Friday, 24 May 2019

24 MAY – OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS


The Faithful have frequently seen it proved by miraculous intervention that the Mother of God is ever ready with her Help to repel the enemies of religion. It was on this account that after the signal victory gained by the Christians over the Turks in the Gulf of Lepanto, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin, Saint Pius V ordered that to the other titles given to the Queen of Heaven in the Litany of Loreto, there should be added this of Help of Christians. But one of the most memorable proofs of this her protection, and one which may be regarded as an incontestable miracle, is that which happened during the pontificate of Pius VII. By the intrigues and armed violence of certain impious men the Pontiff had been driven from the Apostolic See of Peter and was kept in close confinement, mainly at Savona, for upwards of five years. During this period, by a persecution unheard of in any previous age, every possible means was resorted to in order to prevent his governing the Church of God. When suddenly and to the surprise of men he was restored to the Pontifical throne to the great joy, it might be almost said, with the concurrence, of the whole world. The same thing happened also a second time when a fresh disturbance arose and compelled him to leave Rome and go, with the Sacred College of Cardinals, into Liguria. Here again the storm that threatened great destruction was appeased by a most prompt interference of God’s providence, and the Pontiff’s return to Rome filled Christendom with new joy. Before returning, however, he would carry out an intention which his captivity had until then prevented him from doing: with his own hand he solemnly placed a golden crown on the celebrated statue of the Mother of God that was venerated at Savona under the title of Mother of Mercy. The same Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VII, who was so thoroughly acquainted with every circumstance of these events, rightly attributed their happy issue to the intercession of the most holy Mother of God whose powerful help he himself had earnestly besought, besides urging all the Faithful to obtain it by their prayers. He therefore instituted a solemn feast in honour of the same Virgin-Mother under the title of Help of Christians. It was to be kept every year on the twenty-fourth of May, the anniversary of his own most happy return to Rome. He also sanctioned a proper Office for this feast, in order that the remembrance of so great a favour might ever be vividly on the minds of the Faithful, and secure the thanksgiving it deserved.

Dom Prosper Gueranger:

Ever since our entrance upon the joys of the Paschal Season, scarcely a day has passed without the Calendar offering us some grand mystery or saint to honour, and all these have been radiant with the Easter sun. But of our Blessed Lady, there has not been a single Feast to gladden our hearts by telling us of some mystery or glory of this august Queen. The Feast of her Seven Dolours is sometimes kept in April — that is, when Easter Sunday falls on or after the tenth of that month, but May and June pass without any special solemnity in honour of the other of God. It would seem as though Holy Church wished to honour, by a respectful silence, the forty days during which Mary enjoyed the company of her Jesus after His Resurrection. We, therefore, should never separate the Mother and the Son, if we would have our Easter meditations be in strict accordance with truth — and that, we surely must wish. During these forty days, Jesus frequently visits His Disciples, weak men and sinners as they are: can He, then, keep away from His Mother, now that He is so soon to ascend into Heaven and leave her for several long years here on Earth? Our hearts forbid us to entertain the thought. We feel sure that He frequently visits her and that, when not visibly present with her, she has Him in her soul, in a way more intimate and real and delicious than any other creature could have.
No feast could have given expression to such a mystery, and yet the Holy Ghost who guides the spirit of the Church, has gradually led the faithful to devote to the honouring Mary in an special manner the entire month of May, the whole of which comes, almost every year, under the glad season of Easter. No doubt, the loveliness of the May month would, some time or other, suggest the idea of consecrating it to the Holy Mother of God, but if we reflect on the divine and mysterious influence which guides the Church in all she does, we will recognise in this present instance a heavenly inspiration which prompted the Faithful to unite their own joy with that of Mary’s, and spend this beautiful month, which is radiant with their own Easter joy, in commemorating the maternal delight experienced during that same period by the Immaculate Mother when on Earth.
Today, however, we have a feast in honour of Mary. True, it is not one of those feasts which are entered on the general Calendar of the Church, yet is it so widely spread, and this with the consent of the Holy See, that our Liturgical Year would have been incomplete without it. Its object is to honour the Mother of God as the Help of Christians — a title she has justly merited by the innumerable favours she has conferred on Christendom. Dating from that day, whose anniversary we are soon to be celebrating, and on which the Holy Ghost descended on Mary in the Cenacle in order that she might begin to exercise over the Church Militant her power as Queen — who could tell the number of times that she has aided, by her protection, the Kingdom of her Son on Earth?
Heresies have risen up one after the other. They were violent. They were frequently supported by the great ones of this world. Each of them was resolved on the destruction of the True Faith. And yet, one after the other, they have dwindled away or fallen into impotency, or are gradually sinking by internal discord. And Holy Church tells us that it is Mary who “alone destroys all heresies throughout the whole world.” If public scandals or persecutions, or the tyranny of secular interference, have at times threatened to stay the progress of the Church, Mary has stretched forth her arm, the obstacles were removed and Jesus’ Spouse continued her onward march, leaving her foes and her fetters behind her. All this was vividly brought before the mind of the saintly Pontiff Pius V by the victory of Lepanto gained by Mary’s intercession over the Turkish Fleet, and he resolved to add one more title to the glorious ones given to our Lady in the Litany: the title he added was Auxilium Christianovum, Help of Christians. [The nineteenth century] had the happiness of seeing another Pontiff, also named Pius, institute a feast under this same title — a feast which is intended to commemorate the Help bestowed on Christendom, and in all ages, by the Mother of God. Nothing could be happier than the choice of the day on which this feast was to be kept.
On the 24th of May 1814 there was witnessed in Rome the most magnificent triumph that has yet been recorded in the annals of the Church. That was a grand day on which Constantine marked out the foundations for the Vatican Basilica in honour of the Prince of the Apostles. Sylvester stood by and blessed the Emperor, who had just been converted to the true Faith. but important as was this event, it was but a sign of the last and decisive victory won by the Church in the then recent persecution of Diocletian. That was a grand day on which Leo III, Vicar of the King of kings, crowned Charlemagne with the imperial diadem, and by his apostolic power gave continuance to the long interrupted line of Emperors. But Leo III by this did but give an official and solemn expression to the power which the Church had already frequently exercised in the newly constituted nations which received from her the idea of Christian government, the consecration of their rights, and the grace that was to enable them to fulfil their duties. That was a grand day on which Gregory IX took back to the City of Peter the Papal Throne which had been pent up at Avignon for seventy sad years. But Gregory IX in this did but fulfil a duty, and his predecessors, had they willed it, might have effected this return to Rome, which the necessities of Christendom so imperatively called for.
Yes, all these were glorious days, but the 24th of May 1814 surpasses them all. Pius VII re-entered Rome amidst the acclamations of the Holy City, whose entire population went forth to meet him, holding palm branches in their hands, and greeting him with their hosannas of enthusiastic joy. He had been a captive for five years, during which the spiritual government of the Christian world had suffered a total suspension. It was not the Allied Powers, who had made common cause against his oppressor, that broke the Pontiff’s fetters. The very tyrant who kept him from Rome had given him permission to return at the close of the preceding year, but the Pontiff chose his own time and did not leave Fontainebleau till the 25th of January. Rome, to which he was about to return, had been made a part of the French Empire five years previously, and by a decree in which was cited the name of Charlemagne! The City of Peter had been reduced to a head town of a Department, with a Prefect for its administrator. And with a view to making men forget that it was the City of the Vicars of Christ, its name was given as a title to the heir-presumptive of the imperial crown of France. What a day that 24th of May, which witnessed the triumphant return of the Pontiff into the Holy City from which he had been dragged during the night by the soldiers of an ambitious tyrant!
But what we have so far said is not sufficient to give an adequate idea of the greatness of the prodigy thus achieved by our Lady, the Help of Christians. In order to have a just appreciation of it we must remember that the miracle was not wrought in the age of Sylvester and Constantine, or of Saint Leo III and Charlemagne, or of the great prophetess Catherine of Siena who made known the commands of God to the people of Italy and to the Popes of Avignon. The age that witnessed this wondrous event was the nineteenth, and that, too, when it was under the degrading influence of Voltairianism, and there were still living the authors and abettors of the crimes and impieties that resulted from the principles taught in the eighteenth century. Everything was adverse to such a glorious and unexpected triumph. Catholic feeling was far from being roused as it now is — the action of God’s providence had to show itself in a direct and visible manner: and to let the Christian world know that such was the case, Rome instituted the annual feast of the 24th of May, as an offering of acknowledgement to Mary, the Help of Christians.
Let us now weigh the importance of the two-fold restoration which was wrought on this day by the intercession of the Holy Mother of God. Pius VII had been forcibly taken from Rome and dethroned. On this 24th of May, he was reinstated in Rome, both as Pope and as Temporal Sovereign. On the respective feasts of Saint Peter’s Chair at Rome and Antioch, we gave our readers the doctrine of the Church which teaches us that the succession to the rights conferred by Christ on Saint Peter belongs to the Bishop of Rome. From this it follows that residence in the City of Rome is both the right and obligation of the successor of Saint Peter, save in the case of his deeming a temporary absence to be demanded by circumstances. Whoever, therefore, by means of physical force keeps the Sovereign Pontiff out of Rome, or prevents him from residing there, is acting in opposition to the Divine Will. For the Pastor ought to be in the midst of his flock, and Rome having been made by Christ the head of all Churches, these have a right to find in Rome him, who is both the Infallible Doctor of Faith, and the source of all spiritual jurisdiction. The first blessing, therefore, for which we are indebted to Mary on this day is that she brought back the Pastor to his flock, and restored the supreme government of holy Church to its normal state.
Let us then give thanks to the Blessed Mother of God on this feast of the twenty-fourth day of May, which has been instituted in commemoration of the two-fold blessing she thus brought upon the world, the preservation of the Church and the preservation of society. Let us unite in the fervent acclamations of the then loyal citizens of Rome, and like them sing with all the glad joy of our Easter Alleluia, our greetings of Hosanna to the Vicar of Christ, the Father of that dear Land, our common Country. The remembrance of Saint Peter’s deliverance from prison and his restoration to liberty must have been vividly on the minds of that immense concourse of people, whose love for their Pontiff was redoubled by the sufferings he had gone through. As the triumphal chariot, on which he had been placed, came near the Porta Flaminia, the horses were unyoked and the Pontiff was conveyed by the people to the Vatican Basilica where a solemn thanksgiving was made over the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.
But let us not close the day, without admiring the merciful intervention of our Lady, the Help of Christians. If the protection she gives to the faithful sometimes necessitates her showing severity to them that were the tyrants, her maternal heart is full of compassion for the vanquished, and she extends her Help even to them. Thus it was with the haughty Emperor over whom she triumphed on the twenty-fourth of May. She would then bring him back to humble repentance and to the practice of his religious duties. A messenger from the Island of Saint Helena was one day ushered into the presence of Pius VII. The exiled Napoleon whom he had consecrated Emperor in the Church of Notre Dame, and whose after conduct brought him under the ban of excommunication, now besought the Pontiff, the true and only King of Rome, to allow him to be re-admitted to those spiritual blessings of which he had been justly deprived. Our Lady was preparing a second victory.
Pius VII whose name the fallen Emperor could never pronounce without emotion, and whom he called “a lamb” — Pius VII, who had so courageously braved public opinion by giving hospitality at Rome to the members of the unfortunate Napoleon family — readily complied with the request thus made to him, and the holy Sacrifice of the Mass was shortly afterwards offered up in the presence of the illustrious exile of Saint Helena. Our Lady of Help was advancing her conquest. But before granting pardon, the Justice of God had required a full and public expiation. He, who had been the instrument of salvation to millions of souls by restoring religion to France was not to be lost, but he had impiously imprisoned the Sovereign Pontiff in the castle of Fontainebleau. And it was in that very castle that he had afterwards to sign the deed of his own abdication. For five years he had held captive the Vicar of Christ. For five years he himself had to endure the sufferings and humiliation of captivity. Heaven accepted the retribution and left Mary to complete her victory. Reconciled with the Church, and fortified by the holy Sacraments which prepare the Christian for eternity, Napoleon yielded up his soul into the hands of his Maker on the 5th of May — the month that is sacred to Mary, and gives us the feast we are keeping today. The day chosen by God from all eternity for Napoleon’s death was the feast of Saint Pius V, on which same feast Pius VII was receiving the congratulations of his faithful Romans. The name Pius signifies compassion and mercy. It is one of the names given to God in the Sacred Scripture: Pius et misericors est Deus: God is compassionate and merciful (Ecclesiasticus ii. 13). Mary too is compassionate. It is the title we give her in one of our favourite prayers: clemens, Pia, dulcis Virgo Maria! She is ever ready with her aid, be the danger one that affects the Church at large, or a single individual soul: she is the Help of Christians, and as such we honour her on this feast. God has willed her to be so, and we are but complying with His wishes when we have an unreserved confidence in the protection of this powerful Queen, this loving Mother.
Let us now read the account, as given in today’s liturgy, of the great event that prompted the institution of our feast:
“The Faithful have frequently seen it proved by miraculous intervention that the Mother of God is ever ready with her Help to repel the enemies of Religion. It was on this account that after the signal victory gained by the Christians over the Turks in the Gulf of Lepanto, through the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin, the holy Pope Pius V ordered that to the other titles given to the Queen of Heaven in the Litany of Loreto there should be added this of Help of Christians.
But one of the most memorable proofs of this her protection, and one which may be regarded as an incontestable miracle, is that which happened during the Pontificate of Pius VII. By the intrigues and armed violence of certain impious men, the Pontiff had been driven from the Apostolic See of Peter, and was kept in close confinement, mainly at Savona, for upwards of five years. During this period, by a persecution unheard of in any previous age, every possible means was resorted to in order to prevent his governing the Church of God. When lo! suddenly and to the surprise of men, he was restored to the Pontifical Throne, to the great joy, it might be almost said, with the concurrence, of the whole world.
The same thing happened also a second time when a fresh disturbance arose and compelled him to leave Rome and go, with the Sacred College of Cardinals, into Liguria. Here again the storm that threatened great destruction was appeased by a most prompt interference of God’s providence, and the Pontiff’s return to Rome filled Christendom with new joy. Before returning, however, he would carry out an intention which his captivity had until then prevented him from doing: with his own hand he solemnly placed a golden crown on the celebrated statue of the Mother of God that was venerated at Savona, under the title of Mother of Mercy. The same Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VII, who was so thoroughly acquainted with every circumstance of these events, rightly attributed their happy issue to the intercession of the most holy Mother of God, whose powerful help he himself had earnestly besought, besides urging all the Faithful to obtain it by their prayers. He therefore instituted a solemn feast in honour of the same Virgin-Mother under the title of Help of Christians. It was to be kept every year on the twenty-fourth of May, the anniversary of his own most happy return to Rome. He also sanctioned a proper Office for this feast in order that the remembrance of so great a favour might ever be vividly on the minds of the Faithful, and secure the thanksgiving it deserved.”
“I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from where help will come to me: my help is from the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth” (Psalms cxx. 1, 2). Thus prayed the Israelites of old — thus also prays the Church — though, for her, the help is nearer and comes more speedily. The Psalmist’s petition has been granted: the heavens have bowed down, and the divine Help is now close by our side. This Help is Jesus, Son of God, and Son of Mary. He is unceasingly fulfilling the promise made us by His Prophet: “In the day of your salvation, I have helped you” (Isaias xlix. 8). But this King of kings has given us a Queen, and this Queen is Mary His Mother. Out of love for her He has given her a throne on His right hand, as Solomon did for his mother Bethsabee (3 Kings ii. 19), and He would have her also be the Help of Christians. It is the Church that teaches us this by inserting this beautiful title in the Litany. And Rome invites us on this day to unite with her in giving thanks and praise to our Blessed Lady of Help, for one of the most signal of her favours.
* * * * *
QUEEN of Heaven! Our Paschal joy is increased on this the anniversary of you giving back to Rome her Pastor and her King. Yes, it was your intercession that achieved the grand victory, and we offer you the homage of our grateful rejoicings. This Month is your in a special manner, but its twenty-fourth day makes us redouble our devotion. It encourages us to entreat you, with all the earnestness of our souls, that you would protect Rome and its Pontiff, for new dangers have arisen.
The Rock, set by your Jesus, has again become a sign of contradiction, and the billows of impiety and violence are beating against it. We know the great promise: the Rock can never be swept away, and on it safely stands the Church. But we know, too that this Church is one day to be taken up to Heaven, and then the Judgement! Meanwhile, you, Mary, are our Help: Oh stretch forth that arm of yours which nothing can resist. Be mindful of Rome where you are so devoutly honoured, and where your glory is proclaimed by so many sumptuous sanctuaries. The end of the world is not yet come. The holiest of causes requires your aid. Never permit the Holy City to be desecrated by her falling into the power of impious men. Suffer her not to be deprived of the presence of her Pontiff, and uphold the independence which the Vicar of Christ must possess, if the Church is to be rightly governed.
But Rome is not the only spot on Earth that needs your powerful Help, O Mary. The Vineyard of your Son is every where being laid waste by the wild beast (Psalms lxxix.) Vice and error and seduction are everywhere. There is not a country where the Church is not persecuted, and her liberty trampled upon. Society has lost its Christian traditions. It is at the mercy of revolutions against which it has no power. O you that are the Help of Christians, aid the world in these its perils! You have the power to save it from danger! Will you permit the people to be lost, who were redeemed by the Blood of Jesus and whom He, from His Cross, entrusted to your care?
You, O Mary, are the Help of each Christian soul, as well as of the entire world. That same enemy who is bent on the destruction of the whole human race is seeking to drag each one of us into perdition. He hates the image of your Son which he sees reflected in our human nature. O come to our assistance: save us from this roaring lion of Hell. He knows your power, and that you can procure our deliverance, so long as we are left in this present life. You have gained the most stupendous victories for the salvation of your clients. Tire not, we beseech you, in aiding poor sinners to return to their God. When Jesus spoke of them that were invited to the marriage-feast and told us how the king said to his servants: “Compel them to come in” (Luke xiv. 23), it was you that He had mainly in view. Lead us then to our King! Our supplications to you, O Help of Christians, are thus earnest because our wants are great. But we are not on that account the less mindful of the special honour that we owe you at this holy Season of Easter when the Church contemplates the joy you had in your Risen Jesus’ presence. She congratulates you on the immense happiness that thus repaid you for your anguish on Calvary and at the Sepulchre. It is to the Mother consoled by and exulting in her Son’s triumphant Resurrection that we offer this sweet month, whose loveliness is so in keeping with your own incomparable beauty, dear Mother! In return for this homage of our devotion pray for us that our souls may persevere in the beauty of grace given to them by this year’s union with our Jesus, and that we may be so well prepared for the Feast of Pentecost, as to merit to receive the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, who comes that He may perfect the work of our Paschal Regeneration.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Antioch, the birthday of St. Manahen, foster-brother of Herod the Tetrarch. He was a doctor and prophet under the grace of the New Testament, and his remains now repose in the city of Antioch.

Also blessed Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, mentioned by the Evangelist St. Luke.

At Porto, the birthday of St. Vincent, martyr.

At Brescia, St. Afra, martyr, who suffered under the emperor Hadrian.

At Nantes in Bretagne, in the time of the emperor Diocletian, the blessed martyrs Donatian and Rogatian, brothers who, because of their constancy in the faith, were sent to prison, stretched on the rack, and lacerated. Finally, they were transpierced with a soldier’s lance and beheaded.

In Istria, the holy martyrs Zoellus, Servilius, Felix, Silvanus and Diocles.

The same day, the holy martyrs Meletius, military officer, and two hundred and fifty two of his companions, who achieved their martyrdom by various kinds of deaths.

Also the holy martyrs Susanna, Marciana and Pallada, wives of the soldiers just mentioned, who were put to death with their young children.

At Milan, St. Robustian, martyr.

At Morocco in Africa, the passion of blessed John de Prado, of the Order of the Discalced Friars Minor of the Strict Observance who, while preaching the Gospel, was bound, imprisoned and scourged, and after enduring with fortitude many other torments for Christ, terminated his martyrdom by fire.

In the monastery of Lerins, St. Vincent, a priest eminent for learning and sanctity.

At Bologna, the translation of St. Dominic, confessor, in the time of Pope Gregory IX.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

24 MAY – FRIDAY IN THE FIFTH WEEK AFTER EASTER

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
We have reverently followed our Redeemer in His institution of the Sacramental helps by which man is placed and kept in the state of sanctifying grace, from his first entrance into this life to his leaving it for the eternal enjoyment of the beatific vision. We must now speak of that sublime Sacrament which was instituted by Jesus as the source whence mankind is to receive the other Sacraments.
This Sacrament is Holy Orders, and it is so called because of its being conferred in several distinct degrees upon those who receive it. As in Heaven the Angels are arranged in different ranks according as they have been endowed with a greater or less degree of light and power, in such wise, that they who are higher act upon those that are lower: so is it in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. There is order in the several ranks, and the higher act upon the lower by the communication of light and power. It is this that constitutes the hierarchy of the Church. Hierarchy means Sacred Government. It comprises three degrees: the Episcopate, Priesthood, and Diaconate, in which last are included the Orders below it. This is called the Hierarchy of Order, to distinguish it from the Hierarchy of Jurisdiction. This second, which is entrusted with the government of the Church, is composed of the Pope, of the Bishops, and of the inferior Clergy to whom the Pope and Bishops delegate a part of their power of government. We have already seen how this hierarchy takes its origin from that sovereign act by which our Lord Jesus, the Shepherd of men, gave to Peter the Keys of the Kingdom of God. The Hierarchy of Order is intimately connected with the first, and its object is the sanctification of men by the administering to them the treasures of grace confided to its keeping. As we have already said, Jesus appeared to His Apostles on the day of His Resurrection, and said to them: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John xx. 21).
Now the Father sent His Son that He might be the Shepherd of men, and we have heard Jesus bidding Peter to feed His lambs and His sheep. The Father sent His Son that He might be the Teacher of men, and we have seen Jesus entrusting to His Apostles the truths which were to be proposed to us as the object of our faith. But the Father sent the Son that He might also be the High Priest of men. Jesus must therefore leave this same Priesthood on earth, that it may be continued among us to the end of time. Now, what is a Priest? He is the mediator between heaven and earth. He reconciles man to his God by offering a Sacrifice that gives infinite honour to God and atones for man’s sin. He cleanses the sinner’s conscience and makes him a just man. He, in a word, unites man to his God by the mysteries of which he is the dispenser.
Jesus exercised all these functions of Priest, agreeably to the mission given Him by the Father, but the Father would have them to be continued, even after His Son should have ascended into Heaven. For this it was necessary that Jesus should communicate His Priestly character by a special Sacrament to a few chosen men, just as by Baptism He conferred on all His faithful the dignity of being His members. Here again it will be the Holy Ghost that will act, and in each stage or degree of the Sacrament. It was by His divine operation that the Incarnate Word entered into Mary’s womb. It is His action that will imprint on the souls of them that are presented the Priestly character of this same Jesus our Lord. Hence, after using the words just cited, Jesus breathed on His Apostles and said to them: “Receive the Holy Ghost!” hereby showing, that it is by a special infusion of Him who is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, that men are fitted for being sent by the Son, as the Son was sent by the Father.
And yet, the Apostles and their successors are to confer this Sacrament, not by a breath — that is the prerogative of the Word, the author of life — but by the imposition of hands. It is at the solemn moment of the imposition of the Bishop’s hands over them who are to be ordained that the Holy Ghost comes down upon them. Thus will be transmitted the heavenly gift from generation to generation. It will be conferred in its several degrees, according to the will of the Hierarch, by and with whom the Holy Ghost acts. So that when Jesus comes on the last day to judge the world, He will find on Earth the sacred character which He conferred on His Apostles when He gave them the Holy Ghost.
Let us attentively and devoutly contemplate the mystic ladder of the Hierarchy established by our Jesus, by which we might ascend to Heaven. At the very summit is the Episcopate, holding in itself the plenitude of Holy Orders, and having the power to produce other Pontiffs, and Priests, and Deacons. He holds the Keys of which our Lord speaks when He says: “Whatever you will bind upon Earth, will be bound also in Heaven, and whatever you will loose on Earth, will be loosed also in Heaven” (Matthew xviii. 18). He can administer all the Sacraments. The consecration of the Chrism and Holy Oils belongs to his office. He can not only bless, he can also consecrate.
Next comes the Priest, who truly looks upon the Bishop as his spiritual Father, seeing that it was by the imposition of the Bishop’s hands that he received the dignity and character of Priesthood. The Priest, however, does not possess the plenitude of Jesus’ Priesthood. His hands, though most holy, have not the power to produce other Priests. He blesses, but he does not consecrate. He must look to the Bishop for holy Chrism, for he himself cannot make it. Notwithstanding this, his dignity is great, for he has power to offer the Holy Sacrifice, and his offering is the same as that of the Bishop. He forgives the sins of those whom the Bishop has put under his care. The solemn administration of Baptism is entrusted to him when the Bishop himself does not perform it. And as to Extreme Unction, it is essentially a Priest’s function.
The next lower Order is that of Deacon, who is, as the Greek name implies, the servant of the Priest. Not having the Priesthood, he cannot offer Sacrifice, nor remit sins, nor give Extreme Unction to the dying but he assists and serves the Priest at the Altar, and stands by his side during the solemn moment of Consecration. He reads the holy Gospel from the ambo to the people. The Blessed Sacrament is entrusted to his care and, failing a Priest, he is He has the power of offering up the holy Sacrifice, allowed to distribute it to the faithful. In similar circumstances, he could solemnly administer Baptism. He has also the power of preaching the word of God to the people.
These are the three degrees of the Hierarchy of order. They correspond, as the great Saint Denis teaches, with the three degrees whereby man attains to union with God: namely, purification, illumination and perfection. The Deacon prepares the Catechumen and the sinner, by instructing them in the word of God, which will purify their minds from error, and incite them to the repentance of their sins and to a desire of being freed from them. The Priest enlightens these same by the illumination of holy Baptism, by the remission of their sins, and by admitting them to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Bishop pours out upon them the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and raises them, by their seeing his own super-eminent prerogatives, to union with Christ. Such is the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It is the essential means established for the salvation of mankind, the channel through which God has ordained that the infinite graces of the Incarnation should flow upon the earth, and the medium by which is perpetuated among us the presence and action of our Redeemer.
Let us give thanks to our Jesus for this unspeakable blessing. Let us honour the Priesthood of the New Law: it is Jesus who inaugurated it in His own person, and who afterwards entrusted it to men chosen by Him for continuing the mission given to Him by His Father. The Sacraments are the true life of the world. But who are the ministers of these Sacraments? The Priests of the Church. Let us pray for those who are in Holy Orders, for their responsibilities are great, their dignity is divine, and yet they themselves are but men. They are not a tribe or a caste, as were the Priests in the Old Law, but they are taken from every race and family. Finally, a Priest, though inferior to the Angels by nature, is, by the office he holds, superior to these blessed Spirits.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

23 MAY – FERIA

On this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Langres in France, the martyrdom of the holy bishop Desiderius, who visited the king as a suppliant in behalf of his people who were maltreated by the Vandal army. Being forthwith condemned to decapitation, he readily presented his neck, and being struck with the sword, died for the sheep committed to his charge and departed for heaven. With him suffered many of his flock who are buried in the same city.

In Spain, the holy martyrs Epitacius, bishop, and Basileus. In Africa, the holy martyrs Quintian, Lucius and Julian who merited eternal crowns by their sufferings during the persecution of the Vandals.

In Cappadocia, the commemoration of the holy martyrs who died by having their legs crushed in the persecution of Maximian Galerius.

Also in Mesopotamia, those martyrs who, at the same time, were suspended in the air with their heads downward. Being suffocated with smoke and consumed with a slow fire, they consummated their martyrdom.

In the territory of Lyons, St. Desiderius, bishop of Vienne, who was crowned with martyrdom by being overwhelmed with stones by order of king Theodoric.

At Synnada in Phrygia, St. Michael, bishop.

The same day, St. Mercurialis, bishop.

At Naples in Campania, St. Euphebius, bishop.

At Norcia, the Saints Eutychius and Florentius, monks, mentioned by Pope St. Gregory.

At Rome, the birthday of St. John Baptist de Rossi, confessor, a man illustrious for his patience and his zeal in preaching the Gospel to the poor.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

23 MAY – THURSDAY IN THE FIFTH WEEK AFTER EASTER

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
By the first four Sacraments our Saviour provided for the several spiritual necessities of man during this mortal life. Baptism gives him spiritual birth, Confirmation arms him for the battle, the Eucharist is his food, Penance is his cure. But the last moment of life — that most important and terrible of all, and on which depends eternity — does it not seem to require a special sacramental aid?
Could it be that our Redeemer, after so lovingly supplying us with a Sacrament to meet our other wants, would leave us unprovided when we are dying, that is, when we are passing from this to another life and are weighed down with bodily and mental sufferings? No: he has provided a Sacrament for the Dying. The grace of Redemption puts on a new form that it may visit and fortify us in our last struggle.
Even before His Passion He gave us some idea of the Sacrament He intended to institute for the help of the dying. When He sent His disciples before Him, that they might prepare the people for His preaching, He commanded them to anoint the sick with oil: they did so, and the result was the cure of them that were thus anointed (Mark vi. 13). But after His Resurrection, when our Redeemer was preparing the dowry of His Church, He gave her a Sacrament with which this Mother was to administer special grace and consolation to her children when in danger of death.
Oil is the symbol of strength: hence, the wrestlers of old used it as a means for acquiring activity and nerve. Our Saviour chose it as the matter of the Sacrament of Confirmation by which our souls, after being regenerated by Baptism, are strengthened for their future combats. The hour of death is a combat, but one so terrible that it stands apart by itself. It is then that Satan, seeing how the long-coveted prey is soon to be beyond his reach, redoubles his efforts to make it his own forever. The dying Christian, standing as he does on the brink of eternity, is exposed to two temptations: presumption and despair. In a few moments he will be before the Judge, whose sentence is irrevocable. The remnants of sin are still upon him, and clog his soul. How will he comport himself in that last combat on which depends the final success of all the previous ones of his life?
Is not this an occasion for a special Sacrament by which our Jesus may provide his combatant with the help so urgently needed? Yes, and here again it is oil. The first anointing was that of Confirmation, and it gave strength: and the last, or as it is called, Extreme Unction, is equally rich in power: it is the last application made to mankind of the Redeemer’s blood, “which flows in such abundance with this holy oil” (Bossuet, Oraison funebre de Madame Henriette).
Let us consider the effects of Extreme Unction, of which the Apostle Saint James speaks to us in his Epistle. What he there tells us, he had received from Jesus’ own lips. First of all, this Sacrament brings forgiveness of sins (James v. 15), forgiveness of those sins which the conscience, however diligent it may have been in its examination, had overlooked and which, nevertheless, injure the soul: and forgiveness of those remnants of sin, which continue after the guilt of sin has been remitted, like wounds which, though cured, are not quite closed and keep the patient weak. The holy oil anoints each of the senses, each has been the source of sin. Each now receives its special purification. These doors, which, up to this moment had been open to the world, are now closed, so that the soul can be all intent upon eternal things. Let the enemy come now, if he will. His attacks can do no harm. He expected to find his adversary the poor earthly-minded creature of old on whom he had inflicted hundreds of wounds, but lo! he finds a soldier of Christ, vigorous and brave. It is Extreme Unction that has worked the change.
But the effects of this Sacrament do not stop here. Though primarily instituted for imparting strength to the soul, yet has it the power of restoring health to the body. We learn this from the same Apostle Saint James. His words are these: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up” (James v. 14, 15). The sacred formula which accompanies each anointing in this Sacrament has therefore the power of restoring bodily health, at the same time that it drives away the remnants of sin, which is the chief cause of all man’s miseries, whether of soul or body. Such is the interpretation put by the Church on the words of Saint James, and we have continual proofs that our Divine Master has not forgotten the promise of two-fold efficacy which He gave to this Sacrament. Hence it is, that after having anointed the several senses of the sick person, the priest addresses God in earnest prayer, that he would restore strength of body to him or her whose soul has received the efficacy of the heavenly remedy.
Nay, the Church looks upon the restoration to bodily health as so truly a Sacramental effect of Extreme Unction, that she does not consider as miracles, properly so called, the cures produced by its administration. Let us, then, offer to the Conqueror of Death the homage of our thanks for this fresh proof of His compassionate love. He would Himself experience all our miseries, not excepting even death or the agony that precedes it. When on His Cross, and enduring every anguish, as though he were a poor dying sinner and not the Saint of Saints, He thought of our deaths and mercifully blessed our last agony with an outpouring of His Precious Blood. This was the origin of the beautiful Sacrament of Extreme Unction which He gave to his Church after His Resurrection, and for which we offer Him today our humble thanks.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

22 MAY – SAINT RITA OF CASCIA (Widow)

Born Margherita Lotti in 1381, Rita was married for 18 years. After the death of her husband and two sons she entered a community of religious of the Rule of Saint Augustine at Cascia. Rita bore the stigmata on her forehead and worked many miracles both before and after her death on 22 May 1456. She was canonised by Pope Leo XIII in 1900. Saint Rita is the patron of lost and impossible causes. Her incorrupt body lies in a glass coffin in the great Basilica di Santa Rita da Cascia.

Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, the holy martyrs Faustinus, Timothy and Venustus.


In Africa, the holy martyrs Castus and Æmilius who consummated their martyrdom by fire. St. Cyprian says that they were overcome in the first combat, but in the second God made them victorious so that, though at first yielding to the fire, they became finally stronger than the fire.

In Corsica, St. Julia, virgin, who won her crown by being crucified.


At Comana in Pontus, under the emperor Maximian and the governor Agrippa, the holy martyr Basiliscus who was forced to wear iron shoes pierced with heated nails, and endured many other trials. Being at last decapitated and thrown into a river, he obtained the glory of martyrdom.


In Spain, St. Quiteria, virgin and martyr.


At Ravenna, St. Marcian, bishop and confessor.


In the diocese of Auxerre, the abbot St. Romanus who ministered to St. Benedict in his cave. Going later to France, he built a monastery there, and leaving many disciples and imitators of his sanctity, went to rest in the Lord.


At Aquino, St. Fulk, confessor.


At Pistoja in Tuscany, the blessed Attho, of the Vallumbrosan Order.


At Auxerre, St. Helena, virgin


And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.


Thanks be to God.

22 MAY – WEDNESDAY IN THE FIFTH WEEK AFTER EASTER

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
We now come to the fourth Sacrament, which may be justly called the Sacrament of Mercy. Jesus knew the weakness of man. He knew that the great majority of Christians would not persevere in the grace they received at Baptism, and that sin would, in most cases, spoil the beautiful plant which had been watered by the dew of heaven, and which, after growing and flowering, was to be transplanted into the garden of eternal life. Like grass that lies withered on the field, so would be this once fair plant. How could it ever revive, unless He that made it gave it life again? Thanks to His infinite mercy! — this is what He has the will to do. Consulting the sinner’s salvation rather than His own glory, He prepared, as the holy Fathers express it, a second plank after shipwreck. The first was Baptism, but mortal sin came, and the soul was again plunged into the wild abyss. She had fallen once more into the hands of her enemy. She was fettered by chains, which it was out of her power to break.
During His mortal life on Earth Jesus, who came not to judge the world, but to save it, (John xii. 47) declared that these fetters, forged by the sinner’s malice, should be broken by a power which He would one day establish in His Church. Speaking to His Apostles, He told them that whatever they should loosen on Earth should be loosed also in Heaven (Matthew xviii. 18). Since making that solemn promise, our Redeemer has offered His sacrifice on the Cross. His infinitely Precious Blood has been shed for the superabundant expiation of the sins of the world. He that loved us to such a degree as this, could never forget the promise He had made. On the contrary, He was most anxious to keep it, for He knew the fearful dangers to which our salvation is exposed. On the very day of His Resurrection, He appears to His Apostles, and His first words evince His eagerness to fulfil the promise He had previously made. It seems as though His mercy were impatient to break asunder the humiliating and terrible bonds of sin, which held us captives. No sooner has He breathed the Holy Ghost on His Apostles, than He adds these words: “Whose sins you will forgive, they are forgiven them” (John xx. 23). Observe here, as the holy Fathers have done, the strength of the words spoken by our Lord: They are forgiven. He says not, “they will be forgiven.” It is no longer the promise of a gift, but the gift itself. Before the Apostles have exercised the divine power conferred on them by Jesus, every absolution which they and their successors in this sacred ministry will pronounce, even to the end of time, is already confirmed.
Glory, then, be to our Risen Jesus, who has removed the barriers of His Justice, that His Mercy might inundate the world! Let mankind unite and sing to Him the sublime canticle of David, in which foreseeing the wondrous events that were to take place under the New Law, this Royal Psalmist prophesied the forgiveness of sins, which the Apostles were afterwards to teach us as an Article of our Creed.
“Bless the Lord, my soul! and let all that is within you bless His holy Name. Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction. Your youth will be renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy. He will not always be angry. He has not dealt with us according to our sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our iniquities from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so ha the Lord compassion on them that fear Him, for He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust, man’s days are as grass. As the flower of the field, so will he flourish, for the spirit will pass in him, and he will not be, and he will know his place no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity and to eternity upon them that fear Him. My soul! Bless the Lord.” (Psalm cii.)
And yet we, the children of the promise, know even better than David did, the greatness of God’s mercy. Jesus was not content with giving us His assurance, that if, after having sinned, we have recourse with humble repentance to the Divine Majesty, we will obtain pardon: as the sentence of God’s mercy would thus be without any outward sign, a cruel anxiety would have ever been upon us, leaving us in doubt of our forgiveness. Therefore did this loving Saviour ordain that men should give us pardon in His Name. That we might know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins (Luke v. 24), He gave power to His delegates to pronounce over us a sentence of absolution which our very ears might hear, and which would convey to our souls the sweet confidence of pardon.
O ineffable Sacrament, by whose means Heaven is peopled by countless numbers who else had been lost, and who will for ever sing the mercies of the Lord! (Psalms lxxxviii. 2) O irresistible power of the words of absolution, which, deriving their efficacy from the Blood of our Redeemer, take away all our iniquities, and plunge them into the abyss of Divine Mercy! The eternity of torments due to these iniquities would never have expiated them, and yet these few words of the Priest: “I absolve you,” have utterly annihilated them. Such is the Sacrament of Penance. In return for the humble confession of our sins and the sincere sorrow for having committed them, we receive pardon, and this not for once or twice only, but as often as we approach the sacred tribunal: not for this or that kind of sin only, but for every sin whatsoever. It is not to be wondered at that Satan should envy man this gift, and strive to throw such doubts and difficulties in the way as to prevent his profiting by it. What has not heresy said against this Sacrament? It began by teaching that it takes from the glory of holy Baptism, whereas, on the contrary, it honours that first Sacrament by repairing the injuries done to it by sin. Later on it exacted, as absolutely necessary for the Sacraments, such perfect dispositions that Absolution would find the soul already reconciled with God. It was by this dangerous snare of Jansenism that so many were ruined, either by pride or by discouragement. And lastly, it has set up that Protestant dictum: “I confess my sins to God,” just as though God had not the right to lay down the conditions for pardon.
The Sacraments, being, as they are, such divine institutions, demand our faith. Without faith, they are simply impossibilities. Though this be true of all the Seven, yet the Sacrament of Penance is especially welcome to a man of faith because it so thoroughly humbles human pride. It sends man to ask of his fellow-man what God could have given directly Himself. Jesus said to the lepers, whom He wished to cure: “Go, show yourselves to the priests!” (Luke xvii. 14). Surely He has a right to act in the same manner when there is question of spiritual leprosy.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

21 MAY – FERIA

On this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

In Mauritania (Morocco), the birthday of the holy martyrs Timothy, Polius and Eutychius, deacons, who merited to be crowned together for dispensing the word of God in that region.

At Caesarea in Cappadocia, the birthday of the holy martyrs Polieuctus, Victorius and Donatus.

At Cordova, St. Secundinus, martyr.

The same day, the holy martyrs Synesius and Theopompus.

At Caesarea Philippi, the holy martyrs Nicostratus and Antiochus, tribunes, with other soldiers.

The same day St. Valens, bishop, who was put to death with three boys.

At Alexandria, the commemoration of the holy martyrs Secundus, a priest, and others, who the Arian bishop George caused to be barbarously killed during the holy days of Pentecost under the emperor Constantius. Also the saintly bishops and priests, who, being banished by the Arians, merited to be associated with holy confessors.

At Nice in France, St. Hospitius, confessor, distinguished by the virtue of abstinence and the spirit of prophecy.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

21 MAY – TUESDAY IN THE FIFTH WEEK AFTER EASTER

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
The third Sacrament — the Holy Eucharist — is so intimately connected with our Redeemer’s Passion that its institution could not be deferred till the Resurrection had taken place. On Maundy Thursday we honoured the solemn act by which our Jesus prepared for the morrow’s sacrifice by instituting the mystery of His Body and Blood, which are really immolated in the Eucharistic Supper. The Apostles were not only admitted, as all future generations were to be, to partake of the Divine Food, which gives life to the world, (John vi. 33) but they moreover received power from Jesus, the Priest forever (cix. 4), to do what He Himself had just done. The great Mystery was inaugurated. The new Priesthood was instituted, and now that Jesus is rise n from the dead, He makes known to His Apostles the whole importance of the gift bestowed on mankind at the Last Supper. He bids them begin the exercise of the sublime power conferred on them as soon as the Holy Ghost, by descending on the Earth, will give to the Church the signal for her using the prerogatives with which she has been endowed. And, finally, He teaches how they are to perform this special function of their Priesthood.
At the Last Supper the Apostles were still carnal minded men. They were taken up with the sad event that was about to happen, and overcome with grief at their Divine Master’s telling them that that was the last Pasch He was to keep with them. They were not, therefore, in a fit state to appreciate what it was that Jesus had done for them, when He uttered those words: “Take and eat; this is my Body — Drink all of this, for this is my Blood.” Still less did they understand the greatness of the power they received, of doing what their Lord Himself had just done in their presence. Now that Jesus is risen from the grave, He unfolds all these mysteries to them. The Sacrament of the Eucharist was not instituted during these days, but it was made known, explained and glorified by its Divine Institute: and this circumstance gives a fresh lustre to the sacred season we are now going through.
Of all the Sacraments, there is not one that can be compared, in dignity, to that of the Eucharist. The others give grace. This gives us the very Author of grace. The others are only Sacraments. This is both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice. We will endeavour to explain it in all its magnificence, when we come to the bright feast of Corpus Christi. Let us for the present, pay the tribute of our loving adorations to our Jesus, the Living Bread, that gives life to the world. Let us acknowledge His immense love for His Sheep. He seems to be on the point of leaving them that He may return to His Father, and yet His love retains Him among them by means of this august Mystery in which He is truly though invisibly present.

Monday, 20 May 2019

20 MAY – SAINT BERNARDINE OF SIENA (Confessor)


Bernardino Albizeschi was born in 1380 of parents who were of a noble family of Siena. He was well brought up by his pious parents and gave evident marks of sanctity from his earliest years. When studying the first rudiments of grammar he despised the favourite pastimes of children and applied himself to works of piety, especially fasting, prayer and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His charity to the poor was extraordinary. In order the better to practise these virtues, he later on entered the Confraternity which gave to the Church so many saintly men, and was attached to the hospital of our Lady of Scala in Siena. It was there that, while leading a most mortified life himself, Bernardino, with incredible charity, took care of the sick during the time when a terrible pestilence was raging in the city. Among his other virtues, he was pre-eminent for chastity, although he had many dangers to encounter owing to the beauty of his person. Such was the respect he inspired that no-one, however lost to shame, ever dared to say an improper word in his presence.

After a serious illness of four months, which he bore with the greatest patience, Bernardino began to think of entering the religious life. As a preparation for such a step he hired, in the farthest outskirts of the city, a little hut in which he hid himself, leading a most austere life and assiduously beseeching God to make known to him the path he was to follow. A divine inspiration led him to prefer to all other Orders that of Saint Francis. Accordingly, he entered and soon began to excel in humility, patience and the other virtues of a religious man. The guardian of the Convent perceiving this and having previously known that Bernardino was well versed in the sacred sciences, he imposed the duty of preaching upon him. The Saint most humbly accepted the office, though he was aware that the weakness and hoarseness of his voice unfitted him for it: but he sought God’s help, and was miraculously freed from these impediments.

Italy was, at that time, overrun with vice and crime, and in consequence of deadly factions, all laws, both divine and human, were disregarded. It was then that Bernardino went through the towns and villages, preaching the Name of Jesus which was ever on his lips and heart. Such was the effect of his words and example that piety and morals were in great measure restored. Several important cities that had witnessed his zeal petitioned the Pope to allow them to have Bernardino for their bishop, but the Saint’s humility was not to be overcome, and he rejected every offer. At length, after going through countless labours in God’s service, after many and great miracles, after writing several pious and learned books, he died a happy death at the age of 66 in Aquila in the Abruzzi. New miracles were daily being wrought through his intercession and, at length, in the sixth year after his death, he was canonised by Pope Nicholas V.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
In that season of the Liturgical Year when we were loving and praying around the crib of the Infant Jesus, one of its days was devoted to our celebrating the glory and sweetness of His Name. Holy Church was full of joy in pronouncing the dear Name chosen from all eternity by her heavenly Spouse, and mankind found consolation in the thought that the great God who might so justly have bid us call Him the Just and the Avenger, willed us henceforth to call Him the Saviour. The devout Bernardino of Siena, whose feast we keep today, stood then before us, holding in his hands this ever blessed Name surrounded with rays. He urged the whole Earth to venerate, with love and confidence, the sacred Name which expresses the whole economy of our salvation. The Church, ever attentive to what is for the good of her children, adopted the beautiful device. She encouraged them to receive it from the Saint as a shield that would protect them against the darts of the evil spirit, and as an additional means for reminding us of the exceeding charity with which God has loved this world of ours. And finally, when the loveliness of the Holy Name of Jesus had won all Christian hearts, she instituted, in its honour, one of the most beautiful solemnities of Christmastide.
Bernardino, the worthy son of Saint Francis of Assisi, returns to us on this twentieth day of May, and the sweet flower of the Holy Name is, of course, in his hand. But it is not now the prophetic appellation of the new-born babe. It is not the endearing Name, respectfully and lovingly whispered by the Virgin-Mother over the crib — it is the Name whose sound has gone through the whole creation, it is the trophy of the grandest of victories, it is the fulfilment of all that was prophesied. The Name of Jesus was a promise to mankind of a Saviour. Jesus has saved mankind by dying and rising again. He is now Jesus in the full sense of the word. Go where you will and you hear this Name— the Name that has united men into the one great family of the Church. The chief priests of the Synagogue strove to stifle the Name of Jesus, for it was even then winning men’s hearts. They forbade the Apostles to teach in this Name, and it was on this occasion that Peter uttered the words which embody the whole energy of the Church: We ought to obey God, rather than men (Acts v. 28, 29). The Synagogue might as well have tried to stay the course of the sun. So too, when the mighty power of the Roman Empire set itself against the triumphant progress of this Name and would annul the decree that every knee should bow at its sound (Philippians ii. 10), there was not merely a failure, but, at the end of three centuries, the Name of Jesus was heard and loved in every city and hamlet of the Empire.
Armed with this sacred motto, Bernardino traversed the towns of Italy which, at that period (the fifteenth century) were at enmity with each other and, not infrequently, were torn with domestic strifes. The Name of Jesus, which he carried in his hand, became as a rainbow of reconciliation, and wherever he set it up, there every knee bowed down, every vindictive heart was appeased, and sinners hastened to the sacrament of pardon. The three letters (IHS) which represent this Name, became familiar to the faithful. They were everywhere to be seen, carved or engraved or painted. And the Catholic world thus gained a new form by which to express its adoration and love of its Saviour.
Bernardino was a preacher whose eloquence was of Heaven’s inspiring. He was also a distinguished master in the science of sacred things, as is proved by the writings he has left us. We regret not being able, from want of space, to give our readers his words on the greatness of the Paschal mystery, but we cannot withhold from them what he says regarding Jesus appearing to his Blessed Mother after the Resurrection. They will be rejoiced at finding unity of doctrine on this interesting subject existing between the Franciscan School, represented by Saint Bernardino and the School of Saint. Dominic, whose testimony we have already given, on the feast of Saint Vincent Ferrer:
“From the fact of there being no mention made in the Gospel of the visit with which Christ consoled His Mother after His Resurrection, we are not to conclude that this most merciful Jesus — the source of all grace and consolation who was so anxious to gladden His Disciples by His presence — forgot His Mother who He knew had drunk so deeply of the bitterness of His Passion. But it has pleased divine Providence that the Gospel should be silent on this subject, and this for three reasons. In the first place, because of the firmness of Mary’s faith. The confidence which the Virgin-Mother had of her Son rising again, had never faltered, not even by the slightest doubt. This we can readily believe if we reflect on the special grace with which she was filled, she the Mother of the Man-God, the Queen of Angels, and the Mistress of the world. To a truly enlightened mind, the silence of the Scripture on this subject says more than any affirmation could have done. We have learned to know something of Mary by the visit she received from the Angel when the Holy Ghost overshadowed her. We met her again at the foot of the Cross where she, the Mother of Sorrows, stood near her dying Son. If then the Apostle could say: “As you are partakers of the sufferings, so will you be also of the consolation” (2 Corinthians i. 7) —what share must not the Virgin-Mother have had in the joys of the Resurrection? We should hold it as a certain truth that her most sweet Jesus, after His Resurrection, consoled her first of all. The holy Roman Church would seem to express this by celebrating at Saint Mary Major’s the Station of Easter Sunday. Moreover, if from the silence of the Evangelists you would conclude that our Risen Lord did not appear to her first you must go farther and say that He did not appear to her at all, inasmuch as these same Evangelists, when relating the several apparitions, do not mention a single one as made to her. Now such a conclusion as this would savour of impiety.”
In the second place, the silence of the Gospel is explained by the incredulity of men. The object of the Holy Spirit, when dictating the Gospels, was to describe such apparitions as would remove all doubt from carnal-minded men with regard to the Resurrection of Christ. The fact of Mary being his Mother would have weakened her testimony, at least in their eyes. For this reason she was not brought forward as a witness, though, most assuredly, there never was or will be any creature (the humanity of her Son alone excepted) whose assertion better deserved the confidence of every truly pious soul. But the text of the Gospel was not to adduce any testimonies, save such as might be offered to the whole world. As to Jesus’ apparition to His Mother, the Holy Ghost has left it to be believed by those that are enlightened by His light.
In the third place, this silence is explained by the sublime nature of the apparition itself. The Gospel says nothing regarding the Mother of Christ after the Resurrection, and the reason is that her interviews with her Son were so sublime and ineffable that no words could have described them. There are two sorts of visions: one is merely corporal and feeble in proportion, the other is mainly in the soul and is granted only to such as have been transformed. Say, if you will, that Magdalene was the first to have the merely corporal vision provided that you admit that the Blessed Virgin saw, previously to Magdalene, and in a far sublimer way, her Risen Jesus, that she recognised Him, and enjoyed His sweet embraces in her soul more even than in her body.”
*****
How beautiful, O Bernardino, are the rays that form the aureola round the Name of Jesus! How soft their light on that eighth day after His birth when He received this Name! But how dazzling now that this Jesus achieves our salvation, not only by humiliation and suffering, but by the triumph of His Resurrection! You come to us, O Bernardino, in the midst of the Paschal glory of the Name of Jesus. This Name, for which you so lovingly and zealously laboured, gives you to share in its immortal victory. Now, therefore, pour forth upon us, even more abundantly than when you were here on Earth, the treasures of love, admiration and hope of which this divine Name is the source, and cleanse the eyes of our soul that we may, one day, be enabled to join you in contemplating its beauty and magnificence.
Apostle of peace, Italy whose factions were so often quelled by you, may well number you among her protectors. Behold her now a prey to the enemies of Jesus, rebellious against the Church of God and abandoned to her fate. Oh forget not that she is your native land, that she was obedient to your preaching, and that your memory was long most dear to her. Intercede in her favour. Deliver her from her oppressors, and show that when earthly armies fail the hosts of Heaven can always save both cities and countries.
Illustrious son of the great Patriarch of Assisi, the seraphic Order venerates you as one of its main supports. You re-animated it to its primitive observance. Continue now, from Heaven, to protect the work you commenced here on Earth. The Order of Saint Francis is one of the grandest consolations of holy Mother Church. Make this Order for ever flourish, protect it in its trials, give it increase in proportion to the necessities of the faithful, for you are the second Father of this venerable family and your prayers are powerful with the Redeemer whose glorious Name you confessed upon the Earth.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

At Rome, on the Via Salaria, the birthday of St. Basilla, virgin, who was of royal race and betrothed to an illustrious personage. As she refused to marry him, he accused her of being a Christian. The emperor Gallienus gave orders that she should accept him or die by the sword. Answering that she had for her spouse the King of kings, she was transpierced with a sword.

At Nimes in France, St. Baudelius, martyr. Being arrested, but refusing to sacrifice to idols and remaining immovable in the faith of Christ, despite blows and tortures, he gained the palm of martyrdom by a precious death.

At Edessa in Syria, the holy martyrs Thalalaeus, Asterius, Alexander and their companions who suffered under the emperor Numerian.

In Thebais, St. Aquila, martyr to the faith, whose body was torn with iron combs.

At Bourges in France, St. Austregisil, bishop and confessor.

At Brescia, St. Anastasius, bishop.

At Pavia, St. Theodore, bishop.

At Rome, St. Plautilla, wife of an ex-consul and mother of the blessed Flavia Domitilla. She was baptised by the blessed Apostle St. Peter and after giving the example of all virtues, rested in peace.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

20 MAY – MONDAY IN THE FIFTH WEEK AFTER EASTER

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
Jesus bestows an inestimable gift upon His Apostles, and from this gift there proceed two Sacraments. On the sixth day of the Creation, the Divine Word infused his breath into Man, whose body he had formed out of the slime of the earth, and immediately this body was animated by a soul, bearing upon it the image of God. On the evening of the day of His Resurrection, the same Divine Word, then made visible in the flesh He had assumed, suddenly appeared in the midst of His Apostles, and said to them: “Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (John xx. 21) Then breathing on them, He added in a tone of command: “Receive the Holy Ghost!” (John xx. 22)
What is this breath which is not given to all men but only to a few chosen ones? Jesus Himself explains it by the words He speaks: this breath imparts the Holy Ghost to them that receive it. The Holy Ghost is given to the Apostles because they are sent by Jesus, as Jesus is sent by the Father. The Apostles, then, receive this Divine Spirit, in order that they may communicate him to men, just as they themselves have had him given to them by Jesus. The Church’s tradition fills up the brief account of the Gospel. Two Sacraments, as we have already stated, take their origin from this act of our Risen Jesus who, afterwards, instructed His Apostles as to the rites wherewith each of the two was to be administered.
The first of these two Sacraments is Confirmation, for whose institution we will return our humble thanks today. The other is Holy Orders, which we will explain further on in the week: both of them belong, in their administration, to the Episcopal character, which is the source from which flow the gifts conferred on the Apostles for man’s sanctification. Such is the importance of the Sacrament of Confirmation that until such time as we have received it, we cannot be considered as perfect Christians. It is true that, by virtue of our Baptism, we are Children of God, Members of Christ and His Church, but as Christians we are Soldiers: we have to Confess our faith, sometimes before tyrants, and even to the shedding of our blood. Sometimes before the world whose false seductive maxims are the occasion of so many apostasies. Sometimes against Satan and his wicked angels, whose power is so justly feared by the servants of Christ. The seal of the Holy Ghost confers on us a degree of strength which Baptism does not give. Baptism made us citizens of the Church. Confirmation makes us Soldiers of God and of His Christ.
Again, it is true, that we can fight and conquer with the armour of Baptism. Such is God’s will, who knows that the Sacrament which perfects the Christian is often-times an impossibility, but woe to them that neglect to receive the completion of their Baptism! Hence, after administering the Sacrament of regeneration on Holy Saturday, the Bishop at once proceeded to give the Holy Ghost to all those who had been just born in the Son, and had been adopted by the Father. Yes, Confirmation is administered by a Bishop, it is for him to say to the baptised: “Receive the Holy Ghost!” It was just that this Divine Spirit should be thus honoured. Even when, in cases of necessity, a Priest is delegated by the Pope to administer this Sacrament, he cannot validly do so except on the condition of his using Chrism consecrated by a Bishop: and thus, the Episcopal power is always uppermost in the conferring of the Holy Ghost.
What a solemn moment is that, in which the Spirit of Power, who strengthened the Apostles, descends on the Neophytes kneeling before the Bishop! The Pontiff stretches his hands over them. He pours out upon them the Spirit he has received in order to his communicating him to others and, that he may give all possible solemnity to the gift he is about to bestow, he cites the words of Isaias, which prophesy the descent of the Spirit on the Branch that was to spring up from the Root of Jesse — a prophecy which was fulfilled in our Jesus when He received Baptism in the river Jordan from the hands of Saint John the Baptist: “O Almighty and Eternal God, who has vouchsafed to regenerate these your servants by water and the Holy Ghost: send forth from heaven upon them your seven-fold Spirit, the Holy Paraclete: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; the Spirit of counsel and fortitude; the Spirit of knowledge and godliness; fill them with the Spirit of your fear, and sign them with the sign of the Cross of Christ.” Then is brought the sacred Chrism, of whose virtue we heard so much on Maundy Thursday. Confirmation was anciently called the Sacrament of Chrism — of Chrism in which dwells the power of the Holy Ghost. The Pontiff anoints with it the foreheads of the Neophytes, and, at that same instant, the Holy Ghost imprints on their souls the sign of a perfect Christian. They are confirmed, and forever. Let them but listen to the voice of the Sacrament which is now within them, and no trial, no danger, can master them. The holy Oil with which the Cross has been signed on their forehead has imparted to them that firmness of adamant which was given to the Prophet Ezechiel, and enabled him to withstand all his enemies (Ezechiel iii. 9).
To a Christian strength is salvation, for man’s life on earth is a warfare (Job vii. 1) Glory, then, be to our Risen Jesus who, foreseeing the attacks that would be made against us, has armed us for the battle and in this admirable Sacrament of Confirmation has given us the Divine Spirit who proceeds from Himself and the Father, that we might be strong and invincible! Let us thank Him, with all our hearts, for His having thus completed the grace already given us in Baptism. The Father who so graciously adopted us has delivered up his Only-Begotten Son for us. The Son gives us the Spirit that He may dwell within us — oh how wonderful a creature is Man, who is so loved by the Trinity! And yet Man is a sinner, and unfaithful creature and, but too frequently, all these graces are rendered fruitless by his negligence or malice! Let us, at least, be faithful by keeping ourselves closely united to the Holy Church, and by devoutly celebrating with her the mysteries of God’s goodness which the Liturgical Year brings successively before us.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

19 MAY – SAINT PUDENTIANA (Virgin)

The virgin Pudentiana was daughter of the Roman Senator Pudens. Having lost her parents, and being most exemplary in her practice of the Christian religion, she sold, with her sister Praxedes’ consent, her possessions, gave the money to the poor and devoted herself to fasting and prayer. It was through her influence that her whole household, which consisted of 96 persons, was baptised by Pope Pius I. In consequence of the decree issued by the emperor Antoninus which forbade the Christians to offer sacrifice publicly, Pope Pius celebrated the holy mysteries in Pudentiana’s house, and the Christians assembled there to assist at the celebration. She received them with much charity and provided them with all the necessaries of life. She died in the practice of these Christian and pious duties and, on the fourteenth of the Calends of June (May 19), was buried in her father’s tomb in the Cemetery of Priscilla Cemetery on the Via Salaria.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
This same nineteenth of May has another glory attached to it: it is the day on which died the noble virgin Pudentiana. That name carries us back to the very first Age of the Christian Church. She was a daughter of a wealthy Roman called Pudens, who was a kinsman of the Pudens spoken of by Saint Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy iv. 21). She and her sister Praxedes had the honour of being numberedamong the earliest members of the Church, and both of them consecrated their virginity to Jesus Christ. Upon their father’s death, the two sisters distributed their fortune to the poor and devoted their whole time to good works. It was the eve of the Persecution under Antoninus. Pudentiana, though scarcely 16 years of age, was ripe for Heaven and winged her flight to her Divine Spouse when the storm was at its height. Her sister survived her many years. We will commemorate her saintly memory on the 21st of July. Pudentiana’s house which, in her grandfather’s time, had been honoured by Saint Peter’s presence, was made over, by the holy virgin herself, to Pope Pius I, and the divine mysteries were celebrated in it. It is now one of the most venerable Churches of Rome, and is the Station for the Tuesday of the third week of Lent.
Pudentiana is a tender flower offered to our Risen Jesus by the Roman Church. Time has diminished nothing of the fair lily’s fragrance, and pure as her very name, her memory will live in the hearts of the Christian people, even to the end of the world.
*****
Like the dove of Noah’s Ark that found not where to rest her feet on the guilty earth, you took your flight, O Pudentiana, and rested in the bosom of Jesus, your Spouse. Thus will it be at the end of the world when the souls of the elect will have been re-united to their bodies: they will fly like eagles to their King, and will cluster around Him as the object of all their desires (Matthew xxiv. 28). They will flee from this sinful Earth as you did from the abominations of pagan Rome that was drunk with the blood of the martyrs (Apocalypse xvii. 6). We celebrate your departure, dear youthful Saint, with a feeling of hope for our own future deliverance. We honour you reaching your Jesus, and we long to be there together with you. Oh get us detachment from all transitory things, intenser love of the New Life which came to us with Easter, and indifference as to what concerns that other lower life, which is not that of our Risen Lord.
Also on this day according to the ROMAN MARTYROLOGY:

In the same city, St. Pudens, senator, father of the virgin just mentioned, who, being clothed with Christ in baptism by the Apostles, preserved unspotted the robe of innocence until he received the crown of life.

Also at Rome, on the Via Appia, the birthday of the Saints Calocerus and Parthenius, eunuchs. The former was chamberlain to the wife of the emperor Decius, and the latter chief officer in another department. For refusing to offer sacrifice to idols they were put to death.

At Nicomedia, the martyr St. Philoterus, son of the proconsul Pacian, who after much suffering under the emperor Diocletian received the crown of martyrdom.

In the same city six holy virgins and martyrs. The principal one, named Cyriaca, having freely reproved Maximian for his impiety, was most severely scourged and lacerated and then consumed with fire.

At Canterbury, St. Dunstan, bishop.

In Bretagne, St. Ives, priest and confessor, who for the love of Christ defended the interests of orphans, widows and the poor.

And in other places, many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.

Thanks be to God.

19 MAY – SAINT CELESTINE V (Pope and Confessor)

Peter (who, from the name he took as Pope, was called Celestine) was born in 1221 at Isernia in the Abruzzi, Italy, of respectable Catholic parents. When quite a boy, he retired into solitude that he might be out of the reach of the world’s vanities. There he nourished his soul with holy contemplations, bringing his body into subjection and wearing a hair-shirt and an iron chain next to his skin, taking Saint John the Baptist as his role model. Peter was ordained a priest in Rome and on his way back received the Benedictine habit from the Abbot of Faizola who allowed him to resume his solitary life. He founded, under the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Congregation which in 1274 was approved by Pope Gregory X and became known later as the Congregation of Celestines after his papal name. The Roman Church having been for a long time widowed of its Pastor after the death of Pope Nicholas IV, Celestine was chosen, unknown to himself, to occupy the Chair of Peter, and was therefore compelled to quit his solitude, for he was a lamp that was set upon a candlestick and could not be hid. All men were filled with joy, as well as with surprise, at this unexpected choice. But thus exalted to the Pontificate, and finding that the multiplicity of cares rendered it almost impossible for him to continue his wonted contemplations, he resigned of his own accord the onerous honours of the Papal throne. He therefore resumed his former mode of life and slept in the Lord by a precious death, which was rendered still more glorious by the apparition of an exceedingly bright cross which hovered over the door of his cell. He was celebrated for many miracles, both before and after his death in 1926, which being authentically proved, he was canonised 11 years after his departure from this world by Pope Clement V in 1313.

Dom Prosper Guéranger:
Our Paschal Season which has already given us the admirable Doctor, Saint Leo, brings before us today the humble Peter Celestine — Sovereign Pontiff, like Leo, but who was no sooner throned on the Apostolic See than he left it and returned to solitude. Among the long list of sainted men who compose the venerable series of Roman Pontiffs our Lord would have one in whose person was to be represented the virtue of humility — that honour was conferred on Peter Celestine. He was dragged from the quiet of his solitude, compelled to ascend the throne of Saint Peter and made to hold, in his trembling hand, the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. The holy hermit whose eyes had been ever fixed on his own weakness had then to provide for the necessities of the whole Church. In his humility he judged himself to be unequal to so heavy a responsibility. He resigned the tiara and begged to be permitted to return to his dear hermitage. His Divine Master, Christ, had, in like manner, concealed his glory first in a thirty years of hidden life, and then, later on, under the cloud of His Passion and Sepulchre. The sunshine of the Pasch came. The gloom was dispersed and the Conqueror of Death arose in all His splendour. He would have His servants share in His triumph, but their share is to be greater or less, according to the measure in which they have, here on Earth, imitated His humility. Who then could describe the glory which Peter Celestine receives in Heaven as a recompense for his profound humility which made him more eager to be unknown than the most ambitious of men could be for honour and fame? He was great on the Pontifical throne and still greater in his solitude. But his greatness, now that he is in Heaven, surpasses all human thought.
*****
You obtained, Celestine, the object of your ambition. You were permitted to descend from the Apostolic throne and return to the quiet of that hidden life which, for so many years, had been your delight. Enjoy, to your heart’s content, the holy charm of being unknown to the world, and the treasures of contemplation in the secret of the face of God (Psalm xxx. 21). But this life of obscurity must have an end and then, the Cross — the Cross which you have loved above all earthly possessions — will rise up in brightness before your cell door and summon you to share in the Paschal triumph of Him who came down from Heaven to teach us this great truth — that he that humbles himself, will be exalted (Matthew xxiii. 12).
Your name, O Celestine, will for ever shine on the list of Roman Pontiffs. You are one of the links of that glorious chain which unites the Holy Church with Jesus, her Founder and her Spouse. But a still greater glory is reserved for you — the glory of being forever with this same Risen Jesus. Holy Church which, during the short period of your holding the Keys of Peter, was obedient to you, has now for centuries paid, and will continue, to the end of the world, to pay you the tribute of her devotion because she recognises in you one of God’s elect — one of the Princes of the heavenly court. And we, O Celestine, we also are invited to ascend where you are and contemplate, together with you, the most beautiful among the children of men (Psalm xliv. 3), the Conqueror of sin and Hell. But there is only one path that can lead us there. It is the path you trod — the path of humility. Pray for us that we may be solidly grounded in this virtue and desire it with all our earnestness, that we may change our unhappy self-esteem into an honest contempt of ourselves, that we may despise all human glory and be courageous and cheerful under humiliation, and that thus having drunk of the torrent as did our Divine Master, we may one day, like Him, lift up our heads (Psalm cix. 7) and cluster round His throne for all eternity.

19 MAY – FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
Our Jesus has organised His Church and confided to His Apostles the sacred deposit of the truths which are to form the object of our faith. We must now follow Him in another work, of equal importance to the world, and to which He gives His divine attention during these forty days: it is the institution of the Sacraments. It is not enough that we believe. We must, moreover, be made just, that is, we must bear on us the likeness of God’s holiness. We must receive, we must have incorporated within us, that great fruit of the Redemption which is called Grace, that thus being made living members of our divine Head, we may be made joint-heirs with Him of the Kingdom of heaven. Now, it is by means of the Sacraments that Jesus is to produce in us this wondrous work of our justification. He applies to us the merits of His Incarnation and Sacrifice but He applies them by certain means which He Himself, in His power and wisdom, has instituted.
Being the sovereign Master of His own gifts, He can select what means He pleases by which to convey grace to us. All we have to do is to conform to His wishes. Thus, each of the Sacraments is a law so that it is in vain that we hope for a Sacrament to produce its effects, unless we fulfil the conditions specified by our Redeemer. And here, at once, we cannot but admire that infinite goodness which has so mercifully blended two such widely distinct operations in one and the same act, namely, on the one side, the humble submission of man, and, on the other, the munificent generosity of God.
We were showing, a few days back how the Church, though a spiritual society, is also visible and exterior, because man, for whose sake the Church was formed, is a being composed of body and soul. When instituting the Sacraments our Lord assigned to each an essential rite, and this rite is outward and sensible. He made the Flesh, which He had united to His Divine Person, become the instrument of our salvation by His Passion and Death on the Cross. He redeemed us by shedding His Blood for us. So is it in the Sacraments: He follows the same mysterious plan, taking physical things as His auxiliaries in effecting the work of our justification. He raises them to a supernatural state, and makes them the faithful and all-powerful conductors of His grace, even to the most intimate depths of our soul. It is the continuation of the mystery of the Incarnation, the object of which is to raise us, by visible things, to the knowledge of things invisible. Thus is broken the pride of Satan. He despised man because he is not purely a spirit, but is spirit and matter unitedly, and he refused to pay adoration to the Word made Flesh.
Moreover, the Sacraments, being visible signs, are an additional bond of union between the members of the Church: we say additional, because these members have the two other strong links of union — submission to Peter and to the Pastors sent by him, and profession of the same faith. The Holy Ghost tells us in the Sacred Volume that a threefold cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiasticus iv. 12.). Now, we have such a one, and it keeps us in the glorious unity of the Church: — Hierarchy, Dogma and Sacraments, all contribute to make us One Body. Everywhere, from north to south, and from east to west, the Sacraments testify to the fraternity that exists amongst us. By them we know each other, no matter in what part of the globe we may be, and by the same we are known by heretics and infidels. These divine Sacraments are the same in every country, however much the liturgical formulae of their administration may differ. They are the same in the graces they produce, they are the same in the signs by which grace is produced, in a word, they are the same in all the essentials.
Our Risen Jesus would have the Sacraments be Seven. As, at the beginning, He stamped the Creation of the visible world with this sacred number, giving six days to work and one to rest — so, too, would He mark the great spiritual creation. He tells us in the Old Testament that Wisdom (that is, Himself — for He is the Eternal Wisdom of the Father), will build to Himself a House, which is the Church. And He adds that He will make it rest on seven pillars (Proverbs ix. 1) He gives us a type of this same Church in the Tabernacle built by Moses, and he orders a superb Candlestick, to be provided for the giving light, by day and night, to the holy place. But there were to be seven branches to the Candlestick, and on each branch were to be graven flowers and fruits (Exodus xxv. 37). When He raises His beloved Disciple to Heaven, He shows Himself to him surrounded by seven candlesticks, and holding seven stars in His right hand (Apocalypse i. 12, 16.) He appears to him as a Lamb, bearing seven horns (which are the symbol of strength), and having seven eyes (which signify His infinite wisdom) (Apocalypse v. 6) Near Him lies a Book in which is written the future of the world. The Book is sealed with seven seals, and none but the Lamb is able to loose them (Apocalypse v. 1, 5). The Disciple sees seven Spirits, burning like lamps, before the throne of God, (Apocalypse viii. 2) ready to do His biddings, and carry His word to the extremities of the earth.
Turning our eyes to the kingdom of Satan, we see him mimicking God’s work and setting up a seven of his own. Seven capital and deadly sins are the instruments by which he makes man his slave, and our Saviour tells us that when Satan has been defeated, and would regain a soul, he brings with him seven of the wickedest spirits of Hell. We read in the Gospel that Jesus drove seven devils out of Mary Magdalene. When God’s anger bursts upon the world immediately before the coming of the dread Judge, He will announce the approach of His chastisements by seven trumpets sounded by seven Angels, (Apocalypse iv. 5) and seven other Angels will then pour out upon the guilty earth seven vials filled with the wrath of God (Apocalypse xvi. 1).
We, therefore, who are resolved to make sure our election. Who desire to possess the grace of our Risen Jesus in this life, and to enjoy His vision in the next, oh! let us reverence and love this merciful Seven-fold, these admirable Sacraments! Under this sacred number, He has included all the varied riches of His grace. There is not a want or necessity, either of souls individually, or of society at large, for which our Redeemer has not provided by these seven sources of regeneration and life. He calls us from death to life by Baptism and Penance. He strengthens us in that supernatural life by Confirmation, the Eucharist and Extreme Unction. He secures to His Church both Ministry and increase by Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven Sacraments supply everything needed. Take one away, and you destroy the harmony. The Churches of the East — though severed, now for long ages, from Catholic unity — retain all seven: and when Protestantism broke the sacred number, it showed in this, as in all its other pretended reformations, that it was estranging itself from the spirit of the Christian Religion. No: the doctrine of the Sacraments is one that cannot be denied without denying the true Faith. If we would be members of God’s Church, we must receive this doctrine as coming from Him, who has a right to insist on our humble submission to His every word. It is to the soul which thus believes, that the Sacraments appear in all their divine beauty and power: we understand, because we believe. Credite, et intelligetis! It is the fulfilment of the text from Isaias, as rendered by the Septuagint: “Unless you believe, you will not understand! (Isaias vii. 9).
Let us confine our considerations for today to the first of the Sacraments — Baptism. It is during Paschal Time that we have it brought before us in all its glory. We remember how on Holy Saturday it filled the hearts of the Catechumens with joy, giving them a right to heaven. But the great Sacrament had had its preparations. On the feast of the Epiphany we adored our Emmanuel as we beheld Him descending into the river Jordan and, by this contact with His sacred Body, communicating to the element of water the power of purifying men’s souls from sin. The Holy Ghost, in the form of a dove, rested on Jesus’ head, and, by His divine influence, gave fecundity to the life-giving element. The voice of the Eternal Father was heard in a cloud, announcing His adoption of all such as should receive Baptism. He adopted them in Jesus, His eternally well-beloved Son.
During His sojourn on Earth, our Redeemer thus explained the mystery of Baptism to Nicodemus, who was a ruler among the Jews, and a master in Israel: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (John iii. 5). Here, as in so many other instances, He foretells what He intends to do at a future time: He prepares us for the mystery by telling us that, as our first birth was not pure, He is preparing a second for us. that this second birth will be holy, and that water is to be the instrument of so great a grace. But, after His Resurrection our Emmanuel openly announced His having given to water the power of producing the sublime adoption to which mankind was invited by the Eternal Father. Speaking to His Apostles, He thus gives them the fundamental law of the Kingdom He had come from Heaven to establish: “Going, teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew xxviii. 19) This is the master-gift bestowed on the world by its Redeemer: salvation by water and the invocation of the Blessed Trinity, for He adds: “He that believes and is baptised will be saved” (Mark xvi. 16).
What a revelation was here! It told us of the infinite mercy with which our Creator loved us: it was the inauguration of the Sacraments by the announcement of the first of the Seven — of that one which, according to the expression of the Holy Fathers, is the Gate to the rest. Let us love this august mystery of Baptism to which we are indebted for the life of our souls, and for the indelible character which makes us members of our divine Head, Jesus. The holy King of France, Saint Louis, who was baptised in the humble village of Poissy, loved to sign himself “Louis of Poissy.” He looked upon the baptismal font as the mother who had given him a life incomparably superior to that which made him the son of an earthly monarch: she gave him to be the child of God, and heir to the kingdom of Heaven. We should imitate this saintly King.
But, observe the exceeding considerateness of our Risen Jesus when He instituted this the most indispensable of the Sacraments. He chose for its matter the commonest that could be, and the most easily to be had. Bread, wine and oil are not so plentiful as water, which is to be found in every place: God made it thus plentiful, that, when the appointed time came, the fount of regeneration might be within everyone’s reach. In His other Sacraments our Saviour would have Priests alone to be the ministers: not so with Baptism. Any one of the Faithful, whatever may be his or her condition, may administer Baptism. Nay more: an infidel can, by water and the invocation of the Blessed Trinity, confer on others the baptismal grace which he or she themselves do not possess, provided only that they really intend to do what holy Church does when she administers the sacrament of Baptism.
Nor is this all. An unbaptised man or woman may be dying, and no one near them to administer this Sacrament. They are on the brink of eternity, and there is no hand nigh them to pour the water of regeneration on them — our Saviour has lovingly provided for this necessity. Let this man or woman believe in Baptism. Let them desire it in all the sincerity of their souls. Let them entertain sentiments of compunction and love, such as are required of an adult when receiving Baptism — they are baptised in desire, and Heaven is open to them.
But what if it be a child, that has not come to the use of reason? Our Saviour’s words are plain: “He that believes and is baptised will be saved.” How, then, can this child be saved? The guilt of original sin is upon it, and it is incapable of making an act of faith? Fear not: the power of holy Baptism extends even so far as this. The faith of the Church will be imputed to this child, which the Church is about to adopt as her own: let water be but poured on the child in the name of the three Divine Persons, and it is a Christian forever. Baptised in the faith of the Church, this child now possesses (and, as we say, personally), Faith, Hope and Charity: the sacramental water has achieved this wondrous work. If the little innocent die, it goes straight to heaven.
These, Jesus, are the admirable effects of the first of your Sacraments. How truly does the Apostle say of you, that you will all men to be saved! (1 Timothy ii. 4) If this your will be in some without its fulfilment so that some children die without Baptism, it is because of the consequences which sin produces in the parents, and which your Justice is not bound to prevent. And yet, how frequently does not your mercy intervene and procure the grace of Regeneration for children who, naturally, would have been excluded! Thus, the water of Baptism has been poured upon countless babes who were dying in the arms of their pagan parents, and the Angels received these little ones into their choirs. Knowing this, dear Saviour, we are forced to exclaim with the Psalmist: “Let us that live bless the Lord!” (Psalm cxiii. 8).
Epistle – James i. 17‒21
Dearly beloved, every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration. For of His own will He has begotten us by the word of truth that we might be some beginning of His creatures. You know, my dearest brethren. Now let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to anger. For the anger of man works not the justice of God. Wherefore, casting away all uncleanness and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the engrafted word which is able to save your souls.
Thanks be to God.

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
The favours bestowed on the Christian people proceed from the goodness of our Heavenly Father. He is the source of everything in the order of nature and if, in the order of grace, we have become His children, it is because He sent us His Consubstantial Word — the Word of Truth — by which, by means of Baptism, we were made children of God. Hence, we ought to imitate, as far as our weakness will permit, the divine calm of our Father who is in Heaven. We ought to avoid that state of passionate excitement which savours of a terrestrial life, whereas ours should be of the Heaven to which God calls us. The Apostle bids us receive, with meekness, the Word, which makes us what we are. He tells us that this Word is a germ of salvation grafted into our souls: only let us put no obstacle to its growth, and we will be saved.
Gospel – John xvi. 5‒14
At that time Jesus said to His disciples, “I go to Him who sent me and none of you ask me, Where do you go? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go, for if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you, and when He has come, He will convince the world of sin and of justice, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believed not in me; and of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; and of judgment, because the Prince of this world is already judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now: but when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will teach you all truth, for He will not speak of Himself, but whatever things He will hear, He will speak, and the things that are to come He will show you. He will glorify me because He will receive of mine, and will show it to you.”
Praise be to you, O Christ.

Dom Prosper Gueranger:
The Apostles were sad at hearing Jesus say to them: “I go.” Are not we so, too? We, who, thanks to the sacred Liturgy, have been in such close company with Him ever since the day of His birth at Bethlehem. Yet a few days, and He is to ascend into Heaven, and our year is to lose the charm it possessed of following, day by day, the actions and words of our Emmanuel. Still, He would have us moderate our sadness. He tells us that in His stead the Paraclete, the Comforter, is about to descend upon the earth and abide with us to the end of time, in order that He may give us light and strength. Let us make good use of these last hours with our Jesus: we will soon have to be preparing for the Divine Guest who is to take His place.
By these words, which were spoken shortly before His Passion, our Saviour does more than tell us of the coming of the Holy Ghost He also shows us how terrible this coming will be to them that have rejected the Messiah. His words are unusually mysterious: let us listen to the explanation given of them by Saint Augustine, the Doctor of Doctors: When the Holy Ghost is come, says our Lord, He will convince the world of sin because they believed not in me. How great must, indeed, be the responsibility of them that have been witnesses of Jesus’ wonderful works, and yet will not receive His teaching! Jerusalem will be told that the Holy Ghost has come down on the disciples, and she will receive the news with the same indifference as she did the miracles which proved Jesus to be her Messiah. The coming of the Holy Ghost will serve as a sort of signal of the destruction of the Deicide City. Jesus adds: “The Paraclete will convince the world of Justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” The Apostles, and they that believe their word, will be just and holy by faith: they will believe in Him that is gone to the Father, in Him whom they are to see no longer in this world. Jerusalem, on the contrary, will remember Him only to blaspheme Him: the holiness, the faith, the justice of them that will believe, will be her condemnation, and the Holy Ghost will leave her to her fate. Jesus continues: “The Paraclete will convince the world of Judgment, because the prince of this world is already judged.” They that follow not Christ Jesus, follow Satan: he is their prince, but his judgment is already pronounced. The Holy Ghost warns the followers of the world that their leader is already in eternal torments. Let them reflect well on this for, as Saint Augustine observes, “the pride of man has no right to reckon on indulgence. Let it but think of the Hell into which even the angels were cast because they were proud.”