Catholic Tradition Newsletter B47: Holy Eucharist, Last Sunday after Pentecost, Saint Cecilia

Vol 13 Issue 47 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
November 21, 2020 ~ Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1.      What is the Holy Eucharist
2.      Last Sunday after Pentecost
3.      Saint Cecilia
4.      Family and Marriage
5.      Articles and notices
Dear Reader:

The Liturgical Year, that is, the Church year, is coming to a close. Perhaps because I am a priest the end of the year being closed on November 28, and the New Year beginning on November 29, seems more appropriate then a year ending in the middle of the twelve days of Christmas. Be that as it may, the past year was one of great expectations that ended very darkly. When the talk of closing down Sports, Hollywood and Entertainment, even public schools where our children are indoctrinated and forced to lose their innocence, were announced just as Lent was starting, it seemed to be a good thing. But the void was not filled with prayer and seeking to re-direct our lives to God, rather the Churches were also closed and the children were neglected. It was fitting that most Roman Catholic Churches, that is, those holding to the faith and still offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, remained opened or held outdoor Masses so the faithful could attend. Despite the cries that charity demanded that we close the doors, as Catholics we knew that true  charity would be to implore and beg God to have mercy on His people and that His children would fall on their knees and do penance—that is really what Lent iss all about. I am sure Catholics did offer penance and implored God for mercy—for even Ninive was spared when the people did penance. It didn’t suffice—the sins of the world were too great. I expect all the faithful Catholic priests celebrated Holy Week, marking it as again a choice to follow Christ and not deny Him as He was led away to be Crucified and ask, at the Foot of the Cross on Good Friday, that the Father would forgive the sins of the people so the glorious feast of His Resurrection would see an increase in faith and the Churches filled. No—people were only too happy to be given bread and circus as the State doled out money and the people were feted with streamed depravity to entertain them. It seemed the more one prayed, the worse the world was becoming. In fact, it did, as Antifa and BLM began, under approval of local governments, to terrorize cities throughout the United States. And, once the people accepted that they would be terrorized by these guerillas, then fires raged throughout the West Coast, destroying millions of acres, burning whole towns and thousands of homes and businesses. It still didn’t move the impenitent people, not occurred to them to pray to God or ask for mercy. If anything close to a prayer was said, it was to the almighty state asking that it would save them by giving them more money. And to think that after all this it couldn’t get any worse, the people voted for Biden and Harris to be their leaders into Socialism—probably because there was insufficient grace obtained, the people just received  twenty-four hours of the Media hounding them to reject God, family, and country with the promise that only then would they be happy and have everything free. This is how this year is ending: still no sight of a call to penance, no renunciation of the millions of abortions, no halting of divorces, no preventing of children born out of wedlock, no stopping children from being sold into sexual slavery, no ending of the Child Protection Services from separating children from their parents because the parents believe they have the right to educate their children, no disgust and impeding the violation of children through sex education given from the youngest years, no reversing of the fact that state and local governments are claiming Christianity as a hateful religion that should be banned.  This is how this year is ending: More perversion, more people leaving the faith, more hatred of good, more public blasphemies of God, more angry obscene “music”, more children wanting to become transgender, more drugs, more suicides, more riots, more killings, more calls to close churches, more people arrested for their Christian based religion, more people being attacked because they are refusing to join terrorists (Antifa, BLM, Marxists—all anarchists), and more government control. It reminds me of this parable of Our Lord:

And he [the rich man] said: Then, father [Abraham], I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance. And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead. (Luke 16:27-31)

So, here we are. What will next year bring?

As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor

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WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST

By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier

Part V

Reception of the Holy Eucharist: Holy Communion

The Reception of the Body and Blood of Christ

Receiving Holy Communion as a Sacrament

Form

The form, or words of confecting the sacrament, are Christ’s Words of Institution, which He pronounced at the Consecration. These words were presented above, but set forth here again: This is my body, over the bread and This is the Chalice of my blood, of the new and eternal covenant, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many, to the remission of sins. (Decret. lib. iii. tit. 41. c.6; cf. Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22, 24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

These words are considered the substance or essence of the words of confecting the change of bread into the Body of Christ and the wine into the Blood of Christ.

In the perplexity of the confrontation of the Novus Ordo Missae particular attention will be given to understanding the form of the Sacrament. Saint Thomas, in his Summa Theologica, III, Question 60, Article 7, writes:

In the sacraments the words are as the form, and sensible things are as the matter. Now in all things composed of matter and form, the determining principle is on the part of the form . . . Consequently, for the being of a thing the need of a determinate form is prior to the need of determinate matter . . . Since, therefore, in the sacraments determinate sensible things are required, which are as the sacramental matter, much more is there need in them of a determinate form of words.

The Angelic Doctor instructs further, in Question 64, article 9: . . . some heretics in conferring sacraments do not observe the form prescribed by the Church; and these confer neither the sacrament nor the reality of the sacrament.

This is the same conclusion Pope Leo XIII wrote in his bull, Apostolicae Curae, of  September 15, 1896, when he declared Anglican Orders invalid, that is, the Anglican ministers are just laymen:

In the examination of any rite for the effecting and administering of Sacraments, distinction is rightly made between the part which is ceremonial and that which is essential, the latter being usually called the “matter and form”. All know that the Sacraments of the New Law, as sensible and efficient signs of invisible grace, ought both to signify the grace which they effect, and effect the grace which they signify. Although the signification ought to be found in the whole essential rite, that is to say, in the “matter and form”, it still pertains chiefly to the “form”; since the “matter” is the part which is not determined by itself, but which is determined by the “form”. And this appears still more clearly in the Sacrament of Order, the “matter” of which, in so far as we have to consider it in this case, is the imposition of hands, which, indeed, by itself signifies nothing definite, and is equally used for several Orders and for Confirmation.

But the words which until recently were commonly held by Anglicans to constitute the proper form of priestly ordination namely, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” certainly do not in the least definitely express the sacred Order of Priesthood (sacerdotium) or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power “of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord” (Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII, de Sacr. Ord. , Canon 1) in that sacrifice which is no “bare commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross” (Ibid, Sess XXII., de Sacrif. Missae, Canon 3). (Par. 24-25)

As noted, Pope Leo XIII stated that both the matter and the form must signify the grace which they effect, and effect the grace which they signify, especially the form. Therefore, in all discussion on the form and the matter, there must be the external sign. In explaining the Sacraments in general, this is one of the topics considered. Regarding the Holy Eucharist, there is not just the miracle of Transubstantiation, but a sacrifice being offered, and it is in offering the sacrifice that Transubstantiation takes place. Therefore, a priest cannot simply say over bread, this is my body, and the bread is the Body of Christ. Or say over wine, this is my blood, and the wine is Christ’s body. One may say, simply, while pouring water over the head of a person, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. But one cannot simply say, I baptize you. The Church teaches with such words baptism would not be valid, even though the words, I baptize you are essential words, they are not all the words as they do not determine the matter. Therefore, even though the words, This is my body. . . .this is my blood, are essential, they would not confect the Sacrament as they, too, do not determine the matter. Christ said: Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 28:19) The Church baptizes exactly with the words Christ used. At the Last Supper Christ instituted a sacrifice, offering His Body and Blood in the appearance of bread and wine and gave to His Apostles to eat and told them to do the same. Therefore, the form must be one that signifies that sacrifice of His Body and Blood being offered under the appearances of bread and wine and to be consumed by the priest and those participating in the sacrifice—for, too, it must fulfil the Paschal Sacrifice type.

The decree De Defectibus was placed by Pope St. Pius V in the Missale Romanum. This was to instruct the priest as to what would constitute a valid and licit Mass and what would not in case of mishap or negligence. In the section concerning the words of Consecration, it is stated:

V—Defects of the form

20. Defects on the part of the form may arise if anything is missing from the complete wording required for the act of consecrating. Now the words of the Consecration, which are the form of this Sacrament, are:

HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM, and HIC EST ENIM CALIX SANGUINIS MEI, NOVI ET AETERNI TESTAMENTI: MYSTERIUM FIDEI: QUI PRO VOBIS ET PRO MULTIS EFFUNDETUR IN REMISSIONEM PECCATORUM

If the priest were to shorten or change the form of the consecration of the Body and the Blood, so that in the change of wording the words did not mean the same thing, he would not be achieving a valid Sacrament. If, on the other hand, he were to add or take away anything which did not change the meaning, the Sacrament would be valid, but he would be committing a grave sin.

Therefore a Theologian of renown penned these words concerning the Sacraments: Take nothing from the form, add nothing, variate nothing, do not change, alter a word, dissent—Nil formae demas, nil addas, nil variabis, transmutare cave, corrumpere verba, moriari (J. M. Herve, Manule Theologiae Dogmaticae).

There is no disagreement when Saint Thomas, then, in Question 78, Art. 3, asks: Whether this is the proper form for the consecration of the wine: “This is the chalice of My Blood, etc.? The Doctor states several objections to the true teaching, i.e., that the full form the Church has always used must be said:

Objection 1. It seems that this is not the proper form for the consecration of the wine. “This is the chalice of My blood, of the New and Eternal Testament, the Mystery of Faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins.” For as the bread is changed by the power of consecration into Christ’s body, so is the wine changed into Christ’s blood, as is clear from what was said above (76, 1,2,3). But in the form of the consecration of the bread, the body of Christ is expressly mentioned, without any addition. Therefore in this form the blood of Christ is improperly expressed in the oblique case, and the chalice in the nominative, when it is said: “This is the chalice of My blood.”

Objection 2. Further, the words spoken in the consecration of the bread are not more efficacious than those spoken in the consecration of the wine, since both are Christ’s words. But directly the words are spoken—”This is My body,” there is perfect consecration of the bread. Therefore, directly these other words are uttered—”This is the chalice of My blood,” there is perfect consecration of the blood; and so the words which follow do not appear to be of the substance of the form, especially since they refer to the properties of this sacrament.

Objection 3. Further, the New Testament seems to be an internal inspiration, as is evident from the Apostle quoting the words of Jeremias (31:31): “I will perfect unto the house of Israel a New Testament . . . I will give My laws into their mind” (Hebrews 8:8). But a sacrament is an outward visible act. Therefore, in the form of the sacrament the words “of the New Testament” are improperly added.

Objection 4. Further, a thing is said to be new which is near the beginning of its existence. But what is eternal has no beginning of its existence. Therefore it is incorrect to say “of the New and Eternal,” because it seems to savor of a contradiction.

Objection 5. Further, occasions of error ought to be withheld from men, according to Isaiah 57:14: “Take away the stumbling blocks out of the way of My people.” But some have fallen into error in thinking that Christ’s body and blood are only mystically present in this sacrament. Therefore it is out of place to add “the mystery of faith.”

Objection 6. Further, it was said above (III:73:3 ad 3), that as Baptism is the sacrament of faith, so is the Eucharist the sacrament of charity. Consequently, in this form the word “charity” ought rather to be used than “faith.”

Objection 7. Further, the whole of this sacrament, both as to body and blood, is a memorial of our Lord’s Passion, according to 1 Corinthians 11:26: “As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord.” Consequently, mention ought to be made of Christ’s Passion and its fruit rather in the form of the consecration of the blood, than in the form of the consecration of the body, especially since our Lord said: “This is My body, which shall be delivered up for you” (Luke 22:19).

Objection 8: Further, as was already observed (Q. 48, A. 2; Q. 49, A. 3), Christ’s passion sufficed for all; while as to it’s efficacy it was profitable for many. Therefore it ought to be said: “which shall be shed for all,” or else “for many,” without adding, “for you.”

Objection 9: Further, the words whereby this sacrament is consecrated draw their efficacy from Christ’s institution. But no Evangelist narrates that Christ spoke all these words. Therefore this is not an appropriate form for the consecration of the wine.

In reply to these objections Saint Thomas states the true teaching—true because the Church has never rejected this particular teaching on the necessity of saying all the words of the consecration in order to confect the sacrament. The Angelic Doctor answers many objections that are still raised today with these introductory words:

On the contrary, the Church, instructed by the apostles, uses this form.

He then continues to explain:

I answer that, There is a twofold opinion regarding this form. Some have maintained that the words “This is the chalice of My blood” alone belong to the substance of this form, but not those words which follow. Now this seems incorrect, because the words which follow them are determinations of the predicate, that is, of Christ’s blood. Consequently they belong to the integrity of the expression.

And on this account others say more accurately that all the words which follow are of the substance of the form down to the words, “As often as ye shall do this,” which belong to the use of this sacrament, and consequently do not belong to the substance of the form. Hence it is that the priest pronounces all these words, under the same rite and manner, namely, holding the chalice in his hands. Moreover, in Luke 22:20, the words that follow are interposed with the preceding words: “This is the chalice, the new testament in My blood.”

Consequently it must be said that all the aforesaid words belong to the substance of the form; but that by the first words, “This is the chalice of My blood,” the change of the wine into blood is denoted, as explained above (Article 2) in the form for the consecration of the bread; but by the words which come after is shown the power of the blood shed in the Passion, which power works in this sacrament, and is ordained for three purposes. First and principally for securing our eternal heritage, according to Hebrews 10:19: “Having confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ”; and in order to denote this, we say, “of the New and Eternal Testament.” Secondly, for justifying by grace, which is by faith according to Romans 3:25-26: “Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood . . . that He Himself may be just, and the justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus Christ”: and on this account we add, “The Mystery of Faith.” Thirdly, for removing sins which are the impediments to both of these things, according to Hebrews 9:14: “The blood of Christ . . . shall cleanse our conscience from dead works,” that is, from sins; and on this account, we say, “which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins.”

And his retorts to the above objections he lays out as follows:

Reply to Objection 1. The expression “This is the chalice of My blood” is a figure of speech, which can be understood in two ways. First, as a figure of metonymy; because the container is put for the contained, so that the meaning is: “This is My blood contained in the chalice”; of which mention is now made, because Christ’s blood is consecrated in this sacrament, inasmuch as it is the drink of the faithful, which is not implied under the notion of blood; consequently this had to be denoted by the vessel adapted for such usage. Secondly, it can be taken by way of metaphor, so that Christ’s Passion is understood by the chalice by way of comparison, because, like a cup, it inebriates, according to Lamentations 3:15: “He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath inebriated me with wormwood”: hence our Lord Himself spoke of His Passion as a chalice, when He said (Matthew 26:39): “Let this chalice pass away from Me”: so that the meaning is: “This is the chalice of My Passion.” This is denoted by the blood being consecrated apart from the body; because it was by the Passion that the blood was separated from the body.

Reply to Objection 2. As was said above (ad 1; 76, 2, ad 1), the blood consecrated apart expressly represents Christ’s Passion, and therefore mention is made of the fruits of the Passion in the consecration of the blood rather than in that of the body, since the body is the subject of the Passion. This is also pointed out in our Lord’s saying, “which shall be delivered up for you,” as if to say, “which shall undergo the Passion for you.”

Reply to Objection 3. A testament is the disposal of a heritage. But God disposed of a heavenly heritage to men, to be bestowed through the virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ; because, according to Hebrews 9:16: “Where there is a testament the death of the testator must of necessity come in.” Now Christ’s blood was exhibited to men in two ways. First of all in figure, and this belongs to the Old Testament; consequently the Apostle concludes (Hebrews 9:16): “Whereupon neither was the first indeed dedicated without blood,” which is evident from this, that as related in Exodus 24:7-8, “when every” commandment of the law “had been read” by Moses, “he sprinkled all the people” saying: “This is the blood of the testament which the Lord hath enjoined unto you.”

Secondly, it was shown in very truth; and this belongs to the New Testament. This is what the Apostle premises when he says (Romans 9:15): “Therefore He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of His death . . . they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Consequently, we say here, “The blood of the New Testament,” because it is shown now not in figure but in truth; and therefore we add, “which shall be shed for you.” But the internal inspiration has its origin in the power of this blood, according as we are justified by Christ’s Passion.

Reply to Objection 4. This Testament is a “new one” by reason of its showing forth: yet it is called “eternal” both on account of God’s eternal pre-ordination, as well as on account of the eternal heritage which is prepared by this testament. Moreover, Christ’s Person is eternal, in Whose blood this testament is appointed.

Reply to Objection 5. The word “mystery” is inserted, not in order to exclude reality, but to show that the reality is hidden, because Christ’s blood is in this sacrament in a hidden manner, and His Passion was dimly foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

Reply to Objection 6. It is called the “Sacrament of Faith,” as being an object of faith: because by faith alone do we hold the presence of Christ’s blood in this sacrament. Moreover Christ’s Passion justifies by faith. Baptism is called the “Sacrament of Faith” because it is a profession of faith. This is called the “Sacrament of Charity,” as being figurative and effective thereof.

Reply to Objection 7. As stated above (Reply to Objection 2), the blood consecrated apart represents Christ’s blood more expressively; and therefore mention is made of Christ’s Passion and its fruits, in the consecration of the blood rather than in that of the body.

Reply to objection 8: The blood of Christ’s Passion has its efficacy not merely in the elect among the Jews, to whom the blood of the Old Testament was exhibited, but also in the Gentiles; nor only in priests who consecrate this sacrament, and in those others who partake of it; but likewise in those for whom it is offered. And therefore He says expressly, “for you,” the Jews, “and for many,” namely the Gentiles; or “for you” who eat of it, and “for many,” for whom it is offered.

Reply to objection 9: The Evangelists did not intend to hand down the forms of the Sacraments, which in the primitive Church had to be kept concealed, as Dionysius observes at the close of his book on the ecclesiastical hierarchy; their object was to write the story of Christ. Nevertheless, nearly all these words can be culled from various passages of the Scriptures…Matthew says in chapter xxvi, 28: “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins”. . . .

(To be continued)

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The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers

M. F. Toal

THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY

MATTHEW xxiv. 15-35

1

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: When you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place; he that rcadeth let him understand; Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains; and he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take anything out of his house; and he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child and give suck in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter or on the sabbath; for there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. And unless these days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened.

Then, if any man shall say to you: Lo, here is Christ, or there; do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as co deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you, beforehand. If therefore they shall say to you: Behold, he is in the desert; go ye not out. Behold, he is in the closets; believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even into the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together.

And, immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of heaven shall be moved. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. And then shall all tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty.

And he shall send his angels with a trumpet and a great voice; and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them.

And from the fig-tree learn a parable: When the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh, even at the doors. Amen, I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass; but my words shall not pass.

EXPOSITION FROM THE CATENA AUREA

JEROME: In which He shows that His Second Coming shall not be in lowliness, as was His First; but proclaimed in glory. It is folly therefore to look in small and obscure places for Him Who is the Light of the whole world. HILARY: And yet, because of the great distress that men shall be in, false prophets will proclaim that Christ is at hand in many places to help them; and will lyingly declare that He is here and there, so that they may lead the downtrodden and distressed into the servitude of Antichrist. And so He says:

V.24. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets.

CHRYSOSTOM: Here He is speaking of Antichrist and of certain of his servants, whom He calls false Christs and false prophets, of whom there were many even at the time of the Apostles. But before Christ’s Second Coming, there shall be others, more bitter than these. And shall show great signs and wonders.

AUGUSTINE, Book of 83 Questions, 79, 3: Here the Lord warns us, so that we may be aware that even wicked men can work certain miracles, which even the saints cannot. Yet not because of this are they to be held as greater before God.

For the magicians of Egypt were not more acceptable to God than the people of Israel, because they could do things the people could not; although Moses, by the power of God, could work yet greater wonders. Gifts of this kind are not given to all the saints, for fear that those who are weak might be led astray by a very dangerous error; namely, thinking that there are greater blessings in such acts than in the works of justice, by which we gain eternal life.

When therefore magicians work such miracles as saints sometimes do, they do them for a different purpose, and by a different power. For they do them to promote their own glory; the latter the glory of God. The former work them through certain permissions granted to the evil powers within their degree (Eph. vi. 12), by a particular dispensation as it were; the latter in their public duty and by command of Him to Whom all creation is subject. It is one thing for an owner to be compelled to give his horse to a soldier, another to sell it to a purchaser or lend it to a friend. And as often many evil soldiers, whom the Imperial discipline condemns, terrify some owners by a display of the imperial insignia, and extort from them something not ordered by public authority; so sometimes evil Christians demand something from these evil powers, either by means of the name of Christ, or by means of Christian words or mysteries. When they yield to those thus wickedly commanding them, they yield in order to mislead men, in whose error they delight.

And so magicians work miracles in one way; good Christians in another; bad Christians in yet another way. The magicians by a private concession, good Christians through their known justice, evil Christians through the appearances of public justice. Nor need we marvel at this; since we may, and not absurdly, believe that all that visibly takes place is the work of the lesser powers of this air (Eph. ii. 2). [Cf. PL 40.]

JEROME: We are called to the Passion of Christ, so that wherever it is read in the Scriptures, let us gather together, that through it we may come to the Word of God.

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NOVEMBER 22

St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

1. Cecilia is one of the most highly venerated virgin-martyrs of the Church; her name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. There are no reliable records regarding either her person or her martyrdom. She may have gained her crown in the persecution of Alexander Severus (222-235), or in that of Valerian (258) or in that of Diocletian (304). One fact stands, however: that there was in the fourth century a church in Rome founded by a Cecilia. Tradition affirms that she was of noble stock and that she was married to a certain Valerian, against her will. On the first evening they were together she persuaded him not to touch her, by promising that he would be able to see the Guardian Angel at her side if he would go to Pope Urban and receive baptism. Thus did she preserve her virginity and gain a convert to Christ; in fact, both Valerian and his brother Tiburtius suffered martyrdom for the Faith. Then Almachius, the Prefect of Rome, arrested Cecilia, who had already given all Valerian’s possessions to the poor. An attempt to murder her in her home by means of steam met with failure; an executioner then vainly attempted to cut off her head, and left her dying after three strokes of his axe. Her house was converted into a church, to which her body was transferred by order of Pope Paschal I (817-824), after resting for a time in the Catacombs of St. Callistus.

2. “I will reveal a secret to you, Valerian: the angel of God is my protector and he jealously guards my body.” Although Cecilia submitted to marriage with the pagan Valerian, she was determined to preserve her virginity and to lead her husband to Christ. While the noisy merriment of the wedding celebration was in progress she spoke to our Lord: “Keep my heart unspotted and let me not be confounded” (Vesper antiphon). She had promised Him to remain a virgin and she trusted in His help, in spite of the marriage forced upon her by her parents. Valerian was impressed by her sincere promise that he should see her angel, and he respected her convictions. After receiving baptism and seeing the angel, he went at once to lead his brother to the font. By a miracle God had rewarded Cecilia’s filial obedience and trust; she remained a virgin after marriage.

“Be bold, you soldiers of Christ; throwaway the weapons of darkness and take up those of light.” These were Cecilia’s last words to her husband and his brother as they were led away to death. She was seized and locked in her bathroom, which was then heated until it seemed certain she must suffocate. She prayed, however, and remained unharmed. She joyfully exposed her neck for the stroke of the axe, but had to linger three days in her blood before she secured the crown of life. “Behold, the bridegroom is on his way; go out to meet him” (Gospel). “Come, spouse of Christ, receive the crown that the Lord has prepared for thee from eternity. For love of Him, thou hast shed thy blood” (Responsory at Matins).

3. “God dwells within her, and she stands unmoved” (Ps. 45:6). With what great zeal did Cecilia set about winning souls for Christ! This prompts the liturgy to sing: “Cecilia, Thy handmaid, O Lord, serves Thee like a busy bee.” “The virgin, crowned with glory, constantly carried the gospel of Christ in her heart and never ceased either by day or night, to carry on holy conversations and to pray” (Antiphon at the Magnificat).

What a magnificent spirit it was that motivated Cecilia! It was the valiant spirit of the Church of martyrs; and it still lives.

Collect: O God, who year by year dost gladden us with the feast of Thy blessed virgin-martyr Cecilia, grant that we who venerate her with sacred rites may also follow her example in holy living. Amen.

(Benedict Baur)

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A  MOTHER’S LETTERS

A Book for Young Women

by

FATHER ALEXANDER , O.F.M.

(1923)

LETTER III

CURIOSITY

IN my last I promised to deal with your perplexity regarding Curiosity.

But for curiosity there could be neither good nor evil in the world, nor could there be progress in any field of human activity.

The only bar to curiosity is that set up by Almighty God, where He forbids us to be inordinately curious about impenetrable mysteries. Eve sinned in this respect and suffered in consequence, whereas our sweet Mother Mary (the new Eve) by her reverent curiosity merited a blessing: “How can this be, seeing that I know not man?”

Thus, dearest, you see that there is a good as well as an evil curiosity. May yours always be good. It is sure to be such if you ever keep before your mind the cardinal fact that God is the Creator, and if, in your studies, you delight in praising and blessing Him in all His works and ordinances. Granted that, in the past, you have been guilty of inordinate and sinful curiosity—or of curiosity that you imagined was sinful—grieve over those mistakes but beware of letting them stand in the way of a healthy and permissible curiosity. Would it not, indeed, be a thousand pities if only evil-minded people were allowed to study God’s works? Perish the thought that it should be so! And yet there would be grave danger of such a thing happening, if God-fearing children dreaded the study of the Creator’s works.

How Heaven would weep, if, looking down, the angels and saints beheld God’s chosen ones afraid of the contemplation of the wonders of creation lest they should sin! “Why!” (they would exclaim) “God’s works are made chiefly with a view to save you from sin. They are made to be admired, understood, revered and honoured, and to serve as stepping-stones to the supernatural. God has spread out before the wondering eyes of His children the vast field of creation, in order that its every phase may elicit a hymn of praise and thanksgiving.”

Our Blessed Lady understood this and, youthful and pure as she was, she nevertheless, in her address to the Archangel Gabriel, made it perfectly clear that she understood the nature of God’s creative work. God would wish all Mary’s children to be equally simple and unaffected in their study of nature.

In this matter, affectation of a greater modesty is almost a crime, inasmuch as it is responsible for an ignorance which often paves the way to crime. In my long life I have, alas! heard many woeful tales of young women having lost their virtue, through ignorance rather than malice. If a balance was struck, I believe the evils of ignorance would outweigh the good; for not only are wicked deeds often traceable to ignorance, but growth in goodness is impeded, because millions of rational creatures never dream of turning God’s beautiful works to profit, by praising and thanking Him for their creation. The earth gives of its fulness for the glorification of God, but narrow and timid minds and hearts remain barren, through fear of reverent contemplation.

Perhaps, since leaving home, you have heard of “The White-Slave Traffic”: well, that dreadful trading in souls and bodies is largely supplemented from the ranks of those who face the world without a scrap of information regarding the dangers to be run—nay, without even elementary knowledge of their own nature and its demands.

Thus it is, dearest, that I deem it a matter of urgency to help you as much as I can, and, indeed, my chief fear is that I may have delayed too long. I hope not. This does not mean that I fancy you have been running risks. It simply means that I have, until now, been too timid in approaching this part of your education. Forgive me!

I have, in opposition to my own secret wishes, followed in the footsteps of those who lived in periods when vice was not so refined, and when the nets spread for the innocent and ignorant were fewer, and the meshes not so close as now. In those days there was not, perhaps, a pressing need for detailed instruction—although, to be candid, I fail to see why instruction—on proper lines—could not always have been imparted.

But I fear I am straying from my subject! Was it not “Curiosity“?

I may have to repeat myself, now and then, but it won’t matter—for a letter is not an essay.

With regard to curiosity, the great thing is to keep clearly before your mind that the Creator is God, that He is Holy, Pure, and Modest, and that He will judge us according to our use or abuse of the works of His hands.

Now God lays down no limits to our curiosity, so long as we are curious primarily in His interests.

If, then, it occurs to you to wonder about the meaning of this or that feature in the universe (which is obscure) simply because it is His work—just as you have wondered about so many things in your life-time—there cannot be harm.

You may ask: “What, then, mother, would be harmful curiosity?” The answer is: that which is inquired into through sheer depravity of mind, or with an inclination towards depravitywithout the slightest thought of the God whose works are contemplated.

I fancy I hear you saying: “That is what I always fear! It seems to me that I have no real desire to glorify God and that my curiosity is prompted by a merely human motive—if not a depraved motive, at least one that cannot bear close scrutiny. Nay, even when I begin the study with a good intention I seem to forget all about Him and find myself lost in the glamour of the subject.”

Well, dearest, you must train yourself to act on principle rather than on sentiment. When a subject presents itself, don’t jump at once to the conclusion that your motive is bad, but rather reason with yourself, saying: “God is the Creator. One of His works presents itself to my mind as the subject matter of inquiry. The activity of my lower instincts makes me fear that I seek only human satisfaction, or the gratification of low and morbid curiosity, but my reason tells me that if I once yield to inordinate timidity I shall, perhaps for ever, be debarred from the tranquil study of God’s most wonderful works. I must, therefore, conquer that timidity and continue my study in the spirit of prayer and with great reverence, in the spirit of purity and recollection, in the spirit of faith and trust. Keeping myself in God’s holy presence during my study, and blessing and praising His name, I must be full of confidence in His wish and His power to keep me from all harm. Even should the study be of such a nature as to cause some internal disturbance, I shan’t lose my peace of mind—I’ll simply elevate my mind and heart to God and despise those emotions. If I burke [suppress] the questions that arise, they will haunt me and harass me for ever—if I face them with proper dispositions, I shall become mistress of my own soul and enjoy lasting peace.”

Keeping these principles in mind, you will be less likely to be victimized by scrupulosity. Far from leading to boldness or unwomanliness, they will promote the sanity of your mind and the sanctification of your soul. If I were asked which of the two is the farther from sanctity—the sinner or the scrupulous, I should, without hesitation, answer: the scrupulous—that person who has lost the faculty of settling her own conscience, and who travels round the world begging others to settle it for her. She runs risks of ending her life either as a lunatic or a criminal—a lunatic, inasmuch as her reasoning power will be lost, and she will be unable to decide on the simplest and most obvious point of conduct; a criminal because, through sheer despair of finding a way out of her self-imposed difficulties, she will rush madly into all kinds of excess.

God has endowed us with reason that it may be used and has implanted in us the instinct of curiosity that it may be guided by right reason.

If, again, I were asked: “Who has the greater right to knowledge of the wonders of nature—a boy or a girl? ” I should answer: a girl, for God has given to her an instinct for domesticity that He has denied to her brother. From childhood a girl is closely identified with all that pertains to the well-being of the home, and as the office of nurse is one of home’s most urgent needs, it follows that a girl’s curiosity is much more frequently (and naturally) excited than a boy’s. The latter is gloriously indifferent to the requirements of the sick-room and bothers chiefly about his games and his battles.

Hence it is that, from a very early age, a girl is confronted with all kinds of questions, and now that you, as I trust, have grasped the principles that should guide your curiosity, I have no doubt you will make use of them to have your problems solved.

In this all-important matter I shall be only too glad to help you-unless, indeed, you have near you some sensible woman to whom you can open your mind more freely. If such be the case I shan’t be a bit jealous! On the contrary, I shall be delighted to know that you are in touch with a safe guide. Would there were many such women! Had they committed their views to print I should have been spared writing at such length! But I assure you, dearest, that it is a pleasure rather than a task.

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Father Krier will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 1 and 14.

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