Catholic Tradition Newsletter D9, Penance, Quinquagesima Sunday, Saint Gabriel Possenti, Family

Saint of the Day – 27 February – St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows CP  (1838-1862) – AnaStpaul

Vol 15 Issue 9 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
February 26, 2022 ~ Our Lady on Saturday

1.         Sacrament of Penance
2.         Quinquagesima Sunday
3.         Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
4.         Family and Marriage
5.         Articles and notices
Dear Reader:

The situation in the Ukraine is the same as that of what was happening in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. It is an artificial state thrown together by major political powers for a means to an end without the consideration of the people or their faith. Western Ukraine has long been struggling with its independence from Russia—though it has been dependent on Russian commercial enterprises in the trans-European trade since its creation in 1919-1921; and its independence in 1991 has not benefitted the economic development of the people. Eastern Ukraine has long associated itself with Russia; and Western Ukraine has been tossed between Poland, Lithuania and Russia as the Kyiv Rus themselves have also tried to engulf Poland and the Baltic States. Due to their inability to stop the Mohammedan hordes in centuries previous they surrendered their independence, needing their neighbors to defend them. Prior to World War I, then, with the Prussian and Russian Empires, none of these countries existed. They were partially re-established after the two World Wars with borders artificially set. The ongoing struggles within this region were further inflamed through the centuries by the use of religion, particularly by the Greeks and Russians, forcing the Latins to become Greek Catholics or Russian Orthodox. The Liturgy of the Greeks had been adopted by many of the people in the region to separate themselves from the Germans. But when the Greek Catholics sought unity with the Chair of Saint Peter after the Greek Schism, Russia would claim its patriarch as head of the Church and force the people to reject Rome and submit to the Russian Orthodox Church—sending its priests and missionaries and closing Latin Rite Churches and Uniate Churches. [We Latins celebrate many Saints who gave their lives for these people, Saint Josaphat being one.] Now, with the loss of faith in the Conciliar Church and Ecumenism there is no faith uniting these people to the West, only those to the East. The secularism that has permeated western Ukraine leads those in the western region only to desire the materialism of the West. Russia wants to reclaim its hold over these Slavic Countries and does so well when the faith of these peoples, such as in Eastern Ukraine, are Russian Orthodox. Without the faith, the West has no hold on these people, only an invitation to have them join the West as a secular materialistic democracy and wanting to keep up hostilities toward Russia in a sense of patriotism toward democratic godless societies. I say this, because the true faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church are more religiously minded who want to be part of Russia as opposed to the secular materialistic minded who now rule this country without improving it; and the question is whether it should be allowed to divide according as the peoples in their regions wish or will the West and East continue to have these people fight their battles for control of the region. For myself, I only pray that Our Lord and Our Lady will intervene for peace and a return to the one true Catholic faith which alone has united and can unite different peoples so they may live lives pleasing to God and obtain salvation.

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



The Catechism of the Council of Trent

(Part II, Chapter 5)


The punishment due to sin, why not remitted by penance as by baptism.

Why in the sacrament of penance, as in that of baptism, the punishment due to sin is not entirely remitted, is admirably explained in these words of the Council of Trent: “Divine justice seems to require, that they who through ignorance sinned before baptism, should recover the friendship of God in a different manner from those, who, freed from the thraldom of sin and the slavery of the devil, and having received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, dread not knowingly to violate the temple of God and grieve the Holy Spirit. It also consists with the divine mercy not to remit our sins without satisfaction, lest, taking occasion hence, and imagining our sins less grievous than they are, injurious, as it were, and contumelious to the Holy Ghost, we fall into greater enormities, treasuring up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath. [Advantages of canonical penance.] These satisfactory penances have, no doubt, [I.] great influence in restraining from sin, in bridling, as it were, the passions, and rendering the sinner more vigilant and cautious for the future.” [Sess. 14. de pœnit. cap. 8.] [II.] Another advantage resulting from them is, that they serve as public testimonies of our sorrow for sin, and atone to the Church who is grievously insulted by the crimes of her children: “God,” says St. Augustine, “despises not a contrite and humble heart, but, as heartfelt grief is generally concealed from others, and is not communicated by words or other signs, wisely, therefore, are penitential times appointed by those who preside over the Church, in order to atone to the Church, in which sins are forgiven.” [III.] Besides, the example presented by our penitential practices, serves as a lesson to others, how to regulate their lives, and practise piety: seeing the punishments inflicted on sin, they must feel the necessity of using the greatest circumspection through life, and of correcting their former evil habits. [Wisely instituted by the Church.] The Church, therefore, with great wisdom ordained, that those who by their scandalous disorders may have given public disedification, should atone for them by public penance, that others may be thus deterred from their commission. This has sometimes been observed even with regard to secret sins, when marked by peculiar malignity. But with regard to public sinners, they, as we have already said, were never absolved until they had performed public penance. Meanwhile, the pastor poured out his prayers to God for their salvation, and ceased not to exhort them to do the same. This salutary practice gave active employment to the zeal and solicitude of St. Ambrose; many, who came to the tribunal of penance hardened in sin, were by his tears softened into true contrition. [Paulinus et ejus vita.] But in process of time the severity of ancient discipline was so relaxed, and charity waxed so cold, that in our days many seem to think inward sorrow of soul and grief of heart unnecessary, and deem the semblance of sorrow sufficient.

By penance we are made like unto Christ.

Again, by undergoing these penances we are made like unto the image of Jesus Christ our head, inasmuch as he himself suffered and was tempted, [Heb. ii. 17.] and, as St. Bernard observes, “nothing can appear so unseemly as a delicate member under a head crowned with thorns.” [Serm. 5. de omn. sanct.]To use the words of the Apostle, “we are joint-heirs with Christ, yet so if we suffer with him;” [Rom. viii. 17.] and again: “If we be dead with him, we shall live also with him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” [Tim. ii. 11, 12.]

Two effects produced in the soul by sin, removed by penance.

St. Bernard also observes, that sin produces two effects in the soul, the one, the stain which it imparts, the other, the wound which it inflicts; that the turpitude of sin is removed through the mercy of God, whilst to heal the wound inflicted, the medicinal care applied by penance is most necessary; for as after a wound has been healed, some scars remain which demand attention, so with regard to the soul, after the guilt of sin is forgiven, some of its effects remain, from which the soul requires to be cleansed. St. Chrysostome also fully confirms the same doctrine, when he says: “Not enough that the arrow has been extracted from the body, the wound which it inflicted must also be healed: so with regard to the soul, not enough that sin has been pardoned, the wound which it has left, must also be healed by penance.” [Serm. 1. in cœna Domini. Hom. 80. ad Pop. Antioch.] St. Augustine, also, frequently teaches that penance exhibits at once the mercy and the justice of God, his mercy by which he pardons sin, and the eternal punishment due to sin, his justice by which he exacts temporary punishment from the sinner. [In Ps. 1. ad hæc verba, ECCE ENIM VENIT.]

Penance disarms the Divine vengeance.

Finally, the punishment which the sinner endures, disarms the vengeance of God, and prevents the punishments decreed against us, according to these words of the Apostle: “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; but whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.” [1 Cor. xi. 31, 32.] These matters, if explained to the faithful, must have considerable influence in exciting them to penance.

The efficacy of penance arises entirely from the passion of Christ.

Of the great efficacy of penance we may form some idea, if we reflect that it arises entirely from the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ: it is his passion that imparts to our good actions the two-fold quality of meriting the rewards of eternal life, so that a cup of cold water given in his name shall not be without its reward, [Matt x. 42.] and, also, of satisfying for our sins. Nor does this derogate from the most perfect and superabundant satisfaction of Christ, but, on the contrary, renders it still more conspicuous and illustrious; the grace of Jesus Christ appears to abound more, inasmuch as it communicates to us not only what he alone merited, but also what, as head, he merited and paid in his members, that is, in holy and just men. This it is that imparts such weight and dignity to the good actions of the pious Christian; for our Lord Jesus Christ continually infuses his grace into the devout soul united to him by charity, as the head to the members, or as the vine through the branches, and this grace always precedes, accompanies, and follows our good works: without it we can have no merit, nor can we at all satisfy God. Hence it is that nothing seems wanting to the just: by their works done by the power of God, they fulfil the divine law, as far as is compatible with our present condition, and can merit eternal life, to the fruition of which they shall be admitted, if they depart this life adorned with divine grace: “He,” says the Redeemer, “that shall drink of the water that I will give him, shall not thirst for ever; but the water that I will give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into life everlasting.” [John iv. 14.]

Two things particularly necessary in satisfaction.

In satisfaction two things are particularly required; the one, that he who satisfies be in a state of grace, the friend of God: works done without faith and charity cannot be acceptable to God: the other, that the works performed be such as are of their own nature painful or laborious. They are a compensation for past sins, and, to use the words of St. Cyprian, “the redeemers, as it were, of sins,” [Lib. 1. Epist. 3, post. med.] and must, therefore, be such as we have described. [Note] It does not, however, always follow that they are painful or laborious to those who undergo them: the influence of habit or the intensity of divine love frequently renders the soul insensible to things the most difficult to be endured. Such works, however, do not, therefore, cease to be satisfactory: it is the privilege of the children of God to be so inflamed with his love, that whilst undergoing the most cruel tortures for his sake, they are either entirely insensible to them, or at least bear them not only with fortitude but with the greatest joy.

Every sort of satisfaction included under three heads.

The pastor will teach that every species of satisfaction is included under these three heads, prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds, which correspond with these three sorts of goods, those of the soul, of the body, and what are called external goods, all of which are the gifts of God. Than these three sorts of satisfaction, nothing can be more effectual in eradicating sin from the soul. Whatever is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the “lust of the eyes, or pride of life,” [1 John ii.16.] and fasting, alms-deeds, and prayer are, it is obvious, most judiciously employed as antidotes to neutralize the operation of these three causes of spiritual disease; to the first is opposed fasting; to the second, almsdeeds; to the third, prayer. If, moreover, we consider those whom our sins injure, we shall easily perceive why all satisfaction is referred principally to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves; God we appease by prayer, our neighbour we satisfy by alms, and ourselves we chastise by fasting.

Use and advantage of afflictions.

But, as this life is checkered by many and various afflictions, the faithful are to be particularly reminded, that afflictions coming from the hand of God, if borne with patience, are an abundant source of satisfaction and of merit; but, if borne with reluctant impatience, far from being the means of atoning for past sins, they are rather the instruments of the divine wrath, taking just vengeance on the sinner.

One can satisfy for another.

But in this the mercy and goodness of God shine conspicuous, and demand our grateful acknowledgments, that he has granted to our frailty the privilege that one may satisfy for another. [Note.] This, however, is a privilege which is confined to the satisfactory part of penance alone, and extends not to contrition and confession: no man can be contrite or confess for another; whilst those who are gifted with divine grace may pay through others what is due to the divine justice, and thus we may be said in some measure to bear each other’s burdens. [Gal. vi. 2.] This is a doctrine on which the faithful cannot for a moment entertain a doubt, professing, as we do, in the Apostle s Creed, our belief in the ” Communion of Saints.” Regenerated, as we all are, to Christ in the same cleansing waters of baptism, partakers of the same sacraments, and, above all, of the same heavenly food, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are all, it is manifest, members of the same mystical body. [Illustration.] As then the foot does not perform its functions solely for itself, but also for sake of the other members, and as the other members perform their respective functions, not only for their own, but also for the common good; so works of satisfaction are common to all the members of the Church. [Note.] This, however, is not universally true in reference to all the advantages to be derived from works of satisfaction: of these works some are also medicinal, and are so many specific remedies prescribed to the penitent, to heal the depraved affections of the heart; a fruit which, it is evident, they alone can derive from them, who satisfy for themselves. Of these particulars touching the three parts of penance, contrition, confession, and satisfaction, it is the duty of the pastor to give an ample and clear exposition.

(To be continued)


The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers

M. F. Toal


LUKE xviii. 31-43

At that time, Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said to them: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things shall be accomplished, which were written by the prophets, concerning the Son of man. For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon: and after they have scourged him, they will put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.

And they understood none of these things, and this word was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.

Now it came to pass, when he drew nigh to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the way side, begging. And when he heard the multitude passing by, he asked what this meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying: Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. And they that went before, rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out much more: Son of David, have mercy on me.

And Jesus standing, commanded him to be brought unto him. And when he was come near, he asked him, saying: What wilt thou that I do to thee? But he said: Lord, that I may see. And Jesus said to him: Receive thy sight: thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he saw, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.


On the Gospel

Many and various are the teachings of the Scriptures, one however is the grace that shines in all of them: the source of their inspiration: the Holy Spirit. And whatsoever it be the Law declares, whatsoever the prophets foretold, whatsoever the Apostles teach, and the Gospel of justice lays down, all flow from the Holy Spirit as from one single breast, one abundant fountain. Neither is it possible to utter any noble thought, or to conceive anything in wisdom, or to do what is worthy of men’s admiration, unless what is said and what is done is confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

However much anyone may glory in human wisdom, and abound in it, and possess a mind that is equipped and fortified with human reasonings, but which turns away from the word of God, rejecting it, he is as nothing, and shall be accounted as nothing. It is because of this the Prophet says: They have cast away the word of the Lord, and there is no wisdom in them (Jer. viii. 9). But for us the Scriptures of righteousness are the flower of truth: many indeed are the flowers, but one the field that grows them: many the lamps of doctrine, but One is the True Light: many the stars, but one the sky that brings them forth: many the fingers, but one the hand that records the works of the fingers: many the strings, but one the harp of the Spirit: many the teachings, but one the fountain of righeousness.

To me it is a source of wonder to reflect, by what inspiration did this blind man, who had not read the Law, nor scanned the Prophets, neither had he yet read the Gospels nor had he been confirmed by the Apostles, should so address the Saviour of mankind, and say to Him: Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me. Where have you learned so to address Him? You have not read books, since you are without the use of your eyes; you have not given your years to study since you must sustain life by begging your bread from door to door; where then have you learned that this is the Light of the world, Whom, being without sight you have never seen either in heaven or on earth? Truly in this there was fulfilled what was said by the prophet David: The Lord enlighteneth the blind (Ps. cxlv. 8).

There was a multitude of people round about the person of Jesus: the blind man could not see the Light of Truth, but in his soul he could feel His Presence, and with the desire of his heart he laid hold of what his eye could not see. What is the meaning of all these people, he asks? They tell him that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. O wondrous event! He is told one thing, and cries out another. He hears them saying it is Jesus of Nazareth, but he cries out, not Jesus of Nazareth, but Jesus Son of David. They who could see made answer from what was known by common report, but the blind man makes known what he had learned from Truth Itself; for he cries out: Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me.

It is here as when many have assembled at the grave of one about to be committed to the earth, and looking upon the body of the dead, and seeing him wept over by his family, all weep together; some because they grieve for the same reason as the bereaved family; others because they are thinking again of their own griefs. Often a woman will weep and mourn, not for the one now being made ready for the grave, for he is a stranger to her, but for her own departed husband: so another’s loss becomes a reminder of her own sorrow. So any one among you Brethren, when he has heard this account from the words of the Gospel will apply it to himself, and for the healing of his own afflictions let him cry out: Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me.

Let every heart cry out aloud from its own miseries: this one because he is blind in his heart: this other because he is deaf in his soul: this other because his reason has become blinded; another because he has lost the power of true judgement. For the infirmities that Christ healed in the bodies of men have their counterpart in the soul, and need remedies that are divine. Blind is the soul that needs to have the use of its eyes restored to it: blind is the soul that cannot discern the wonders of the Law: blind is the soul that cannot see that there is a world to come: blind is the soul that beholds the Body of Christ, but cannot discern His divinity. Isaias bears witness that the soul is blind which ignores the things of God: Who is blind but the servant of the Lord? Thou that seest many things, wilt thou not observe them? Thou hast ears open, wilt thou not hear? And who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, but he to whom I have sent messengers? (Is. xlii. 19, 20).

And the Saviour, desiring to point out their blindness of mind, reproached the Pharisees for obscuring the truth; saying of them: Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit (Mt. xv. 14). The soul is deaf which does not listen to the word of God, which despises the teaching of the Lord: deaf, not by nature, but deaf in the purposes of the mind: for which reason the Saviour said: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Mt. xi. 15). It was not that some of those who were present had not ears: for how should they know of His teaching if they had not organs of hearing? He here says that the ear that is seen was given for hearing: but this hearing is not of use to understand the meaning of the divine law. The external sense avails nothing, if the inner understanding and the heart have become deaf.

And leprous is the soul, not of him whose body is discoloured and corrupt, but of him whose soul is smothered in darkness: for what is leprosy of the body but a diversity of colour? What is leprosy of the soul? A twofold mind. Woe to them that are of a double heart (Ecclus. ii. 14), as when one now believes, and now is unbelieving; now disposed to mercy, now towards inhumanity. The soul is leprous, not in being blemished and discoloured, but in being as it were two-faced. As leprosy sunders the body, so evil purposes divide the mind. Let every man therefore cry out for the healing of his wounds, and call upon the Physician of souls, and of bodies as the blind man called out: Jesus Son of David have mercy on me.

And they that went before, rebuked him. But his courage in speaking was not stayed by their rebuke. Faith renews in man the strength to withstand all things, to triumph over all. Men shouted at him to be silent, but the man of faith abated nothing of his eagerness, but sought the Lord, as one who well knows that honest presumption may serve the cause of righteousness. For if there be many who thrust themselves forward for the sake of gain, should a man not put bashfulness aside, when it is a question of his soul’s salvation?

Jesus commanded him to be brought unto him. He [the blind man] had brought it about that Jesus stood. The voice of the man who cried out in faith had caused Jesus to stand still. He [Jesus] orders him to be brought before Him, and He asked him, saying: What wilt thou that I do to thee? He does not ask idly: for He could have healed him as he sat by the way side. But because the Jews might say, as they said of the man born blind: it is not this man but one like to him (Jn. ix. 8). He therefore calls the blind man into their midst, that He first might make evident to them the defect in his nature, and then show the power of His grace.

What wilt thou that I do to thee? He questions the man, and in this way instructs those about Him. But he said: Lord, that I may see. Observe what testimony He requires of this man, to whom He gave health, so as to thwart the falsehoods of the evil-minded. He thereupon says to him: go, Thy faith hath made thee whole. See how, as we said in this regard yesterday, His works give testimony of Him: and these are not venal favours; they are sold for faith alone. Jesus bestows His favours, not for gold, but sells them for faith. Unless you pay the coin of faith, you shall not receive His favour.



St. Gabriel of the Sorrowing Virgin, Confessor

1. St. Gabriel is a saint of our own century. By taking seriously his Christian and religious vocation, he attained to the heights of sanctity in six years. Just forty-six years after his death (1908), Pope St. Pius X declared him blessed, and only twelve years later, Pope Benedict XV canonized him. Francis Possenti was born at Assisi, the eleventh of thirteen children, His father was a religious man, who held various high offices at Assisi and Spoleto, under Popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX.

As a young man, Francis delighted in lively parties and all kinds of worldly amusements, in fact, his fellow students dubbed him the “Ballet Dancer.” Twice sickness brought him to the brink of the grave, and both times he promised to break with the world but failed to do so. It was the eyes of a Madonna in Spoleto that finally converted him. He then went to the Passionist monastery of Morrovale and was given the habit and the name Gabriel of the Sorrowing Virgin, on September 21, 1856. Not yet a priest, he died of tuberculosis on February 27, 1862. He was only twenty-four, and had been a Passionist only six years.

2. “God looked upon him with an eye of favor, lifted him up from his low estate and raised his head high” (Introit). Possenti was so passionately attached to vain honors and pleasures that God had to grant a powerful impulse of grace to bring him to his senses. Grace had beckoned twice before, and he had already been accepted by the Jesuits; but he could not bring himself to enter the Society. Finally, during a procession in Spoleto, he found, in the picture of the Madonna that was being carried, the grace he needed. Mary spoke to his heart: “Francis, why do you hesitate? Arise and go at once to become a religious.” Suddenly, the frivolous student underwent a radical change. The King had called three times, but this time through Mary. Francis was ready: grace had conquered.

“God . . . lifted him up and raised his head high.” from his first day in the cloister Gabriel based his life on the fundamental doctrine enunciated by St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists, in these words: “It takes only a grain of pride to overturn a whole mountain of holiness. God reveals His sublime mysteries only to those who are humble of heart.” Gabriel adopted this thought as his rule of conduct. Zealously he strove to form both his interior and exterior life in accordance with this principle, for he was well aware both of his talents and of his perverse inclinations. Very soon he came to understand the words of his holy founder: “Grace produces its precious fruits only in those who are firmly convinced of their own weakness, and who are equally aware of the divine power that finds its glory in the conviction that we are nothing but dust and that God alone can lift us out of the dust and make us strong.”

Before long Gabriel had entirely overcome his inclination to pride, vanity, and anger, as well as his instability of character and his love of pleasure. In the school of humility and self-denial he reformed his conduct so thoroughly that his former friends did not recognize him. “What a pleasure to serve God,” he wrote. The most striking feature of his spirituality was his childlike, tender love of Mary, Mother of Sorrows, but his love of the Eucharistic and the Crucified Savior, also, was very ardent. Since he always maintained the most intimate union with God, his life was a continuous prayer. Sometimes the devil attacked him so violently that he suffered a veritable death agony; but always, with God’s grace, he vanquished the enemy.

Gabriel formulated his favorite rule of conduct in these words: “Perfection does not consist in doing great things, but rather, in obeying even the smallest points of the rule and in fulfilling one’s duties well.” Herein lies the secret of St. Gabriel: his whole being was dedicated to the conscientious, faithful, consistent observance of the rule—both the letter and the spirit of it. He said: “I want to keep my rules, even the least important.  Fidelity in little things must be the basic rule in my striving for holiness.” Yes, he sincerely strove to become perfect, and by the time he had been in the monastery six years, he had, humanly speaking, reached his goal. Today the Church, both in heaven and on earth, honors him as a saint. “God . . . raised his head high; a sight that set many . . . giving praise to God” (Introit).

3. Gabriel is a saint for youth. The Church, therefore, says in the Epistle: “I am writing to you young men . . . Do not bestow your love on the world . . . the lover of this world has no love of the Father in him . . . . The man who does God’s will outlives them, forever.” The Gospel applies to young Gabriel the words that our Lord addressed to the rich youth: “Go home and sell all that belongs to thee; give it to the poor, and so the treasure thou hast shall be in heaven; then come back and follow me.”

In the monastery Gabriel lived a hidden, uneventful Life, but these words are still true: More wonders are wrought by prayer than the world is even able to suspect. Especially, may that be understood to refer to the prayers and the life of holy, contemplative men and women; the action of grace and of supernatural powers accomplishes wonders. St. Gabriel’s life stands as proof of this. “What bounty God shews to Israel, to all upright hearts!” (Ps. 92:2). “Perfection does not consist in doing great things, but rather, in obeying even the smallest points of the rule, and in fulfilling one’s duties well.”

Collect: God, who didst teach the blessed Gabriel to dwell continually upon Thy sweet Mother’s sorrows, and through her didst exalt and glorify him by his miracles and holy life, grant us, by his intercession and example, to share her mourning and thereby to earn the safeguard of her motherly protection. Amen.

(Benedict Baur)




By Charles Hugo Doyle (1949)


Dr. Pomeroy, by the way, goes all out for the passing on of hereditary traits from parents to child. “It is,” he writes, “an established fact that the children of drunken parents will furnish a much greater percentage of inebriates than will the children of temperate ones. It is known that ‘love children’ are particularly difficult to bring up in paths of virtue.”

The above has not been included in this essay to supply you with a ready answer to someone’s dubious query of “How do you get that way?”, but simply to point up the fact that although one is not born with a ready-made personality, many potentialities of one’s character and personality may possibly have been established before birth. You were born with a certain kind of body—thin or fat, strong or weak, active or sluggish, insensitive or responsive, and those things affected your output of energy, push, indefatigability, and these formed the physical foundation to your personality. The kind of body you have today is in no small way the result of good or bad heredity. Sallust once remarked that “the glory of ancestors sheds a light around posterity: it allows neither their good nor bad qualities to remain in obscurity.”

*The Ethics of Marriage, p. 114. New York: Funk and Wagnalls Co., 1888.

Be all this as it may, both those who differ on the question of more or less potent transmission of heritable traits from one’s ancestors and those who contend that the human individual starts only with the union of sperm and ovum, all agree that every newborn babe is a potential saint or sinner, a scoundrel or an ornament to society, a joy or a heartache to its parents. What the newborn babe will eventually become depends in a great part upon certain external forces or factors and upon its own internal mechanisms, plus the grace of God and the individual’s cooperation with it.

The growth of the human child is divided into three main periods: infancy, childhood, and adolescence. From birth to the end of the first nine months represents early infancy; and from nine months to two years later infancy. From two years to six years we have early childhood, while from six to thirteen, later childhood. From about thirteen years to sixteen is termed early adolescence, and from sixteen years to maturity is called later adolescence. From the day an infant is born it requires parents to love, nourish, and teach it, and good religious and social environment to give it a chance, for human behavior is made and not born. Human beings are unbelievably complex things, constantly played upon by numerous forces.

So much stress is laid on personality today that one is said to succeed with it and to be a failure without it. Certainly, no one is born with a definite personality. In fact, you had so little

individual personality at your birth that had you been accidentally mixed up with other newly born infants neither your own father nor mother could have pointed you out. Today your mother or father could pick you out of ten millions of people. What makes you you? Evelyn Duvall and Reuben Hill wrap the answer up very neatly in the following quote: “What makes you you depends upon years of responding to life’s situations. Your personality is made up of many things: the kind of body you started with, the type of home you were born into, the sort of people you had to associate with, the way you have been brought up and the things you have learned and, most important of all, how you felt and acted about them. Your personality is the sum total of the characteristic ways of feeling, responding, and behaving, which determine your place in society.” [When you marry, Evelyn Millis Duvall and Reuben Hill, p.4. New York; Association Press, 1945.]           

Let us examine some of the above-mentioned influences in detail.

The kind of body with which you started. Having already gone into this matter, it suffices here to say that your personality was affected by circumstances that even preceded your birth. The very way in which you were attached to the womb of your mother had something to do with your development. T. Wingate Todd asserts that “many low-grade mentalities are not instances of hereditary feeble-mindedness but examples of defect in brain development induced by mal-nurture during pre-natal and post-natal life. [Growth and Development, T. Wingate Todd. Cleveland; Brush Foundation Publications, 1930.] The quality and quantity of food, the balanced or unbalanced diet of the mother, partial starvation or overfeeding; in short, whether your life was one of comfort, of luxury or hardship, made for gross differentiation in your personality and profoundly influenced it.

The type of home into which you were born. Your body was your primary environment. Your home was your secondary environment, and it influenced your present personality in no small way. If you were born to a family which dwelt in the country you absorbed different ideas about life than you would have, had you been born to city folk. Having been born and brought up in a squalid tenement section of a large city would have differentiated your social influence from a person who was born to a multimillionaire’s residence on Park Avenue. In a word, you share the status of your family’s standing in your neighborhood and your community. Where you actually dwell is more significant than perhaps you think. Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that sixty-three per cent of people marry someone who lives within eight blocks of where they live? Thus, such a trifling thing as where you dwell will have its influence upon whom you marry, and where you live once you are married will have its influence upon your children. It seems that there is something to what Alexander Smith once said: “Trifles make up the happiness or misery of mortal life.”

How your parents acted toward each other and toward you has had a great influence upon your personality development. If your parents made a success of their marriage, the chances are good for you’re making a success of yours.

The basis for your marriage has been laid in your own home and the example you there absorbed will be the basis of your own happiness in that career. It is not pure accident that for generations, in certain families, there have been no divorces or unhappy marriages. The influence of family background, traditions, and ideals is powerful. According to leading sociologists, psychologists, clergymen, and others best fitted to know, it has been pointed out that there is a close relationship between childhood impressions of family life and the achievement of married happiness as an adult. The happier the recollections of the parents’ marriage, the better the chances of happiness in the child’s subsequent wedlock.

In a revealing article by Barbara Benson in the February, 1947, issue of “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” entitled “Would You Marry Your Husband Again?”, a new nationwide survey shows that from persons whose marriage turned out better than they expected, fifty-seven per cent say their parents’ marriages were very happy, too. In contrast, among the people whose marriage has been a disappointment, only one in three (thirty-six per cent) recalls his parents’ marriage as a happy one. Note the evidence of the power of example! This indicates, too, that care should be taken to avoid marrying a person whose parents failed in marriage. The cards are stacked against you!

Such a trifling thing as the memory of a mother, on the one hand, loving her home and enjoying her role as housekeeper, or the memory of a mother, on the other hand, who constantly protested and groaned about the slavery of housekeeping, may spell the difference between your liking or despising housekeeping and be the cause of your present urge to be a career woman.

Your personality has been affected for good or for evil by the differences in familial relationships. Psychologists now all agree that the feeling of being wanted, being loved, and having a place in your own world constituted a fundamental need in your life even from infancy. Perhaps I can best explain this with an example. Some years ago a father and mother came to me regarding what they termed their problem boy, Dore, an eighteen-year-old son, who had become defiant, sulky, uncompanionable. The boy had no interest in sports and just wanted to be left alone.

As the parents told their story, the reason for their son’s strange behavior became evident. When their son was born they wanted a girl, and they could not conceal their disappointment. From the very beginning they began to treat him as if he were a girl. They chose a name as nearly feminine as possible. The gentlest companions were picked for him and rough games were roundly discouraged.

Naturally, at eighteen, Dore did not fit into sports, and in an endeavor to give himself something in the way of toughness, he developed the habit of vile language and of drinking. The defiance of parental direction and authority was a natural result of this attempt to gain an appearance of manhood.

Dore’s parents were taken aback when I pointed out that they and they alone were responsible for what they termed their “problem child.” He was simply an example of what happens when the feeling of not being wanted is present in a child’s mind and heart.

The way you have been brought up. Every child is a very complex human being. Hence the problems of development are by no means simple. Every infant born into the world is a bundle of potentialities, and how the various potentialities will develop depends to a large extent upon environmental factors—in the child’s case these are largely the personalities with whom he comes in contact. “During infancy,” says Mary E. Spencer, Ph.D., “and the pre-school years, the patterns of development are well outlined. The foundation of what the child will become has already been laid. This ground structure may evidence careful planning and well-defined outlines. Or it may have been built hit or miss, with supports too weak to carry a superstructure of any lasting value. Or the masonry may be very shoddy, giving evidences of poor workmanship, as we review the foundation work on which the later personality and character building are to rest.” This line of reasoning seems to be borne out by the following story.

Some time ago a New York Sunday paper ran a full-page story concerning a sensitive plant which would respond to the most delicate outside movement. The article was strikingly entitled “Even a Good Holler Scares These Sensitive Plants.” The author pointed out that the rumble of a passing automobile or a gust of wind or the heat from a match would cause the small light blue flower to collapse. Luther Burbank was cognizant of this, too. He claimed that all plants were sensitive and would become unconscious in the presence of ether. He would never hire a man who used alcohol or who smoked because plants were affected by the odor of both alcohol and tobacco.

Never did the great horticulturist discuss the delicate nature of plants without asserting that while they responded to the most delicate outside influences, a child was infinitely more sensitive. “A child,” Burbank would say, “is as sensitive to outside influences and forces as a seismograph is sensitive to an earthquake which is ten thousand miles away.” [More Stories in Sermons, William L. Stidger, p.101. New York; Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1944.]

Some authorities maintain that a tiny infant is influenced by angry and bitter talk indulged in by its parents in its presence. A baby in its mother’s arms is said to acquire a lasting fear of lightning, simply by feeling the trembling of the mother as she clasps the little one to her breast. Baseless fears resulting from feelings of suffocation, or pains and clutching sensations suffered in adult life, have been traced back to times in early childhood when the senseless punishment of being locked in a closet was administered by an irate parent. Do you understand now what I mean when I say that external forces contrive to make each of us what we are? Those good or bad forces will make us good or bad risks in marriage years hence.

(To be continued.)


Father Krier will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 8. He will be in Pahrump, Nevada, March 10 and Eureka, Nevada, on March 17.


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