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The Faith of Our Fathers
by James Cardinal Gibbons
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When we call the Blessed Virgin the Mother of God, we assert our belief in two things: First—That her Son, Jesus Christ, is true man, else she were not a mother. Second—That He is true God, else she were not the Mother of God. In other words, we affirm that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God, who in His divine nature is from all eternity begotten of the Father, consubstantial with Him, was in the fulness of time again begotten, by being born of the Virgin, thus taking to Himself, from her maternal womb, a human nature of the same substance with hers.

But it may be said the Blessed Virgin is not the Mother of the Divinity. She had not, and she could not have, any part in the generation of the Word of God, for that generation is eternal; her maternity is temporal. He is her Creator; she is His creature. Style her, if you will, the Mother of the man Jesus or even of the human nature of the Son of God, but not the Mother of God.

I shall answer this objection by putting a question. Did the mother who bore us have any part in the production of our soul? Was not this nobler part of our being the work of God alone? And yet who would for a moment dream of saying "the mother of my body," and not "my mother?"

The comparison teaches us that the terms parent and child, mother and son, refer to the persons and not to the parts or elements of which the persons are composed. Hence no one says: "The mother of my body," "the mother of my soul;" but in all propriety "my mother," the mother of me who live and breathe, think and act, one in my personality, though uniting in it a soul directly created by God, and a material body directly derived from the maternal womb. In like manner, as far as the sublime mystery of the Incarnation can be reflected in the natural order, the Blessed Virgin, under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, by communicating to the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity, as mothers do, a true human nature of the same substance with her own, is thereby really and truly His Mother.

It is in this sense that the title of Mother of God, denied by Nestorius, was vindicated to her by the General Council of Ephesus, in 431; in this sense, and in no other, has the Church called her by that title.

Hence, by immediate and necessary consequence, follow her surpassing dignity and excellence, and her special relationship and affinity, not only with her Divine Son, but also with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

Mary, as Wordsworth beautifully expressed it, united in her person "a mother's love with maiden purity." The Church teaches us that she was always a Virgin—a Virgin before her espousals, during her married life and after her spouse's death. "The Angel Gabriel was sent from God ... to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, ... and the Virgin's name was Mary."(221)

That she remained a Virgin till after the birth of Jesus is expressly stated in the Gospel.(222) It is not less certain that she continued in the same state during the remainder of her days; for in the Apostles' and the Nicene Creed she is called a Virgin, and that epithet cannot be restricted to the time of our Saviour's birth. It must be referred to her whole life, inasmuch as both creeds were compiled long after she had passed away.

The Canon of the Mass, which is very probably of Apostolic antiquity, speaks of her as the "glorious ever Virgin," and in this sentiment all Catholic tradition concurs.

There is a propriety which suggests itself to every Christian in Mary's remaining a Virgin after the birth of Jesus, for, as Bishop Bull of the Protestant Episcopal Church of England remarks, "It cannot with decency be imagined that the most holy vessel which was once consecrated to be a receptacle of the Deity should be afterwards desecrated and profaned by human use." The learned Grotius, Calvin and other eminent Protestant writers hold the same view.

The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is now combated by Protestants, as it was in the early days of the Church by Helvidius and Jovinian, on the following grounds:

First—The Evangelist says that "Joseph took unto him his wife, and he knew her not till she brought forth her first-born son."(223) This sentence suggests to dissenters that other children besides Jesus were born to Mary. But the qualifying word till by no means implies that the chaste union which had subsisted between Mary and Joseph up to the birth of our Lord was subsequently altered. The Protestant Hooker justly complains of the early heretics as having "abused greatly these words of Matthew, gathering against the honor of the Blessed Virgin, that a thing denied with special circumstance doth import an opposite affirmation when once that circumstance is expired."(224) To express Hooker's idea in plainer words, when a thing is said not to have occurred until another event had happened, it does not necessarily follow that it did occur after that event took place.

The Scripture says that the raven went forth from the ark, "and did not return till the waters were dried up upon the earth"(225)—that is, it never returned. "Samuel saw Saul no more till the day of his death."(226) He did not, of course, see him after death. "The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool."(227) These words apply to our Savior, who did not cease to sit at the right of God after His enemies were subdued.

Second—But Jesus is called Mary's first-born Son, and does not a first-born always imply the subsequent birth of other children to the same mother? By no means; for the name of first-born was given to the first son of every Jewish mother, whether other children followed or not. We find this epithet applied to Machir, for instance, who was the only son of Manasses.(228)

Third—But is not mention frequently made of the brethren of Jesus?(229) Fortunately the Gospels themselves will enable us to trace the maternity of those who are called His brothers, not to the Blessed Virgin, but to another Mary. St. Matthew mentions, by name, James and Joseph among the brethren of Jesus;(230) and the same Evangelist and also St. Mark tell us that among those who were present at the Crucifixion were Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James and Joseph.(231) And St. John, who narrates with more detail the circumstances of the Crucifixion, informs us who this second Mary was, for he says that there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His Mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.(232) There is no doubt that Mary of Cleophas is identical with Mary, who is called by Matthew and Mark the mother of James and Joseph. And as Mary of Cleophas was the kinswoman of the Blessed Virgin, James and Joseph are called the brothers of Jesus, in conformity with the Hebrew practice of giving that appellation to cousins or near relations. Abraham, for instance, was the uncle of Lot, yet he calls him brother.(233)

Mary is exalted above all other women, not only because she united "a mother's love with maiden purity," but also because she was conceived without original sin. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is thus expressed by the Church: "We define that the Blessed Virgin Mary in the first moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin."(234)

Unlike the rest of the children of Adam, the soul of Mary was never subject to sin, even in the first moment of its infusion into the body. She alone was exempt from the original taint. This immunity of Mary from original sin is exclusively due to the merits of Christ, as the Church expressly declares. She needed a Redeemer as well as the rest of the human race and therefore was "redeemed, but in a more sublime manner."(235) Mary is as much indebted to the precious blood of Jesus for having been preserved as we are for having been cleansed from original sin.

Although the Immaculate Conception was not formulated into a dogma of faith till 1854, it is at least implied in Holy Scripture. It is in strict harmony with the place which Mary holds in the economy of Redemption, and has virtually received the pious assent of the faithful from the earliest days of the Church.

In Genesis we read: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head."(236) All Catholic commentators, ancient and modern, recognize in the Seed, the Woman and the serpent types of our Savior, of Mary and the devil. God here declares that the enmity of the Seed and that of the Woman toward the tempter were to be identical. Now the enmity of Christ, or the Seed, toward the evil one was absolute and perpetual. Therefore the enmity of Mary, or the Woman, toward the devil never admitted of any momentary reconciliation which would have existed if she were ever subject to original sin.

It is worthy of note that as three characters appear on the scene of our fall—Adam, Eve and the rebellious Angel—so three corresponding personages figure in our redemption—Jesus Christ, who is the second Adam;(237) Mary, the second Eve, and the Archangel Gabriel. The second Adam was immeasurably superior to the first, Gabriel was superior to the fallen Angel, and hence we are warranted by analogy to conclude that Mary was superior to Eve. But if she had been created in original sin, instead of being superior, she would be inferior to Eve, who was certainly created immaculate. We cannot conceive that the mother of Cain was created superior to the mother of Jesus. It would have been unworthy of a God of infinite purity to have been born of a woman that was even for an instant under the dominion of Satan.

The liturgies of the Church, being the established formularies of her public worship, are among the most authoritative documents that can be adduced in favor of any religious practice.

In the liturgy ascribed to St. James, Mary is commemorated as "our most holy, immaculate and most glorious Lady, Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary."(238)

In the Maronite Ritual she is invoked as "our holy, praiseworthy and immaculate Lady."(239)

In the Alexandrian liturgy of St. Basil, she is addressed as "most holy, most glorious, immaculate."(240)

The Feast of Mary's Conception commenced to be celebrated in the East in the fifth, and in the West in the seventh centuries. It was not introduced into Rome till probably towards the end of the fourteenth century. Though Rome is always the first that is called on to sanction a new festival, she is often the last to take part in it. She is the first that is expected to give the key-note, but frequently the last to join in the festive song. While she is silent, the notes are faint and uncertain; when her voice joins in the chant, the song of praise becomes constant and universal.

It is scarcely necessary for me to add that the introduction of the festival of the Conception after the lapse of so many centuries from the foundation of Christianity no more implies a novelty of doctrine than the erection of a monument in 1875 to Arminius, the German hero who flourished in the first century, would be an evidence of his recent exploits. The Feast of the Blessed Trinity was not introduced till the fifth century, though it commemorates a fundamental mystery of the Christian religion.

It is interesting to us to know that the Immaculate Conception of Mary has been interwoven in the earliest history of our own country. The ship that first bore Columbus to America was named Mary of the Conception. This celebrated navigator gave the same name to the second island which he discovered. The first chapel erected in Quebec, when that city was founded in the early part of the seventeenth century was dedicated to God under the invocation of Mary Immaculate.

In view of these three great prerogatives of Mary—her divine maternity, her perpetual virginity and her Immaculate Conception—we are prepared to find her blessedness often and expressly declared in Holy Scripture.

The Archangel Gabriel is sent to her from heaven to announce to her the happy tidings that she was destined to be the mother of the world's Redeemer. No greater favor was ever before or since conferred on woman, whether we consider the dignity of the messenger, or the momentous character of the message, or the terms of respect in which it is conveyed.

"The Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin ... and the virgin's name was Mary. And the Angel being come in said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. Who, having heard, was troubled at his saying and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the Angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.... The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most high shall overshadow thee, and therefore, also, the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."(241) The Almighty does not send to Mary, a prophet or priest, or any other earthly ambassador, nor even one of the lower choirs of angels, but He commissions an Archangel to confer with her.

"Hail full of grace!" Gabriel does not congratulate her on her personal charms, though she is the fairest daughter of Israel. He does not praise her for her exalted ancestry, though she is descended from the Kings of Juda. But he commends her because she is the chosen child of benediction. He admires the hidden virtues of her soul, brighter than the sun, fairer than the moon, purer than angels, he sees before him,

"Our tainted nature's solitary boast,"

one that alone escaped the taint of Adam's disobedience.

As the precious diamond reflects various colors according as it is exposed to the sun's rays, so did the soul of Mary, from the moment that the "Sun of Justice" shone upon her, exhibit every grace that was prompted by the occasion.

St. Stephen and the Apostles were also said to be full of the Spirit of God. By this, however, we are not to understand that the same measure of grace was imparted to them which was given to Mary. On each one it is bestowed according to his merits and needs. "One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, and another the glory of the stars, for star differeth from star in glory;"(242) and as Mary's office of Mother of God immeasurably surpassed in dignity that of the proto-martyr and of the Apostles, so did her grace superabound over theirs.

"The Lord is with thee." "He exists in His creatures in different ways; in those that are endowed with reason in one way, in irrational creatures in another. His irrational creatures have no means of apprehending or possessing Him. All rational creatures may indeed apprehend Him by knowledge, but only the good by love. Only in the good does He so exist as to be with them as well as in them; with them by a certain harmony and agreement of will, and in this way God is with all His Saints. But He is with Mary in a yet more special manner, for in her there was so great an agreement and union with God that not her will only, but her very flesh was to be united to him."(243)

"Blessed art Thou among women." The same expression is applied to two other women in the Holy Scripture—viz., to Jahel and Judith. The former was called blessed after she had slain Sisara,(244) and the latter after she had slain Holofernes,(245) both of whom had been enemies of God's people. In this respect these two women are true types of Mary, who was chosen by God to crush the head of the serpent, the infernal enemy of mankind. And if they deserved the title of blessed for being the instruments of God in rescuing Israel from temporal calamities, how much more does Mary merit that appellation, who co-operated so actively in the salvation of the human race!

The Evangelist proceeds: "And Mary, rising up in those days, went ... into a city of Juda; and she entered into the house of Zachary and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary the infant leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and she cried out with a loud voice and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord."(246)

There is joy in Mary's heart in being chosen to become the mother of the world's Redeemer. She wishes by her visit to communicate that joy to her cousin. The Sun of Justice is shining within her. She desires to diffuse His rays through Elizabeth's household. She is laden with spiritual treasures. She must share them with her kinswoman, especially as she is none the poorer in making others richer.

The usual order of salutation is here reversed. Age pays reverence to youth. A lady who is revered by the whole community honors a lowly maiden. An inspired matron expresses her astonishment that her young kinswoman should deign to visit her. She extols Mary's faith and calls her blessed. She blends the praise of Mary with the praise of Mary's Son, and even the infant John testifies his reverential joy by leaping in his mother's womb. And we are informed that during this interview Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, to remind us that the veneration she paid to her cousin was not prompted by her own feelings, but was dictated by the Spirit of God.

Then Mary breaks out into that sublime canticle, the Magnificat: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior, because He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid, for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."(247) On these words I shall pause to make one reflection.

The Holy Ghost, through the organ of Mary's chaste lips, prophesies that all generations shall call her blessed, with evident approval of the praise she should receive.

What a daring prophecy is this! Among the wonderful predictions recorded in Holy Scripture, I can recall none that more strongly commands my admiration. Here is a modest, retiring maiden, living in an obscure village in a remote quarter of the civilized world, openly announcing that every age till the end of time, should pronounce her hallowed. We have no reason to question this prophecy, for it is recorded in the inspired pages of the Gospel. And we know also without the shadow of a doubt that the prophecy has been literally fulfilled. For, in every epoch, and in every Christian land from the rising to the setting sun, her Magnificat has daily resounded.

Now the Catholic is the only Church whose children, generation after generation, from the first to the present century, have pronounced her blessed; of all Christians in this land, they alone contribute to the fulfilment of the prophecy.

Therefore, it is only Catholics that earn the approval of Heaven by fulfilling the prediction of the Holy Ghost.

Protestants not only concede that we bless the name of Mary, but they even reproach us with being too lavish in our praises of her.

On the other hand, they are careful to exclude themselves from the "generations" that were destined to call her blessed, for, in speaking of her, they almost invariably withhold from her the title of blessed, prefering to call her the Virgin, or Mary the Virgin, or the Mother of Jesus. And while Protestant churches will resound with the praises of Sarah and Rebecca and Rachel, of Miriam and Ruth, of Esther and Judith of the Old Testament, and of Elizabeth and Anna, of Magdalen and Martha of the New, the name of Mary the Mother of Jesus is uttered with bated breath, lest the sound of her name should make the preacher liable to the charge of superstition.

The piety of a mother usually sheds additional lustre on the son, and the halo that encircles her brow is reflected upon his. The more the mother is extolled, the greater honor redounds to the son. And if this is true of all men who do not choose their mothers, how much more strictly may it be affirmed of Him who chose His own Mother, and made her Himself such as He would have her, so that all the glories of His Mother are essentially His own. And yet we daily see ministers of the Gospel ignoring Mary's exalted virtues and unexampled privileges and parading her alleged imperfections; nay, sinfulness, as if her Son were dishonored by the piety, and took delight in the defamation of His Mother.

Such defamers might learn a lesson from one who made little profession of Christianity.

"Is thy name Mary, maiden fair? Such should, methinks, its music be. The sweetest name that mortals bear, Were best befitting thee. And she to whom it once was given Was half of earth and half of heaven."(248)

Once more the title of blessed, is given to Mary. On one occasion a certain woman, lifting up her voice, said to Jesus: "Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the paps that gave thee suck."(249) It is true that our Lord replied: "Yea, rather (or yea, likewise), blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it." It would be an unwarrantable perversion of the sacred text to infer from this reply that Jesus intended to detract from the praise bestowed on His Mother. His words may be thus correctly paraphrased: She is blessed indeed in being the chosen instrument of My incarnation, but more blessed in keeping My word. Let others be comforted in knowing that though they cannot share with My Mother in the privilege of her maternity, they can participate with her in the blessed reward of them who hear My word and keep it.

In the preceding passages we have seen Mary declared blessed on four different occasions, and hence, in proclaiming her blessedness, far from paying her unmerited honor, we are but re-echoing the Gospel verdict of saint and angel and of the Spirit of God Himself.

Wordsworth, though not nurtured within the bosom of the Catholic Church, conceives a true appreciation of Mary's incomparable holiness in the following beautiful lines:

"Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrossed With the least shade of thought to sin allied; Woman! above all women glorified, Our tainted nature's solitary boast; Purer than foam on central ocean tost, Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast, Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween, Not unforgiven, the suppliant knee might bend As to a visible power, in which did blend All that was mixed and reconciled in thee Of mother's love with maiden purity, Of high with low, celestial with serene."

To honor one who has been the subject of divine, angelic and saintly panegyric is to use a privilege, and the privilege is heightened into a sacred duty when we remember that the spirit of prophecy foretold that she should ever be the unceasing theme of Christian eulogy as long as Christianity itself would exist.

"Honor he is worthy of, whom the king hath a mind to honor."(250) The King of kings hath honored Mary; His divine Son did not disdain to be subject to her, therefore should we honor her, especially as the honor we pay to her redounds to God, the source of all glory. The Royal Prophet, than whom no man paid higher praise to God, esteemed the friends of God worthy of all honor: "To me Thy friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable."(251) Now the dearest friends of God are they who most faithfully keep His precepts: "You are My friends, if you do the things that I command you."(252) Who fulfilled the divine precepts better than Mary, who kept all the words of her Son, pondering them in her heart? "If any man minister to me," says our Savior, "him will My Father honor."(253) Who ministered more constantly to Jesus than Mary, who discharged towards Him all the offices of a tender mother?

Heroes and statesmen may receive the highest military and civic honors which a nation can bestow without being suspected of invading the domain of the glory which is due to God. Now is not heroic sanctity more worthy of admiration than civil service and military exploits, inasmuch as religion ranks higher than patriotism and valor? And yet the admirers of Mary's exalted virtues can scarcely celebrate her praises without being accused in certain quarters of Mariolatry.

When a nation wishes to celebrate the memory of its distinguished men its admiration is not confined to words, but vents itself in a thousand different shapes. See in how many ways we honor the memory of Washington. Monuments on which his good deeds are recorded are erected to his name. The grounds in which his remains repose on the banks of the Potomac are kept in order by a volunteer band of devoted ladies, who adorn the place with flowers. And this cherished spot is annually visited by thousands of pilgrims from the most remote sections of the country. These visitors will eagerly snatch a flower or a leaf from a shrub growing near Washington's tomb, or will strive even to clip off a little shred from one of his garments, still preserved in the old mansion, to bear home with them as precious relics.

I have always observed when traveling on the missions up and down the Potomac, that whenever the steamer came to the point opposite Mount Vernon the bell was tolled, and every eye was directed toward Washington's grave.

The 22nd of February, Washington's birthday, is kept as a national holiday, at least in certain portions of the country. I well remember that formerly military and fire companies paraded the streets, and that patriotic speeches recounting the heroic deeds of the first President were delivered, the festivities of the day closing with a social banquet.

As the citizens of the United States manifest in divers ways their admiration for Washington, so do the citizens of the republic of the Church love to exhibit in corresponding forms their veneration for the Mother of Jesus.

Monuments and statues are erected to her. Thrice each day—at morn, noon and even—the Angelus bells are rung, to recall to our mind the Incarnation of our Lord, and the participation of Mary in this great mystery of love.

Her shrines are tastefully adorned by pious hands and visited by devoted children, who wear her relics or any object which bears her image, or which is associated with her name.

Her natal day and other days of the year, sacred to her memory, are appropriately commemorated by processions, by participation in the banquet of the Eucharist, and by sermons enlarging on her virtues and prerogatives.

As no one was ever suspected of loving his country and her institutions less because of his revering Washington, so no one can reasonably suppose that our homage to God is diminished by our fostering reverence for Mary. As our object in eulogizing Washington is not so much to honor the man as to vindicate those principles of which he was the champion and exponent, and to express our gratitude to God for the blessings bestowed on our country through him, even so our motive in commemorating Mary's name is not merely to praise her, but still more to keep us in perpetual remembrance of our Lord's Incarnation, and to show our thankfulness to Him for the blessings wrought through that great mystery in which she was so prominent a figure. There is not a grain of incense offered to Mary which does not ascend to the throne of God Himself.

Experience sufficiently demonstrates that the better we understand the part which Mary has taken in the work of redemption, the more enlightened becomes our knowledge of our Redeemer Himself, and that the greater our love for her, the deeper and broader is our devotion to Him; while experience also testifies that our Savior's attributes become more confused and warped in the minds of a people in proportion as they ignore Mary's relations to Him.

The defender of a beleaguered citadel concentrates his forces on the outer fortifications and towers, knowing well that the capture of these outworks would endanger the citadel itself, and that their safety involves its security.

Jesus Christ is the citadel of our faith, the stronghold of our soul's affections. Mary is called the "Tower of David," and the gate of Sion which the Lord loveth more than all the tabernacles of Jacob,(254) and which He entered at His Incarnation.

So intimately is this living gate of Sion connected with Jesus, the Temple of our faith, that no one has ever assailed the former without invading the latter. The Nestorian would have Mary to be only an ordinary mother because he would have Christ to be a mere man.

Hence, if we rush to the defence of the gate of Sion, it is because we are more zealous for the city of God. If we stand as sentinels around the tower of David, it is because we are more earnest in protecting Jerusalem from invasion. If we forbid profane hands to touch the ark of the covenant, it is because we are anxious to guard from profanation the Lord of the ark. If we are so solicitous about Mary's honor, it is because "the love of Christ" presseth us. If we will not permit a single wreath to be snatched from her fair brow, it is because we are unwilling that a single feature of Christ's sacred humanity should be obscured, and because we wish that He should ever shine forth in all the splendor of His glory, and clothed in all the panoply of His perfections.

But you will ask: Why do you so often blend together the worship of God and the veneration of the Blessed Virgin? Why such exclamations as Blessed be Jesus and Mary? Why do you so often repeat in succession the Lord's prayer and the Angelical salutation? Is not this practice calculated to level all distinctions between the Creator and His creature, and to excite the displeasure of a God ever jealous of His glory?

Those who make this objection should remember that the praises of the Lord and of His Saints are frequently combined in Holy Scripture itself.

Witness Judith. On returning from the tent of Holofernes, she sang: "Praise ye the Lord, our God, who hath not forsaken them that hope in Him, and by me His handmaid, He hath fulfilled His mercy which He promised to the house of Israel.... And Ozias, the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the Most High God, above all women upon the earth, Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth ... because He hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men."(255)

Witness Ecclesiasticus. After glorifying God for His mighty works, he immediately sounds the praises of Enoch and Noe, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Moses and Aaron, of Samuel and Nathan, of David and Josias, of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and other kings and prophets of Israel.(256)

Elizabeth, in the same breath, exclaims: "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb."(257)

And Mary herself, under the inspiration of Heaven, cries out: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.... For, behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."(258)

Here are the names of Creator and creature interwoven like threads of gold and silver in the same woof, without provoking the jealousy of God.

God jealous of the honor paid to Mary! Will a father be jealous of the honor paid to his child, especially of a child who reflects his own image and likeness, and exhibits those virtues which he had inculcated on her tender mind? And is not Mary God's child of predilection? Will an architect be envious of the praise bestowed on a magnificent temple which his genius planned and reared? Is not the living temple of Mary's heart the work of the Supreme Architect? Must she not say with all of God's creatures: "Thy hands (O Lord) have made me and formed me." Is it not He who has adorned that living temple with those rare beauties which we so much admire? Has she not declared so when she exclaimed: "He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name!"(259)

God jealous of the honor paid to Mary! As well might we imagine that the sun, if endowed with intelligence, would be jealous of the mellow, golden cloud which encircles him, which reflects his brightness and presents in bolder light his inaccessible splendor. As well imagine that the same luminary would be jealous of our admiration for the beautiful rose, whose opening petals and rich color and delicious fragrance are the fruit of his beneficent rays.

Hence in uniting Mary's praise with that of Jesus we are strictly imitating the sacred Text. We are imitating Joachim, the High Priest, and the people of God in Bethulia, who unite the praises of Judith with the praises of Jehovah.

We are imitating the sacred writer of Ecclesiasticus who, after extolling God for His mighty works, sounds the praises of Enoch and Noe, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of David and Josiah, of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and other Kings and Prophets of Israel.

We are imitating Elizabeth, who exclaimed in one breath: "Blessed art thou (Mary) among women and blessed is (Jesus) the fruit of thy womb."

And as no one ever suspected that the encomiums pronounced on Judith and the virtuous Kings and Prophets of Israel detracted from God's honor, so neither do we lessen His glory in exalting the Blessed Virgin. I find Jesus and Mary together at the manger, together in Egypt, together in Nazareth, together in the temple, together at the cross. I find their names side by side in the Apostles' and the Nicene Creed. It is fitting that both should find a place in my heart, and that both names should often flow successively from my lips. Inseparable in life and in death, they should not be divorced in my prayer. "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."



II. Is It Lawful To Invoke Her?

The Church exhorts her children not only to honor the Blessed Virgin, but also to invoke her intercession. It is evident from Scripture that the Angels and Saints in heaven can hear our prayers and that they have the power and the will to help us.(260) Now, if the angels are conversant with what happens on earth; if the Prophets, even while clothed in the flesh, had a clear vision of things which were transpiring at a great distance from them; if they could penetrate into the future and fortell events which were then hidden in the womb of time, shall we believe that God withholds a knowledge of our prayers from Mary, who is justly styled the Queen of Angels and Saints? For, as Mary's sanctity surpasses that of all other mortals, her knowledge must be proportionately greater than theirs, since knowledge constitutes one of the sources of celestial bliss.

If Stephen, while his soul was still in the prison of the body, "saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God;"(261) if Paul "heard secret words"(262) spoken in paradise, is it surprising that Mary hears and sees us, now that she is elevated to heaven and stands "face to face" before God, the perfect Mirror of all knowledge? It is as easy for God to enable His Saints to see things terrestrial from heaven as things celestial from earth.

The influence of Mary's intercession exceeds that of the angels, patriarchs and prophets in the same degree that her sanctity surpasses theirs. If our heavenly Father listens so propitiously to the voice of His servants, what will He refuse to her who is His chosen daughter of predilection, chosen among thousands to be the Mother of His beloved Son? If we ourselves, though sinners, can help one another by our prayers, how irresistible must be the intercession of Mary, who never grieved Almighty God by sin, who never tarnished her white robe of innocence by the least defilement, from the first moment of her existence till she was received by triumphant angels into heaven.

In speaking of the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, we must never lose sight of her title of Mother of our Redeemer nor of the great privileges which that prerogative implies. Mary was the Mother of Jesus. She exercised toward Him all the influence that a prudent mother has over an affectionate child. "Jesus," says the Gospel, "was subject to them"(263)—that is, to Mary and Joseph. We find this obedience of our Lord toward His Mother forcibly exemplified at the marriage feast of Cana. Her wishes are delicately expressed in these words: "They have no wine." He instantly obeys her by changing water into wine, though the time for exercising His public ministry and for working wonders had not yet arrived.

Now, Mary has never forfeited in heaven the title of Mother of Jesus. She is still His Mother, and while adoring Him as her God she still retains her maternal relations, and He exercises toward her that loving willingness to grant her request which the best of sons entertains for the best of mothers.

Never does Jesus appear to us so amiable and endearing as when we see Him nestled in the arms of His Mother. We love to contemplate Him, and artists love to represent Him, in that situation. It appears to me that had we lived in Jerusalem in His day and recognized, like Simeon, the Lord of majesty in the form of an Infant, and had we a favor to ask Him, we would present it through Mary's hands while the Divine eyes of the Babe were gazing on her sweet countenance. And even so now. Never will our prayers find a readier acceptance than when offered through her.

In invoking Our Lady's patronage we are actuated by a triple sense of the majesty of God, our own unworthiness and of Mary's incomparable influence with her Heavenly Father. Conscious of our natural lowliness and sins, we have frequent recourse to her intercession in the assured hope of being more favorably heard.

"And even as children who have much offended A too indulgent father, in great shame, Penitent, and yet not daring unattended To go into his presence, at the gate Speak to their sister and confiding wait Till she goes in before and intercedes; So men, repenting of their evil deeds, And yet not venturing rashly to draw near With their requests, an angry Father's ear, Offer to her their prayers and their confession, And she in heaven for them makes intercession."(264)

Do you ask me, is Mary willing to assist you? Does she really take an interest in your welfare? Or is she so much absorbed by the fruition of God as to be indifferent to our miseries? "Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the fruit of her womb?"(265) Even so Mary will not forget us.

The love she bears us, her children by adoption, can be estimated only by her love for her Son by nature. It was Mary that nursed the Infant Savior. It was her hands that clothed Him. It was her breast that sheltered Him from the rude storm and from the persecution of Herod. She it was that wiped the stains from His brow when taken down from the cross. Now we are the brothers of Jesus. He is not ashamed, says the Apostle, to call us His brethren.(266) Neither is Mary ashamed to call us her children by adoption. At the foot of the cross she adopted us in the person of St. John. She is anxious to minister to our souls as she ministered to the corporal wants of her Son. She would be the instrument of God in feeding us with Divine grace, in clothing us with the garments of innocence, in sheltering us from the storms of temptations, in wiping away the stains of sin from our soul.

If the angels, though of a different nature from ours, have so much sympathy for us as to rejoice in our conversion,(267) how great must be the interest manifested toward us by Mary, who is of a common nature with us, descended from the same primitive parents, being bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and who once trod the thorny path of life that we now tread!

Though not of the household of the faith, Edgar A. Poe did not disdain to invoke Our Lady's intercession, and to acknowledge the influence of her patronage in heaven.

"At morn—at noon—at twilight dim— Maria! thou hast heard my hymn; In joy and woe—in good and ill— Mother of God, be with me still! When the hours flew brightly by, And not a cloud obscured the sky, My soul, lest it should truant be, Thy grace did guide to thine and thee; Now, when storms of fate o'ercast Darkly my present and my past, Let my future radiant shine, With sweet hopes of thee and thine."

Some persons not only object to the invocation of Mary as being unprofitable, but they even affect to be scandalized at the confidence we repose in her intercession, on the groundless assumption that by praying to her we ignore and dishonor God, and that we put the creature on a level with the Creator.

Every Catholic child knows from the catechism that to give to any creature the supreme honor due to God alone is idolatry. How can we be said to dishonor God, or bring Him down to a level with His creature by invoking Mary, since we acknowledge her to be a pure creature indebted like ourselves to Him for every gift and influence that she possesses? This is implied in the very form of our petitions.

When we address our prayers to her we say: Pray for us sinners, implying by these words that she herself is a petitioner at the throne of Divine mercy. To God we say: Give us our daily bread, thereby acknowledging Him to be the source of all bounty.

This principle being kept in view, how can we be justly accused of slighting God's majesty by invoking the intercession of His handmaid?

If a beggar asks and receives alms from me through my servant, should I be offended at the blessings which he invokes upon her? Far from it. I accept them as intended for myself, because she bestowed what was mine, and with my consent.

Our Lord says to His Apostles: "I dispose to you a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and may sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(268) And St. Paul says: "Know you not that we shall judge angels, how much more things of this world?"(269) If the Apostles may sit at the table of the Lord in heaven without prejudice to His majesty, surely Our Lady can stand as an advocate before Him without infringing on His rights. If they can exercise the dread prerogative of judges of angels and of men without trespassing on the Divine judgeship of Jesus, surely Mary can fulfill the more modest function of intercessor with her Son without intruding on His supreme mediatorship, for higher is the office of judge than that of advocate. And yet, while no one is ever startled at the power given to the Apostles, many are impatient of the lesser privilege claimed for Mary.



III. Is It Lawful To Imitate Her As A Model?

But while the exalted privileges of Mary render her worthy of our veneration, while her saintly influence renders her worthy of our invocation, her personal life is constantly held up to us as a pattern worthy of our imitation. If she occupies so prominent a place in our pulpits, this prominence is less due to her prerogatives as a mother, or to her intercession as a patroness, than to her example as a Saint.

After our Lord Jesus Christ, no one has ever exercised so salutary and so dominant an influence as the Blessed Virgin on society, on the family and on the individual.

The Mother of Jesus exercises throughout the Christian commonwealth that hallowing influence which a good mother wields over the Christian family.

What temple or chapel, how rude soever it may be, is not adorned with a painting or a statue of the Madonna? What house is not embellished with an image of Mary? What Catholic child is a stranger to her familiar face?

The priest and the layman, the scholar and the illiterate, the prince and the peasant, the mother and the maid, acknowledge her benign sway.

And if Christianity is so fruitful in comparison with Paganism, in conjugal fidelity, in female purity and in the respect paid to womanhood, these blessings are in no small measure due to the force of Mary's all-pervading influence and example. Ever since the Son of God chose a woman to be His mother man looks up to woman with a homage akin to veneration.

The poet Longfellow pays the following tribute to Mary's sanctifying influence:

"This is indeed the blessed Mary's land, Virgin and mother of our dear Redeemer! All hearts are touched and softened at her name Alike the bandit with the bloody hand, The priest, the prince, the scholar and the peasant The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer Pay homage to her as one ever present!

And if our faith had given us nothing more Than this example of all womanhood, So mild, so merciful, so strong, so good, So patient, peaceful, loyal, loving, pure, This were enough to prove it higher and truer Than all the creeds the world had known before."(270)

St. Ambrose gives us the following beautiful picture of Mary's life before her espousals: "Let the life," he says, "of the Blessed Mary be ever present to you in which, as in a mirror, the beauty of chastity and the form of virtue shine forth. She was a virgin not only in body, but in mind, who never sullied the pure affection of her heart by unworthy feelings. She was humble of heart, serious in her conversation, fonder of reading than of speaking. She placed her confidence rather in the prayer of the poor than in the uncertain riches of this world. She was ever intent on her occupation, ... and accustomed to make God rather than man the witness of her thoughts. She injured no one, wished well to all, reverenced age, yielded not to envy, avoided all boasting, followed the dictates of reason and loved virtue. When did she sadden her parents even by a look?... There was nothing forward in her looks, bold in her words or unbecoming in her actions. Her carriage was not abrupt, her gait not indolent, her voice not petulant, so that her very appearance was the picture of her mind and the figure of piety."

Her life as a spouse and as a mother was a counterpart of her earlier years. The Gospel relates one little circumstance which amply suffices to demonstrate Mary's super-eminent holiness of life, and to exhibit her as a beautiful pattern to those who are called to rule a household. The Evangelist tells us that Jesus "was subject to them"(271)—that is, to Mary and Joseph. He obeyed all her commands, fulfilled her behests, complied with her smallest injunctions; in a word, He discharged toward her all the filial observances which a dutiful son exercises toward a prudent mother. These relations continued from His childhood to His public life, nor did they cease even then.

Now Jesus being the Son of God, "the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance,"(272) could not sin. He was incapable of fulfilling an unrighteous precept. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these facts is, that Mary never sinned by commanding, as Jesus could not sin by obeying; that all her precepts and counsels were stamped with the seal of Divine approbation, and that the Son never fulfilled any injunction of His earthly Mother which was not ratified by His Eternal Father in heaven.

Such is the beautiful portrait which the Church holds up to the contemplation of her children, that studying it they may admire the original, admiring they may love, loving they may imitate, and thus become more dear to God by being made "conformable to the image of His Son,"(273) of whom Mary is the most perfect mirror.



Chapter XV.

SACRED IMAGES.

The veneration of the images of Christ and His Saints is a cherished devotion in the Catholic Church, and this practice will be vindicated in the following lines.

It is true, indeed, that the making of holy images was not so general among the Jews as it is among us, because the Hebrews themselves were prone to idolatry, and because they were surrounded by idolatrous people, who might misconstrue the purpose for which the images were intended. For the same prudential reasons the primitive Christians were very cautious in making images, and very circumspect in exposing them to the gaze of the heathen among whom they lived, lest Christian images should be confounded with Pagan idols.

The catacombs of Rome, to which the faithful alone were admitted, abounded, however, in sacred emblems and pious representations, which are preserved even to this day and attest the practice of the early Christian Church. We see there painted on the walls or on vases of glass the Dove, the emblem of the Holy Ghost, Christ carrying His cross, or bearing on His shoulders the lost sheep. We meet also the Lamb, an anchor and a ship—appropriate types of our Lord, of hope and of the Church.

The first crusade against images was waged in the eighth century by Leo the Isaurian, Emperor of Constantinople. He commanded the paintings of our Lord and His Saints to be torn down from the church walls and burned. He even invaded the sanctuary of home, and snatched thence the sacred emblems which adorned private residences. He caused statues of bronze, silver and gold to be melted down and conveniently converted them into coins, upon which his own image was stamped. Like Henry VIII. and Cromwell, this royal Iconoclast affected to be moved by a zeal for purity of worship, while avarice was the real motive of his action.

The Emperor commanded the learned librarians of his imperial library to give public approbation to his decrees against images, and when those conscientious men refused to endorse his course they were all confined in the imperial library, the building was set on fire and thirty thousand volumes, the splendid basilica which contained them, innumerable paintings and the librarians themselves were involved in one common destruction.

Constantine Copronymus prosecuted the vandalism of Leo, his predecessor. Stephen, an intrepid monk, presented to the Emperor a coin bearing that tyrant's effigy, with these words: "Sire, whose image is this?" "It is mine," replied the Emperor. The monk then threw down the piece of money and trampled it. He was instantly seized by the imperial attendants and soon after put to a painful death. "Alas!" cried the holy man to the Emperor, "if I am punished for dishonoring the image of a mortal monarch, what punishment do they deserve who burn the image of Jesus Christ?"

The demolition of images was revived by the Reformers of the sixteenth century. Paintings and statues were ruthlessly destroyed, chiefly in the British Isles, Germany and Holland, under the pretext that the making of them was idolatrous. But as the Iconoclasts of the eighth century had no scruple about appropriating to their own use the gold and silver of the statues which they melted, neither had the Iconoclasts of the sixteenth century any hesitation in confiscating and worshiping in the idolatrous churches whose statues and paintings they broke and disfigured.

A stranger who visits some of the desecrated Catholic churches of Great Britain and the Continent which are now used as Protestant temples cannot fail to notice the mutilated statues of the Saints still standing in their niches.

This barbaric warfare against religious memorials was not only a grievous sacrilege, but an outrage against the fine arts; and had the destroying angels extended their ravages over Europe the immortal works of Michael Angelo and Raphael would be lost to us today.

The doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding the use of sacred images is clearly and fully expressed by the General Council of Trent in the following words: "The images of Christ, and of His Virgin Mother, and of other Saints, are to be had and retained, especially in churches; and a due honor and veneration is to be given to them; not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them for which they are to be honored, or that any prayer is to be made to them, or that any confidence is to be placed in them, as was formerly done by the heathens, who placed their hopes in idols; but because the honor which is given them is referred to the originals which they represent, so that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads or kneel, we adore Christ and venerate His Saints, whose likeness they represent."(274)

Every Catholic child clearly comprehends the essential difference which exists between a Pagan idol and a Christian image. The Pagans looked upon an idol as a god endowed with intelligence and the other attributes of the Deity. They were therefore idolaters, or image worshipers. Catholic Christians know that a holy image has no intelligence or power to hear and help them. They pay it a relative respect—that is, their reverence for the copy is proportioned to the veneration which they entertain for the heavenly original to which it is also referred.

For the sake of my Protestant readers I may here quote their own great Leibnitz on the reverence paid to sacred images. He says, in his Systema Theologicum, p. 142: "Though we speak of the honor paid to images, yet this is only a manner of speaking, which really means that we honor not the senseless thing which is incapable of understanding such honor, but the prototype, which receives honor through its representation, according to the teaching of the Council of Trent. It is in this sense, I take it, that scholastic writers have spoken of the same worship being paid to images of Christ as to Christ our Lord Himself; for the act which is called the worship of an image is really the worship of Christ Himself, through and in the presence of the image and by occasion of it; by the inclination of the body toward it as to Christ Himself, as rendering Him more manifestly present, and raising the mind more actively to the contemplation of Him. Certainly, no sane man thinks, under such circumstances, of praying in this wise: 'Give me, O image, what I ask; to thee, O marble or wood, I give thanks;' but 'Thee, O Lord, I adore; to Thee I give thanks and sing songs of praise.' Given, then, that there is no other veneration of images than that which means veneration of their prototype, there is surely no more idolatry in it than there is in the respect shown in the utterance of the Most Holy Names of God and Christ; for, after all, names are but signs or symbols, and even as such inferior to images, for they represent much less vividly. So that when there is question of honoring images, this is to be understood in the same way as when it is said that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, or that the name of the Lord is blessed, or that glory be given to His Name. Thus, the bowing before an image outside of us is no more to be reprehended than the worshiping before an external image in our own minds; for the external image does but serve the purpose of expressing visibly that which is internal."

In the Book of Exodus we read: "Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything 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."(275) Protestants contend that these words contain an absolute prohibition against the making of images, while the Catholic Church insists that the commandment referred to merely prohibits us from worshiping them as gods.

The text cannot mean the absolute prohibition of making images; for in that case God would contradict Himself by commanding in one part of Scripture what He condemns in another. In Exodus (xxv. 18), for instance, He commands two cherubim of beaten gold to be made and placed on each side of the oracle; and in Numbers (xxi. 8) He commands Moses to make a brazen serpent, and to set it up for a sign, that "whosoever being struck by the fiery serpents shall look upon it, shall live." Are not cherubim and serpents the likenesses of creatures in heaven above, in the earth beneath and in the waters under the earth? for cherubim dwell in heaven and serpents are found on land and sea.

We should all, without exception, break the commandment were we to take it in the Protestant sense. Have you not at home the portraits of living and departed relatives? And are not these the likenesses of persons in heaven above and on the earth beneath?

Westminster Abbey, though once a Catholic Cathedral, is now a Protestant house of worship. It is filled with the statues of illustrious men; yet no one will accuse the English church of idolatry in allowing those statues to remain there. But you will say: The worshipers in Westminster have no intention of adoring these statues. Neither have we any intention of worshiping the statues of the Saints. An English parson once remarked to a Catholic friend: "Tom, don't you pray to images?" "We pray before them," replied Tom; "but we have no intention of praying to them." "Who cares for your intention," retorted the parson. "Don't you pray at night?" observed Tom. "Yes," said the parson; "I pray at my bed." "Yes; you pray to the bed-post." "Oh, no!" said the reverend gentleman; "I have no intention of doing that." "Who cares," replied Tom, "for your intention."

The moral rectitude or depravity of our actions cannot be determined without taking into account the intention.

There are many persons who have been taught in the nursery tales, that Catholics worship idols. These persons, if they visit Europe and see an old man praying before an image of our Lord or a Madonna which is placed along the wayside, are at once confirmed in their prejudices. Their zeal against idols takes fire and they write home, adding one more proof of idolatry against the benighted Romanists. If these superficial travelers had only the patience to question the old man he would tell them, with simplicity of faith, that the statue had no life to hear or help him, but that its contemplation inspired him with greater reverence for the original.

As I am writing for the information of Protestants, I quote with pleasure the following passage, written by one of their own theologians, in the Encyclopedie (Edit. d'Yverdun, tom. 1, art. Adorer):

"When Lot prostrates himself before the two angels it is an act of courtesy towards honored guests; when Jacob bows down before Esau it is an act of deference from a younger to an elder brother; when Solomon bows low before Bethsabee it is the honor which a son pays to his mother; when Nathan, coming in before David, 'had worshiped, bowing down to the ground,' it is the homage of a subject to his prince. But when a man prostrates himself in prayer to God it is the creature adoring the Creator. And if these various actions are expressed—sometimes by the word adore, sometimes by worship or prostration—it is not the bare meaning of the word which has guided interpreters in rendering it, but the nature of the case. When an Israelite prostrated himself before the king no one thought of charging him with idolatry. If he had done the same thing in the presence of an idol, the very same bodily act would have been called idolatry. And why? Because all men would have judged by his action that he regarded the idol as a real Divinity and that he would express, in respect to it, the sentiments manifested by adoration in the limited sense which we give to the word. What shall we think, then, of what Catholics do to show honor to Saints, to relics, to the wood of the cross? They will not deny that their acts of reverence, in such cases, are very much like those by which they pay outward honor to God. But have they the same ideas about the Saints, the relics and the cross as they have about God? I believe that we cannot fairly accuse them of it."

A gentleman who was present at the unveiling of Clay's statue in the city of Richmond informed me that as soon as the curtain was uplifted, and the noble form of the Kentucky statesman appeared in full view, the immense concourse of spectators instinctively uncovered their heads. "Why do you take off your hat?" playfully remarked my friend to an acquaintance who stood by. "In honor, of course, of Henry Clay," he replied. "But Henry is not there in the flesh. You see nothing but clay." "But my intention, sir," he continued, "is to do honor to the original." He answered correctly. And yet how many of the same people would be shocked if they saw a man take off his hat in the presence of a statue of St. Peter! It is not, therefore, the making of the image, but its worship, that is condemned by the Decalogue.

Having seen the lawfulness of sacred images, let us now consider the advantages to be derived from their use.

First—Religious paintings embellish the house of God. What is more becoming than to adorn the church, which is the shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem, so beautifully described by St. John?(276) Solomon decorated the temple of God with images of cherubim and other representations. "And he overlaid the cherubim with gold. And all the walls of the temple round about he carved with divers figures and carvings."(277) If it was meet and proper to adorn Solomon's temple, which contained only the Ark of the Lord, how much more fitting is it to decorate our churches, which contain the Lord of the Ark? When I see a church tastefully ornamented it is a sure sign that the Master is at home, and that His devoted subjects pay homage to Him in His court.

What beauty, what variety, what charming pictures are presented to our view in this temple of nature which we inhabit! Look at the canopy of heaven. Look at the exquisite pictures painted by the Hand of the Divine Artist on this earth. "Consider the lilies of the field.... I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these." If the temple of nature is so richly adorned, should not our temples made with hands bear some resemblance to it?

How many professing Christians must, like David, reproach themselves for "dwelling in a house of cedar, while the ark of God is lodged with skins."(278) How many are there whose private apartments are adorned with exquisite paintings, who affect to be scandalized at the sight of a single pious emblem in their house of worship? On the occasion of the celebration of Henry W. Beecher's silver wedding several wealthy members of his congregation adorned the walls of Plymouth church with their private paintings. Their object, of course, in doing so was not to honor God, but their pastor. But if the portraits of men were no desecration to that church, how can the portraits of Saints desecrate ours?(279) And what can be more appropriate than to surround the Sanctuary of Jesus Christ with the portraits of the Saints, especially of Mary and of the Apostles, who, in their life, ministered to His sacred person? And is it not natural for children to adorn their homes with the likenesses of their Fathers in the faith?

Second—Religious paintings are the catechism of the ignorant. In spite of all the efforts of Church and State in the cause of education a great proportion of the human race will be found illiterate. Descriptive pictures will teach those what books make known to the learned.

How many thousands would have died ignorant of the Christian faith if they had not been enlightened by paintings! When Augustine, the Apostle of England, first appeared before King Ethelbert to announce to him the Gospel, a silver crucifix and a painting of our Savior were borne before the preacher, and these images spoke more tenderly to the eyes than his words to the ears of his audience.

By means of religious emblems St. Francis Xavier effected many conversions in India; and by the same means Father De Smet made known the Gospel to the savages of the Rocky Mountains.

Third—By exhibiting religious paintings in our rooms we make a silent, though eloquent, profession of our faith. I once called on a gentleman in a distant city, some time during our late war, and, on entering his library, I noticed two portraits, one of a distinguished General, the other of an Archbishop. These portraits at once proclaimed to me the religious and patriotic sentiments of the proprietor of the house. "Behold!" he said to me, pointing to the pictures, "my religious creed and my political creed." If I see a crucifix in a man's room I am convinced at once that he is not an infidel.

Fourth—By the aid of sacred pictures our devotion and love for the original are intensified, because we can concentrate our thoughts more intently on the object of our affections. Mark how the eye of a tender child glistens on confronting the painting of an affectionate mother. What Christian can stand unmoved when contemplating a picture of the Mother of Sorrows? How much devotion has been fostered by the Stations of the Cross? Observe the intense sympathy depicted on the face of the humble Christian woman as she silently passes from one station to another. She follows her Savior step by step from the Garden to Mount Calvary. The whole scene, like a panoramic view, is imprinted on her mind, her memory and her affections. Never did the most pathetic sermon on the Passion enkindle such heartfelt love, or evoke such salutary resolutions, as have been produced by the silent spectacle of our Savior hanging on the cross.

Fifth—The portraits of the Saints stimulate us to the imitation of their virtues; and this is the principal aim which the Church has in view in encouraging the use of pious representations. One object, it is true, is to honor the Saints; another is to invoke them; but the principal end is to incite us to an imitation of their holy lives. We are exhorted to "look and do according to the pattern shown us on the mount."(280) Nor do I know a better means for promoting piety than by example.

If you keep at home the likenesses of George Washington, of Patrick Henry, of Chief Justice Taney, or of other distinguished men, the copies of such eminent originals cannot fail to exercise a salutary though silent influence on the mind and heart of your child. Your son will ask you: "Who are those men?" And when you tell him: "This is Washington, the Father of his Country; this is Patrick Henry, the ardent lover of civil liberty; and this is Taney, the incorruptible Judge," your boy will imperceptibly imbibe not only a veneration for those men, but a relish for the civic virtues for which they were conspicuous. And in like manner, when our children have constantly before their eyes the purest and most exalted models of sanctity, they cannot fail to draw from such contemplation a taste for the virtues that marked the lives of the originals.

Is not our country flooded with obscene pictures and immodest representations which corrupt our youths? If the agents of Satan employ means so vile for a bad end; if they are cunning enough to pour through the senses into the hearts of the unwary the insidious poison of sin, by placing before them lascivious portraits, in God's name, why should not we sanctify the souls of our children by means of pious emblems? Why should not we make the eye the instrument of edification as the enemy makes it the organ of destruction? Shall the pen of the artist, the pencil of the painter and the chisel of the sculptor be prostituted to the basest purposes? God forbid! The arts were intended to be the handmaids of religion.

Almost every moment of the day the eye is receiving impressions from outward objects and instantly communicating these impressions to the soul. Thus the soul receives every day thousands of impressions, good or bad, according to the character of the objects presented to its gaze.

We cannot, therefore, over-estimate the salutary effect produced upon us in a church or room adorned with sacred paintings. We feel, while in their presence, that we are in the company of the just. The contemplation of these pious portraits chastens our affections, elevates our thoughts, checks our levity and diffuses around us a healthy atmosphere.

I am happy to acknowledge that the outcry formerly raised against images has almost subsided of late. The epithet of idolaters is seldom applied to us now. Even some of our dissenting brethren are beginning to recognize the utility of religious symbols and to regret that we have been permitted, by the intemperate zeal of the Reformers, to have so long the monopoly of them. Crosses already surmount some of our Protestant churches and replace the weather-cock.

A gentleman of Richmond recently informed me that during the preceding Holy Week he adorned with twelve crosses an Episcopal church in which, eleven years before, the sight of a single one was viewed with horror by the minister.

May the day soon come when all Christians will join with us not only in venerating the sacred symbol of salvation, but in worshiping at the same altar.



Chapter XVI.

PURGATORY AND PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD.

The Catholic Church teaches that, besides a place of eternal torments for the wicked and of everlasting rest for the righteous, there exists in the next life a middle state of temporary punishment, allotted for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not satisfied the justice of God for sins already forgiven. She also teaches us that, although the souls consigned to this intermediate state, commonly called purgatory, cannot help themselves, they may be aided by the suffrages of the faithful on earth. The existence of purgatory naturally implies the correlative dogma—the utility of praying for the dead—for the souls consigned to this middle state have not reached the term of their journey. They are still exiles from heaven and fit subjects for Divine clemency.

The doctrine of an intermediate state is thus succinctly asserted by the Council of Trent: "There is a Purgatory, and souls there detained, are helped by the prayers of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar."(281)

It is to be noted that the Council studiously abstains from specifying the nature of the expiating sufferings endured therein.

Is it not strange that this cherished doctrine should also be called in question by the leveling innovators of the sixteenth century, when we consider that it is clearly taught in the Old Testament; that it is, at least, insinuated in the New Testament; that it is unanimously proclaimed by the Fathers of the Church; that it is embodied in all the ancient liturgies of the Oriental and the Western church, and that it is a doctrine alike consonant with our reason and eminently consoling to the human heart?

First—It is a doctrine plainly contained in the Old Testament and piously practiced by the Hebrew people. At the close of an engagement which Judas Machabeus had with the enemy he ordered prayers and sacrifices to be offered up for his slain comrades. "And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For, if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.... It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."(282)

These words are so forcible that no comment of mine could render them clearer. The passage proved a great stumbling-block to the Reformers. Finding that they could not by any evasion weaken the force of the text, they impiously threw overboard the Books of Machabees, like a man who assassinates a hostile witness, or like the Jews who sought to kill Lazarus, lest his resurrection should be a testimony in favor of Christ, and pretended that the two books of Machabees were apocryphal. And yet they have precisely the same authority as the Gospel of St. Matthew or any other portion of the Bible, for the canonicity of the Holy Scriptures rests solely on the authority of the Catholic Church, which proclaimed them inspired.

But even admitting, for the sake of argument, that the Books of Machabees were not entitled to be ranked among the canonical Books of Holy Scripture, no one, at least, has ever denied that they are truthful historical monuments, and as such that they serve to demonstrate that it was a prevailing practice among the Hebrew people, as it is with us, to offer up prayers and sacrifices for the dead.

Second—When our Savior, the Founder of the New Law, appeared on earth, He came to lop off those excrescences which had grown on the body of the Jewish ecclesiastical code, and to purify the Jewish Church from those human traditions which, in the course of time, became like tares mixed with the wheat of sound doctrine. For instance, He condemns the Pharisees for prohibiting the performance of works of charity on the Sabbath day, and in the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew He cites against them a long catalogue of innovations in doctrine and discipline.

But did our Lord, at any time, reprove the Jews for their belief in a middle state, or for praying for the dead, a practice which, to His knowledge, prevailed among the people? Never. On the contrary, more than once both He and the Apostle of the Gentiles insinuate the doctrine of purgatory.

Our Savior says: "Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man it shall be forgiven him. But he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world to come."(283) When our Savior declares that a sin against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven in the next life, He evidently leaves us to infer that there are some sins which will be pardoned in the life to come. Now in the next life, sins cannot be forgiven in heaven, for, nothing defiled can enter there; nor can they be forgiven in hell, for, out of hell there is no redemption. They must, therefore, be pardoned in the intermediate state of Purgatory.

St. Paul tells us that "every man's work shall be manifest" on the Lord's day. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide," that is, if his works are holy, "he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn," that is, if his works are faulty and imperfect, "he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."(284) His soul will be ultimately saved, but he shall suffer, for a temporary duration, in the purifying flames of Purgatory.

This interpretation is not mine. It is the unanimous voice of the Fathers of Christendom. And who are they that have removed the time-honored landmarks of Christian faith by rejecting the doctrine of purgatory? They are discontented churchmen impatient of the religious yoke, men who appeared on the stage sixteen hundred years after the foundation of Christianity. Judge you, reader, whom you ought to follow. If you want to know the true import of a vital question in the Constitution, would you not follow the decision of a Story, a Jefferson, a Marshall, a Taney, jurists and statesmen, who were the recognized expounders of the Constitution? Would you not prefer their opinion to that of political demagogues, who have neither learning, nor authority, nor history to support them, but some selfish end to further? Now, the same motive which you have for rejecting the opinion of an ignorant politician and embracing that of eminent jurists, on a constitutional question, impels you to cast aside the novelties of religious innovators and to follow the unanimous sentiments of the Fathers in reference to the subject of purgatory.

Third—I would wish to place before you extended extracts from the writings of the early Fathers of the Church bearing upon this subject; but I must content myself with quoting a few of the most prominent lights of primitive Christianity.

Tertullian, who lived in the second century, says that "the faithful wife will pray for the soul of her deceased husband, particularly on the anniversary day of his falling asleep (death). And if she fail to do so she hath repudiated her husband as far as in her lies."(285)

Eusebius, the historian (fourth century), describing the funeral of Constantine the Great, says that the body of the blessed prince was placed on a lofty bier, and the ministers of God and the multitude of the people, with tears and much lamentation, offered up prayers and sacrifice for the repose of his soul. He adds that this was done in accordance with the desires of that religious monarch, who had erected in Constantinople the great church in honor of the Apostles, so that after his death the faithful might there remember him.(286)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, fourth century, writes: "We commemorate the Holy Fathers, and Bishops, and all who have fallen asleep from amongst us, believing that the supplications which we present will be of great assistance to their souls, while the holy and tremendous Sacrifice is offered up." He answers by an illustration those that might be disposed to doubt the efficacy of prayers for the dead: "If a king had banished certain persons who had offended him, and their relations, having woven a crown, should offer it to him in behalf of those under his vengeance, would he not grant a respite to their punishments? So we, in offering up a crown of prayers in behalf of those who have fallen asleep, will obtain for them forgiveness through the merits of Christ."(287)

St. Ephrem, in the same century, says: "I conjure you, my brethren and friends, in the name of that God who commands me to leave you, to remember me when you assemble to pray. Do not bury me with perfumes. Give them not to me, but to God. Me, conceived in sorrows, bury with lamentations, and instead of perfumes assist me with your prayers; for the dead are benefited by the prayers of living Saints."(288)

St. Ambrose (same century), on the death of the Emperors Gratian and Valentinian, says: "Blessed shall both of you be (Gratian and Valentinian), if my prayers can avail anything. No day shall pass you over in silence. No prayer of mine shall omit to honor you. No night shall hurry by without bestowing on you a mention in my prayers. In every one of the oblations will I remember you." On the death of the Emperor Theodosius he offers the following prayer: "Give perfect rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest which Thou hast prepared for Thy Saints. May his soul return thither whence it descended, where it cannot feel the sting of death.... I loved him and therefore will I follow him, even unto the land of the living. Nor will I leave him until, by tears and prayers, I shall lead him ... unto the holy mountain of the Lord, where is life undying, where corruption is not, nor sighing nor mourning."(289)

St. Jerome, in the same century, in a letter of condolence to Pammachius, on the death of his wife Paulina, writes: "Other husbands strew violets and roses on the graves of their wives. Our Pammachius bedews the hallowed dust of Paulina with balsams of alms."(290)

St. Chrysostom writes: "It was not without good reason ordained by the Apostles that mention should be made of the dead in the tremendous mysteries, because they knew well that they would receive great benefit from it."(291)

St. Augustine, who lived in the beginning of the fifth century, relates that when his mother was at the point of death she made this last request of him: "Lay this body anywhere; let not the care of it in anyway disturb you. This only I request of you, that you would remember me at the altar of the Lord, wherever you be."

And that pious son prays for his mother's soul in the most impassioned language: "I therefore," he says, "O God of my heart, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother. Hear me through the medicine of the wounds that hung upon the wood.... May she, then, be in peace with her husband.... And inspire, my Lord, ... Thy servants, my brethren, whom with voice and heart and pen I serve, that as many as shall read these words may remember at Thy altar, Monica, Thy servant...."(292)

These are but a few specimens of the unanimous voice of the Fathers regarding the salutary practice of praying for the dead.

You now perceive that this devotion is not an invention of modern times, but a doctrine universally enforced in the first and purest ages of the Church.

You see that praying for the dead was not a devotion cautiously recommended by some obscure or visionary writer, but an act of religion preached and inculcated by all the great Doctors and Fathers of the Church, who are the recognized expounders of the Christian religion.

You see them, too, inculcating this doctrine not as a cold and abstract principle, but as an imperative act of daily piety, and embodying it in their ordinary exercises of devotion.

They prayed for the dead in their morning and evening devotions. They prayed for them in their daily office, and in the Sacrifice of the Mass. They asked the prayers of the congregation for the souls of the deceased in the public services of Sunday. On the monuments which were erected to the dead, some of which are preserved even to this day, epitaphs were inscribed, earnestly invoking for their souls the prayers of the living. How gratifying it is to our Catholic hearts that a devotion so soothing to afflicted spirits is at the same time so firmly grounded on the tradition of ages!

Fourth—That the practice of praying for the dead has descended from Apostolic times is evident also from the Liturgies of the Church. A Liturgy is the established formulary of public worship, containing the authorized prayers of the Church. The Missal, or Mass-book, for instance, which you see on our altars, contains a portion of the Liturgy of the Catholic Church. The principal Liturgies are the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, who founded the Church of Jerusalem; the Liturgy of St. Mark the Evangelist, founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the Liturgy of St. Peter, who established the Church in Rome. These Liturgies are called after the Apostles who compiled them. There are, besides, the Liturgies of St. Chrysostom and St. Basil, which are chiefly based on the model of that of St. James.

Now, all these Liturgies, without exception, have prayers for the dead, and their providential preservation serves as another triumphant vindication of the venerable antiquity of this Catholic doctrine.

The Eastern and the Western churches were happily united until the fourth and fifth centuries, when the heresiarchs Arius, Nestorius and Eutyches withdrew millions of souls from the centre of unity. The followers of these sects were called, after their founders, Arians, Nestorians and Eutychians, and from that day to the present the two latter bodies have formed distinct communions, being separated from the Catholic Church in the East, just as the Protestant churches are separated from her in the West.

The Greek schismatic church, of which the present Russo-Greek church is the offspring, severed her connection with the See of Rome in the ninth century.

But in leaving the Catholic Church these Eastern sects retained the old Liturgies, which they use to this day, as I shall presently demonstrate.

During my sojourn in Rome at the Ecumenical Council I devoted a great deal of my leisure time to the examination of the various Liturgies of the schismatic churches of the East. I found in all of them formulas of prayers for the dead almost identical with that of the Roman Missal: "Remember, O Lord, Thy servants who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and sleep in peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord."

Not content with studying their books, I called upon the Oriental Patriarchs and Bishops in communion with the See of Rome, who belong to the Armenian, the Chaldean, the Coptic, the Maronite and Syriac rites. They all assured me that the schismatic Christians of the East among whom they live have, without exception, prayers and sacrifices for the dead.

Now, I ask, when could those Eastern sects have commenced to adopt the Catholic practice of praying for the dead? They could not have received it from us since the ninth century, because the Greek church separated from us then and has had no communion with us since that time, except at intervals, up to the twelfth century. Nor could they have adopted the practice since the fourth or fifth century, inasmuch as the Arians, Nestorians and Eutychians have had no religious communication with us since that period. Therefore, in common with us, they received this doctrine from the Apostles. If men living in different countries drink wine having the same flavor and taste and color, the inference is that the wine was made from the same species of grape. So must we conclude that this refreshing doctrine of intercession for the dead has its root in the Apostolic tree of knowledge planted by our Savior.

Fifth—I have already spoken of the devotion of the ancient Jewish church to the souls of the departed. But perhaps you are not aware that the Jews retain to this day, in their Liturgy, the pious practice of praying for the dead. Yet such in reality is the case.

Amid all the wanderings and vicissitudes of life, though dismembered and dispersed like sheep without a shepherd over the face of the globe, the children of Israel have never forgotten or neglected the sacred duty of praying for their deceased brethren.

Unwilling to make this assertion without the strongest evidence, I procured from a Jewish convert an authorized Prayer-Book of the Hebrew church, from which I extract the following formula of prayers which are prescribed for funerals: "Departed brother! mayest thou find open the gates of heaven, and see the city of peace and the dwellings of safety, and meet the ministering angels hastening joyfully toward thee. And may the High Priest stand to receive thee, and go thou to the end, rest in peace, and rise again into life. May the repose established in the celestial abode ... be the lot, dwelling and the resting-place of the soul of our deceased brother (whom the Spirit of the Lord may guide into Paradise), who departed from this world, according to the will of God, the Lord of heaven and earth. May the supreme King of kings, through His infinite mercy, hide him under the shadow of His wing. May He raise him at the end of his days and cause him to drink of the stream of His delights."(293)

Among the many-sided merits of Shakespeare may be mentioned his happy faculty of portraying to life the manners and customs and traditional faith of the times which he describes. How deep-rooted in the Christian heart in pre-Reformation times, was the belief in Purgatory, may be inferred from a passage in Hamlet who probably lived in the early part of the eighth century. Thus speaks to Hamlet the spirit of his murdered father:

"I am thy father's spirit, Doom'd for a certain time to walk the night; And for the day confin'd too fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt and purg'd away."(294)

I am happy to say that the more advanced and enlightened members of the Episcopalian church are steadily returning to the faith of their fore-fathers regarding prayers for the dead. An acquaintance of mine, once a distinguished clergyman of the Episcopal communion, but now a convert, informed me that hundreds of Protestant clergymen in this country, and particularly in England, have a firm belief in the efficacy of prayers for the dead, but for well-known reasons they are reserved in the expression of their faith. He easily convinced me of the truth of his assertion, particularly as far as the Church of England is concerned, by sending me six different works published in London, all bearing on the subject of Purgatory. These books are printed under the auspices of the Protestant Episcopal church; they all contain prayers for the dead and prove, from Catholic grounds, the existence of a middle state after death and the duty of praying for our deceased brethren.(295)

To sum up, we see the practice of praying for the dead enforced in the ancient Hebrew church and in the Jewish synagogue of today. We see it proclaimed age after age by all the Fathers of Christendom. We see it incorporated in every one of the ancient Liturgies of the East and of the West. We see it zealously taught by the Russian church of today, and by that immense family of schismatic Christians scattered over the East. We behold it, in fine, a cherished devotion of three hundred millions of Catholics, as well as of a respectable portion of the Episcopal church.

Would it not, my friend, be the height of rashness and presumption in you to prefer your private opinion to this immense weight of learning, sanctity and authority? Would it not be impiety in you to stand aside with sealed lips while the Christian world is sending up an unceasing De profundis for departed brethren? Would it not be cold and heartless in you not to pray for your deceased friends, on account of prejudices which have no grounds in Scripture, tradition or reason itself?

If a brother leaves you to cross the broad Atlantic, religion and affection prompt you to pray for him during his absence. And if the same brother crosses the narrow sea of death to pass to the shores of eternity, why not pray for him then also? When he crosses the Atlantic his soul, imprisoned in the flesh, is absent from you; when he passes the sea of death his soul, released from the flesh, has gone from you. What difference does this make with regard to the duty of your intercession? For what is death? A mere separation of body and soul. The body, indeed, dies, but the soul "lives and moves and has its being." It continues after death, as before, to think, to remember, to love. And do not God's dominion and mercy extend over that soul beyond the grave as well as as this side of it? Who shall place the limits to God's empire and say to Him: "Thus far Thou shalt go and no farther?" Two thousand years after Abraham's death our Lord said: "I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."(296)

If, then, it is profitable for you to pray for your brother in the flesh, why should it be useless for you to pray for him out of the flesh? For while he was living you prayed not for his body, but for his soul.

If this brother of yours dies with some slight stains upon his soul, a sin of impatience, for instance, or an idle word, is he fit to enter heaven with these blemishes upon his soul? No; the sanctity of God forbids it, for "nothing defiled shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven."(297) Will you consign him, for these minor transgressions, to eternal torments with adulterers and murderers? No; the justice and mercy of God forbid it. Therefore, your common sense demands a middle place of expiation for the purgation of the soul before it is worthy of enjoying the companionship of God and His Saints.

God "will render to every man according to his works,"—to the pure and unsullied everlasting bliss; to the reprobate eternal damnation; to souls stained with minor faults a place of temporary purgation. I cannot recall any doctrine of the Christian religion more consoling to the human heart than the article of faith which teaches the efficacy of prayers for the faithful departed. It robs death of its sting. It encircles the chamber of mourning with a rainbow of hope. It assuages the bitterness of our sorrow, and reconciles us to our loss. It keeps us in touch with the departed dead as correspondence keeps us in touch with the absent living. It preserves their memory fresh and green in our hearts.

It gives us that keen satisfaction which springs from the consciousness that we can aid those loved ones who are gone before us by alleviating their pains, shortening their exile, and hastening their entrance into their true country.

It familiarizes us with the existence of a life beyond the grave, and with the hope of being reunited with those whom we cherished on earth, and of dwelling with them in that home where there is no separation, or sorrow, or death, but eternal joy and peace and rest.

I have seen a devoted daughter minister with tender solicitude at the sick-bed of a fond parent. Many an anxious day and sleepless night did she watch at his bedside. She moistened the parched lips, and cooled the fevered brow, and raised the drooping head on its pillow. Every change in her patient for better or worse brought a corresponding sunshine or gloom to her heart. It was filial love that prompted all this. Her father died and she followed his remains to the grave. Though not a Catholic, standing by the bier she burst those chains which a cruel religious prejudice had wrought around her heart, and, rising superior to her sect, she cried out: Lord, have mercy on his soul. It was the voice of nature and of religion.

Oh, far from us a religion which would decree an eternal divorce between the living and the dead. How consoling is it to the Catholic to think that, in praying thus for his departed friend, his prayers are not in violation of, but in accordance with, the voice of the Church; and that as, like Augustine, he watches at the pillow of a dying mother, so like Augustine, he can continue the same office of piety for her soul after she is dead by praying for her! How cheering the reflection that the golden link of prayer unites you still to those who "fell asleep in the Lord," that you can still speak to them and pray for them!

Tennyson grasps the Catholic feeling when he makes his hero, whose course is run, thus address his surviving comrade, Sir Bedivere:

"I have lived my life, and that which I have done May He within Himself make pure; but thou, If thou shouldst never see my face again, Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice Rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats That nourish a blind life within the brain, If knowing God they lift not hands of prayer Both for themselves and those who call them friend? For so the whole round earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."(298)

Oh! it is this thought that robs death of its sting and makes the separation of friends endurable. If your departed friend needs not your prayers, they are not lost, but, like the rain absorbed by the sun, and descending again in fruitful showers on our fields, they will be gathered by the Sun of justice, and will fall in refreshing showers of grace upon your head: "Cast thy bread upon the running waters; for, after a long time, thou shalt find it again."(299)



Chapter XVII.

CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.

A man enjoys religious liberty when he possesses the free right of worshiping God according to the dictates of a right conscience, and of practicing a form of religion most in accordance with his duties to God. Every act infringing on his freedom of conscience is justly styled religious intolerance. This religious liberty is the true right of every man because it corresponds with a most certain duty which God has put upon him.

A man enjoys civil liberty when he is exempt from the arbitrary will of others, and when he is governed by equitable laws established for the general welfare of society. So long as, in common with his fellow-citizens, he observes the laws of the state, any exceptional restraint imposed upon him, in the exercise of his rights as a citizen, is so far an infringement on his civil liberty.

I here assert the proposition, which I hope to confirm by historical evidence, that the Catholic Church has always been the zealous promoter of religious and civil liberty; and that whenever any encroachments on these sacred privileges of man were perpetrated by professing members of the Catholic faith, these wrongs, far from being sanctioned by the Church, were committed in palpable violation of her authority.

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