St. John Vianney The Cure of Ars
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St. John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests (1786-1859)
The Secret of His Holiness. A Lesson for Priests and Parents Alike.

Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney was a religious personality of unusual force. To the incomparable exclusion of everything else he addressed himself to the greater honor and glory of God and the salvation of souls. He accepted his obligation to holiness at an early age, and it took complete possession of him. Every word he uttered was spoken out of the world of religiousness. He brought to a conclusion an achievement which it would be hard for anyone to imitate. From this man there emanated an influence which cannot be overlooked, and the results of which cannot be contested.

St. John Vianney's mother was a woman of great piety, and she led him into the way of religion at an early age. I owe a debt to my mother, he said, and added, virtues go easily from mothers into the hearts of their children, who willingly do what they see being done. He was a good-natured boy, with blue eyes and brown hair. In spite of his lively disposition, he admitted much later on in life that when I was young, I did not know evil. I was first acquainted with it in the confessional, from the mouths of sinners.

It was only after much toil and trouble that St. John Vianney was admitted to the priesthood. At the age of 20, he was having great difficulty in his studies for the priesthood. Mathias Loras, perhaps the most intelligent of Jean-Marie's fellow seminarians, who was assigned to help him in his lessons, was of a nervous and excitable temperament. One day his patience was exhausted by the sheer incapacity of the big young man, and he boxed his ears before all the others. Jean-Marie was also excitable, but he knelt down before the boy of twelve who had treated him so outrageously and humbly asked his forgiveness. Mathias had a golden heart. Suddenly he felt smitten with grief and, his face bathed in tears, he threw himself into the arms of Jean-Marie who was still on his knees. This incident marked the beginning of an abiding friendship. Mathias Loras subsequently became a missionary in the United States, and eventually Bishop of Dubuque, but never could he forget the action of Jean-Marie and the accent with which he spoke on that occasion.

In his assignment as parish priest of Ars, St. John achieved something which many priests would like to have done, but which is scarcely granted to any. Not over night, but little by little, the tiny hamlet underwent a change. The people of Ars were unable to remain aloof for long from the grace which radiated from the remarkable personality of their priest. When a man attacks inveterate disorders and popular vices, he challenges opposition. St. John was not unprepared he knew the enemy would raise his head. If a priest is determined not to lose his soul, he exclaimed, so soon as any disorder arises in the parish, he must trample underfoot all human considerations as well as the fear of the contempt and hatred of his people. He must not allow anything to bar his way in the discharge of duty, even were he certain of being murdered on coming down from the pulpit. A pastor who wants to do his duty must keep his sword in hand at all times. Did not St. Paul himself write to the faithful of Corinth: I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls, although loving you more, I be loved less.

In his early sermons, he thundered against the prevalent vices of the village of Ars: Blasphemies, cursing, profanation of Sundays, dances and gatherings at taverns, immodest songs and conversations. The tavern, he would say, is the devils own shop, the school where hell retails its dogmas, the market where souls are bartered, the place where families are broken up, where health is undermined, where quarrels are started and murders committed.

Saint John Marie would never consider Ars converted until all of the 200 villagers were living up to the ten commandments of God, the six precepts of the Church and the fulfillment of their duties in life.  Was this asking too much in exchange for Heaven? Complete enforcement of the third commandment took eight long years.  "You labor, but what you earn proves the ruin of your soul and your body.  If we ask those who work on Sunday, 'What have you been doing?' they might answer:  'I have been selling my soul to the devil and crucifying our Lord... I am doomed to hell...'  When I behold people driving carts on Sunday, it seems to me I see them carting their souls to Hell."

Undoubtedly though, the most heinous crime in the eyes of this saint, the one that made him weep whenever he heard it or spoke against it, was the taking of the most Holy Name of Jesus in vain.  He used to say that it was an astounding miracle that people who did this were not struck dead on the spot.  But he warned them, "If the sin of blasphemy is rampant in your home, it will surely perish." Modesty was absolutely required, not only when in church but at all times no low necks or bare arms.

It took St. John Vianney ten whole years to renew Ars, but the community changed so noticeably and to such an extent that it was observed even by outsiders.  There was no more working on Sundays, the church was filled more and more every year, and drunkenness fell off.  In the end the taverns had to close their doors since they had no more customers; and even domestic squabbles abated.  Honesty became the principal characteristic.  "Ars is no longer Ars," as St. John Vianney himself wrote; for it had undergone a fundamental change.  Under his guidance the little village became a community of pious people, to whom all his labors were directed.  He delighted in teaching the children their catechism and he did this daily.  After a while the grown-ups came too and he found that those who were children during the Revolution were in complete ignorance of their religious duties.  He taught the people love for the rosary and wanted everyone to carry one around at all times.  It is truly astounding to reflect upon what St. John Vianney, with a staff of trained assistants, was able to achieve in the village in the space of a few years.  What an immense amount of endeavor underlay his work will best be appreciated by anyone who has had to convert only a few drunkards to sanity.

Jean-Marie sanctified himself whilst at work in the field or in the house. The supernatural world was ever present to him, but for all that he was neither a slacker nor a dreamer, his being a healthy and active temperament. O what a beautiful thing it is to do all things in union with the good God! he would say. Courage, my soul, if you work with God, you shall, indeed, do the work, but He will bless it. You shall walk and He will bless your steps. Everything shall be taken account of the forgoing of a look, of some gratification all shall be recorded. There are people who make capital out of everything, even the winter. If it is cold they offer their little sufferings to God. Oh! What a beautiful thing it is to offer oneself, each morning, as a victim to God!

In letters of consolation to a cousin, Frere Chalovet, whom obedience had sent to the Hotel-Dieu of Lyons and who was greatly tempted, he wrote: My good friend, I write these lines in haste to tell you not to leave, in spite of all the trials that the good God wishes you to endure. Take courage! Heaven is rich enough to reward you. Remember that the evils of this world are the lot of good Christians. You are going through a kind of martyrdom. But what a happiness for you to be a martyr of charity! Do not lose so beautiful a crown. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for my sake, says Jesus Christ, our model. Farewell, my most dear friend. Persevere along the way on which you have so happily entered and we shall see each other again in heaven...Courage my good cousin! Soon we shall see it, our beautiful heaven. Soon there will be no more cross for us! What divine bliss! To see that good Jesus Who has loved us so much and Who will make us so happy!

Often when the Cure was returning to Ars from missionary expeditions, Mayor Mandy, who was anxious about the safety of his holy pastor, would send his son Antoine to accompany him on his journey home. Even amid the snows and cold of winter, Antoine afterwards related, we rarely took the shortest and best road. M. le Cur had invariably to visit some sick person. Yet the tramp never seemed really long, for the servant of God well knew how to shorten it by relating most interesting episodes from the lives of the saints. If I happened to make some remark about the sharpness of the cold or the ruggedness of the roads, he was always ready with an answer: My friend, the saints have suffered far more; let us offer it all to the good God. When he ceased from speaking of holy things we began the Rosary. Even today I still cherish the memory of those holy conversations.

St. John Vianney had loved Mary from the cradle. As a priest he had exerted all his energy in spreading her glory. To convince themselves of it, the pilgrims had but to look at the small statues of her that adorned the front of every house in the village. In each home there was also a colored picture of the Mother of God, presented and signed by M. le Cure. In 1814 he had erected a large statue of Mary Immaculate on the pediment of his church. Eight years earlier, on May 1, 1836, he had dedicated his parish to Mary Conceived Without Sin. The picture which perpetuates this consecration, says Catherine Lassagne, is placed at the entrance to our Lady's Chapel. Shortly afterwards he ordered a heart to be made, in vermeil (color), which is, even to this day, suspended from the neck of the miraculous Virgin. This heart contains the names of all the parishioners of Ars, written on a white silk ribbon. On the feasts of Our Lady, Communions were numerous, and the church was never empty. On the evenings of those festivals the nave and the side chapels could barely contain the congregation, for no one wished to miss M. Vianney's homily in honor of Our Blessed Lady. The hearers were enthralled by the enthusiasm with which he spoke of the holiness, the power, and the love of the Mother of God.

The explanation of this mysterious transformation of the village of Ars can only be grasped in the remarkable manner that this simple priest realized that a man must always begin with himself, and that even the rebirth of a community can only be achieved by its renewing itself.  We must expect nothing of men which is not already embodied within them.  On the basis of this perception St. John Vianney set to work, in the first place, upon himself, so that he could attain the ideal which he demanded of his parishioners in his own person.  He took his own religious obligations with the greatest seriousness, and did not care whether the people noticed this or not.  And finally the inhabitants of Ars said to each other:  "Our priest always does what he says himself; he practices what he preaches.  Never have we seen him allow himself any form of relaxation."

The priest of Ars subjected himself to a strict fast.  In this way he sought to reduce the requirements of his life to minimum.  One meal sufficed him for the whole day.  He abstained from alcohol except wine at holy Mass and normally ate only a little black bread and one or two potatoes cooked in water:  he would prepare sufficient of these to last him the whole week, keeping them in an earthenware pan, and often they were covered with a coating of mold.  Frequently he fasted for a whole day until, overcome, he would collapse from physical weakness.  In view of this mode of life he had no need, of course, of a housekeeper apart from the fact that his house stood almost empty anyway.  Since he considered that his self-mortification was all too inadequate, he had a special penitential garment made, which he wore next to his skin, and which, by reason of the constant friction against his body, was soon stained a reddish brown.  For the most part he slept on a bare mattress when he was not sleeping on a bundle of wood down in the cellar.

St. John Vianneys assiduity in the confessional and the hardships entailed thereby would, of themselves, have sufficed to raise him to high sanctity. However, he thirsted for mortifications as others thirst for pleasure, and he never had his fill of penance. He laid on himself the sacrifice never to enjoy the fragrance of a flower, never to taste fruit nor to drink, were it only a few drops of water, during the height of the summer heat. He would not brush away a fly that importuned him. When on his knees he would not rest his elbows on the kneeling bench. He had made a law unto himself never to show any dislike, and to hide all natural repugnances. He mortified the most legitimate curiosity: thus he never expressed so much as a wish to see the railway which passed by Ars at a distance of a few kilometers, and which daily brought him so many visitors. During the whole of his priestly life he never indulged in any light reading, not even that of a newspaper. The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith are the only periodical that he ever perused.

Regarding mortification, he once said, My friend, the devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one's food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God. Oh! How often have I experienced it! Whilst I was alone and I was alone during eight or nine years, and therefore quite free to yield to my attraction it happened at times that I refrained from food for entire days. On those occasions I obtained, both for myself and for others, whatsoever I asked of Almighty God.

St. John Vianney read much and often the lives of the saints, and became so impressed by their holy lives that he wanted for himself and others to follow their wonderful examples. The ideal of holiness enchanted him. This was the theme which underlay his sermons. We must practice mortification. For this is the path which all the Saints have followed, he said from the pulpit. He placed himself in that great tradition which leads the way to holiness through personal sacrifice. If we are not now saints, it is a great misfortune for us: therefore we must be so. As long as we have no love in our hearts, we shall never be Saints. The Saint, to him, was not an exceptional man before whom we should marvel, but a possibility which was open to all Catholics. Unmistakably did he declare in his sermons that to be a Christian and to live in sin is a monstrous contradiction. A Christian must be holy. With his Christian simplicity he had clearly thought much on these things and understood them by divine inspiration, while they are usually denied to the understanding of educated men.

The conversion of the whole parish was too unusual an occurrence for it to remain unknown.  From the year 1827, there began the famous stream of pilgrims to Ars.  People went to Ars from all parts of France, from Belgium, from England and even from America.  The principal motive which led all these crowds of pilgrims to the priest of Ars was purely the desire for him to hear their confession and to receive spiritual counsel from him.  They were driven to his thronged confessional by the longing to meet once and for all the priest who knew all about the reality of the soul.  The priest of Ars possessed the ability to see the human soul in its nakedness, freed of its body.  This grace is only rarely bestowed on men.  He never put his nose into the spiritual affairs of other people.  He was entirely free from inquisitiveness.  Like St. Francis de Sales, he had the gift of "seeing everything and not looking at anyone."  In confessing people this holy man, who had a fundamental knowledge of sin, strove after one thing only to save souls.  This was his ardent desire, and for the sake of it he suffered all the tortures of his daylong confinement in the confessional.  This great saint heard confessions from 13 to 17 hours a day, and could tell a penitent's sins even when they were withheld.  In order to save souls one must be possessed of that holy love of men which consumed the priest of Ars.  He would often weep in the confessional and when he was asked why he wept, he would reply:  "My friend, I weep because you do not weep."

The great miracle of the Cure d'Ars, someone has said, was his confessional, besieged day and night. It might be said with equal truth that his greatest miracle was the conversion of sinners: I have seen numerous and remarkable ones, the Abbe Raymond assures us, and they form the most beautiful chapter of the life of the Cur d'Ars. Oh, my friend, he often told me, 'only at the last judgment will it become known how many souls have here found their salvation.In reality, Jeanne-Marie Chanay writes, he made but small account of miraculous cures. The body is so very little, he used to repeat. That which truly filled him with joy was the return of souls to God. How many occasions he had for such joy! M. Prosper des Garets relates: I asked him one day how many big sinners he had converted in the course of the year. Over seven hundred, was his reply. Hence it is easy to understand the wish expressed by a Cure who made the pilgrimage to Ars: Those of my parishioners who go to M. Vianney become models. I wish I could take my whole parish to him.

One day, under the pretext of sending him on an errand, the Baronne de Belvey dispatched to M. Vianney a hardened sinner, who only set foot in the church at Christmas and Easter. It would seem that he had not been to confession since his first Communion. How long is it since you were last at Confession?, M. le Cure asked. Oh, forty years.Forty-four, the saint replied. The man took a pencil and made a hasty calculation on the plastering of the wall. Yes, it is quite true, he admitted, overcome with amazement. The sinner was converted and died a good death.

St. John Vianney possessed the gift of being able to understand the soul of a man in an instant, and, without any lengthy explanations, to feel at once what spiritual trouble was afflicting it.  He had a clear sighted vision which often enabled him to foretell to a man what would happen to him in the future.  This gift of God overpowered the people who visited his confessional, and to whom he granted a word of pardon.  The words and advice of the Cure were like darts; they penetrated deeply.  He said little, but his little was enough.  To a priest who complained about the indifference of people in his parish, St. John Vianney answered:  "You have preached, you have prayed, but have you fasted? Have you taken the discipline (a self imposed scourge)? Have you slept on the floor? So long as you have done none of these things, you have no right to complain."  To a mother of a large family, who was expecting another child, he said with fatherly kindness and consideration:  "Be comforted, my child.  If you only knew the women who will go to Hell because they did not bring into the world the children they should have given to it."

Miracles are signs of divine approval, though sanctity may exist without them. Had he wrought not a single miracle, the Cure d'Ars would yet call for our admiration. His life was in itself a daily prodigy. Ribadeneira, writing of St. Bernard in that volume of the Lives of the Saints which the Cure d'Ars was forever reading, says that the Abbot of Clairvaux was himself the first and greatest of all his miracles. This sentiment of the old hagiographer has been reechoed with no less felicity by one of M. Vianney's contemporaries namely, the worthy Jean Peretinand, the village schoolmaster, who was likewise the saint's friend and his occasional nurse. The most arduous, most extraordinary and most prodigious work that the Cure d'Ars accomplished was his own life. And his neighbor of Fareins, the Abbe Dubouis, declares that without supernatural assistance M. Vianney would have sunk under the crushing weight of his work. It is humanly inconceivable that, for the space of thirty years, he should have been equal to a task under the weight of which any other priest, however strong he might have been, would have quickly succumbed," says Canon Gardette. He was visibly helped by God, is the attestation of Pere Faivre. In conclusion we quote the opinion of one of the physicians who attended the holy Cur Knowing, as I do, his mode of life, I look upon his existence as extraordinary and beyond the range of a natural explanation, was the verdict of Doctor Michel, of Coligny. Hence we may conclude in the words of Paul Bourget: No, the era of miracles is not over, but to produce them saints are required and they are too few.

In the Process of his canonization, Mgr. Mermod, who was Cure of Gex at the time, relates the following incident: An incorrigible drunkard of Chaleins, my former parish, was converted by M. Vianney. During the three years that he lived afterwards that man never drank a drop of wine, and led an exemplary life. Now a striking thing happened. One day the good man called at the priest's residence; he was quite well, yet he wished to go to confession, giving as his reason that he was going to die. As he persisted in his request, I gave him absolution and Holy Communion. An hour later he was dead.

Mlle. Claudine Venet, of Viregneux, a small village of the canton of Saint-Galmier, in the Loire, was taken to Ars on February 1, 1850. In consequence of an attack of brain fever, she had become completely deaf and blind. M. Vianney had never seen her; no one had introduced her to him. On that February 1, she happened to be standing outside the church as he went by. Without speaking a word, he took her hand, led her into the sacristy and made her kneel down in the confessional. He had hardly given her his blessing when her sight and hearing returned. It seemed to her that she had awakened from a long dream. After her confession, the servant of God made the following amazing prophecy: Your eyes are healed, but you will become deaf for another twelve years. It is God's will that it should be so! On leaving the sacristy, Claudine Venet felt her ears closing once more. As a matter of fact, she could no longer hear anything. The infirmity lasted twelve years as foretold on this February 1, 1850. Calm and resigned, enjoying the sight that had been restored to her, the stricken woman awaited the day of her deliverance. Great was her emotion when, on January 18, 1862, she felt perfectly cured.

In 1854, a girl of Montchanin (Saone-et-Loire) of the name of Farnier, came to Ars to beg from M. Vianney the cure of her paralyzed leg. My child, the saint told her, you disobey your mother far too often, and answer her back in a disrespectful manner. If you wish the good God to cure you, you must correct that ugly defect. Oh! what a task lies before you! But remember one thing: you will indeed get well, but by degrees, according as you try to correct that defect. As soon as Mlle. Farnier returned home she endeavored to show more obedience and respect to her mother. Her crippled leg, which had been four inches shorter than the other, insensibly grew longer, and at the end of a few years her infirmity had wholly vanished.

His cousin, Marguerite Humbert, came one day to beg his prayers for one of her little daughters who was dangerously ill. She is ripe for heaven, he said without hesitation. As for you, my cousin, you need crosses to make you think of God.

Francoise Lebeau, a poor girl of Saint-Martin-de-Commune in the Saoneet-Loire, had become quite blind. She went with her mother on a pilgrimage to Ars. They begged their bread the whole way and slept in stables or sheds. To this poor girl M. Vianney did not fear to disclose something of the divine mystery of suffering, for his inspired gaze had fathomed her valiant spirit. My child, he said, you can be cured, but if the good God restores your sight, your salvation will be less assured; if, on the contrary, you consent to keep your infirmity, you will go to heaven, and I even guarantee that you will have a high place there. The blind girl understood; she no longer asked for a cure and left Ars in a state of perfect resignation to God's will. Nor had M. Vianney the courage to pity the mothers whose children died in infancy. I had the misfortune to lose one of my children aged five years, relates Mme. des Garets. This is what M. Vianney replied to my brother-in-law who brought the news to him: Happy mother, happy child! What a grace for both of them! How is it that this innocent little one has merited that its time of probation should have been shortened, to enable it to enter so soon into eternal bliss?

Even in the purely material order Ars appeared to be under a special protection. I have heard my mother say, Madeleine Mandy-Scripiot relates, that since 1825, the year she came to live in the parish, until the death of M. Vianney, there never was a hailstorm. She ascribed this protection to the merits of the servant of God, the more so as he himself was in the habit of asking for prayers that we might be spared the scourge. t has been remarked, Mlle. Marthe des Garets adds, that during the whole time of his ministry at Ars (41 years) no damage was ever done by storms.

Other supernatural favors also such as are met with in the lives of the greatest mystics fell to the lot of the Cur d'Ars. Thus he received in a plentiful measure the gift of tears. According to St. Teresa, these tears spring from a sentiment of ineffable tenderness towards God, or from the interior martyrdom endured by the soul when it sees God being offended. Those tears are caused by God and shed in ecstasy, Lacordaire writes. M. Vianney could never speak of sin and sinners without shedding tears. He sobbed all the time he was making the Stations of the Cross. When he distributed Holy Communion, tears would often trickle down upon his chasuble. In the last years of his life in particular, he could never preach about the Eucharist, the goodness and love of God, the happiness of heaven those were his favorite topics without being stopped by his tears.

Those who were in the closest contact with him, those who were most intimate with him were the first to proclaim his sanctity. They never discovered in his conduct a deliberate venial sin, says a priest of Ars. We have testimony of the Abbe Louis Beau, Cure of Jasans, who knew the saint more intimately than anyone else as he was his confessor during the last thirteen years of his life: I do not think that he slackened his effort for as much as a day. He discharged his duties as a priest and pastor with admirable delicacy of conscience and he persevered until death in a strict fulfillment of all his duties. I particularly noticed the manner in which he made the sign of the cross, recited grace before meals and the Ave Maria when the hour struck. I am still deeply moved by the remembrance of what I witnessed on those occasions. With what angelic piety he recited his Breviary! I cannot find words to express myself. I do not think it is possible to go any further in the practice of heroic virtues. When I read the Lives of the Saints I fail to discover in them anything exceeding that which I have witnessed in M. le Cure deArs. He was surrounded by a halo of sanctity. I cannot express with how much veneration and respect for his person he inspired me. It is my opinion that he had preserved the grace of his baptism, and to that grace he was constantly adding by the eminent sanctity of his life.

On Aug. 4, 1859, Fr. John Vianney gave up his soul to God. He had been parish priest of Ars for 41 years. In 1925, he received the highest honor of the Church by being canonized and placed in the index of the Saints. Today over 500,000 people visit every year this simple farming town where they come to see the incorrupt body of one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. The life of St. John Vianney is the story of a humble and holy man who barely succeeded in becoming a priest, but who converted thousands of sinners.


SERMONS OF THE CURE OF ARS

THE DREADFUL STATE OF THE LUKEWARM SOUL

In speaking to you today, my dear brethren, of the dreadful state of the lukewarm soul, my purpose is not to paint for you a terrifying and despairing picture of the soul which is living in mortal sin without even having the wish to escape from this condition. That poor unfortunate creature can but look forward to the wrath of God in the next life. Alas! These sinners hear me; they know well of whom I am speaking at this very moment.... We will go no further, for all that I would wish to say would serve only to harden them more.

In speaking to you, my brethren, of the lukewarm soul, I do not wish, either, to speak of those who make neither their Easter duty nor their annual Confession. They know very well that in spite of all their prayers and their other good works they will be lost. Let us leave them in their blindness, since they want to remain that way....

Nor do I understand, brethren, by the lukewarm soul, that soul who would like to be worldly without ceasing to be a child of God. You will see such a one at one moment prostrate before God, his Saviour and his Master, and the next moment similarly prostrate before the world, his idol.

Poor blind creature, who gives one hand to God and the other to the world, so that he can call both to his aid, and promise his heart to each in turn! He loves God, or rather, he would like to love Him, but he would also like to please the world. Then, weary of wanting to give his allegiance to both, he ends by giving it to the world alone. This is an extraordinary life and one which offers so strange a spectacle that it is hard to persuade oneself that it could be the life of one and the same person. I am going to show you this so clearly that perhaps many among you will be hurt by it. But that will matter little to me, for I am always going to tell you what I ought to tell you, and then you will do what you wish about it....

I would say further, my brethren, that whoever wants to please both the world and God leads one of the most unhappy of lives. You shall see how. Here is someone who gives himself up to the pleasures of the world or develops some evil habit.

How great is his fear when he comes to fulfil his religious duties; that is, when he says his prayers, when he goes to Confession, or wants to go to Holy Communion! He does not want to be seen by those with whom he has been dancing and passing nights at the cabarets, where he has been giving himself over to many kinds of licentiousness. Has he come to the stage when he is going to deceive his confessor by hiding the worst of his actions and thus obtain permission to go to Holy Communion, or rather, to commit a sacrilege? He would prefer to go to Holy Communion before or after Mass, that is to say, when there is no one present. Yet he is quite happy to be seen by the good people who know nothing about his evil life and among whom he would like to arouse good opinions about himself. In front of devout people he talks about religion. When he is with those who have no religion, he will talk only about the pleasures of the world. He would blush to fulfil his religious practices in front of his companions or those boys and girls who share his evil ways....

This is so true that one day someone asked me to allow him to go to Holy Communion in the sacristy so that no one would see him. Is it possible, my brethren, that one could think upon such horrible behaviour without shuddering?

But we shall proceed further and you will see the embarrassment of these poor people who want to follow the world without -- outwardly at any rate -- leaving God. Here is Easter approaching. They must go to Confession. It is not, of course, that they want to go or that they feel any urge or need to receive the Sacrament of Penance. They would be only too pleased if Easter came around about once every thirty years. But their parents still retain the exterior practice of religion. They will be happy if their children go to the altar, and they keep urging them, then, to go to Confession. In this, of course, they make a mistake. If only they would just pray for them and not torment them into committing sacrileges. So to rid themselves of the importunity of their parents, to keep up appearances, these people will get together to find out who is the best confessor to try for absolution for the first or second time

"Look," says one, "my parents keep nagging at me because I haven't been to Confession. Where shall we go?" "It is of no use going to our parish priest; he is too scrupulous. He would not allow us to make our Easter duty. We will have to try to find So-and-So. He let this one and that one go through, and they are worse than we are. We have done no more harm than they have."

Another will say: "I assure you that if it were not for my parents I would not make my Easter duty at all. Our catechism says that to make a good Confession we must give up sin and the occasions of sin, and we are doing neither the one nor the other. I tell you sincerely that I am really embarrassed every time Easter comes around. I will be glad when the time comes for me to settle down and to cease gallivanting. I will make a confession then of my whole life, to put right the ones I am making now. Without that I would not die happy."

"Well," another will say to him, "when that time comes you ought to go to the priest who has been hearing your confessions up to the present. He will know you best." "Indeed no! I will go to the one who would not give me absolution, because he would not want to see me damned either."

"My word, aren't you good! That means nothing at all. They all have the same power."

"That is a good thing to remember when we are doing what we ought to do. But when we are in sin, we think otherwise.

One day I went to see a girl who was pretty careless. She told me that she was not going back to Confession to the priests who were so easy and who, in making it seem as if they wanted to save you, pushed you into Hell."

That is how many of these poor blind people behave. I "Father," they will say to the priest, "I am going to Confession to you because our parish priest is too exacting. He wants to make us promise things which we cannot hold to. He would have us all saints, and that is not possible in the world. He would want us never to go to dances, nor to frequent cabarets or amusements. If someone has a bad habit, he will not give Absolution until the habit has been given up completely. If we had to do all that we should never make our Easter duty at all. My parents, who are very religious, are always after me to make my Easter duty. I will do all I can. But no one can say that he will never return to these amusements, since he never knows when he is going to encounter them."

"Ah!" says the confessor, quite deceived by this sincere sounding talk, "I think your parish priest is perhaps a little exacting. Make your act of contrition, and I will give you Absolution. Try to be good now."

That is to say: Bow your head; you are going to trample in the adorable Blood of Jesus Christ; you are going to sell your God like Judas sold Him to His executioners, and tomorrow you will go to Holy Communion, where you will proceed to crucify Him. What horror! What abomination! Go on, vile Judas, go to the holy table, go and give death to your God and your Saviour! Let your conscience cry out, only try to stifle its remorse as much as you can.... But I am going too far, my brethren. Let us leave these poor blind creatures in their gloom.

I think, brethren, that you would like to know what is the state of the lukewarm soul. Well, this is it. A lukewarm soul is not yet quite dead in the eyes of God because the faith, the hope, and the charity which are its spiritual life are not altogether extinct. But it is a faith without zeal, a hope without resolution, a charity without ardour....

Nothing touches this soul: it hears the word of God, yes, that is true; but often it just bores it. Its possessor hears it with difficulty, more or less by habit, like someone who thinks that he knows enough about it and does enough of what he should.

Any prayers which are a bit long are distasteful to him. This soul is so full of whatever it has just been doing or what it is going to do next, its boredom is so great, that this poor unfortunate thing is almost in agony. It is still alive, but it is not capable of doing anything to gain Heaven....

For the last twenty years this soul has been filled with good intentions without doing anything at all to correct its habits.

It is like someone who is envious of anyone who is on top of the world but who would not deign to lift a foot to try to get there himself. It would not, however, wish to renounce eternal blessings for those of the world. Yet it does not wish either to leave the world or to go to Heaven, and if it can just manage to pass its time without crosses or difficulties, it would never ask to leave this world at all. If you hear someone with such a soul say that life is long and pretty miserable, that is only when everything is not going in accordance with his desires. If God, in order to force such a soul to detach itself from temporal things, sends it any cross or suffering, it is fretful and grieving and abandons itself to grumbles and complaints and often even to a kind of despair. It seems as if it does not want to see that God has sent it these trials for its good, to detach it from this world and to draw it towards Himself. What has it done to deserve these trials? In this state a person thinks in his own mind that there are many others more blameworthy than himself who have not to submit to such trials.

In prosperous times the lukewarm soul does not go so far as to forget God, but neither does it forget itself. It knows very well how to boast about all the means it has employed to achieve its prosperity. It is quite convinced that many others would not have achieved the same success. It loves to repeat that and to hear it repeated, and every time it hears it, it is with fresh pleasure. The individual with the lukewarm soul assumes a gracious air when associating with those who flatter him. But towards those who have not paid him the respect which he believes he has deserved or who have not been grateful for his kindnesses, he maintains an air of frigid indifference and seems to indicate to them that they are ungrateful creatures who do not deserve to receive the good which he has done them....

If I wanted to paint you an exact picture, my brethren, of the state of a soul which lives in tepidity, I should tell you that it is like a tortoise or a snail. It moves only by dragging itself along the ground, and one can see it getting from place to place with great difficulty. The love of God, which it feels deep down in itself, is like a tiny spark of fire hidden under a heap of ashes.

The lukewarm soul comes to the point of being completely indifferent to its own loss. It has nothing left but a love without tenderness, without action, and without energy which sustains it with difficulty in all that is essential for salvation. But for all other means of Grace, it looks upon them as nothing or almost nothing. Alas, my brethren, this poor soul in its tepidity is like someone between two bouts of sleep. It would like to act, but its will has become so softened that it lacks either the force or the courage to accomplish its wishes.

It is true that a Christian who lives in tepidity still regularly -- in appearance at least -- fulfils his duties. He will indeed get down on his knees every morning to say his prayers. He will go to the Sacraments every year at Easter and even several times during the course of the twelve months. But in all of this there will be such a distaste, so much slackness and so much indifference, so little preparation, so little change in his way of life, that it is easy to see that he is only fulfilling his duties from habit and routine .... because this is a feast and he is in the habit of carrying them out at such a time. His Confessions and his Communions are not sacrilegious, if you like, but they are Confessions and Communions which bear no fruit -- which, far from making him more perfect and more pleasing to God, only make him more unworthy. As for his prayers, God alone knows what -- without, of course, any preparation -- he makes of these.

In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul; he is quite taken up with thoughts of work. His mind is so wrapped up in the things of earth that the thought of God has no place in it. He is thinking about what he is going to be doing during the day, where he will be sending his children and his various employees, in what way he will expedite his own work. To say his prayers, he gets down on his knees, undoubtedly, but he does not know what he wants to ask God, nor what he needs, nor even before whom he is kneeling. His careless demeanour shows this very clearly. It is a poor man indeed who, however miserable he is, wants nothing at all and loves his poverty. It is surely a desperately sick person who scorns doctors and remedies and clings to his infirmities.

You can see that this lukewarm soul has no difficulty, on the slightest pretext, in talking during the course of his prayers.

For no reason at all he will abandon them, partly at least, thinking that he will finish them in another moment. Does he want to offer his day to God, to say his Grace? He does all that, but often without thinking of the one who is addressed. He will not even stop working. If the possessor of the lukewarm soul is a man, he will turn his cap or his hat around in his hands as if to see whether it is good or bad, as though he had some idea of selling it. If it is a woman, she will say her prayers while slicing bread into her soup, or putting wood on the fire, or calling out to her children or maid. If you like, such distractions during prayer are not exactly deliberate. People would rather not have them, but because it is necessary to go to so much trouble and expend so much energy to get rid of them, they let them alone and allow them to come as they will.

The lukewarm Christian may not perhaps work on Sunday at tasks which seem to be forbidden to anyone who has even the slightest shred of religion, but doing some sewing, arranging something in the house, driving sheep to the fields during the times for Masses, on the pretext that there is not enough food to give them -- all these things will be done without the slightest scruple, and such people will prefer to allow their souls and the souls of their employees to perish rather than endanger their animals. A man will busy himself getting out his tools and his carts and harrows and so on, for the next day; he will fill in a hole or fence a gap; he will cut various lengths of cords and ropes; he will carry out the churns and set them in order. What do you think about all this, my brethren? Is it not, alas, the simple truth? ....

A lukewarm soul will go to Confession regularly, and even quite frequently. But what kind of Confessions are they? No preparation, no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether. The Confessions of such a person are merely repetitions of old ones, which would be a happy state of affairs indeed if there were nothing to add to them. Twenty years ago he was accusing himself of the same things he confesses today, and if he goes to Confession for the next twenty years, he will say the same things. A lukewarm soul will not, if you like, commit the big sins. But some slander or back-biting, a lie, a feeling of hatred, of dislike, of jealousy, a slight touch of deceit or double-dealing -- these count for nothing with it. If it is a woman and you do not pay her all the respect which she considers her due, she will, under the guise of pretending that God has been offended, make sure that you realise it; she could say more than that, of course, since it is she herself who has been offended. It is true that such a woman would not stop going to the Sacraments, but her dispositions are worthy of compassion.

On the day when she wants to receive her God, she spends part of the morning thinking of temporal matters. If it is a man, he will be thinking about his deals and his sales. If it is a married woman, she will be thinking about her household and her children. If it is a young girl, her thoughts will be on her clothes.

If it is a boy, he will be dreaming about passing pleasures and so on. The lukewarm soul shuts God up in an obscure and ugly kind of prison. Its possessor does not crucify Him, but God can find little joy or consolation in his heart. All his dispositions proclaim that his poor soul is struggling for the breath of life.

After having received Holy Communion, this person will hardly give another thought to God in all the days to follow. His manner of life tells us that he did not know the greatness of the happiness which had been his.

A lukewarm Christian thinks very little upon the state of his poor soul and almost never lets his mind run over the past. If the thought of making any effort to be better crosses his mind at all, he believes that once he has confessed his sins, he ought to be perfectly happy and at peace. He assists at Holy Mass very much as he would at any ordinary activity. He does not think at all seriously of what he is doing and finds no trouble in chatting about all sorts of things while on the way there. Possibly he will not give a single thought to the fact that he is about to participate in the greatest of all the gifts that God, all-powerful as He is, could give us. He does give some thought to the needs of his own soul, yes, but a very small and feeble amount of thought indeed. Frequently he will even present himself before the presence of God without having any idea of what he is going to ask of Him. He has few scruples in cutting out, on the least pretext, the Asperges and the prayers before Mass. During the course of the service, he does not want to go to sleep, of course, and he is even afraid that someone might see him, but he does not do himself any violence all the same. He does not want, of course, to have distractions during prayer or during the Holy Mass, yet when he should put up some little fight against them, he suffers them very patiently, considering the fact that he does not like them. Fast days are reduced to practically nothing, either by advancing the time of the main meal or, under the pretext that Heaven was never taken by famine, by making the collation so abundant that it amounts to a full meal. When he performs good or beneficial actions, his intentions are often very mixed -- sometimes it is to please someone, sometimes it is out of compassion, and sometimes it is just to please the world. With such people everything that is not a really serious sin is good enough. They like doing good, being faithful, but they wish that it did not cost them anything or, at least, that it cost very little. They would like to visit the sick, indeed, but it would be more convenient if the sick would come to them. They have something to give away in alms, they know quite well that a certain person has need of help, but they wait until she comes to ask them instead of anticipating her, which would make the kindness so very much more meritorious. We will even say, my brethren, that the person who leads a lukewarm life does not fail to do plenty of good works, to frequent the Sacraments, to assist regularly at all church services, but in all of this one sees only a weak, languishing faith, hope which the slightest trial will upset, a love of God and of neighbour which is without warmth or pleasure. Everything that such a person does is not entirely lost, but it is very nearly so.

See, before God, my brethren, on what side you are. On the side of the sinners, who have abandoned everything and plunge themselves into sin without remorse? On the side of the just souls, who seek but God alone? Or are you of the number of these slack, tepid, and indifferent souls such as we have just been depicting for you? Down which road are you travelling?

Who can dare assure himself that he is neither a great sinner nor a tepid soul but that he is one of the elect? Alas, my brethren, how many seem to be good Christians in the eyes of the world who are really tepid souls in the eyes of God, Who knows our inmost hearts....

Let us ask God with all our hearts, if we are in this state, to give us the grace to get out of it, so that we may take the route that all the saints have taken and arrive at the happiness that they are enjoying. That is what I desire for you....

 

HAVE YOU RELIGION IN YOUR HEART?

Alas, my dear brethren, what have we become even since our conversion? Instead of going always forward and increasing in holiness, what laziness and what indifference we display! God cannot endure this perpetual inconstancy with which we pass from virtue to vice and from vice to virtue. Tell me, my children, is not this the very pattern of the way you live? Are your poor lives anything other than a succession of good deeds and bad deeds? Is it not true that you go to Confession and the very next day you fall again -- or perhaps the very same day? .... How can this be, unless the religion you have is unreal, a religion of habit, a religion of long-standing custom, and not a religion rooted in the heart? Carry on, my friend; you are only a waverer! Carry on, my poor man; in everything you do, you are just a hypocrite and nothing else! God has not the first place in your heart; that is reserved for the world and the devil. How many people there are, my dear children, who seem to love God in real earnest for a little while and then abandon Him! What do you find, then, so hard and so unpleasant in the service of God that it has repelled you so strangely and caused you to change over to the side of the world? Yet at the time when God showed you the state of your soul, you actually wept for it and realised how much you had been mistaken in your lives. If you have persevered so little, the reason for this misfortune is that the devil must have been greatly grieved to have lost you because he has done so much to get you back. He hopes now to keep you altogether. How many apostates there are, indeed, who have renounced their religion and who are Christians in name only!

But, you will say to me, how can we know that we have religion in our hearts, this religion which is consistent?

My dear brethren, this is how: listen well and you will understand if you have religion as God wants you to have it in order to lead you to Heaven. If a person has true virtue, nothing whatever can change him; he is like a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea. If anyone scorns you, or calumniates you, if someone mocks at you or calls you a hypocrite or a sanctimonious fraud, none of this will have the least effect upon your peace of soul. You will love him just as much as you loved him when he was saying good things about you. You will not fail to do him a good turn and to help him, even if he speaks badly of your assistance. You will say your prayers, go to Confession, to Holy Communion, you will go to Mass, all according to your general custom.

To help you to understand this better, I will give you an example. It is related that in a certain parish there was a young man who was a model of virtue. He went to Mass almost every day and to Holy Communion often. It happened that another was jealous of the esteem in which this young man was held, and one day, when they were both in the company of a neighbour, who possessed a lovely gold snuffbox, the jealous one took it from its owner's pocket and placed it, unobserved, in the pocket of the young man. After he had done this, without pretending anything, he asked to see the snuffbox. The owner expected to find it in his pocket and was astonished when he discovered that it was missing. No one was allowed to leave the room until everyone had been searched, and the snuffbox was found, of course, on the young man who was a model of goodness. Naturally, everyone immediately called him a thief and attacked his religious professions, denouncing him as a hypocrite and a sanctimonious fraud. He could not defend himself, since the box had been found in his pocket. He said nothing. He suffered it all as something which had come from the hand of God. When he was walking along the street, when he was coming from the church, or from Mass or Holy Communion, everyone who saw him jeered at him and called him a hypocrite, a fraud, a thief. This went on for quite a long time, but in spite of it, he continued with all of his religious exercises, his Confessions, his Communions, and all of his prayers, just as if everyone were treating him with the utmost respect. After some years, the man who had been the cause of it all fell ill. To those who were with him he confessed that he had been the origin of all the evil things which had been said about this young man, who was a saint, and that through jealousy of him, so that he might destroy his good name, he himself had put the snuffbox in the young man's pocket.

There, my brethren, is a religion which is true, which has taken root in the soul. Tell me, if all of those poor Christians who make profession of religion were subjected to such trials, would they imitate this young man? Ah, my dear brethren, what murmurings there would be, what bitternesses, what thoughts of revenge, of slander, of calumny, even perhaps of going to law.... They would storm against religion; they would scorn and jeer at it and say nothing but ill of it; they would not be able to say their prayers any more; they would not be able to go to Mass; they would not know what more to do or to say to justify themselves; they would collect every item of harm that this or that person had done, tell it to others, repeat it to everyone who knew them in order to make them out as liars and calumniators. What is the reason for this conduct, my dear brethren? Surely it is that our religion is only one of whim, of long-standing habit and routine, and, if we were to put it more forcefully, because we are hypocrites who serve God just as long as everything is going according to our wishes. Alas, my dear brethren, all of these virtues which we observe in a great many apparent Christians are but like the flowers of spring, which one gust of hot wind can wither.

 

 

LOST WORKS

How is it, my dear brethren, that so few Christians behave with one end only in view -- to please God? Here is the reason, pure and simple. It is just that the vast majority of Christians are enveloped in the most shocking ignorance, so that, humanly speaking, they really do the very best they can.

The result is that if you were to compare their intentions with those of pagans, you would not find any difference. Ah, dear Lord, how many good works are lost for Heaven! Others who are a little better informed are interested only in the esteem of their fellow men, and they try to dissemble as much as they can: their exterior seems good, while interiorly they are filled with duplicity and evil. Yes, my dear brethren, we shall see at the Judgment that the largest section of Christians practiced a religion of whim or caprice only -- that is to say, the greatest number of them practiced their religion merely from motives of routine, and very few sought God alone in what they did.

 

 

WE ARE WRETCHED CREATURES

We cannot dwell upon the conduct of the Jews, my dear people, without being struck with amazement. These very people had waited for God for four thousand years, they had prayed much because of the great desire they had to receive Him, and yet when He came, He could not find a single person to give Him the poorest lodging. The all-powerful God was obliged to make His dwelling with the animals. And yet, my dear people, I find in the conduct of the Jews, criminal as it was, not a subject for explanations, but a theme for the condemnation of the conduct of the majority of Christians. We can see that the Jews had formed an idea of their Redeemer which did not conform with the state of austerity in which He appeared. It seemed as if they could not persuade themselves that this could indeed be He who was to be their Saviour; St. Paul tells us very clearly that if the Jews had recognised Him as God, they would never have put Him to death. There is, then, some small excuse for the Jews. But what excuse can we make, my dear brethren, for the coldness and the contempt which we show towards Jesus Christ? Oh, yes, we do indeed truly believe that Jesus Christ came upon earth, that He provided the most convincing proofs of His divinity. Hence the reason for our hope. We rejoice, and we have good reason to recognise Jesus Christ as our God, our Saviour, and our Model. Here is the foundation of our faith. But, tell me, with all this, what homage do we really pay Him? Do we do more for Him than if we did not believe all this? Tell me, dear brethren, does our conduct correspond at all to our beliefs? We are wretched creatures. We are even more blameworthy than the Jews.

 

 

ROUTINE FOLLOWERS

Ah, dear lord, what blindness! oh, ugly sin of hypocrisy which leads souls to hell with actions which, if they had been performed from genuine motives, would have brought them to Heaven! Unfortunately, such a large body of Christians do not know themselves and do not even try to know themselves. They follow routines and habits, and they do not want to see reason. They are blind, and they move along in their blindness. If a priest wants to tell them about the state they are in, they do not listen, and if they go through the pretence of listening, they will do nothing at all about what they are told. This state, my dear people, is the most unhappy state that anyone can possibly imagine, and it is perhaps the most dangerous one as well.

 

 

THE WORLD IS EVERYTHING GOD, NOTHING!

If people would do for god what they do for the world, my dear people, what a great number of Christians would go to Heaven! But if you, dear children, had to pass three or four hours praying in a church, as you pass them at a dance or in a cabaret, how heavily the time would press upon you! If you had to go to a great many different places in order to hear a sermon, as you go for your pastimes or to satisfy your avarice and greed, what pretexts there would be, and how many detours would be taken to avoid going at all. But nothing is too much trouble when done for the world. What is more, people are not afraid of losing either God or their souls or Heaven. With what good reason did Jesus Christ, my dear people, say that the children of this world are more zealous in serving their master, the world, than the children of light are in serving theirs, who is God. To our shame, we must admit that people fear neither expense, nor even going into debt, when it is a matter of satisfying their pleasures, but if some poor person asks them for help, they have nothing at all. This is true of so many: they have everything for the world and nothing at all for God because to them, the world is everything and God is nothing.

 

 

FOLLOW ONE MASTER ONLY

What a sad life does he lead who wants both to please the world and to serve God! It is a great mistake to make, my friends. Apart from the fact that you are going to be unhappy all the time, you can never attain the stage at which you will be able to please the world and please God. It is as impossible a feat as trying to put an end to eternity. Take the advice that I am going to give you now and you will be less unhappy: give yourselves wholly to God or else wholly to the world. Do not look for and do not serve more than one master, and once you have chosen the one you are going to follow, do not leave him. You surely remember what Jesus Christ said to you in the Gospel: you cannot serve God and Mammon; that is to say, you cannot follow the world and the pleasures of the world and Jesus Christ with His Cross. Of course you would be quite willing to follow God just so far and the world just so far! Let me put it even more clearly: you would like it if your conscience, if your heart, would allow you to go to the altar in the morning and the dance in the evening; to spend part of the day in church and the remainder in the cabarets or other places of amusement; to talk of God at one moment and the next to tell obscene stories or utter calumnies about your neighbour; to do a good turn for your next-door neighbour on one occasion and on some other to do him harm; in other words, to do good and speak well when you are with good people and to do wrong when you are in bad company.

 

 

THEY ARE FOR THE WORLD

One section, and perhaps it is the largest section, of people everywhere are wholly wrapped up in the things of this world. And of this large number there are those who are content to have suppressed all feeling of religion, all thought of another life, who have done everything in their power to efface the terrible thought of the judgment which one day they will have to undergo. They employ all their wiles, and often their wealth, during the course of their lives to attract to their way of life as many people as they can. They no longer believe in anything. They even take a pride in making themselves out to be more impious and incredulous than they really are in order to convince others and to make them believe, not in the verities, but in the falsehoods which they wish to take root in the hearts of those under their influence.

Voltaire, in the course of a dinner given one day for his friends -- that is, for the impious -- rejoiced that of all those present, there was not one who believed in religion. And yet he himself did believe, as he was to show at the hour of his death.

Then he demanded with great earnestness that a priest should be brought to him that he might make his peace with God.

But it was too late. God, against whom he had fought and spoken with such fury all his life, dealt with him as He had with Antiochus: He abandoned him to the fury of the devils. At that dread moment, Voltaire had only despair and the thought of eternal damnation as his lot. The Holy Ghost tells us: "The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God." But it is only the corruption of his heart which could carry man to such an excess; he does not believe it in the depths of his soul. The words "There is a God" will never entirely disappear. The greatest sinner will often utter them without even thinking of what he is saying. But let us leave these blasphemous people aside. Happily, though you may not be as good Christians as you ought to be, thanks be to God you are not of that company.

But, you will say to me, who are these people who are partly on God's side and partly on the side of the world? Well, my dear children, let me describe them. I will compare them (if I may dare to make use of the term) to dogs who will run to the first person who calls them. You may follow them from the morning to the evening, from the beginning of the year to the end. These people look upon Sunday as merely a day for rest and amusement. They stay in bed longer than on weekdays, and instead of giving themselves to God with all their hearts, they do not even think of Him. Some of them will be thinking of their amusements, others of people they expect to meet, still others of the sales they are about to make or the money they will be spending or receiving. With great difficulty they will manage the Sign of the Cross in some fashion or another. Because they will be going to church later, they will omit their prayers altogether, saying: "Oh, I'll have plenty of time to say them before Mass." They always have something to do before setting out for Mass, and although they have been planning to say their prayers before setting out, they are barely in time for the beginning of the Mass itself. If they meet a friend along the road, it is no trouble to them to bring him back home and put off the Mass until a later hour.

But since they still want to appear Christian, they will go to Mass sometime later, though it will be with infinite boredom and reluctance. The thought in their minds will be: "Oh, Lord, will this ever be over!" You will see them in church, especially during the instruction, looking around from one side to the other, asking the person next to them for the time, and so on.

More of them yawn and stretch and turn the pages of their prayer book as if they were examining it in order to see whether the printer had made any mistakes. There are others, and you can see them sleeping as soundly as if they were in a comfortable bed. The first thought that comes to them when they awake is not that they have been profaning so holy a place but: "Oh, Lord, this will never be over.... I'm not coming back any more." And finally there are those to whom the word of God (which has converted so many sinners) is actually nauseating.

They are obliged to go out, they say, to get a breath of air or else they would die. You will see them, distressed and miserable, during the services. But no sooner is the service over (and often even before the priest has actually left the altar) than they will be pressing around the door from which the first of the congregation are streaming out, and you will notice that all the joy which they had lost during the service has come back again.

They are so tired that often they have not the "strength" to come back to the evening service. If you were to ask them why they were not coming to this, they would tell you: "Ah, we would have to be all the day in the church. We have other things to do."

For such people there is no question of instruction, nor of the Rosary, nor of evening prayers. They look upon all these things as of no consequence. If you asked them what had been said during the instruction, they would say: "He did too much shouting.... He bored us to death.... I can't remember anything else about it.... If it hadn't been so long, it might have been easier to remember some of it.... That is just what keeps the world away from religious services -- they are too long."

It is quite right to say "the world" because these people belong to the camp of "the worldly," although they do not know it.

But now we shall try to make them understand things a little better (at least if they want to). But, being deaf and blind (as they are), it is very difficult to make them understand the words of life or to comprehend their own unhappy state. To begin with, they never make the Sign of the Cross before a meal or say Grace afterwards, nor do they recite the Angelus. If, as a result of some old habit or training, they still observe these practices and you should happen to see the manner in which they carry them out, you would feel sick: the women will simultaneously be getting on with their work or calling to their children or members of the household; the men will be turning a hat or a cap around in their hands as if searching for holes. They think as much about God as if they really believed that He did not exist at all and that they were doing all this for a joke. They have no scruples about buying or selling on the holy day of Sunday, even though they know, or at least they should know, that dealing on a reasonably big scale on a Sunday, when there is no necessity for it, is a mortal sin. Such people regard all such facts as trifles. They will go into a parish on a holy day to hire labourers, and if you told them they were doing wrong, they would reply: "We must go when we can find them there." They have no problem, either, about paying their taxes on a Sunday because during the week they might have to go a little further and take a few moments longer to complete the job.

"Ah," you will say to me, "we wouldn't think much of all that." You would not think much of all that, my dear people, and I am not at all surprised, because you are worldly. You would like to be followers of God and at the same time to satisfy the standards of the world. Do you realise, my children, who these people are? They are the people who have not entirely lost the faith and to whom there still remains some attachment to the service of God, the people who do not want to give up all religious practices, for indeed, they themselves find fault with those who do not go often to the services, but they have not enough courage to break with the world and to turn to God's side. They do not wish to be damned, but neither do they wish to inconvenience themselves too much. They hope that they will be saved without having to do too much violence to themselves. They have the idea that God, being so good, did not create them for perdition and that He will pardon them in spite of everything; that the time will come when they will turn over to God; that they will correct their faults and abandon all their bad habits. If, in moments of reflection, they pass their petty lives before their eyes, they will lament for their faults, and sometimes they will even weep for them....

What a very tragic life such people lead, my children, who want to follow the ways of the world without ceasing to be the children of God. Let us go on a little further and you will be able to understand this a little more clearly and to see for yourselves how stupid indeed such a life can be. At one moment you will hear the people who lead it praying or making an act of contrition, and the next moment you will hear them, if something is not going the way they want it, swearing or maybe even using the holy name of God. This morning you may have seen them at Mass, singing or listening to the praises of God, and on the very same day you will hear them giving vent to the most scandalous utterances. They will dip their hands in holy water and ask God to purify them from their sins; a little later they will be using those very hands in an impure way upon themselves or upon others. The same eyes which this morning had the great happiness of contemplating Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament will in the course of the day voluntarily rest with pleasure upon the most immodest objects. Yesterday you saw a certain man doing an act of charity or a service for a neighbour; today he will be doing his best to cheat that neighbour if he can profit thereby. A moment ago this mother desired all sorts of blessings for her children, and now, because they are annoying her, she will shower all sorts of curses upon them: she wishes she might never see them again, that she was miles away from them, and ends up by consigning them to the Devil to rid herself of them! At one moment she sends her children to Mass or Confession; at another, she will be sending them to the dance or, at least, she will pretend not to know that they are there or forbid them to go with a laugh which is tantamount to permission to go. At one time she will be telling her daughter to be reserved and not to mix with bad companions, and at another she will allow her to pass whole hours with young men without saying a word. It's no use, my poor mother, you are on the side of the world! You think yourself to be on God's side by reason of some exterior show of religion which you make.

You are mistaken; you belong to that number of whom Jesus Christ has said: "Woe to the world...."

You see these people who think they are following God but who are really living up to the maxims of the world. They have no scruples about taking from their neighbour wood or fruit or a thousand and one other things. Whenever they are flattered for what they do for religion, they derive quite a lot of pleasure from their actions. They will be quite keen then and will be delighted to give good advice to others. But let them be subjected to any contempt or calumny and you will see them become discouraged and distressed because they have been treated in this way. Yesterday they wanted only to do good to anyone who did them harm, but today they can hardly tolerate such people, and often they cannot even endure to see them or to speak to them.

Poor worldlings! How unhappy you are! Go on with your daily round; you have nothing to hope for but Hell! Some would like to go to the Sacraments at least once a year, but for that, it is necessary to find an easygoing confessor. They would like .... if only -- and there is the whole problem. If they find a confessor who sees that their dispositions are not good and he refuses them Absolution, you will then find them thundering against him, justifying themselves for all they are worth for having tried and failed to obtain the Sacrament. They will speak evil about him. They know very well why they have been refused and left in their sinful state, but, as they know, too, the confessor can do nothing to grant them what they want, so they get satisfaction by saying anything they wish.

Carry on, children of this world, carry on with your daily round; you will see a day you never wished to see! It would seem then that we must divide our hearts in two! But no, my friends, that is not the case; all for God or all for the world.

You would like to frequent the Sacraments? Very well, then, give up the dances and the cabarets and the unseemly amusements. Today you have sufficient grace to come here and present yourselves at the tribunal of Penance, to kneel before the Holy Table, to partake of the Bread of the Angels. In three or four weeks, maybe less, you will be seen passing your night among drunken men, and what is more, you will be seen indulging in the most horrible acts of impurity. Carry on, children of this world; you will soon be in Hell! They will teach you there what you should have done to get to Heaven, which you have lost entirely through your own fault....

Woe betide you, children of this world! Carry on; follow your master as you have done up to the present! Very soon you will see clearly that you have been mistaken in following his ways. But will that make you any wiser? No, my children, it will not. If someone cheats us once, we say: "We will not trust him any more -- and with good reason." The world cheats us continually and yet we love it." Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world," St. John warns us. Ah, my dear children, if we gave some thought to what the world really is, we should pass all our lives in bidding it farewell. When one reaches the age of fifteen years, one has said farewell to the pastimes of childhood; one has come to look upon them as trifling and ephemeral, as one would the actions of children building houses of cards or sand castles. At thirty, one has begun to put behind one the consuming pleasures of passionate youth. What gave such intense pleasure in younger days is already beginning to weary. Let us go further, my dear children, and say that every day we are bidding farewell to the world.

We are like travellers who enjoy the beauty of the countryside through which they are passing. No sooner do they see it than it is time for them to leave it behind. It is exactly the same with the pleasures and the good things to which we become so attached. Then we arrive at the edge of eternity, which engulfs all these things in its abyss.

It is then, my dear brethren, that the world will disappear forever from our eyes and that we shall recognise our folly in having been so attached to it. And all that has been said to us about sin! .... Then we shall say: It was all true. Alas, I lived only for the world, I sought nothing but the world in all I did, and now the pleasures and the joys of the world are not for me any longer! They are all slipping away from me -- this world which I have loved so well, these joys, these pleasures which have so fully occupied my heart and my soul! ....

Now I must return to my God! .... How consoling this thought is, my dear children, for him who has sought only God throughout his life! But what a despairing thought for him who has lost sight of God and of the salvation of his soul!

 

 

WE ARE EXTRAORDINARILY BLIND

We must certainly be extraordinarily blind because when all is said and done, there is not a single person who could say that he is ready to appear before Jesus Christ.

Yet in spite of the fact that we are quite aware of this, there is still not one among us who will take a single step nearer to God.

Dear Lord, how blind the sinner is! How pitiable is his lot! My dear children, let us not live like fools any longer, for at the moment when we least expect it, Jesus Christ will knock at our door. How happy then will be the person who has not been waiting until that very moment to prepare himself for Him.

That is what I wish you to be.

 

 

NOT LIKE THE OTHERS

I am not like the others! That, my dear brethren, is the usual tone of false virtue and the attitude of those proud people who, always quite satisfied with themselves, are at all times ready to censure and to criticise the conduct of others. That, too, is the attitude of the rich, who look upon the poor as if they were of a different race or nature from them and who behave towards them accordingly.

Let us go one better, my dear brethren, and admit that it is the attitude of most of the world. There are very few people, even in the lowliest conditions, who do not have a good opinion of themselves. They regard themselves as far superior to their equals, and their detestable pride urges them to believe that they are indeed worth a great deal more than most other people. From this I conclude that pride is the source of all the vices and the cause of all the evils which have occurred, and which are still to come, in the course of the centuries. We carry our blindness so far that often we even glorify ourselves on account of things which really ought to cover us with confusion. Some derive a great deal of pride because they believe that they have more intelligence than others; others because they have a few more inches of land or some money, when in fact they should be in dread of the formidable account which God will demand of them one day. Oh, my dear brethren, if only some of them felt the need to say the prayer that St. Augustine addressed to God: "My God, teach me to know myself for what I am and I shall have no need of anything else to cover me with confusion and scorn for myself."

We could say that this sin is found everywhere, that it accompanies man in what he does and says. It is like a kind of seasoning or flavouring which can be tasted in every portion of a dish. Listen to me for a moment and you can see this for yourselves. Our Lord gives us an example in the Gospel when He tells us of the Pharisee who went up into the temple to pray and, standing up where all could see him, said in a loud voice: "O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men steeped in sin. I spend my life doing good and pleasing you." Herein consists the very nature of the proud man: instead of thanking God for condescending to make use of him for a good purpose and for giving him grace, he looks upon whatever good he does as something which comes from himself, not from God. Let us go into a few details and you will see that there are hardly any exceptions to this general sin of pride. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, all suffer from it. Each and everyone congratulates himself and flatters himself because of what he is or of what he does -- or rather because of what he is not and what he does not. Everyone applauds himself and loves also to be applauded. Everyone rushes to solicit the praises of the rest of the world, and everyone strives to draw them to himself. In this way are the lives of the great majority of people passed.

The door by which pride enters with the greatest ease and strength is the door of wealth. Just as soon as someone improves his possessions and his sources of wealth, you will observe him change his mode of life. He will act as Jesus Christ told us the Pharisees liked to act: these people love to be called master and to have people saluting them. They like the first places. They begin to appear in better clothes. They leave behind their air of simplicity. If you salute them, they will, with difficulty, nod to you without raising their hats. Walking with their heads in the air, they will study to find the finest words for everything, though quite often they do not even know the meaning of the words, and they love to repeat them. In order to show that his wealth has been increased, this man will make your head swim with stories of the legacies he is going to receive. Others are preoccupied with their labours to become highly esteemed and praised. If one of them has succeeded in some undertaking, he will rush to make it known as widely as possible so that his would-be wisdom and cleverness may be spread far and wide. If another has said something which has gained approval or interest, he will deafen everyone he knows with repetition of it, until they are bored to death and make fun of him. If such vain and boastful people do any travelling at all, you will hear them exaggerating a hundred times all that they said and did to such an extent that you feel sorry for the people who have to listen to them. They think that they appear very brilliant, though people are scoffing at them in secret. No one can stop them from talking about themselves: one well known braggart convinced himself that people believed everything he said! ....

Observe a person of some standing scrutinising the work of someone else. He will find a hundred faults with it and will say: "Ah, what can you expect? He does not know any better!"

But since the proud person never depreciates the merit of someone else without increasing his own importance, he will hurry on then to speak of some work which he has done, which SO-and-So has considered so well executed that he has talked about it to many others.

Take a young woman who has a shapely figure or who, at any rate, thinks she has. You see her walking along, picking her steps, full of affectation, with a pride which seems colossal enough to reach the clouds! If she has plenty of clothes, she will leave her wardrobe open so that they can be seen. People take pride in their animals and in their households. They take pride in knowing how to go to Confession properly, in saying their prayers, in behaving modestly and decorously in the church. A mother takes pride from her children. You will hear a landowner whose fields are in better condition than those of his neighbours criticising these and applauding his own superior knowledge. Or it may be a young man with a watch, or perhaps only the chain, and a couple of coins in his pocket, and you will hear him saying, "I did not know that it was so late," so that people will see him looking at the watch or will know that he has one. You may observe a man gambling; he may have but two coins to spare, but he will have all he possesses in his hand, and sometimes even what is not his. Or indeed, he will even pretend that he has more than he really has. How many people even borrow, either money or clothes, just to go to places of gambling or other kinds of pleasure.

No, my dear brethren, there is nothing that is quite as ridiculous or stupid as to be forever talking about what we have or what we do. Just listen to the father of a family when his children are of an age to get married; in all the places and gatherings where he is to be found you will hear him saying: "I have so many thousand francs ready; my business will give me so many thousands, etc."

But if later he is asked for a few coppers for the poor, he has nothing.

If a tailor or a dressmaker has made a success of a coat or a frock and someone seeing the wearer pass says, "That looks very well. I wonder who made it?" they will make very sure to observe: "Oh, I made that."

Why? So that everyone may know how skilful they are.

But if the garment had not been such a success, they would, of course, take good care to say nothing, for fear of being humiliated. The housewives in their own domain ....[sentence incomplete]

And I will add this to what I have just said. This sin is even more to be feared in people who put on a good show of piety and religion.

 

 

THE EVIL TONGUES

There are some who, through envy, for that is what it amounts to, belittle and slander others, especially those in the same business or profession as their own, in order to draw business to themselves. They will say such evil things as "their merchandise is worthless" or "they cheat"; that they have nothing at home and that it would be impossible to give goods away at such a price; that there have been many complaints about these goods; that they will give no value or wear or whatever it is, or even that it is short weight, or not the right length, and so on. A workman will say that another man is not a good worker, that he is always changing his job, that people are not satisfied with him, or that he does no work, that he only puts in his time, or perhaps that he does not know how to work.

"What I was telling you there," they will then add, "it would be better to say nothing about it. He might lose by it, you know."

"Is that so?" you answer." It would have been better if you yourself had said nothing. That would have been the thing to do."

A farmer will observe that his neighbour's property is doing better than his own. This makes him very angry so he will speak evil of him. There are others who slander their neighbours from motives of vengeance. If you do or say something to help someone, even through reasons of duty or of charity, they will then look for opportunities to decry you, to think up things which will harm you, in order to revenge themselves. If their neighbour is well spoken of, they will be very annoyed and will tell you: "He is just like everyone else. He has his own faults. He has done this, he has said that. You didn't know that? Ah, that is because you have never had anything to do with him."

A great many people slander others because of pride. They think that by depreciating others they will increase their own worth. They want to make the most of their own alleged good qualities. Everything they say and do will be good, and everything that others say and do will be wrong.

But the great bulk of malicious talk is done by people who are simply irresponsible, who have an itch to chatter about others without feeling any need to discover whether what they are saying is true or false. They just have to talk. Yet, although these latter are less guilty than the others -- that is to say, than those who slander and backbite through hatred or envy or revenge -- yet they are not free from sin. Whatever the motive that prompts them, they should not sully the reputation of their neighbour.

It is my belief that the sin of scandalmongering includes all that is most evil and wicked. Yes, my dear brethren, this sin includes the poison of all the vices -- the meanness of vanity, the venom of jealousy, the bitterness of anger, the malice of hatred, and the flightiness and irresponsibility so unworthy of a Christian.... Is it not, in fact, scandalmongering which sows almost all discord and disunity, which breaks up friendships and hinders enemies from reconciling their quarrels, which disturbs the peace of homes, which turns brother against brother, husband against wife, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law and son-in-law against father-in-law? How many united households have been turned upside down by one evil tongue, so that their members could not bear to see or to speak to one another? And one malicious tongue, belonging to a neighbour, man or woman, can be the cause of all this misery....

Yes, my dear brethren, the evil tongue of one scandalmonger poisons all the virtues and engenders all the vices. It is from that malicious tongue that a stain is spread so many times through a whole family, a stain which passes from fathers to children, from one generation to the next, and which perhaps is never effaced. The malicious tongue will follow the dead into the grave; it will disturb the remains of these unfortunates by making live again the faults which were buried with them in that resting place. What a foul crime, my dear brethren! Would you not be filled with fiery indignation if you were to see some vindictive wretch rounding upon a corpse and tearing it into a thousand pieces? Such a sight would make you cry out in horror and compassion. And yet the crime of continuing to talk of the faults of the dead is much greater. A great many people habitually speak of someone who has died something after this fashion: "Ah, he did very well in his time! He was a seasoned drinker.

He was as cute as a fox. He was no better than he should have been."

But perhaps, my friend, you are mistaken, and although everything may have been exactly as you have said, perhaps he is already in Heaven, perhaps God has pardoned him. But, in the meantime, where is your charity?

 

 

A PUBLIC PLAGUE

As you know my dear brethren, we are bound as fellow creatures to have human sympathy and feelings for one another. Yet one envious person would like, if he possibly could, to destroy everything good and profitable belonging to his neighbour. You know, too, that as Christians we must have boundless charity for our fellow men. But the envious person is far removed indeed from such virtues. He would be happy to see his fellow man ruin himself. Every mark of God's generosity towards his neighbour is like a knife thrust that pierces his heart and causes him to die in secret. Since we are all members of the same Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, we should so strive that unity, charity, love, and zeal can be seen in one and all. To make us all happy, we should rejoice, as St. Paul tells, in the happiness of our fellow men and mourn with those who have cares or troubles. But, very far from experiencing such feelings, the envious are forever uttering scandals and calumnies against their neighbours. It appears to them that in this way they can do something to assuage and sweeten their vexation.

But, unfortunately, we have not said all that can be said about envy. This is the deadly vice which hurls kings and emperors from their thrones. Why do you think, my dear brethren, that among these kings, these emperors, these men who occupy the first places in the world of men, some are driven out of their places of privilege, some are poisoned, others are stabbed? It is simply because someone wants to rule in their place. It is not the food, nor the drink, nor the habitations that the authors of such crimes want. Not at all. They are consumed with envy.

Take another example. Here is a merchant who wants to have all the business for himself and to leave nothing at all for anyone else. If someone leaves his store to go elsewhere, he will do his best to say all the evil he can, either about the rival businessman himself or else about the quality of what he sells. He will take all possible means to ruin his rival's reputation, saying that the other's goods are not of the same quality as his own or that the other man gives short weight. You will notice, too, than an envious man like this has a diabolical trick to add to all this: "It would not do," he will tell you, "for you to say this to anyone else; it might do harm and that would upset me very much. I am only telling you because I would not like to see you being cheated."

A workman may discover that someone else is now going to work in a house where previously he was always employed.

This angers him greatly, and he will do everything in his power to run down this "interloper" so that he will not be employed there after all.

Look at the father of a family and see how angry he becomes if his next-door neighbour prospers more than he or if the neighbour's land produces more. Look at a mother: she would like it if people spoke well of no children except hers. If anyone praises the children of some other family to her and does not say something good of hers, she will reply, "They are not perfect," and she will become quite upset. How foolish you are, poor mother! The praise given to others will take nothing from your children.

Just look at the jealousy of a husband in respect of his wife or of a wife in respect of her husband. Notice how they inquire into everything the other does and says, how they observe everyone to whom the other speaks, every house into which the other enters. If one notices the other speaking to someone, there will be accusations of all sorts of wrongdoing, even though the whole episode may have been completely innocent.

This is surely a cursed sin which puts a barrier between brothers and sisters, too. The very moment that a father or a mother gives more to one member of the family than the others, you will see the birth of this jealous hatred against the parent or against the favoured brother or sister -- a hatred which may last for years, and sometimes even for a lifetime. There are children who keep a watchful eye upon their parents just to insure that they will not give any sort of gift or privilege to one member of the family. If this should occur in spite of them, there is nothing bad enough that they will not say.

We can see that this sin makes its first appearance among children. You will notice the petty jealousies they will feel against one another if they observe any preferences on the part of the parents. A young man would like to be the only one considered to have intelligence, or learning, or a good character. A girl would like to be the only one who is loved, the only one well dressed, the only one sought after; if others are more popular than she, you will see her fretting and upsetting herself, even weeping, perhaps, instead of thanking God for being neglected by creatures so that she may be attached to Him alone. What a blind passion envy is, my dear brethren! Who could hope to understand it?

Unfortunately, this vice can be noted even among those in whom it should never be encountered -- that is to say, among those who profess to practice their religion. They will take note of how many times such a person remains to go to Confession or of how So-and-So kneels or sits when she is saying her prayers. They will talk of these things and criticise the people concerned, for they think that such prayers or good works are done only so that they may be seen, or in other words, that they are purely an affectation. You may tire yourself out telling them that their neighbour's actions concern him alone. They are irritated and offended if the conduct of others is thought to be superior to their own.

You will see this even among the poor. If some kindly person gives a little bit extra to one of them, they will make sure to speak ill of him to their benefactor in the hope of preventing him from benefiting on any further occasion. Dear Lord, what a detestable vice this is! It attacks all that is good, spiritual as well as temporal.

We have already said that this vice indicates a mean and petty spirit. That is so true that no one will admit to feeling envy, or at least no one wants to believe that he has been attacked by it. People will employ a hundred and one devices to conceal their envy from others. If someone speaks well of another in our presence, we keep silence: we are upset and annoyed. If we must say something, we do so in the coldest and most unenthusiastic fashion. No, my dear children, there is not a particle of charity in the envious heart. St. Paul has told us that we must rejoice in the good which befalls our neighbour.

Joy, my dear brethren, is what Christian charity should inspire in us for one another. But the sentiments of the envious are vastly different.

I do not believe that there is a more ugly and dangerous sin than envy because it is hidden and is often covered by the attractive mantle of virtue or of friendship. Let us go further and compare it to a lion which we thought was muzzled, to a serpent covered by a handful of leaves which will bite us without our noticing it. Envy is a public plague which spares no one.

We are leading ourselves to Hell without realising it.

But how are we then to cure ourselves of this vice if we do not think we are guilty of it? I am quite certain that of the thousands of envious souls honestly examining their consciences, there would not be one ready to believe himself belonging to that company. It is the least recognised of sins.

Some people are so profoundly ignorant that they do not recognise a quarter of their ordinary sins. And since the sin of envy is more difficult to know, it is not surprising that so few confess it and correct it. Because they are not guilty of the big public sins committed by coarse and brutalised people, they think that the sins of envy are only little defects in charity, when, in fact, for the most part, these are serious and deadly sins which they are harbouring and tending in their hearts, often without fully recognising them.

"But," you may be thinking in your own minds, "if I really recognised them, I would do my best to correct them."

If you want to be able to recognise them, my dear brethren, you must ask the Holy Ghost for His light. He alone will give you this grace. No one could, with impunity, point out these sins to you; you would not wish to agree nor to accept them; you would always find something which would convince you that you had made no mistake in thinking and acting in the way you did. Do you know yet what will help to make you know the state of your soul and to uncover this evil sin hidden in the secret recesses of your heart? It is humility. Just as pride will hide it from you, so will humility reveal it to you.

 

 

YOUR HEART IS BUT A MASS OF PRIDE

You will tell me, perhaps, that you never judge people except by what you see or after you have actually heard or been the witness of some action: "I saw him doing this action, so I am sure. I heard what he said with my own ears. After that, I could not be mistaken."

But I shall reply by telling you to begin by entering into your own heart, which is but a mass of pride wherein everything is dried up. You will find yourself infinitely more guilty than the person whom you are so boldly judging, and you have plenty of room for fear, lest one day you will see him going to Heaven while you are being dragged down to Hell by the demons." Oh, unfortunate pride," says St. Augustine to us, "you dare to judge your brother on the slightest appearance of evil, and how do you know that he has not repented of his fault and that he is not numbered among God's friends? Take care rather that he does not take the place which your pride is putting you in great danger of losing."

Yes, my dear brethren, all these rash judgments and all these interpretations come only from a person who has a secret pride, who does not know himself, and who dares to wish to know the interior life of his neighbour, something which is known to God alone. If only, my dear children, we were able to arrive at the stage of eradicating this first of the capital sins from our hearts, our neighbour would never do any wrong according to us. We should never amuse ourselves by examining his conduct. We should be content to do nothing else save weep for our own sins and work as hard as we could to correct them.

 

 

THE TONGUE OF THE SCANDAL-MONGER

Anyone who is unfortunate enough to come under the tongue of the scandalmonger is like a grain of corn under the grinding stone in a mill: he is torn, crushed, entirely destroyed. People like these will fasten onto you intentions that you never had; they will poison all your actions and your movements. If you have enough piety to wish to fulfil your religious duties, you are only a hypocrite, an angel in the church and a demon in the house. If you do any good or charitable works, they will think that this is just through pride and so that you may gain notice. If you are not worldly and not interested in worldly affairs, you are said to be odd and singular and to have no spirit. If you look after your own affairs carefully, you are nothing but a miser. Let me go further, my dear brethren, and say that the tongue of the scandalmonger is like the worm which gnaws at the good fruit -- that is, the best actions that people do -- and tries to turn all to bad account.

The tongue of the scandalmonger is a grub which taints the most beautiful of the flowers and upon them leaves behind it the disgusting trace of is own slime.

 

 

OH, EVERYONE SAYS SO!

Have you ever listened to someone speaking well of a young woman and recounting her good qualities? Someone else will certainly tell you that if this young woman has good qualities, she has plenty of bad ones, too.... She is frequenting the company of So-and-So, who does not have a good reputation.... I am very full sure they are not seeing each other for any good purpose.... And what about this other woman, who is always so well dressed and who keeps her children dressed up, too? .... She would do much better to pay her debts.... And then there is this other one: she always seems good and pleasant to everyone, but if you knew her as well as I do, you would have a different opinion.... She only puts on all these smiles as a blind.... Such and such a man is going to ask her to marry him, but if he asked my advice, I could tell him a few things he doesn't know....

"Who is that person going past?" asks someone else.

"Ah, well, if you don't know her, it's no great loss. I won't say any more about her. Keep out of her company -- it's a cause of scandal. Everyone thinks so. Listen, the very worst people are ones like her who put up to be good and holy. Anyway, it's always the way that the people who want to pass for virtuous or pious are the most wicked and spiteful."

"She must have done you some grave harm. Has she?"

"Oh, no! But you know well that they are all the same. I happened to be with one of my oldest acquaintances one day, and I discovered that he was quite a heavy drinker and a real blackguard."

"Maybe he did something which angered you?" the other will say.

"Ah, no, he never said anything to me which shouldn't have been said, but everyone thinks that of him."

"If it weren't you who told me, I would never have believed"

"When he's with people who do not know him, he knows very well how to act the hypocrite in order to make people believe that he is a very decent fellow. It's like one day I happened to be with So-and-So, whom you know very well -- he is another virtuous man. If he doesn't do anyone any harm, he doesn't deserve any credit for that. It is just that he is not in a position to do so. I assure you that I would not like to find myself alone with him."

"He did you some harm sometime perhaps?"

"He did not indeed, because I have never had anything to do with him."

"And how do you know, then, that he is so bad?"

"Oh, it's not hard to find that out. Everyone says he is. He is just like that one who was with you one day -- to hear him talk you would say that he is the most charitable man in the world and that he would never refuse anything to anyone who asked him for help. And all the time he would travel ten miles to gain two pennies. I assure you that nowadays you can't know people at all; you can't trust anyone. It is just the same with that fellow you were talking to just now. He looks after his affairs very well; he keeps up a good appearance always, and all his family look well turned out, too.... It's not so very difficult, really-he works at night, you know."

"Have you seen him taking anything, then?"

"Oh, no, I have never seen him taking anything. But I was told that one fine night he went back into his house well loaded with stuff. In any case, he has none too good a reputation."

And the speaker concludes: "I'm not saying that I have no faults myself, but I would be eternally sorry to be as worthless as some of these people."

In all of this you can see the notorious Pharisee, who fasts twice a week, who pays tithes of all he possesses, and who thanks God that he is not as the rest of men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers! Here you can see this pride, this hatred, this jealousy!

 

ST. NICHOLAS AND THE THREE GIRLS

Tell me, now, my brethren, on what foundation are rash judgments and sentences based? Alas! They are based upon very slight evidence only, and most often upon what "someone said." But perhaps you are going to tell me that you have seen and heard this and that. Unfortunately, you could be mistaken in the testimony of both your sight and hearing, as you are going to see.... Here is an example which will show you, better than anything else can, how easily we can be mistaken and how we are nearly always wrong.

What would you have said, my dear brethren, if you had been living during the time of St. Nicholas and you had seen him coming in the middle of the night, walking around the house of three young girls, watching carefully and taking good care that no one saw him. Just look at that bishop, you would have thought at once, degrading and dishonouring his calling; he is a dreadful hypocrite. He seems to be a saint when he is in church, and look at him now, in the middle of the night, at the door of three girls who do not have a very good reputation! And yet, my dear brethren, this bishop, who would certainly have been condemned by you, was indeed a very great saint and most dear to God. What he was doing was the best deed in the world. In order to spare these young persons the shame of begging, he came in the night and threw money in to them through their window because he feared that it was poverty which had made them abandon themselves to sin.

This should teach us never to judge the actions of our neighbour without having reflected very well beforehand. Even then, of course, we are only entitled to make such judgments if we are responsible for the behaviour of the people concerned, that is, if we are parents or employers, and so on. As far as all others are concerned, we are nearly always wrong. Yes indeed, my brethren, I have seen people making wrong judgments about the intentions of their neighbour when I have known perfectly well that these intentions were good. I have tried in vain to make them understand, but it was no good. Oh! Cursed pride, what evil you do and how many souls do you lead to Hell! Answer me this, my dear brethren. Are the judgments which we make about the actions of our neighbour any better founded than those which would have been made by anyone who might have seen St. Nicholas walking around that house and trying to find the window of the room wherein were the three girls?

It is not to us that other people will have to render an account of their lives, but to God alone. But we wish to set ourselves up as judges of what does not concern us. The sins of others are for others, that is, for themselves, and our sins are our own business. God will not ask us to render an account of what others have done but solely of what we ourselves have done.

Let us watch over ourselves, then, and not torment ourselves so much about others, thinking over and talking about what they have done or said. All that, my dear brethren, is just so much labor lost, and it can only arise from a pride comparable to that of the Pharisee who concerned himself solely with thinking about and misjudging his neighbour instead of occupying himself with thoughts of his own sins and weeping for his own poor efforts. Let us leave the conduct of our neighbour on one side, my dear brethren, and content ourselves with saying, like the holy King David: Lord, give me the grace to know myself as I really am, so that I may see what displeases Thee, and how to correct it, repent, and obtain pardon.

No, my dear brethren, while anyone passes his time in watching the conduct of other people, he will neither know nor belong to God.

 

 

THE SEWER OF HELL

There is yet another form of wrongdoing which is all the more deplorable in that it is more common, and that is licentious talk. There is nothing more abominable, my dear brethren, nothing more horrible than such talk. Indeed, my children, what could be more out of keeping with the holiness of our religion than impure language? It outrages God, it scandalises our neighbour. To put it even more clearly, loose talk releases all the passions. Very often it requires only one immodest or unseemly word to start a thousand evil thoughts, a thousand shameful desires, perhaps even to cause a fall into an infinite number of other sins and to bring to innocent souls evil of which they had been happily ignorant.

Can the Christian really afford to occupy his mind with such horrible images, a Christian who is the temple of the Holy Ghost, a Christian who has been sanctified by contact with the most adorable Body and precious Blood of Jesus Christ? Oh, Lord, if we had but some small idea of what we do when we commit sin! If our Lord has taught us that we may judge the tree by its fruit, you may judge after listening to the talk of certain people what must be the corruption of their hearts; and yet such corruption is very commonly encountered.

What sort of conversation do you hear among young people?

Is there anything in their mouths but this kind of loose talk?

Go -- I dare to say it with St. John Chrysostom -- go into these cabarets, into these haunts of impurity! What does the conversation turn upon, even among elderly people? Are they not trying to make a name for themselves by seeing who can be the most outrageous? Their mouths are like some sewer that Hell makes use of to spew its filth and its impurities over the earth and drag souls down to its depths. What are these bad Christians -- or rather these envoys from the nether regions -- doing?

Instead of singing the praises of God, their songs are shameful and hideous; they are songs which ought to make a Christian die of horror. Oh, great God, who would not tremble at the thought of what God's judgment of all this will be! If, as Jesus Christ Himself tells us, not a single idle word will be unpunished, alas! What will be the punishment for these licentious conversations, these indecent topics, these shameful and horrible images, which make the hair stand on end? If you would imagine how blind these poor unhappy people are, just listen to them talking after this fashion: "I had no bad intention," they will tell you, "it was just for a laugh; these things are only trifles, little stupid things, that mean nothing at all."

Is that so, my dear brethren? A sin so horrible in God's eyes that sacrilege alone surpasses it in evil! This is a trifle to you?

No, it is your hearts which are destroyed and corrupted! No! No! No one can afford to laugh or joke about something from which we should fly in horror, as we would from some pursuing beast which wanted to devour us. Besides, my dear brethren, what a crime it is to like something which God wants us to detest with all our hearts! You may tell me that you had no bad intentions, but tell me this, too, miserable and wretched tool of Hell, what about those who are listening to you -- do they have less bad thoughts and criminal desires after they have heard you? Will your harmless intention stay the workings of their imaginations and their hearts? Be honest and tell me that you are, in fact, the cause of the loss and eternal damnation of their souls! How many souls are hurled into Hell because of this sin?

The Holy Ghost tells us that this ugly sin of impurity has covered the whole surface of the earth.

I will say no more now on this subject, my children. I will return to it in an instruction when I shall do my best to depict it for you again with even more horror.

 

 

A CURSE WILL FALL

How is it that you are complaining that your animals are dying? Undoubtedly you must have forgotten all those sins which have been committed in your outhouses and stables during the five or six months of winter. You have forgotten that the Holy Ghost has said that everywhere this sin shall be committed, the curse of the Lord will fall. How many young people -- alas! -- would still have their innocence if they had not attended certain winter gatherings [The French word is veillee, which means a vigil or a night watch, or an evening spent in company. In rural France, in this latter sense, it means an evening spent socially in a neighbour's house, especially during the winter months. In the Cure's day, these could be all-night affairs, with dancing, drinking, and much more. -- Trans.] young people who now perhaps will never come back to God? Again, as a result of these affairs, there are those young people who form associations which, most frequently, end in scandal and the loss of a girl's reputation. Then there are all the young libertines, who, having sold their own souls to the Devil, now set out to rob others of theirs. Yes, my children, the evil which results from these gatherings is incalculable. If you are Christians and you wish to save your souls and those of your children and others of your household, you should never hold these gatherings in your homes, or at least not unless you yourselves, one of the heads of the household, are going to see to it that God will not be offended by what goes on. Once you have all come in, you should close the door and refuse to admit anyone else. Begin your gatherings by reciting one or two decades of the Rosary to invoke the protection of the Blessed Virgin -- and this you can do if you put your mind to it. Then banish all lascivious and sinful songs; your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and these profane your hearts and mouths; banish also all those stories that are only lies and yarns in any event and are most often directed against people consecrated to God, which makes them more sinful. And you should never allow your children into any other of these gatherings. Why do they want to get away from you, except for the purpose of avoiding supervision? If you are faithful to the fulfilment of your duties, God will be less offended and you less blameworthy.

 

 

ARE YOUR AFFAIRS GOING BETTER?

Another bad habit which is very common in homes and among working people is impatience, grumbling, and swearing. Now, my children, where do you get with your impatience and your grumbling? Do your affairs go any better?

Do they cause you any less trouble? Is it not, rather, the other way around? You have a lot more trouble with them, and, what is even worse, you lose all the merit which you might have gained for Heaven.

But, you will tell me, that is all very well for those who have nothing to put up with.... If they were in my shoes they would probably be much worse....

I would agree with all that, my children, if we were not Christians, if we had nothing to hope for beyond what benefits and pleasures we might taste in this world. I would agree if -- I repeat -- we were the first people who ever suffered anything, but since the time of Adam until the present, all the saints have had something to suffer, and most of them far more than have we. But they suffered with patience, always subject to the will of God, and soon their troubles were finished, and their happiness, which has begun, will never come to an end. Let us contemplate, my dear brethren, this beautiful Heaven, let us think about the happiness which God has prepared for us there, and we shall endure all the evils of life in a spirit of penitence, with the hope of an eternal reward. If only you could have the happiness of being able to say in the evening that your whole day had been spent for God! I tell you that working people, if they want to get to Heaven, should endure patiently the rigour of the seasons and the ill humour of those for whom they work; they should avoid those grumbles and bad language so commonly heard and fulfil their duties conscientiously and faithfully. Husbands and wives should live peacefully in their union of marriage; they should be mutually edifying to each other, pray for one another, bear patiently with one another's faults, encourage virtue in one another by good example, and follow the holy and sacred rules of their state, remembering that they are the children of the saints and that, consequently, they ought not to behave like pagans, who have not the happiness of knowing the one true God.

Masters should take the same care of their servants as of their own children, remembering the warning of St. Paul that if they do not have care for them, they are worse than the pagans, and that they will be more severely punished on the day of judgment. Servants are to give you service and to be loyal to you, and you must treat them not as slaves but as your children and your brethren.

Servants must look upon their masters as taking the place of Jesus Christ on earth. Their duty is to serve them joyfully, obey them with a good grace, without grumbling, and look after their well-being as carefully as they would their own.

Servants should avoid the growth of too-familiar relationships, which are so dangerous and so fatal to innocence. If you have the misfortune to find yourself in such a situation, you must leave your employment, no matter what it may cost you to do so. Here is an example of those very circumstances wherein you must follow the counsel Jesus Christ gave you when He said that if one's right eye or right hand should be an occasion of sin, one must deprive oneself of them because it is better to go into Heaven lacking an eye or a hand than to be cast into Hell with one's whole body. That is to say, however desirable your position may be, you must leave it at once; otherwise you will never save your soul. Put the salvation of your soul first, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us, because that is the only thing you ought really to have at heart. Alas, my dear brethren, how rare are those Christians who are ready to suffer rather than to jeopardise the salvation of their souls!

 

 

BAD COMPANY

My dear brethren, I call that man bad company who is without religion, who does not concern himself with either the commandments of God or those of the Church, who does not recognise Lent or Easter, who seldom comes to church or, if he does come, then only to scandalise others by his irreligious ways. You ought to shun his company; otherwise you will not be long in becoming like him without your even noticing it. He will teach you, with his bad talk as much as by his bad example, to despise the holiest things and to neglect your own most sacred duties. He will begin to turn your devotion into ridicule, to make some jokes about religion and its ministers. He will speak to you at length, in scandalous terms, about the priests or about Confession to such effect that he will cause you to lose entirely your taste for the frequent reception of the Sacraments. He will discuss the instructions of your pastors only in order to turn them into ridicule, and you can be quite certain that if you keep company with him for any length of time, you will see that, without even realising it, you will begin to lose all taste for anything which is profitable towards the salvation of your soul.

I call bad company, my dear brethren, this young or this old slanderer who has nothing but bad and foul words in his mouth.

Take good care, my children, for this type of person has a poison of his own! If you frequent his company, you may be quite certain that you will imbibe it and that, without a miracle of grace, you will die spiritually. The Devil will make good use of this wretch to sully your imagination and to corrupt your heart.

I would call that person bad company, my dear brethren, who is curious or restless or backbiting, who wants to know all that goes on in other people's houses, and who is always ready to form judgments about what he does not see at all. The Holy Ghosts tells us that these people are not only hateful to the whole world but are also accursed of God. Fly from them, my dear brethren; otherwise you will become like them. You yourselves will perish with them

 

 

ANGER DOES NOT TRAVEL ALONE

Ah, my dear lord, what melancholy company is that person who is a slave to anger! look at a poor wife who has a husband like this. If she has a fear of God and wants to prevent her husband from offending Him and treating her badly, she cannot say a word, even when she most desires to do so. She must content herself with weeping in secret in order not to have quarrels in the home and risk giving scandal.

"But," an irritable husband will say to me, "why does she contradict me? Everyone knows that I am hot tempered."

"You are hot tempered, my friend, but do you think that others are not, just as much as you are? Say rather, then, that you have no religion, and you will describe what you are. Are not all who have a fear of God obliged to know how to govern their passions instead of allowing themselves to be governed by them?"

Alas! If I have said that there are women who are unfortunate because they have husbands who are irritable and bad tempered, there are husbands who are no less unfortunate in having wives who do not know how to say a single gracious word, whom nothing can interest or absorb, except themselves. And what unhappiness results in that household where neither the one nor the other wants to give way! There are nothing but disputes, quarrels, and recriminations. Oh, dear God, is not this a real Hell? Alas, what training for the children of such homes! What lessons in wisdom and sweetness of temper can they receive? St. Basil tells us that anger makes a man resemble the Devil because it is only the Devil who is capable of giving way to these kinds of excesses.... And I would add that anger never travels alone. k is always accompanied by plenty of other sins....

You have heard an angry father using bad language, uttering imprecations and curses. Very well, then. Listen to his children when they arc angry -- the same vile words, the same imprecations, and all the rest of it. Thus the vices of the parents -- like their good qualities -- pass to their children, but in more pronounced fashion. Cannibals kill only strangers, to eat them, but among Christians there are fathers and mothers who, in order to gratify their passions, desire the death of those to whom they have given life and who consign to the Devil those whom Jesus Christ redeemed with His precious Blood. How many times does one not hear those fathers and mothers who have no religion saying: "This cursed child.... You make me sick.... I wish you were miles away.... This so-and-so of a child....

These little brats.... This demon of a child...." And so on.

Oh, dear Lord, that such ugly and evil phrases should fall from the lips of fathers and mothers who should desire nothing but benedictions from Heaven upon their poor little children.

If we encounter so many children who are wild and undisciplined, without religion, bad tempered and stunted in their souls, we need not -- at least in the great majority of cases-search for the cause beyond the curses and bad tempers of the parents.

What, then, must we think of the sin of those who curse themselves in moments of worry and difficulty? This is an appalling crime which is contrary to nature and to grace, for both nature and grace inspire us with love for ourselves. Those who curse themselves are like insane people who die by their own hands. It is even worse than that. Often they lay the blame upon their own souls, saying: "Let God damn me! I wish the Devil would carry me off! I'd rather be in Hell than the way I am."

Oh, miserable creature, says St. Augustine, may God not take you at your word, for if He did, you would go to vomit the poison of your spleen in Hell. Oh, Lord, if a Christian but so thought of what he said.... How wretched indeed is the man who is the victim of anger! Will anyone ever be able to understand his mentality?

How about the sin, then, of a husband and wife, of a brother and sister, who spew out all sorts of blasphemies upon one another? They would tear out one another's eyes if they could, or even take away each other's very lives.

"So-and-so wife!" or "So-and-so husband!" they scream, "I wish I had never seen or known you.... My father was a fool to advise me to marry you! ...."

What horror is this, coming from Christians who should strive only to become saints! Instead, they do only that which will make them demons and outcasts from Heaven! How often have we not seen brothers and sisters wishing death to one another, swearing at one another, because one is richer than the other or because of some wrong they have received? We see them nursing hatred all their lives long and even finding great difficulty in forgiving one another in the face of death.

It is just as great a sin to curse the weather, animals, or work.

Just listen to all the people when the weather is not to their liking, swearing at it and exclaiming: "So-and-so weather, are you never going to change!"

They do not appreciate what they are saying. It is as if they were to say: "Oh, so-and-so God, who will not give me the weather that I want!"

Others swear at their animals: "You so-and-so beast, I can't make you go as I want you to.... May the Devil carry you off! .... I hope a thunderbolt will fall on you! .... May the fire of Heaven roast you! ....

Alas! Unhappy, bad-tempered people, your curses take effect more often than you think....

But what should we do then? This is what we should do. We should make use of all the annoyances that happen to us to remind ourselves that since we are in revolt against God, it is but just that other creatures should revolt against us. We should never give others occasion to curse us.... If something irritating or troublesome happens, instead of loading with curses whatever is not going the way we want it to, it would be just as easy and a great deal more beneficial for us to say: "God bless it!"

Imitate the holy man Job, who blessed the name of the Lord in all the troubles which befell him, and you will receive the same graces as he did.... This is what I desire for you.

 

 

HOW DEATH WILL REVEAL THIEVES!

I do not wish to speak to you, my dear brethren, about those who lend at seven, eight, nine, and ten per cent. Let us leave such people to one side. To make them feel the enormity and the heinousness of their injustice and their cruelty, it would be necessary that one of those early usurers, who has been burning in Hell for the past three or four thousand years, should come back and give them a description of all the torments he is enduring and of the many injustices he committed which are the cause of what he suffers. No, these people are not part of my plan of instruction for you. They know very well that they are doing evil and that God will never pardon them unless they make restitution to those whom they have wronged. All that I could say to them would only serve to make them more guilty. So we will go carefully into something which involves an even greater number of people.

I tell you that wealth unjustly acquired will never enrich him who possesses it. On the contrary, it will become a source of trouble and evil for all his family. Oh, dear God, how blind man is! He is perfectly well aware that he is in the world for a brief space of time only. At every moment he sees people younger and stronger than himself passing out of it. It is all to no purpose: it does not help him to open his eyes. The Holy Ghost has told him plainly, through the mouth of the holy man Job, that he came into this world deprived of everything and that he will leave it the same way, that all the possessions he has cultivated will be taken from him at the moment when he least expects it: none of this serves to halt his progress. St. Paul affirms plainly that it will not be long before anyone who becomes rich through unjust means goes well astray onto the road of sin. And what is more, he will never see the face of God.

That is so true that, without a miracle of grace, a miser, or if you prefer, a person who has acquired some wealth by fraud or cunning, will hardly ever be converted, so greatly does this sin blind anyone who commits it.

Listen to what St. Augustine says to those who have money which belongs to others. You can, he tells them, go to Confession, you can perform all the penance you like, you can weep for your sins, but unless you make restitution, whenever you can, God will never pardon you.... Either give back what is not yours, or you will have to make up your mind to go to Hell. The Holy Ghost does not stop at merely forbidding us to take and to covet the wealth of our neighbour -- He does not wish us even to consider it or dwell upon it, lest we should want to lay our hands upon it. The prophet Zacharias tells us that the curse of the Lord will remain on the house of the thief until he is destroyed. And I am telling you that wealth acquired by fraud or by cunning will not only be of no profit but it will cause whatever you acquire legitimately to wither away and your days to be shortened.

My dear brethren, if I wanted to go into the conduct of all those who are present, I might perhaps find that I had only thieves. Does that amaze you? Just listen to me for a moment and you will realise that it is true....

The most common thefts are those committed in the course of buying and selling. Let us examine this more closely so that you may recognise the wrong that you do and, at the same time, see how you can set about correcting it. When you bring along your produce to sell it, people ask you if your eggs and your butter are fresh. You hasten to answer in the affirmative, even though you know that the opposite is the truth. Why do you say that, unless it is to rob two or three pennies from some poor person who has had, perhaps, to borrow them to keep her house going? Another time it will be in the selling of a crop. You will take the precaution of putting the smallest and the poorest specimens in the midst of the bunch. You will possibly say: "But if I didn't do that, I wouldn't sell so much."

To put it another way, if you conducted yourself like a good Christian, you would not rob as you do. On another occasion, when counting your money, you will have noticed that you have been given too much, but you have said nothing: "So much the worse for the person concerned. It's not my fault."

Ah, my dear children, a day will come when you will possibly be told, and with more reason, "So much the worse for you! "

Someone wants to buy corn, or wine, or animals from you.

He asks you if this corn is from a good year's crop. Without hesitation, you assure him that it is. You have mixed your wine with another of poorer quality, yet you sell it as a good and unadulterated wine. If people show signs of not believing you, you will swear that it is good, and it is not once but twenty times that you thus give your soul over to the Devil. Ah, my children, there is no need for you to be overanxious to give yourselves to him -- you have been his for a long time now! "What about this animal?" someone else will ask you." Has it any defects? Don't cheat me now. I have only borrowed this money and if you do I will be in terrible difficulties."

"Oh, indeed no!" you will break in." This is a very good animal. In fact, I am very sorry to be selling it. If I could do anything else I would not sell it at all."

In fact, of course, you are selling it because it is worth nothing at all and is no longer of any use to you.

"I do the same as everyone else. So much the worse for anyone who is taken in. I have been cheated; I try to cheat in my own turn; otherwise I would lose too much."

Is it, my children, that if others are damning themselves, then you must needs damn yourselves also? They are going to Hell -- must you then go along with them? You would prefer to have a few extra pennies and go to Hell for all eternity? Very well.

I am telling you, though, that if you have sold an animal with hidden faults, you are obliged to compensate the buyer for the loss which these defects have caused him; otherwise you will be damned.

"Ah, if you were in our place you would do the very same as we do."

Yes, my dear children, without any doubt I would do the very same as you do if, as you do, I wanted to be damned. But since I want to be saved, I would do the exact opposite of what

 

 

IF YOU KNOW HOW TO GIVE, YOU MUST KNOW HOW TO PAY BACK

There are plenty of people who, when they are passing through a meadow or a turnip field or an orchard, will find no difficulty in filling their pockets with herbs or turnips and carrying away any amount of fruit in their baskets. Parents who see their children coming in with their hands full of these stolen objects simply laugh at them, saying, "Oh, my goodness, what grand things!"

My dear brethren, if you now take the value of a penny, and now the value of two pennies, you will soon have matter for a mortal sin. And after all, you can still commit mortal sin by taking less than your intention was to take....

Sometimes it will be a shoemaker who uses poor leather or bad thread but who charges for his work as if it were of the best quality. Or again it may be a tailor who, under the pretext of not having received a sufficiently good price for his work, will keep a piece of his customer's material without saying anything about it.... Oh, dear Lord, how death will show up these thieves! ....

Here is a weaver who spoils a part of his thread rather than go to the trouble of unravelling it. So he will use the smallest part of it and keep, without saying anything about it, what was entrusted to him. Then there is the woman, given some flax to spin, who will reject part of it on the pretext that it has not been well combed. Thus she will be able to keep some for herself, and then, by putting the thread into a damp place, she will be able to make right its weight. She gives no consideration to the fact that perhaps the thread belongs to a poor labourer to whom it will now be of no use because it is already half-ruined. She will thus be the cause of innumerable bad things which he will say against his master.

A shepherd knows quite well that he is not allowed to lead animals to pasture in a certain meadow or woods. That will not matter a bit to him; as long as he is not seen, this will do him very well. Another knows that he has been forbidden to go gathering tares in a certain cornfield because it is in bloom. He has a look around to see if anyone can see him, and then in he goes. Tell me, my brethren, would you be quite satisfied if your neighbour did that to you? No, certainly you would not! Very well, then, do you believe that this ....[sentence incomplete - Trans.]

Suppose we take a look at the conduct of labourers. Quite a large section of them are thieves.... If they are made to work for an agreed price, they will ruin half the job and they will continue until they get themselves paid. If they are hired by the day, they will be satisfied to work well while their employer is looking at them and after that they will give themselves over to talking and killing time. A servant will see no reason why he or she should not receive and treat friends well during the absence of the owners of the house, knowing quite well that they would not allow this at all. Others will give away large alms in order to be considered charitable people. Should they not give these out of their own wages, which so often they squander on trifles? If this has happened to you, do not forget that you are obliged to pay back to the person concerned all that you gave to the poor without the knowledge or consent of your employers. Then again, there is the one who has been entrusted by his employer with the supervision of the staff, or of workmen, who gives out wine and all sorts of other things to them if they ask him. Understand this clearly: if you know how to give, you must know how to pay back....

Suppose we turn now to the matter of masters -- I know that we have no shortage of thieves in that quarter, either. How many masters do not, in actual fact, give as much money as they have agreed with their hired help to give? How many are there who, when they see the end of the year approaching, will do everything they possibly can to get their servants to leave so that they will not have to pay them. If an animal has died despite the care of the one in charge of it, they will keep back the price of it out of his wages, so that an unfortunate young fellow will have toiled the whole year through and at the end of his time will find himself with nothing at all. How many, again, have promised a suit length and will then have it made too narrow or of bad material or even will have the making of it put off for several years, to the point where they have to be brought to law to make them pay up? How many of them, when they are plowing or reaping or harvesting go beyond their own boundaries, or even cut a young sapling from their next-door neighbour's land to make themselves a handle for a scythe or a withe for a stook or to tie up a part of the cart? Had I not good reason to say, my dear brethren, that if we examine the conduct of most people we should find only thieves and cheats? ....

There are very few of them, as you can see, who do not have something on their conscience. So, then, where are those who make restitution? I do not know any of them....

Now, you will say, we can hope to know, roughly anyway, in what ways we can commit wrongs and injustices. But how, and to whom, must we make restitution?

You would like to make restitution? Very well, listen to me for a moment and you will know how to go about it. You must not be satisfied with paying back half, or three-quarters, but all, if you possibly can; otherwise you will be damned. There are some people who, without going into the question of the number of the people whom they have wronged, will give some alms or have some Masses said. And once that is done, they think they are quite safe. It is true, alms and Masses are all very well, but they must be given with your money and not with your neighbour's. That money was not yours; give it to its rightful owner and then give your own in alms and Masses if you want to: you will be doing very well....

There are those who say: "I have wronged So-and-So, but he is quite rich enough; I know a poor person who has a much greater need of the money."

My good friend, give to this poor person from your own money, but pay back to your neighbour whatever substance you have taken from him.

"But he will put it to a bad use."

That has nothing to do with you. Give him his due, pray for him, and sleep well.

 

 

WINE IS HIS GOD

Habitual drunkenness is not one of those sins which time and grace will correct. To cure this sin, not an ordinary grace but a miracle of grace is required. You ask me why drunken people are so rarely converted. This is the reason: it is that they have neither faith, nor religion, nor pity, nor respect for holy things. Nothing is able to touch them or to open their eyes to their unhappy state. If you try to frighten them with death, or judgment, or the Hell which is waiting to consume them, if you talk to them of the happiness which God is keeping for those who love Him, the only answer you will get is a sly little smile which means: "You think now that you are going to make me afraid, like you do the children, but I am not one of those people who fall for that."

But look at what this means. Such a person believes that when we are dead, everything is finished. His god is his wine and he abides by it. The wine which he drinks to excess, the Holy Ghost warns him, is like a snake whose bite is death.

You believe none of this now, but in Hell you will learn that there was a God other than your stomach....

It is essential for the habitual drunkard to get out of this state in order that he may understand the full horror of it. But, unfortunately, he has no faith. He believes only very weakly in the truths which the Church teaches us. It is essential for him to have recourse to prayer, but he hardly says any prayers at all, or if he does, it will be while he is dressing or undressing, or again, he may be satisfied to make just the Sign of the Cross, after a fashion, as he throws himself down on his bed, like a horse in its stable. It is essential that he should frequent the Sacraments, which are, in spite of the contempt with which the impious regard them, the sole remedies which the mercy of God offers us to draw us to Him. But, unfortunately, he does not even know the dispositions which he ought to cultivate in order to receive them worthily or even the bare essentials which he should know in order to save his soul. If you want to question him about his state, he understands nothing about it, as his contradictory answers show. If at the time of a Jubilee, or of a Mission, or something like that, he wants to keep up appearances, he will be content to tell barely the half of his sins, and, still burdened with the others, he will approach the altar. That is to say, he will commit sacrilege; that will satisfy him. Dear God, what a dreadful state is that of the habitual drunkard and how hard it is to be able to leave it! The Prophet Isaias tells us that habitual drunkards are useless as far as the doing of good on earth is concerned but that they are very dangerous when it comes to the doing of evil. To convince ourselves of that, my dear brethren, go into a cabaret, which St. John Climacus calls the Devil's Shop, the school where Hell holds forth and teaches its doctrine, the place where souls are sold, where homes are ruined, where health deteriorates, where quarrels begin, and where murders are committed.

.... What do you learn there? You know that better than I do....

Take a look at this poor drunkard, my dear brethren. He is full of wine and his purse is empty. He throws himself down on a bench or a table. He is amazed in the morning to find himself still in the cabaret, when he thought that he was at home. He takes himself off after having spent all his money, and often, in order to be able to leave, he is forced to leave his hat or coat in pledge for the wine he has drunk. When he arrives home, his poor wife and their children, whom he has left without bread, and only their eyes to weep with, have to take flight from him unless they want to be ill treated, as if they were the cause of his spending all his money and getting his affairs into the bad state in which they are. Ah, dear Lord, how deplorable is the state of the habitual drunkard!

The Council of Mayence [Mainz] wisely tells us that a drunkard breaks the Ten Commandments of God....

It is greatly to be feared that those who are gripped by this vice never cure themselves of it! ....

Let us pray to the all-merciful God to preserve us from it....

 

ALL THAT YOU SAY OVER AND ABOVE THESE IS OF EVIL

It is indeed surprising, my dear brethren, that God should have had to give us a commandment forbidding us to profane His sacred name. Can you imagine, my children, that Christians could so hand themselves over to the Devil as to allow him to make use of them for execrating God, Who is so good and so benevolent? Can you imagine that a tongue which has been consecrated to God by holy Baptism, and so many times moistened by His adorable Blood, could be employed in vilifying its Creator? Would anyone be able to do that who truly believed that God had given him his tongue so that he might bless Him and sing His praises? You will agree with me that this is an abominable crime, one which would seem to urge God to overwhelm us with all sorts of evils and to abandon us to the Devil, whom we have been obeying with so much zeal.

It is a sin which makes the hair stand on end in anyone who is not entirely lost to the Faith.

And yet, in spite of its enormity, its horror, its blackness, is there a more common sin than swearing, than the uttering of blasphemies, imprecations, and curses? Do we not all have the sorrow of hearing such language coming from the mouths of children who hardly know their Our Father, horrible words which are sufficient to draw down all sorts of evils upon a parish?

I am going to explain to you, my dear brethren, what is understood by swearing, blasphemy, profanities, imprecations, and curses. Try to sleep well during this period so that when the day of judgment comes, you will be found to have committed this evil without knowing what you were doing-though, of course, you will be damned because your ignorance will all be your own fault!

For you to understand the enormity of this sin, my brethren, it would be necessary for you to understand the enormity of the outrage which it does to God -- a thing which no mortal can ever understand. No, my dear brethren, only the anger, the power and the wrath of God concentrated in the inferno of Hell can bring home to us the enormity of this sin. No, no, my children, let us not run this risk -- there must be Hell for all eternity for this sin. All I want to do is to make you understand the difference which exists between swearing, blasphemy, profanity, imprecations, curses, and coarse words. A great many people confuse these things and take one thing for the other, which is the reason why they almost never accuse themselves of the sins they should, why they lay themselves open to the danger of bad confessions and therefore of damnation.

The Second Commandment, which forbids us to use false and unnecessary oaths or to perjure ourselves, is expressed in the following words: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." This is as though God told us: I order you and command you to revere this name because it is holy and adorable. I forbid you to profane it by employing it to authorise falsehood, injustice, or even -- without sufficient reason -- the truth itself.

And Jesus Christ tells us not to swear in any way.

I tell you that badly instructed people often confuse blasphemy with swearing. If things have gone wrong with him, a man may, in a moment of anger, or rather of fury, say: "God is not just to make me suffer...."

Although by these words he has thus spoken profanely about God, he will confess his sin by saying: "Father, I accuse myself of swearing."

Yet it is not an oath but a blasphemy which he has uttered.

Someone is falsely accused of a fault which he has not committed. To support his protestations he will say: "May I never see the face of God if I did it!"

This is not an oath but a horrible imprecation. These are two sins which are every bit as bad as swearing. Another, who will have told his next-door neighbour that he is a thief, a scoundrel, will confess that he "has sworn at his neighbour." This is not swearing; it is using insulting language. Another will say foul and unseemly things and, in Confession, will accuse himself of "having spoken wrongly." He is wrong; he must say that he has been uttering obscenities.

My dear brethren, this is what swearing is: it is calling upon God to witness what we say or promise; and perjury is an oath which is false -- that is to say, it is perjury to swear to what is not true.

The name of God is so holy, so great, and so adorable that the angels and the saints, St. John tells us, say unceasingly in Heaven: "Holy, holy, holy, is the great God of hosts; may His holy name be blessed for ever and ever." When the Blessed Virgin went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and the saintly woman said to her, "How happy you are to have been chosen to be the mother of God!" the Blessed Virgin replied to her: "He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name."

We ought, you see, my dear brethren, to have a great respect for the name of God and pronounce it only with tremendous veneration and never in vain. St. Thomas tells us that it is a serious sin to pronounce the name of God in vain, that it is not a sin like other sins. In other sins the light nature of the matter diminishes the seriousness of and the malice in them, and quite often what could be a mortal sin is only a venial one. For instance, larceny is a mortal sin, but if it is larceny of something very small, like a couple of pennies, then it will be a venial sin only. Anger and gluttony are mortal sins, but slight anger or a little gluttony are only venial sins. In regard to swearing, however, it is not the same thing at all; here the lighter the matter, the greater the profanity. The reason for this is that the lighter the matter, the greater is the irreverence, as if a person were to ask the king to serve as a witness to some trifle, which would be to make a fool of him and to belittle him. Almighty God tells us that anyone who swears by His name will be sternly punished.

We read in Holy Scripture that in the time of Moses there were two men, of whom one swore by the holy name of God.

He was seized and brought before Moses, who asked God what should be done with him. The Lord told Moses to bring the man into a field and to command all those who had been witnesses of this blasphemy to put their hands upon his head and to stone him to death in order to do away with the blasphemer in the very midst of all his own people.

The Holy Scripture tells us again that whoever is accustomed to swearing, his house will be filled with iniquities and the curse will never leave the house until it has been destroyed. Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the Gospel not to swear by Heaven nor by earth because neither the one nor the other belongs to us. When you want to confirm something say: "That is," or "that is not." "Yes," or "no." "I did it," or "I did not do it."

Everything you say over and above that comes from the Devil. Besides, anyone who is in the habit of swearing is a fiery, undisciplined sort of person, very much wrapped up in his own feelings and always ready to swear as well as to a lie as to the truth.

But, you may say to me, if I do not swear, no one will believe me.

You are wrong. People never believe someone who swears because swearing presupposes someone who has no religion, and a person without religion is not worthy of being believed. There are many people who do not know how to sell the smallest article without swearing, as if their oath guaranteed the quality of their merchandise. If people see a merchant who swears oaths while he is selling, they immediately think that he is a person of bad faith and that they must be on their guard against being cheated. His oaths provoke only disgust and no one believes him. On the contrary, a person who does not swear adds good faith to what he is telling us.

We read in history of an example reported by Cardinal Bellarmine, who showed us that oaths achieve nothing. There were, he tells us, two merchants in Cologne who seemed to be able to sell nothing without swearing. Their pastor strongly urged them to give up this bad habit, for, far from losing, they would gain much by doing so. They followed his counsel. However, for a while they did not sell very much. They went to find their pastor, telling him that they were not selling as much as he had given them to hope that they would. Their pastor said to them: "Have patience, my children, you may be quite sure that God will bless you."

In fact, at the end of a certain time, they were doing so very well that one might have thought, from the crowds that came to them, that they were giving their goods away. They themselves then saw that God had indeed blessed them in a very special way. The same Cardinal tells us that there was a good mother of a family who was very much in the habit of swearing. By dint of being persuaded that these oaths were unseemly in a mother and could but draw down curses upon her household, she was induced to correct this habit. She declared that since giving up this bad habit she had seen for herself that everything had gone well for her and that God had blessed her in a special manner.

Would you, my dear brethren, desire to be happy during your lives and to have God bless your homes? Take care, then, never to swear, and you will see that all will go well with you.

God tells us that on the house wherein swearing holds sway the curse of the Lord will fall and that it will be destroyed. So why, my dear brethren, do you allow yourselves to fall into this evil way of behaving when God forbids it under the pain of making us unhappy in this world and of damning us in the next? Alas, if we would but understand in some small way what it is that we are doing! We will understand it -- but then it will be too late.

In the second place, I say that there is an even worse form of swearing. This occurs when to the oath there are added such execrations as would make you tremble with fear. Thus there are those unfortunate people who will say: "If what I am saying is not true, may I never see the face of God!"

Ah, unfortunate wretch, you are taking but too great a risk of never seeing it! "If it is not true, may I lose my place in Heaven! May God damn me! May the Devil carry me off! ...."

Alas, for you, my friend, hardened in this habit! The Devil will only too surely carry you off without your giving yourself to him so far in advance. How many others are there who invariably have the Devil ready on their tongues at the least annoyance: "Oh, this child is a devil .... this devil of a beast .... this devilish work .... I wish it were obliterated, it drives me so mad! "

It is to be greatly feared that the person who has the Devil so often on his lips has him in his heart also! Then how many others are forever saying such things as: "On my soul, yes.... On my faith, no.... By Heaven! ...." Or again: "Oh, God, yes! ....

Oh, God, no! .... So help me...."

There is another kind of swearing and of cursing to which people give little thought -- these are the oaths which are uttered by the heart. There are those who believe that because they are not actually said by the mouth, there is no harm in them. You are greatly mistaken in that, my friends. It may happen that someone does some damage to your land, or elsewhere, and you swear at him in your heart and curse him inwardly, saying: "May the Devil make away with him! .... May the elements destroy him! .... May his food poison him! ...."

And you keep these thoughts in your heart for any length of time and you think that because you do not actually say them with your lips there is no harm in them. My good friends, this is a very serious sin, and you must confess it or you will be lost.

Alas, how few people know the state of their poor souls and how they appear in the eyes of God!

In the third place, we say that there are others even more guilty of this sin who swear, not only in respect of things which are true, but even in respect of things which are false. If you could understand how greatly your impiety and blasphemy insults God, you would never have the courage to commit this sin. You behave towards God as would the humblest slave who should say to the king: "Sire, you must serve me as a false witness."

Does not that fill you with horror, my dear brethren? God says to us in Holy Scripture: Be holy because I am holy. Do not lie and do not cheat or wrong your neighbour, and do not perjure yourselves by taking the name of the Lord your God for a witness to a lie, and do not profane the name of the Lord. St.

John Chrysostom tells us: If it is already a great crime to swear to something true, what is the enormity of the crime of the man who swears falsely to confirm a lie? The Holy Ghost tells us that he who utters lies will perish. The Prophet Zacharias assures us that the curse will come to the house of the person who swears to confirm a lie and that it will remain thereon until that house is overthrown and destroyed. St. Augustine tells us that perjury is a fearful crime and a ferocious beast which creates appalling havoc. And what about the people who even add to this sin? For there are those who will couple with their perjury an oath of execration by saying such things as: "If that is not true, may I never see the face of God! .... May God damn me! .... May the Devil make away with me! ....

Unhappy creatures! If the good God were to take you at your word, where would you be? For how many years already would you have been burning in the flames of Hell? Tell me, my children, can you really imagine that a Christian could deliberately be guilty of such a crime, of such horror? No, my dear brethren, no, it is inconceivable conduct on the part of a Christian.

You must examine your consciences as to whether you have had the determination to swear or to take a false oath and how many times you have had this thought -- that is to say, how many times you have been disposed to do it. A great number of Christians do not give even a thought to this, although it is a serious sin.

Yes, you will say to me, I thought of it, but then I did not do it But your heart did it, and since you were in the disposition to do it, you were guilty in the eyes of God. Alas, poor religion how little is known of you! We encounter in history a striking example of the punishment of those who swear false oaths. In the time of St. Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem, three young libertines, who were abandoned to impurity, horribly calumniated their holy bishop, accusing him of crimes of which they themselves were guilty.

They went before the judges and said that their bishop had committed such and such a sin, and they confirmed their testimony with the most appalling oaths.

The first said: "If I am not speaking the truth, let me be smothered."

The second: "If that is not true, I would be burned alive."

The third: "If that is not true, let me lose my eyes."

The justice of God was not slow in punishing them. The first was smothered and died horribly. In the case of the second, his house was set on fire by a burning brand from a bonfire in the town, and he was burned alive. The third, although he was punished, was happier than the others: he recognised his sin, did penance for it, and wept so much that he lost his sight Here is another example which is no less striking. We read in the history of the reign of St. Edward, King of England, that  the Count Gondevin, who was the king's father-in-law, was so jealous and so proud that he could not get along with anyone in the king's court. One day the King accused him of having had a hand in his brother's death.

"If that is so," replied the Count, "may this piece of bread choke me."

With an open mind, the King took the piece of bread and made the Sign of the Cross over it. The other tried to eat the bread, but it stuck in his throat and choked him, and he died on the spot. You will agree with me, my dear brethren, after hearing these terrifying examples, that this sin must be very dreadful in the eyes of God for Him to want to punish it in so terrible a way.

Yet there are fathers and mothers, masters and mistresses, who at every moment of the day have these words on their lips: "Oh, what a dirty little swine! .... Ah, you little beast! .... Oh, you fool! .... I wish you'd die here and now, you annoy me so much! .... You couldn't be far enough away from me for my liking! .... You'll have a lot to answer for! ...."

(And, while I think of it, being foul-mouthed has a very close connection with cursing, too.) Yes, my dear brethren, there are parents who have so little religion that such words are always on their lips. Alas, how many poor children are weak and feeble of soul, sour -- vicious even -- as a result of the curses that their fathers and mothers laid upon them! We read in history that there was a mother who said to her child: "I wish you were dead, you are annoying me so much."

This unfortunate child fell dead at her feet.

Another mother said to her son: "May the Devil take you!"

The child disappeared without anyone knowing where he had gone or what had become of him. Dear God, what tragedy! Tragedy for the child and for the mother! There once lived a man well respected for his steady living who, returning one day from a journey, called his servant in a very offhand manner, saying to him: "Here, you, you old devil of a valet! Come and get my boots off!" Immediately his boots began to draw themselves off without anyone touching them.

He was absolutely terrified and started to cry out: "Go away, Satan! It wasn't you I called, but my valet!"

So much did he cry out that the Devil fled there and then and his boots stayed half pulled off. This instance shows us, my dear brethren, how closely the Devil hovers around us, waiting to cheat us and cause us to lose our souls whenever the opportunity presents itself. It was for this reason that, as we see, the first Christians had such a horror of the Devil that they did not even dare to pronounce his name. You should take great care, then, never to say it yourself and never to allow your children or your servants to say it either. If you do hear them saying is you must reprove them until you see that they have given up the habit altogether.

Now, my dear children, it is not only an evil thing to swear oneself, but it is also very wrong to make others swear. St.

Augustine tells us that anyone who is the cause of another's swearing falsely in law is more guilty than someone who commits homicide because, he says, whoever kills a man kills his body only, whereas anyone who makes another swear falsely in law kills his soul. To give you an idea of the seriousness of this sin, I am going to show how guilty anyone is who foresees that people he intends to bring to law are going to perjure themselves. We read in history that there was a citizen of the town of Hippo, a man of some standing, but a little too attached to the things of this world. He decided to force a man who was in his debt to go to law. This wretch swore falsely, or in other words, he declared on oath that he owed nothing. The following night the man who had forced the law suit in order that he might be paid was himself brought before a tribunal where he saw a judge who spoke to him in a terrible and threatening voice and demanded to know why he had caused a man to perjure himself, why he should not have preferred to lose whatever was owed to him than to damn a soul. He was told, however, that since he had been given grace on this occasion, because of his works, he would be condemned to be beaten with rods. The following day his body was indeed covered with blood.

But, you may say to me, if we do not force people to swear in law, we shall lose our debts.

But would you rather lose someone's soul -- and your own-than lose your money? Besides, my dear brethren, you may be very sure that if you make a sacrifice, in order not to offend God, He will not fail to recompense you in some other way.

Meanwhile, this does not very often happen, but you must be on your guard against giving presents to or canvassing people, who are to testify against you in law, not to speak the truth; that way you would damn them and yourselves. If you have done that and someone has had a wrong judgment given against him because of your falsehood, you would be obliged to repair all the harm that has been done and to compensate the person concerned, whether in his pocket or in his reputation, and to the fullest extent that you possibly can; otherwise you will be damned. You must also contemplate whether you have even considered swearing falsely and how many times you have entertained such a thought. There are some who believe that because they have said nothing, they have not, therefore, done any harm. My good friends, although you did not actually say anything, you committed a sin, since you were disposed to do the wrong. Consider, too, whether you have not ever given bad advice to others. Someone says to you: "I think I am going to be brought to court by So-and-So. What do you think about it?

I have a great mind not to say what I saw, so that he may not lose the action; the other has more than enough to pay the costs.

And yet at the same time I am doing something wrong."

You say to him: "Ah, yes, but the wrong is not very great.

.... You would make him lose too much...."

If after that he perjures himself, and he himself has not enough to compensate the injured party, you are bound, because it was on your advice that the injury was done, to make the restitution yourself. Would you, my dear brethren, know what to do, both in law and in other affairs? Listen to Jesus Christ Himself when He tells us: "And if a man will contend with thee in the judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him," for that is more advantageous than going to law.

Alas, that the machinery of justice should be the cause of the commission of sin! How many souls indeed are damned by such false oaths, by hatreds, by cheating, and by vengeance! But think of those oaths, my dear brethren, which are most frequently uttered -- which are uttered, indeed, at every hour of the day. If we tell something to someone and he does not believe us, we must needs swear to our statement with an oath.

Fathers and mothers, masters and mistresses, should be on their guard against this. It often happens that children or servants have committed some fault and they are urged to admit it. Both children and servants may have a fear of being smacked or rebuked, so they will swear any number of times that what is alleged is not true, "may they never stir from that place if it is," and so on. It would be much more praiseworthy for those in authority to say nothing and to suffer any loss rather than make their subordinates damn themselves. Besides, where does that kind of thing get you? You all offend God, and you have nothing to show for it. What regret you would have, my dear brethren, if on the day of judgment you saw those souls damned because of some trifle or passing vanity of yours.

There are still others who swear or promise to do something or to give something to another without having the slightest intention of doing or giving it. Before they promise something, they had better consider whether they will be able to fulfil it.

You should never say, before promising something, "If I don't do that now, may I never see God .... may I never stir from this place."

Take care, my brethren! These sins are more horrible than you will ever understand. If, for example, during a fit of anger, you vowed to be revenged, it is quite clear that not only should you not do such a thing but that, on the contrary, you should ask pardon from God for having such a thought. The Holy Ghost tells us that anyone who swears will be punished....

Now, you may ask me, what is to be understood by that word blasphemy? .... This, my dear children, is so horrible a sin that it would not seem possible that Christians should ever have the courage to commit it. Blasphemy is a word which connotes the hating and cursing of infinite beauty, which explains why this sin directly attacks God. St. Augustine tells us: "We blaspheme when we attribute to God anything which is not an attribute of God or which is not in keeping with Him, or if we dare to take from what would be in keeping with Him, or, finally, if we attribute to ourselves that which is in keeping with God and which belongs to Him alone."

I tell you, therefore, that we blaspheme: 1. When we say that God is not just in making some people so rich that they have everything in abundance while so many others are so wretched that they have difficulty in getting bread to eat.

2. When we say that He is not as good as people say, since He allows so many people to remain weak and despised by others while there are some who are loved and respected by everyone.

3. Or if we say that God does not see everything, that He does not know what is going on in the world.

4. If we say: "If God shows mercy to So-and-So, He is not just because that man has done too much harm."

5. Or again, when we come up against some loss or setback and we lose our temper with God and say such things as: "Ah, but I certainly have bad luck! God cannot do any more to me! I believe that He does not even know I am in the world, or if He does know, it is only so that He can make me suffer!"

It is also blasphemy to criticise the Blessed Virgin and the Saints by saying such things as: "That one has not much power! I don't know how many prayers I have said to him (or her), and I have never got anything."

St. Thomas tells us that blasphemy is an insulting and outrageous utterance against God or the saints. This may be done in four ways: 1. By affirmation, as when we say: "God is cruel and unjust to allow me to suffer so many wrongs, to allow anyone to calumniate me like that, to allow me to lose that money or this lawsuit. I am very unfortunate! Everything is going wrong with me. I cannot have anything, while everything is going well with other people."

2. It is blasphemy to say that God is not all-powerful and that one can do anything without Him. It was blasphemy for Sennacherib, the King of the Assyrians, to besiege the town of Jerusalem, saying that in spite of God he would take the town.

He mocked at God, saying that He was not powerful enough to stop him from entering the town and putting it to fire and the sword. But God, in order to punish this wretched man and to show him that He was indeed all-powerful, sent an angel who in one single night killed one hundred and eighty thousand of his men. On the following morning, when the King saw his army massacred and did not know by whom, he was terrified and fled to Nineveh, where he himself was killed by his own two children.

3. It is blasphemy to bestow upon some creature that which is due God alone, like those unhappy creatures who will say to some sinful creature, who is the object of their passions: "I love you with all the fervour of my heart.... I worship you.... l adore you." This is a sin which provokes horror, and yet is at least common enough in practice.

4. It is horrible blasphemy to damn something in the name of God.

This sin of blasphemy is so great and so hideous in the eyes of God that it draws down all sorts of evils upon the world. The Jews had such a horror of blasphemies that when they heard anyone blaspheming, they rent their garments. They did not dare even to pronounce the word but called it "Benediction."

The holy man Job had such fear that his children had blasphemed that he offered sacrifices to God in case they had....

St. Augustine says that those who blaspheme Jesus Christ in Heaven are more cruel than those who crucified Him on earth.

The bad thief blasphemed Jesus Christ when He was on the Cross, saying: "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." The Prophet Nathan said to King David: "Because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee shall surely die." God tells us that whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall die. We read in Holy Scripture that the people brought a man to Moses who had blasphemed. Moses consulted the Lord, who told him that he must have the man brought to a field and put to death, that is to say, stoned to death.

We can say that blasphemy is truly the language of Hell. St. Louis, King of France, had such a horror of this sin that he ordained that all blasphemers should be branded on the forehead. An important person from Paris, who had blasphemed, was brought to the King and several people interceded for him, but the King said that he would die himself in order to wipe out this dreadful sin, and he ordered that the man should be punished. The tongues of those who were wicked enough to commit this crime were cut out by order of the Emperor Justin.

During the reign of Robert, the kingdom of France was overwhelmed by all kinds of evils, and God revealed to a Saint that while the blasphemies continued, the chastisements would continue, too. A law was enacted which condemned all those who blasphemed to have their tongues pierced with a red-hot iron for the first offence and ordered that on the second offence they should be executed.

Be warned, my dear brethren, that if blasphemy reigns in your homes, all therein will perish. St. Augustine tells us that blasphemy is an even greater sin than perjury because, as he says, by perjury we take the name of God in witness of something which is false, whereas in blasphemy we are saying something false of God. What a crime is this! And who amongst us has ever fully understood it? St. Thomas, again, tells us that there is another kind of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which can be committed in three ways: 1. By attributing to the Devil the works of Almighty God, as did the Jews when they said that Jesus Christ drove out devils in the name of the prince of devils, as did the tyrants and persecutors who attributed to the Devil and to magic the miracles performed by the saints.

It is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, St. Augustine tells us, to die in final impenitence. Impenitence is a spirit of blasphemy, since the remission of our sins is achieved through love, which is the Holy Ghost.

3. We blaspheme when we perform actions which are directly opposed to the goodness of God -- as when we despair of our salvation and yet are not willing to take the necessary steps to obtain it; as when we are angered because others receive more graces than we do. Take great care never to allow yourselves to fall into these kinds of sins because they are so very horrible! In this way we look upon Almighty God as unjust because He gives more to others than He does to us.

Have you never blasphemed, my dear brethren, by saying that Providence is only for the rich and the wicked? If something went wrong with your affairs, have you not blasphemed by saying: "But what did I do to God more than anyone else that I should have so much to put up with?"

What have you done, my friend? Lift up your eyes and you will see Him whom you have crucified. Have you not blasphemed, also, by saying that you were tempted beyond measure, that you could not do otherwise, that this was your lot? ....

Well, my dear brethren, did you never think along these lines?

.... So it is God who would have had you vicious, bad tempered, violent .... fornicators, adulterers, blasphemers! You do not believe in Original Sin, which dragged men down from the state of uprightness and justice in which we were all at first created!

It is stronger than you are.... But, my friends, did religion never come, then, to your aid to help you to understand all the corruption of Original Sin? And yet you dare, wretched sinner, to blaspheme against Him Who gave religion to you as the greatest gift which He could make you! Have you not also blasphemed against the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Have you not laughed at their virtues, at their penances and their miracles? Alas! In this evil century how many impious people do we not find who carry their impiousness to the point of actually scoffing at the Saints, who are in Heaven, and the just, who are on earth? How many are there who make fun of the austerities which the Saints practiced and who neither wish to serve God themselves nor tolerate that anyone else should serve Him either? Look again, my dear brethren, and see if you have uttered your swearing and your blasphemy to children. Unhappy people, what chastisements await you in the next life! What is the difference, you may ask me, between blasphemy and the repudiation of God? There is a very big difference, my dear brethren, between blasphemies and repudiations of God.

Now in speaking about repudiation, I do not want to talk about those people who repudiate God by abandoning the true religion. We call such people renegades or apostates. But I do want to talk about those people who, when they are speaking, have the dreadful habit, whether in sudden vexation or real passion, of attacking the holy name of God. For example, someone who has lost on a sale or on a gamble will inveigh against God as if he wanted to convince himself that God was the cause of his misfortune. If something happens to you, it seems that God should bear the brunt of all the fury of your resentment, as if God were the cause of your loss or of the accident which befell you. Unhappy sinner! He Who created you from nothing, Who preserves you, and Who fills you continually with blessings and gifts -- it is He whom you dare just the same to mock, to profane His holy name and to repudiate, while He, if He had been swayed solely by His justice, would long ago have consigned you to the flames of Hell.

We see that anyone who has the misfortune to commit these very grave sins usually comes to a bad end. There is an account of a man who was very ill and reduced to dire want. A missionary went to his home to see him and to hear his Confession, and to him the sick man said: "Father, God is punishing my outbursts of anger and rages, my blasphemies, and my repudiations of Him. I have been ill for quite a long time. I am very poor; all my wealth has come to a bad end. My children despise and abandon me; they are worthless because of the bad example I have given them. Already now for quite some time I have been suffering, lying here on this wretched bed. My tongue is all diseased and I cannot swallow anything without experiencing terrible agony. Alas, Father, I am very much afraid that after all this suffering in this world, I will still have to suffer in the next."

We see even in our own day that all those people who swear and profane the holy name of God almost always come to bad ends. Take good heed, my dear brethren, if you have this evil habit. You had better correct it, for fear that if you do not do penance for it in this world, you will be doing it in Hell. Never lose sight of the fact that your tongue should be employed in praying to God and in singing His praises. If you have the evil habit of swearing, you should often, in order to purify your lips, say the holy name of Jesus with great respect.

Now perhaps you will ask me what is understood by cursing and the uttering of imprecations. It means, my dear brethren, cursing a person or a thing or an animal in moments of anger or despair. It is wishing to destroy him or to make him suffer. The Holy Ghost tells us that the person who has the ready curse in his mouth should greatly fear, lest God should grant him what he desires. There are some who have the Devil always on their tongues, who consign to him everything which annoys them.

When they are at work, if an animal does not go the way they want it to, they will curse it and consign it to the Devil. There are others who, when the weather or the children do not behave as they would wish, call down maledictions upon one or the other.... Do not ever forget that the Holy Ghost tells us that a curse uttered irresponsibly or carelessly will fall upon someone. St. Thomas tells us that if we utter a curse against someone, the sin is mortal if we desire whatever it is we say to happen to that person. St. Augustine tells us that a mother cursed her children -- there were seven of them. They were all possessed by the Devil. Many children, who have been cursed by their parents, have been delicate and wretched throughout their lives. We read that there was once a mother whose daughter had put her into such a temper that she cried out: "I wish your arm would wither on you!" In fact, this child's arm did wither, almost immediately.

Married people should take great care never to utter these dreadful sayings to each other. There are some who, if they are unhappy in their homes, will curse their wives, their children, their parents, and all who in any way have any part in the marriage. Alas, my friends, the whole source of your unhappiness lies in yourself because you entered into marriage with a conscience quite steeped in sin. Think about that before Almighty God, and you will see that it is, in fact, the truth. Workers should never curse their work or those who make them work.

Besides, in any event, your imprecations will not make your affairs go any the better. On the contrary, if you have some patience, if you know how to offer up all your difficulties to God, you will bring yourself much nearer to Heaven.

Have you not also cursed the tools which serve you in your work, invoking maledictions upon them, your animals, and so on? That is the sort of thing, my dear brethren, which draws down all sorts of evils upon your animals, upon your labours, and upon your lands, which are often ravaged by hailstorms, by drenching rains, and by frosts. Have you not indeed cursed yourselves: "Ah! I wish I had never seen the light of day.... I wish I had been born dead.... I wish I were back in oblivion."

Alas! These are terrible sins, and quite a large number of people never accuse themselves of them in Confession or ever think about them. I will tell you yet again that you must never curse your children, your animals, your work, or the weather because in cursing all these things, you are cursing what Almighty God does by His holy will. Children should take care never to give occasion to their parents to curse them, which is the greatest of all evils. Often a child who is cursed by his parents is cursed by Almighty God. When someone has done something to you which has angered you very much, now instead of wishing him to the Devil, you would do far more good by saying to him: "May God bless you!" Then you would be a genuinely good servant of God who returns good for evil. In connection with this Commandment, there yet remains to be said something in the matter of the vows which people make. You should be very careful never to make vows without taking proper counsel beforehand. There are some people who, when they are ill, dedicate themselves to all the saints and then later on do not go to the trouble to fulfil their promises. You should also be careful that you make these vows properly, that is to say, while you are in a state of grace. What a number of sins are committed in the matter of these vows! And the whole business, instead of pleasing God, can only offend Him! If you were to ask me why it is that there are nowadays so many who swear, who take false oaths, who utter frightful curses and imprecations and repudiate God, I would reply that these same people, who give themselves up to such horrible practices, are those who have neither faith, nor religion, nor conscience, nor virtue. These are the people who, to a certain extent, are abandoned by God. How much happier we should be if we had the good fortune to employ our tongues, which have been consecrated to God by holy Baptism, solely in prayer to God, Who is so good, so benevolent, and to sing His praises! Since it is for that purpose that God has given us a tongue, let us try, my dear brethren, to consecrate it to Him, so that after this life we shall have the happiness of going to Heaven to bless Him for all eternity. This is what I desire for you.

 

THE DUTIES OF THE PREGNANT WOMAN

I am going to talk to you as simply as I possibly can, so that you can easily understand what your duties are and carry them out. I tell you: 1. That as soon as a woman is pregnant, she should say some prayers or give some alms. Better still, if she can do so, she should have a Mass said to ask the Blessed Virgin to take her under her protection, so that she may obtain from God the blessing that this little child may not die without having received holy Baptism. If a mother truly had the religious spirit, she would say to herself: "Ah! If I could only be sure of seeing this little child becoming a saint, of seeing him for all eternity by my side, singing the praises of God! What a joy that would be for me!"

But no, my dear brethren, that is not the thought which occupies the mind of an expectant mother. She will experience, rather, a devouring resentment on beholding herself in this state and perhaps the thought of even destroying the fruit of her womb will come to her. Oh, dear God! Can the heart of a Christian mother conceive such a crime? Yet we shall see some of them who unashamedly will have entertained such homicidal thoughts! 2. I tell you that an expectant mother who wishes to preserve her child for Heaven should avoid two things. The first is carrying loads which are too heavy and lifting her arms to take something; this could be injurious to her poor child and cause its death. The second thing to be avoided is the taking of remedies which could be too harsh on her child or which could heat her blood to an extent which could be fatal to it. Husbands should overlook a great many things which they would not put up with at any other time. If they will not do this for the sake of the mother, let them do it for the sake of the little child. For perhaps the child might lose the grace of Holy Baptism, which would be the greatest evil of all! 3. As soon as a mother sees her confinement approaching, she should go to Confession -- and for many reasons. The first is that many women die during their confinements, and if she should have the misfortune to be in a state of sin, she would be damned. The second is that being in a state of grace, all the sufferings and the pains which she will endure will gain merit for Heaven. The third is that God will not fail to give her all the blessings which she will desire for her child. A mother at her confinement should preserve modesty as far as is possible in her state and never lose sight of the fact that she is in the presence of God and in the company of her Guardian Angel. She should never eat meat on the forbidden days without permission, a practice which would draw down punishment upon herself and her child.

4. A child should never be left longer than twenty-four hours without being baptised.

 

THE DUTIES OF THE MOTHER

You should never have your children sleeping with you from the time they are two years old. If you do, you are committing a sin. The Church did not make this law without reason. You are bound to observe it.

But, you will say to me, sometimes it is very cold or we are very tired.

All that, my dear brethren, is not a reason which could excuse you in the eyes of God. Besides, when you married, you knew quite well that you would be obliged to fulfil certain responsibilities and obligations which are attached to the married state.

Still, my dear brethren, there are fathers and mothers who are so little instructed in their religion or who are so indifferent to their duties that they will have sleeping with them children from fifteen to eighteen years of age, and often brothers and sisters together. Dear Lord! These poor fathers and mothers are in a terrible state of ignorance! But, you will say, we have no bed.

You have no bed? But it would be better to let them sleep on a chair or in a neighbour's house. Dear Lord! The parents and children who damn themselves! But I will return to my subject and repeat to you that all the time that you allow your children to sleep with you after they have reached two years of age, you are offending God. How many mothers are there who have found their children smothered in the morning! How many mothers are present to whom this calamity has happened! And even if the good God has preserved you from it, you are no less guilty than if, every time your children slept with you, you found them smothered in the morning. You do not wish to agree with this, that is to say, you do not wish to correct it. We will wait until the Judgment, and you will be obliged to recognise what you do not wish to recognise today.

There are mothers who have so little religion or, if you like, are so ignorant that if they want to show off their baby to some neighbouring mothers, they will show it to them naked. Others, when they are putting on diapers, will leave the babies, for a long period of time, uncovered before everyone. Now even if there is no one present at all, you should not do this. Should you not respect the presence of their Guardian Angels? It is the same thing when you are feeding them. Should any Christian mother allow her breasts to remain exposed? And even if they are covered, should she not turn aside to some place where there is no one else? Then there are others who, under the pretext of being foster-nurses, are continually only half-covered. This is very disgusting. It is enough to make even the pagans blush. People are compelled to avoid their company in order not to expose themselves to evil thoughts.

But, you will say to me, even if everyone is around, we must feed our children and change their diapers when they cry! And I shall tell you that when they cry, you ought to do everything you possibly can to quieten them but that it is a far better thing to let them cry a little than to offend God. Alas! How many mothers are the cause of evil glances, of bad thoughts, of immodest touches! Tell me, are these the Christian mothers who should be so reserved? Oh, dear God! What judgment should they expect? Others are so cruel that they let their children run around for the whole morning, during the summer, only half-dressed. Tell me, unhappy people, would it not be better for you to take your places among the savage beasts? Where is your religion, then, and your anxiety to do your duty? Alas! As far as religion is concerned, you have none. As for your duties, have you ever known what they were? That you have not, you give proof every day. Ah, poor children, how unfortunate you are to belong to such parents!

 

THE DUTIES OF PARENTS

I warned you that you should be sure to keep a watchful eye over your children when you send them out to the fields, for out there, far away from you, they can give themselves over to whatever the Devil may put into their minds.

What if I dared to tell you that they carry on with all sorts of ugly and immodest practices, that they pass most of the day in all sorts of abominable ways? I know very well that the majority of them do not know the evil which they do -- but wait until they do acquire that knowledge. At that moment the Devil will not fail to remind them of what they have done in order to make them commit that sin or others. Do you know, my dear brethren, what your negligence or your ignorance produces?

Look at it, then, and keep it in mind. A large number of the children that you send out to the fields make their First Holy Communion sacrilegiously. They have contracted shameful habits, and either they dare not confess them or they do not give them up. Later, if a priest who does not wish to damn them refuses them absolution, people will reproach him and say: "That's because it's my child...."

Go away, you wretched sinners, and watch a little more carefully over your children and they will not be refused. Yes, indeed, I am telling you that the great majority of your children began their bad ways and earned their later rejection during the time when they went out to the fields.

 

YOU WILL ANSWER FOR THEIR SOULS

But, you will tell me, we cannot be always following them around. We have other things to do.

As to that, my dear brethren, I will say nothing. All I know is that you will answer for their souls as much as for your own.

But we do all we can.

I do not know whether you do all you can, but this much I do know: if your children incur damnation at home with you, you, too, will be damned. That much I know, and nothing else.

You may go on saying "No" to that, saying that I go too far.

You will agree with it if you have not entirely lost your faith.

That alone should suffice to cast you into a state of despair from which you could not emerge. But I know well that you will not take another step to fulfil any better your duties to your children. You are not at all disturbed, and you are almost right, for you will have plenty of time to torment yourselves during all eternity. We will pass on.

 

TO THEIR SHAME IT MUST BE SAID

You should never put your maidservants or your daughters to sleep in quarters to which the men will be going in the morning looking for food. This is something which, to the shame of fathers and mothers, must be said. These unfortunate children, or servants, are confused and embarrassed getting up and dressing in front of people who have no more religion than if they had never heard anyone speak of the one true God. Often, even, the beds for these unfortunate people have no curtains around them.

But, you will say to me, if we had to do all the things you say, there would be an awful lot of work to do.

My friend, it is work which you must do, and if you do not do it, you will be punished on account of it: see....

I know very well that you will do nothing, or practically nothing, in respect of what I have just been teaching you. But no matter. I will always continue to tell you what you ought to do. Then all the wrongdoing will be yours and not mine....

When God comes to judge you, you will not be able to say that you did not know what you should have done....

I shall remind you of what I am telling you today.

 

GETTING TO KNOW THE RIGHT PEOPLE

You talk to them of the world. a mother will begin to tell her daughter that such and such a girl has married such and such a man, that she has done very well for herself, that the daughter ought now to see to it that she has the same good fortune. This type of mother has nothing in her head except her daughter -- that is to say, she will do everything in her power to show her off to the eyes of the neighbours. She will deck her out in vanities, even perhaps to the extent of running herself into debt. She will teach her daughter to show herself to the best advantage while walking, telling her that she walks with such a slouch that no one would know what she is like.

Are you surprised that there are mothers who are so blind?

Alas! The number of these poor blind mothers who seek the loss of their daughters is very high.

You will see them then in the morning when their daughters are going out, and they are more concerned with seeing that their daughters' headgear is on straight, that their faces and hands are attractive and clean, than with asking them if they turned their hearts to God, if they have said their prayers and made their morning offering. Of all that, they say nothing at all. Then they will tell their daughters that they should not appear shy or awkward, that they should be charming to everyone, that they ought to be thinking about getting to know the right people in order to get themselves settled in life. How many mothers will you hear saying to their daughters: "If you are nice and pleasant now, or if you make a success of this or that, I will let you go to the fair at Montmerle or to the vogue." In other words, if you make a success of this or that, as I wish, I will drag you into Hell.

Oh, dear Lord! Is this really the language of Christian parents, who should pray day and night for their little children?

There is something which is even sadder than this, and that is the case of those daughters who are not at all interested in going out and about. The parents keep at them, entreating and encouraging them, saying: "You are always staying in. You will never get yourself settled in life. You will let no one tell you anything about the world."

You would like your daughter to get to know people, my dear mother? Do not worry too much -- she will get to know plenty of them without your having to upset yourself! Just wait a little while and you will see how well she will get to know them....

You pushed her into it first of all, but it will not be you who will draw her back. You will weep, maybe, but what good will your tears do? None at all....

 

YOU NO LONGER CONTROL THEM

Every day you are complaining about your children, are you not? Your complaint is that you can no longer control them? That is very true. You have perhaps forgotten the day that you said to your son or your daughter: "If you want to go to the fair at Montmerle, or even to the vogue at the cabaret, you can go there. But you must come back early."

Your daughter told you that it would be just as you wished.

"Go along so; you never go out. You should have some moments of pleasure."

You will not say: "No!" Later on, you will have no need, either, to urge or even to give her permission to go. Then you will be in a terrible state because she has gone without telling you. Look back, my dear mother, and you will recall that you gave her the permission once .... which was for all time....

You wanted her to get to know the right people so that she could get married and settle down. In fact, as the result of gadding about, she will get to know many people....

Is not this the way, my dear mother? "Let the Pastor talk away, go along just the same, be good, come back at an early hour, and all will be well." This is very good, my dear mother, but listen: One day I found myself walking along near where a big fire was burning. I took a handful of very dry straw and I threw it into the fire, telling it not to burn. Those who watched what I was doing told me, as they laughed at me, "You do well to tell it not to burn. Nothing will stop it from burning."

"But how will that be," I answered, "when I told it not to?"

What do you think of that, my dear mother? Do you recognise yourself? Is not that exactly what you are doing? ....

Tell me, my dear mother, if you have any sentiments of religion and of affection for your children, should you not be doing everything you possibly can to help them to avoid the evil that you did yourself when you were the same age as your own daughter? Let us put it a bit more bluntly. You are not sufficiently content with being unhappy yourself, but do you want your children to be unhappy, too?

And you, my daughter, you are unhappy in your own home?

I am very distressed about that, I am very troubled by it, but I am less surprised than if you said you were happy, with all the pressure that is brought to bear upon you to get married.

Yes, my dear brethren, corruption among the young people today has grown to such a high degree that it would be almost as impossible to find among them those who worthily receive this Sacrament as it would be impossible to see a damned soul ascending to Heaven.

But, you will tell me, there are still some among them.

Alas, my friends, where are they? ....

Ah, yes, fathers and mothers see no harm in leaving a girl with a young man for three or four hours in the evening, or even when they are out at Vespers.

But, you will say, they are very good.

Yes, without any doubt, they are very good. Charity urges us to believe that. But tell me this, my dear mother, were you so very good when you were in the same circumstances as your own daughter? ....

Alas, it would seem today that if a young man or a young girl wish to settle down, it must follow that they abandon God.

.... No, we will not go into details; we will come back to that some other time....

What I have said to you today amounts to only a glance at the subject. Come back on Sunday, fathers and mothers, leave your children to mind the house, and I will go further -- without being able to get you to know half the significance of what I am saying! Alas, what about you, you poor children! .... Being your spiritual father, I give you this advice: When you see your parents, who miss religious services, who work on Sundays, who eat meat on the forbidden days, who do not go to the Sacraments any more, who do not improve their minds on religious matters -- do the very opposite before them, so that your good example may save them, and if you are wise and good enough to do this, you will have gained everything. That is what I most desire for you.

 

HE WILL HELP US

Yes, my dear brethren, in everything that we see, in everything that we hear, in all we say and do, we are conscious of the fact that we are drawn towards evil. If we are at table, there is sensuality, and gluttony, and intemperance. If we take a few moments of recreation, there are the dangers of flightiness and idle chatter. If we are at work, most of the time it is self-interest, or avarice, or envy which influences us -- or even vanity. When we pray, there is negligence, distraction, distaste, and boredom. If we are in pain or any trouble, there are complaints and murmurings. When we are doing well and are prosperous, pride, self-love, and contempt for our neighbour take hold of us. Our hearts swell with pride when we are praised. Wrongs inflame us into rages.

There you see my dear brethren, the thing which made the greatest of the saints tremble. This was what made so many of them retire into the desert to live solitary lives; this was the source of so many tears, of so many prayers, of so many penances. It is true that the saints who were hidden away in the forests were not exempt from temptations, but they were far removed from so much bad example as that which surrounds us continually and which is the cause of so many souls being lost.

But, my dear brethren, we see from their lives that they watched, they prayed, and they were in dread unceasingly, while we, poor, blind sinners, are quite placid in the midst of so many dangers which could lose us our souls! Alas, my dear brethren, some of us do not even know what it is to be tempted because we hardly ever, or very rarely, resist. Which one of us can expect to escape from all these dangers? Which one of us will be saved? Anyone who wanted to reflect upon all these things could hardly go on living, so greatly terrified would he be! However, my dear brethren, what ought to console and reassure us is that we have to deal with a good Father Who will never allow our struggles to be greater than our strength, and every time we have recourse to Him, He will help us to fight and to conquer.

 

 

WE MUST EXPECT TEMPTATION

It is most unfortunate for ourselves if we do not know that we are tempted in almost all our actions, at one time by pride, by vanity, by the good opinion which we think people should have of us, at another by jealousy, by hatred and by revenge. At other times, the Devil comes to us with the foulest and most impure images. You see that even in our prayers he distracts us and turns our minds this way and that. It seems indeed that we are in a state .... since we are in the holy presence of God [sentence incomplete - Trans.]. And even more, since the time of Adam, you will not find a saint who has not been tempted -- some in one way, some in another -- and the greatest saints are those who have been tempted the most. If Our Lord was tempted, it was in order to show us that we must be also. It follows, therefore, that we must expect temptation. If you ask me what is the cause of our temptations, I shall tell you that it is the beauty and the great worth and importance of our souls which the Devil values and which he loves so much that he would consent to suffer two Hells, if necessary, if by so doing he could drag our souls into Hell.

We should never cease to keep a watch on ourselves, lest the Devil might deceive us at the moment when we are least expecting it. St. Francis tells us that one day God allowed him to see the way in which the Devil tempted his religious, especially in matters of purity. He allowed him to see a band of devils who did nothing but shoot their arrows against his religious. Some returned violently against the devils who had discharged them.

They then fled, shrieking hideous yells of rage. Some of the arrows glanced off those they were intended for and dropped at their feet without doing any harm. Others pierced just as far as the tip of the arrow and finally penetrated, bit by bit.

If we wish to hunt these temptations away, we must, as St.

Anthony tells us, make use of the same weapons. When we are tempted by pride, we must immediately humble and abase ourselves before God. If we are tempted against the holy virtue of purity, we must try to mortify our bodies and all our senses and to be ever more vigilant of ourselves. If our temptation consists in a distaste for prayers, we must say even more prayers, with greater attention, and the more the Devil prompts us to give them up, the more we must increase their number.

The temptations we must fear most are those of which we are not conscious. St. Gregory tells us that there was a religious who for long had been a good member of his community. Then he developed a very strong desire to leave the monastery and to return to the world, saying that God did not wish him to be in that monastery. His saintly superior told him: "My friend, it is the Devil who is angry because you may be able to save your soul. Fight against him."

But no, the other continued to believe that it was as he claimed. St. Gregory gave him permission to leave. But when he was leaving the monastery, the latter went on his knees to ask God to let this poor religious know that it was the Devil who wanted to make him lose his soul. The religious had scarcely put his foot over the threshold of the door to leave when he saw an enormous dragon, which attacked him.

"Oh, brothers," he cried out, "come to my aid! Look at the dragon which will devour me!"

And indeed, the brethren who came running when they heard the noise found this poor monk stretched out on the ground, half-dead. They carried him back into the monastery, and he realised that truly it was the Devil who wanted to tempt him and who was bursting with rage because the superior had prayed for him and so had prevented the Devil from getting him. Alas, my dear brethren, how greatly we should fear, lest we do not recognise our temptations! And we shall never recognise them if we do not ask God to allow us to do so.

 

WE ARE NOTHING IN OURSELVES

Temptation is necessary to us to make us realise that we are nothing in ourselves. St. Augustine tells us that we should thank God as much for the sins from which He has preserved us as for those which He has had the charity to forgive us. If we have the misfortune to fall so often into the snares of the Devil, we set ourselves up again too much on the strength of our own resolutions and promises and too little upon the strength of God. This is very true.

When we do nothing to be ashamed of, when everything is going along according to our wishes, we dare to believe that nothing could make us fall. We forget our own nothingness and our utter weakness. We make the most delightful protestations that we are ready to die rather than to allow ourselves to be conquered. We see a splendid example of this in St. Peter, who told our Lord that although all others might be scandalised in Him, yet he would never deny Him.

Alas! To show him how man, left to himself, is nothing at all, God made use, not of kings or princes or weapons, but simply of the voice of a maidservant, who even appeared to speak to him in a very indifferent sort of way. A moment ago, he was ready to die for Him, and now Peter protests that he does not even know Him, that he does not know about whom they are speaking. To assure them even more vehemently that he does not know Him, he swears an oath about it. Dear Lord, what we are capable of when we are left to ourselves! There are some who, in their own words, are envious of the saints who did great penances. They believe that they could do as well. When we read the lives of some of the martyrs, we would, we think, be ready to suffer all that they suffered for God; the moment is shortlived, we say, for an eternity of reward. But what does God do to teach us to know ourselves or, rather, to know that we are nothing? This is all He does: He allows the Devil to come a little closer to us. Look at this Christian who a moment ago was quite envious of the hermit who lived solely on roots and herbs and who made the stern resolution to treat his body as harshly. Alas! A slight headache, a prick of a pin, makes him, as big and strong is he is, sorry for himself. He is very upset. He cries with pain. A moment ago he would have been willing to do all the penances of the anchorites -- and the merest trifle makes him despair! Look at this other one, who seems to want to give his whole life for God, whose ardour all the torments there are cannot damp. A tiny bit of scandalmongering .... a word of calumny .... even a slightly cold reception or a small injustice done to him .... a kindness returned by ingratitude .... immediately gives birth in him to feelings of hatred, of revenge, of dislike, to the point, often, of his never wishing to see his neighbour again or at least of treating him coldly with an air which shows very plainly what is going on in his heart. And how many times is this his waking thought, just as it was the thought that almost prevented him from sleeping? Alas, my dear brethren, we are poor stuff, and we should count very little upon our good resolutions!

 

BEWARE IF YOU HAVE NO TEMPTATIONS

Whom does the devil pursue must? Perhaps you are thinking that it must be those who are tempted most; these would undoubtedly be the habitual drunkards, the scandalmongers, the immodest and shameless people who wallow in moral filth, and the miser, who hoards in all sorts of ways. No, my dear brethren no, it is not these people. On the contrary, the Devil despises them, or else he holds onto them, lest they not have a long enough time in which to do evil, because the longer they live, the more their bad example will drag souls into Hell.

Indeed, if the Devil had pursued this lewd and shameless old fellow too closely, he might have shortened the latter's life by fifteen or twenty years, and he would not then have destroyed the virginity of that young girl by plunging her into the unspeakable mire of his indecencies; he would not, again, have seduced that wife, nor would he have taught his evil lessons to that young man, who will perhaps continue to practice them until his death. If the Devil had prompted this thief to rob on every occasion, he would long since have ended on the scaffold and so he would not have induced his neighbour to follow his example. If the Devil had urged this drunkard to fill himself unceasingly with wine, he would long ago have perished in his debaucheries, instead of which, by living longer, he has made many others like himself. If the Devil had taken away the life of this musician, of that dancehall owner, of this cabaret keeper, in some raid or scuffle, or on any other occasion, how many souls would there be who, without these people, would not be damned and who now will be? St. Augustine teaches us that the Devil does not bother these people very much; on the contrary, he despises them and spits upon them.

So, you will ask me, who then are the people most tempted?

They are these, my friends; note them carefully. The people most tempted are those who are ready, with the grace of God, to sacrifice everything for the salvation of their poor souls, who renounce all those things which most people eagerly seek. It is not one devil only who tempts them, but millions seek to entrap them. We are told that St. Francis of Assisi and all his religious were gathered on an open plain, where they had built little huts of rushes. Seeing the extraordinary penances which were being practiced, St. Francis ordered that all instruments of penance should be brought out, whereupon his religious produced them in bundles. At this moment there was one young man to whom God gave the grace to see his Guardian Angel. On the one side he saw all of these good religious, who could not satisfy their hunger for penance, and, on the other, his Guardian Angel allowed him to see a gathering of eighteen thousand devils, who were holding counsel to see in what way they could subvert these religious by temptation. One of the devils said: "You do not understand this at all. These religious are so humble; ah, what wonderful virtue, so detached from themselves, so attached to God! They have a superior who leads them so well that it is impossible to succeed in winning them over. Let us wait until their superior is dead, and then we shall try to introduce among them young people without vocations who will bring about a certain slackening of spirit, and in this way we shall gain them."

A little further on, as he entered the town, he saw a devil, sitting by himself beside the gate into the town, whose task was to tempt all of those who were inside. This saint asked his Guardian Angel why it was that in order to tempt this group of religious there had been so many thousands of devils while for a whole town there was but one -- and that one sitting down. His good angel told him that the people of the town had not the same need of temptations, that they had enough bad in themselves, while the religious were doing good despite all the traps which the Devil could lay for them.

The first temptation, my dear brethren, which the Devil tries on anyone who has begun to serve God better is in the matter of human respect. He will no longer dare to be seen around; he will hide himself from those with whom heretofore he had been mixing and pleasure seeking. If he should be told that he has changed a lot, he will be ashamed of it! What people are going to say about him is continually in his mind, to the extent that he no longer has enough courage to do good before other people. If the Devil cannot get him back through human respect, he will induce an extraordinary fear to possess him that his confessions are not good, that his confessor does not understand him, that whatever he does will be all in vain, that he will be damned just the same, that he will achieve the same result in the end by letting everything slide as by continuing to fight, because the occasions of sin will prove too many for him.

Why is it, my dear brethren, that when someone gives no thought at all to saving his soul, when he is living in sin, he is not tempted in the slightest, but that as soon as he wants to change his life, in other words, as soon as the desire to give his life to God comes to him, all Hell falls upon him? Listen to what St. Augustine has to say: "Look at the way," he tells us, "in which the Devil behaves towards the sinner. He acts like a jailer who has a great many prisoners locked up in his prison but who, because he has the key in his pocket, is quite happy to leave them, secure in the knowledge that they cannot get out. This is his way of dealing with the sinner who does not consider the possibility of leaving his sin behind. He does not go to the trouble of tempting him. He looks upon this as time wasted because not only is the sinner not thinking of leaving him, but the Devil does not desire to multiply his chains. It would be pointless, therefore, to tempt him. He allows him to live in peace, if, indeed, it is possible to live in peace when one is in sin. He hides his state from the sinner as much as is possible until death, when he then tries to paint a picture of his life so terrifying as to plunge him into despair. But with anyone who has made up his mind to change his life, to give himself up to God, that is another thing altogether."

While St. Augustine lived in sin and evil, he was not aware of anything by which he was tempted. He believed himself to be at peace, as he tells us himself. But from the moment that he desired to turn his back upon the Devil, he had to struggle with him, even to the point of losing his breath in the fight. And that lasted for five years. He wept the most bitter of tears and employed the most austere of penances: "I argued with him," he says, "in my chains. One day I thought myself victorious, the next I was prostrate on the earth again. This cruel and stubborn war went on for five years. However, God gave me the grace to be victorious over my enemy."

You may see, too, the struggle which St. Jerome endured when he desired to give himself to God and when he had the thought of visiting the Holy Land. When he was in Rome, he conceived a new desire to work for his salvation. Leaving Rome, he buried himself in a fearsome desert to give himself over to everything with which his love of God could inspire him. Then the Devil, who foresaw how greatly his conversion would affect others, seemed to burst with fury and despair.

There was not a single temptation that he spared him. I do not believe that there is any saint who was as strongly tempted as he. This is how he wrote to one of his friends: "My dear friend, I wish to confide in you about my affliction and the state to which the Devil seeks to reduce me. How many times in this vast solitude, which the heat of the sun makes insupportable, how many times the pleasures of Rome have come to assail me! The sorrow and the bitterness with which my soul is filled cause me, night and day, to shed floods of tears. I proceed to hide myself in the most isolated places to struggle with my temptations and there to weep for my sins. My body is all disfigured and covered with a rough hair shirt. I have no other bed than the naked ground and my only food is coarse roots and water, even in my illnesses. In spite of all these rigours, my body still experiences thoughts of the squalid pleasures with which Rome is poisoned; my spirit finds itself in the midst of those pleasant companionships in which I so greatly offended God.

In this desert to which I have condemned myself to avoid Hell, among these sombre rocks, where I have no other companions than the scorpions and the wild beasts, my spirit still bums my body, already dead before myself, with an impure fire; the Devil still dares to offer it pleasures to taste. I behold myself so humiliated by these temptations, the very thought of which makes me die with horror, and not knowing what further austerities I should exert upon my body to attach it to God, that I throw myself on the ground at the foot of my crucifix, bathing it with my tears, and when I can weep no more I pick up stones and beat my breast with them until the blood comes out of my mouth, begging for mercy until the Lord takes pity upon me.

Is there anyone who can understand the misery of my state, desiring so ardently to please God and to love Him alone?

Yet I see myself constantly prone to offend Him. What sorrow this is for me! Help me, my dear friend, by the aid of your prayers, so that I may be stronger in repelling the Devil, who has sworn my eternal damnation."

These, my dear brethren, are the struggles to which God permits his great saints to be exposed. Alas, how we are to be pitied if we are not fiercely harried by the Devil! According to all appearances, we are the friends of the Devil: he lets us live in a false peace, he lulls us to sleep under the pretence that we have said some good prayers, given some alms, that we have done less harm than others. According to our standard, my dear brethren, if you were to ask, for instance, this pillar of the cabaret if the Devil tempted him, he would answer quite simply that nothing was bothering him at all. Ask this young girl, this daughter of vanity, what her struggles are like, and she will tell you laughingly that she has none at all, that she does not even know what it is to be tempted. There you see, my dear brethren, the most terrifying temptation of all, which is not to be tempted.

There you see the state of those whom the Devil is preserving for Hell. If I dared, I would tell you that he takes good care not to tempt or torment such people about their past lives, lest their eyes be opened to their sins.

The greatest of all evils is not to be tempted because there are then grounds for believing that the Devil looks upon us as his property and that he is only awaiting our deaths to drag us into Hell. Nothing could be easier to understand. Just consider the Christian who is trying, even in a small way, to save his soul.

Everything around him inclines him to evil; he can hardly lift his eyes without being tempted, in spite of all his prayers and penances. And yet a hardened sinner, who for the past twenty years has been wallowing in sin, will tell you that he is not tempted! So much the worse, my friend, so much the worse! That is precisely what should make you tremble -- that you do not know what temptations are. For to say that you are not tempted is like saying the Devil no longer exists or that he has lost all his rage against Christian souls." If you have no temptations," St. Gregory tells us, "it is because the devils are your friends, your leaders, and your shepherds. And by allowing you to pass your poor life tranquilly, to the end of your days, they will drag you down into the depths." St. Augustine tells us that the greatest temptation is not to have temptations because this means that one is a person who has been rejected, abandoned by God, and left entirely in the grip of one's own passions.

 

THE BAD DEATH

If you ask me what most people understand by a bad death, I will reply: "When a person dies in the prime of life, married, enjoying good health, having wealth in abundance, and leaves children and a wife desolate, there is no doubt but that such a death is very tragic." King Ezechiel said: "What, my God! It is necessary that I die in the midst of my years, in the prime of my life!" And the Prophet-King asks God not to take him in his prime. Others say that to die at the hands of the executioner on the gallows is a bad death. Others say that a sudden death is a bad death, as, for instance, to be killed in some disaster, or to be drowned, or to fall from a high building and be killed. And then some say that the worst thing is to die of some horrible disease, like the plague or some other contagious malady.

And yet, my dear brethren, I am going to tell you that none of these are bad deaths. Provided that a person has lived well, if he dies in his prime, his death will not fail to be valuable in God's eyes. We have many saints who died in the prime of their lives. It is not a bad death, either, to die at the hands of the executioner. All the martyrs died at the hands of executioners.

To die a sudden death is not to die a bad death either, provided one is ready. We have many saints who died deaths of that sort.

St. Simeon was killed by lightning on his pillar. St. Francis de Sales died of apoplexy. Finally, to die of the plague is not a dreadful death. St. Roch and St. Francis Xavier died of it.

But what makes death bad is sin. Ah, this horrible sin which tears and devours at this dread moment! Alas, no matter where the poor, unfortunate sinner looks, he sees only sin and neglected graces! If he lifts his eyes to Heaven, he sees only an angry God, armed with all the fury of His justice, Who is ready to punish him. If he turns his gaze downwards, he sees only Hell and its furies already opening its gates to receive him. Alas! This poor sinner did not want to recognise the justice of God during his life on earth; at this moment, not only does he see it, but he feels it already pressing down upon him. During his lifetime, he was always trying to hide his sins, or at least to make as little of them as possible. But at this moment everything is shown to him as in the broad light of day. He sees now what he should have seen before, what he did not want to see. He would like to weep for his sins, but he has no more time. He scorned God during his lifetime; God now, in His turn, scorns him and abandons him to his despair.

Listen, hardened sinners, you who are wallowing now, with such pleasure, in the slime of your vice, without casting even a thought upon amending your lives, who perhaps will give thought to this only when God has abandoned you, as has happened to people less guilty than you. Yes, the Holy Ghost tells us that sinners in their last moments will gnash their teeth, will be seized by a horrible dread, at the very thought of their sins.

Their iniquities will rise up before them and accuse them.

"Alas!" they will cry at this dread moment, "alas! Of what use is this pride, this vain ostentation, and all those pleasures we have been enjoying in sin? Everything is finished now. We have not a single item of virtue to our credit but have been completely conquered by our evil passions."

This is exactly what happened to the unhappy Antiochus, who, when he fell from his chariot, shattered his whole body.

He experienced such dreadful pain in his entrails that it seemed to him as if someone were tearing them out. The worms started to gnaw at him while he was still alive, and his whole body stank like carrion. Then he began to open his eyes. This is what sinners do -- but too late.

"Ah," he cried, "I realise now that it was the evils which I committed in Jerusalem that are tormenting me now and gnawing at my heart."

His body was consumed by the most frightful sufferings and his spirit with an inconceivable sadness. He got his friends to come to him, thinking that he might find some consolation in them. But no. Abandoned by God, Who gives consolation, he could not find it in others.

"Alas, my friends," he said to them, "I have fallen into a terrible affliction. Sleep has left me. I cannot rest for a single instant. My heart is pierced with grief. To what a terrible state of sadness and anguish I am reduced! It seems that I must die of sorrow, and in a strange country, too. Ah, Lord, pardon me! I will repair all the evil that I have done. I will pay back all I took from the temple in Jerusalem. I will present great gifts to the temple. I will become a Jew. I will observe the Law of Moses. I will go about publicising the omnipotence of God. Ah, Lord, have mercy on me, please!"

But his illness increased, and God, Whom he had scorned during his life, no longer had ears to hear him. He was a proud man, a blasphemer, and despite his urgent prayers, he was not listened to and had to go to Hell.

It is a grievous but a just punishment that sinners, who throughout their lives have spurned all the graces which God has offered them, find no more graces when they would like to profit by them. Alas! The number of people who die thus in the sight of God is great. Alas! That there are so many of these blind people who do not open their eyes until the moment when there are no further remedies for their ills! Yes, my dear brethren, yes, a life of sin and a death of rejection! You are in sin and you do not wish to give it up? No, you say. Very well, my children, you will perish in sin. You will see that in the death of Voltaire, the notorious blasphemer.

Listen carefully and you will see that if we despise God always and if God waits for us during our lives, often, by a just judgment, He will abandon us at the hour of our death, when we would like to return to Him.

The idea that one can live in sin and give it all up one day is one of the Devil's traps which will cause you to lose your soul as it has caused so many others to lose theirs. Voltaire, realising that he was ill, began to reflect upon the state of the sinner who dies with his conscience loaded with sins. He wished to examine his conscience and to see whether God would be willing to pardon him all the sins of his life, which were very great in number. He counted upon the mercy of God, which is infinite, and with this comforting thought in mind, he had brought to him one of those priests whom he had so greatly outraged and calumniated in his writings. He threw himself upon his knees and made a declaration to him of his sins and put into his hands the recantation of all his impieties and his scandals. He began to flatter himself on having achieved the great work of his reconciliation. But he was gravely mistaken. God had abandoned him; you will see how. Death anticipated all spiritual help. Alas! This unfortunate blasphemer felt all his terrors reborn in him. He cried out: "Alas, am I then abandoned by God and men?"

Yes, unhappy man, you are. Already your lot and your hope are in Hell. Listen to this godless man; he cries out with that mouth sullied with so many profanities and so much blasphemy against God, His religion, and His ministers.

"Ah," he cried, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died for all sinners without distinction, have pity on me!"

But, alas! Almost a century of blasphemy and impiety had exhausted the patience of God, Who had already rejected him.

He was no more than a victim which the wrath of God fattens for the eternal flames. The priests whom he had so derided but whom, in this moment he so desired, were not there. See him as he falls into convulsions and the horrors of despair, his eyes wild, his face ghastly, his body trembling with terror! He twists and turns and torments himself and seems as if he wants to atone for all those previous blasphemies with which his mouth had been so often sullied. His companions in irreligion, fearing, lest someone might bring him the last Sacraments, something which would have seemed to them to dishonour their cause, brought him to a house in the country, and there, abandoned to his despair ... [sermon unfinished - Trans.]

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