Ven. Louis of Granada: The Sinner's Guide
#21
Ch 19. The Eighth Privilege of Virtue: The Peace enjoyed by the Just



The liberty of the children of God is the cause of another privilege of virtue, no less precious than itself—–the interior peace and tranquillity which the just enjoy. To understand this more clearly, we must remember that there are three kinds of peace: peace with God, peace with our neighbor, and peace with ourselves. Peace with God consists in the favor and friendship of God, and is one of the results of justification.

The Apostle, speaking of this peace, says, “Being justified, therefore, by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1). Peace with our neighbor consists in a friendly union with our fellow men, which banishes from us all ill-will towards them. David enjoyed this peace when he said, “With them that hated peace I was peaceable; when I spoke to them they fought against me without cause.” (Ps. 119:7). To this peace St. Paul exhorted the Romans, “As much as is in you, have peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18). Peace with ourselves is the tranquillity arising from a good conscience, and the harmony existing between the spirit and the flesh when the latter has been reduced to submission to the laws of reason.

We will first consider the agitation and anxiety of the sinner, in order more keenly to appreciate the blessing of holy peace. The wicked hearken to the flesh, and, therefore, they are never free from the disturbance caused by the unceasing and insatiable demands of their passions. Deprived of God’s grace which can alone check their unruly appetites, they are a prey to innumerable desires. Some hunger for honors, titles, and dignities, others long for riches, honorable alliances, amusements, or sensual pleasures.

But none of them will ever be fully satisfied, for passion is as insatiable as the daughters of the horse-leech, which continually cry out for more and more. (Cf. Prov. 30:15). This leech is the gnawing desire of our hearts, and its daughters are necessity and concupiscence. The first is a real thirst, the second a fictitious thirst; but both are equally disturbing. Therefore, it is evident that without virtue man cannot know peace, either in poverty or riches; for in the former, necessity allows him no ease, and in the latter, sensuality is continually demanding more. What rest, what peace, can one enjoy in the midst of ceaseless cries which he cannot satisfy? Could a mother know peace surrounded by children asking for bread which she could not give them?

This, then, is one of the greatest torments of the wicked. “They hunger and thirst,” says the prophet, “and their souls faint within them.” (Ps. 106:5). Having placed their happiness in earthly things, they hunger and thirst for them as the object of all their hope. The fulfillment of desire, says Solomon, is the tree of life. (Cf. Prov. 8:12). Consequently, there is nothing more torturing to the wicked than their unsatisfied desires. And the more their desires are thwarted, the stronger and more intense they become. Their lives, then, are passed in wretched anxiety, constant war raging within them.

The prodigal is a forcible illustration of the unhappy lot of the wicked. Like him, they separate themselves from God and plunge into every vice. They abuse and squander all that God has given them. They go into a far country where famine rages; and what is this country but the world, so far removed from God, where men hunger with desires which can never be satisfied, where, like ravenous wolves, they are constantly seeking more? And how do such men understand the duties of life? They recognize no higher duty than that of feeding swine. To satisfy the animal within them, to feed their swinish appetites, is their only aim.

If you would be convinced of this, study the life of a worldling. From morning until night, and from night until morning, what is the object of his pursuit? Is it not the gratification of some pleasure of sense, either of sight, of hearing, of taste, or of touch? Does he not act as if he were a follower of Epicurus and not a disciple of Christ? Does he seem to be conscious that he possesses any faculty but those which he has in common with the beasts? For what does he live but to enjoy the grossest pleasures of the flesh? What is the end of all his revels, his feasts, his balls, his gallantry, his luxurious couches, his enervating music, his degrading spectacles, but to afford new delights to the flesh?

Give all this what name you will – fashion, refinement, elegance – in the language of God and the Gospel it is feeding swine. For as swine love to wallow in the mire, so these depraved hearts delight to wallow in the mire of sensual pleasures.

But what is most deplorable in this condition is that a son of such noble origin, born to partake of the Bread of Angels at God’s own table, would feed upon husks which cannot even satisfy his hunger. In truth, the world cannot gratify its votaries. They are so numerous that, like swine grunting and fighting for acorns at the foot of an oak, they quarrel and wrest from one another the pleasures and gratifications for which they hunger.

This is the miserable condition which David described when he said, “They wandered in a wilderness, in a place without water. They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted in them.” (Ps. 106:4-5). A terrible characteristic of this hunger is that it is increased by the gratifications which are meant to appease it. The poisoned cup of this world kindles in the hearts of the wicked a fire to which pleasures only add renewed heat. Is it strange that they are consumed by a burning thirst? Unhappy man! Whence is it that you thirst so cruelly, if it be not that you “have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and sought broken cisterns which can hold no water”? (Jer. 2:13). You have mistaken the source of happiness. You wander in a wilderness, and, therefore, you faint with hunger and thirst.

When Holofernes besieged Bethulia he cut off the aqueducts, leaving to the besieged but a few little streams which served only to moisten their lips. The besieged city is an image of your condition. You have cut yourselves off from the source of living waters, and you find in creatures the little springs which may moisten your lips, but, far from allaying your thirst, will only increase it.

The blindness and vehemence of our desires often make us long for what we cannot possibly obtain; and when, after violent efforts, the object of our pursuit eludes our grasp, anger is added to our disappointment, and both combine to throw us into a state of confusion. This gives rise to that internal warfare mentioned by St. James when he asks “Whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not from your concupiscences, which war in your members? You covet, and have not.” (James 4:1-2). Another lamentable feature of this condition is that very often when men have attained the summit of their wishes they are seized with a desire for some other worldly advantage, and if their caprice is not gratified, all they possess is powerless to comfort them. Their unsatisfied desire is a continual thorn. It poisons all their pleasure.

“There is also another evil,” says Solomon, “which I have seen under the sun, and which is frequent among men. A man to whom God hath given riches, and substance, and honor, and his soul wanteth nothing of all that he desireth; yet God doth not give him power to eat thereof, but a stranger shall eat it up. This is vanity and a great misery.” (Eccles. 6:1-2). Does not the Wise Man here clearly point out the wretched condition of one in the midst of abundance, and yet unhappy because of his unsatisfied desires?

If such be the condition of those who possess the goods of the world, how miserable must be the lot of those who are in need of everything! For the human heart in every state is alike subject to unruly appetites, is alike the theater of a most bitter warfare which rages among its opposing passions. When these importunate desires are unsatisfied at every point, the misery of their victim must be beyond description.

The condition of the wicked which we have been considering will enable us by contrast to set a true value on the peace of the just. Knowing how to moderate their appetites and passions, they do not seek their happiness in the pleasures of this life, but in God alone. The end of their labors is not to acquire the perishable goods of this world, but the enduring treasures of eternity. They wage unceasing war upon their sensual appetites, and thus keep them entirely subdued. They are resigned to God’s will in all the events of their lives, and, therefore, experience no rebellion of their will or appetites to disturb their interior peace.

This is one of the principal rewards which God has promised to virtue. “Much peace have they that love thy law, and to them there is no stumbling-block.” (Ps. 118:165).

“Oh! That thou hadst hearkened to my commandments; thy peace had been as a river, and thy justice as the waves of the sea.” (Is. 48:18). Peace is here represented by the prophet under the figure of a river, because it extinguishes the fire of concupiscence, moderates the ardor of our desires, fertilizes the soil of our heart, and refreshes our soul. Solomon no less clearly asserts this same truth: “When the ways of man shall please the Lord, he will convert even his enemies to peace.” (Prov. 16:7). He will convert his enemies, the sensual appetites and passions, to peace, and by the power of grace and habit He will subject them to the spirit.

Virtue meets with much opposition in its first efforts against the passions, but as it begins to be perfected, this opposition ceases and its course becomes calm and peaceful. The truth of this is most keenly realized by the just in their practices of piety. They cannot but contrast their present peace with the restless fears and jealousies to which they were a prey when they served the world.

Now that they have given themselves to God and placed all their confidence in Him, none of these alarms can reach them. Their calm resignation to His will has wrought such a change in them that they can hardly believe themselves the same beings. In truth, grace has transformed them by creating in them new hearts. Can we, then, be surprised that such souls enjoy a peace which, the Apostle says, surpasses all understanding?

He who enjoys this favor cannot but turn to the Author of so many marvels and cry out with the prophet, “Come and behold ye the works of the Lord, what wonders he hath done upon earth, making wars to cease even to the ends of the earth. He shall destroy the bow, and break the weapons; and the shields he shall burn in the fire.” (Ps. 45:9-10). What, then, is more beautiful, more worthy of our ambition, than this peace of soul, this calm of conscience, which is the work of grace and the privilege of virtue?

As one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost, peace is the effect of virtue and its inseparable companion. It is one of those blessings which give us on earth many of the joys of Heaven. For the Apostle tells us, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14:17). According to the Hebrew version, justice here means the perfection of virtue, which, together with its beautiful fruits, peace and joy, gives the just a foretaste of eternal happiness. If you would have still further proof that this peace flows from virtue, hear the words of the prophet: “The work of justice shall be peace, and the service of justice quietness and security for ever.” (Is. 32:17).

A second cause of this peace is the liberty which the just enjoy. This liberty is gained by the triumph of the nobler part of the soul over the inferior appetites, which, after they have been subjugated, are easily prevented from causing any disturbance. The great spiritual consolations which we considered in a preceding chapter form another source of this peace. They soothe the affections and appetites of the flesh by making them content to share in the joys of the spirit, which they afterwards begin to relish as the sovereign sweetness of God becomes better known. Seeking, therefore, no other delights, they are never disappointed, and consequently never feel the attacks of anger. The happy result of all this is the reign of peace in the soul.

Finally, this great privilege proceeds from the just man’s confidence in God, which is his comfort in all trials and his anchor in all storms. He knows that God is his Father, his Defender, his Shield. Hence, he can say with the prophet, “In peace in the selfsame I will sleep and I will rest; for thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope.” (Ps. 4:9-10).
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#22
Ch 20. The Ninth Privilege of Virtue: The Manner in which God hears the Prayers of the Just



To comprehend what we are about to say upon this subject, you must remember that there have been two universal deluges, one material, the other moral. The former took place in the time of Noe and destroyed everything in the world but the ark and what it contained. The moral deluge, much greater and more fatal than the material, arose from the sin of our first parents. Unlike the flood in the days of Noe, it affected not only Adam and Eve, its guilty cause, but every human being. It affected the soul even more than the body. It robbed us of all the spiritual riches and supernatural treasures which were bestowed upon us in the person of our first parent.

From this first deluge came all the miseries and necessities under which we groan. So great and so numerous are these that a celebrated doctor, who was also an illustrious pontiff, has devoted to them an entire work. (Innocent III, De Vilitate Conditionis Humanae). Eminent philosophers; considering on the one hand man’s superiority to all other creatures, and on the other the miseries and vices to which he is subject, have greatly wondered at such contradictions in so noble a creature. Unenlightened by revelation, they knew not the cause of this discord. They saw that of all animals man had most infirmities of body; that he alone was tormented by ambition, by avarice, by a desire to prolong his life, by a strange anxiety concerning his burial, and, as it appeared to them, by a still stranger anxiety concerning his condition after death. In fine, they saw that he was subject to innumerable accidents and miseries of body and soul, and condemned to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow.

His wretchedness was briefly but forcibly described by Job when he said that “the life of man upon earth is a warfare; and his days are like the days of a hireling.” (Job 7:1). Many of the ancient philosophers were so impressed with this truth that they doubted whether nature should not be called a stepmother rather than a mother, so great are the miseries to which she subjects us. Others argued that it would be better never to be born, or to die immediately after birth. And some have said that few would accept life could they have any experience of it before it was offered them.

Reduced to this miserable condition, and deprived of our possessions by the first deluge, what resource, what remedy, has been left us by the Master who has punished us so severely? There is but one remedy for us, and that is to have recourse to Him, crying out with the holy king Josaphat, “We know not what to do; we can only turn our eyes to thee.” (2Par. 20:12). Ezechias, powerful monarch though he was, knew that this was his only refuge, and therefore declared that he would cry to God like a swallow and would moan before Him as a dove. (Cf. Is. 38:14).

And David, though a still greater monarch, placed all his confidence in this heavenly succor. Inspired with the same sentiment, he exclaimed, “I cried to the Lord with my voice; to God with my voice, and he gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought God, with my hands lifted up to him in the night, and I was not deceived.” (Ps. 76:2-3). Thus when all other avenues of hope were closed against him, when all other resources failed him, he had recourse to prayer, the sovereign remedy for every evil.

You will ask, perhaps, whether this is truly the sovereign remedy for every evil. As this depends solely upon the will of God, they alone can answer it who have been instructed in the secrets of His will – the Apostles and prophets. “There is no other nation so great, that hath gods so nigh them, as our God is present to all our petitions.” (Deut. 4:7).

These are the words of God Himself, though expressed by His servant. They assure us with absolute certainty that our prayers are not addressed in vain, that God is invisibly present with us to receive every sigh of our soul, to compassionate our miseries, and to grant us what we ask, if it be for our welfare. What is there more consoling in prayer than this guarantee of God’s assistance? But still more reassuring are the promises of God Himself in the New Testament where He tells us, “Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7). What stronger, what fuller pledge could we find to allay our doubts?

Is it not evident that this is one of the greatest privileges enjoyed by the just, to whom these consoling words are in a special manner addressed? “The eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers.” (Ps. 33:16). “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear; thou shalt cry, and he shall say: Here I am.” (Is. 58:9). By the same prophet God promises more—–to grant the prayers of the just even before they are addressed to Him. And yet none of these promises equal those of Our Saviour in the New Testament. “If you abide in me, ” He says, “and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you.” (Jn. 15:7).

“Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it you.” (Jn. 16:23). Oh! Promise truly worthy of Him who utters it! What other power could offer such a pledge? Who but God could fulfill it? Does not this favor make man, in a measure, the lord of all things? Is he not thereby entrusted with the keys of Heaven? “Whatsoever you shall ask”—–provided it lead to your salvation—–shall be given to you.” There is no limitation, no special blessing—–all the treasures of grace are offered to us.

Ah! If men knew how to appreciate things at their true value, with what confidence would these words inspire them! If men glory in possessing the favor of an earthly monarch who places his royal power at their disposal, how much more reason have we to rejoice in the favor and protection of the King of kings!

If you would learn how such promises are fulfilled, study the lives of the saints and see what marvels they effected by prayer. What did not Moses accomplish by prayer in Egypt and throughout the journey of the Israelites in the desert? How wonderful were the works of Elias and his disciple Eliseus! Behold the miracles which the Apostles wrought! Prayer was the source of their power. It is, moreover, the weapon with which the saints have fought and overcome the world. By prayer they ruled the elements, and converted even the fierce flames into refreshing dew. By prayer they disarmed the wrath of God and opened the fountains of His mercy. By prayer, in fine, they obtained all their desires.

It is related that our holy Father, St. Dominic, once told a friend that he never failed to obtain a favor which he asked from God. Whereupon his friend desired him to pray that a celebrated doctor named Reginald might become a member of his order. The saint spent the night in prayer for this disciple, and early in the morning, as he was beginning the first hymn of the morning office, Reginald suddenly came into the choir, and, prostrating himself at the feet of the saint, begged for the habit of his order. Behold the recompense with which God rewards the obedience of the just. They are docile to the voice of His commandments, and He is equally attentive to the voice of their supplications. Hence Solomon tells us that “an obedient man shall speak of victory.” (Prov. 21:28).

How differently are the prayers of the wicked answered! “When you stretch forth your hands,” the Almighty tells them, “I will turn away my eyes from you; and when you multiply prayer I will not hear.” (Is. 1:15). “In the time of their affliction,” says the prophet, “they will say to the ” Lord, Arise, and deliver us.” But God will ask, Where are the gods whom thou hast made thee? Let them arise and deliver thee.” (Jer. 2:27-28).

“What is the hope of the hypocrite, if through covetousness he takes by violence? Will God hear his cry when distress shall come upon him?” (Job 27:8).

“Dearly beloved,” says St. John, “if our heart do not reprehend us, we have confidence towards God; and whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.” (1Jn. 3:21-22).

“If I have looked at iniquity in my heart,” the royal prophet tells us; “the Lord will not hear me”; but I have not committed iniquity, and “therefore God hath heard me, and attended to the voice of my supplication.” (Ps. 65:18-19).

It would be easy to find in Holy Scripture many similar passages, but these will suffice to manifest the difference between the prayers of the just and those of the wicked, and, by consequence, the incomparable privileges which the former enjoy. The just are heard and treated as the children of God; the wicked are rejected as His enemies. This should not astonish us, for a prayer unsupported by good works, devoid of fervor, charity, or humility, cannot be pleasing to God.

Nevertheless, the sinner who reads these lines must not give way to discouragement. It is only the obstinately wicked who are rejected. It is only those who wish to continue in their disorders who are thus cut off. Though your sins are as numerous as the sands on the shore, though your life has been wasted in crime, never forget that God is your Father, that He awaits you with open arms and open heart, that He is continually calling upon you to return and be reconciled to Him. Have the desire to change your life; be resolved to walk in the path of virtue, and turn to God in humble prayer, with unshaken confidence that you will be heard. “Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#23
Ch 21. The Tenth Privilege of Virtue: The Consolation and Assistance with Which God Sustains the Just in their Afflictions


As we have already remarked, there is no sea more treacherous or more inconstant than this life. No man’s happiness is secure from the danger of innumerable accidents and misfortunes. It is, therefore, important to observe how differently the just and the wicked act under tribulation. The just, knowing that God is their Father and the Physician of their souls, submissively and generously accept as the cure for their infirmities the bitter chalice of suffering. They look on tribulation as a file in the hands of their Maker to remove the rust of sin from their souls, and to restore them to their original purity and brightness. They have learned in the school of the Divine Master that affliction renders a man more humble, increases the fervor of his prayers, and purifies his conscience.

Now, no physician more carefully proportions his remedies to the strength of his patient than this Heavenly Physician tempers trials according to the necessities of souls. Should their burdens be increased, He redoubles the measure of their consolations. Seeing from this the riches they acquire by sufferings, the just no longer fly from them, but eagerly desire them, and meet them with patience and even with joy. They regard not the labor, but the crown; not the bitter medicine, but the health to be restored to them; not the pain of their wounds, but the goodness of Him who has said that He loves those whom He chastises. (Cf. Heb. 12:6).

Grace, which is never wanting to the just in the hour of tribulation, is the first source of the fortitude which they display. Though He seems to have withdrawn from them, God is never nearer to His children than at such a time. Search the Scriptures and you will see that there is no truth more frequently repeated than this. “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” says the Lord; “I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Ps. 49:15). “When I called upon the Lord,” David sings, “the God of my justice heard me; when I was in distress, thou hast enlarged me.” (Ps. 4:2).

Hence the calmness and fortitude of the just under suffering. They are strong in the protection of a powerful Friend who constantly watches over them. Witness the three young men who were cast into the burning furnace. God sent His angel to accompany them, and “He drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, and made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew, and the fire touched them not, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm … Then Nabuchodonosor was astonished, and rose up in haste, and said to his nobles: Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered the king and said: True, O king. He answered and said: Behold I see four men loose, and walking in the midst of the fire, and there is no hurt in them, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Dan. 3:49-50 and 91-92). Does this not teach us that God’s protection never fails the just in the hour of trial?

A no less striking example is that of Joseph, with whom God’s protection “descended into the pit, and left him not till he was brought to the scepter of the kingdom, and power against those that had oppressed him, and showed them to be liars that had accused him, and gave him everlasting glory.” (Wis. 10:13-14). Such examples prove more powerfully than words the truth of God’s promise, “I am with him in tribulation; I will deliver him and I will glorify him.” (Ps. 90:15). Oh! Happy affliction which merits for us the companionship of God! Let our prayers, then, be with St. Bernard: “Give me, O Lord, tribulations through life, that I may never be separated from Thee!” (Serm. 17 in Ps. 90).

To the direct action of grace we must add that of the virtues, each of which, in its own way, strengthens the afflicted soul. When the heart is oppressed, the blood rushes to it to facilitate its movement, to strengthen its action. So, when the soul is oppressed by suffering, the virtues hasten to assist and strengthen it.

First comes faith, with her absolute assurance of the eternal happiness of Heaven and the eternal misery of Hell. She tells us, in the words of the Apostle, that “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18). Next comes hope, softening our troubles and lightening our burdens with her glorious promises of future rewards. Then charity, the most powerful help of the soul, so inflames our will that we even desire to suffer for love of Him who has endured so much for love of us.

Gratitude reminds us that as we have received good things from God, we should also be willing to receive evil. (Cf. Job 2:10). Resignation helps us recognize and cheerfully accept God’s will or permission in all things. Humility bows the heart before the wind of adversity, like a young tree swept by the storm. Patience gives us strength above nature to enable us to bear the heaviest burden. Obedience tells us that there is no holocaust more pleasing to God than that which we make of our will by our perfect submission to Him. Penance urges that it is but just that one who has so often resisted God’s will should have his own will denied in many things. Fidelity pleads that we should rejoice to be able to prove our devotion to Him who unceasingly showers His benefits upon us.

Finally, the memory of Christ’s Passion and the lives of the saints show us how cowardly it would be to complain of our trials. Yet among all the virtues, hope consoles us most effectually. “Rejoice in hope,” says the Apostle; “be patient in tribulation” (Rom. 12:12), thus teaching us that our patience is the result of our hope. Again, he calls hope an anchor (Heb. 6:19), because it holds firm and steady the frail barque of our life in the midst of the most tempestuous storms.

Strengthened by these considerations and by God’s unfailing grace, the just endure tribulation not only with invincible fortitude, but even with cheerfulness and gratitude. They know that the duty of a good Christian does not consist solely in praying, fasting, or hearing Mass, but in proving their faith under tribulation, as did Abraham, the father of the faithful, and Job, the most patient of men. Consider also the example of Tobias, who, after suffering many trials, was permitted by God to lose his sight. The Holy Ghost bears witness to his invincible patience and virtue. “Having always feared God from his infancy, and kept his commandments, he repined not against God because the evil of blindness had befallen him, but continued immovable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life.” (Tob, 2:13-14). We could cite numerous examples of men and women who—–even in our time—–have cheerfully and lovingly borne cruel infirmities and painful labors, finding honey in gall, calm in tempest, refreshment and peace in the midst of the flames of Babylon.

But we feel that we have said sufficient to prove that God consoles the just in their sufferings, and therefore we shall next consider the unfortunate condition of the wicked when laboring under affliction. Devoid of hope, of charity, of courage, of every sustaining virtue, tribulation attacks them unarmed and defenceless. Their dead faith sheds no ray of light upon the darkness of their afflictions. Hope holds out no future reward to sustain their failing courage. Strangers to charity, they know not the loving care of their Heavenly Father. How lamentable a sight to behold them swallowed in the gulf of tribulation! Utterly defenceless, how can they breast the angry waves? How can they escape being dashed to pieces against the rocks of pride, despair, rage, and blasphemy?

Have we not seen unhappy souls lose their health, their reason, their very life in the excess of their misery? While the just, like pure gold, come out of the crucible of suffering refined and purified, the wicked, like some viler metal, are melted and dissolved. While the wicked shed bitter tears, the just sing songs of gladness. “The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just” (Ps. 117:15), while the habitations of sinners resound with cries of sorrow and despair.

Observe, moreover, the extravagant grief of the wicked when those they love are taken from them by death. They storm against Heaven; they deny God’s justice; they blaspheme His mercy; they accuse His providence; they rage against men; and not unfrequently they end their miserable lives by their own hands. Their curses and blasphemies bring upon them terrible calamities, for the Divine Justice cannot but punish those who rebel against the providence of God.

Unhappy souls! The afflictions which are sent for the cure of their disorders only increase their misery. May we not say that the pains of Hell begin for them even in this life? Consider, too, the loss which they suffer by their murmurings and impatience. No man can escape the trials of life, but all can lighten their burden and merit eternal reward by bearing their sorrows in patience. Not only is this precious fruit lost by the wicked, but to the load of misery which they are compelled to carry they add the still more intolerable burden of their impatience and rebellion. They are like a traveler who, after a long and weary journey through the night, finds himself in the morning further than ever from the place he wished to reach.

What a subject is this for our contemplation! “The same fire,” says St. Chrysostom, “which purifies gold, consumes wood; so in the fire of tribulation the just acquire new beauty and perfection, while the wicked, like dry wood, are reduced to ashes.” (Hom.14 in Matt.1). St. Cyprian expresses the same thought by another illustration: “As the wind in harvest time scatters the chaff but cleanses the wheat, so the winds of adversity scatter the wicked but purify the just.” (De Unitate Eccl.).

The passage of the children of Israel through the Red Sea is still another figure of the same truth. Like protecting walls the waters rose on each side of the people, and gave them a safe passage to the dry land; but as soon as the Egyptian army with its king and chariots had entered the watery breach, the same waves closed upon them and buried them in the sea. In like manner the waters of tribulation are a preservation to the just, while to the wicked they are a tempestuous gulf which sweeps them into the abyss of rage, of blasphemy, and of despair.

Behold the admirable advantage which virtue possesses over vice. It was for this reason that philosophers so highly extolled philosophy, persuaded that its study rendered man more constant and more resolute in adversity, But this was one of their numerous errors. True constancy, like true virtue, cannot be drawn from the teaching of worldly philosophy. It must be learned in the school of the Divine Master, who from His cross consoles us by His example, and from His throne in Heaven sends us His Spirit to strengthen and encourage us by the hope of an immortal crown.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#24
Ch 22. The Eleventh Privilege of Virtue: God’s Care for the Temporal Needs of the Just


The privileges of virtue which we considered in the preceding chapters are the spiritual blessings accorded to the just in this life, independently of the eternal reward of Heaven. As, however, there may be some who, like the Jews of old, cling to the things of the flesh rather than to those of the spirit, we shall devote this chapter to the temporal blessings which the virtuous enjoy.

The Wise Man says of wisdom, which is the perfection of virtue, that “length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and glory.” (Prov. 3:16). Perfect virtue, then, possesses this double reward with which she wins men to her allegiance, holding out to them with one hand the temporal blessings of this life, and with the other the eternal blessings of the life to come. Oh, no; God does not leave His followers in want! He who so carefully provides for the ant, the worm, the smallest of His creatures, cannot disregard the necessities of His faithful servants.

I do not ask you to receive this upon my word, but I do ask you to read the Gospel according to St. Matthew, in which you will find many assurances and promises on this subject. “Behold the birds of the air,” says Our Saviour, “for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? … Be not solicitous, therefore, saying: What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathen seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye, therefore, first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:26, 31-33).

“Fear the Lord, all ye his saints,” the psalmist sings, “for they that fear him know no want. The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good.” (Ps. 33:10-11). “I have been young, and now am old, and I have not seen the just forsaken nor his seed seeking bread.” (Ps. 36:25).

If you would satisfy yourself still further concerning the temporal blessings conferred on the just, read the divine promises recorded in Deuteronomy: “If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to do and keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, the Lord thy God will make thee higher than all the nations that are on the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon thee and overtake thee, if thou hear his precepts. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the droves of thy herds, and the folds of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy barns and blessed thy stores. Blessed shalt thou be coming in and going out. The Lord shall cause thy enemies that rise up against thee to fall down before thy face; one way shall they come out against thee, and seven ways shall they thee before thee. The Lord will send forth a blessing upon thy storehouses, and upon all the works of thy hands, and will bless thee in the land that thou shalt receive.

“The Lord will raise thee up to be a holy people to himself, as he swore to thee, if thou keep the commandments of the Lord thy God and walk in his ways. And all the people of the earth shall see that the name of the Lord is invoked upon thee, and they shall fear thee. The Lord will make thee abound with all goods, with the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy cattle, with the fruit of thy land which the Lord swore to thy fathers that he would give thee. The Lord will open his excellent treasure, the heaven, that it may give rain in due season; and he will bless all the works of thy hands.” (Deut. 28:1-12).

What riches can be compared to such blessings as these? And they have been promised not only to the Jews, but to all Christians who are faithful to God’s law. Moreover, they are bestowed with two extraordinary advantages unknown to the wicked. The first of these is the wisdom with which God awards them. Like a skillful physician, He gives His servants temporal blessings according to their necessities, and not in such measure as to inflate them with pride or endanger their salvation. The wicked despise this moderation and madly heap up all the riches they can acquire, forgetting that excess in this respect is as dangerous to the soul as excess of nourishment is injurious to the body. Though a man’s life lies in his blood, too copious a supply only tends to choke him.

The second of these advantages is that temporal blessings afford the just, with far less disturbance or display, that rest and contentment which all men seek in worldly goods. Even with a little, the just enjoy as much repose as if they possessed the universe. Hence St. Paul speaks of himself as having nothing, yet possessing all things. (Cf. 2Cor. 6:10). Thus the just journey through life, poor but knowing no want, possessing abundance in the midst of poverty. The wicked, on the contrary, hunger in the midst of abundance, and though, like Tantalus, they are surrounded by water, they can never satisfy their thirst. (Tantalus, according to the fable of the ancients, was a king of Corinth, condemned by the gods, for divulging their secrets, to be placed in Hell in the midst of water which reached his chin, but which he could not even taste; to have fruit suspended over his head which he could not eat; and to be always in fear of a large stone falling on his hand.).

For like reasons Moses earnestly exhorted the people to the observance of God’s law. “Lay up these words in thy heart,” he says; “teach them to thy children; meditate upon them sitting in thy house, walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. Bind them as a sign upon thy hand; keep them before thy eyes; write them over the entrance to thy house, on the doors of thy house. Do that which is pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with thee all the days of thy life in the land which God shall give thee.” (Deut. 6:6-10). Having been admitted to the counsels of the Most High, Moses knew the inestimable treasure contained in the observance of the law. His prophetic mind saw that all temporal and spiritual blessings, both present and future, were comprised in this. It is a compact which God makes with the just, and which, we may feel assured, will never be broken on His part. Nay, rather, if we prove ourselves faithful servants we will find that God will be even more generous than His promises.

“Godliness,” says St. Paul, “is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1Tim. 4:8). Behold how clearly the Apostle promises to piety, which is the observance of God’s commandments, not only the blessings of eternity but those of this life also.

If you desire to know the poverty, miseries, and afflictions which are reserved for the wicked, read the twenty eighth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. Therein Moses, in the name of God, utters most terrible threats and maledictions against the impious. “If thou wilt not hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep and to do all his commandments and ceremonies which I command thee this day, all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, cursed in the field. Cursed shall be thy barn, and cursed thy stores. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy ground, the herds of thy oxen, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be coming in and going out. The Lord shall send upon thee famine and hunger, and a rebuke upon all the works which thou shalt do, until he consume and destroy thee quickly for thy most wicked inventions, by which thou hast forsaken me. May the Lord set the pestilence upon thee until he consume thee out of the land which thou shalt go in to possess.

“May the Lord afflict thee with miserable want, with the fever and with cold, with burning and with heat, and with corrupted air and with blasting, and pursue thee till thou perish. Be the heaven that is over thee of brass, and the ground thou treadest on of iron. The Lord give thee dust for rain upon thy land, and let ashes come down from heaven upon thee till thou be consumed. The Lord make thee fall down before thy enemies; one way mayst thou go out against them, and flee seven ways, and be scattered throughout all the kingdoms of the earth. And be thy carcass meat for all the fowls of the air and the beasts of the earth, and be there none to drive them away. The Lord strike thee with madness and blindness, and fury of mind. And mayst thou grope at midday as the blind is wont to grope in the dark, and not make straight thy ways. And mayst thou at all times suffer wrong, and be oppressed with violence, and mayest thou have no one to deliver thee. May thy sons and thy daughters be given to another people, thy eyes looking on, and languishing at the sight of them all the day, and may there be no strength in thy hand.

“May a people which thou knowest not eat the fruits of thy land, and all thy labors, and mayst thou always suffer oppression, and be crushed at all times. May the Lord strike thee with a very sore ulcer in the knees and in the legs, and be thou incurable from the sole of thy foot to the top of thy head. … And all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue and overtake thee, till thou perish; because thou heardst not the voice of the Lord thy God, and didst not keep his commandments. Because thou didst not serve the Lord thy God with joy and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, thou shalt serve thy enemy whom the Lord will send upon thee, in hunger, in thirst, and nakedness, and in want of all things; and he shall put an iron yoke upon thy neck till he consume thee. The Lord will bring upon thee a nation from afar, and from the uttermost ends of the earth, a most insolent nation, that will show no regard to the ancient, nor have pity on the infant, and will devour the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruits of thy land, until thou be destroyed, and will leave thee no wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor herds of oxen, nor flocks of sheep, till he consume thee in all thy cities, and thy strong and high walls be brought down, wherein thou trustedst in all thy land. Thou shalt be besieged within thy gates, and thou shalt eat the fruit of thy womb, and the flesh of thy sons and thy daughters, in the distress and extremity wherewith thy enemies shall oppress thee.”

Let us not forget that these maledictions are recorded in Holy Scripture, with many others, equally terrible, which we have not cited. Learn from them the rigor with which Divine Justice pursues the wicked, and the hatred God must bear to sin, which He punishes with such severity in this life and with still greater torments in the next.

Think not these were idle menaces. No; they were words of prophecy, and were terribly verified in the Jewish nation. For we read that during the reign of Achab, King of Israel, his people were besieged by the army of the King of Syria, and reduced to such straits that they fed upon pigeons’ dung, which sold at a high price, and that a mother devoured her own child. (Cf. 4Kg. 6). And these scenes the historian Josephus tells us, were repeated during the siege of Jerusalem. The captivity of this people and the complete destruction of their kingdom and power are well-known to all.

Think not that these calamities were reserved for the Jewish people only. All the nations that have known God’s law and despised it have been the objects of His just and terrible anger. “Did not I bring up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines out of Cappadocia, and the Syrians out of Cyrene? Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth.” (Amos 9:7-8). From this we can understand that wars and revolutions, the downfall of some kingdoms and the rise of others, are due to the sins of men.

Read the annals of the early ages of the Church, and you will find that God has dealt in like manner with the wicked, especially with those who were once enlightened by His law, and who afterwards rejected it. See how He has punished infidelity in Christian nations. Vast portions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, formerly filled with Christian churches are now in the hands of infidels and barbarians. Behold the ravages wrought in Christian nations by the Goths, the Huns, and the Vandals! In the time of St. Augustine they laid waste all the countries of Africa, sparing none of the inhabitants, not even women and children. At the same time Dalmatia and the neighboring towns were so devastated by the barbarians that St. Jerome, who was a native of that kingdom, said that a traveler passing through the country would find only earth and sky, so universal was the desolation.

Is it not evident, therefore, that virtue not only helps us attain the joys of eternity, but that it also secures for us the blessings of this life?

Let, then, the consideration of this privilege, with the others which we have mentioned, excite you to renewed ardor in the practice of virtue, which is able to save you from so many miseries and procure you so many blessings.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#25
Ch 23. The Twelfth Privilege of Virtue: The Happy Death of the Just



The end, it is said, crowns the work, and, therefore, it is in death that the just man’s life is most fittingly crowned, while the departure of the sinner is a no less fitting close to his wretched career. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps.115:15), says the Psalmist, but “the death of the wicked is very evil.” (Ps. 33:22). Commenting upon the latter part of this text, St. Bernard says, “The death of the wicked is bad because it takes them from this world; it is still worse because it separates the soul from the body; and it is worst because it precipitates them into the fire of Hell, and delivers them a prey to the undying worm of remorse.”

To these evils which haunt the sinner at the hour of death add the bitter regrets which gnaw his heart, the anguish which fills his soul, and the torments which rack his body. He is seized with terror at the thought of the past; of the account he must render; of the sentence which is to be pronounced against him; of the horrors of the tomb; of separation from wife, children, and friends; of bidding farewell to the things he has loved with an inordinate and a guilty love wealth, luxuries, and even the gifts of nature, the light of day and the pure air of heaven. The stronger his love for earthly things has been, the more bitter will be his anguish in separating from them. As St. Augustine says, we cannot part without grief from that which we have possessed with love. It was in the same spirit that a certain philosopher said that he who has fewest pleasures in life has least reason to fear death.

But the greatest suffering of the wicked at the hour of death comes from the stings of remorse, and the thought of the terrible future upon which they are about to enter. The approach of death seems to open man’s eyes and make him see all things as he never saw them before. “As life ebbs away,” says St. Eusebius, “man is free from all distracting care for the necessities of life. He ceases to desire honors, emoluments, or dignities, for he sees that they are beyond his grasp. Eternal interests and thoughts of God’s justice demand all his attention. The past with its pleasures is gone; the present with its opportunities is rapidly gliding away; all that remains to him is the future, with the dismal prospect of his many sins waiting to accuse him before the judgment-seat of the just God.”

“Consider,” the saint again says, “the terror which will seize the negligent soul when she is entering eternity; the anguish with which she will be filled when, foremost among her accusers, her conscience will appear with its innumerable retinue of sins. Its testimony cannot be denied; its accusations will leave her mute and helpless; there will be no need to seek further witnesses, for the knowledge of this life-long companion will confound her.”

Still more terrible is the picture of the death of the sinner given by St. Peter Damian. “Let us try to represent to ourselves,” he says, “the terror which fills the soul of the sinner at the hour of death and the bitter reproaches with which conscience assails him. The commandments he has despised and the sins he has committed appear before him, to haunt him by their presence. He sighs for the time which he has squandered, and which was given to him to do penance; he beholds with despair the account he must render before the dread tribunal of God. He longs to arrest the moments, but they speed relentlessly on, bearing him nearer and nearer to his doom.

“If he looks back, his life seems but a moment, and before him is the limitless horizon of eternity. He weeps bitterly at the thought of the unspeakable happiness which he has sacrificed for the fleeting pleasures of the flesh: Confusion and shame overwhelm him when he sees he has forfeited a glorious place among the angelic choirs, through love for his body, which is about to become the food of worms. When he turns his eyes from the abode of these beings of light to the dark valley of this world, he sees how base and unworthy are the things for which he has rejected immortal glory and happiness. Oh! Could he but regain a small portion of the time he has lost, what austerities, what mortifications he would practice! What is there that could overcome his courage? What vows would he not offer, and how fervent would be his prayers! But while he is revolving these sad thoughts, the messengers of death appear in the rigid limbs, the dark and hollow eyes, the heaving breast, the foaming lips, the livid face. And as these exterior heralds approach, every thought, word, and action of his guilty life appears before him.

“Vainly does he strive to turn his eyes from them; they will not be banished. On one side – and this is true of every man’s death – Satan and his legions are present, tempting the dying man, in the hope of seizing his soul even at the last minute. On the other side are the angels of Heaven, helping, consoling, and strengthening him. And yet it is his own life that will decide the contest between the spirits of darkness and the angels of light. In the case of the good, who have heaped up a treasure of meritorious works, the victory is with the angels of light. But the impious man, whose unexpiated crimes are crying for vengeance, rejects the help that is offered to him, yields to despair, and as his unhappy soul passes from his pampered body, the demons are ready to seize it and bear it away.”

What stronger proof does man require of the wretched condition of the sinner, and what more does he need to make him avoid a career which ends so deplorably? If, at this critical hour, riches could help him as they do at many other periods of life, the evil would be less. But he will receive no succor from his riches, his honors, his dignities, his distinguished friends. The only patronage which will then avail him will be that of virtue and innocence. “Riches,” says the Wise Man, “shall not profit in the day of revenge, but justice shall deliver from death.” (Prov. 11:4).

As the wicked, therefore, receive at the hour of death the punishment of their crimes, so do the just then receive the reward of their virtues. “With him that feareth the Lord “, says the Holy Ghost, “it shall go well in the latter end; and in the day of his death he shall be blessed.” (Ecclus. 1:13). St. John declares this truth still more forcibly when he tells us that he heard a voice from Heaven commanding him, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth, saith the Spirit, they rest from their labors, for their works follow them.” (Apoc. 14:13). With such a promise from God Himself, how can the just man fear? Can he dread that hour in which he is to receive the reward of his life’s labors?

Since, as we read in Job, he has put away iniquity, brightness like that of the noonday shall arise to him at evening, and when he shall think himself consumed he shall rise as the day-star. (Cf. Job 11:14,17). Explaining these words, St. Gregory says that the light which illumines the close of the just man’s life is the splendor of that immortal glory which is already so near. When others, therefore, are weighed down by sadness and despair, he is full of confidence and joy. For this reason Solomon has said that the wicked shall be rejected because of their wickedness, but the just man hath hope in the hour of his death. (Cf. Prov. 14:32).

What more striking example of this confident hope can we find than that of the glorious St. Martin? Seeing the devil beside his bed at the hour of death, he cried out, “What art thou doing here, cruel beast? Thou wilt find no mortal sin in my soul by which thou mayest bind me. I go, therefore, to enjoy eternal peace in Abraham’s bosom.” Equally touching and beautiful was the confidence of our holy Father, St. Dominic. Seeing the religious of his order weeping around his bed, he said to them, “Weep not, my children, for I can do you more good where I am going than I could ever hope to do on earth.” How could the fear of death overcome one who so confidently hoped to obtain Heaven, not only for himself, but also for his disciples?

Far, then, from fearing death, the just hail it as the hour of their deliverance and the beginning of their reward. In his commentary on the Epistle of St. John, St. Augustine writes, “It cannot be said that he who desires to be dissolved and to be with Christ endures death with patience, but rather that he endures life with patience and embraces death with joy.” It is not, therefore, with cries and lamentations that the just man sees his end approaching, but – like the swan, which is said to sing as death draws near – he departs this life with words of praise and thanksgiving on his lips.

He does not fear death, because he has always feared God, and he who fears God need fear nothing else. He does not fear death, because his life has been a preparation for death, and he who is always armed and ready need not fear the enemy. He does not fear death, because he has sought during life to secure in virtue and good works powerful advocates for that terrible hour. He does not fear death, because he has endeavored, by devoted service, to incline his Judge in his favor. Finally, he does not fear death, because to the just, death is only a sweet sleep, the end of toil, and the beginning of a blessed immortality.

Nor can the accompanying accidents and pains of death alarm him, for he knows that they are but the throes and pangs in which he must be brought forth to eternal life. He is not dismayed by the memory of his sins or the rigor of God’s justice, since he has Christ for his Friend and Advocate. He does not tremble at the presence of Satan and his followers, for his Redeemer, who has conquered Hell and ! death, stands at his side. For him the tomb has no terrors, for he knows that he must sow a natural body in order that it may rise a spiritual body, that this corruptible must put on incorruption. (Cf. 1Cor. 15:42,44).

Since, as we have already remarked, the end crowns the work, and, as Seneca tells us, the last day condemns or justifies the whole life, how can we, beholding the peaceful and blessed death of the just and the miserable departure of the wicked, seek for any other motive to make us embrace a life of virtue?

Of what avail will be the riches and prosperity which you may enjoy during your short stay in this life, if your eternity will be spent in the endless torments of Hell? Or how can you shrink from the temporary sufferings that will win for you an eternity of happiness? Of what advantage are learning and skill, if the sinner uses them only to acquire those things which flatter his pride, feed his sensuality, confirm him in sin, make him unfit to practice virtue, and thus render death as bitter and unwelcome as his life was pleasant and luxurious? We consider him a wise and skillful physician who prudently seeks by every it means to restore the health of his patient, since this is the end of his science. So is he truly wise who regulates his life with a view to his last end, who constantly employs all the means in his power to fit himself for a happy death.

Behold, then, dear Christian, the twelve fruits of virtue in this life. They are like the twelve fruits of the tree of life seen by St. John in his prophetic vision. (Cf. Apoc. 22:2). This tree represents Jesus Christ, and is also a symbol of virtue with its abundant fruits of holiness and life. And what fruits can be compared to those which we have been considering? What is there more consoling than the fatherly care with which God surrounds the just? What blessings equal those of divine grace, of heavenly wisdom, of the consolations of the Holy Spirit, of the testimony of a good conscience, of invincible hope, of unfailing efficacy in prayer, and of that peaceful and happy death with which the just man’s life is crowned? But one of these fruits, rightly known and appreciated, should suffice to make us embrace virtue.

Think not that you will ever regret any labor or any sacrifice made in pursuit of so great a good. The wicked do not strive to attain it, for they know not its value. To them the kingdom of Heaven is like a hidden treasure. (Cf. Matt. 13:44). And yet it is only through the divine light and the practice of virtue that they will learn its beauty and worth. Seek, therefore, this light, and you will find the pearl of great price.

Do not leave the source of eternal life to drink at the turbid streams of the world. Follow the counsel of the prophet, and taste and see that the Lord is sweet. Trusting in Our Saviour’s words, resolutely enter the path of virtue, and your illusions will vanish. The serpent into which the rod of Moses was converted was frightful at a distance, but at the touch of his hand it became again a harmless rod. To the wicked, virtue wears a forbidding look; to sacrifice their worldly pleasures for her would be to buy her at too dear a rate. But when they draw near they see how lovely she is, and when they have once tasted the sweetness she possesses they cheerfully surrender all they have to win her friendship and love. How gladly did the man in the Gospel hasten to sell all he had to purchase the field which contained a treasure! (Cf. Matt. 13:44).

Why, then, do Christians make so little effort to obtain this inestimable good? If a companion assured you that a treasure lay hidden in your house, you would not fail to search for it, even though you doubted its existence. Yet though you know, on the infallible word of God, that you can find a priceless treasure within your own breast, you do nothing to discover it. Oh! That you would realize its value! Would that you knew how little it costs to obtain it, and how “nigh is the Lord unto all them that call upon him, that call upon him in truth” (Ps. 144:18)!

Be mindful of the prodigal, of so many others who have returned from sin and error, to find, instead of an angry Judge, a loving Father awaiting them. Do penance, therefore, for your sins, and God will no longer remember your iniquities (Cf. Ezech. 18:21-22). Return to your loving Father; rise with the dawn and knock at the gates of His mercy; humbly persevere in your entreaties, and He will not fail to reveal to you the treasure of His love. Having once experienced the sweetness which it contains, you will say with the spouse in the Canticle, “If a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing.” (Cant. 8:7).
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Reply
#26
Ch 24. The Folly of those who Defer their Conversion


The considerations offered in the preceding chapters should be more than sufficient to excite men to the love and practice of virtue. However, sinners never seem to be in want of excuses to defend their loose lives. “A sinful man,” says the Scripture, “will flee reproof, and will find an excuse according to his will.” (Ecclus. 32:21).

“He that hath a mind to depart from a friend seeketh occasions.” (Prov. 18:1). Thus the wicked, who flee reproach, who wish to withdraw from God, are never without an excuse. Some defer this important affair of salvation to an indefinite future; others till the hour of death. Many allege that it is too difficult and arduous an undertaking. Many presume upon God’s mercy, persuading themselves that they can be saved by faith and hope without charity. Others, in fine, who are enslaved by the pleasures of the world, are unwilling to sacrifice them for the happiness which God promises. These are the snares most frequently employed by Satan to allure men to sin, and to keep them in its bondage until death surprises them.

At present we intend to answer those who defer their conversion, alleging that they can turn to God more efficaciously at another time. With this excuse was St, Augustine kept back from a virtuous life. “Later, Lord,” he cried –—- “later I will abandon the world and sin.”

It will not be difficult to prove that this is a ruse of the father of lies, whose office since the beginning of the world has been to deceive man. We know with certainty that there is nothing which a Christian should desire more earnestly than salvation. It is equally certain that to obtain it the sinner must change his life, since there is no other possible means of salvation. Therefore, all that remains for us is to decide when this amendment should begin. You say, at a future day I answer, at this present moment. You urge that later it will be easier. I insist that it will be easier now. Let us see which of us is right.

Before we speak of the facility of conversion, tell me who has assured you that you will live to the time you have appointed for your amendment. Do you not know how many have been deceived by this hope? St. Gregory tells us that “God promises to receive the repentant sinner when he returns to Him, but nowhere does He promise to give him tomorrow.” St. Caesarius thus expresses the same thought: “Some say, ‘In my old age I will have recourse to penance’; but how can you promise yourself an old age, when your frail life cannot count with security upon one day?”

I cannot but think that the number of souls lost in this way is infinite. It was the cause of the ruin of the rich man in the Gospel, whose terrible history is related by St. Luke: “The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits; and he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater, and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods; and I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thy rest, eat, drink, make good cheer. But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee; and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (Lk. 12:16-21). What greater folly than thus to dispose of the future, as if time were our own!

God, says St. John (Cf. Apoc. 1:18), holds the keys of life and death. Yet a miserable worm of the earth dares usurp this power. Such insolence merits the punishment which the sinner usually receives. Rejecting the opportunity God gives him for amendment, he is denied the time he has presumptuously chosen for penance, and thus miserably perishes in his sins. Since the number who are thus chastised is very great, let us profit by their misfortunes and heed the counsel of the Wise Man: “Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day. For his wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance he will destroy thee.” (Ecclus. 5:8-9).

But, even granting that you will live as long as you imagine, will it be easier to begin your conversion now or some years hence? To make this point clear we shall give a brief summary of the causes which render a sincere conversion difficult. The first of these causes is the tyranny of bad habits. So strong are these that many would die rather than relinquish them. Hence St. Jerome declares that a long habit of sin robs virtue of all its sweetness. For habit becomes second nature, and to overcome it we must conquer nature itself, which is the greatest victory a man can achieve.

“When a vice is confirmed by habit,” says St. Bernard, “it cannot be extirpated except by a very special and even miraculous grace.” Therefore, there is nothing which a Christian should dread more than a habit of vice, because, like other things in this world, vice claims prescription, and once that is established it is almost impossible to root it out. A second cause of this difficulty is the absolute power which the devil has over a soul in sin. He is then the strongly-armed man mentioned in the Gospel, who does not easily relinquish what he has acquired. Another cause of this difficulty is the separation which sin makes between God and the soul. Though represented in Scripture (Cf. Is. 60) as a sentinel guarding the walls of Jerusalem, God withdraws further and further from a sinful soul, in proportion as her vices increase. We can learn the deplorable condition into which this separation plunges the soul from God Himself, who exclaims by His prophet, “Woe to them, for they have departed from me. Woe to them when I shall depart from them.” (Osee 7:13 and 9:12). This abandonment by God is the second woe of which St. John speaks in the Apocalypse.

The last cause of this difficulty is the corruption of sin, which weakens and impairs the faculties of the soul, not in themselves, but in their operations and effects. Sin darkens the understanding, excites the sensual appetites, and, though leaving it free, so weakens the will that it is unable to govern us. Being the instruments of the soul, what but trouble and disorder can be expected from these faculties in their weak and helpless state? How, then, can you think that your conversion will be easier in the future, since every day increases the obstacles you now dread, and weakens the forces with which you must combat them? If you cannot ford the present stream, how will you pass through it when it will have swollen to an angry torrent? Perhaps you are now a prey to a dozen vices, which you tremble to attack. With what courage, but especially with what success, will you attack them when they will have increased a hundredfold in numbers and power? If you are now baffled by a year or two of sinful habits, how can you resist their strength at the end of ten years? Do you not see that this is a snare of the archenemy, who deceived our first parents, and who is continually seeking to deceive us also?

Can you, then, doubt that you only increase the difficulties of your conversion by deferring it? Do you think that the more numerous your crimes, the easier it will be to obtain a pardon? Do you think that it will be easier to effect a cure when the disease will have become chronic? “A long sickness is troublesome to the physician, but a short one”—–that is, one which is taken in the beginning—–“is easily cut off.” (Ecclus. 10:11-12).

Hear how an angel disabused a holy solitary of an illusion like yours: Taking him by the hand, he led him into a field and showed him a man gathering fagots. Finding the bundle he had collected too heavy, the woodcutter began to add to it; and perceiving that he was still less able to lift it, he continued to add to the quantity, imagining that he would thus carry it more easily. The holy man wondering at what he saw, the angel said to him: Such is the folly of men, who, unable to remove the present burden of their sins, continue to add to it sin after sin, foolishly supposing that they will more easily lift a heavier burden in the future.

But among all these obstacles, the greatest is the tyranny of evil habits. Would that I could make you understand the power with which they bind us! As each blow of the hammer drives a nail further and further into the wood, until it can hardly be withdrawn, so every sinful action is a fresh blow which sinks vices deeper and deeper into our souls until it is almost impossible to uproot them. Thus it is not rare to see the sinner in his old age a prey to vices which have dishonored his youth, in which he is no longer capable of finding pleasure, and which his years and the weakness of nature would repel, were he not bound to them by long-continued habit. Are we not told in Scripture that “the bones of the sinner shall be filled with the vices of his youth, and that they shall sleep with him in the dust”? (Job 20:11). Thus we see that even death does not terminate the habit of vice; its terrible effects pass into eternity. It becomes a second nature, and is so imprinted iri the sinner’s flesh that it consumes him like a fatal poison for which there is scarcely any remedy.

This Our Saviour teaches us in the resurrection of Lazarus. He had raised other dead persons by a single word, but to restore Lazarus, who had been four days in the tomb, He had recourse to tears and prayers, to show us the miracle God effects when he raises to the life of grace a soul buried in a habit of sin. For, according to St. Augustine, the first of these four days represents the pleasure of sin; the second, the consent; the third, the act; and the fourth, the habit of sin. Therefore, the sinner who has reached this fourth day can only be restored to life by the tears and prayers of Our Saviour.

But let us suppose that you will not be disappointed, that you will live to do penance. Think of the inestimable treasures you are now losing and how bitterly you will regret them when too late. While your fellow Christians are enriching themselves for Heaven, you are idling away your time in the childish follies of the world.

Besides this, think of the evil you are accumulating. We i should not, says St. Augustine, commit one venial sin even to gain the whole world. How, then, can you so carelessly heap up mortal sins, when the salvation of a thousand worlds would not justify one? How dare you offend with impunity Him at whose feet you must kneel for mercy, in whose hands lies your eternal destiny? Can you afford to defy Him of whom you have such urgent need?

“Tell me,” says St. Bernard, “you who live in sin, do you think God will pardon you or not? If you think He will reject you, is it not foolish to continue to sin when you have no hope of pardon? And if you rely upon His goodness to pardon you, notwithstanding your innumerable offences, what can be more base than the ingratitude with which you presume upon His mercy, which, instead of exciting you to love Him, only leads you to offend Him?” How can you answer this argument of the saint?

Consider also the tears with which you will expiate your present sins. If God visits you one day, if He causes you to hear His voice (and alas for you if He does not!), be assured that the remorse for your sins will be so bitter that you will wish you had suffered a thousand deaths rather than have offended so good a Master. David indulged but a short time in sinful pleasures, yet behold how bitter was his sorrow, how long he wept for his sins. “I have labored in my groanings,” he cried; “every night I will wash my bed, I will water my couch with my tears.” (Ps. 6:7). Why, then, will you sow what you can only reap in tears? Consider, moreover, the obstacles to virtue which continual sin establishes in us. Moses compelled the children of Israel, in punishment of their idolatry, to drink the ashes of the golden calf which they had adored. (Cf. Ex. 32:20). God often inflicts a like punishment upon sinners, permitting their very bones to become so impregnated with the effects of sin that the idol which they formerly worshipped becomes for them a punishment and a constant source of torment.

Let me call your attention to the foolish choice you make in selecting old age as a time for repentance, and permitting your youth to go fruitlessly by. What would you think of a man who, having several beasts of burden, put all the weight upon the weakest, letting the others go unloaded`! Greater is the folly of those Christians who assign all the burden of penance to old age, which can hardly support itself, and who spend in idleness the vigorous years of youth. Seneca has admirably said that he who waits until old age to practice virtue clearly shows that he desires to give to virtue only the time of which he can make no other use. (De Brev. Vitae, cap.15).

And do not lose sight of the satisfaction God requires for sin, which is so great that, in the opinion of St. John Climachus, man can with difficulty satisfy each day for the faults he commits each day. Why, then, will you continue to accumulate the debt of sin and defer its payment to old age, which can so poorly satisfy for its own transgressions? St. Gregory considers this the basest treason, and says that he who defers the duty of penance to old age falls far short of the allegiance he owes to God, and has much reason to fear that he will be a victim of God’s justice rather than the object of that mercy upon which he has so rashly presumed.

But apart from all these considerations, if you have any sense of justice or honesty, will not the benefits you have received and the rewards you are promised induce you to be less sparing in the service of so liberal a Master? How wise is the counsel we read in Ecclesiasticus: “Let nothing hinder thee from praying always, and be not afraid to be justified even to death; for the reward of God continueth for ever.” (Ecclus. 18:22). Since the reward is to continue as long as God remains in Heaven, why should not your service continue as long as you remain upon earth? If the duration of the recompense is limitless, why will you limit the time of your service?

You hope, no doubt, to be saved; therefore, you must believe yourself of the number of those whom God has predestined. Will you, then, wait until the end of your life to serve Him who has loved you and chosen you heir to His kingdom from all eternity? Will you be so ungenerous with Him whose generosity to you has been boundless? The span of human life is so limited, how can you dare rob this generous Benefactor of the greatest part, leaving Him only the smallest and most worthless portion? “Dregs alone,” says Seneca, “remain at the bottom of a vessel.” “Cursed is the deceitful man,” says God, “that hath in his flock a male, and making a vow offereth in sacrifice that which is feeble to the Lord; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the Gentiles.” (Mal.1:14).

In other words, none but great services are worthy of His greatness. Imperfect offerings are an affront to His majesty. Will you, then, give the best and most beautiful part of your life to the service of the devil, and reserve for God only that portion which the world refuses? He has said that there shall not be in thy house a greater measure and a less; that thou shalt have a just and true weight. (Cf. Deut. 25:14-15). Yet, in contradiction to this law, you have two unequal measures – a great one for the devil, whom you treat as your friend, and a small one for God, whom you treat as your enemy.

If all these benefits fail to touch you, do not be insensible to the favor your Heavenly Father has conferred upon you in giving His Divine Son to redeem you. Were you possessed of an infinite number of lives, you would owe them all in payment – and they would be but a small return – for that Life, more precious than that of angels and men, which was offered for you. How, then, can you refuse the service of your miserable life to Him who sacrificed Himself for you?

I shall conclude this chapter with a passage from Ecclesiastes in which man is exhorted to give himself to the service of his Creator in his youth, and not to defer it till old age, the infirmities of which are described under curious and admirable figures: “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the time of affliction comes, and the years draw nigh of which thou shalt say: They please me not. Before the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars be darkened … when the keepers of the house [that is, the hands] shall tremble, and the strong men [the legs, which support the frame] shall stagger, and the teeth shall be few and idle; when they that looked through the eyes [the faculties of the soul] shall be darkened; when they shall shut the doors in the street [that is, the senses by which we communicate with the outer world] … when man shall rise with the bird [for old age requires little sleep]; when all the daughters of music shall grow deaf [for the organs of the voice grow weak and narrow]; when man shall fear high things and be afraid in the way [for old age shuns a steep and rugged way, and trembles as it walks]; when the almond tree shall flourish [that is, when the head shall be crowned with white hair] … when man shall enter the house of his eternity [which is the tomb]; when his friends shall lament and mourn for him … and when dust shall return to the earth whence it came, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” (Eccles. 12:1-7).

Therefore, defer not your repentance until old age, when virtue will seem a necessity rather than a choice, and when it may be said that your vices have left you, rather than that you have left them.

Remember, however, that old age is generally what youth has been: For as the sacred writer observes, “how shalt thou find in thy old age the things thou hast not gathered in thy youth?” (Ecclus. 25:5). Let me urge you, then, in the words of the same inspired author, to “give thanks whilst thou art living and in health, to praise God and glory in His mercies.” (Ecclus. 17:27).

Among those who waited at the pool of Bethsaida (Cf. Jn. 5:4), he only was cured who first plunged into the water after it had been moved by the angel. The salvation of our soul, in like manner, depends upon the promptness and submission with which we obey the inspiration with which God moves us. Delay not, therefore, dear Christian, but make all the haste you can; and if, as the prophet says, “you shall hear his voice today” (Ps. 94:8), defer not your answer till tomorrow, but set about a work the difficulty of which will be so much lessened by a timely beginning.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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