained silent, living quietly with His parents and doing His daily work for them. Thus you understand what is meant by the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity of Our Lord, the Presentation of the child Jesus in the temple, and the finding of the child Jesus in the temple. You meditate on one of these before each decade (ten) of the beads.
Next in order in the life of Our Lord come the five events called the Sorrowful Mysteries, namely: (1) The agony in the garden, when Our Lord went there to pray on Holy Thursday night, before He was taken prisoner. There the blood came out through His body as perspiration does through ours, and He was in dreadful anguish. The reason of His sorrow and anguish has already been given in the explanation of the Passion. (2) The scourging of Our Lord at the pillar. This also has been explained. What terrible cruelty existed in the world before Christianity! In our times the brute beasts have more protection from cruel treatment than the pagan slaves had then. The Church came to their assistance. It taught that all men are God's children, that slaves as well as masters were redeemed by Jesus Christ, and that masters must be kind and just to their slaves. Many converts from paganism through love for Our Lord and this teaching of the Church, granted liberty to their slaves; and thus as civilization spread with the teaching of Christianity, slavery ceased to exist. It was not in the power of the Church, however, to abolish slavery everywhere, but she did it as soon as she could. Even at present she is fighting hard to protect the poor Negroes of Africa against it, or at least to moderate its cruelty. (3) The third Sorrowful Mystery is the crowning with thorns. (4) The carriage of the Cross to Calvary. It was the common practice to make the prisoner at times carry his cross to the place of execution, and over the cross they printed what he was put to death for. That is the reason they placed over Our Lord's cross I.N.R.I., which are the first letters of four Latin words meaning, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." They pretended by this sign that Our Lord was put to death for calling Himself King of the Jews, and was thus a disturber of the public peace, and an enemy of the Roman emperor under whose power they were. Our Lord did say that He was King of the Jews, but He also said that He was not their earthly but their heavenly king. The real cause of their putting Our Lord to death was the jealousy of the Jewish priests and Pharisees. He rebuked them for their faults, and showed the good, sincere people what hypocrites these men were. (5) The last of the Sorrowful Mysteries is the Crucifixion. At the foot of the Cross our blessed Mother stood on the day of Crucifixion, and it must have been a very sad sight for Our Lord. She was without anyone to take care of her; for St. Joseph was dead, and her Son was soon to die. Our Lord asked St. John, one of His Apostles, to take care of her. St. John was dear to Christ, and on that account is called the beloved disciple. He is known to us as St. John the Evangelist. He was the last of the Apostles to die. At one time he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, but was miraculously saved by God (see Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dec. 27). He lived to be over a hundred years old, and while on the island of Patmos wrote the Apocalypse or Revelations—the last book of the New Testament—containing prophecies of what will happen at the end of the world. The Blessed Virgin lived on earth about eleven years after the Ascension of Our Lord. They buried her in a tomb, and tradition tells us that after her burial the angels carried her body to Heaven, where she now sits beside her Divine Son. This taking of her body to Heaven is called the Assumption. This feast was celebrated in the Church from a very early age. A very strong proof of the Assumption is that no persons ever claimed to have any part of the body of the Blessed Virgin as a relic. We have the bodies of some of the Apostles, especially St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. James transmitted to us; and certainly if it had been possible the first Christians would have endeavored to get some portion, at least, of the Blessed Virgin's body. Surely St. John, who knew her so well, would have given to the church he established some part of her body as a relic; but since her entire body was taken to Heaven, it was never possible.
After the Sorrowful Mysteries come the five Glorious Mysteries, and they are: (1) The Resurrection of Our Lord; (2) The Ascension of Our Lord; (3) The Coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles; (4) The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin; and (5) The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin in Heaven. All but the last have been explained in foregoing parts of the Catechism. In this last Mystery we consider our Blessed Lady just after her entrance into Heaven, being received by her Divine Son, our Blessed Lord, and being crowned Queen of Heaven over all the angels and saints. In saying the Rosary we are, as I have told you before, to stop after mentioning the Mystery and think over the lesson it teaches, and thus excite ourselves to love and devotion before saying the "Our Father" and "Hail Marys" in honor of it. Generally what we call the beads is only one third of the Rosary; that is, we can only say five mysteries on the beads unless we go over them three times. If you say your beads every day you will say the whole Rosary twice a week and have one day to spare.
On Sundays, except the Sundays of Advent and Lent, we should say always the Glorious Mysteries. You see, the Mysteries run in the order in which they happen in Our Lord's life. So on Monday we say the Joyful Mysteries, on Tuesday the Sorrowful, and on Wednesday the Glorious. Then we begin again on Thursday the Joyful, on Friday the Sorrowful, on Saturday the Glorious. In Advent we say the Joyful, and in Lent the Sorrowful Mysteries on every day. In Eastertime we always say the Glorious mysteries.
I have told you what the letters I.N.R.I. mean; now let me tell you what I.H.S. with a cross over them mean. You often see these letters on altars and on holy things. They are simply an abbreviation for Our Lord's name, "Jesus," as it was first written in Greek letters. Some also take these letters for the first letters of the Latin words that mean: Jesus, Saviour of men. And as the cross is placed over these letters it can signify that He saved them by His death on the Cross.
"Scapulars." The scapular is a large broad piece of cloth worn by the monks and priests of some of the religious orders. It extends from the toes in front to the heels behind, and is wide enough to cover the shoulders. It is worn over the cassock or habit. It is called scapular because it rests on the shoulders. The scapular as we wear it is two small pieces of cloth fastened together by two pieces of braid or cord resting on the shoulders. It is made thus in imitation of the large scapular, and is to be worn under our ordinary garments. The brown scapular is called the Scapular of Mount Carmel. It was given, we are told on good authority, to blessed Simon Stock by the Blessed Virgin herself, with wonderful promises in favor of those who wear it. The Church grants many privileges and indulgences to those who wear the scapular.
We wear the scapular to indicate that we place ourselves under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin. We can tell to what army or nation a soldier belongs by the uniform he wears; so we can consider the scapular as the particular uniform of those who desire to serve the Blessed Virgin in some special manner. This wearing of the brown scapular is therefore a mark of special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As it was first introduced among people by the Carmelite Fathers, or priests of the Order of Mount Carmel, this Scapular is called the Scapular of Mount Carmel. We have also a red scapular in honor of Our Lord's Passion; a white one in honor of the Holy Trinity; a blue one in honor of the Immaculate Conception; and a black one in honor of the seven dolors of sorrows of the Blessed Virgin. When all these are joined together (not in one piece, but at the top only) and worn as one, they are called the five scapulars.
The seven dolors are seven chief occasions of sorrow in the life of our Blessed Lady. They are: (1) The circumcision of Our Lord, when she saw His blood shed for the first time. (2) Her flight into Egypt to save the life of the little Infant Jesus when Herod was seeking to kill Him. (3) The three days she lost Him in Jerusalem. (4) When she saw Christ carrying His Cross. (5) His death. (6) When He was taken down from the Cross. (7) When He was laid in the sepulchre. There are beads called seven dolor beads constructed with seven medals bearing representations of these sorrows, and seven beads between each medal and the next. At the medals we meditate on the dolor, and then in its honor say "Hail Marys" on the beads.
Lesson 28 ON PRAYER
303 Q. Is there any other means of obtaining God's grace than the Sacraments? A. There is another means of obtaining God's grace, and it is prayer.
304 Q. What is prayer? A. Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God to adore Him, to thank Him for His benefits, to ask His forgiveness, and to beg of Him all the graces we need whether for soul or body.
"Hearts," because the mere lifting up of the mind would not be prayer. One who blasphemes Him might also lift up his mind. We lift up the mind to know God and the heart to love Him, and in so doing we serve Him—the three things for which we were created. If we do not think of God we do not pray. A parrot might be taught to say the "Our Father," but it could never pray, because it has no mind to lift up. A phonograph can be made to say the prayers, but not to pray, for it has neither mind nor heart. So praying does not depend upon the words we say, but upon the way in which we say them. Indeed the best prayer, called meditation, is made when we do not speak at all, but simply think of God; of His goodness to us; of our sins against Him; of Hell, Purgatory, Heaven, death, judgment, of the end for which we were created, etc. This is the kind of prayer that priests and religious use most frequently. As you might like to meditate—for all who know how may meditate—let me explain to you the method. First you try to remember that you are in the presence of God. Then you take some subject, say the Crucifixion, to think about. You try to make a picture of the scene in your own mind. You see Our Lord on the Cross; two thieves, one on each side of Him, the one praying to Our Lord and the other cursing Him. You see the multitude of His enemies mocking Him. Over at some distance you behold our Blessed Mother standing sorrowful with St. John and Mary Magdalen. Then you ask yourself—for you must imagine yourself there—to which side would you go. Over to our Blessed Mother to try and console her, or over to the enemies to help them to mock? Then you think how sin was the cause of all this suffering, and how often you yourself have sinned; how you have many a time gone over to the crowd and left the Blessed Mother. These thoughts will make you sorry for your sins, and you will form the good resolution never to sin again. You will thank God for these good thoughts and this resolution, and your meditation is ended. You can spend fifteen minutes, or longer if you wish, in such a meditation. The Crucifixion is only one of the many subjects you may select for meditation. You could take any part of the "Our Father," "Hail Mary," or "Creed," and even the questions in your Catechism. Mental prayer, therefore, is the best, because in it we must think; we must pay attention to what we are doing, and lift up our minds and hearts to God; while in vocal prayer—that is, the prayer we say aloud—we may repeat the words from pure habit, without any attention or lifting up of the mind or heart.
305 Q. Is prayer necessary to salvation? A. Prayer is necessary to salvation, and without it no one having the use of reason can be saved.
We mean here those who never pray during their whole lives, and not those who sometimes neglect their prayers through a kind of forgetfulness.
306 Q. At what particular times should we pray? A. We should pray particularly on Sundays and holy days, every morning and night, in all dangers, temptations, and afflictions.
"Sundays and holy days," because these are special days set apart by the Church for the worship of God. In the "morning" we ask God's grace that we may not sin during the day. At "night" we thank Him for all the benefits received during the day, and also that we may be protected while asleep from every danger and accident. We should never, if possible, go to sleep in mortal sin; and if we have the misfortune to be in that state, we should make as perfect an act of contrition as we can, and promise to go to confession as soon as possible. So many accidents happen that we are never safe, even in good health; fires, earthquakes, floods, lightning, etc., might take us off at any moment. If you saw a man hanging by a very slender thread over a great precipice where he would surely be dashed to pieces if the thread broke, and if you saw him thus risking his life willfully and without necessity, you would pronounce him the greatest fool in the world. One who commits sin is a greater fool. He suspends himself, as I have told you once before, over an abyss of eternal torments on the slender thread of his own life, that may break at any moment. Do we tempt God and do to Him what we dare not to do to our fellowman because He is so merciful? Let us be careful. He is as just as He is merciful, and some sin will be our last, and then He will cut the thread of life and allow us to fall into an eternity of sufferings. "Dangers," whether of soul or body. "Afflictions," sufferings or misfortunes of any kind; such as loss of health, death in the family, etc.
*307 Q. How should we pray? A. We should pray: first, with attention; second, with a sense of our own helplessness and dependence upon God; third, with a great desire for the graces we beg of God; fourth, with trust in God's goodness; fifth, with perseverance.
"Attention," thinking of what we are going to do. Before praying we should think for a moment what prayer is. In it we are about to address Almighty God, our Creator, and we are going to ask Him for something—and what is the particular thing we need and seek for? No one would think of going to a store without first considering what he wanted to buy. He would make, too, all the necessary preparations for getting it. He would find out how much he wanted, and what it would cost, and bring with him sufficient money. He would never think of going in and telling the storekeeper to give him anything. Now it is the same in prayer. When we have thought of what we want of God, from whom we can obtain it, and of the reasons why we need it and why God might be pleased to grant it, we can then kneel down and pray for it. We should pray to God just as a child begs favors from its parents. We should talk to Him in our own simple words, and tell Him the reasons why we ask and why we think He should grant our request. We should, however, be humble and patient in all our prayers. God does not owe us anything, and whatever He gives is a free gift. We should not always read prayers at Almighty God. If you wanted anything very badly from a friend, you would know how to ask for it. You would never ask another to write out your request on paper, and then go and read it to your friend. Now, that is just what we do when we read the prayers that somebody else has written in a prayerbook. Try, therefore, to pray with your own prayers. Of course when the Church gives you certain prayers to say—as it does to its priests in the divine office—or recommends to you such prayers as the "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and "Creed," you should say them in preference to your own, because then the Church adds its petition to yours, and God is more likely to grant such prayers. I mean, therefore, that we should not always pray from prayerbooks, and hurry through the "Our Father" that we may give more time to some printed prayer that pleases us. Our prayer should be a conversation with God. We should, after speaking to Him, listen to what He has to say to us, by our conscience, good thoughts, etc.
I must warn you against some prayers that have been circulated by impostors for the purpose of making money. They pretend that these prayers were found in some remarkable place or manner; that those who carry them or say them will have most wonderful advantages—they will never meet with accident; they will be warned of their death; they will go directly to Heaven after death, etc. If there were any such wonderful prayers the Church would surely know of them and commend them to its children. When you find any prayers of the kind I mention, bring them to the priest and ask his opinion before you use them yourself or give them to others. Never buy prayers or articles said to be blessed from persons unknown to you. Persons selling such things are frequently impostors, who by suave manners and pious speeches unfortunately find Catholics who believe them. These persons—sometimes not Catholics themselves, or at least very bad ones—laugh at the superstition and foolish practices of Catholics who believe everything they hear about pious books, prayers, or articles.
In the early ages of the Church, when the enemies of Christ found that they could not refute His teaching, they began to circulate foolish doctrines, pretending that they were taught by Christ, and thus they hoped to bring ridicule upon Christianity. So also in our time many things are circulated as the teaching of the Catholic Church by the enemies of the Church, in hopes that by these falsehoods and foolish doctrines they may bring disgrace and ridicule upon the true religion. Be on your guard against all impostors, remembering it is a safe rule never to buy a religious article from or give money to persons going about from door to door. If you have anything to give in alms, give it to some charitable institution or society connected with the Church, or put it in the poor-box, and then you will be sure it will do the good you intend. Remember, too, that all the religious articles carried about for sale do not come from Rome or the Holy Land, and you are deceived if you think so, notwithstanding the assurance of their owners.
"A trust"—with full confidence that God will grant our petitions if we really need or deserve what we pray for. It is a fault with a great many to pray without the belief that their prayers will be answered. We should pray with such faith and confidence that we would really be disappointed if our prayer was not granted. Once when Our Lord was going about doing good, a poor woman who had been suffering for twelve years with a disease, and who, wishing to be healed, had uselessly spent all her money in seeking medical aid, came to follow Him. (Mark 5:25). She did not ask Him to cure her, but said within herself, "If I can but touch the hem of His garment I know I shall be healed." So she made her way through the throng and followed Our Lord till she could touch His garment without being seen. She succeeded in accomplishing her wishes, touched His garment, and was instantly cured. Our Lord knew her desires and what she had done, and turning around told the people, praising her great faith and confidence, on account of which He had healed her. Such also should be our confidence and trust when we pray to God for our needs.
"Perseverance." We should continue to pray though God does not grant our request. Have you ever noticed a little child begging favors from its mother? See its persistence! Though often refused, it will return again and again with the same request, till the mother, weary of its importunity, finally grants what it asks.
St. Monica prayed seventeen years for the conversion of her son St. Augustine. St. Augustine's father was a pagan, and Monica, his wife, prayed seventeen years for his conversion, and he became a Christian. Just about that time her son Augustine, who was attending school, fell in with bad companions and became a great sinner. She prayed seventeen years more for him, and he reformed, became a great saint and learned bishop in the Church. See, then, the result of thirty-four years' prayer: Monica herself became a saint, her son became a saint, and her husband died a Christian. If St. Monica had ceased praying after ten years, Augustine might not have reformed. We never know when God is about to grant our petition, and we may cease to pray just when another appeal would obtain the object of our prayer. So we should continue to pray till God is pleased to grant our request. Some say their prayers are not heard when they mean to say their prayers are not granted; for God always hears us. But why does He not always grant our request? There are many reasons: (1) We may not pray in the proper manner, namely, with attention, reverence, humility, patience, and perseverance; (2) We may ask for things that God foresees will not be for our spiritual good. This is true even for things that seem good to us, such as the removal of an affliction, temptation, or the like. It often happens that God shows us His greatest mercy in not granting our prayers. Suppose, for example, a father held in his hand a bright and beautiful but very sharp instrument, for which his child continually asked. Do you believe the father would give it if he loved the child? Certainly not. The child thinks, no doubt, it would be benefitted by the possession of the instrument, but the father sees the danger. As God is our loving Father, He acts with us in the same manner. (3) Our prayers are not granted sometimes that we may learn to pray with proper dispositions, and God withholds what He intends finally to give, that we may persevere in prayer and have greater merit. Have you ever observed a mother teaching her child to walk? What does she do? She goes at some distance from the child and holds out an object that she knows will be pleasing to it, and thus tempts it to walk to her. When the child draws near she moves still farther away, and keeps it walking for some time before giving the object. This she does, not through unwillingness to give the article, but in order to teach the child to walk, for she loves to see its efforts. When it falls, she lifts it up and makes it try again. So, too, God teaches us to pray; and though He loves us, He withholds His gifts, that we may pray the longer, and thereby afford Him greater pleasure.
308 Q. Which are the prayers most recommended to us? A. The prayers most recommended to us are the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Apostles' Creed, the Confiteor, and the Acts of Faith, Hope, Love, and Contrition.
309 Q. Are prayers said with distractions of any avail? A. Prayers said with willful distractions are of no avail.
"Distraction"—that is, when we willingly and knowingly think of something else while saying our prayers. It would be better not to pray than to pray with disrespect. If there is any time at which we cannot pray well, we should postpone our prayer: for God does not require us to say our prayers just at a particular time; but when we do pray, He requires us to pray with reverence and respect. We would pray well always if we reflected on the great privilege we enjoy in being allowed to pray.
Lesson 29 ON THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD
310 Q. Is it enough to belong to God's Church in order to be saved? A. It is not enough to belong to the Church in order to be saved, but we must also keep the Commandments of God and of the Church.
We call some commandments the Commandments of God and others the commandments of the Church. We do so only to distinguish the Commandments that God gave to Moses from those that the Church made afterwards. They are all the commandments of God, for whatever laws or commandments the Church makes, it makes them under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and by God's authority. It would be a mortal sin to break the commandments of the Church, just as it would be to break the Commandments of God. You must remember that the Ten Commandments always existed from the time of Adam, but they were not written till God gave them to Moses. You know that it was always a sin to worship false gods, to blaspheme, to disobey parents, to kill, etc.; for you know Cain was punished by God for the murder of his brother Abel (Gen. 5), and that took place while Adam was still alive.
Before the coming of Our Lord the Israelites, or God's chosen people, had three kinds of laws. They had the civil laws for the government of their nation—just as we have our laws for the people of the United States. They had their ceremonial laws for their services in the temple—as we have our ceremonies for the Church. They had their moral laws—such as the Commandments—teaching them what they must do to save their souls. Their civil laws were done away with when they ceased to be a nation having a government of their own. Their ceremonial laws were done away with when Our Lord came and established His Church; because their ceremonies were only the figures of ours. Their moral laws remained, and Our Lord explained them and made them more perfect. Therefore we keep the Commandments and moral laws as they were always kept by man. Fifty days after the Israelites left Egypt they came to the foot of Mount Sinai. (Ex. 19). Here God commanded Moses to come up into the mountain, and in the midst of fire and smoke, thunder and lightning, God spoke to him and delivered into his hands the Ten Commandments written on two tablets of stone.
Every day while the Israelites were traveling in the desert God sent them manna—a miraculous food that fell every morning. It was white, and looked something like fine rice. It had any taste they wished it to have. For instance, if they wished it to taste like fruit, it did taste so to them; but its usual taste was like that of flour and honey. (Ex. 16).
I said there is no difference between the Ten Commandments of God and the six commandments of the Church; and there is no difference as far as the sin of violating them is concerned. But they differ in this: the Church can change the commandments it made itself, while it cannot change those that God Himself gave directly.
*311 Q. Which are the Commandments that contain the whole law of God? A. The Commandments which contain the whole law of God are these two: first, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, with thy whole strength, and with thy whole mind; second, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
"As thyself"—that is, as explained elsewhere, with the same kind, though not necessarily with the same degree, of love. First we must love ourselves and do what is essential for our own salvation, because without our cooperation others cannot save us, though they may help us by their prayers and good works. Next to ourselves nature demands that we love those who are related to us in the order of parents, children, husbands, wives, brothers, etc., and help them in proportion to their needs, and before helping strangers who are in no greater distress.
*312 Q. Why do these two Commandments of the love of God and of our neighbor contain the whole law of God? A. These two Commandments of the love of God and of our neighbor contain the whole law of God because all the other Commandments are given either to help us to keep these two, or to direct us how to shun what is opposed to them.
Of the Ten Commandments the first three refer to Almighty God and the other seven to our neighbor. Thus all the Commandments may be reduced to the two of the love of God and of the love of our neighbor. The First Commandment says you shall worship only the true God; the Second says you shall respect His holy name; and the Third says you shall worship Him on a certain day. All these are contained therefore in this: Love God all you possibly can, for if you do you will keep the first three of the Commandments. The Fourth says: Honor your father—who in the sense of the Commandment can also be called your neighbor—that is, respect him, help him in his needs. The Fifth says do not kill him; namely, your neighbor. The others say do not rob him of his goods; do not tell lies about him; do not wish unjustly to possess his goods and do not covet his wife. Thus it is clear that the last seven are all contained in this: Love your neighbor, for if you do you will keep the last seven Commandments that refer to him.
313 Q. Which are the Commandments of God? A. The Commandments of God are these ten:
1. I am the Lord thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them. 2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. 3. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath Day. 4. Honor thy father and thy mother. 5. Thou shalt not kill. 6. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 7. Thou shalt not steal. 8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.
*314 Q. Who gave the Ten Commandments? A. God Himself gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, and Christ Our Lord confirmed them.
Lesson 30 ON THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
315 Q. What is the First Commandment? A. The First Commandment is: "I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange gods before Me."
"Strange gods." The Israelites were surrounded on all sides by pagan nations who worshipped idols and false gods, and sometimes by mingling with these people they fell into sin, and, forgetting the true God, worshipped their idols. Sometimes, too, they were at war with these pagan nations, and when defeated were led captive into pagan countries and there fell into the sin of worshipping false gods. It was against this sin that God cautioned His people in the First Commandment. From this sin of idolatry among the Israelites we have an example of the evil results of associating with persons not of the true religion. One would think that the Israelites, knowing the true God, might have converted their pagan neighbors to the true religion by the influence of their teaching and example; but, on the contrary, they lost the true faith themselves, as nearly always happens in such cases. How do we sometimes worship false or strange gods? By making dress, money, honor, society, company, or pleasure our god—that is, by giving up the worship of God and sinning for their sake, and thus making them god, at least for the time being, by giving them our heart, mind, and service.
*316 Q. How does the First Commandment help us to keep the great Commandment of the love of God? A. The First Commandment helps us to keep the great Commandment of the love of God because it commands us to adore God alone.
317 Q. How do we adore God? A. We adore God by faith, hope, and charity, by prayer and sacrifice.
318 Q. How may the First Commandment be broken? A. The First Commandment may be broken by giving to a creature the honor which belongs to God alone; by false worship; and by attributing to a creature a perfection which belongs to God alone.
"Creature"—that is, anything created; anything but God Himself, for all other persons and things have been created. If one knelt before a king and adored him, he would be giving to a creature the honor due to God alone. "False worship"—that is, worshipping God not as He directs us by His Church, but in some ways pleasing to ourselves. For example, to sacrifice animals to God would now be false worship; to offer now any of the sacrifices commanded in the Old Law would be false worship, because all these were figures of the real sacrifice of the Cross and Mass, and were to put the people in mind that one day Christ the promised Redeemer would offer up the one great sacrifice of His own body and blood to blot out all the sins of the world. And now that we have the real sacrifice it would be sinful to use only figures, and it would be a false worship displeasing to God. So, too, all those who leave the true Church to practice a religion of their own have a false worship, for they worship God not as He wishes, but as they wish.
Heaven is a reward, and when we see how the saints labored to secure it we must be ashamed of the little we do for God. Take out of a whole year—that is, 365 days or 8,760 hours—the time you give to the service of God, and you will find it very little. Even the time you spent at Mass and prayers was filled with distraction and little of it entirely given to God. Since this is true for one year, what will it be for all the years of your life? Think of them all and you will perceive that God, who gave you all the time you had, and who on the last day will demand an exact account of it, will find very little of it spent in His honor or in His service. Even the time wasted in school and instructions will all stand against you. Time lost is lost forever, and you can never make it up. Next to grace, time is the most valuable thing God gives us, and we should use it well. "Attributing to a creature a perfection" etc. Persons who go to fortune tellers do this. Fortune tellers are persons who pretend to know what is going to happen in the future. We know from our religion that only God Himself knows the future. Neither the angels nor saints, nor even the Blessed Virgin, know the future. Even they could not tell your fortune unless God revealed it to them. So when you go to a fortune teller you place the poor sinful person who is doing the devil's work above the Blessed Virgin and all the saints and angels, and make that wretch equal to God Himself. Surely this is a sin, even if you do not believe these so-called fortune tellers, but go to them merely through curiosity or with others. Again, we pay these persons for telling us some foolish nonsense, and thus encourage them to continue their sinful business. They doubtless laugh at the foolishness of those who go to them or believe what they say and pay them generously. You might with as much sense stop a man on the street, ask him to tell your fortune, and hand him your money, for he would know as much about it as so-called fortune tellers do. Rarely these sinful people might tell you something that has happened in your life; but if they do, they merely guess at it or are aided by the devil. The devil did not lose his intelligence when driven out of Heaven, and he uses it now for doing evil. He has vast experience, for he is as old as Adam, or older, and has seen and known all the men that have lived in the world. He can move rapidly through the world and easily know what is visibly taking place, so that, strictly speaking, he could make known to his sinful agents what is present or past, but never the future. Thus some fortune tellers, clairvoyants, mindreaders, mediums, or whatever else they call themselves, who are truly in league with the devil, may by his power tell you the past of your life to make you believe that they know also the future. The past and present in your life you already know, and the future they cannot tell; therefore it is useless as well as sinful to go to them. I say only it is possible for some fortune tellers to employ the assistance of the devil, for all of them, with very rare exception, are clever impostors who take your money for guessing at what they suspect you will be most pleased to hear.
*319 Q. Do those who make use of spells and charms, or who believe in dreams, in mediums, spiritists, fortune tellers, and the like, sin against the First Commandment? A. Those who make use of spells and charms, or who believe in dreams, in mediums, spiritists, fortune tellers, and the like, sin against the First Commandment, because they attribute to creatures perfections which belong to God alone.
"Spells" are certain words, the saying of which persons believe will effect for them something wonderful—a miraculous cure, for instance, or protection from some evil. "Charms" are articles worn about the body for the same purpose. They may be little black beans, little stones of a certain shape, the teeth of animals, etc. In uncivilized countries the inhabitants use many of these charms. But you may ask, Are not these medals, scapulars, etc., that we wear, also charms? No. These things are blessed and worn in honor of God, of His Blessed Mother, or of the saints. We do not expect any help from the little piece of brass or cloth we wear, but from those in whose honor we wear it, and from the prayers said in the blessing for those who wear it. But they who wear charms expect the help from the thing itself, which makes their conduct foolish and sinful, since God alone can protect from evil. Again, such things as medals, crosses, and scapulars are blessed by the Church and worn by its consent, and it could never allow all its children to do a sinful thing. It is good and praiseworthy, therefore, to wear the blessed sacramentals in God's honor; but even with these holy things we must be careful not to go too far. It is true the Blessed Virgin will protect those who wear her scapular; but it would be sinful willfully to expose ourselves to danger without any necessity, because we wear a scapular. Thus it would be suicide for a boy who could not swim to plunge into deep water because, having his scapulars on, the Blessed Virgin ought to save him by a miracle. Again, it is wrong to look for miracles from God when natural help will answer. Thus it would be wrong for a man who broke his leg to refuse to have the doctors set it, because he wanted God alone to heal it. "Dreams" are caused by the mind being at work while the body is sleeping or at rest. The mind never sleeps; it is always awake and working. Thus when we are asleep the imagination, without the reason to guide it, mixes together a number of things we have seen, heard, or thought of, and gives us strange scenes and pictures. Sometimes what we dream of seems to happen; but that is only because we dream so much that it would be strange if none of the things ever happened. We will generally dream about whatever was on our mind shortly before. We read in the Holy Scriptures that God at times made known His will to certain persons by dreams; as when the king of Egypt dreamt of the great famine that was to come; or when the angel appeared in sleep to St. Joseph, telling him to take Our Lord into Egypt, where Herod the king could not kill him. (Matt. 2).
The dreams mentioned in the Holy Scripture were more frequently visions than dreams. In a vision the things we see are really present, whereas in dreams they are not, but we imagine they are. God no longer makes use of dreams as a means of communicating with His creatures, because His Church will make known to us His will. He sometimes, however, makes known certain things to His holy servants on earth in a very special and private manner: as, for example, when Our Lord appeared to Saint Margaret Mary and told her He would like to have the devotion to the Sacred Heart established. We must always believe what the Church tells us God has made known to it; but when holy people tell us that God revealed special things to them, we are not obliged to believe what they say, unless the Church confirms it. I say we are not obliged—that is, we may if we please; but we would not be heretics and commit sin if we did not believe all the revelations and wonderful things we find recorded in the lives of saints, though they may all be true.
"Mediums and spiritists" are persons who pretend they can talk with the dead in the other world, and learn where they are and what they are doing. They have figures to move and apparently speak, and other contrivances to deceive those who confide in them. Their work is all deception and very sinful. If any of these things could be done, or if God wished them to be known, He would give the power to the Church founded by His divine Son, and not to a few sinful men or women here and there. After a soul leaves the body its fate is hidden from us, and we can say nothing with absolute certainty of its reward or punishment. No one ever came back from the other world to give a minute account of its general appearance or of what takes place there. All that is known about it the Church knows and tells us, and all over and above that is false or doubtful. By thinking a little you can see how all these dealings with fortune tellers, etc., are giving to creatures what belongs to God alone.
320 Q. Are sins against faith, hope, and charity also sins against the First Commandment? A. Sins against faith, hope, and charity are also sins against the First Commandment.
321 Q. How does a person sin against faith? A. A person sins against faith, first, by not trying to know what God has taught; second, by refusing to believe all that God has taught; third, by neglecting to profess his belief in what God has taught.
"Not trying to know." Thus children who idle their time at Sunday school or religious instruction, and do not learn their Catechism, sin against faith in the first way. In like manner grown persons who do not sometime or other endeavor to hear sermons or instructions, to attend missions or learn from good books, sin against faith. "Refusing to believe," as all those do who leave the true religion, or who, knowing it, do not embrace it. "Neglecting to profess." We may do this by not living up to the practice of our holy religion. We believe, for example, we should hear Mass every Sunday and holy day; we should receive the Sacraments at certain times in the year; but if we only believe these things and do not do them, we neglect to profess our faith, neglect to show others that we really believe all the Church teaches, and are anxious to practice it. Many know and believe what they should do, but never practice it. Such persons do great injury to the Church, for persons who do not live up to their holy religion but act contrary to its teaching give scandal to their neighbor. How many persons at present not Catholics would be induced to enter the true Church if they saw all Catholics virtuous, truthful, sober, honest, upright, and industrious! But when they see Catholics—be they ever so few—cursing, quarrelling, backbiting, drinking, lying, stealing, cheating, etc.—in a word, indulging in the same vices as those who claim to have no religion, what must they think of the moral influence of Catholic faith? Thus they do great injustice to the Church and the cause of religion, and are working against our Blessed Lord when they should be working for Him.
The Christian religion spread very rapidly through the world in the first ages of its existence; and one of the chief reasons was the good example given by the Christians; for pagans seeing the holy lives, the kindness and charity of their Christian neighbors, could not help admiring and loving them, and wishing to be members of the Church that made them so good and amiable. How many pagans do you think would be converted nowadays by the lives of some who call themselves Catholics? Not many, I think. Besides this, the early Christians really labored to instruct others in the Christian religion, and to make them converts. Often we find servants—even slaves—by their instructions converting their pagan masters and mistresses. They all felt that they were missionaries working for Jesus Christ, and their influence reached where the priest's influence could not reach, because they came in contact with persons the priests never had an opportunity of seeing. If all Catholics had the same spirit, what good they could do! Their business or duty may often bring them into daily intercourse with persons not of their faith, and who never knew or perhaps heard any of the beautiful truths of our holy religion. Yes, Catholics could do much good if they had only the good will and knew their religion well. I do not mean that they should be always discussing religion with everyone they meet. Let them preach chiefly by the example of their own good lives, and when questioned explain modestly and sincerely the truths they believe.
If you should be asked, for instance: Why do you not eat flesh-meat on Friday? you should be able to answer: "Because I am a Christian and wish to keep always before my mind how our Blessed Lord suffered for me in His holy flesh on that day; and anyone who claims to be a Christian, ought, I think, to be glad to do what reminds him so regularly and well of Our Lord's Passion." Such an answer if given kindly and mildly would silence and instruct your adversary; it might make him reflect, and might, in time, bring him to the true religion. Sometimes a few words make a great impression and bring about conversion. St. Francis Xavier was a worldly young man, learned and ambitious, and he heard from St. Ignatius these words of Our Lord: "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" He went home and kept thinking of them till they impressed him so strongly that he gave up the world, became a priest and by his labors and preaching in India, converted to the true religion many thousand pagans. In the lives of the saints there are many examples of a few words, by God's grace, bringing men from a life of sin to a life of great holiness.
*322 Q. How do we fail to try to know what God has taught? A. We fail to try to know what God has taught by neglecting to learn the Christian doctrine.
*323 Q. Who are they who do not believe all that God has taught? A. They who do not believe all that God has taught are the heretics and infidels.
There are many kinds of unbelievers: atheists, deists, infidels, heretics, apostates, and schismatics. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God, saying there is no God. A deist is one who says he believes God exists, but denies that God ever revealed any religion. These are also called freethinkers. An infidel properly means one who has never been baptized—one who is not of the number of the faithful; that is, those believing in Christ. Sometimes atheists are called infidels. Heretics are those who were baptized and who claim to be Christians, but do not believe all the truths that Our Lord has taught. They accept only a portion of the doctrine of Christ and reject the remainder, and hence they become rebellious children of the Church. They belong to the true Church by being baptized, but do not submit to its teaching and are therefore outcast children, disinherited till they return to the true faith. A schismatic is one who believes everything the Church teaches, but will not submit to the authority of its head—the Holy Father. Such persons do not long remain only schismatics; for once they rise up against the authority of the Church, they soon reject some of its doctrines and thus become heretics; and indeed, since Vatican Council I, all schismatics are heretics.
*324 Q. Who are they who neglect to profess their belief in what God has taught? A. They who neglect to profess their belief in what God has taught are all those who fail to acknowledge the true Church in which they really believe.
There are some outside the Church who feel and believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and yet they do not become Catholics, because there are so many difficulties in the way. For example, they have been brought up in another religion, and all their friends, relatives, or associates are opposed to the Catholic religion. Their business, their social life, their worldly interests will all suffer if they become Catholics. So, although they feel they should at once embrace the true religion, they keep putting off till death comes and finds them outside the Church—and most probably guilty of other mortal sins. Such persons cannot be saved, for they reject all the graces God bestows upon them. A very common fault with such people is to excuse this conduct by saying: Oh! I was brought up in the Protestant religion, and everyone ought to live in the religion in which he was brought up. Let me ask: If persons were brought up with some bodily deformity that their parents neglected to have remedied while they were young, would they not use every means themselves to have the deformity removed as soon as they became old enough to see and understand their misfortune? In like manner, if unfortunately parents bring up their children in a false religion—that is, with spiritual deformities, it is the duty of the children to embrace the true religion as soon as they know it. Again persons will say: Oh, I believe one religion as good as another; we are all Christians, and all trying to serve God. If one religion is as good as another, why did not Our Lord allow the old religions—false or true—to remain? If one man says a thing is black and another says it is white, they cannot both be right, for a thing cannot be black and white at the same time. Only one can be right; and, if we are anxious about the color of the object, we must try to find which one is right. Just in the same way all the religions that claim to be Christian contradict one another; one says a thing is false and another says it is true: one says Our Lord taught so and so and another says He did not. Now since it is very important for us to know which is right, we must find out which is really the Church Our Lord established; and when we have found it we will know that all the other pretended Christian religions must be false. Our Lord has given us marks by which we can know His Church, as we saw while speaking of the marks of the Church; and the Roman Catholic Church is the only Church that has all these marks. We say that we are Roman Catholics to show that we are in communion with the Church of Rome, established by St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles.
*325 Q. Can they who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe expect to be saved while in that state? A. They who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe cannot expect to be saved while in that state, for Christ has said: "Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven."