"If you are afraid of other people's opinions, you should not have become a Christian."
"What great power the Holy Souls in Purgatory have over the Heart of God! If we reliased this fact and averted to all the graces that we can gain through their intercession, these souls would not be so forgotten."
"In your work, offer your difficulties and troubles quite simply to God ... and you will find that His blessings will rest upon you and on all you do."
"We ought always to devote at least a quarter of an hour to preparing ourselves to hear Mass well.
"We ought to annihilate ourselves before God, after the example of His profound annihilation in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and we should make our examination of conscience, for we must be in the state of grace to be able to assist properly at Mass.
"If we knew the value of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or rather, if we had faith, we should be much more zealous to assist at it."
- St. John Vianney
"Upon receiving Holy Communion, the Adorable Blood of Jesus Christ really flows in our veins and His flesh is really blended with ours."
If ever there existed a sign of encouragement to those who are trying to hold onto the Traditions of our Faith, it exists in the wonderful example to be found in the life of the Curé D'Ars.
Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney was born at Dardilly, near Lyons, France, on May 8, 1786. His parents were farmers who worked hard on the land to make a living for themselves and their six children. Theirs was a busy, peaceful, country life. During this time of history ominous events associated with the Revolution were taking place in France. Decrees were issued which suppressed monasteries and forbade religious to take their holy vows. It was on November 26, 1790, that the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was enacted, which required all priests to deny the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Priests were gradually pressured to swear by this oath to cut themselves off from the Church and to preach on such issues as "constitution," "civ-ism," and "citizenry." Little by little rural families such as the Vianneys found themselves attending Masses in their parish churches, which were aimed at making them revolutionaries.
One day a relative from the nearby village of Ecully was visiting the Vianneys.
"What are you doing," she exclaimed, "all good priests have refused the oath, and in consequence are being hunted and persecuted and driven into exile. Happily at Ecully we still have some good priests. It is to these you must go. By taking the oath your parish priest has separated himself from the Catholic Church; he is not your true shepherd and you cannot make yourselves his abettors."
From this time on, we are told, little Jean-Marie "showed his horror of sin" and began to avoid his parish priest. The family began to travel out of their village to assist at Mass offered by a courageous priest who had a price on his head. Occasionally, a priest would come to their home to offer the Holy Sacrifice, hear confessions, and witness marriages. The priest would place the altar stone on a table in the comer of a room, take out the Missal, chalice, and several small altar breads. He donned the wrinkled vestments and began the prayers of the Liturgy. What fervor there was in his voice! It was like being at Mass in the Roman Catacombs. These were unforgettable moments for little Vianney, moments in which he may have felt the first call to the priesthood. The terrible fate of many of these people is still remembered in tales that are told of the blood of good people flowing through the streets of the cities and provinces of France.
On November 9, 1799, General Bonaparte took control of the country, bringing about the liberation of the Church. Faithful priests were again allowed to say Mass publicly. During this time young Jean-Marie worked as a shepherd in his father's fields. He was known for his good humor and deep piety. His fondness for his family and his great love for the Mother of God impressed all who knew him. Because of the political turmoil and his work on the farm, he was unable to receive a proper education.
By the time he had reached twelve years of age he had developed a keen interest in becoming a priest. For seven years his father opposed this move, as he felt that Jean-Marie was needed at home. The boy's Aunt Marguerite prevailed upon Mr. Vianney and finally won his permission for the young man to receive training from the parish priest of Ecully, Father Charles Balley.
At the age of twenty, Vianney took up residence in his aunt's home in Ecully. Although regarded by many as saintly even at this age, his family was well aware of his tendency to show a quick temper. Jean-Marie did all in his power to control this tendency by concentrating his energies on the virtue of charity. He sometimes brought back to his aunt's home all the beggars he met along the road. One day he walked over to Dardilly to see his parents. On the way he met a beggar to whom he gave the new shoes his father had bought for him. He thought they were his personal property. He was sharply reprimanded on reaching home barefooted. Soon after, as he was passing a poor woman and her small children, he was so moved to pity that he gave her seven francs, which was all the money he had with him.
Studies for the young man were a source of great discouragement. Through no fault of his, his intellect had been too long permitted to lie dormant. He found that his ability to memorize facts was greatly impaired. Nonetheless, his sense of balance and spiritual insight was magnificent, his application was persistent. His tutor, Father Balley, told him that his progress was poor. In order to better succeed and to bring his lower nature into subjection he began to pray harder and to fast. The severity of his fasting took its toll on his health to the point that Father Balley said to him: "See, my child, we must indeed pray much and do penance, but it is likewise a duty to take food and not to ruin one's health."
Jean-Marie's spirit of determination was amazing. He struggled through Latin. In philosophy he earned the title, "exceedingly poor student." He was laughed at in class by students many years his junior. A lesser man would have given up. Through it all, God was allowing him to be exercised in the virtues most necessary in later years for gaining souls—humility and perseverance. Even though he did not retain technical knowledge of majors and minors in the study of logic, he was blessed with abundant practical common sense and sound judgement. To quote the words of Jacapone da Todi, ". . .a simple and pure mind finds itself in the presence of God. . . ." At the end of his first year of philosophy his first report card showed him to be good in application, conduct, and character, but very weak in general knowledge.
Six months later he was dismissed by his superiors from the Grand Seminaire at Lyons because of lack of knowledge. This was the bitterest trial of his life. He had put more energy and toil to attain his desired goal than any of his companions, yet he had failed. He turned back to the house of his friend, Father Balley, who encouraged him by continuing to tutor and drill him for the final examinations. When the time came for these exams, and young Vianney faced his examiners, he became so confused that he did not even understand the questions put to him. Again, he was dismissed, but with the stipulation that if another bishop would accept him he was free to be ordained. Father Balley again came to his rescue by gaining the sympathetic ear of the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Lyons, Father Courbon. A second examination was arranged in more relaxed surroundings. This time Jean-Marie gave a good account of himself and was given permission to receive major orders. In the words of Father Courbon, "The Church is in need not only of learned priests, she wants, above all, holy priests." Vianney was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on August 13, 1815, by the Bishop of Grenoble, Msgr. Simon. Later that day Jean-Marie exclaimed, "Oh! how great is the priest. The priest will only be understood in Heaven. Were he understood on earth. people would die, not of fear, but of love." He celebrated his first Mass at Grenoble on August 14, returning to Ecully as assistant to Father Balley. His warmth and generosity soon won the hearts of the parishioners of Ecully. The Bishop conferred faculties for the Sacrament of Penance several months later and from that time he found that he was besieged with requests from penitents to hear their confessions. His exhortations to lead moral lives were based only on what he himself practiced. His reserve, simplicity, and kindness were admirable. He prayed and mortified himself so as to subdue his flesh. In this connection he made a vow to recite daily the ''Regina Coeli" and six times the ejaculation: "Blessed be forever the most holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God! Amen."
In December of 1817, Father Balley's health deteriorated. He died with the assistance of the last Sacraments, administered by Father Vianney. The Abbé Vianney wept for the older priest as for a father. "I have seen beautiful souls, " he exclaimed, "but none so beautiful." After Father Balley's death the young Vianney was assigned the post of pastor of the small village of Ars. This isolated outpost was considered by the clergy to be a "Siberia" since the area was impoverished and the faith of the people quite lax. The young priest was admonished by his Vicar-General, "There is not much love for God in that parish; you will bring some into it."
On his arrival there the young priest found Ars to be truly desolate, physically and spiritually. In recent years an apostate priest had lived here. Some of the inhabitants had gone so far as to actually worship the "goddess of reason" revered by the fomenters of the French Revolution. Young people were ignorant of their religion and older people no longer attended Mass. The apathy and inertia of the villagers was joined to a great love of sinful amusements. The young curate began his stay by living even more simply than the townspeople. He gave away his meager possessions to the poorest of the poor. He visited each home and became acquainted with every family member. He showed an interest in their work and assisted them in the raising of their crops. Slowly, he introduced to them the knowledge of their Religion. For example, he often visited a group of women who had come together to sew and spin. He held catechism classes for their children. Soon the women themselves became interested in his lessons and became influential in bringing back a sense of morality to the village. Father Vianney was noted for his genuine love of his parishioners; he was also noted for calling a spade a spade. It took him twenty-five years to convince parents that they were harming their children by allowing sinful entertainments to take place in their homes. At first he found a resistance to his words. He discovered that the more he mortified himself, the greater was his success in winning souls. One day he remarked to a young visiting priest, "My friend, the devil is not greatly afraid of instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one's food, drink, and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God." The young Curé spared no words in telling the people of their vices. He immediately showed them that Hell would be their lot if they pursued such lives. At the same time he encouraged them to "come to the foot of the Cross; come to the good God who loves you so." His words made it plain to parents that they had the responsibility to raise their children for Heaven. They must combine love and affection with severity. When he first arrived at Ars, he spoke to a group of mothers concerning modesty, "...that mother who can think of nothing but her daughter. She is far more concerned whether her bonnet is put on properly than whether the child has given her heart to God. She beseeches her daughter not to be unsociable—to be gracious to everybody so as to form acquaintances and eventually to 'get off.' Soon the girl's one aim will be to attract. Her extravagant and indecent dress proclaims her to be a tool by means of which Hell seeks the ruin of souls. Only at the judgement-seat of God will such a one know the number of crimes of which she has been the cause." Eventually the Curé helped found a school for homeless girls, "Providence." It became famous as a Catholic institution and was called by Pope St. Pius X a "model of popular education."
Almighty and merciful God, who made St. Jean-Marie glorious by priestly zeal, grant, we beseech Thee, that by his example and intercession, we may have strength to win for Christ the souls of our brethren and, with them, attain everlasting glory.
As time went on the people of Ars grew in their respect and love of their priest. The village became transformed into a model of Catholic life. The fame of the curate grew so that penitents came from long distances to confess to him. The Curé soon found that he was obliged to spend longer hours in the confessional. The advice he gave and the graces he won for these souls doubled and redoubled, so that soon Ars became a center of religious conversion. Satan was most interested in this, for the curate spent many a sleepless night in harrassment, which can only be described as diabolic. Religious pictures were smashed, screams and profanities were accompanied by loud, pounding noises. Several times the priest was awakened and dragged across his bedroom floor by unseen hands. It always happened that the more violent the attacks, the greater the conversions of souls the following day. At first, the Saint was terrified by these demonstrations. He soon learned that he had only to make the Sign of the Cross and the devil would vanish.
The devotion of Vianney for souls kept him at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament for long hours. He scarcely ate at all, and then only enough to sustain his strength. As time progressed, the Curé spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in hearing confessions. The devout came from all parts of Europe to receive advice and graces at his hands. He was able to tell them their most secret thoughts and sins and to comfort them in their trials. He arose each morning shortly after midnight and made his way to the Chapel, where he heard confessions until 6 a.m. He then made his preparation for Holy Mass. His recollection and abandonment to God during Mass were so apparent that they moved hardened sinners to repentance. After Mass he recited his breviary. It was often said by pilgrims to Ars that the sight of the Curé praying the Divine Office was sufficient to inspire them with supernatural graces. Later each day he gave catechism lessons, directed primarily to the children. These "catechisms," given in such simple language, were soon attended by hundreds of bishops, priests, parents, and children who crowded the Church. After these lessons the Curé ate a sparse lunch, taken while standing up. He then returned to the Church to hear confessions and bless the sick, retiring for the night at about 8 p.m.
The last years of his life were spent in great physical and mental sufferings, of which he rarely made mention. He grieved that he had done so little to prepare himself for Heaven, yet his confessor said of him that he was convinced that the Curé had never committed even one deliberate venial sin. He exhausted himself for souls. Even on his deathbed he allowed penitents to come to his room to receive his blessing. He died after receiving Holy Viaticum, on August 4, 1859, at the age of seventy-three years. While his body was being prepared for burial, it was discovered that he had practiced great bodily penances. His fame as a saint spread quickly throughout the world. Pope St. Pius X proposed him as a model to priests. Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1925.
Today, we see many souls lost in a world which knows not how to give them peace. We see priests embracing the maxims of this world, forgetting their sublime vocation. Let us pray to St. John Vianney, that through his intercession, these priests will rediscover the virtues of humility, simplicity, and poverty. Let us ask him to show them once again the inestimable value of the Sacrament of Penance and the fruits of the Sacred Passion of Jesus Christ, redistributed to all who are willing to accept them in each Holy Mass.
It is the privilege of this writer to have a collection of the "catechisms" of the Curé d'Ars. It seems appropriate to quote his catechism on the Priesthood.
My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to every one. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest? A man who holds the place of God—a man who is invested with all the powers of God. "Go," said Our Lord to the priest; "as my Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations....He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me." When the priest remits sins, he does not say, "God pardons you"; he says, "I absolve you." At the consecration, he does not say, "This is the Body of our Lord"; he says, "This is My Body."
St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest—always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.
Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, "Go in peace; I pardon you." Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!
The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the Missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, "What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there. we may as well pray at home." When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.
When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, "Where are you going?" you might answer, "I am going to feed my soul." If some one were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, "What is that golden door?" "That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept." "Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?" "The priest." "And what is the Food?" "The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord." O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us!....See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world... Some one said, "Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Curé of Ars?" Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.
If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds his place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul." At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place? The Body of Our Lord. Why is He there? Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass."
What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking-cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Charity which is the bond of perfection, must be dictated and regulated by the truth and it is in this spirit of charity which we must act." - Cardinal Pie
Lord, have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us, Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us. God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us. God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us. God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us. Saint John-Mary Vianney, Pray for us. St. John Vianney, endowed with grace from thine infancy, etc. St. John Vianney, model of filial piety, St. John Vianney, devoted servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. John Vianney, spotless lily of purity, St. John Vianney, faithful imitator of the sufferings of Christ, St. John Vianney, abyss of humility, St. John Vianney, seraph of prayer, St. John Vianney, faithful adorer of the Most Blessed Sacrament, St. John Vianney, ardent lover of holy poverty, St. John Vianney, true son of St. Francis of Assisi, St. John Vianney, exemplary Franciscan tertiary, St. John Vianney, tender friend of the poor, St. John Vianney, penetrated with the fear of God's judgment, St. John Vianney, fortified by divine visions, St. John Vianney, who was tormented by the evil spirit, St. John Vianney, perfect model of sacerdotal virtue, St. John Vianney, firm and prudent pastor, St. John Vianney, inflamed with zeal, St. John Vianney, faithful attendant on the sick, St. John Vianney, indefatigable catechist, St. John Vianney, who didst preach in words of fire, St. John Vianney, wise director of souls, St. John Vianney, specially gifted with the spirit of counsel, St. John Vianney, enlightened by light from Heaven, St. John Vianney, formidable to Satan, St. John Vianney, compassionate with every misery, St. John Vianney, providence of the orphans, St. John Vianney, favored with the gift of miracles, St. John Vianney, who didst reconcile so many sinners to God, St. John Vianney, who didst confirm so many of the just in the way of virtue, St. John Vianney, who didst taste the sweetness of death, St. John Vianney, who dost now rejoice in the glory of Heaven, St. John Vianney, who givest joy to those who invoke thee, St. John Vianney, heavenly patron of parish priests, St. John Vianney, model and patron of directors of souls,
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Hear us, O Lord. Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. Pray for us, blessed Jean-Marie Vianney, R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let Us Pray.
Almighty and merciful God, Who didst bestow upon blessed John Mary Vianney wonderful pastoral zeal and a great fervor for prayer and penance, grant, we beseech Thee, that by his example and intercession we may be able to gain the souls of our brethren for Christ, and with them attain to everlasting glory, through the same Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. R. Amen.
God, please give to Thy Church today many more priests after Thine own heart. May they be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd. May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance; be examples of humility and poverty; shining models of holiness; tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God; zealous dispensers of Thy grace in the sacraments. May their loving devotion to Thy Son Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and to Mary His Mother be the twin fountains of fruitfulness for their ministry. Amen.
There is always the person who says to me: "What harm can there be in enjoying oneself for a while? I do no wrong to anyone; I do not want to be religious or to become a religious! If I do not go to dances, I will be living in the world like someone dead!"
My good friend, you are wrong. Either you will be religious or you will be damned. What is a religious person? This is nothing other than a person who fulfills his duties as a Christian. You say that I shall achieve nothing by talking to you about dances and that you will indulge neither more nor less in them. You are wrong again. In ignoring or despising the instructions of your pastor, you draw down upon yourself fresh chastisements from God, and I, on my side, will achieve quite a lot by fulfilling my duties. At the hour of my death, God will ask me not if you have fulfilled your duties but if I have taught you what you must do in order to fulfill them. You say, too, that I shall never break down your resistance to the point of making you believe that there is harm in amusing yourself for a little while in dancing? You do not wish to believe that there is any harm in it? Well, that is your affair. As far as I am concerned, it is sufficient for me to tell you in such a way as will insure that doing this I am doing all that I should do. That should not irritate you: your pastor is doing his duty. But, you will say, the Commandments of God do not forbid dancing, nor does Holy Scripture, either. Perhaps you have not examined them very closely. Follow me for a moment and you will see that there is not a Commandment of God which dancing does not cause to be transgressed, nor a Sacrament which it does not cause to be profaned.
You know as well as I do that these kinds of follies and wild extravagances are not ordinarily indulged in, but on Sundays and feast days. What, then, will a young girl or a boy do who have decided to go to the dance? What love will they have for God? Their minds will be wholly occupied with their preparations to attract the people with whom they hope to be mixing. Let us suppose that they say their prayers–how will they say them? Alas, only God knows that! Besides, what love for God can be felt by anyone who is thinking and breathing nothing but the love of pleasures and creatures? You will admit that it is impossible to please God and the world. That can never be.
God forbids swearing. Alas! What quarrels, what swearing, what blasphemies are uttered as a result of the jealousy that arises between these young people when they are at such gatherings! Have you not often had disputes or fights there? Who could count the crimes that are committed at these diabolical gatherings? The Third Commandment commands us to sanctify the holy day of Sunday. Can anyone really believe that a boy who has passed several hours with a girl, whose heart is like a furnace, is really thus satisfying this precept? St. Augustine has good reason to say that men would be better to work their land and girls to carry on with their spinning than to go dancing; the evil would be less. The Fourth Commandment of God commands children to honor their parents. These young people who frequent the dances, do they have the respect and the submission to their parents' wishes which they should have? No, they certainly do not; they cause them utmost worry and distress between the way they disregard their parents' wishes and the way they put their money to bad use, while sometimes even taunting them with their old-fashioned outlook and ways. What sorrow should not such parents feel, that is, if their faith is not yet extinct, at seeing their children given over to such pleasures or, to speak more plainly, to such licentious ways? These children are no longer Heaven-bent, but are fattening for Hell. Let us suppose that the parents have not yet lost the Faith. . . . Alas! I dare not go any further! . . . What blind parents! . . . What lost children! . . .
Is there any place, any time, any occasion wherein so many sins of impurity are committed at the dance halls and their sequels? Is it not in these gatherings that people are most violently prompted against the holy virtue of purity? Where else but there are the senses so strongly urged towards pleasurable excitement? If we go a little more closely into this, should we not almost die of horror at the sight of so many crimes which are committed? Is it not at these gatherings that the Devil so furiously kindles the fire of impurity in the hearts of the young people in order to annihilate in them the grace of Baptism? Is it not there that Hell enslaves as many souls as it wishes? If, in spite of the absence of occasions and the aids of prayer, a Christian has so much difficulty in preserving purity of heart, how could he possibly preserve that virtue in the midst of so many sources which are capable of breaking it down?
"Look," says St. John Chrysostom, "at this worldly and flighty young woman, or rather at this flaming brand of diabolical fire who by her beauty and her flamboyant attire lights in the heart of that young man the fire of concupiscence. Do you not see them, one as much as the other, seeking to charm one another by their airs and graces and all sorts of tricks and wiles? Count up, unfortunate sinner, if you can, the number of your bad thoughts, of your evil desires and your sinful actions. Is it not there that you heard those airs that please the ears, that inflame and burn hearts and make of these assemblies furnaces of shamelessness?"
Is it not there, my dear brethren, that the boys and the girls drink at the fountain of crime, which very soon, like a torrent or a river bursting its banks, will inundate, ruin, and poison all its surroundings? Go on, shameless fathers and mothers, go on into Hell, where the fury of God awaits you, you and all the good actions you have done in letting your children run such risks. Go on, they will not be long in joining you, for you have outlined the road plainly for them. Go and count the number of years that your boys and girls have lost, go before your Judge to give an account of your lives, and you will see that your pastor had reason to forbid these kinds of diabolical pleasures! . . .
Ah, you say, you are making more of it than there really is!
I say too much about it? Very well, then. Listen. Did the Holy Fathers of the Church say too much about it? St. Ephraim tells us that dancing is the perdition of girls and women, the blinding of men, the grief of angels, and the joy of the devils. Dear God, can anyone really have their eyes bewitched to such an extent that they will still want to believe that there is no harm in it, while all the time it is the rope by which the Devil pulls the most souls into Hell? . . . Go on, poor parents, blind and lost, go on and scorn what your pastor is telling you! Go on! Continue the way you are going! Listen to everything and profit nothing by it! There is no harm in it? Tell me, then, what did you renounce on the day of your Baptism? Or on what conditions was Baptism given to you? Was it not on the condition of your taking a vow in the face of Heaven and earth, in the presence of Jesus Christ upon the altar, that you would renounce Satan and all his works and pomps, for the whole of your lives–or in other words that you would renounce sin and the pleasures and vanities of the world?
Was it not because you promised that you would be willing to follow in the steps of a crucified God? Well then, is this not truly to violate those promises made at your Baptism and to profane this Sacrament of mercy? Do you not also profane the Sacrament of Confirmation, in exchanging the Cross of Jesus Christ, which you have received, for vain and showy dress, in being ashamed of that Cross, which should be your glory and your happiness?
St. Augustine tells us that those who go to dances truly renounce Jesus Christ in order to give themselves to the Devil. What a horrible thing that is! To drive out Jesus Christ after having received Him in your hearts! "Today," says St. Ephraim, "they unite themselves to Jesus Christ and tomorrow to the Devil." Alas! What a Judas is that person who, after receiving our Lord, goes then to sell Him to Satan in these gatherings, where he will be reuniting himself with everything that is most vicious! And when it comes to the Sacrament of Penance, what a contradiction in such a life! A Christian, who after one single sin should spend the rest of his life in repentance, thinks only of giving himself up to all these worldly pleasures! A great many profane the Sacrament of Extreme Unction by making indecent movements with the feet, the hands and the whole body, which one day must be sanctified by the holy oils. Is not the Sacrament of Holy Order insulted by the contempt with which the instructions of the pastor are considered? But when we come to the Sacrament of Matrimony, alas! What infidelities are not contemplated in these assemblies? It seems then that everything is admissible. How blind must anyone be who thinks there is no harm in it . . .
The Council of Aix-la-Chapelle forbids dancing, even at weddings. And St. Charles Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, says that three years of penance were given to someone who had danced and that if he went back to it, he was threatened with excommunication. If there were no harm in it, then were the Holy Fathers and the Church mistaken? But who tells you that there is no harm in it? It can only be a libertine, or a flighty and worldly girl, who are trying to smother their remorse of conscience as best they can. Well, there are priests, you say, who do not speak about it in confession or who, without permitting it, do not refuse absolution for it. Ah! I do not know whether there are priests who are so blind, but I am sure that those who go looking for easygoing priests are going looking for a passport which will lead them to Hell. For my own part, if I went dancing, I should not want to receive absolution not having a real determination not to go back to dancing.
Listen to St. Augustine and you will see if dancing is a good action. He tells us that "dancing is the ruin of souls, a reversal of all decency, a shameful spectacle, a public profession of crime." St. Ephraim calls it "the ruin of good morals and the nourishment of vice." St. John Chrysostom: "A school of public unchastity." Tertullian: "The temple of Venus, the consistory of shamelessness, and the citadel of all the depravities." "Here is a girl who dances," says St. Ambrose, "but she is the daughter of an adulteress because a Christian woman would teach her daughter modesty, a proper sense of shame, and not dancing!"
Alas! How many young people are there who since they have been going to dances do not frequent the Sacraments, or do so only to profane them! How many poor souls there are who have lost therein their religion and their faith! How many will never open their eyes to their unhappy state except when they are falling into Hell! . . .
Composed when he was young priest, The Sermons of the Cure of Ars constitute one of the most powerful Saints' writings in the literature of the Church. Covering a wide range
of vital moral and doctrinal issues for the average layman. St. John Vianney probes quickly, incisively and with total candor into the various sins we are prone to commit and that
we might make excuses for or cover up with various rationalizations. None of this mental sleight-of-hand escapes the Cure's exposure; therefore, we see sin for what it is, human
weakness for what it is, and how we need the Catholic truth to shed light on our hidden faults and God's grace through the Sacraments in order to be truly good.
Among others, St. John Vianney addresses the following topics: The Duties of Parents, Duties of the Mother, Duties of the Pregnant Woman, Annual Confessions, How Death Will
Reveal Thieves, Do you Want to be Happy, The Gift of Every Day, Purity is not Known, Be Religious or Be Damned, The Dreadful State of the Lukewarm Sour, Lost Works, Prayer
Commands All, Repairing the Wrong Done, Your Prayers Are only an Insult, It is Necessary to be Converted, You no Longer Control Your Children, The Sewer of Hell, Bad Company,
No one will read these sermons without realizing that his own moral subterfuges have been laid bare and that he needs to address the camouflaged sins and weaknesses lying buried
in this inmost heart. Though of simple education, the Cure of Ars was one of the most astute minds ever when it comes to moral issues, and the reader will soon realize why over
100,000 people journeyed to Ars every year to see first-hand this incredible Saint!
THE DREADFUL STATE OF THE LUKEWARM SOUL
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - Pages 1 to 10
In speaking to you today, my dear brethren, of the dreadful state of the lukewarm soul, my purpose is not to paint for you a terrifying and despairing picture of the soul which is living in
mortal sin without even having the wish to escape from this condition. That poor unfortunate creature can but look forward to the wrath of God in the next life. Alas! These sinners hear me; they know well of whom I am speaking at this very moment.... We will go no further, for all that I would wish to say would serve only to harden them more.
In speaking to you, my brethren, of the lukewarm soul, I do not wish, either, to speak of those who make neither their Easter duty nor their annual Confession. They know very well that in spite of all their prayers and their other good works they will be lost. Let us leave them in their blindness, since they want to remain that way....
Nor do I understand, brethren, by the lukewarm soul, that soul who would like to be worldly without ceasing to be a child of God. You will see such a one at one moment prostrate before God, his Saviour and his Master, and the next moment similarly prostrate before the world, his idol.
Poor blind creature, who gives one hand to God and the other to the world, so that he can call both to his aid, and promise his heart to each in turn! He loves God, or rather, he would like to love Him, but he would also like to please the world. Then, weary of wanting to give his allegiance to both, he ends by giving it to the world alone. This is an extraordinary life and one which offers so strange a spectacle that it is hard to persuade oneself that it could be the life of one and the same person. I am going to show you this so clearly that perhaps many among you will be hurt by it. But that will matter little to me, for I am always going to tell you what I ought to tell you, and then you will do what you wish about it....
I would say further, my brethren, that whoever wants to please both the world and God leads one of the most unhappy of lives. You shall see how. Here is someone who gives himself up to
the pleasures of the world or develops some evil habit.
How great is his fear when he comes to fulfil his religious duties; that is, when he says his prayers, when he goes to Confession, or wants to go to Holy Communion! He does not want to be seen by those with whom he has been dancing and passing nights at the cabarets, where he has been giving himself over to many kinds of licentiousness. Has he come to the stage when he is going to deceive his confessor by hiding the worst of his actions and thus obtain permission to go to Holy Communion, or rather, to commit a sacrilege? He would prefer to go to Holy Communion before or after Mass, that is to say, when there is no one present. Yet he is quite happy to be seen by the good people who know nothing about his evil life and among whom he would like to arouse good opinions about himself. In front of devout people he talks about religion. When he is with those who have no religion, he will talk only about the pleasures of the world. He would blush to fulfil his religious practices in front of his companions or thoseboys and girls who share his evil ways....
This is so true that one day someone asked me to allow him to go to Holy Communion in the sacristy so that no one would see him. Is it possible, my brethren, that one could think upon
such horrible behaviour without shuddering?
But we shall proceed further and you will see the embarrassment of these poor people who want to follow the world without -- outwardly at any rate -- leaving God. Here is Easter approaching. They must go to Confession. It is not, of course, that they want to go or that they feel any urge or need to receive the Sacrament of Penance. They would be only too pleased if Easter came around about once every thirty years. But their parents still retain the exterior practice of religion. They will be happy if their children go to the altar, and they keep urging them, then, to go to Confession. In this, of course, they make a mistake. If only they would just pray for them and not torment them into committing sacrileges. So to rid themselves of the importunity of their parents, to keep up appearances, these people will get together to find out who is the best confessor to try for absolution for the first or second time "Look," says one, "my parents keep
nagging at me because I haven't been to Confession. Where shall we go?" "It is of no use going to our parish priest; he is too scrupulous. He would not allow us to make our Easter duty. We will
have to try to find So-and-So. He let this one and that one go through, and they are worse than we are. We have done no more harm than they have."
Another will say: "I assure you that if it were not for my parents I would not make my Easter duty at all. Our catechism says that to make a good Confession we must give up sin and the occasions of sin, and we are doing neither the one nor the other. I tell you sincerely that I am really embarrassed every time Easter comes around. I will be glad when the time comes for me to settle down and to cease gallivanting. I will make a confession then of my whole life, to put right the ones I am making now. Without that I would not die happy."
"Well," another will say to him, "when that time comes you ought to go to the priest who has been hearing your confessions up to the present. He will know you best." "Indeed no! I will go to the one who would not give me absolution, because he would not want to see me damned either."
"My word, aren't you good! That means nothing at all. They all have the same power." "That is a good thing to remember when we are doing what we ought to do. But when we are in
sin, we think otherwise.
One day I went to see a girl who was pretty careless. She told me that she was not going back to Confession to the priests who were so easy and who, in making it seem as if they wanted to
save you, pushed you into Hell."
That is how many of these poor blind people behave. I "Father," they will say to the priest, "I am going to Confession to you because our parish priest is too exacting. He wants to make us promise things which we cannot hold to. He would have us all saints, and that is not possible in the world. He would want us never to go to dances, nor to frequent cabarets or amusements. If someone has a bad habit, he will not give Absolution until the habit has been given up completely. If we had to do all that we should never make our Easter duty at all. My parents, who are very religious, are always after me to make my Easter duty. I will do all I can. But no one can say that he will never return to these amusements, since he never knows when he is
going to encounter them."
"Ah!" says the confessor, quite deceived by this sincere sounding talk, "I think your parish priest is perhaps a little exacting. Make your act of contrition, and I will give you Absolution.
Try to be good now."
That is to say: Bow your head; you are going to trample in the adorable Blood of Jesus Christ; you are going to sell your God like Judas sold Him to His executioners, and tomorrow you will go to Holy Communion, where you will proceed to crucify Him. What horror! What abomination! Go on, vile Judas, go to the holy table, go and give death to your God and your Saviour! Let your conscience cry out, only try to stifle its remorse as much as you can.... But I am going too far, my brethren. Let us leave these poor blind creatures in their gloom. I think, brethren, that you would like to know what is the state of the lukewarm soul. Well, this is it. A lukewarm soul is not yet quite dead in the eyes of God because the faith, the hope, and the charity which are its spiritual life are not altogether extinct. But it is a faith without zeal, a hope without resolution, a charity without ardour....
Nothing touches this soul: it hears the word of God, yes, that is true; but often it just bores it. Its possessor hears it with difficulty, more or less by habit, like someone who thinks that he knows
enough about it and does enough of what he should.
Any prayers which are a bit long are distasteful to him. This soul is so full of whatever it has just been doing or what it is going to do next, its boredom is so great, that this poor unfortunate thing is almost in agony. It is still alive, but it is not capable of doing anything to gain Heaven.... For the last twenty years this soul has been filled with good intentions without doing anything at
all to correct its habits.
It is like someone who is envious of anyone who is on top of the world but who would not deign to lift a foot to try to get there himself. It would not, however, wish to renounce eternal blessings for those of the world. Yet it does not wish either to leave the world or to go to Heaven, and if it can just manage to pass its time without crosses or difficulties, it would never ask to leave this world at all. If you hear someone with such a soul say that life is long and pretty miserable, that is only when everything is not going in accordance with his desires. If God, in order to force such a soul to detach itself from temporal things, sends it any cross or suffering, it is fretful and grieving and abandons itself to grumbles and complaints and often even to a kind of despair. It seems as if it does not want to see that God has sent it these trials for its good, to detach it from this world and to draw it towards Himself. What has it done to deserve these trials? In this state a person thinks in his own mind that there are many others more blameworthy than himself who have not to submit to such trials.
In prosperous times the lukewarm soul does not go so far as to forget God, but neither does it forget itself. It knows very well how to boast about all the means it has employed to achieve its prosperity. It is quite convinced that many others would not have achieved the same success. It loves to repeat that and to hear it repeated, and every time it hears it, it is with fresh pleasure. The individual with the lukewarm soul assumes a gracious air when associating with those who flatter him. But towards those who have not paid him the respect which he believes he has deserved or who have not been grateful for his kindnesses, he maintains an air of frigid indifference and seems to indicate to them that they are ungrateful creatures who do not deserve
to receive the good which he has done them....
If I wanted to paint you an exact picture, my brethren, of the state of a soul which lives in tepidity, I should tell you that it is like a tortoise or a snail. It moves only by dragging itself along the ground, and one can see it getting from place to place with great difficulty. The love of God, which it feels deep down in itself, is like a tiny spark of fire hidden under a heap of
The lukewarm soul comes to the point of being completely indifferent to its own loss. It has nothing left but a love without tenderness, without action, and without energy which sustains it with difficulty in all that is essential for salvation. But for all other means of Grace, it looks upon them as nothing or almost nothing. Alas, my brethren, this poor soul in its tepidity is like someone between two bouts of sleep. It would like to act, but its will has become so softened that it lacks either the force or the courage to accomplish its wishes.
It is true that a Christian who lives in tepidity still regularly -- in appearance at least -- fulfills his duties. He will indeed get down on his knees every morning to say his prayers. He will go to the Sacraments every year at Easter and even several times during the course of the twelve months. But in all of this there will be such a distaste, so much slackness and so much indifference, so little preparation, so little change in his way of life, that it is easy to see that he is only fulfilling his duties from habit and routine .... because this is a feast and he is in the habit of carrying them out at such a time. His Confessions and his Communions are not sacrilegious, if you like, but they are Confessions and Communions which bear no fruit -- which, far from making him more perfect and more pleasing to God, only make him more unworthy. As for his prayers, God alone knows what -- without, of course, any preparation -- he makes of these.
In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul; he is quite taken up with thoughts of work. His mind is so wrapped up in the things of earth that the thought of God has no place in it. He is thinking about what he is going to be doing during the day, where he will be sending his children and his various employees, in what way he will expedite his own work. To say his prayers, he gets down on his knees, undoubtedly, but he does not know what he wants to ask God, nor what he needs, nor even before whom he is kneeling. His careless demeanour shows this very clearly. It is a poor man indeed who, however miserable he is, wants nothing at all and loves his poverty. It is surely a desperately sick person
who scorns doctors and remedies and clings to his infirmities.
You can see that this lukewarm soul has no difficulty, on the slightest pretext, in talking during the course of his prayers.
For no reason at all he will abandon them, partly at least, thinking that he will finish them in another moment. Does he want to offer his day to God, to say his Grace? He does all that, but often without thinking of the one who is addressed. He will not even stop working. If the possessor of the lukewarm soul is a man, he will turn his cap or his hat around in his hands as if to see whether it is good or bad, as though he had some idea of selling it. If it is a woman, she will say her prayers while slicing bread into her soup, or putting wood on the fire, or calling out
to her children or maid. If you like, such distractions during prayer are not exactly deliberate. People would rather not have them, but because it is necessary to go to so much trouble and expend so much energy to get rid of them, they let them alone and allow them to come as they will.
The lukewarm Christian may not perhaps work on Sunday at tasks which seem to be forbidden to anyone who has even the slightest shred of religion, but doing some sewing, arranging something in the house, driving sheep to the fields during the times for Masses, on the pretext that there is not enough food to give them -- all these things will be done without the slightest scruple, and such people will prefer to allow their souls and the souls of their employees to perish rather than endanger their animals. A man will busy himself getting out his tools and his carts and harrows and so on, for the next day; he will fill in a hole or fence a gap; he will cut various lengths of cords and ropes; he will carry out the churns and set them in order. What do
you think about all this, my brethren? Is it not, alas, the simple truth? ....
A lukewarm soul will go to Confession regularly, and even quite frequently. But what kind of Confessions are they? No preparation, no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether. The Confessions of such a person are merely repetitions of old ones, which would be a happy state of affairs indeed if there were nothing to add to them. Twenty years ago he was accusing himself of the same things he confesses today, and if he goes to Confession for the next twenty years, he will say the same things. A lukewarm soul will not, if you like, commit the big sins. But some slander or back-biting, a lie, a feeling of hatred, of dislike, of jealousy, a slight touch of deceit or double-dealing -- these count for nothing with it. If it is a woman and you do not pay her all the respect which she considers her due, she will, under the guise of pretending that God has been offended, make sure that you realise it; she could say more than that, of course, since it is she herself who has been offended. It is true that such a woman would not stop going to the
Sacraments, but her dispositions are worthy of compassion.
On the day when she wants to receive her God, she spends part of the morning thinking of temporal matters. If it is a man, he will be thinking about his deals and his sales. If it is a married woman, she will be thinking about her household and her children. If it is a young girl,her thoughts will be on her clothes.
If it is a boy, he will be dreaming about passing pleasures and so on. The lukewarm soul shuts God up in an obscure and ugly kind of prison. Its possessor does not crucify Him, but God can find little joy or consolation in his heart. All his dispositions proclaim that his poor soul is struggling for the breath of life.
After having received Holy Communion, this person will hardly give another thought to God in all the days to follow. His manner of life tells us that he did not know the greatness of the
happiness which had been his.
A lukewarm Christian thinks very little upon the state of his poor soul and almost never lets his mind run over the past. If the thought of making any effort to be better crosses his mind at all,
he believes that once he has confessed his sins, he ought to be perfectly happy and at peace. He assists at Holy Mass very much as he would at any ordinary activity. He does not think at all seriously of what he is doing and finds no trouble in chatting about all sorts of things while on the way there. Possibly he will not give a single thought to the fact that he is about to participate in the greatest of all the gifts that God, all-powerful as He is, could give us. He does give some thought to the needs of his own soul, yes, but a very small and feeble amount of thought indeed. Frequently he will even present himself before the presence of God without having any idea of what he is going to ask of Him. He has few scruples in cutting out, on the least pretext, the Asperges and the prayers before Mass. During the course of the service, he does not want to go to sleep, of course, and he is even afraid that someone might see him, but he does not do himself any violence all the same. He does not want, of course, to have distractions during prayer or during the Holy Mass, yet when he should put up some little fight against them, he suffers them very patiently, considering the fact that he does not like them. Fast days are reduced to practically nothing, either by advancing the time of the main meal or, under the pretext that Heaven was never taken by famine, by making the collation so abundant that it amounts to a full meal. When he performs good or beneficial actions, his intentions are often very mixed -- sometimes it is to please someone, sometimes it is out of compassion, and sometimes it is just to please the world. With such people everything that is not a really serious sin is good enough. They like doing good, being faithful, but they wish that it did not cost them anything or, at least, that it cost very little. They would like to visit the sick, indeed, but it would be more convenient if the sick would come to them. They have something to give away in alms, they know quite well that a certain person has need of help, but they wait until she comes to ask them instead of anticipating her, which would make the kindness so very much more meritorious. We will even say, my brethren, that the person who leads a lukewarm life does not fail to do plenty of good works, to frequent the Sacraments, to assist regularly at all church services, but in all of this one sees only a weak, languishing faith, hope which the slightest trial will upset, a love of God and of neighbor which is without warmth or pleasure. Everything that such a person does is not entirely lost, but it is very nearly so.
See, before God, my brethren, on what side you are. On the side of the sinners, who have abandoned everything and plunge themselves into sin without remorse? On the side of the just souls, who seek but God alone? Or are you of the number of these slack, tepid, and indifferent souls such as we have just been depicting for you? Down which road are you traveling?
Who can dare assure himself that he is neither a great sinner nor a tepid soul but that he is one of the elect? Alas, my brethren, how many seem to be good Christians in the eyes of the world who are really tepid souls in the eyes of God, Who knows our inmost hearts.... Let us ask God with all our hearts, if we are in this state, to give us the grace to get out of it, so that we may take the route that all the saints have taken and arrive at the happiness that they are enjoying. That is what I desire for you....
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - Pages 11 to 13
Alas, my dear brethren, what have we become even since our conversion? Instead of going always forward and increasing in holiness, what laziness and what indifference we display! God cannot endure this perpetual inconstancy with which we pass from virtue to vice and from vice to virtue. Tell me, my children, is not this the very pattern of the way you live? Are your poor
lives anything other than a succession of good deeds and bad deeds? Is it not true that you go to Confession and the very next day you fall again -- or perhaps the very same day? .... How can
this be, unless the religion you have is unreal, a religion of habit, a religion of long-standing custom, and not a religion rooted in the heart? Carry on, my friend; you are only a waverer! Carry on, my poor man; in everything you do, you are just a hypocrite and nothing else! God has not the first place in your heart; that is reserved for the world and the devil. How many people there are, my dear children, who seem to love God in real earnest for a little while and then abandon Him! What do you find, then, so hard and so unpleasant in the service of God that it has repelled you so strangely and caused you to change over to the side of the world? Yet at the time when God showed you the state of your soul, you actually wept for it and realised how much you had been mistaken in your lives. If you have persevered so little, the reason for this misfortune is that the devil must have been greatly grieved to have lost you because he has done so much to get you back. He hopes now to keep you altogether. How many apostates there are, indeed, who have renounced their religion and who are Christians in name only!
But, you will say to me, how can we know that we have religion in our hearts, this religion which is consistent?
My dear brethren, this is how: listen well and you will understand if you have religion as God wants you to have it in order to lead you to Heaven. If a person has true virtue, nothing whatever can change him; he is like a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea. If anyone scorns you, or calumniates you, if someone mocks at you or calls you a hypocrite or a sanctimonious fraud, none of this will have the least effect upon your peace of soul. You will love him just as much as you loved him when he was saying good things about you. You will not fail to do him a good turn and to help him, even if he speaks badly of your assistance. You will say your prayers, go to Confession, to Holy Communion, you will go to Mass, all according to your
To help you to understand this better, I will give you an example. It is related that in a certain parish there was a young man who was a model of virtue. He went to Mass almost every day and to Holy Communion often. It happened that another was jealous of the esteem in which this young man was held, and one day, when they were both in the company of a neighbor, who possessed a lovely gold snuffbox, the jealous one took it from its owner's pocket and placed it, unobserved, in the pocket of the young man. After he had done this, without pretending anything, he asked to see the snuffbox. The owner expected to find it in his pocket and was astonished when he discovered that it was missing. No one was allowed to leave the room until everyone had been searched, and the snuffbox was found, of course, on the young man who was a model of goodness. Naturally, everyone immediately called him a thief and attacked his religious professions, denouncing him as a hypocrite and a sanctimonious fraud. He could not defend himself, since the box had been found in his pocket. He said nothing. He suffered it all as something which had come from the hand of God. When he was walking along the street, when he was coming from the church, or from Mass or Holy Communion, everyone who saw him jeered at him and called him a hypocrite, a fraud, a thief. This went on for quite a long time, but in spite of it, he continued with all of his religious exercises, his Confessions, his Communions, and all of his prayers, just as if everyone were treating him with the utmost respect. After some years, the man who had been the cause of it all fell ill. To those who were with him he confessed that he had been the origin of all the evil things which had been said about this young man, who was a saint, and that through jealousy of him, so that he might
destroy his good name, he himself had put the snuffbox in the young man's pocket.
There, my brethren, is a religion which is true, which has taken root in the soul. Tell me, if all of those poor Christians who make profession of religion were subjected to such trials, would they imitate this young man? Ah, my dear brethren, what murmurings there would be, what bitternesses, what thoughts of revenge, of slander, of calumny, even perhaps of going to law.... They would storm against religion; they would scorn and jeer at it and say nothing but ill of it; they would not be able to say their prayers any more; they would not be able to go to Mass; they would not know what more to do or to say to justify themselves; they would collect every item of harm that this or that person had done, tell it to others, repeat it to everyone who knew them in order to make them out as liars and calumniators. What is the reason for this conduct, my dear brethren? Surely it is that our religion is only one of whim, of long-standing habit and routine, and, if we were to put it more forcefully, because we are hypocrites who serve God just as long as everything is going according to our wishes. Alas, my dear brethren, all of these virtues which we observe in a great many apparent Christians are but like the flowers of spring, which one gust of hot wind can wither.
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - page 14
How is it, my dear brethren, that so few Christians behave with one end only in view -- to please God? Here is the reason, pure and simple. It is just that the vast majority of Christians are enveloped in the most shocking ignorance, so that, humanly speaking, they really do the very best they can.
The result is that if you were to compare their intentions with those of pagans, you would not find any difference. Ah, dear Lord, how many good works are lost for Heaven! Others who are a little better informed are interested only in the esteem of their fellow men, and they try to dissemble as much as they can: their exterior seems good, while interiorly they are filled with duplicity and evil. Yes, my dear brethren, we shall see at the Judgment that the largest section of Christians practiced a religion of whim or caprice only -- that is to say, the greatest number of them practiced their religion merely from motives of routine, and very few sought God alone in what they did.
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - pages 14-15
We cannot dwell upon the conduct of the Jews, my dear people, without being struck with amazement. These very people had waited for God for four thousand years, they had prayed much because of the great desire they had to receive Him, and yet when He came, He could not find a single person to give Him the poorest lodging. The all-powerful God was obliged to make His dwelling with the animals. And yet, my dear people, I find in the conduct of the Jews, criminal as it was, not a subject for explanations, but a theme for the condemnation of the conduct of the majority of Christians. We can see that the Jews had formed an idea of their Redeemer which did not conform with the state of austerity in which He appeared. It seemed as if they could not persuade themselves that this could indeed be He who was to be their Saviour; St. Paul tells us very clearly that if the Jews had recognised Him as God, they would never have put Him to death. There is, then, some small excuse for the Jews. But what excuse can we make, my dear brethren, for the coldness and the contempt which we show towards Jesus Christ? Oh, yes, we do indeed truly believe that Jesus Christ came upon earth, that He provided the most convincing proofs of His divinity. Hence the reason for our hope. We rejoice, and we have good reason to recognise Jesus Christ as our God, our Saviour, and our Model. Here is the foundation of our faith. But, tell me, with all this, what homage do we really pay Him? Do we
do more for Him than if we did not believe all this? Tell me, dear brethren, does our conduct correspond at all to our beliefs? We are wretched creatures.
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) page 15
Ah, dear lord, what blindness! oh, ugly sin of hypocrisy which leads souls to hell with actionswhich, if they had been performed from genuine motives, would have brought them to Heaven!
Unfortunately, such a large body of Christians do not know themselves and do not even try to know themselves. They follow routines and habits, and they do not want to see reason. They are blind, and they move along in their blindness. If a priest wants to tell them about the state they are in, they do not listen, and if they go through the pretence of listening, they will do nothing at
all about what they are told. This state, my dear people, is the most unhappy state that anyone can possibly imagine, and it isperhaps the most dangerous one as well.
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - page 16
If people would do for god what they do for the world, my dear people, what a great number of Christians would go to Heaven! But if you, dear children, had to pass three or four hours praying in a church, as you pass them at a dance or in a cabaret, how heavily the time would press upon you! If you had to go to a great many different places in order to hear a sermon, as you go for your pastimes or to satisfy your avarice and greed, what pretexts there would be, and how many detours would be taken to avoid going at all. But nothing is too much trouble when done for the world. What is more, people are not afraid of losing either God or their souls or Heaven. With what good reason did Jesus Christ, my dear people, say that the children of this world are more zealous in serving their master, the world, than the children of light are in serving theirs, who is God. To our shame, we must admit that people fear neither expense, nor even going into debt, when it is a matter of satisfying their pleasures, but if some poor person asks them for help, they have nothing at all. This is true of so many: they have everything for the world and nothing at all for God because to them, the world is everything and God is nothing.
FOLLOW ONE MASTER ONLY
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - page 16-17
What a sad life does he lead who wants both to please the world and to serve God! It is a great mistake to make, my friends. Apart from the fact that you are going to be unhappy all the time, you can never attain the stage at which you will be able to please the world and please God. It is as impossible a feat as trying to put an end to eternity. Take the advice that I am going to give you now and you will be less unhappy: give yourselves wholly to God or else wholly to the world. Do not look for and do not serve more than one master, and once you have chosen the one you are going to follow, do not leave him. You surely remember what Jesus Christ said to you in the Gospel: you cannot serve God and Mammon; that is to say, you cannot follow the world and the pleasures of the world and Jesus Christ with His Cross. Of course you would be quite willing to follow God just so far and the world just so far! Let me put it even more clearly: you would like it if your conscience, if your heart, would allow you to go to the altar in the morning and the dance in the evening; to spend part of the day in church and the remainder in the cabarets or other places of amusement; to talk of God at one moment and the next to tell obscene stories or utter calumnies about your neighbour; to do a good turn for your next-door neighbour on one occasion and on some other to do him harm; in other words, to do good and speak well when you are with good people and to do wrong when you are in bad company.
Book "Sermons of the Cure of Ars" (St. John Mary Vianney) - pages 17 - 24
One section, and perhaps it is the largest section, of people everywhere are wholly wrapped up in the things of this world. And of this large number there are those who are content to have suppressed all feeling of religion, all thought of another life, who have done everything in their power to efface the terrible thought of the judgment which one day they will have to undergo. They employ all their wiles, and often their wealth, during the course of their lives to attract to their way of life as many people as they can. They no longer believe in anything. They even take a pride in making themselves out to be more impious and incredulous than they really are in order to convince others and to make them believe, not in the verities, but in the falsehoods which they wish to take root in the hearts of those under their influence.
Voltaire, in the course of a dinner given one day for his friends -- that is, for the impious -- rejoiced that of all those present, there was not one who believed in religion. And yet he himself
did believe, as he was to show at the hour of his death.
Then he demanded with great earnestness that a priest should be brought to him that he might make his peace with God.
But it was too late. God, against whom he had fought and spoken with such fury all his life, dealt with him as He had with Antiochus: He abandoned him to the fury of the devils. At that dread moment, Voltaire had only despair and the thought of eternal damnation as his lot. The Holy Ghost tells us: "The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God." But it is only the corruption of his heart which could carry man to such an excess; he does not believe it in the depths of his soul. The words "There is a God" will never entirely disappear. The greatest sinner will often utter them without even thinking of what he is saying. But let us leave these blasphemous people aside. Happily, though you may not be as good Christians as you ought to
be, thanks be to God you are not of that company.
But, you will say to me, who are these people who are partly on God's side and partly on the side of the world? Well, my dear children, let me describe them. I will compare them (if I may dare to make use of the term) to dogs who will run to the first person who calls them. You may follow them from the morning to the evening, from the beginning of the year to the end. These people look upon Sunday as merely a day for rest and amusement. They stay in bed longer than on weekdays, and instead of giving themselves to God with all their hearts, they do not even think of Him. Some of them will be thinking of their amusements, others of people they expect to meet, still others of the sales they are about to make or the money they will be spending or receiving. With great difficulty they will manage the Sign of the Cross in some fashion or another. Because they will be going to church later, they will omit their prayers altogether, saying: "Oh, I'll have plenty of time to say them before Mass." They always have something to do before setting out for Mass, and although they have been planning to say their prayers before setting out, they are barely in time for the beginning of the Mass itself. If they meet a friend along the road, it is no trouble to them to bring him back home and put off the Mass until a later
But since they still want to appear Christian, they will go to Mass sometime later, though it will be with infinite boredom and reluctance. The thought in their minds will be: "Oh, Lord, will this ever be over!" You will see them in church, especially during the instruction, looking around from one side to the other, asking the person next to them for the time, and so on. More of them yawn and stretch and turn the pages of their prayer book as if they were examining it in order to see whether the printer had made any mistakes. There are others, and you can see them sleeping as soundly as if they were in a comfortable bed. The first thought that comes to them when they awake is not that they have been profaning so holy a place but: "Oh, Lord, this will never be over.... I'm not coming back any more." And finally there are those to whom the word of God (which has converted so many sinners) is actually nauseating. They are obliged to go out, they say, to get a breath of air or else they would die. You will see them, distressed and miserable, during the services. But no sooner is the service over (and often even before the priest has actually left the altar) than they will be pressing around the door from which the first of the congregation are streaming out, and you will notice that all the joy which
they had lost during the service has come back again.
They are so tired that often they have not the "strength" to come back to the evening service. If you were to ask them why they were not coming to this, they would tell you: "Ah, we would have to be all the day in the church. We have other things to do." For such people there is no question of instruction, nor of the Rosary, nor of evening prayers. They look upon all these things as of no consequence. If you asked them what had been said during the instruction, they would say: "He did too much shouting.... He bored us to death.... I can't remember anything else about it.... If it hadn't been so long, it might have been easier to remember some of it.... That is just what keeps the world away from religious services -- they
are too long."
It is quite right to say "the world" because these people belong to the camp of "the worldly," although they do not know it.
But now we shall try to make them understand things a little better (at least if they want to). But, being deaf and blind (as they are), it is very difficult to make them understand the words of life or to comprehend their own unhappy state. To begin with, they never make the Sign of the Cross before a meal or say Grace afterwards, nor do they recite the Angelus. If, as a result of some old habit or training, they still observe these practices and you should happen to see the manner in which they carry them out, you would feel sick: the women will simultaneously be getting on with their work or calling to their children or members of the household; the men will be turning a hat or a cap around in their hands as if searching for holes. They think as much about God as if they really believed that He did not exist at all and that they were doing all this for a joke. They have no scruples about buying or selling on the holy day of Sunday, even though they know, or at least they should know, that dealing on a reasonably big scale on a Sunday, when there is no necessity for it, is a mortal sin. Such people regard all such facts as trifles. They will go into a parish on a holy day to hire labourers, and if you told them they were doing wrong, they would reply: "We must go when we can find them there." They have no
problem, either, about paying their taxes on a Sunday because during the week they might have to go a little further and take a few moments longer to complete the job.
"Ah," you will say to me, "we wouldn't think much of all that." You would not think much of all that, my dear people, and I am not at all surprised, because you are worldly. You would like to be followers of God and at the same time to satisfy the standards of the world. Do you realize, my children, who these people are? They are the people who have not entirely lost the faith and to whom there still remains some attachment to the service of God, the people who do not want to give up all religious practices, for indeed, they themselves find fault with those who do not go often to the services, but they have not enough courage to break with the world and to turn to God's side. They do not wish to be damned, but neither do they wish to inconvenience themselves too much. They hope that they will be saved without having to do too much violence to themselves. They have the idea that God, being so good, did not create them for perdition and that He will pardon them in spite of everything; that the time will come when they will turn over to God; that they will correct their faults and abandon all their bad habits. If, in
moments of reflection, they pass their petty lives before their eyes, they will lament for their faults, and sometimes they will even weep for them....
What a very tragic life such people lead, my children, who want to follow the ways of the world without ceasing to be the children of God. Let us go on a little further and you will be able to understand this a little more clearly and to see for yourselves how stupid indeed such a life can be. At one moment you will hear the people who lead it praying or making an act of contrition, and the next moment you will hear them, if something is not going the way they want it, swearing or maybe even using the holy name of God. This morning you may have seen them at Mass, singing or listening to the praises of God, and on the very same day you will hear them giving vent to the most scandalous utterances. They will dip their hands in holy water and ask God to purify them from their sins; a little later they will be using those very hands in an impure way upon themselves or upon others. The same eyes which this morning had the great happiness of contemplating Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament will in the course of the day voluntarily rest with pleasure upon the most immodest objects. Yesterday you saw a certain man doing an act of charity or a service for a neighbor; today he will be doing his best to cheat that neighbor if he can profit thereby. A moment ago this mother desired all sorts of blessings
for her children, and now, because they are annoying her, she will shower all sorts of curses upon them: she wishes she might never see them again, that she was miles away from them, and
ends up by consigning them to the Devil to rid herself of them! At one moment she sends her children to Mass or Confession; at another, she will be sending them to the dance or, at least, she will pretend not to know that they are there or forbid them to go with a laugh which is tantamount to permission to go. At one time she will be telling her daughter to be reserved and not to mix with bad companions, and at another she will allow her to pass whole hours with young men without saying a word. It's no use, my poor mother, you are on the side of the
world! You think yourself to be on God's side by reason of some exterior show of religion which you make.
You are mistaken; you belong to that number of whom Jesus Christ has said: "Woe to the world...." You see these people who think they are following God but who are really living up to the maxims of the world. They have no scruples about taking from their neighbor wood or fruit or a thousand and one other things. Whenever they are flattered for what they do for religion, they derive quite a lot of pleasure from their actions. They will be quite keen then and will be delighted to give good advice to others. But let them be subjected to any contempt or calumny and you will see them become discouraged and distressed because they have been treated in this way. Yesterday they wanted only to do good to anyone who did them harm, but today they can hardly tolerate such people, and often they cannot even endure to see them or to speak to them. Poor worldlings! How unhappy you are! Go on with your daily round; you have nothing to hope for but Hell! Some would like to go to the Sacraments at least once a year, but for that, it is necessary to find an easygoing confessor. They would like .... if only -- and there is the whole problem. If they find a confessor who sees that their dispositions are not good and he refuses them Absolution, you will then find them thundering against him, justifying themselves for all they are worth for having tried and failed to obtain the Sacrament. They will speak evil about him. They know very well why they have been refused and left in their sinful state, but, as they
know, too, the confessor can do nothing to grant them what they want, so they get satisfaction by saying anything they wish.
Carry on, children of this world, carry on with your daily round; you will see a day you never wished to see! It would seem then that we must divide our hearts in two! But no, my friends,
that is not the case; all for God or all for the world.
You would like to frequent the Sacraments? Very well, then, give up the dances and the cabarets and the unseemly amusements. Today you have sufficient grace to come here and present yourselves at the tribunal of Penance, to kneel before the Holy Table, to partake of the Bread of the Angels. In three or four weeks, maybe less, you will be seen passing your night among drunken men, and what is more, you will be seen indulging in the most horrible acts of impurity. Carry on, children of this world; you will soon be in Hell! They will teach you there
what you should have done to get to Heaven, which you have lost entirely through your own fault....
Woe betide you, children of this world! Carry on; follow your master as you have done up to the present! Very soon you will see clearly that you have been mistaken in following his ways. But will that make you any wiser? No, my children, it will not. If someone cheats us once, we say: "We will not trust him any more -- and with good reason." The world cheats us continually and yet we love it." Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world," St. John warns us. Ah, my dear children, if we gave some thought to what the world really is, we should pass all our lives in bidding it farewell. When one reaches the age of fifteen years, one has said farewell to the pastimes of childhood; one has come to look upon them as trifling and ephemeral, as one would the actions of children building houses of cards or sand castles. At thirty, one has begun to put behind one the consuming pleasures of passionate youth. What gave
such intense pleasure in younger days is already beginning to weary. Let us go further, my dear children, and say that every day we are bidding farewell to the world.
We are like travellers who enjoy the beauty of the countryside through which they are passing. No sooner do they see it than it is time for them to leave it behind. It is exactly the same with
the pleasures and the good things to which we become so attached. Then we arrive at the edge of eternity, which engulfs all these things in its abyss.
It is then, my dear brethren, that the world will disappear forever from our eyes and that we shall recognise our folly in having been so attached to it. And all that has been said to us about sin! .... Then we shall say: It was all true. Alas, I lived only for the world, I sought nothing but the world in all I did, and now the pleasures and the joys of the world are not for me any longer!
They are all slipping away from me -- this world which I have loved so well, these joys, these pleasures which have so fully occupied my heart and my soul! ....
Now I must return to my God! .... How consoling this thought is, my dear children, for him who has sought only God throughout his life! But what a despairing thought for him who has lost sight of God and of the salvation of his soul!