Lent

Holy Saturday Reflections including “The Most Holy Winding-Sheet”

15 April 2017

“Holy Saturday”

From the website, Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

The Most Holy Winding-Sheet

Luke xxiii. 53: “And taking Him down, he wrapped Him in fine linen and laid Him in a sepulchre.”

 

The glories of that sacred winding-sheet
Let every tongue record;
Which from the cross received with honour meet
The body of the Lord.
Ah! who, beholding these sad images,
Can tears control?
Can check the throbs of swelling grief that rise
Up from his inmost soul?
O Dear Memorial! on which we see,
In bloody stains impressed,
The form sublime in awful majesty,
Of our Redeemer blest.
Jesu! my sin it was that laid Thee low,
And through Thy death I live;
That life, which to Thy torments sore I owe,
Henceforth to Thee I give.
How doth the grievous sight of Thee recall
Those dying throes to mind,
Which Christ, compassionating Adam’s fall,
Endured for lost mankind.
Glory to Him who to redeem us bore
Such bitter dying pains;
Who with th’ Eternal Father evermore,
And Holy Spirit reigns.

His wounded side, His hands and feet pierced through,
Mirrored in Thee appear;
His lacerated limbs, His gory brow
And thorn-entangled hair.

The particular Circumstances which occurred from our

Lord’s Death to His Resurrection.

He dies

Jesus! all hail, who for my sin
Didst die, and by that death didst win
Eternal life for me;
Send me Thy grace, good Lord! that I
Unto the world and flesh may die,
And hide my life with Thee.
He is buried
Jesus! in spices wrapped, and laid
Within the garden’s rocky shade,
By jealous seals made sure
Embalm me with Thy grace, and hide
Thy servant in Thy wounded side,
A heavenly sepulchre!
His side is pierced through
Jesus! from out Thy open side,
Thou hast the thirsty world supplied
With endless streams of love;
Come ye who would your sickness quell,
Draw freely from this sacred well:
Its heavenly virtues prove.
He descends into Hell
Jesus! who to the spirits went,
And preached the new enfranchisement
Thy recent death had won;
Absolve me, Lord, and set me free
From self and sin, that I may be
Bondsman to Thee alone.
The inscription upon the Cross
Jesus! around Thy sacred head
There is an ominous brightness shed,
The name which Pilate wrote;
Save us, Thou royal Nazarene!
For in Thy Threefold Name are seen
The gifts Thy Passion brought.

The Descent of Jesus Christ to Limbus

“He descended into Hell.”

Thousands of years had come and gone,
And slow the ages seemed to move
To those expectant souls that filled
That prison-house of patient love.
‘Tis God! ’tis Man! the living soul
Of Jesus, beautiful and bright,
The first-born of created things,
Flushed with a pure resplendent light.
It was a weary watch of theirs.
But onward still their hopes would press;
Captives they were, yet happy too,
In their contented weariness.
‘Tis Mary’s Child! Eve saw Him come;
She flew from Joseph’s haunted side,
And worshipped, first of all that crowd,
The soul of Jesus crucified.
As noiseless tides the ample depths
Of some capacious harbour fill,
So grew the calm of that dread place
Each day with increase swift and still.
So after four long thousand years,
Faith reached her end, and Hope her aim,
And from them as they passed away,
Love lit her everlasting flame!
But see! how hushed the crowd of souls!
Whence comes the lift of upper day?
What glorious form is this that finds
Through central earth its ready way?


Venerable #FultonJSheen – The Last #GoodFriday

14 April 2017
  • woodcut

Venerable Fulton J Sheen – His last Good Friday Homily


St Alphonsus Liquori’s Most Unique Devotion – The Clock of the Passion

13 April 2017

FOR THE USE OF PERSONS DEVOTED
TO THE PASSION OF OUR LORD
THE CLOCK OF THE PASSION

BY

ST. ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI

hourglass

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1628-30

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Christ Crucified with the Virgin, Saint John, and Mary Magdalene, c. 1628-30

St. Alphonsus (1696-1787) devised the Clock of the Passion as a meditation for Passion-tide during Lent to follow Jesus the last twenty-four hours of His life on this earth. His intent was to motivate each person to cherish a tender devotion towards Jesus Christ in His Passion. The events are put in sequence as found in Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

We have assembled beautiful religious art on the Passion of Christ to coincide with St. Aphonsus de Liguori’s time line placed at the top of each painting. In addition, we have added excerpts from approved Church Litanies to encourage prayer as you meditate on the Passion of Our Lord. In addition, new meditations have been added from the book “The Passion Clock” by St. Alphonsus Liguori. The music chosen is Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy on me, O God) by Gregorio Allegri, who was a priest, composer and singer.

The Passion Clock may be utilized at your own pace and the music lasts for over nine minutes and is set on repeat. If you would rather have no music, simply adjust the volume settings on your computer.

Prayer by St. Alphonsus de Liguori

O my Jesus! I pray Thee make me always remember Thy Passion; and grant that I also, a miserable sinner, overcome at last by so many loving devices, may return to love Thee, and to show Thee, by my poor love some mark of gratitude for the excessive love which Thou, my God and my Saviour, hast borne to me. Amen.

Click HERE to begin the Devotion at Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


Meditations for Each Day of Lent by Saint Thomas Aquinas – Holy Thursday

13 April 2017

“Maundy Thursday”
13 April 2017 Anno Domini

From the website, Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

Vision of Saint Thomas Aquinas by Santi de Tito 1593

by St. Thomas Aquinas

Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper

It was most fitting that the sacrament of the body of the Lord should have been instituted at the Last Supper.

1. Because of what that sacrament contains. For that which is contained in it is Christ Himself. When Christ in His natural appearance was about to depart from His disciples, He left Himself to them in a sacramental appearance, just as in the absence of the emperor there is exhibited the emperor’s image. Whence St. Eusebius says, “Since the body He had assumed was about to be taken away from their bodily sight, and was about to be carried to the stars, it was necessary that, on the day of His last supper, He should consecrate for us the sacrament of His body and blood, so that what, as a price, was offered once should, through a mystery, be worshipped unceasingly.”

2. Because without faith in the Passion there can never be salvation. Therefore it is necessary that there should be, for ever, among men something that would represent the Lord’s Passion and the chief of such representative things in the Old Testament was the Paschal Lamb. To this there succeeded in the New Testament the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is commemorative of the past Passion of the Lord as the Paschal Lamb was a foreshadowing of the Passion to come.

And therefore was it most fitting that, on the very eve of the Passion, the old sacrament of the Paschal Lamb having been celebrated, Our Lord should institute the new sacrament.

3. Because the last words of departing friends remain longest in the memory, our love being at such moments most tenderly alert. Nothing can be greater in the realm of sacrifice than that of the body and blood of Christ, no offering can be more effective. And hence, in order that the sacrament might be held in all the more veneration, it was in His last leave-taking of the Apostles that Our Lord instituted it.

Hence St. Augustine says, “Our Saviour, to bring before our minds with all His power the heights and the depths of this sacrament, willed, ere He left the disciples to go forth to His Passion, to fix it in their hearts and their memories as His last act.”

Let us note that this sacrament has a threefold meaning :

(i) In regard to the past, it is commemorative of the Lord’s Passion, which was a true sacrifice, and because of this the sacrament is called a sacrifice.

(ii) In regard to a fact of our own time, that is, to the unity of the church and that through this sacrament mankind should be gathered together. Because of this the sacrament is called communion.

St. John Damascene says the sacrament is called communion because by means of it we communicate with Christ, and this because we hereby share in His body and in His divinity, and because by it we are communicated to and united with one another.

(iii) In regard to the future, the sacrament foreshadows that enjoyment of God which shall be ours in our fatherland. On this account the sacrament is called viaticum, since it provides us with the means of journeying to that fatherland.


14 Day Lenten Series: Part 14: Does Satan Exist?

11 April 2017

Does Satan Exist

by Fr. Michael Muller, 1881 A.D.

There are many who absurdly enough deny the personal existence of Satan. They assert, with an air of profound wisdom, that the word “devil,” “Satan,” is simply the imaginary personification of all the evil influences to which we are subject in this life. But what can be more absurd than to deny what all nations, without exception, have always believed, and still believe–the personal existence of the devil. What can be more impious than to deny what we find asserted in plain words, on almost every page of Holy Writ–the personal existence of the devil.

Holy Scripture tells us that Satan, in the form of a serpent, seduced Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit; it declares that all the gods’ of the Gentiles are devils; it tells us that the devil is the prince of this world; that he goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; it bids us resist the devil, and he will flee from us. St. Paul speaks of the prince and the powers of the air that besiege us, and against whom we must put on the whole armor of God, and do valiant battle.

Moreover, Holy Scripture speaks of demoniacs, or persons possessed with devils; and among the marvellous works ascribed to Jesus Christ, is that of expelling demons, or casting out devils.

The Catholic Church plainly and unequivocally recognizes the existence of Satan, as may be gathered from the prayers and ceremonies of Baptism, as well as from the significance of the Sacrament itself; and not only his existence, but his power over the natural man, and even material objects. The Catholic Church has also her exorcists, and her precise forms and prayers for exorcising evil spirits.

Besides, every Christian knows that the Son of God became man and died upon the cross for no other purpose than to destroy the works of the devil, and to redeem mankind from his power.

Now, to assert that there is no devil is to assert that Jesus Christ suffered so much from no motive, that His mission had no object; it is to deny the work of Redemption. What can be more blasphemous than such an assertion?

Again, what can be more contrary to sound reason than to deny the existence of the devil? They who deny the personal existence of the devil must either deny the existence of evil altogether, which is absurd, or they must admit the existence of an unbeginning–eternal principle of evil–which is a palpable blasphemy.

God alone has existed from all eternity. By His word He has created heaven and earth, and all things visible and invisible. God, in His infinite wisdom, created beings gifted with intelligence and free will, and consequently, capable of acting wrong as well as right. All the works of God, when they came forth from His hands were good, very good. It was, then, by the abuse of their intelligence and free-will, it was by refusing to observe the just laws of God, that His creatures became wicked, and that evil was introduced into the world.

Satan and his hosts were created by God as bright and beautiful angels; but of their own free will, they rebelled against God. “Behold they that serve God are not steadfast, and in His angels he found wickedness.” (Job, iv., 18.) Considered in their nature the angels could sin just as well as man, for the gift of impeccability is not a gift of nature, but of grace alone.

It was natural for all the angels to love and glorify God, the only source of their eternal glory; but, in the rebel angels, soon after their creation, that divine love was extinguished by an abuse of free-will. They sinned in wishing through pride and envy, their own particular good, in opposition to the will of their Sovereign Creator. By these two sins, the chief of the rebel angels seduced vast multitudes of angels. “From pride all perdition took its beginning.” (Tob. iv., 14.) “Pride is the source of all sins.” (Ecclus. x., 15.) “Satan is the king of all the children of pride.” (Job. xli., 25.) “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer? Thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High.” (Isai. xiv., 12, 13.)

What the bad angels wished to obtain by their rebellion was to be like unto God; they wished to be equal to Him in splendor and glory, but not in power, for they knew it was impossible for any created being to be equal to God in His infinite power. Their transgression consisted in wishing to be like unto God without merit or supernatural grace. Their pride and envy confounded them, and God abandoned them in that state of perversity.

They also aspired after pre-eminence and domination over all in the new creation, which was an additional crime to their blasphemous culpability, by which they forfeited eternal glory. “Thou (Lucifer) wast the seal of resemblance, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. * * * Thou wast in all the delight of God’s Paradise ; thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day of thy creation, until iniquity was found in thee. Thou hast defiled the sanctuaries of heaven by the multitude of thy iniquities; thou hast lost thy wisdom in thy beauty. Therefore I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee to devour thee. * * *” (Ezech. xxviii.)

The prevarication of the highest angel in the celestial hierarchy was the cause of the defection of all the rest. The pride of Lucifer, prince of the cherubim, and chief of the rebel angels, was the first provocation to the disobedience of all the others. It cannot be supposed that he constrained them, but seduced them to rebel; for it is said in the Gospel: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt, xxv., 41.) “And the dragon’s tail drew away the third part of the stars of heaven.” (Apoc. xii.,4.)

Now, the order of divine justice requires that whoever commits a crime at the instigation of another, must undergo the same penalty as the author. St. Peter says: “Man becomes the slave of him by whom he is overcome.”

The rebel angels were not long in deliberating as to whether they should follow Lucifer, nor was a long discourse necessary to excite them to rebellion. Angels are as quick as lightning in all their operations. They instantaneously, though freely, consented to the sentiments which were manifested in their spiritual language by their powerful chief. The moment they rebelled, they were changed into hideous demons, and cast out of heaven. They are so obstinate in perversity that they can never be free from their diabolical propensities. Their crime has fixed them for ever in wickedness, as death fixes man irrevocably either in glory or in damnation.

An angel conceives all things instantaneously, by means of his spiritual faculties, as man does conceive the first principles of right and wrong by means of his intellectual faculties. Man is changeable and inconstant in his choice; but the angel fixes his choice irrevocably by the first act of his will. That act, in the choice of divine love and obedience, was the cause of eternal beatitude for the faithful angels, and that instantaneous free act of the rebel angels, was the cause of their everlasting punishment and damnation. As the glorification of the good angels increases more and more in heaven, so the torments of the wicked angels increase proportionately in hell. “And there was a great battle in heaven; Michael and his angels fought with the Dragon and his angels; and that great dragon, that old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world, was cast out of heaven with all his angels. And they were thrown down with the beast and false prophets, into a pool of fire and brimstone, where they shall be tormented day and night during ages and ages.” (Apoc. xii.)

The rebel angels have two places of torture: hell, where they shall remain eternally, to undergo the punishment of their crime; and the dark, gloomy air, where they shall be till the day of general judgment.

As God makes use of the good angels to inspire us with acts of virtue and keep us from vice, so he permits the devil to lay snares for us and entice us to sin. St. Paul tells us that numbers of those wicked spirits surround us on all sides. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of darkness, and the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Eph. vi., 12.) Hence it is that they are called the Princes of darkness, of the air, and of the world. They differ in order; for though they never enjoyed the order of heavenly glory, and forfeited, by their disobedience, the order of grace and the supernatural gifts with which they were endowed at their creation, yet they have preserved the order of their nature, so that those whose natural intellectual faculties were greater are higher in rank and greater in power. Hence they form a kind of hierarchy. Their prince and chief is sometimes called Lucifer, who was the prince of the cherubim; sometimes Belial (that is, the Rebel), also Satan (i. e., the Enemy), or Beelzebub, from the chief idol of the Accaronites.

The rage, malice, and envy of the devils against man, and their enmity to all good, are implacable. Satan, the chief of the fallen spirits, makes his attacks upon men by putting on all shapes: sometimes by craft, or by snares and stratagems, as the old serpent; sometimes by disguises, transforming himself into an angel of light, and assuming the air of piety; sometimes by open assaults and violence, as the roaring lion.

He studies and observes every one’s character, natural dispositions, inclinations, virtues and vices, to find out, and make his attacks on every one’s weak points.

The natural subtlety and strength of Satan are exceedingly great, as appears from the perfection of his being, which is purely spiritual, and from examples, when God has suffered him to exert his power in a more remarkable manner. Holy Scripture tells us that the devils hurried the swine into the lake; that they killed the first seven husbands of Sara; that they have slain armies in one night; have often disturbed nature, and stirred up tempests, which struck whole provinces with terror, and ravaged the whole world.

What did Satan not do against holy Job? He killed his cattle and his children. He covered Job himself with ulcers from head to foot. And, in our own day, what did he not do against the saintly Cure of Ars, in France, for the space of thirty years?

Moreover, by clear proofs, it is also manifest that Satan can, by divine permission, enter our bodies, compel, as it were, the human being to stand aside, and use our organs himself, and do whatever he pleases with them. But he cannot annihilate the human being, or take from the soul its free-will. It is always in the power of the possessed to resist, morally and effectually, the evil intentions of the devil. The possessed person retains his own consciousness, his own intellectual and moral faculties unimpaired, and he never confounds himself with the spirit that possesses him. He always retains the power of internal protest and struggle. Whenever this power is exercised, and there is clearly a struggle, there is no reason to believe that he is responsible for the crimes which the body, through the possession of the devil, is made to commit. But unfortunately it very often happens that this power to protest is not exercised, and the possessed person yields his moral assent to the crimes committed by the demon that possesses him.

Such diabolical possessions have been more or less frequent in different times and places. This is confirmed by the testimony and experience of all ages, and of all nations, even to the remotest Indies. Such facts both the Old and New Testaments evince.

However, with regard to the effects of magic and possession of devils, the Catholic Church says, in her Ritual, that such extraordinary effects are not to be easily supposed. That superstition, credulity, and imposture are to be guarded against, and that natural distempers, such as certain species of madness, extraordinary palsies, epilepsies, or the like, are not to be construed into effects of enchantments or possessions, which are not to be presumed upon ridiculous compacts and signs, nor upon vulgar prejudices and notions of the manner in which such things are done, but must be made apparent by circumstances.

The criteria of demoniac invasion or possession, as laid down by the Catholic Church for the guidance of exorcists, are the following:–

1. Understanding of unknown languages.
2. Power of speaking unknown or foreign languages.
3. Knowledge of things passing in distant places.
4. Exhibition of superior physical strength.
5. Suspension of the body in the air during a considerable time.

Although Satan, with implacable envy and malice, studies to disturb our temporal happiness and to compass our eternal ruin both by stratagems and open assaults, yet it is certain that he can tempt and assail us only to a certain degree; he can go only the length of his chain, that is, as far as God permits him. This is evident from the history of Job. Before Satan was bound, or his power curbed by the triumph of Christ over him, and the spreading of the happy light and influence of the Gospel throughout the world, the empire which Satan exercised on earth was much greater than since that time. However, there can be no doubt that, in our own days, the power and influence of Satan over an immense number of men is great, very great;, and it will increase in proportion as they approach heathenism and infidelity, and leave the true, the Catholic religion.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


14 Day Lenten Series: Part 13 A Short Explanation on the Rite of Exorcisms

10 April 2017

What is an Exorcism?

Imprimatur: Michael Augustine,
Archbishop of New York, 1893

An exorcism is the exercise of the power left by Christ to His Church to drive out evil spirits and to break their influence over men.

Means of Grace ExorcismIt is certain that the devil has power over men. True, Christ destroyed his dominion, so that he cannot any longer be a hindrance to their happiness. Yet He permits the devil to tempt men, as He Himself was tempted by him, in order to try men and to give them an opportunity to imitate His example, and to drive him away as Christ drove him away from Himself in the desert. But then God permits the evil spirit to afflict man in his body, either to punish him for his sins, or to try him. This we learn from the history of Job and of the possessed man in the gospel. Our Saviour says, “I saw Satan falling from heaven.” By this Our Saviour wished to say that Satan indeed had been hurled by the power of the Blessed Trinity from heaven into hell, yet not that he was totally deprived of his power: else He would not have given to His disciples the power to drive out devils. We read that St. Paul actually did expel evil spirits (Acts xix. 12), and he himself says: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood: but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness” (Eph. v. 12). St. James the apostle says: “Resist the devil, and he will fly from you” (James iv. 7). St. Peter writes: “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist ye, strong in faith” (I. Pet. v. 9).

In these struggles the Church comes to our assistance, and in her exorcisms supplies us with a weapon against the devil. A Christian may command the devil, in the name of Jesus Christ, to desist from evil. He need but sign himself with the sign of the cross and sprinkle holy water.

From the Fathers

“The so-called demons or evil spirits seek nothing more than to decoy men from God, the Creator of all things, and from Christ, His only begotten Son. Such persons as are not capable of lifting themselves above the earth are held fast to earthly things, and to things made by the hands of men, by these evil spirits. Such as are competent of rising to the contemplation of heavenly things, if they are not strong in mind, and if they do not live pure and free from passion, these the evil spirits will seek to make godless” (St. Justin Martyr). “Many Christians in the whole world, as well as in your city, were relieved from evil spirits by exorcisms in the name of Jesus Christ Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, though they had failed to find relief from other helpers, potions, and diabolical conjurations. They are cured by having the devils that possess them driven out and rendered powerless ” (The Same). ” The demons which assail men destroy their ill-disposed souls by many false pretences, in order that they may not be able to regain their way to heaven. Sometimes, too, by the tempest of their malice, they agitate our bodies, but by the power of the word of God they are weakened, and the afflicted person is restored to health ” (Tatian). “It is known to most of you that the demons confess themselves whenever, by the power of the word and the fervor of prayer, they are driven out of their victims’ bodies. As soon as they are conjured in the name of the one living God, they tremble involuntarily, and in the consciousness of suffering they either spring forth from the bodies at once or they vanish gradually, according as the faith of the victim or the grace of the exorcist has power and effect ” (Minucius Felix). “Many Christians drive devils out of possessed persons by ordinary prayers and simple means, just as any simple person can” (Origen). “Will the Christian hold vigils before the temples of the idols that he has renounced, or participate in eating where it was so displeasing to the Apostle? And will he take under his protection at night those whom he has exorcised during the day?” (Tertullian.)

EXAMPLES:

A Devil Asserts His Right.

The church historian Tertullian relates a remarkable case of a woman possessed by the devil, which we will repeat in his own words, and without any comment, leaving the reader to make the moral application. Tertullian says: “We have an instance of a woman who went to an improper public spectacle and came back possessed by a devil. When the unclean spirit was forced by exorcisms to explain how he dared to attack a believer, he answered, ‘I acted with authority and right, for I found her in a place that belongs to me.'”

The Confession of a Devil.

In the Life of St. Bernard we read: “A man brought his possessed wife to the saint. The devil continued to speak in a tone of mockery through the woman: ‘ This vegetarian and root-eater cannot drive me from my slut,’ as he termed the woman. He uttered also other derisive language in order to insult the man of God and degrade him before the people. But the saint knew the wily ways of the devil, and mocked the mocker. He ordered the evil spirit to bring the possessed woman into the church at Pavia, dedicated to Syrus, in order to give the glory of her restoration to that martyr. The saint said to the evil one, ‘Neither St. Syrus nor St. Bernard will expel you, but the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Then he began to pray, and besought God for help to overcome the devil. The evil spirit cried out, changing his tone and language: “Oh, how gladly would I flee from this slut! How gladly I would escape the pains I am suffering on account of these prayers! But I cannot! ‘When questioned why he could not get away, he replied, ‘Because it is not pleasing to the most high God.’ When St. Bernard inquired who this most high God might be, the spirit answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ St. Bernard continued: ‘Then you know the Lord Jesus? Where have you seen Him?’ The devil answered, ‘I have seen Him in His glory.’ ‘Then you were in glory?’ said the saint. ‘How did you come to leave it?’ The evil spirit said, ‘Many of us fell with Lucifer.’ These words he uttered in a doleful, lachrymose tone through the mouth of the woman, in the hearing of all who were present. ‘Would you be willing to return to that glory?’ inquired St. Bernard. To this question the devil replied, in an unusually loud tone of voice, ‘It is too late.’ These were his last words, and he would not answer any further questions. Then St. Bernard prayed once more, the evil spirit fled away, and the woman returned home perfectly restored.”

Obsession as a Punishment for Despising the Advice of a Bishop

Dancing-parties were always looked upon as leading to the commission of sin. About the year 600 the holy Bishop Eligius, like every other true pastor of souls, preached vehemently against this abuse. But his wise words were neglected, just as the advice of preachers and confessors today is often ignored by thoughtless Christians. One day, such a dancing festival being held near his own house, the holy man went out and besought the dancers to stop the scandal. But they laughed and went on with their amusement. Punishment soon came, for some thirty of their number became possessed of the devil, and acted so violently that they had to be put in irons. Their obsession had lasted a year when the holy bishop had them led into the church, and then, throwing himself on his knees before God, he begged that the afflicted sinners might be relieved. His prayers were heard, and the possessed persons went away entirely cured. Do not many persons in our day return from dancing-parties fully possessed by the devil, if not in body, at least in soul?

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


Palm Sunday Sermon – by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870 A.D.

9 April 2017

Entry Into Jerusalem by Pedro Orrente c. 1620
And the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.–St. Matt 21: 9

Palm Sunday popup Title
(by Fr. Prosper Gueranger 1870)

Today, if ye shall hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Early in the morning of this day, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem, leaving Mary His Mother, and the two sisters Martha and Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, at Bethania. The Mother of sorrows trembles at seeing her Son thus expose Himself to danger, for His enemies are bent upon His destruction; but it is not death, it is triumph, that Jesus is to receive today in Jerusalem. The Messias, before being nailed to the cross, is to be proclaimed King by the people of the great city; the little children are to make her streets echo with their Hosannas to the Son of David; and this in presence of the soldiers of Rome’s emperor, and of the high priests and pharisees: the first standing under the banner of their eagles; the second, dumb with rage.

The prophet Zachary had foretold this triumph which the Son of Man was to receive a few days before His Passion, and which had been prepared for Him from all eternity. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion! Shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King will come to thee; the Just and the Saviour. He is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.’ [Zach. ix. 9]. Jesus, knowing that the hour has come for the fulfilment of this prophecy, singles out two from the rest of His disciples, and bids them lead to Him an ass and her colt, which they would find not far off. He has reached Bethphage, on Mount Olivet. The two disciples lose no time in executing the order given them by their divine Master; and the ass and the colt are soon brought to the place where He stands.

The holy fathers have explained to us the mystery of these two animals. The ass represents the Jewish people, which had been long under the yoke of the Law; the colt, upon which, as the evangelist says, no man yet hath sat [St. Mark xi. 2], is a figure of the Gentile world, which no one had ever yet brought into subjection. The future of these two peoples is to be decided a few days hence: the Jews will be rejected, for having refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias; the Gentiles will take their place, to be adopted as God’s people, and become docile and faithful.

The disciples spread their garments upon the colt; and our Saviour, that the prophetic figure might be fulfilled, sits upon him [Ibid. 7, and St. Luke xix. 35.], and advances towards Jerusalem. As soon as it is known that Jesus is near the city, the holy Spirit works in the hearts of those Jews, who have come from all parts to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They go out to meet our Lord, holding palm branches in their hands, and loudly proclaiming Him to be King [St. Luke xix. 38]. They that have accompanied Jesus from Bethania, join the enthusiastic crowd. Whilst some spread their garments on the way, others cut down boughs from the palm-trees, and strew them along the road. Hosanna is the triumphant cry, proclaiming to the whole city that Jesus, the Son of David, has made His entrance as her King.

Thus did God, in His power over men’s hearts, procure a triumph for His Son, and in the very city which, a few days later, was to clamour for His Blood. This day was one of glory to our Jesus, and the holy Church would have us renew, each year, the memory of this triumph of the Man-God. Shortly after the birth of our Emmanuel, we saw the Magi coming from the extreme east, and looking in Jerusalem for the King of the Jews, to whom they intended offering their gifts and their adorations: but it is Jerusalem herself that now goes forth to meet this King. Each of these events is an acknowledgment of the kingship of Jesus; the first, from the Gentiles; the second, from the Jews. Both were to pay Him this regal homage, before He suffered His Passion. The inscription to be put upon the cross, by Pilate’s order, will express the kingly character of the Crucified: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate, the Roman governor, the pagan, the base coward, has been unwittingly the fulfiller of a prophecy; and when the enemies of Jesus insist on the inscription being altered, Pilate will not deign to give them any answer but this: ‘What I have written, I have written.’ Today, it is the Jews themselves that proclaim Jesus to be their King: they will soon be dispersed, in punishment for their revolt against the Son of David; but Jesus is King, and will be so for ever. Thus were literally verified the words spoken by the Archangel to Mary, when he announced to her the glories of the Child that was to be born of her: ‘The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David, His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.’ [St. Luke i. 32]. Jesus begins His reign upon the earth this very day; and though the first Israel is soon to disclaim His rule, a new Israel, formed from the faithful few of the old, shall rise up in every nation of the earth, and become the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom such as no mere earthly monarch ever coveted in his wildest fancies of ambition.

This is the glorious mystery which ushers in the great week, the week of dolours. Holy Church would have us give this momentary consolation to our heart, and hail our Jesus as our King. She has so arranged the service of today, that it should express both joy and sorrow; joy, by uniting herself with the loyal hosannas of the city of David; and sorrow, by compassionating the Passion of her divine Spouse. The whole function is divided into three parts, which we will now proceed to explain.

The first is the blessing of the palms; and we may have an idea of its importance from the solemnity used by the Church in this sacred rite. One would suppose that the holy Sacrifice has begun, and is going to be offered up in honour of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, even a Preface, are said, as though we were, as usual, preparing for the immolation of the spotless Lamb; but, after the triple Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! the Church suspends these sacrificial formulas, and turns to the blessing of the palms. The prayers she uses for this blessing are eloquent and full of instruction; and, together with the sprinkling with holy water and the incensation, impart a virtue to these branches, which elevates them to the supernatural order, and makes them means for the sanctification of our souls and the protection of our persons and dwellings. The faithful should hold these palms in their hands during the procession, and during the reading of the Passion at Mass, and keep them in their homes as an outward expression of their faith, and as a pledge of God’s watchful love.

It is scarcely necessary to tell our reader that the palms or olive branches, thus blessed, are carried in memory of those wherewith the people of Jerusalem strewed the road, as our Saviour made His triumphant entry; but a word on the antiquity of our ceremony will not be superfluous. It began very early in the east. It is probable that, as far as Jerusalem itself is concerned, the custom was established immediately after the ages of persecution. St. Cyril, who was bishop of that city in the fourth century, tells us that the palm-tree, from which the people cut the branches when they went out to meet our Saviour, was still to be seen in the vale of Cedron [Cateches. x. versus fin.] Such a circumstance would naturally suggest an annual commemoration of the great event. In the following century, we find this ceremony established, not only in the churches of the east, but also in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria. At the beginning of Lent, many of the holy monks obtained permission from their abbots to retire into the desert, that they might spend the sacred season in strict seclusion; but they were obliged to return to their monasteries for Palm Sunday, as we learn from the life of Saint Euthymius, written by his disciple Cyril [Act. SS. Jan. 2O]. In the west, the introduction of this ceremony was more gradual; the first trace we find of it is in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, that is, at the end of the sixth, or the beginning of the seventh, century. When the faith had penetrated into the north, it was not possible to have palms or olive branches; they were supplied by branches from other trees. The beautiful prayers used in the blessing, and based on the mysteries expressed by the palm and olive trees, are still employed in the blessing of our willow, box, or other branches; and rightly, for these represent the symbolical ones which nature has denied us.

The second of today’s ceremonies is the procession, which comes immediately after the blessing of the palms. It represents our Saviour’s journey to Jerusalem, and His entry into the city. To make it the more expressive, the branches that have just been blessed are held in the hand during it. With the Jews, to hold a branch in one’s hand was a sign of joy. The divine law had sanctioned this practice, as we read in the following passage from Leviticus, where God commands His people to keep the feast of tabernacles: And you shall take to you, on the first day, the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God [Lev. xxiii. 4O]. It was, therefore, to testify their delight at seeing Jesus enter within their walls, that the inhabitants, even the little children, of Jerusalem, went forth to meet Him with palms in their hands. Let us, also, go before our King, singing our hosannas to Him as the conqueror of death, and the liberator of His people.

During the middle ages, it was the custom, in many churches, to carry the book of the holy Gospels in this procession. The Gospel contains the words of Jesus Christ, and was considered to represent Him. The procession halted at an appointed place, or station: the deacon then opened the sacred volume, and sang from it the passage which describes our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. This done, the cross which, up to this moment, was veiled, was uncovered; each of the clergy advanced towards it, venerated it, and placed at its foot a small portion of the palm he held in his hand. The procession then returned, preceded by the cross, which was left unveiled until all had re-entered the church. In England and Normandy, as far back as the eleventh century, there was practised a holy ceremony which represented, even more vividly than the one we have just been describing, the scene that was witnessed on this day at Jerusalem: the blessed Sacrament was carried in procession. The heresy of Berengarius, against the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, had been broached about that time; and the tribute of triumphant joy here shown to the sacred Host was a distant preparation for the feast and procession which were to be instituted at a later period.

A touching ceremony was also practised in Jerusalem during today’s procession, and, like those just mentioned, was intended to commemorate the event related by the Gospel. The whole community of the Franciscans (to whose keeping the holy places are entrusted) went in the morning to Bethphage. There, the father guardian of the holy Land, being vested in pontifical robes, mounted upon an ass, on which garments were laid. Accompanied by the friars and the Catholics of Jerusalem, all holding palms in their hands, he entered the city, and alighted at the church of the holy sepulchre where Mass was celebrated with all possible solemnity.

This beautiful ceremony, which dated from the period of the Latin kingdom in Jerusalem, has been forbidden, for now almost two hundred years, by the Turkish authorities of the city.

We have mentioned these different usages, as we have done others on similar occasions, in order to aid the faithful to the better understanding of the several mysteries of the liturgy. In the present instance, they will learn that, in today’s procession, the Church wishes us to honour Jesus Christ as though He were really among us, and were receiving the humble tribute of our loyalty. Let us lovingly go forth to meet this our King, our Saviour, who comes to visit the daughter of Sion, as the prophet has just told us. He is in our midst; it is to Him that we pay honour with our palms: let us give Him our hearts too. He comes that He may be our King; let us welcome Him as such, and fervently cry out to Him: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

At the close of the procession a ceremony takes place, which is full of the sublimest symbolism. On returning to the church, the doors are found to be shut. The triumphant procession is stopped; but the songs of joy are continued. A hymn in honour of Christ our King is sung with its joyous chorus; and at length the subdeacon strikes the door with the staff of the cross; the door opens, and the people, preceded by the clergy, enter the church, proclaiming the praise of Him, who is our resurrection and our life.

This ceremony is intended to represent the entry of Jesus into that Jerusalem of which the earthly one was but the figure – the Jerusalem of heaven, which has been opened for us by our Saviour. The sin of our first parents had shut it against us; but Jesus, the King of glory, opened its gates by His cross, to which every resistance yields. Let us, then, continue to follow in the footsteps of the Son of David, for He is also the Son of God, and He invites us to share His kingdom with Him. Thus, by the procession, which is commemorative of what happened on this day, the Church raises up our thoughts to the glorious mystery of the Ascension, whereby heaven was made the close of Jesus’ mission on earth. Alas! the interval between these two triumphs of our Redeemer are not all days of joy; and no sooner is our procession over, than the Church, who had laid aside for a moment the weight of her grief, falls back into sorrow and mourning.

The third part of today’s service is the offering of the holy Sacrifice. The portions that are sung by the choir are expressive of the deepest desolation; and the history of our Lord’s Passion, which is now to be read by anticipation, gives to the rest of the day that character of sacred gloom, which we all know so well. For the last five or six centuries, the Church has adopted a special chant for this narrative of the holy Gospel. The historian, or the evangelist, relates the events in a tone that is at once grave and pathetic; the words of our Saviour are sung to a solemn yet sweet melody, which strikingly contrasts with the high dominant of the several other interlocutors and the Jewish populace. During the singing of the Passion, the faithful should hold their palms in their hands, and, by this emblem of triumph, protest against the insults offered to Jesus by His enemies. As we listen to each humiliation and suffering, all of which were endured out of love for us, let us offer Him our palm as to our dearest Lord and King. When should we be more adoring, than when He is most suffering?

These are the leading features of this great day. According to our usual plan, we will add to the prayers and lessons any instructions that seem to be needed.

This Sunday, besides its liturgical and popular appellation of Palm Sunday, has had several other names. Thus it was called Hosanna Sunday, in allusion to the acclamation wherewith the Jews greeted Jesus on His entry into Jerusalem. Our forefathers used also to call it Pascha Floridum, because the feast of the Pasch (or Easter), which is but eight days off, is today in bud, so to speak, and the faithful could begin from this Sunday to fulfil the precept of Easter Communion. It was in allusion to this name, that the Spaniards, having on the Palm Sunday of 1513, discovered the peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, called it Florida. We also find the name of Capililavium given to this Sunday, because, during those times when it was the custom to defer till Holy Saturday the baptism of infants born during the preceding months (where such a delay entailed no danger), the parents used, on this day, to wash the heads of these children, out of respect to the holy chrism wherewith they were to be anointed. Later on, this Sunday was, at least in some churches, called the Pasch of the competents, that is, of the catechumens, who were admitted to Baptism; they assembled today in the church, and received a special instruction on the symbol, which had been given to them in the previous scrutiny. In the Gothic Church of Spain, the symbol was not given till today. The Greeks call this Sunday Baphoros, that is, Palm-bearing.

Let us pray:

O almighty and eternal God, who wouldst have our Saviour become man, and suffer on a cross, to give mankind an example of humility; mercifully grant that we may improve by the example of his patience, and partake of his resurrection. Through the same, &c.

Let us now go over in our minds the other events which happened to our divine Lord on this day of His solemn entry into Jerusalem. St. Luke tells us that it was on His approach to the city, that Jesus wept over it, and spoke these touching words: ‘If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace! But now they are hidden from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, and thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, and beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee; and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone; because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.’ [St. Luke xix. 42-44].

A few days ago, we were reading in the holy Gospel how Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus; today He sheds tears over Jerusalem. At Bethania His weeping was caused by the sight of bodily death, the consequence and punishment of sin; but this death is not irremediable: Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and he that believeth in Him shall live [St. John xi. 25]. Whereas, the state of the unfaithful Jerusalem is a figure of the death of the soul, and from this there is no resurrection, unless the soul, while time is given to her, return to the Author of life. Hence it is, that the tears shed by Jesus over Jerusalem are so bitter. Amidst the acclamations which greet His entry into the city of David, His heart is sad; for He sees that many of her inhabitants will not profit of the time of her visitation. Let us console the Heart of our Jesus, and be to Him a faithful Jerusalem.

The sacred historian tells us that Jesus, immediately upon His entrance into the city, went to the temple, and cast out all them that sold and bought there [St. Matt. xxi. 12]. This was the second time that He had shown His authority in His Father’s house, and no one had dared to resist Him. The chief priests and pharisees found fault with Him, and accused Him to His face, of causing confusion by His entry into the city; but our Lord confounded them by the reply He made. It is thus that in after ages, when it has pleased God to glorify His Son and the Church of His Son, the enemies of both have given vent to their rage; they protested against the triumph, but they could not stop it. But when God, in the unsearchable ways of His wisdom, allowed persecution and trial to follow these periods of triumph, then did these bitter enemies redouble their efforts to induce the very people, that had cried Hosanna to the Son of David, to clamour for His being delivered up and crucified. They succeeded in fomenting persecution, but not in destroying the kingdom of Christ and His Church. The kingdom seemed, at times, to be interrupted in its progress; but the time for another triumph came. Thus will it be to the end; and then, after all these changes from glory to humiliation, and from humiliation to glory, the kingdom of Jesus and of His bride will gain the last and eternal triumph over this world, which would not know the time of its visitation.

We learn from St. Matthew [St. Matt. xxi. 17] that our Saviour spent the remainder of this day at Bethania. His blessed Mother and the house of Lazarus were comforted by His return. There was not a single offer of hospitality made to Him in Jerusalem, at least there is no mention in the Gospel of any such offer. We cannot help making the reflection, as we meditate upon this event of our Lord’s life:- an enthusiastic reception is given to Him in the morning, He is proclaimed by the people as their King; but when the evening of that day comes on, there is not one of all those thousands to offer Him food or lodging. In the Carmelite monasteries of St. Teresa’s reform, there is a custom, which has been suggested by this thought, and is intended as a reparation for this ingratitude shown to our Redeemer. A table is placed in the middle of the refectory; and after the community have finished their dinner, the food which was placed upon that table is distributed among the poor, and Jesus is honoured in them.

HYMN: (In Dominica Palmarum)

Lo! the God that sitteth, in the highest heavens, upon the Cherubim, and looketh down on lowly things, cometh in glory and power, all creatures are full of His divine praise. Peace upon Israel, and salvation to the Gentiles!

The souls of the just cried out with joy: Now is prepared a new Covenant for the world, and mankind is renewed by the sprinkling of the divine Blood!

The people fell upon their knees, and, rejoicing with the disciples, sang, with palms in their hands: Hosanna to the Son of David! Praiseworthy and blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

The simple-hearted people, yea, and little children, (the fittest to adore God) praised Him as King of Israel and of the angels: Praiseworthy and blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers!

O Sion! there came to thee Christ, thy King. seated on a young colt: for He came that he might loose mankind from the senseless error of idolatry, and tame the wild passions of all nations; that thus they might praise Thee, singing: Bless the Lord, all ye His works, and extol Him above all for ever!

Christ thy Lord hath reigned for ever. He, as it is written, the meek one, the Saviour, our just Redeemer, came riding on an ass’s colt, that He might destroy the pride of His enemies, who would not sing these words: Bless the Lord, all ye His works, and extol Him above all for ever!

The unjust and obstinate Sanhedrim, the usurpers of the holy temple, are put to flight; for they had made God’s house of prayer a den of thieves, and shut their hearts against the Redeemer, to whom we cry: Bless the Lord, all ye His works, and extol Him above all forever!

God is our Lord, he hath appeared unto us. Appoint a solemn feast, and come, let us rejoice and magnify the Christ, praising Him, with palms and branches in our hands: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour!

Why, O ye Gentiles, have ye raged? Why, O ye scribes and priests, have ye devised vain things. saying: Who is this, unto whom children, with palms and branches in their hands, cry aloud this praise: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour?

Why, O ye perverse of heart, have ye thrown stumbling-blocks in the way? Your feet are swift to shed the Blood of the Lord. But He will rise again, that He may save all that cry to Him: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord our Saviour!

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


14 Day Lenten Series: Part 12: Resisting the Enemies of Our Salvation

9 April 2017

Michael4

by Fr. Johann Evangelist Zollner, 1883

On several Sundays during the year the Church gives us selections from the epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians; she does so again today, for the last time in the Ecclesiastical Year. In the second part of his epistle, the Apostle gave his converts at Ephesus instructions as to how they were to lead a pious life; he then exhorted married people, parents and children, servants and masters, to fulfil their duties conscientiously. At the conclusion of it he addresses all the Ephesians and exhorts them courageously to fight against the enemies of their salvation, and to use in this struggle weapons that would ensure victory. The Apostle treats in this epistle

I. Of the enemies against whom we must struggle;
II. Of the weapons which we must use in the struggle against them.

PART I.

1. Brethren, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of His power. The enemies of our salvation are strong; in order to be able to battle against them, we also must be strong. But if left to ourselves and to our own strength, we are weak, so weak that we cannot even think a good, salutary thought.–II. Cor. 3: 5. Yet, in the Lord and in the might of his power, i. e., when God supports us by His grace, we become strong, so strong that, full of confidence, we can say with the Apostle: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”–Phil. 4: 13. St. Francis of Sales suffered great temptations for a long time. He writes with regard to them: “I am attacked so violently that it seems to me as if all power of resistance were wanting to me, and that I should fall if an opportunity offered itself. But the weaker I feel, the more my confidence in God grows; for I am confident that God, even in the presence of the objects of a sinful desire, would impart to me so great strength that I could destroy my enemies as young lambs.” In spite of all our weakness, we need not fear the struggle with our enemies, for God assists us and strengthens us so that we can overcome every temptation, even the strongest. “If God be for us, who is against us?” Rom. 8: 31.

2. Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. The Apostle compares Christians to soldiers who go to war, amply provided with the necessary arms. The enemy with whom they must struggle is the devil, the author of all evil, the father of lies, the seducer from the beginning of the world, who goes about, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.–1 Pet. 5: 8. This arch-enemy of our salvation is not only strong, but also full of cunning; he comes when he is least expected and attacks the unguarded senses, causing the most violent temptations; he does not attack openly, in front, but artfully, sideways, and therefore does not represent the sins to which he wishes to seduce us in their real form, but under the appearance of an indifferent thing, or even a virtue. Thus he calls pride, noble self esteem; avarice, wise economy; impurity, human weakness or natural pleasure; injustices and impositions, good financiering. He studies the weakness of every one, and therefore tempts each man to that sin to which he is most inclined.

3. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers ; against the rulers of the world of this darkness; against the spirits of wickedness in high places. In these words the Apostle gives the reason why we must be well armed, for we are obliged to withstand supernatural, not natural powers; and in this struggle it is a question not only of our body and our life, but of our soul and our salvation. By flesh and blood we are to understand men. These also cause us many hard struggles and endanger our salvation by their bad example and scandals, their flatteries and threats, their artifices and violence; far more severe, however, are the struggles, and far greater the danger to our salvation, prepared for us by the evil spirits, because they far surpass men in power, cunning and malice. When the Apostle speaks of principalities and powers, he intimates that there is a hierarchy among evil spirits as well as among good spirits, for, as St. Jerome observes, after the fall they retained the same distinctions of rank as in heaven. The evil spirits, therefore, differ from one another in power and influence; some command, others obey. The Apostle calls them rulers of the world of this darkness. They rule the world, not absolutely, but only so far as God permits them; therefore, without the permission of God, they can injure no one in person or property; as the history of Job teaches us, their power goes only so far as God wills and permits. Concerning salvation, they can injure no one against his will; they resemble, as St. Augustine says, a chained dog that can bark, but can bite only those who go near him. Hence the Scripture says: “Resist the devil and he will fly from you.”–James 4: 7. The addition, of this darkness, means that the evil spirits have power over those men only who lie buried in the darkness of unbelief, error and sin.

Lastly, the Apostle designates the evil spirits as spirits of wickedness in high places. According to the unanimous doctrine of the Fathers of the Church and theologians, all evil spirits are not imprisoned in hell, but can leave it from time to time and visit the earth, in order there to tempt men and do mischief so far as God permits them. I must, however, remark, that wherever they may be, they carry hell, as it were, with them and suffer its torments, and that on the Day of Judgment they will be cast into it for ever. As St. Jerome remarks, it is the unanimous doctrine of the Fathers, that the air it is full of evil spirits who inflict various evils on men. In order to protect the faithful from their injuries, the Church applies sacramentals, especially exorcisms. Make use of those means of the Church, such as the sign of the cross, the invocation of the name of Jesus, and holy water, with devotion and confidence, in order to experience their salutary effects against the power of darkness.

4. Therefore, take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and to stand in all things perfect. As the Apostle says, we have so many and such powerful enemies, that we must take unto ourselves the armor of God, that is, we must have in readiness the necessary means for overcoming all temptations and removing all that is dangerous to salvation, for only in this way shall we be able to resist in the evil day, that is, to stand immovable in the time of temptation, and to persevere in the grace of God. This is the lot of all; we must fight against the enemies of our salvation so long as we live; for “the life of man upon earth is a warfare.” Job 7: 1. We must labor in order to be admitted into heaven, for “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence; and the violent bear it away” (Matt. 1 1 : 12); we must fight and conquer, for no one is crowned unless he has legitimately gained the victory.

But what are the arms that we must use in the combat, in order to win the victory?

PART II.

The Apostle mentions these arms by bringing the complete armor of a Roman soldier before our eyes. A Roman soldier had a helmet on his head, a sword in his right hand, a shield on his left arm, and a coat of mail on his breast, around the loins a broad belt bound with thin iron, and on his feet short, boots provided with sharp points.

1. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice.

(a.) The enemies of our soul endeavor to blind and seduce us by various misrepresentations and lies, as formerly the infernal serpent seduced Eve. They say this or that is not a sin, at least not a mortal sin; that we shall become perfectly happy by committing it; that God is infinitely merciful and indulgent with the weakness of men. We must protect ourselves against these lying suggestions of the devil with the girdle of truth; to his persuasions we must oppose the truths of our holy faith, and reply to him: “What you suggest to me is untrue; for my infallible faith tells me the very opposite, and to that faith I will cling.” If Eve had girded herself about with truth, the devil could not have persuaded her to sin; and if we gird ourselves about with truth in every temptation, we shall be safe against every fall.

(b.) We must have on the breastplate of justice. Justice means here the perfect fulfilment of the divine law, true holiness; the breastplate of justice, therefore, is, as St. Chrysostom observes, a life adorned with every virtue. As the breastplate defends the breast of the soldier against the missiles of the enemy, so justice is a protection against the assaults of Satan. When Satan tempts the just man to pride, he is overcome by humility; when he tempts him to impurity, he is overcome by chastity; when he tempts him to anger and revenge, he is overcome by meekness; in short, when he tempts him to any sin, he is invariably over come by the virtue opposed to that sin. The just man who loves God with his whole heart, and hates and detests sin as the greatest evil, employs the means necessary for the overcoming of the temptation, and for this reason he cannot be overcome by the enemies of his salvation.

(c.) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The Roman soldiers wore shoes which covered the feet and ankles, and enabled them to walk safely on all kinds of roads, and prevented injury by bushes and thorns. With such shoes we also must be provided; they consist in a true zeal for virtue, in a continual aspiration to perfection. This zeal is necessary, because walking in the path of virtue has many difficulties in its train. He who falls away from his first fervor and becomes tepid, will soon grow weary in well-doing. The Apostle says that our feet must be shod, that is, we must have great zeal for the gospel of peace; and he thereby indicates that walking in the way of virtue leads us to peace with God. For if we fervently serve God, we already here below enjoy the peace of a good conscience, and the everlasting peace of the children of God awaits us in the next world. When the worldling does so much for the acquisition of temporal comforts and conveniences, which are vain and fleeting, why should we not readily and willingly make any and every sacrifice in order to acquire for ourselves the unspeakable blessing of heavenly peace?

2. In all things taking the shield of faith wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. The Apostle calls faith a shield, for as a shield protects the soldier against the darts, so faith protects the Christian against the sins into which in moments of temptation he is liable to fall. For faith tells us how miserable we make ourselves when we yield to temptation and sin that we forfeit the love and grace of God, all acquired merit, as well as heaven, and expose ourselves to the danger of everlasting perdition; again, faith tells us what a great reward awaits us if we overcome the temptation and remain faithful to God that we acquire the love and approbation of God, and eternal salvation. Who that ponders well on these truths of the faith, could consent to a temptation, and fall into sin? The fiery darts of the most wicked one are especially the temptations to impurity, with which the devil assaults people; also in general all temptations that frequently assail them with great vehemence and allure them to sin. Against these the shield of faith protects us, for its serious truths, when we meditate upon them, place us in a holy frame of mind, inspire us with a detestation of all evil, and urge us to have recourse to God by fervent prayer, whereby we gain strength sufficient to come forth victorious from the most severe struggles.

3. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

(a.) By helmet of salvation we are to understand the hope of eternal salvation. For as the helmet protects the head against all the blows of the enemy, so the hope of eternal salvation protects us against all the attacks of Satan. Witnesses, the holy martyrs. They were promised honors and dignities, riches and pleasures of every description, if they would renounce their faith, but they resisted the temptation and remembered the words of Christ: “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?–Matt. 16: 26. They were threatened with the confiscation of their property, with prison and death, and these threats were executed with unheard-of cruelty; but they remained faithful to Jesus and to the holy faith, and said with the Apostle: “That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.”–II. Cor. 4: 17. It was also in the hope of heaven that so many Christians of both sexes renounced the world, with all its pleasures and enjoyments, and passed their whole lives in seclusion, in mortification, and in works of Christian charity; they said with St. Paul: “I count all things to be but loss, for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ.”–Phil. 3: 8. In all your temptations think of heaven and its unspeakable joys; then it will become plain to you how vain and fleeting is what the world and Satan offer, and so you will turn away from them with contempt and disgust.

(b.) The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The Apostle calls the word of God a sword, which is one of the most effectual weapons to put the evil spirit to flight. But the word of God comprises edifying discourses and hymns, ejaculatory prayers, sermons, catechetical instructions, wholesome admonitions, the Sacred Scriptures, spiritual books, and the lives of the saints. Christ resisted and overcame the devil with the word of God. –Matt. 4: 3-10.

PERORATION

You now know the weapons with which you must fight against Satan. Make use of them, and struggle with courage and determination, with bravery and perseverance. Short is the time of warfare, for it extends itself only over our fleeting earthly life, but the fruits of the victory will endure when time is no more. Blessed are we, if in the days of our earthly life we struggle manfully with the enemies of our salvation and conquer; at the close of our earthly career we can confidently look forward to eternity, and say with the Apostle: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just judge, will render to me in that day.”–II. Tim. 4: 7, 8. Amen.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


#Meditations for Each Day of #Lent by St Thomas #Aquinas: #HolyWeek #PalmSunday

9 April 2017

Holy Week Begins: Palm Sunday
11April 2017 Anno Domini

From the website, Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals

Vision of Saint Thomas Aquinas by Santi de Tito 1593

by St. Thomas Aquinas


Holy Week: Palm Sunday

 

Christ’s Passion Serves us as an Example

The Passion of Christ is by itself sufficient to form us in every virtue. For whoever wishes to live perfectly, need do no more than scorn what Christ scorned on the cross, and desire what He there desired. There is no virtue of which, from the cross, Christ does not give us an example.

If you seek an example of charity, Greater love than this no man hath, than that a man lay down His life for his friends (John xv. 13), and this Christ did on the cross. And since it was for us that He gave his life, it should not be burdensome to bear for Him whatever evils come our way. What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that He hath rendered to me (Ps. cxv. 12).

If you seek an example of patience, in the cross you find the best of all. Great patience shows itself in two ways. Either when a man suffers great evils patiently, or when he suffers what he could avoid and forbears to avoid. Now Christ on the cross suffered great evils. O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see, if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow (Lam. i. 12). And He suffered them patiently, for, when he suffered He threatened not (i Pet. ii. 23) but led as a sheep to the slaughter, He was dumb as a lamb before His shearer (Isaias liii. 7).

Also it was in His power to avoid the suffering and He did not avoid it. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt. xxvi. 53). The patience of Christ, then, on the cross was the greatest patience ever shown. Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb xii. i, 2).

If you seek an example of humility, look at the crucified. For it is God who wills to be judged and to die at the will of Pontius Pilate. Thy cause hath been judged as that of the wicked (Job xxxvi. 17). Truly as that of the wicked, for Let us condemn him to a most shameful death (Wis. ii. 20). The Lord willed to die for the slave, the life of the angels for man.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow Him who became obedient unto death (Phil. ii. 8), for as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just (Rom. v. 19).

If you seek an example in the scorning of the things of this world, follow Him who is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom. Lo! on the cross He hangs naked, fooled, spit upon, beaten, crowned with thorns, sated with gall and vinegar, and dead. My garments they parted among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots (Ps. xxi. 19).

Error to crave for honours, for He was exposed to blows and to mockery. Error to seek titles and decorations for platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head, and a reed in his right hand. And bowing the knee before him, they mocked him, saying Hail, king of the Jews (Matt, xxvii. 29).

Error to cling to pleasures and comfort for they gave me gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (Ps. Ixviii. 22).


14 Day Lenten Series: Day 11: St Hilarion’s Miracles and Combat with Devils as Written by St. Jerome

8 April 2017

St. Hilarion: from his life written by St. Jerome
by Bishop Challoner, 1841

Part11Hilarion was born at a village called Thabatha, five miles from the city of Gaza in Palestine, of infidel parents, who sent him, when very young, to study at Alexandria, where he gave proofs of an excellent genius for his age, and of his good dispositions to virtue. Here he embraced the faith of Christ, and young as he was, could find no pleasure either in theatrical shows, incentives to lust, or any other wordly diversions, but delighted only in frequenting the church, and in religious exercises. Hearing of the fame of St. Antony, he went to visit him in the desert, and put off his secular habit, in order to embrace the same institute. He remained with the Saint about two months, making it his study to observe and learn perfectly the whole order and method of his life;–his continual prayer–his humility–his charity–his mortification–and all his other virtues. Then returning into his own country with some other religious men, and finding that his parents were dead, he distributed his whole substance between his brethren and the poor, without reserving any thing for himself, bearing in mind that saying of our Lord: He that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple, Luke xiv. 33. Thus stript of the world, and armed with Christ, being only in his sixteenth year, he took the resolution of retiring into the wilderness (which lies on the left of the road that leads from Gaza into Egypt), without apprehending the dangers which his worldly friends objected, from the robberies and murders for which that place was infamous; but rather despising a temporal death, that he might escape that which is eternal nor regarding the tenderness of his own constitution, which made him very sensible of cold, heat, and other injuries of the weather, and of the hardships and austerities that are incident to that kind of life which he was going to undertake.

On going into the desert, he took on other clothing with him than the frock of a peasant, a sackcloth and hair-cloth, with a leathern habit to wear over it, which St. Antony had given him. Here he built himself a little hut, covered with sedges and rushes, to modify the inclemency of the weather, which served him from the sixteenth to the twentieth year of his age, and afterwards in a cell, which, according to St. Jerome’s account, who had seen it, was but four feet wide, five feet high, and in length but a little longer than his body, so that as he could not stand in it upright, it seemed rather a tomb for a dead corpse, than a dwelling for a living man. Here his diet was suitable to his lodging; his food for the first years being but fifteen dry figs in the day, and that not till after sunset. Afterwards, from the twenty-first to the twenty-seventh year of his age, he took only about eight or ten ounces of lentiles, steeped in cold water, or a little dry bread, with salt and water. For the space of three or four years more, he lived upon nothing but the wild herbs, or roots of the shrubs of the wilderness. From the thirty-first till the thirty-fifth year of his age he confined himself to six ounces of barley bread per day, and a few pot-herbs without oil; which rule he continued to observe to his sixty-third year, when he began to allow himself a little oil with his herbs, but tasted nothing else, either of fruit or of pulse, or of any other kind of food. From that time, as he now supposed that by course of nature he could not have long to live, instead of relaxing in his austerities, he redoubled them; so that from the sixty-fourth year of his age till his death, that is, till he was eighty years old, he totally abstained from bread, and eat nothing, during the four and twenty hours, but a kind of mess composed of meal and herbs, which served him both for meat and drink: and this in so small a quantity, that his whole daily sustenance did not weigh above five ounces. Such was his austerity, with respect to his food, that, throughout these different periods of his life, he ever observed it as a constant rule, never to eat or drink till after sun-set, how weak soever his health might be, not even on the greatest solemnities.

Hilarion had no sooner, in imitation of his great model and master St. Antony, entered upon this course of life, in a vast and frightful desert, where no man before had ventured to dwell, and, like him, applied himself incessantly to God in prayer, than the devil, not bearing to see himself thus trodden under foot by a young man, began to assault him with violent temptations of the flesh, filling his mind with impure imaginations, and inciting him by sensual allurements, to carnal pleasures, of which before he had no conception. The chaste youth perfectly abhorred himself,
St. Hilarion as written by St. Jerome 01He struck his breast, as if he meant by this exterior violence to put those lewd suggestions to flight: he condemned himself to longer, and still more rigorous fasts and hard labour, saying thus to himself: “thou little jack-ass, I will teach thee to kick; instead of corn thou shalt feed only on straw;–I will tame thy courage with hunger and thirst: I will lay heavy burthens upon thee:–I will make thee work both in summer and winter, that instead of wanton pleasures thou mayest think of thy meat.” The Saint was steadfast in his resolution: fasting without intermission, sometimes for three or four days together, and then taking only a little juice of herbs and a few figs for his meal: incessantly praying, singing psalms, and working at the same time, either in digging the earth or in making baskets, till at length, by these exercises, he reduced his body to a mere skeleton. Wherefore the enemy perceiving he could not prevail this way, began to trouble him with fantastic apparitions and other temptations.

One night he was on a sudden surprised with hearing the crying as it were of children, the bleating of sheep, the bellowing of oxen, the lamentations of women, the roaring of lions, and the confused noise of an army of barbarians, with strange and frightful voices. Suspecting them to be nothing but diabolical illusions, he armed himself with the sign of the cross, and with a lively faith, cast himself down upon the ground, to be the better enabled, in this humble posture, to encounter the proud enemy. Then looking forward, it being a clear moon-light night, he perceived, as it were, a coach, drawn by furious horses, coming with a violent gallop towards him: at the sight of which he called upon the name of Jesus, when behold on a sudden the whole fantastic scene sunk down into the earth before his eyes: upon which he burst forth the praises of his Deliverer. At several other times this indefatigable enemy sought various ways, both by day and night, to molest him: either by exhibiting naked figures to excite him to concupiscence, or by seeking to interrupt his devotion and distract him at prayer by a variety of either comic or tragic scenes: but none of these, or any other of his attempts, were able to shake the resolution of the servant of God, or prevent his perpetual application to the love and service of his Maker. One day whilst he was praying with his head fixed on the ground, it happened that his mind wandered on some other thoughts, the watchful enemy, taking advantage of this distraction, jumped upon his back, as if to ride upon him; and whipping and spurring, cried out: “What, art thou asleep? Thou a saint! come shall I give thee some provender?” But this, like the rest of his vain efforts, only served to excite the Saint to still more vigilance and fervor.

About the eighteenth year of his age, the robbers that frequented the desert, took it in their heads to pay him a visit; expecting either to find something in his hut to take away, or looking upon it as a rash attempt in a single boy to venture to dwell alone in their dominions and not be afraid of them. They therefore began their search after him in the evening, and continued it till the sunrising, without being able to find his lodging: but meeting him at day-light, they asked him as it were in jest, “what he would do if he were visited by robbers?” “Oh!” said he, “he that has nothing to lose fears no robbers.” “But,” said they, “perhaps they may kill thee.” “True,” said he, “but I do not dread death: and therefore am not afraid of them, because I am prepared to die.” Amazed at his constancy and faith, they acknowledged that having sought him during the night, they were so blinded as not to be able to find him; and so deeply were they affected with his words, that they promised to amend their lives.

Hilarion had now spent twenty-two years in perfect solitude in the wilderness, conversing only with God and his angels, and only known to the world by the fame of his sanctity, which was spread over all Palestine, when a certain woman of the city of Eleutheropolis, who had lived fifteen years in the state of wedlock without bearing a child, finding herself despised by her husband on account of her barrenness, ventured to break in upon his solitude; and coming unexpectedly upon him, cast herself upon her knees before him, saying: “Pardon my boldness; pity my distress: why do you turn away your eyes from me? Why do you flee from your petitioner? Do not look at me as a woman, but as a distressed fellow-creature. Remember that a woman brought forth the Savior of the world, those that are well stand not in need of a physician, but they that are ill.” At these words he stood still; and having learnt of her, the first woman he had seen since his retiring into the desert, the cause of her grie£, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven, bid her be of good heart, and weeping for her, sent her away; but behold within a twelvemonth she returned, bringing her son with her to visit him. This, his first miracle, was followed by a greater.

When Aristeneta, the wife of Elpidius, a Christian nobleman (who was afterwards advanced to one of the first posts in the empire), was on her return from Egypt, where she had been with her husband and her three sons, to see St . Antony, she stopped at Gaza on account of the illness of her children, who were all seized by a semitertian fever, and brought so low that their lives were despaired of by the physicians. The disconsolate mother, hearing of the sanctity of Hilarion, whose wilderness was not far distant from Gaza, went in haste to visit him, accompanied by some of her servants, and thus addressed herself to him: “I beg of thee for God’s sake: for the sake of Jesus our most merciful God; through His cross and His blood; that thou wouldst vouchsafe to come and restore health to my three sons, that the name of the Lord our Savior may be glorified in that pagan city: that when His servant comes into Gaza, Marnas (the idol which they there worship) may fall to the ground.” The man of God excused himself, alleging, that he never went out of his cell, not so much as into any village, much less into a populous city; but she, casting herself down upon the ground, ceased not to importune him with many tears; often crying out,” O Hilarion! thou blessed servant of God, restore to me my sons: Antony has laid his hands upon them in Egypt, but do thou save their lives in Syria.” Her earnest entreaties at length obliged him to promise her that he would come to Gaza after sun-set. No sooner had he arrived at their lodgings, and seen them confined to their beds in burning fevers, bereft of sense, than he called upon our Lord Jesus, when immediately a copious sweat, issuing as it were from three fountains, followed his prayer, and in the space of an hour they took their meat, knew their mournful mother, blessed God, and kissed the hands of the Saint.

No sooner was his miracle published abroad, than multitudes of the inhabitants of both Syria and Egypt began to visit him. Many infidels were by his mean converted to the faith of Christ, and many also, by his example, embraced a monastic life; for, before his time, there were neither monks nor monasteries in Palestine or Syria: he must therefore be considered the father, founder and first teacher of the monastic institute in those provinces. And now it was that he began to be joined by many disciples, whom he trained: up to religious perfection, who were witnesses of the wonderful miracles that God wrought by him. St. Jerome, as one perfectly well informed, has recorded several of the most remarkable, with all their circumstances. A woman of the neighborhood of Rhinocorura, (a city on the confines of Egypt,) who had been blind for ten years, was brought to the Saint to be healed: after having told him that she had, expended her whole substance on physicians, “you had done better (said he) if you had given it to the poor; you would then have given it to Jesus Christ, the true physician, who would have healed you.” She earnestly begged that he would have pity on her; and he, with spitting on her eyes, restored her to her sight. A charioteer of Gaza was also brought to him on his bed, struck in such a manner by the devil, that he could not stir any of the members of his body except his tongue, with which he besought the servant of God to heal him. The Saint told him, that if he desired to be healed, he must first believe in Jesus Christ, and promise to renounce a profession which exposed him to the immediate occasion of sin. To these conditions he agreed, and having received his cure, he returned home, rejoicing more for the health of his soul, than for that of his body.

Marsitas, a young man of the territory of Jerusalem of an extraordinary bulk and strength, who had been possessed by an evil spirit, and done much mischief to many, was dragged? by ropes to the cell of the servant of God, like a mad bull bound in chains. The brethren at the very sight of him were affrighted, but the saint bid the people bring him up and let him loose; which when they had done, he commanded him to bend down his head and come to him. The poor man trembling bent his neck, when laying aside all his fierceness, and falling down he licked the feet of the man of God; and after seven days’ exorcisms was entirely cured. Another man, named Orion, a principal citizen of Aila, a city near the Red Sea, who was possessed by a whole legion of devils, was brought in like manner loaded with chains to the Saint, who happened at that time to be walking with his disciples, and interpreting to them some passages of the Scripture: when behold the possessed man broke loose from those that held him, and running up to the man of God, whose back was turned towards him, lifted him up from the ground on high in his arms: at which all that were present cried out, apprehending that he would do the Saint some mischief; but Hilarion said smiling, “suffer me to wrestle with my antagonist.” Then putting back his hand, he laid hold on the hair of Orion, and bringing him before his feet, kept him down howling, and turning back his neck, so as to touch the ground with the top of his head. Then praying, he said: “O Lord Jesus, I am a poor wretch; do thou release this captive; thou canst as easily overcome many as one.” On this occasion they were all astonished to hear so many different voices issuing from the mouth of the possessed person, and a confused out-cry, as it were of a whole people: but their wonder ceased when they saw the multitude of wicked spirits that was expelled from him by the prayers of the humble servant of God. Orion came shortly afterwards with his wife and children to return thanks to the Saint, and brought him large presents out of gratitude, which he absolutely refused to accept: but when he besought him with tears to take at least what he had brought, and to give it to the poor, he answered; “thou canst better distribute thyself what thou wouldst have to be given to the poor; for thou frequentest cities, and knowest the poor; why should I, who have left my own, covet the goods of others? Many have been imposed upon by avarice, under the name of the poor. Do not make thyself uneasy; it is for both thy sake and mine I refuse thy presents: for if I should accept of them, I should offend God, and the legion of devils would return to thee.”

One Italicus, a Christian of Maiuma, the haven of Gaza, who bred horses for the public races that were to be exhibited at Gaza, came to the Saint to beg his prayers against the enchantments wherewith his pagan antagonist, one of the magistrates of the city, had bewitched his horses. Hilarion, who disliked all these pubhe games, was unwilling to employ his prayers on so vain an occasion. But the other representing to him that it was not by his own choice, but by his office, he was obliged to do what he did; and that the honor of God and religion was here at stake, because the men of Gaza, who, for the most part, were infidels, would take occasion, from his being worsted, to insult, not so much over him as over the church of Christ: the Saint, at the request of the brethren, ordered his earthen pot, in which he used to drink, to be filled with water, and given to him. Italicus took the water, and with it sprinkled his stable, his horses, his chariot, and his drivers, in the sight of the pagans, who made a jest of it, whilst the Christians, confiding in the prayers of the Saint, made no doubt of success. Wherefore, as soon as the signal was given, the horses of Italicus sprung forth-with incredible speed, whilst those of his adversary were presently distanced, and could scarce keep within sight of them that were gone before. Upon this a loud cry of all the people was immediately raised, and even the very adversaries cried out, that Marnas, the God of Gaza, was worsted by Christ. This miracle gave occasion to the conversion of many.

There was also in the same town of Maiuma, a virgin dedicated to God, with whom a young man in the neighborhood was vehemently in love. After having employed, without success, flattering speeches, idle jokes, and other freedoms, which too often pave the way to greater crimes, he went to Memphis in Egypt, to seek a remedy for his wound from the priests of Esculapius. They furnished him with certain magical spells and monstrous figures, graven upon a plate of copper, which he buried under the threshold of the house where the maid dwelt, when behold immediately (in punishment of her having laid herself too open to the enemy, by not flying, as she ought, or not resisting former freedoms) the maid ran mad with love, tearing off her head clothes, whirling about her hair, gnashing with her teeth, and calling upon the name of the young man. Her parents, therefore, took her to St. Hilarion, when presently it appeared how the case stood; for the devil began to howl within her, and to cry out: “I was forced in hither; I was brought from Memphis against my will: where I succeeded well, in deluding men with dreams. But, oh! what torments dost thou make me suffer here! Thou compellest me to depart, but behold I am bound fast, and kept in by the thread and plate that lie under the threshold. I cannot go out till the young man who keeps me here, lets me go.” “Thou art very strong indeed!” said the Saint, “if thou art held by a thread and a plate. But tell me, how didst thou dare to enter into a maid dedicated to God!” “It was,” said he, “to preserve her virginity.” “What! thou preserve her virginity,” said the Saint, “who art the mortal enemy of chastity. Why didst thou not rather enter into him that sent thee?” “Oh,” said the devil, “there was no necessity for my entering into him, who was already possessed by my comrade, the demon of wanton love.” The Saint would hear no more, nor send for the young man, not order the things mentioned to be taken away, to show the little regard that is to be had to the devil’s speeches or signs, but instantly delivered the maid from her wicked guest, and sent her away perfectly cured, after severely reprehending her for admitting of those liberties which had given the devil the power to possess her.

It would be endless to recount all the other miracles that God wrought by this Saint, which rendered his name illustrious, even in the most remote provinces. St. Antony himself, hearing of his life and conversation, wrote to him, and gladly received letters from him; and when any diseased came to him for their cure from any part of Syria, he blamed them for giving themselves the trouble to come so far, since you have, said he, in those parts my son Hilarion. His bright example attracted great numbers to the service of God, so that now there were innumerable monasteries, or cells of religious, throughout Palestine, who all looked upon him as their father, and resorted to him for their direction. These he exhorted to attend to their spiritual progress; ever reminding them, “that the figure of this world passeth away, and that eternal life can only be purchased by parting with the pleasures and affections of this life.” He visited all their monasteries once a year for their instruction and edification: and such was his diligence and charity on these occasions, that he would not pass by the cell of the least or meanest of the brethren without calling in to instruct and console him, insomuch that he went as far as the desert of Kadesh, on purpose to visit one single monk who dwelt there. In this journey he was accompanied by a great number of his disciples into the city of Elusa, on the confines of the Saracens, on a festival day, when the people were all assembled in the temple of Venus, who was there worshipped by the Saracens on account of the star that bears her name. No sooner had they heard that Hilarion, of whose sanctity and miracles they had been previously informed by several of their nation whom he had delivered from evil spirits, was passing by, but all the men, women, and children ran out in crowds to meet him and to beg his blessing. The Saint received them all with the utmost tenderness and humility, and begged that they would henceforth worship the living God, rather than stocks and stones: shedding at the same time many tears, and looking up towards heaven, he promised, if they would believe in Christ, that he would frequently come to see them. So wonderful was the grace that accompanied the words and prayers of the man of God, that they would not suffer him to quit their city, till he had first marked out a plot of ground for the building of a church; nay, their very priest had received the sign of the cross of Christ, in order to his baptism.

Another year, when the Saint was making his visitation, a little before the time of the vintage, he came with all his companions to the monastery of one of the brethren, who was remarkable for being a niggardly miser. This man had a vineyard, and apprehending lest the multitude of the monks that accompanied the Saint should eat up his grapes, he set several men to keep them off with stones and clods in slings, and would not so much as let them taste of them. The servant of God smiled at the treatment they had met with, but taking no notice of it to the niggard, he went on the next day to another monastery, where he and his whole company were kindly received by a monk named Sabas, who kindly invited them (it being the Lord’s day,) to go and feast themselves in his vineyard. The Saint ordered that they should first take the food of their souls, by applying themselves to their religious exercises of prayer, singing psalms, and paying their duty to God: and then after giving them his blessing, he sent the whole multitude of his disciples to the vineyard to take their corporal refection. The blessing of the man of God was attended with so miraculous an effect, that whereas the vineyard of Sabas was not before thought capable of yielding more than a hundred gallons of wine, it yielded that year three hundred, whilst the vineyard of the niggard yielded much less than usual, and the little that it produced turned into vinegar, a circumstance which the man of God had foretold. Hilarion could never endure in religious men any thing that looked like covetousness, or too great an affection to any of those things that pass away with this transitory world: he was moreover endowed by God with the gift of discovering who were addicted to this, that, or any other kind of vice, by the stench that proceeded from their bodies or garments.

And now the Saint, seeing that his hermitage was converted into a great monastery; and that the wilderness about him was continually crowded with the people who resorted thither, bringing their diseased, or such as were possessed with unclean spirits, and that not only the common sort of people from all the neighboring provinces, but even the gentry,–ladies of the first rank,–clerks, monks, priests, and bishops, were daily visiting him, and interrupting his devotions, he bitterly regretted the loss of his former solitude, perpetually lamenting, weeping, and saying, that since he had returned back into the world, he apprehended he should have his reward in this life, because all Palestine and the neighboring provinces took him to be somebody, &c. nor did he cease to mourn and bewail his condition, till he took a fixed resolution to quit his monastery, and retire into some place where he might be unknown, and more freely enjoy his God without the interruption of so many visits. In the mean time, whilst he was meditating upon his flight, the lady Aristeneta, whose three sons he had cured, came to see him, acquainting him with her design of returning into Egypt, to make a second visit to St. Antony. He replied, with tears in his eyes, that he could have wished to have taken the same journey, if he were not kept prisoner in his monastery, but that it was now too late to find Antony alive; for, said he, two days ago the world was deprived of so great a father. Having believed him, she did not proceed in her journey, and, behold, after some days the news of his death was brought from Egypt.

When it was known abroad that the man of God was upon the point of quitting Palestine, the whole province took the alarm, and no less than ten thousand people, of all degrees and conditions, were gathered together, in order to stop and detain him. But his resolution was not to be altered; and as he had learnt by revelation the havoc that the infidels of Gaza were about to make in his monastery, and all through that neighborhood, under the reign of Julian the Apostate, he gave them broad hints of this his fore-knowledge, saying, that he could not call in question the truth of what God had said; nor could he endure to see the churches destroyed, the altars of Christ trodden under foot, and his children massacred. In short, he assured them he would neither eat nor drink till they let him go. And thus, after he had fasted seven days, they were contented at last to suffer him depart, accompanied by about forty of his monks. With these he made the best of his way to Pelusium, (now called Darmietta) in Egypt, and after visiting the holy solitaries who lived in the neighboring deserts, he waited upon Dracontius and Philo; two illustrious confessors of Christ, of the number of those catholic prelates who had been banished from their sees by the fury of the Arians, under the emperor Constantius. After paying these visits, he hastened to keep the anniversary day of the happy decease of St. Antony in the place where he died: and being conducted by the deacon Baisanes upon dromedaries, three days’ journey through that vast and dreary wilderness, he arrived at length at the mountain of the Saint. Here he found his two disciples, who showed him all the places where their master had been accustomed to sing psalms–to pray–to work–and sit down to rest himself, after being wearied with his labour; as also the garden he had cultivated–the trees he had planted–the instrument with which he had dug the earth–the private cells to which he often retired towards the top of the mountain, &c. and then agreeably entertained him with divers particulars of the acts of the latter part of St. Antony’s life. Hilarion was much moved to devotion with the sight and recital of all this; and after watching in prayer the whole night of the anniversary of the Saint, he returned the same way he came, through the dreary wilderness to the neighborhood of the town called Aphroditon. Here in an adjoining desert, with two of his disciples whom he kept with him, he led so abstemious, abstracted, and silent a life, that on feeling the fervor he now found within himself, he seemed never to have before begun to serve Christ in earnest.

He had not been above two years in this wilderness, when the fame of his sanctity brought all the people of the neighboring country to him, to beg his prayers for rain. For from the time of the death of St. Antony, no rain had fallen upon their land, for the space of three whole years, so that being afflicted with a great famine, they resorted to him, whom they considered as the successor of St. Antony, for a redress of their misery. Moved to pity by the sight of their distress, he lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven to pray for them, and his prayer was immediately followed by plentiful rains. But the rains, whilst they fertilized the earth, having, in falling on the dry hot sand, also produced an incredible multitude of venomous reptiles and insects, with which innumerable persons were struck, they were again forced to have recourse to the Saint, who gave them some oil which he had blessed, with which they were cured. But now finding himself after these miracles greatly honored, he would stay no longer in this place, but departed in order to go and hide himself in the desert of Oasis. In his way thither he passed through Alexandria: and as he made it a rule never to lodge in any city, he went on to a place in the neighbourhood, called Bruchium, where there was a monastery of the servants of God. From hence, when night drew on, he hastened away, telling the brethren, who were greatly afflicted, that they should soon know the reason of his sudden departure. Accordingly, on the next day their monastery was searched by the Gazites, accompanied by officers sent from the governor of Alexandria to apprehend Hilarion, of whose arrival there they had received intelligence. For the infidels of Gaza, who bore a mortal hatred to the Saint, as soon as Julian came to the empire, destroyed his monastery, and obtained an edict from the tyrant, that both he, and his disciple Hesychius, should be sought for and put to death wherever they were found. Of this the Saint had a fore-knowledge by prophetic light, and thereupon withdrew himself: so that the infidels, who had thought themselves, certain of seizing their priest, finding he was gone, departed, saying to each other, that now they were sure he was a magician, and had a foresight of things to come.

He had not been a year in the wilderness of Oasis, before he found that fame had also followed him thither; and therefore now despairing to be able to conceal himself upon the continent, he formed a resolution of seeking out a place in some of the islands of the Mediterranean, where he might hide himself. In order to this he embarked with one only disciple, at Paretonium, a haven on the coast of Lybia, on board a vessel bound for Sicily; hoping that henceforward no one should know him, or become troublesome to him in his retirement. When, behold, in the midst of the voyage the son of the master of the ship, or rather the devil by his mouth, cried out: “Hilarion, thou servant of God, let me alone, at least till we come to land; how comes it to pass, that even at sea thou art still persecuting us.” The Saint would have disguised the grace which God had given him, fearing lest the sailors and passengers should publish his fame when they came to land, and therefore mildly replied: “If my God permits thee to stay, stay if thou wilt; but if he cast thee out, what hast thou do do to complain of me, who am but a poor beggar and a sinful man.” However, upon the solemn promise of the father, and of all the rest, that they would not discover him, he cast the devil out of the boy. When they arrived at Pachynum (now Capo Passaro), he would have paid for the passage of himself and his companion, by giving the captain the book of the gospels, which was all his wealth, but he, seeing their poverty, would not receive it. Wherefore the Saint leaving the sea-coast, withdrew himself into a little kind of wilderness, about twenty miles within the land, and there fixed his abode; living upon what little he could get, by making up faggots, which his companion carried to a neighboring village, bringing from thence in exchange what they stood need of for their food.

But the Saint could not long he concealed here; for soon after his arrival, a man possessed with an evil spirit, being under the exorcisms of the church at St. Peter’s in Rome, the devil cried out thus by his mouth: “Hilarion, the servant of Chiiet, is some days since come into Sicily, where no man knows him, and he thinks himself secret: but I will go and discover him.” This man therefore taking some of his servants with him, and going on board a ship sailed immediately for Sicily; and after coming to shore, being conducted by the devil, he went straight to the hut of the servant of God, and there casting himself at his feet, was perfectly cured. This being noised abroad, great multitudes, who labored under various corporeal diseases, resorted to him to obtain their cure; whilst numbers also of devout and religious people applied to him for their spiritual profit. Amongst the rest, he cured upon the spot one of the principal men of the island, who was swollen up with the dropsy, and who on the same day, returned home in perfect health. This man offered to make him considerable presents, which the Saint absolutely refused, alleging the precept of our Savior, Matt. x. 8. Freely have you received, freely give: which rule he invariably observed in all the other innumerable miracles which he wrought, whether in Sicily or elsewhere, for, he never would receive any thing, no not so much as a morsel of bread from any one of those on whom he had wrought those miracles.

And now his beloved disciple Hesychius, after having sought after him in vain through many different regions came at length to Sicily, upon the report he had heard at Modon in Greece, from a Jewish pedlar, that a Christian prophet had appeared in Sicily, who wrought all kinds of wonderful miracles. No sooner had he found him than the Saint gave him to understand, that he wanted to depart from Sicily into some strange country where he might be utterly unknown. Wherefore, in compliance with his desire, he conveyed him away by a ship to the coast of Dalmatia, where for a short time he led a solitary life, not far from the city of Epidaurus, now called Ragusa. But neither here could he remain long concealed, his miracles every where betraying him. There was at that time, in the neighborhood of Epidaurus, a monstrous serpent, of that species named boas, which did great mischief in destroying both men and cattle; the Saint, to put a stop to this calamity ordered the country people to heap up a pile of wood, and after addressing a prayer to Christ he called the serpent out of his den, and commanded him to go on the top of the pile of wood, and then setting fire to it, he burnt the monster in sight of a great multitude of people. This miracle was followed by another still greater. About this time, viz. the second year of the reign of Valentinian the first, there happened so remarkable an earthquake that, according to Amianus, a cotemporary historian, its like was never recorded, either in authentic or fabulous history. On this occasion, the swelling seas, in several places, broke in and overflowed the land in such a manner as to threaten the earth with a second deluge, and in some places the waves ran so high as to carry the ships along with them, and leave them hanging on the cliffs. The Epidaurians perceiving the danger in which their city as well as many others were in of being destroyed, had recourse to Hilarion, and opposed him to the mountains of water that were just upon the point of overwhelming them. No sooner had the Saint made three crosses on the sand, and lifted Up his arms to heaven, than the swelling waves, though they raged, foamed, and rose up to an incredible height, not able to advance, gradually returned back again and subsided. This wonder, says St. Jerome, who was then a boy in the same province, the city of Epidaurus, as well as the whole country, recount to this day–the mothers relate it to their children, in order to transmit the memory of it to posterity.

The applause that followed these miracles would not suffer the humble servant of Christ to remain any longer in Dalmatia; therefore taking boat privately by night he fled away, and within two days found a ship departing for Cyprus, on which he embarked. In this voyage his ship being pursued by some pirates in two light vessels, there appeared no hopes of escaping them. The ship’s crew being in the utmost consternation, the Saint turning to his disciples said: “Why are you afraid, O ye of little faith?” And when the pirates were now come within a stone’s cast of the ship, he stood on the foredeck, and stretching out his hand to them, he said: “You have come far enough when behold immediately their vessels fell back, and the more they, tugged and rowed, in order to push forward towards their expected prey, the more rapidly were they carried away from it. The Saint landed at Paphos, a noted city of Cyprus, and chose himself a dwelling place about two miles from thence; being now wonderfully pleased that he had found rest, at least for a short time, in this solitude; but scarcely had twenty days elapsed when the devils in different parts of the island published his arrival by the mouths of those that were possessed; and several of these, both men and women, hastened to him and were delivered. Here he remained about two years meditating upon some private place of retirement.

In the mean time he sent Hesychius into Palestine, to salute the brethren there, and to visit the ashes of his monastery; and upon his return proposed that they should sail into Egypt, and advance a great way into the country, to some place inhabited only by pagans. But Hesychius opposed this; and after a long search, discovered a place in the island about twelve miles distant from the sea, amongst mountains and woods that were almost inaccessible, which proved quite to his mind. In this solitude, to which no one could arrive in several places but by creeping, on hands and knees, they found springs of water on the sides of the hills,–a little garden within, with several fruit trees, of which however the Saint would never eat, and near the garden the ruins of an ancient temple, from whence, as both he and his disciples related, were often heard, both night and day, a great noise, like the voices of a whole army of devils. In this solitary abode the man of God dwelt for the last five years of his mortal life, seldom visited by any one but Hesychius, on account of the difficulty of coming at his dwelling, as also because the people were persuaded that the neighborhood was haunted with a multitude of demons. However, there were some that ventured to come to him for the cure of their maladies; their necessities overcoming all difficulties, especially after it was known, that he had cured upon the spot, the bailiff of the place of a palsy, which had deprived him of the use of his limbs, by only stretching out his hand to him, and lifting him up with these words: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.

But now the time arrived which was to put a period to all the labors of his mortal pilgrimage, and unite him eternally to his God, when being now eighty years old he was seized with his last illness. Although Hesychius was then absent, he nevertheless bequeathed to him by will all he had, viz. his book of the gospels, his sackcloth, cowl, and habit. Many religious men from Paphos came to attend him in his sickness, who had heard of his having said, “that he was now going to our Lord;” and with them a holy woman named Constantia, whose daughter and son-in-law he had delivered from death by anointing them with oil. And now he was drawing near his end, when in the very agony of death he distinctly spoke these words: “Go forth my soul: what art thou afraid of? Go forth, why art thou at a stand? Thou hast served Christ almost seventy years, and art thou afraid to die?” and with these words he gave up the ghost. He was immediately buried as he had desired, in the same place: where the devout lady Constantia frequently passed whole nights in prayer at his sepulcher, speaking with him as if he were alive, and desiring the assistance of his prayers. His disciple Hesychius, after ten months, privately conveyed his body away to Palestine, where it was solemnly interred in his own monastery; at which time it was found entirely incorrupt, and sending forth a most fragrant odor. Many great miracles were daily wrought through his intercession, even to the time when St. Jerome published his life, as well at his sepulcher in Palestine, as at the place where he was first buried in Cyprus.

http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Next Page »