Vol 15 Issue 3 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
January 15, 2022 ~ Our Lady of Prompt Succor, opn!
1. Sacrament of Penance
2. Second Sunday after Epiphany
3. Saint Marcellus
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
Today in the United States there was a celebration in the Diocese of New Orleans that honored Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Unfortunately this Shrine is no longer known nor was promoted as it should have for those Catholics living in the United States. Historically, Catholics in the United States have lived with a ghetto mentality. This is partially due to the anti-Catholic English Protestant beginnings in the original Thirteen Colonies supplanted by a continued avid rivalry by Protestants who saw Catholics as enemies to all they stood for: independence from Divinely instituted Authority—King and Pope. Catholics have the Pope (the Church) and set beliefs (divinely revealed truths) and know that they must submit to lawful authority (cf. John 19:11; 1 Peter 2:13); American Protestants choose what they want to believe (as they believe the spirit guides them individually and directly) and believe all civil authority lies with the people who decide what laws they will accept through a representative majority.
As Catholics here in the United States were a very small minority in the second half of the 18th century and first half of the 19th century (1750-1850), Catholics were continually discriminated against and persecuted. Catholics found it easier to hide their faith as they had too in Ireland and England (Catholicism was outlawed in England until 1834) despite their contribution to the American Revolution and the promise of freedom to practice their faith enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. There were some places that eventually came under the United States government, though, where Catholicism was tolerated because the people in these territories were totally Catholic—such as New Orleans which, in 1803, became part of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase.
Though the Revolutionary War was ended through the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the English still disputed the expansionism of the United States land conquests West and the expansion of its trade with Europe East. This built tension between the English and Americans. Added to this was England’s war against Napoleon, who was receiving assistance from the Americans. The stopping of American ships by the English justified Congress to finally declare war on England in 1812. The War of 1812 in the Americas (not to be confused with the War of 1812 in Europe) lasted until December 24, 1814, when a truce was signed in Ghent (Belgium). Before the Treaty was signed the commander of the fleet that was unable to enter the Port of Baltimore (Fort Henry-Star Spangled Banner) decided to try landing in New Orleans. Not knowing a treaty had been signed while enroute, nor the American forces protecting New Orleans under Andrew Jackson, both prepared for battle. Outnumbered, and reacting to the natural call for God’s intervention in an impossible situation, General Jackson went to the Ursuline Sisters to ask them to pray for a victory (through a Hail Mary). The victory obtained by the Americans on January 8, 1815 being seemingly miraculous, Andrew Jackson did not fail to return and thank the holy Sisters who had prayed before the image of Our Lady under the Title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. The victory also had a universal effect on the Americans of the period that God was with them (Manifest Destiny)—but left out was the attribution to the intercession of Our Lady and Catholics.
The answers obtained through the intercession of Our Lady under this title of Prompt Succor began in 1810 with some Ursuline Sisters able to leave France for New Orleans. Our Lady answered the prayers of some of the Ursuline Sisters desperately seeking to escape France and join their fellow Sisters who first arrived in New Orleans in 1727. The miraculous assistance wrought through the intercession of Mary by these Sisters was already evident, for when the Sisters prayed to Our Lady during a fire in 1788, a fire that was consuming everything in its path, it stopped just before reaching their Convent.
Unfortunately, the catastrophe of Catholics hiding their faith and acting like Protestant and atheistic Americans was witnessed in 2005 with the event of Hurricane Katrina on August 23. There were none who went to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to beg her help to intervene—no! the Church was closed and everyone relied on the Federal Government to help them—for which mistake the citizens paid dearly.
When I was in New Orleans in January of 2005, I had to call and ask for the Church to be opened specially to go and pray before the miraculous image of Our lady of Prompt Succor—because no one else went there to pray anymore before the miraculous image—not what one experiences at the Shrines to Our Lady in other countries. May we never neglect to pray and ask and say our Hail Mary when the events we face seem impossible.
Prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, thou art after Jesus our only hope. O Most Holy Virgin, whose merits have raised thee high above angel choirs to the very throne of the Eternal and whose foot crushed the head of the infernal serpent, thou art strong against the enemies of our salvation. O Mother of God, thou art our Mediatrix most kind and loving. Hasten, then, to our help, and as thou didst once save thy beloved City from ravaging flames and our Country from an alien foe, do thou now have pity on our misery, and obtain for us the graces we beg of thee. Deliver us from the wiles of Satan, assist us in the many trials which beset our path in this valley of tears, and be thou to us truly Our Lady of Prompt Succor now and especially at the hour of our death. Amen.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us. (Three times.)
As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
The Catechism of the Council of Trent*
(Part II, Chapter 5)
ON THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
Penance as a sacrament; Why instituted by Our Lord.
With regard to external penance, the pastor will teach that it is that which constitutes the sacrament of penance: it consists of certain sensible things significant of that which passes interiorly in the soul; [I.] and the faithful are to be informed, in the first place, why the Redeemer was pleased to give it a place among the Sacraments. His object was, no doubt, to remove, in a great measure, all uncertainty as to the pardon of sin promised by our Lord when he said: “If the wicked do penance
for all his sins, which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die.” [Ezek. xviii. 21.] Pronouncing upon his own actions, every man has reason to question the accuracy of his own judgment, and hence, on the sincerity of interior penance the mind must be held in anxious suspense. To calm this our solicitude, the Redeemer instituted the sacrament of penance, in which we cherish a well founded hope, that our sins are forgiven us by the absolution of the priest, and the faith which we justly have in the efficacy of the Sacraments, has much influence in tranquillizing the troubled conscience and giving peace to the soul. The voice of the priest, who is legitimately constituted a minister for the remission of sins, is to be heard as that of Christ himself, who said to the lame man: “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” [Matt. ix.2.]
[II.] Moreover, as salvation is unattainable but through Christ and the merits of his passion, the institution of this sacrament was in itself accordant to the views of divine wisdom, and pregnant with blessings to the Christian. Penance is the channel through which the blood of Christ flows into the soul, washes away the stains contracted after baptism, and calls forth from us the grateful acknowledgment, that to the Saviour alone we are indebted for the blessing of a reconciliation with God.
Penance proved to be a Sacrament.
That penance is a sacrament the pastor will not find it difficult to establish: baptism is a sacrament because it washes away all, particularly original sin: penance also washes away all sins of thought or deed committed after baptism; on the same principle, therefore, penance is a sacrament. Again, and the argument is conclusive, a sacrament is the sign of a sacred thing, and what is done externally, by the priest and penitent, is a sign of what takes place, internally, in the soul: the penitent unequivocally expresses, by words and actions, that he has turned away from sin: the priest, too, by words and actions, gives us easily to understand, that the mercy of God is exercised in the remission of sin: this is, also, clearly evinced by these words of the Saviour: “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whatever sins you loose on earth, shall be loosed, also, in heaven.” [Matt. xvi. 19.] The absolution of the priest, which is expressed in words, seals, therefore, the remission of sins, which it accomplishes in the soul, and thus is penance invested with all the necessary conditions of a sacrament, and is, therefore, truly a sacrament.
The Sacrament of penance may be repeated.
That penance is not only to be numbered amongst the sacraments, but also amongst the sacraments that may be repeated, the faithful are next to be taught. To Peter, asking if sin may be forgiven seven times, our Lord replies: “I say, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” [Matt. xviii. 22.] Whenever, therefore, the ministry of the priest is to be exercised towards those who seem to diffide in the infinite goodness and mercy of God, the zealous pastor will seek to inspire them with confidence, and to reanimate their hopes of obtaining the grace of God. This he will find it easy to accomplish by expounding the preceding words of our Lord, by adducing other texts of the same import, which are to be found numerously scattered throughout the Sacred
Volume; and by adopting those reasons and arguments which are supplied by St. Chrysostome in his book “on the fallen,” and by St. Ambrose in his treatise on penance.
As, then, amongst the sacraments there is none on which the faithful should be better informed, they are to be taught, that it differs from the other sacraments in this: the matter of the other sacraments is some production of nature or art; but the acts of the penitent, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, constitute, as has been defined by the Council of Trent, the matter as it were (quasi materia) of the sacrament of penance. [Sess. 24. de pœnit. c. 3. et can 4.] They are called parts of penance, because required in the penitent, by divine institution for the integrity of the Sacrament and the full and entire remission of sin. When the holy synod says, that they are “the matter as it were,” it is not because they are not the real matter, but because they are not, like water in baptism and chrism in confirmation, matter that may be applied externally. With regard to the opinion of some, who hold that the Sins in sins themselves constitute the matter of this sacrament, if well what sense weighed, it will not be found to differ from what has been already laid down: we say that wood which is consumed by fire, is the matter of fire; and sins which are destroyed by penance, may also be called, with propriety, the matter of penance.
The form, also, because well calculated to excite the faithful, to receive with fervent devotion the grace of this sacrament, the pastor will not omit to explain. The words that compose the form are: “I ABSOLVE THEE,” as may be inferred not only from these words of the Redeemer: “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven;” [Matt. xviii. 18.] but also from the same doctrine of Jesus Christ, as recorded by the Apostles. That this is the perfect form of the sacrament of penance, the very nature of the form of a sacrament proves. The form of a sacrament signifies what the sacrament accomplishes: these words “I absolve thee” signify the accomplishment of absolution from sin through the instrumentality of this sacrament; they there fore constitute its form. Sins are, as it were, the chains by which the soul is fettered, and from the bondage of which it is “loosed” by the sacrament of penance. This form is not less true, when pronounced by the priest over him, who by means of perfect contrition, has already obtained the pardon of his sins. Perfect contrition, it is true, reconciles the sinner to God, but his justification is not to be ascribed to perfect contrition alone, independently of the desire which it includes of receiving the sacrament of penance. [Why accompanied with prayers.] Many prayers accompany the form, not because they are deemed necessary, but in order to remove every obstacle, which the unvvorthiness of the penitent may oppose to the efficacy of the sacrament. [Reflection.] Let then the sinner pour out his heart in fervent thanks to God, who has invested the ministers of his Church with such ample powers! Unlike the authority given to the priests of the Old Law, to declare the
leper cleansed from his leprosy, [Levit. xiii. 9 et xiv. 2] the power with which the priests of the New Law are invested, is not simply to declare that sins are forgiven, but, as the ministers of God, really to absolve from sin; a power which God himself, the author and source of grace and justification, exercises through their ministry.
The rites to be observed in receiving this sacrament.
The rites used in the administration of this sacrament, also demand the serious attention of the faithful. They will enable them to form a more just estimate of the blessings which it be stows, recollecting that as servants, they are reconciled to the best of masters, or rather, as children, to the tenderest of fathers. They will, also, serve to place in a clearer point of view, the duty of those who desire, and desire every one should, to evince their grateful recollection of so inestimable a favour. Humbled in spirit, the sincere penitent casts himself down at the feet of the priest, to testify, by this his humble demeanour, that he acknowledges the necessity of eradicating pride, the root of all those enormities which he now deplores. In the minister of God, who sits in the tribunal of penance as his legitimate judge, he venerates the power and person of our Lord Jesus Christ; for in the administration of this, as in that of the other sacraments, the priest represents the character and discharges the functions of Jesus Christ. Acknowledging himself deserving of the severest chastisements, and imploring the pardon of his guilt, the penitent next proceeds to the confession of his sins. To the antiquity of all these rites S. Denis bears the most authentic testimony. [In epist ad Demoph.]
To the faithful, however, nothing will be found more advantageous, nothing better calculated to animate them to frequent the sacrament of penance with alacrity, than the frequent exposition of the inestimable advantages which it confers. They will then see, that of penance it may be truly said: that “its root is bitter, but its fruit sweet.” [I.] The great efficacy of penance is, therefore, that it restores us to the favour of God, and unites us to him in the closest bonds of friendship. [Conc. Trid sess. 14. can. 3, &c. 1. de pœnitent.] [II.] From this reconciliation with God, the devout soul, who approaches the sacrament with deep sentiments of piety and religion, sometimes experiences the greatest tranquillity and peace of conscience, [III.] a tranquillity and peace accompanied with the sweetest spiritual joy. [IV.] There is no sin, however grievous, no crime however enormous or however frequently repeated, which penance does not remit: “If,” says the Almighty, by the mouth of his prophet, “the wicked do penance for all his sins, which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment and justice, living he shall live and shall not die; I will not remember all his iniquities which he hath done.” [Ezek. xviii. 21, 22.] “If,” says St. John, “we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins;” [I John i. 9.] and a little after he adds: “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just; and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” [John ii. 1, 2.] [Note.] If, therefore, we read in the pages of inspiration, of some who earnestly implored the mercy of God, but implored it in vain, it is because they did not repent sincerely and from their hearts. [2 Mach. ix. 13.] When we also meet in the Sacred Scriptures and in the writings of the Fathers, passages which seem to say, that some sins are irremissible, we are to understand such passages to mean, that it is very difficult to obtain the pardon of them. A disease may be said to be incurable, when the patient loathes the medicine that would accomplish his cure; and, in the same sense, some sins may be said to be irremissible, when the sinner rejects the grace of God, the proper medicine of salvation. To this effect St. Augustine says: “When, after having arrived at a knowledge of God, through the grace of Jesus Christ, any one opposes the fellowship of the faith, and maliciously resists the grace of Jesus Christ, so great is the enormity of his crime, that, although his guilty conscience obliges him to acknowledge and declare his guilt, he cannot submit to the humiliation of imploring pardon.” [Lib. 1. de sermon. Domini in monte, c. 42. et 44. et retract, lib. c. 8, 19. Aug. serm. 1. de verbis Domini, et epist. 50. ad Bonif.]
(To be continued)
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
JOHN ii. 1-11
At that time: there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come. His mother said to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. Jesus saith to them: Fill the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, and saith to him: every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
II. ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, BISHOP AND DOCTOR
The First Miracle
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.
Unremitting and fierce is the devil in his attacks on us, and on all sides he lies in wait against our salvation. We must therefore be very vigilant, and cut off from every side his approach to us. For if he find but the least opening, he will soon make for himself a broad way, and then gradually enter in with all his forces. If we have any real care for our salvation, let him not come near us, even in small matters, so that we may be free to meet him more vigorously in greater things. For it would be very grievous foolishness indeed, that while he employs such zeal to destroy our soul, we show no equal anxiety for its salvation.
Not without reason do I say this to you, because I fear lest that wolf even now, unseen by us, may be standing in the midst of this sacred enclosure, and because of their own folly, and his guile, may have seized on one of the flock from among those now listening to me. If we could see the wounds he inflicts, or if his blows were felt by the body, it would not be difficult to guard against his plotting. But because the soul is invisible, and the wounds it receives are invisible, we have need of the greatest watchfulness, so that every man may prove himself. For: what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? (I Cor. ii. II).
This exhortation is offered to you all, and to all a common remedy is offered. But it is for every man to take the remedies that are required for his own infirmity. I know not who is ill of soul, or who is well, and for this reason I speak of every illness, so that from what I preach each one may find a remedy for himself. Sometimes in my discourse I attack avarice, now sensuality, now the excessive delights of the table. Again I preach almsgiving, and I exhort you to give, and so in turn each of the other virtues. For I fear lest in seeking to heal you of one sickness, unknowing, I offer you a remedy for another, which you have not.
If this congregation were but one person I would not need to vary my sermons. But because amongst so many people it is likely that there are very many different maladies of soul, so it is not without reason that I vary my discourses. And they being spread so as to apply to all, each will hear for himself the remedy he needs. For this same reason Scripture also varies, and speaks of a hundred themes, because it speaks to the nature that all men have in common. In such a multitude it is inevitable that every kind of infirmity will be found, though they will not all be found singly in each person. So cleansing ourselves from all such things, let us listen with eager hearts to the divine words of the Gospel of today.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.
I have said earlier that there are some who say that this was not the beginning of miracles. Why, they argue, was this beginning linked with Cana of Galilee? For this beginning, he says, He did in Cana of Galilee. But upon this point I offer no opinion. But this I affirm, that after His baptism Christ began to perform miracles, and before that He wrought none; but whether this or another was the first performed after the baptism it is not necessary to discuss.
And he manifested his glory. In what manner? For not many beheld what He had done, only the waiters, the chief steward, and the bridegroom. How then did He manifest His glory? In what way? He manifested it so far as His own action was concerned; and if others who were present did not then hear of it, they would soon hear of it: for it is spoken of even to this day, and it is not forgotten.
That all did not know it on that day is evident from what follows; for after He had written, that He manifested his glory, the Evangelist goes on: And his disciples believed in him: they who already regarded Him with awe. Do you not see that signs and wonders were necessary at this time, when honest and impartial men were present who would give close attention to what was being done? For these men would be more readily disposed to believe, as well as accurately to observe, what was done.
And how could He have become known to all without miracles? Because His doctrine and the prophecies sufficed abundantly to inspire wonder in the minds of those who heard Him, so that they who were well disposed would have paid attention to what was done. It was because of this that in many other places the Evangelists tell us He would not work a miracle, because of the antagonism of the men living there (Mt. xiii. 58; xii. 38).
Again, no one could help believing what is made known by manifest signs; although they might disbelieve what was revealed to them by words alone. Therefore, at first, the Lord allowed the meaning of His words to be veiled. But after the prophecies had been fulfilled He gave the disciples an understanding of His words, and likewise such grace of the Spirit that they took in the whole of His truth: He will, He says, teach you all things and bring all things to your mind. For they who in one night forgot Him, flying from Him, and denying even that they knew Him, would scarcely have remembered all that He had said over a long period of time unless they had received special assistance from the Holy Spirit.
But if they were to learn from the Holy Spirit, you will say, what need was there to be in the company of Christ, since they would not understand what Christ said? But the Holy Spirit did not teach them, but only recalled to their minds what Christ had said. And it is no small glory to Christ that the memory of His words was thus to be recalled to them. In the beginning it was only from the benign will of God that the grace of the Holy Spirit was so copious and great a gift; then later it was due to their own virtue that they retained so great a gift. For they lived lives of shining virtue, and manifested great wisdom, and suffered great toils: they set little value on this present life, and regarded lightly the things of this world, rising above them, like eagles soaring on swift wings in the sky, and by their works they obtained great illumination of the Holy Spirit, and by these same good works reached to heaven itself.
Let us imitate them, and not put out our own lights, but keep them bright with oil: for so is the splendour of this light kept bright. Let us gather oil for our vessels while yet we live, for leaving this life we can no longer buy it, nor procure it elsewhere, save at the hands of the poor. Let us while we are here gather it abundantly, if we wish to enter in with the bridegroom; if we do not we must remain outside the Bridegroom’s chamber. For I tell you that though we have done a thousand other good works, it is impossible to enter there without almsdeeds. Let us then pour our charity in abundance, that we may receive those rewards of which no tongue can speak: to which may we all attain through the mercy and grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
III. ST GAUDENTIUS, BISHOP OF BRESCIA
Since we have completed our series of discourses given to Your Charity on the Book of Exodus, where the law of the celebration of the Pasch is described, let us now with God’s help speak of that portion of the Gospel which has just been read to you, that we may show from the testimony of this event that the same God is the author of both the Old and the New Testament.
We have heard that Jesus the Saviour of men being invited went to a wedding feast, and that there He changed water into the nature and taste of wine. This narration has plainly the character of truthfulness; for He Who blessed the nuptials at Cana is the same Who in the beginning instituted them: and the creature that He made He can by that same power change to what He wills. As to the power of the Omnipotent God, no doubt can enter the mind of anyone who believes; yet one might wonder, and not without reason, why He should go to a wedding feast, that is, to a house of rejoicing? For almost every line of the Gospels tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ while He dwelt among men brought help to all who were in trouble, but especially to the afflicted, while He reproached the blaspheming Jews, and accused the Scribes and Pharisees of deceit and treachery and greed, and reproached the unbelieving cities; tormented the evil spirits that He might succour the captive spirit, and having driven out the demons He restored to their right minds those who had been obsessed; that He healed the lepers who implored Him; restored with a word the paralysed; that He came walking upon the water in the midst of the tempest to succour those in fear, calming them; that He restored sight to eyes that were blinded or poured the new light into the eyes of those born blind; that He stood as a physician amid those who mourned, and took away grief and sorrow at the prayer of different parents, restoring their dear ones to health, or their dead to life.
To these ends the Son of God, God from the beginning, in the end of ages took a beginning of Flesh from the Virgin, and deigned to live among men, that He might succour a perishing world; since as He said those need the physician who are ill, not those that are healthy. And so this Physician was wont rather to enter the house of grief, than that of rejoicing. For He was the dear Friend of those tormented by the pain of wounds, or afflicted with some sickness, or given over to some wasting away of the flesh; for those who are well do not seek out the Physician.
What then is the meaning of this lesson of the Gospel, which has today been read to you, that the Lord being invited went to a marriage feast, if not that there one thing was wanting, and the lips of the thirsty guests thirsted for the wine that cheers the heart of man? But before we make known to you the knowledge of mystical things, let us recall first the simple history of the event.
Christ did not tum away from the celebration of nuptials, so that He might give testimony that He was the same God Who in the beginning formed man and woman from the slime of the earth, and bestowed on them their conjugal authority, saying: increase and multiply and fill the earth. This displeases the Manichaeans, whose real displeasure however arises, not against marriage, but against the law which unites, not many women to one man, nor one woman to many men, but one woman to one man. For these same execrable Manichaeans are unwilling to live according to the doctrine of the Apostle Paul, that every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband (I Cor. vii. 2). Christ therefore blessed what He had instituted from the beginning, lawful espousals, when, being invited, He refused not to come to the wedding. And yet He taught that virginity was the better part, when He deigned through it to be born. God chose as His abode a holy Virgin, where, having entered in, He preserved the undimmed glory of her modesty, as without loss of integrity to His mother He was born, and without corruption conceived. And so that vessel of election, Paul, invited others to that good after which he himself followed, saying to the unwed: It is good for them if they so continue even as I (I Cor. vii. 8). He encourages them to this by the example of his own happiness; not compelling them by the power of his authority.
Speaking of virtue, he goes on: I have no commandment of the Lord, but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithfuI. I think that it is good for a man to be so. And after a long admonition, in which he extols the blessedness of chastity above the married state, he concludes with the following words: therefore, both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well: and he that giveth her not, doth better. This I believe was not said to parents of virgins by the Blessed Apostle: since it is evident that they cannot be governed by the choice of another’s will: but to each one, both man and woman, the choice is set before them, that he conserve the integrity of his own virgin, that is, his own flesh, born virginal, choosing the better, and the free part; or, that understanding the marriage state, let him enter it, if he is unable to be continent.
As to parents, or any relatives whatsoever of virgins, be they boys or girls, let them not delude themselves as to the above-mentioned power of choice; because we have set out that those concerned cannot be over-ruled by the desires of others. They cannot impose perpetual continence on those subject to them, because be it known to all that this is a matter of individual choice. They may guide their minds in this direction, and this they ought to do, that they may be eager to dedicate themselves to God, rather than to the world, so that from among their own kindred they may offer up, in the order of the priesthood, servants who will be worthy to serve the Divine Altar, or nurture maidens dedicated to chastity in the ranks of the consecrated women, so that providing the church of God with such helpers, they may themselves attain to blessedness in return; for it is written; Blessed is he that has seed in Sion, and kindred in Jerusalem (Is. xxxi. 9 (Sept.)).
St. Marcellus, Pope and Martyr
1. St. Marcellus was elected to the papacy in 307, after a four-year vacancy in the Chair of Peter occasioned by the persecution of Diocletian and discord in the Roman Church. He was probably banished, in 309, by Emperor Maxentius because of his stand on the question of readmitting those who had denied their faith under persecution. It seems that he opposed this leniency and died in exile. According to other reports, however, Marcellus was given charge of the drivers of public conveyances, in an attempt by the Emperor to disgrace and discredit him before his flock. As a result of ill-treatment and sickness, he died in 309. Whatever his history, the holy Pope was buried in the catacombs of St. Callistus and has always been venerated as a martyr.
2. “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church” (Gospel). Humiliations, sufferings, sacrifices, deprivations, and anxieties brought Marcellus quickly to maturity as a “pure oblation” that was accepted by God and became a source of blessings to the Church. Only a few years after his death, Emperor Constantine gave the Church the freedom she had so long lacked but always ardently desired. She at once came out of the catacombs and began her triumphant march through the centuries. That is God’s way. Every great man or movement has to undergo humiliation and suffering as a participation in the Passion of Christ. A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die; only then can it yield much fruit (cf John 12:25).
“Simon Peter, if thou dost love me feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (Introit; John 21: 16). It was not until Peter had boldly asserted, “Thou knowest well that 1 love Thee,” that Christ entrusted to him and his successors the chief responsibility for the care of His flock. And this love had to be identical with that of the divine Master Himself: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for His sheep” (John 10: 11). Marcellus, too, gave his life for his flock, for Christ, just as St. Peter had done. His was a long-drawn martyrdom, full of sacrifices; but he remained strong, a Peter, a rock, against which the powers of hell could not prevail. We thank St. Marcellus for his fidelity and his love for Christ and His Church.
3. “If thou lovest Me.” It is such a love for Christ and for all who belong to Him that God demands of those who are called to be pastors or superiors. In them He expects to find the same ardent conviction that St. Peter expressed: “Lord, Thou knowest well that 1 love Thee.” He expects such a mighty love that, like other Good Shepherds, they would be willing to give their life for the souls entrusted to them.
“Simon Peter, lovest thou Me?” “Feed my sheep.” Our Lord once said to St. Catherine of Siena: “If a person loves Me, he also loves his neighbor; otherwise, his love is not genuine. For love of Me and love for neighbor are one thing. The more a person loves Me, the more will he love his neighbor, too.”
In today’s Mass we offer up to the Father, along with the chief Victim of the Sacrifice, Christ, all that St. Marcellus suffered during his long martyrdom for love of God and the Church. In the secret prayer, we beg God to enlighten the Church, in view of the gifts we have offered, so that, everywhere, the flock of Christ may advance, rich in good works, and thus bring joy to the heart of the Good Shepherd. The shepherds—The Holy Father in Rome, our bishops, our priests—expect us to make spiritual progress, and we will surely do so if we support them consistently by our fidelity, our obedience, our prayers, and our sufferings.
Collect. Graciously hear and heed the prayers of Thy people, Lord, so that we may be aided by the merits of Thy martyr and pontiff blessed Marcellus, whose sufferings are the occasion of our joy. Amen.
LETTERS TO JACK
WRITTEN BY A PRIEST TO HIS NEPHEW
RIGHT REV. FRANCIS C. KELLEY, D.D., LL.D.
How good God is to let us regret; for by regrets we keep humble and loving; by regrets we try to do the new tasks better.
My dear Jack:
I find it inexpressibly hard to write this last letter and I do not know the reason why. Some-how, the others came easy enough and I never once lost my interest in them or forgot that they were the sweetest kind of labor—a labor of love. While writing them I was always seeing a thousand Jacks, young, aspiring, full of life, vigor and happy curiosity about the future that is fast opening to their vision. It seemed so well worth while to give these thousands all the time I dared snatch from a multitude of duties, that I was full of regret because I could not give them also the thought that they deserved. It was a droll experience to see my own head on these thousands of shoulders, my own head as it was at twenty. I tried to speak to them as I would have liked someone to have spoken to me when I needed advice and counsel. Twenty? Ah me, I have more than doubled that today, my forty-sixth birthday; and I find myself sad enough to think of the things I might have done better, the missed opportunities. I sadly feel the hopeless urging to try the tasks of twenty all over again.
How good God is to let us regret: for by regrets we keep humble and loving; by regrets we try to do the new tasks better. It is only those who have made a complete failure of life who are without regrets, since only the complete failures are fools enough to think that they did all things well. I dare to believe that, next best to hope for the future, is regret for the past. Without regrets would there ever have been an Augustine? Is it wrong to think that Peter’s impetuous mistakes were allowed by his Master in order to form a part of preparation for his long and fruitful apostleship? I always find a solace, as well as pain, in my regrets; a strange strength in thinking how I might have avoided them; withal, a strong desire (which I delight to think is holy) to warn and counsel others, that their regrets may be fewer than my own—but never a wish that they should live to forty and be entirely without regrets. I suppose that it is this mixed feeling that makes it hard for me to write the last letter. I know it is the last and should be the last, but it will always seem a premature ending to me who, at more than forty, love the thousands of Jacks at twenty.
Youth is the age of visions, for it is in youth that we stand on the mountain top and look out over the plain of our future journey—and youth never looks behind. Age loves retrospection; and, quite naturally, youth abhors it. Success depends on vision more than we know. The temptation of youth is to limit that vision to the smiling valley at his feet, which is the cause of most of youth’s failures. Youth sees only the pleasures of the immediate future. He takes no account of the other valleys that lie behind the high and rocky hills and stretch so far, far away. Youth sees nothing of the distance when song comes up from the valley. Its birds are calling and its zephyrs blow sweet on his face, but Youth looks out not at all, but runs to his joy, and—to his regrets. Had he only lifted his eyes to the hills; had he only counted the cost of the climbing; had he only anticipated the deserts, but, above all, had he only seen the gray line on the horizon and marked the valley of death, with the hopeful blue of the sky above it, he would have understood. Then for him the smiling valley would have been what God intended it should be—a place of preparation for the journey, where the trees grow fruit that, once gathered, lasts until the end; where the streams offer living waters that take out of the desert half its terrors.
Oh, thousands of Jacks, men in the making, children of that loving Father who calls from the blue sky above the gray desert line, lift up your eyes and hearts above the valley and see. At twenty Life spreads out before you. Take an account of it, and know that it is not play but work, and yet not work but play; for work well done is pleasure, and pleasure well ordered is part of life’s labor. Vision you need at twenty—the wide vision, the long vision, the sweeping vision, the vision splendid.
(To be continued.)
Father Krier will be in Eureka, Nevada (Saint Joseph, Patron of Families) on January 18.
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