From the Franciscan Minims
Mexico • Vergel ------- Sept. • Oct. 2004 ------- No. 9–10
The Crucifix of Saint Paul of the Cross
The Crucifix of St. Paul of the Cross(1694-1775)
SAINT Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in Piedmont, Italy, the son of devout parents. His childhood was distinguished by an incident in which he and his brother, John Baptist, fell into a river and were rescued by a beautiful lady whom they understood to be the Blessed Virgin. Devout from childhood, hr progressively grew deeper in the spiritual life until, at the age of 15, he decided to devote his life to prayer and penance.
At the age of 20 he felt that duty required him to join the Venetian army to fight against the Turks in the defense of Christendom. This experience only proved to him that his vocation was elsewhere. After his discharge, he returned to his life of prayer.
After a series of visions in which he was directed to found a congregation that was to be especially devoted to the Passion, Paul composed a rule that was approved by Rome. Known as the Passionist Order, Paul and his brother, John Baptist, who had joined him, both settled on Monte Argentaro and there received the first novices. The austere life of the community also included the mission of preaching throughout the countryside, and it was this work that occupied most of the Saint’s life.
St. Paul of the Cross possessed many of the mystical gifts including prophecy, bi-location, supernatural perfumes, visions, power over nature and levitation. Recognized as a saint during his lifetime, he was usually met by throngs of people who were anxious to obtain a piece of his habit as a relic, to touch him or to request a cure or a favor. The saint also possessed extraordinary power over the devil. Once while giving a mission in Orbetello, there was a great commotion in the soldiers’ barracks. One of the soldiers, screaming in terror, was being dragged and jostled by an invisible force. (continued on p. 23)
"Do you see me, most sweet Jesus here in Thy presence, laden with the exceeding weight of all the sins of all my brethren? These are the sins with which they offend Thy Divine Justice. Accept them as though they were mine; and chastise me in their stead. Yes, I beseech Thee, let me bear their punishment, provided that Thou forgive and bless my brethren."
–Offering to Divine Justice.
IN the book Legion of Victim Souls, it is written: "The soul must pronounce these words of the offering, considering all their weight and magnitude; it has made itself the bondsman of all the sins of all its brothers. The extent of this bond that the victim soul takes upon itself is unlimited: it is not characterized by a portion of souls nor by one or several types of sins, but clearly binds itself to take upon itself all the sins of its brothers."
A sin that does harm
The sin of laziness (sloth) is one of the most frequent sins, and one that does great harm. It is one of the seven capital sins. People usually think of sin as an action that one performs. But sin can also consist in not performing an action. There are certain kinds of omissions that can have fatal consequences. In the 25th chapter of Matthew, Christ gave us a description of the last judgment, with a parable or comparison of a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats, the elect from the reprobate. The elect were placed at his right side and the reprobate at his left. Then he pronounced the two sentences. And He gave the reason why they were saved or condemned. The reprobate were condemned because of actions they failed to perform. They were condemned because of laziness, indifference, and blindness. Sometimes the recitation of one Hail Mary or a small action, can have effects and consequences that will last for all eternity. And to omit such an action could have grave effects.
Where there is no vision, the people perish
The sin of indifference does immense harm. Sometimes this sin is caused by ignorance. People do not have sufficient instruction or knowledge or experience, and therefore they cannot make correct decisions: it is not surprising if they make mistakes. If a father or mother of a family does not have an idea or concept of how a Catholic father or mother should act, then they will make mistakes and omissions. If a bishop or priest does not have the concept in his mind of how a priest should act, then they will make mistakes. If people really knew the effects of one mortal sin, they would be scared to death. And they would use great care before making a decision. They would be afraid of an action or an omission that could cause great harm to themselves and to their relatives and neighbors. But since so many people do not know about all this, they make mistakes and sins so often. Our Lord told the Portavoz that the greatest evil at present is spiritual darkness. They are in darkness. They are without light. It is not surprising that they make mistakes and errors so often: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
The Value of Little Actions
The majority of people are not called to perform heroic actions. They may admire heroes but they have no plans to be one. That is fine. Victim souls are called to atone for all kinds of sins. They can realize their vocation simply by offering all their acts of obedience to God, in reparation for disobedience, that is, for all sins, since all sins are acts of disobedience, not doing what God wants. Obedience does not always mean that someone gives us a command and we obey. Obedience means: doing one’s duty. The little actions that people do when performing their duty are all acts of obedience, and all such acts can be offered to God, in union with the obedience of Christ. Victim souls fulfill their vocation by sacrificing themselves for their neighbors. Doing one’s duty involves sacrifices, usually small ones. All these little actions can be offered to God, and if they are thus offered, with great purity of intention, they are of great value. St. Therese did not perform great actions. She attained sanctity by performing little actions with great love of God and great purity of intention. The intention is always what God sees in every action. The intention is what determines the value of an action.
Kissing the floor is a small action: the Franciscan Minim brothers and sisters do this action often during the day. If it is done with a good intention, it is so pleasing to God and helps to atone for all kinds of sins: it may be considered as an act of universal atonement. Our Lord revealed to a mystic that one of the most frequent sins is ingratitude. People receive spiritual and temporal favors from God constantly, but of this number only a few thank him for what they have received from him. Kissing the floor may be offered as an act of thanksgiving, to thank God for all that he gives us. Chesterton said that thanksgiving is the highest form of thought. Acts of thanksgiving and gratitude help to lift up our minds toward God.
God will have the last word
In the prophecy of Isaias it is written: "The nation and the kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish: and the gentiles shall be wasted with desolation." At the present time this prophecy is being fulfilled. Many reject God (even after having had an opportunity of knowing and receiving him). They refuse to serve God. If afterwards they find themselves in darkness and desolation, it is their own fault. In 1917 the most Blessed Virgin Mary said that she and her Son would triumph in the end. At present it seems as if Satan is triumphing, but his victory will only last a short while. In the Psalms it is written: "The just shall see, and shall rejoice; and all iniquity shall stop its mouth." We hope we will live to see that prophecy fulfilled: it will be almost like a dream come true.
May it be for the glory of God
The Vergel of the Immaculate Virgin of Guadalupe
August 27, 2004 • Feast of St. Joseph Calasanctius
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"All those who yield themselves to My way of the cross and suffer-ing, will be blessed for all eternity." -- April 23, 1969
Manichaeism. Doctrine of Manes, who taught that matter is evil. The Manichaeans rejected the Old Testament and admitted in the New Testament only what was in accordance with their opinions: the body being the work and effect of the Supreme Bad Principle, all marriage is wrong and the begetting and bearing of children a crime. In common speech Manichaeism usually refers to the particular doctrine of the intrinsic evil of matter. Manichaeism contradicts what the Bible says, that "God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good." (Gen. 1, 31). All the material creation is good. Physical things can be used in a way contrary to what God wants, but in themselves they are basically good.
Puritanism. 1. A movement, rather than a party, in English history, active and powerful from the reign of Elizabeth till the Restoration in 1660. It regarded the English Reformation as incomplete, and rejected all ritual and religious holidays whatsoever.
2. An exaggerated rigorism which sees in remote or no occasions of sin proximate occasions, and in proximate occasions actual sin: condemning the use of fermented liquors, betting and gambling, Sunday games, dancing and recreation, as bad in themselves. It is found among some English-speaking non-Catholics. Among individual Catholics rigorism or scrupu-losity sometimes results in a kind of Jansenistic Puritanism.
The Fall of the Northern Kingdom
THE day came when the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, and all Israel, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, fell to his power. Not that it was an easy victory. Faced with the inevitable, the Samaritans and the Galileans fought patriotically. Until the final crisis their leaders had done their best to appease, paying blackmail. King Menahem, for example, in his day had bought off the threat of invasion by paying a thousand talents of silver—a fortune taken from the coffers of Israelite millionaires. But not appeasement and not resistance would help this chosen people, still straying from the ways of their Maker; King Jeroboam II died; King Zechariah was assassinated, and his killer slain a month later by that same Menahem.
The last effort to save the land was made by King Hoshea, who made a secret alliance with the king of Egypt.
That was the spark that set off the powder keg. The affronted overlord of Assyria at once began a siege of Samaria. For three years the extraordinary fortifications did keep the enemy at bay. Shalmaneser died before the assault ended, but Sargon II, King of Kings, continued stubbornly in his stead. And in the ninth year of Hoshea’s reign, 721 B.C., the city was taken and the king made prisoner.
And now, as the prophet had for so long foretold, Israel was to be punished. The northern kingdom was smashed to bits; 27,290 of its best people, the brains of its society, were seized and transported to the distant regions of "Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." Dispersed and distributed at the will of the conqueror, they had no longer any cohesion of race, as hitherto, or unification of thought or purpose. Settlers from Babylon, Elam, and Syria were given their land holdings in demolished Israel.
Never were the ten tribes—to be known ever after as the Lost Tribes—to come together as a nation again. The prophecies of Amos and Hosea were fulfilled:
"Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only."
The Little Angel and the Burning Coal
"There was no tribe but Judah only.--"
And men were already asking how long the little kingdom of the south could save itself from also being gobbled up by conquerors from the north. Through the fabulous crescent that curved from Babylon through Damascus, the conquerors had surged down, taking Israel. Surely Judah’s turn would be next.
Yet the time of collapse was postponed for 150 years. In that century and a half, bad king followed good king, wise men and fools sat on the southern throne, and in the endangered land the people and their leaders swayed and wavered, as of old, between the one true God and their idols.
So Amaziah, king of Judah, had his throat cut in a conspiracy, to be followed by the pious and wise Azariah, who was also called Uzziah, a believer in preparedness. He enlarged his armies and trained them diligently; on the towers and bulwarks of fortified Jerusalem he placed new weapons, invented by the best scientific brains he could assemble. These scientists and engineers built him contrivances that would shoot forth blazing arrows and others that would hurl down boulders on enemies outside the walls.
But Uzziah was not merely a military organizer; he was a statesman in love with his people. Under his wise husbandry policies, new vines were planted in the hills, more cattle bred on plain and green slope, and in the yellow desert places men dug and dug and dug until they at last found water.
Why then did Uzziah find, one day, a leprous spot on his forehead: why had the Lord smitten him?
Because, it was very clear, he had not put down idolatry in the hills and high places, while he, himself, had gone into the Temple to burn incense—a rite reserved for priests and no one else, not even a king.
The procession of royal failures that came after Uzziah was long and dismal. Jotham and then Ahaz, his son, who raised new brazen figures to heathen Baalim, and permitted and even practiced the most hideous abominations of the heathen in that valley of Hinnom over which there hangs to this day the dark memory of babies burned in sacrifice on the altars of evil. A wicked opportunist, this Ahaz, who tried to get help from the Assyrians for foes nearer at home. He offered treasure from the Temple and the palace and the Assyrians carted it away but gave him no help at all. He tried to in every way to show his infidel enemies that he believed with them, shutting up the Temple doors, breaking up the holy vessels, and bending the knee to the gods of Damascus. His death was a blessing to the kingdom.
Then Hezekiah came to the throne and Hezekiah was of a different sort altogether.
As soon as the crown was on his head Hezekiah called the priests and the Levites together and told them he was going to lead his people back to the worship of the Lord God. Open the doors! Repair the battered Temple! Sanctify themselves! With the utmost speed the nation must rededicate itself to the service of the one true God.
The word went round the countryside: a message from Hezekiah, addressed to the people of Judah and Ephraim and Manasseh, yes, and even conquered Israel, calling on the people not carried away captive to return to the Lord, while there was still time.
"Be not stiff-necked as your fathers were," was King Hezekiah’s message. "For if you turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land, for the Lord, your God, is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you, if you return unto Him."
As a result of the king’s exhortation, something akin to a religious re-vival swept the land. People flocked into the capital city from everywhere around and there was a seven days’ feast; not since the time of King Solomon had the populace danced and sung with such joy: "Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, even unto heaven."
But now it was too late, even with such ecstasies of devotion, to turn aside the darkness clouding in the north. Fourteen years of statesmanship Hezekiah gave the throne, a reign of true kingliness, only and finally to con-front a diabolical problem.
The king of Assyria was restless and prowling once more. His name was Sennacherib, and parents frightened their babies by saying: "Sennacherib will get you, if you don’t go to sleep."
No ordinary enemy, this son of Sargon, one day to be murdered by his own sons. The monarch was to win naval and military victories to astound the world; he constructed canals and aqueducts, embanked the Tigris, and erected a magnificent palace at Nineveh, and he was now just becoming aware of his own powers, as he threw his might upon the southern kingdom. Into a very nimbus of fear the Assyrian came marching against the fenced cities along the northern frontier.
King Hezekiah resolved to stop at nothing to make peace. What is your price, Sennacherib? Name it and Hezekiah will pay. He will give you all the remnants of silver that are still left in Solomon’s Temple. He will strip what little gold is left clinging to the ornamental doors. He will appease you, Sennacherib!
But the Assyrian officers told their king to stop his ears against the pleas of Hezekiah. Everywhere fright lay over the land of Judah—and no one knew what to do next.
It was then that King Hezekiah sent messengers to call on one of the greatest figures in the history of the world—the prophet Isaiah.
Let us look backward for a moment at the earlier days of Isaiah and at what had happened to him before he was called to counsel the king.
In the history of religious experience, of prophetic vision, of zeal for God, of the writing of great words, no name is more illustrious than Isaiah. The book which bears his name in the Bible contains sublime poetry. Always it is written in an exalted tone, that of a man who lived intimately with the Lord God. Isaiah sounded again the opportunity for the chosen people in a bewildered world; God had chosen them not out of mere fondness but for the supreme purpose of being His teacher to mankind, until the arrival of the Messiah.
This incomparable figure of prophecy was a Hebrew aristocrat who lived at the court of Jerusalem, a friend of royalty, a man of brains, and a reformer. (to be continued.)
Following His Footsteps
by Anselmo del Álamo
Chapter 8. Crosses
20. Jesus never told me that his friends would have nothing to suffer, because he wants them to possess their greatest happiness in tasting the bitterness of the Cross. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
21. My son, he who approaches me, approaches thorns. Our Lord to St. Paul of the Cross
22. To suffer with resignation has seemed to me the most worthy thing of being desired by men, and if envy were not an evil, the very angels would envy this privilege. Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich
23. We complain about suffering, and we should rather have reasons for complaining of not suffering: for nothing makes us more similar to Jesus than carrying his Cross. The Cure of Ars
24. On your day I would like to remove all your pains, and take for myself all your sufferings. This is what I formerly asked of him whose heart beat in unison with mine. Then I understood that the best that he can give us is suffering, and that he only gives it to his most select friends. St. Therese of Lisieux
25. He who has not suffered for Jesus cannot be certain of loving Jesus. Monsignor Gay
26. There is nothing as glorious for a Christian as suffering for Christ. For him who truly loves God, the most disagreeable thing that can happen to him is not having occasions of suffering for Him. The greatest tribulation of the servant of God is not having one. St. Philip Neri
A Magazine for the Latter Times
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the Reflections. We are all so much in need for enlightenment, as this is what shines through from its holy pages. Thank you again. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph protect you. Respectfully, M.C., Canada
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Behind the Scenes of The Passion
On the set with Holly McClure
by Holly McClure | posted 02/26/04
Day 4: Realistic violence is Gibson's way of showing "the extent of the sacrifice willingly taken by Jesus."
The Passion of The Christ is a violent film, and Mel Gibson wouldn't have it any other way, because he knows all too well how that realism can impact an audience.
"This is an event that actually happened," Mel explained. "I'm exploring it this way to show the extent of the sacrifice willingly taken by Jesus. The price he paid—that is as much a part of what Jesus went through as the resurrection."
The realistic-looking wounds on Jim Caviezel
The special effects team of makeup artists and technicians were challenged to create new ways of showing realistic crucifixion and flagellation scenes. They devised a never-been-done-before technique of showing the nails being driven into Christ's hands—and yes, it looks real.
Special effects makeup producer Keith Vanderlaan (nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Hannibal) did extensive research on actual crucifixions, then improvised with his own techniques. The graphic flesh wounds, scars, ribs protruding from Christ's chest and even the nails being driven into his hands have never been tried before.
Jim Caviezel, a devout Christian who plays Jesus, was the recipient of much of Vanderlaan's makeup magic. At the end of the work day, I watched Jim peel off the layer of rubber makeup that looks like realistic wounds. He'd drop it all to the floor, leaving what looked like a pile of pizza toppings. Yes, I know: It's pretty disgusting.
Jim suffered through much in his portrayal of Jesus. The film was shot in the frigid winter cold, and he sometimes wore no more than a loin cloth. During the filming of the scourging scene, he was accidentally struck several times, actually drawing blood.Despite all that, Jim had a few light and funny moments while wearing his tortured makeup, singing Bing Crosby Christmas carols and doing imitations of famous people.
It was amusing and interesting to see the extras stare in awe at Jim. Many of these character actors—mostly Italians—had been extras in other films, but they'd never seen anything like this. To them, Jim represented the closest thing to Christ that they'd seen. Old women would walk up and touch his robe or grab his hands and yell "Christo!"
Jim Caviezel's amazing make-up job
In some scenes they used a mechanical dummy of Jesus to survive the cold weather and long hours on the cross. (I have some of the toes and fingers from the dummy.) One day, while filming the crucifixion scene, a woman saw the dummy on the ground and went over to try and console him and keep him warm. I'm still not sure if she ever realized that dummy wasn't a real person.
Another time, a priest approached the cross in distress, convinced that Jim had taken his last breath. As he began to yell and scream for help, the crew came running. The priest was embarrassed to find out that it was only the mechanical Jesus—and not Jim—that stopped breathing. Everyone had a good laugh—especially the priest.
In the end, though, Mel Gibson has made a violent film that realistically depicts Christ's wounds. Although the scenes of torture and crucifixion are very hard to watch, for the first time I, as a Christian, clearly saw what Jesus must have truly suffered through. It strengthened my faith and made me grateful for the price that was paid.
Day 5: Miracles on the set: "There's an interesting power in the script," says Gibson. "It's really happening."
It's not every day that Jesus gets struck by lightning. But that's just what happened one day on the set of The Passion of The Christ. Jim Caviezel, who plays the role of Jesus, and assistant director Jan Michelini were both struck by a lightning bolt one day while filming near Rome. Neither was badly hurt.
Mel told me that Michelini earned the nickname "Lightning Boy," because it was the second time he'd been struck on the set, suffering burns to his fingers after he was hit while carrying an umbrella.
"Both times, he got up and walked away without harm," Mel said. "The second time, the lightning bounced off Jan and hit Jim, and literally his ears and head lit up with a glow. He says he could feel a surge go through his body, but no one was hurt!"
Producer Steve McEveety, who saw the second strike, told one publication that he saw "smoke coming out of Caviezel's ears."
Those are just a couple of what Mel describes as "miracles" during the filming of The Passion, both on and off the set.
"There is an interesting power in the script, so there have been a lot of unusual things happening," Mel said. "Good things. People are being healed of diseases. A couple of people have had their sight and hearing restored. There was even a 6-year-old girl (the daughter of a person connected with the crew) who had epilepsy since she was born. She had up to 50 epileptic fits a day. But she doesn't have them anymore—and hasn't for over a month now."
At one screening of The Passion for religious leaders, Gibson told about a 2-year-old girl whose sight and hearing had been re-stored. "And you know you can't fake that when you're two," he said.
There were also reports of conversions on the set.
"It has changed us," said Francesco De Vito, who plays the disciple Peter. "I talk with Judas (Luca Lionello) and with John (Hristo Jivkov) about this movie and about faith on the set, and there is something going on with many of us. We've become very focused."
Vera Mitchell, Caviezel's personal stylist, said, "There's a pride that all of us have because we realize we're working on an important movie that could change a lot of lives."
It certainly changed many lives on the set, and Mel marvels at that.
"What seems to be happening because of this movie really gives you a lot of hope," he told me. "It's like, Wow! I mean, we're not kidding around about this. It's really happening."
On American Morals
by G.K. Chesterton
America is sometimes offered to us, even by Americans (who ought to know better), as a moral example. There are indeed very real American virtues; but this virtuous attitude is hardly one of them. And if anyone wants to know what a welter of weakness and inconsequence the moral mind of America can sometimes be, he may be advised to look, not so much to the Crime Wage or the Charleston, as to the serious idealistic essays by highbrows and cultural critics, such as one by Miss Avis D. Carlson on `Wanted: A Substitute for Righteousness.'
By righteousness she means, of course, the narrow New England taboos; but she does not know it. For the inference she draws is that we should recognize frankly that `the standard abstract right and wrong is moribund.' This statement will seem less insane if we consider, somewhat curiously, what the standard abstract right and wrong seems to mean -- at least in her section of the States. It is a glimpse of an incredible world.
She takes the case of a young man brought up `in a home where there was an attempt to make dogmatic cleavage of right and wrong.' And what was the dogmatic cleavage? Ah, what indeed! His elders told him that some things were right and some wrong; and for some time he accepted this strange assertion. But when he leaves home he finds that, `apparently perfectly nice people do the things he has been taught to think evil.' Then follows a revelation. `The flowerlike girl he envelops in a mist of romantic idealization smokes like an imp from the lower regions and pets like a movie vamp. The chum his heart yearns towards cultivates a hip-flask, etc.' And this is what the writer calls a dogmatic cleavage between right and wrong!
The standard of abstract right and wrong apparently is this. That a girl by smoking a cigarette makes herself one of the company of the fiends of hell. That such an action is much the same as that of a sexual vampire. That a young man who continues to drink fermented liquor must necessarily be `evil' and must deny the very existence of any difference between right and wrong. That is the `standard of abstract right and wrong' that is apparently taught in the American home. And it is perfectly obvious, on the face of it, that it is not a standard of abstract right or wrong at all. That is exactly what it is not. That is the very last thing any clear-headed person would call it. It is not a standard; it is not abstract; it has not the vaguest notion of what is meant by right and wrong. It is a chaos of social and sentimental accidents and associations, some of them snobbish, all of them provincial, but, above all, nearly all of them concrete and connected with a materialistic prejudice against particular materials.
To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute. We need not be very surprised if the young man repudiates these meaningless vetoes as soon as he can; but if he thinks he is repudiating morality, he must be almost as muddle-headed as his father. And yet the writer in question calmly proposes that we should abolish all ideas of right and wrong, and abandon the whole human conception of a standard of abstract justice, because a boy in Boston cannot be induced to think that a nice girl is a devil when she smokes a cigarette.
If the rising generation were faced with no worse doubts and difficulties than this, it would not be very difficult to reconcile them to the traditions of truth and justice. But I think the episode is worth mentioning, merely because it throws a ray of light on the moral condition of American Culture, in the decay of Puritanism. And when next we are told that the idealism of America is to set a `standard' by which England must transform herself, it will be well to remember what is apparently meant by a standard and an ideal; and that the fire of idealism seems both to begin and end in smoke.
Incidentally, I must say I can bear witness to this queer taboo about tobacco. Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking. I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently and declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: `Well, Mr. Chesterton, I'm afraid I have the habit.' As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane.
He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had no `standard of abstract right or wrong'; in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar. But he had a concrete standard of particular cut and dried customs of a particular tribe. Those who say Americans are largely descended from the American Indians might certainly make a case out of the suggestion that this mystical horror of material things is largely a barbaric sentiment. The Red Indian is said to have tried and condemned a tomahawk for committing a murder. In this case he was certainly the prototype of the white man who curses a bottle because too much of it goes into a man. Prohibition is sometimes praised for its simplicity; on these lines it may be equally condemned for its savagery. But I myself do not say anything so absurd as that Americans are savages; nor do I think it would matter much if they were descended from savages. It is culture that counts and not ethnology; and the culture that is concerned here derives indirectly rather from New England than from Old America. Whatever it derives from, however, this is the thing to be noted about it: that it really does not seem to understand what is meant by a standard of right and wrong. It is a vague sentimental notion that certain habits were not suitable to the old log cabin or the old hometown. It has a vague utilitarian notion that certain habits are not directly useful in the new amalgamated stores or the new financial gambling-hell. If his aged mother or his economic master dislikes to see a young man hanging about with a pipe in his mouth, the action becomes a sin; or the nearest that such a moral philosophy can come to the idea of a sin. A man does not chop wood for the log hut by smoking; and a man does not make dividends for the Big Boss by smoking; and therefore smoking has a smell as of something sinful. Of what the great theologians and moral philosophers have meant by a sin, these people have no more idea than a child drinking milk has of a great toxicologist analyzing poisons. It may be a credit of their virtue to be thus vague about vice. The man who is silly enough to say, when offered a cigarette, `I have no vices,' may not always deserve the rapier-thrust of the reply given by the Italian Cardinal, `It is not a vice, or doubtless you would have it.' But at least the Cardinal knows it is not a vice; which assists the clarity of his mind. But the lack of clear standards among those who vaguely think of it as a vice may yet be the beginning of much peril and oppression. My two American journalists, between them, may yet succeed in adding the sinfulness of cigars to the other curious things now part of the American Constitution. (Editor’s note: at the time this was written Prohibition was being practiced in the United States and it was not permitted to obtain or sell alcoholic beverages.)
I would therefore venture to say to Miss Avis Carlson that the quarrel in question does not arise from the Yankee Puritans having too much morality, but from their having too little. It does not arise from their drawing too hard and fast a line of distinction between right and wrong, but from their being much too loose and indistinct. They go by associations and not by abstractions. Therefore they classify smoking with vamping or a flask in the pocket with sin in the soul. I hope at least that some of the Fundamentalists will succeed in being a little more fundamental than this. The men of Tennessee are supposed to be very anxious to draw the line between men and monkeys. They are also supposed by some to be rather too anxious to draw the line between black men and white men. May I be allowed to hope that they will succeed in drawing a rather more logical line between bad men and good men? Something of the difference and the difficulty may be seen by comparing the old Ku Klux Klan with the new Ku Klux Klan. The old secret society may have been justified or not; but it had a definite object: it was directed against somebody. The new secret society seems to have been directed against anybody; often against anybody who drank; in time, for all I know, against anybody who smoked. It is this sort of formless fanaticism that is the great danger of the American Temperament; and it is well to insist that if men must persecute, they will be more clear-headed if they persecute for a creed.
- From Generally Speaking
Introduction to the Devout Lifeby Saint Francis de Sales
Of Amusements and Recreations: what are allowable.
WE must needs occasionally relax the mind, and the body requires some recreation also. Cassian relates how St. John the Evangelist was found by a certain hunter amusing himself by caressing a partridge, which sat upon his wrist. The hunter asked how a man of his mental powers could find time for so trifling an occupation. In reply, St. John asked why he did not always carry his bow strung. The man answered, because, if always bent, the bow would lose its spring when really wanted. "Do not marvel then," the Apostle replied, "if I slacken my mental efforts from time to time, and recreate myself, in order to return more vigorously to contemplation." It is a great mistake to be so strict as to grudge any recreation either to others or one's self.
Walking, harmless games, music, instrumental or vocal, field sports, etc., are such entirely lawful recreations that they need no rules beyond those of ordinary discretion, which keep every thing within due limits of time, place, and degree. So again games of skill, which exercise and strengthen body or mind, such as tennis, rackets, running at the ring, chess, and the like, are in themselves both lawful and good. Only one must avoid excess, either in the time given to them, or the amount of interest they absorb; for if too much time be given up to such things, they cease to be a recreation and become an occupation; and so far from resting and restoring mind or body, they have precisely the contrary effect. After five or six hours spent over chess, one's mind is spent and weary, and too long a time given to tennis results in physical exhaustion; or if people play for a high stake, they get anxious and discomposed. And such unimportant objects are unworthy of so much care and thought. But, above all, beware of setting your heart upon any of these things, for however lawful an amusement may be, it is wrong to give one's heart up to it. Not that I would not have you take pleasure in what you are doing,--it were no recreation else,--but I would not have you engrossed by it, or become eager or over fond of any of these things.
We must be Faithful in Things Great and Small.
THE Bridegroom of the Canticles says that the Bride has ravished His heart with "one of her eyes, one lock of her hair." 1 In all the human body no part is nobler either in mechanism or activity than the eye, none more unimportant than the hair. And so the Divine Bridegroom makes us to know that He accepts not only the great works of devout people, but every poor and lowly offering too; and that they who would serve Him acceptably must give heed not only to lofty and important matters, but to things mean and little, since by both alike we may win His Heart and Love.
Be ready then, my child, to bear great afflictions for your Lord, even to martyrdom itself; resolve to give up to Him all that you hold most precious, if He should require it of you;--father, mother, husband, wife, or child; the light of your eyes; your very life; for all such offering your heart should be ready. But as long as God's Providence does not send you these great and heavy afflictions; so long as He does not ask your eyes, at least give Him your hair. I mean, take patiently the petty annoyances, the trifling discomforts, the unimportant losses which come upon all of us daily; for by means of these little matters, lovingly and freely accepted, you will give Him your whole heart, and win His. I mean the acts of daily forbearance, the headache, or toothache, or heavy cold; the tiresome peculiarities of husband or wife, the broken glass, the loss of a ring, a handkerchief, a glove; the sneer of a neighbour, the effort of going to bed early in order to rise early for prayer or Communion, the little shyness some people feel in openly performing religious duties; and be sure that all of these sufferings, small as they are, if accepted lovingly, are most pleasing to God's Goodness, Which has promised a whole ocean of happiness to His children in return for one cup of cold water. And, moreover, inasmuch as these occasions are for ever arising, they give us a fertile field for gathering in spiritual riches, if only we will use them rightly.
When I read in the Life of St. Catherine of Sienna of her ecstasies and visions, her wise sayings and teaching, I do not doubt but that she "ravished" her Bridegroom's heart with this eye of contemplation; but I must own that I behold her with no less delight in her father's kitchen, kindling the fire, turning the spit, baking the bread, cooking the dinner, and doing all the most menial offices in a loving spirit which looked through all things straight to God. Nor do I prize the lowly meditations she was wont to make while so humbly employed less than the ecstasies with which she was favoured at other times, probably as a reward for this very humility and lowliness. Her meditations would take the shape of imagining that all she prepared for her father was prepared for Our Lord, as by Martha; her mother was a symbol to her of Our Lady, her brothers of the Apostles, and thus she mentally ministered to all the Heavenly Courts, fulfilling her humble ministrations with an exceeding sweet-ness, because she saw God's Will in each. Let this example, my daughter; teach you how important it is to dedicate all we do, how-ever trifling, to His service. And to this end I earnestly counsel you to imitate that "virtuous woman" whom King Solomon lauds, 1 who "layeth her hands" to all that is good and noble, and yet at the same time to the spindle and distaff. Do you seek the higher things, such as prayer and meditation, the Sacraments leading souls to God and kindling good thoughts in them, in a word, by all manner of good works according to your vocation; but meanwhile do not neglect your spindle and distaff. I mean, cultivate those lowly virtues which spring like flowers round the foot of the Cross, such as ministering to the poor and sick, family cares, and the duties arising therefrom, and practical diligence and activity; and amid all these things cultivate such spiritual thoughts as St. Catherine intermingled with her work.
Great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us daily; and our Lord Himself has told us that "he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." 2 If you do all in God's Name, all you do will be well done, whether you eat, drink or sleep, whether you amuse yourself or turn the spit, so long as you do all wisely, you will gain greatly as in God's Sight, doing all because He would have you do it.
Delivered from Bondage
And the Lord, answering him, said: Ye hypocrites, ... ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? And when he said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the things that were gloriously done by him. – Luke 13, 15
May he grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man; that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts." – Ephesians 3, 16.
At one time we were all children. Each of us carries within a set of feelings and attitudes brought from childhood that remains operative, no matter how old we become.
One of the most powerful and pervasive attitudes in our culture regarding childhood, is the idea that at some point you cease to be child and are an adult forever after. This fallacy makes it extremely difficult for many persons to deal with their emotional life. The demand to behave in a grown-up manner implies that we must discard anything which could be construed as immature conduct. Since tears, laughter and spontaneity are so much a part of our childhood, they must be eradicated from our behavior.
Jesus taught us: "I tell you most solemnly, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 18, 3). The ability to trust others for our needs, the gifts of wonder and awe, are essential to our receptivity of the kingdom of God. Much of his kingdom is unreasonable to our rational, adult minds: only a little child can venture into this unfamiliar domain.
Delivered from Bondage
The death of a close family member is an obviously stressful experience for a person. It can remain an unconscious source of inner tension, if we were not permitted to grieve, by being told to "Act like a man," or "Big girls don’t cry." Such commands force us to bury many feelings of anger, guilt and sorrow, making it difficult to deal with our present-day emotions in an honest way.
A participant at our healing seminars requested prayer, because of his inability to relate to his two young boys in a fatherly way. He loved them very much but avoided any outward expressions of his feelings for them, and he seldom found time to do the kinds of things that fathers and sons should enjoy together. He was really distraught that a Christian parent should be exhibiting such behavior. We talked about his background for a while, and he shared that his own father had passed away when he was five years old.
I asked him how he was told that his dad was dead. "My mother told me that Jesus had come to take my daddy to heaven," he replied, "and I would have to be the man of the family now." He never cried at the funeral home or the cemetery, as he was told by his grandmother to be a "brave little soldier and make Mommy proud of you." Naturally all those suppressed emotions were still resident in his mind. He was unable to relate to his own boys, because so much of his feelings had to be denied, in order to continue obeying those long-ago commands.
As I prayed with the man, we invited Jesus to give him permission to mourn for his father, and to open up the reservoir of his emotions, which had been dammed up for so many years.
The sobs came from deep within him, as he cried, feeling the loneliness and pain of those growing-up years.
Afterwards he thanked me, and remarked that he was so grateful for the opportunity of being able to weep over his father’s death. He was able to re-enact the scene of his father’s death and was finally able to weep about it, something he should have done many years before.
It was beautiful to receive a letter from him several months later, detailing the adventures he and his sons experienced on a weekend camping trip. (Taken from Healing the Inward Man, by B.L.S., p. 85-6, Ave Maria Press, 1982.)
Inhibiting Normal Behavior
His grandmother’s prohibition: "Do not cry," caused him immense damage. It was so fortunate for him that he was able to receive healing therapy and was able to reveal the cause of his bondage. He was inhibited. He was in slavery, in bondage: he was not permitted to act like an ordinary human being: (it is not human to suppress tears). If he had not attended the therapy session, perhaps his life would have been ruined permanently, he could not have been delivered from such bondage.
To Have the Same Sentiments
as Jesus Christ
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." –Philippians 2, 5
(Taken from Jesus Appeals to the World. –Revelations given to
Sister Consolata Betrone, Capuchin Nun. d. 1942).
It is of the utmost importance that Christians should be well informed about sanctity. Why should we hesitate to speak about holiness, or why be afraid to aspire to it, if that is the very duty of every Christian? The important thing is to form a correct concept regarding holiness, so as not to go wrong in practice and achieve little or nothing, under the impression of achieving much. Nor ought we to shrink from so noble an undertaking, on account of our own littleness and weakness.
When speaking of sanctity and saints, it is a mistake to lay stress on the extraordinary and freely given gifts or graces, "gratis datae," and Jesus expressly so declared to Sister Consolata. It is also wrong to stress extraordinary penances, austerities, and the like, as though the first and greatest commandment of the Law, and hence the first and foremost duty of the Christian, were the mortification of his own body, rather than the love of God and of his neighbor.
No, there is no need to misinterpret the Gospel or to reduce the saints of Christianity almost to the level of a sect of flagellants, by not accentuating that inner union with God, that love, from which all works, and especially all virtues, draw life, worth, and perfection. The Gospel is not a message of sadness, but rather one of joy, beginning with the joyous announcement of the angels at Bethlehem and ending with the angels’ triumphant words at the empty tomb of Jesus. Who could assert that Our Lord forbids His followers the pure and chaste joys of life, which His love has strewn along their path, interwoven with sorrows? And are not the daily sacrifices transfigured in the light of Christian hope? We have already encountered in this message a number of hints in that direction, and we will enumerate still others.
Weakened by a bad case of influenza, Sister Consolata one day supported herself on the choir stall and then even sat down in choir, a thing she never did at other times for the sake of mortification. She regretted it later, however, and asked pardon of Jesus, but He replied:
Be at peace, Consolata, do not make Me out to be a severe person! Jesus, who sent the raven to awaken your Father Francis belatedly one morning, solely because he had had little sleep during the night, can also grant permission to one of His creatures to support herself or sit down in choir, because she is suffering from influenza! Do you not understand that Jesus is goodness, mercy, and indulgence itself?
Sister Consolata was very much attached to all regulations of the communal life, also in the matter of food. But she purposely and gladly denied herself those things which the community allowed to its weaker members, and she never wished to vary from that rule of hers, not even when she was physically laid low and infirm. Jesus taught her a beautiful lesson in connection with this point on Sept. 24, 1936:
Remember, Consolata, that I am kind; do not distort this fact! You see, the world likes to represent sanctity by pictures of austerities, flagellations, chains... But it is not like that. If sacrifice and penance do enter into the life of a saint, they are not on that account the whole of his life. The saint, or the soul who gives herself to Me with generosity, is the most fortunate being on earth, for I am kind, altogether kind.
Never lose sight of the fact that the Jesus whom you behold dying on the Cross at the end of His mortal career, is the same Jesus who for thirty years shared the life which is common to all men, in the bosom of His own family; and He is the same Jesus who all during His three years’ ministry sat down to table with men and joined in their banquets. And Jesus was holy, Consolata, the holiest of men! Therefore, do not misrepresent Me in your need, but remember that Jesus is always kind; to you He is and ever will be parental tenderness itself until the very end of your life.
I do love the fidelity with which you are keeping your promises, but I also love your confidence in My parental goodness, and it will please Me if you will make exceptions, when there is a real need for it. Remember, and never forget: Jesus is kind! Do not misrepresent Me! (Jesus Appeals to the World, p. 73-74).
Our Cover: Saint Paul of the Cross-- (continued)
Saint Paul was brought to the scene and with his crucifix held high, he commanded the spirit to depart. When the devil resisted, he ordered the soldier to make an act of contrition. The saint then demanded the departure of the devil. No longer able to resist, the evil spirit left. The soldier confessed his sins and thereafter enjoyed peace of soul and mind.
The saint’s power over nature was exhibited on a number of occasions, especially at Santaflora, where he was to give a talk. Because of his great popularity, the church was crowded. An even greater number of people gathered in the square outside the church. So that both groups could hear him, the Saint stood at the church door and began to speak. The day was clear and bright, but suddenly the sky became dark and rain began to fall in torrents. The people immediately panicked and ran about in confusion. Seeing in this disturbance the work of the devil, the missionary held his crucifix high and blessed the air. Immediately the sky cleared and the people returned to their places. To the wonderment of all, everyone in the square was completely dry, whereas a moment before they had been thoroughly wet.
During another sermon to the people gathered outdoors, the sky suddenly became dark and threatened a terrible storm. Assuring his listeners that it was the work of the devil to prevent the good they were gaining, Paul blessed the black clouds with his crucifix. To the amazement of the people, the rain fell all around, but not a drop of water touched the saint or the members of his audience.
In his biography of the saint, Rev. Pius of the Name of Mary tells of a truly astounding miracle that took place when the saint was scheduled to conduct a mission on the Isle of Elba and was in need of a ship to take him there. The saint approached a sea captain, who indicated that his ship was badly damaged from a storm at sea and had been drawn up on shore. The saint told the captain not to worry, that through the power of God their journey would be successful. Captain Fanciullo, an eyewitness, tells what took place.
Wherefore the master, with his sailors and myself, began to haul the vessel towards the sea. The servant of God, too, taking his crucifix from his breast, held it up with his left hand, and with his right helped to haul. In an instant the vessel was in the sea, and both I and others standing by thought it a miracle to get it into the sea with so few hands. I saw Father Paul embark and set sail for Porto Ferrajo, on the Isle of Elba, which they happily reached. News reached us that no sooner were they disembarked, than the vessel split into two and sank.
A miracle reminiscent of St. Anthony and the donkey adoring the Holy Eucharist took place while St. Paul of the Cross was walk-ing beside a farmer who was driving his two young oxen. When the animals became agitated and began giving the farmer some trouble, he blasphemed so badly that the saint began to admonish him. Be-coming even angrier, the farmer leveled a gun at the saint. Horrified more at the indecent language than he was frightened for his own life, the saint drew his crucifix from his belt and held it high, saying: "Since you will not respect this crucifix, these oxen will." As if they understood, the oxen fell immediately to their knees before the image of the crucified Saviour. At the sight of the miracle, the farmer threw down his gun, begged pardon of the saint and soon went to confession and reconciled himself to God.
The most astounding miracle involving the saint took place at Piagaro in the year 1738 during the course of a mission. At the end of the mission, the saint repeated these words: "There are many here to whom it seems a thousand years before I end my mission (on earth), but I shall leave another behind, who will carry on the mission better than I." When the saint left the church some of the people followed him, while the rest remained in the church to pray. Rev. Pius of the Name of Mary tells us that:
All of a sudden, they were astounded at seeing a blue sweat beginning to flow in great abundance from a large crucifix of wood, which is preserved in that church. The priests brought cloths to receive the sacred liquor, while some of the people, recollecting what the holy missionary had said, ran to tell him what had happened. He made no reply but this, "I knew it already." He then asked of what color was the sweat, and being told it was blue, he added: "It is a good sign," and then went on with his journey. The effect was what he had expected. Those who had not been moved by the thunder of his voice were brought to repentance by the sight of the miracle. For a perpetual remembrance of this wonderful event, a new chapel was built, in which the miraculous image was placed, with an appropriate inscription, as may be seen to this day.
St. Paul of the Cross died at the age of 80 and was canonized in 1867.
The Souls in Purgatory—the Angels
The Life of Anne Catharine Emmerich
By Very Reverend Carl E. Schmoger, C.Ss.R. ---
A cemetery, such as I have described, with its apparitions, its different degrees of light and darkness, always seemed to me like a garden, all parts of which are not equally cultivated, but some allowed to run to waste. When I earnestly prayed and labored and urged others to the same, it seemed as if the plants began to revive, as if the ground were dug and renewed, and if the seed sprang forth under the beneficent influence of the rain and dew. Ah! If all men saw this as I see it, they would surely labor in this garden with for more diligence than I! Such cemeteries speak as plainly to me of the Christian zeal and charity of a parish, as do the gardens and meadows around a village proclaim the industry of its inhabitants. –God has often allowed me to see souls mounting joyously from purgatory to Paradise. But as nothing is accomplished without pain ad trouble, so too when praying for the dead, I was frequently terrified and maltreated by lost spirits, even by the demon himself. Loud noises and frightful spectres surrounded me. I was pushed off the graves, tossed form side to side, and sometimes an invisible power tried to force me out of the cemetery. But God strengthened me against fear. I never recoiled one hair’s breadth before the enemy, and when thus interrupted, I redoubled my prayers. O how many thanks I have received from the poor, dear souls! Ah! If all men would share this joy with me! What a superabundance of grace is upon earth, but forgotten, despised, while the poor souls languish for it! In their manifold sufferings they are full of anguish and longing, they sigh after help and deliverance, yet, how great soever their distress, they still praise Our Lord and Savior, and all that we can do for them is a source of unending bliss."
All-Saints and All-Souls (1819)
"I made a great journey with my guide, how I know not. At such times I neither know who I am nor how I exist. I follow unquestioningly, I look, and I am satisfied. If I happen to put a question and receive an answer, well and good; but if not, still I am satisfied. –We went over the city of martyrs (Rome), then across the sea, and through a wilderness to a place where once stood the house of Anne and Mary, and here I left the earth. I saw innumerable cohorts of saints of endless variety, and yet in my soul, in my interior, they were all only one, all living and revelling in a life of joy, all interpenetrating and reflecting one another. The place was like a boundless dome full of thrones, gardens, palaces, arches, flower-gardens, and trees, with pathways sparking like gold and precious stones. On high, in the centre, in infinite splendour was the throne of the Godhead. –The saints were grouped according to their spiritual relationship; the religious in their Orders higher or lower, according to their individual merits; the martyrs, according to their victories; and laics of all classes, according to their progress in the spiritual life, the efforts they had made to sanctify themselves. All were ranged in admirable order in the palaces and gardens which were inexpressibly brilliant and lovely. I saw trees with little yellow luminous fruits. They who were associated by similar efforts to sanctify themselves had aureoles of the same form, like a supernatural spiritual habit, and they were otherwise distinguished by emblems of victory, crowns and garlands and palms, and they were of all classes and nations
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