“Why Catholics Are So Bad at Evangelizing—And What Has to Change ” by Peter Kwasniewski

Why Catholics Are So Bad at Evangelizing—And What Has to Change

Peter Kwasniewski

Two good friends, fellow parishioners, are having coffee and donuts after High Mass one Sunday. 

Maximilian: I really enjoyed Father’s homily today. His explanation of the parable of the mustard seed and the yeast in the dough hit the nail on the head.

Roberto: I thought so, too. It was neat when he said it’s not just the kingdom of God that can be compared to a seed or yeast, but Christ Himself, who came into our world as a tiny baby in a manger, grew up in the middle of nowhere, and died as a convicted criminal—in the world’s eyes, this is all contemptibly small. His way of gathering disciplines, His itinerant preaching, it was all like that seed, seemingly insignificant but now grown over the ages into a tree that stretches across the world.

Max: He had that quote from Ratzinger, too—that Jesus not only preaches, inaugurates, and rules the kingdom of God, but He is the Kingdom, “in person.” And when we receive Him in Holy Communion, then His own words are perfectly fulfilled: “The kingdom of God is within you.” 

 Berto: And then he said the same is true for individual Catholics: we should be those seeds that mature into great bushes to give protection and rest to others who are weary and searching. We should be like a yeast rolled into the dough of our society, lifting it up to God.

Max: Right around that spot, he said something terribly important. Let me see if I can remember how he put it. “You know, modern Catholics are not very good at spreading the Faith. In centuries past, we had missionaries who went from one end of the earth to the other, planting the standard of the Cross, preaching the Gospel, suffering and dying for it, bringing countless souls into the Church. Why are we so timid, so unwilling to stick our necks out? Why do we hide our light under a bushel, content to keep our faith a private affair? Jesus said the kingdom begins like a mustard seed, but it’s not supposed to remain there. It should grow, branch out, and get huge, changing the lives of many. The dough is supposed to rise and become delicious, nourishing bread.”

Berto: And he went on to say that this doesn’t seem to be happening much anymore. The Church is missionary by nature, but many live as though it’s enough to be a believer, and never think of speaking a word of invitation to anyone else around them who isn’t already going to church. In this way we are not growing and leavening as we should. Why aren’t RCIA classes packed, standing room only? Why isn’t the Easter Vigil everywhere full of baptisms, confirmations, and first communions?”

Max: This is something I’ve been puzzling over for many years.

Berto: Have you gotten anywhere in your thinking? Why is evangelization practically non-existent among Catholics?

Max: Well, I’m sure there are many reasons, but I can think of at least three major ones. The first is maybe the most obvious. We—I’m speaking of people in the modern West—we have completely bought into the error of the Enlightenment that religion is a private affair and that we should not “bother” anyone else about their faith or lack of faith in God. It’s “between a man and his Maker.” It’s just a matter of individual conscience. This comes from the fundamental error of thinking that man is not a social animal, as if his happiness, even his salvation, is purely individualistic. We’re all atoms floating in the void, and besides, we can’t know for sure if anything we’re thinking is objectively true. So we keep our big ideas to ourselves and muddle along as best we can, acting selfishly or altruistically depending on what seems to suit the need of the hour. It’s a depressing picture of human beings and their life together. It certainly doesn’t recognize that man is inherently relational and religious, and that he must find his fulfillment in communal worship of the true God.

Berto: If religion is just a private affair and you can’t even know for sure whether you’re right or not, why would you go out of your way to talk it up with neighbors, acquaintances, coworkers? You might “offend their sensibilities,” as people say

.Max: A second issue is this. Thanks to the unholy “spirit of Vatican II,” we have drunk the Kool Aid of universalism: everyone, or nearly everyone, will be saved. God is so merciful that He either sends no one to hell, or you have to work really hard to send yourself to hell—you’ve got to want it badly. So, basically, there’s no urgency to spread the Faith, because we just assume that most people are good willed and heading in the right direction.

Berto: Your point is proved by the auto-canonization that occurs at practically every Novus Ordo funeral. Looking back on my youth, I can’t think of a funeral I went to where we didn’t just hear about how great the deceased person was and how “he’s now in a better place” and “we’ll all get to see him again in heaven,” etc. The Vatican doesn’t need to simplify the process of canonization any further; all you need to do is die and you’re in!

Max: Right. It was the same where I grew up. I can’t recall a single funeral where we focused our attention on praying for the repose of the soul of the departed. That was what struck me most about the traditional Requiem Mass when I first attended it. For all intents and purposes, it ignores the faithful who are there, so intense is its focus on the fate of the departed soul.

 Berto: What you’re saying is perfectly summed up in the “Dies irae.”

Max: Now that’s a prayer that makes you want to get on your knees and stay there a while! But let’s get back to universalism. For the Church Fathers, the default assumption is that man is lost without faith in Christ, without His grace.

Berto: You don’t have to wait until the Church Fathers. It’s already all there in St. Paul, clear as day. Did you catch that last line of today’s Epistle? Something about “turning from idols to serve the living and true God, and waiting for His Son from heaven, Jesus, Who hath delivered us from the wrath to come”?

Max: Whereas in recent decades, the default assumption is that man is automatically saved unless he massively blows it. 

Berto: In fact, if we start to “disturb” people about Christ and His Church and their need for faith, grace, the sacraments, and so on, we risk unsettling them and diverting them from the path on which God was already leading them home.

Max: Our intervention might even cause them to lose their salvation by explicitly rejecting Christ, whereas before they were “implicitly” accepting Him! We can’t do that, right?

Berto: Have you noticed how this mentality goes hand in hand with forgetting about the rights of God and His just claims on us?

Max: Not to mention His ire towards those who do not respond to His call! The Bible—in both Testaments—is full of talk about divine wrath upon sinners. The old liturgy is the same way. To judge from the Novus Ordo and from typical Catholic homilies, and especially funerals, you’d never know anything about this stuff.

Berto: As if God had just decided to give up some of His attributes as too old-fashioned— 

Max: —or more to the point, as if some of His spokesmen made the decision for Him. It’s bad PR to be talking about vengeance, retribution, punishment, eternal death, hellfire, and so forth. As we were just saying a moment ago, no one really deserves these things, which makes several hundred verses of Scripture superfluous verbiage. 

Berto: It’s hard to believe that people who claim to be Christians, let alone Catholics, can fall for such lunacy. I suppose it comes of no longer believing in original sin and actual sin.

Max: What do you mean?

Berto: I only mean that if human beings are born in sin and prone to sin, “children of wrath” who are bound to be displeasing to God, then we urgently need God’s help to turn our lives around and start living for Him, as we were created to do. We have to be rescued, and Christ is the only Savior. If we don’t have all the marvelous aids the Church provides, especially the sacraments, we are goners.

Max: That’s exactly what all the old catechisms said. That’s what the old liturgy conveys, too. In the past few years I’ve come to see more and more how the Catholic Faith—in its consoling truths and its hard truths—is deeply woven into every aspect of the traditional Roman rite, and how it’s as if the new liturgy is embarrassed or ashamed or scared to tell the truth, and suppresses it, glosses it over, handles it with kid gloves, or whatever. You just don’t get the same doctrine, and it makes a huge difference in one’s spiritual life.

Berto: We are so fortunate to have the traditional liturgy here at our parish! I tell you, it has pounded into me the reality of God’s holiness, the gravity of sin, and the real priorities of life.

Max: I know what you’re talking about. As a Catholic growing up in a typical parish, I never even dreamed of wanting to become a “saint.” That kind of talk would have made me laugh, if anyone had ever said it. Now, I get it. I see that this is it, the whole adventure of life, the meaning of it all.

Berto: And, as the pastor has introduced over the years Sunday Vespers, Confession in the old rite, Nuptial Masses and Requiem Masses, all of it, I found myself falling in love with my faith. Can you imagine? It used to be going through the motions, or more focused on seeing my friends—I like seeing my friends, don’t get me wrong—but God is really at the center of everything. Traditional Catholicism makes you feel it, see it, hear it. 

Max: You even smell it when those acolytes get going with the incense!

Berto: But we are getting a bit sidetracked. You spoke about three reasons for the lameness of Catholic evangelization. What’s the third?

Max: It’s simply this. There has been and still is so much doctrinal and moral confusion in the post-conciliar Church that it is becoming more and more difficult for people, whether on the inside or on the outside, to know what the Church actually teaches and how we are supposed to live it day to day. How can you preach a Gospel when you doubt or downplay or quarrel over half of what it says? How can you preach a consistent message if you’re constantly tinkering with your catechism or your liturgy?

Berto: Sadly, you’re right. Ask a sampling of Catholics about the Real Presence or whether the Mass is a sacrifice. Ask them if contraception’s okay, or abortion. You’ll get all sorts of incoherent, contradictory answers.

Max: How can anyone with half a brain take Catholicism seriously when it permits today what it outlawed yesterday, or vice versa? When it denigrates today what it proudly hailed in the past, and promotes ideas and practices that would have churned the stomachs of countless saints? When it now treats as intolerable the pious beliefs and customs that Catholics used to follow, sometimes for a thousand years or more?

Berto: I hear what you’re saying, but we have to recognize, don’t we, that all this stuff is not Catholicism—it is only the mental fever and fog of the people running the show, and that’s not the same thing at all.

Max: No, of course not, but I’m talking about the popular perception of confusion—of a Church running around in circles to play catch-up with the contemporary world. Think of all the feminism, the environmental­ism and globalism and what not. The advocacy of the United Nations. The Vatican’s invitations to pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia speakers. It goes on and on. No wonder even those who want to be faithful Catholics are getting totally confused. At the end of the day, it looks increasingly as if you can believe anything you want and still call yourself a Catholic.

Berto: That’s not entirely true. You’re not allowed to be traditional—that’s beyond the pale. But everything else is fair game.

Max: Ah, well, such is life in the Church today. But anyway, regardless of whose fault the confusion is, how far back we trace it, how much the Council is responsible, etc., the practical effect is clear. As St. Paul said: “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” No one rallies to a confused army, no one marches to an irregular drummer. It’s as if Catholicism is a “process,” morphing with the world around it, instead of a firm foundation we can build on.

Berto: I’d agree with that. (pauses) But I wonder…

Max: About what?

Berto: Your three reasons are very much to the point, but I think we need to bring in a fourth one as well.

Max: Which is…?

Berto: Let’s say we do convince someone to listen to us, and we get them to see that Catholicism is a consistent belief system that gives meaning to life. What are we inviting them to, once they decided to check us out? We are spoiled at this parish with the High Mass, the beautiful sacred music, the orthodox preaching, the altar server guild, and so on, but frankly, this is one in a thousand, a diamond in a heap of coals.

Max: You’re saying, if we overcome the other factors, there’s still all the byproducts of the liturgical revolution to deal with—the abuses and novelties in the Mass, the banality of the music, the ugliness of so many churches…

Berto: Right. And these are a formidable obstacle to people searching for the one true religion. Surely this religion, above all, should be characterized by the beauty and splendor of its worship, an atmosphere of mystery and prayer, an intense conviction of supernatural realities. This is why the traditional worship of the Church used to be the cause of so many conversions. It was the living and breathing animal, compared to which all other religions were like shadows or cartoon sketches.

Max: Indeed, though it pains me to say it, the new Catholic worship itself is like a shadow or a cartoon of the old.

Berto: At least the old worship is still attracting converts in a place like this.

Max: Thanks be to God for that.

Berto: But you know how it is: the entire infrastructure is against us. We can’t help looking like extremists to the outside world, and to our fellow Catholics, because everyone else is so far gone in the other direction. They call us “rigid fundamentalists” and things like that…

Max: And I think one could connect a related point to yours: there is almost nothing demanding about being a Catholic nowadays. Fasting is mostly gone; abstinence is no longer required; the precepts of the Church are unknown or ignored; sexual discipline is passed over glibly. How is anyone looking for a tried-and-true way of life—the “people of good will” we are supposed to be spreading the Faith to—supposed to buy into this charade? Almost all of the false religions demand more. Catholicism used to demand of us everything—and it promised us everything. It gave meaning to one’s entire life. It permeated the day, the week, the month, the year, with signs of the sacred. It asked us to sacrifice good things for even better things. It offered us a narrow path to holiness and heaven, in the company of Our Lord, Our Lady, and a host of saints. Where is all that now?

Berto: Sure, we try to live it among ourselves as best we can, and we know it’s the truth, but it is not the institutional norm any more—indeed, the all-too-human institution largely rejects it.

Max: No wonder Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West. It takes God and religion seriously.

Berto: And we will have to do that too, if we ever expect to be mustard seeds or leaven again. It goes back to what we heard Father preach about on the last Sunday of October: we have to make Christ King of everything—our hearts, souls, and minds, our families, our cities and nations.

Max: Dare I say, of our Church, too?

Berto: That goes without saying.

Parishioner A (after a pause): We’ve made quite a big circuit in this conversation, haven’t we?

Berto: Shall we try to sum it up so we can remember it better?

Max: Sure. The Church, and individual Catholics in it, are supposed to be mustard seeds and leaven in this world. Or, as some prefer to say, “salt and light.” We have a missionary imperative from Christ to convert the world. But there are at least five serious obstacles to evangelizing today, any one of which would already deal a serious blow to the endeavor. First, the privatization of religion. Second, the rejection of original sin and the assumption of universal salvation. Third, the widespread doctrinal and moral confusion in the Church. Fourth, the banality and irreverence of mainstream Catholic worship. Fifth, the utter lack of ascetical demands. When you put all these together, you get Catholics who don’t think they should bother other people about religion, who assume that most people are already fine, who are not even quite sure they know what they believe, have nothing especially attractive to invite people to, and are not living and promoting a way of life that would respond to the needs of any serious searcher.

Berto: So, let me guess at a grand conclusion. You’re saying that all this “New Evangelization” rhetoric is pretty much hot air? And that it can’t possibly work?

Max: Yes, that’s right. It’s premised on the assumption that basically “all is well” inside the Church, and we just need to “invite” and “welcome” people to “share” the love feast with us. As Ratzinger once said, it’s the dead burying the dead and calling it renewal.

Berto: Or to put it more sharply: where there is novelty, there is disease and death; where there is tradition, there is health and new life.

Max: What we actually need is—

Berto: —let me guess again: Old Evangelization

Max: Spot on. The stuff the saints used to do. The reason they converted the entire world to the Faith once upon a time. That’s what we have to do today: real worship, real doctrine, real morals, real demands. Then the Lord will give us real results. We can’t expect any knights in shining armor to ride in to our aid. We’ve got to do the Lord’s work or no one will. And there’s no time to waste…

Berto: Oh my, look at the time! I have to get going—we’ve got company coming over for dinner and I promised my wife that I’d prepare all the dishes, to give her a break. She’s cooking all week long, and homeschooling all our kids on top of it…

Max: You and your wife are doing the Lord’s work, that’s for sure! God bless you both. Thanks for the good conversation.

Berto: I’ll give you a call later in the week. Pray for me.

Max: Absolutely. And you for me. See you soon. END QUOTES

5 Quotes from St. Therese of Lisieux for a fruitful Advent Philip Kosloski

5 Quotes from St. Therese of Lisieux for a fruitful Advent

 Philip Kosloski


The Little Flower’s devotion to the Child Jesus makes her writings a perfect way to prepare for Christmas.

St. Therese of Lisieux, commonly known as the “Little Flower,” is well known for her beautiful and simple life as a Carmelite nun. In particular, her profound autobiography, Story of a Soul, continues to capture the hearts of those who read it.

Embedded in her spirituality is a strong devotion to the Child Jesus. Her principal “title” in religious life was “Sister Therese of the Child Jesus” and it formed everything that she did.

Below are a few selections from her writings that can help us in our own spiritual preparations for Christmas, recognizing our own littleness and constant need of Jesus’ gentle mercy.

My First Communion will always be a perfect memory, … [a] wonderful little book … was set out so beautifully and prepared me surely step by step; even though I had been thinking for so long about my First Communion, I had to renew my ardor and fill my heart with freshly gathered flowers. So every day, I made many sacrifices and acts of love, which were transformed into flowers; some were violets and roses, others cornflowers and daisies or forget-me-nots. I wanted all the flowers on earth to cradle Jesus in my heart.

For some time now, I had been offering myself to the Child Jesus as His little plaything, telling Him not to treat me as the sort of expensive toy that children only look at, without daring to touch. I wanted Him to treat me like a little ball, so valueless that it can be thrown on the ground, kicked about, pierced and left lying in a corner, or pressed close to His heart if He wants. In other words, I wished only to amuse the Child Jesus and let Him do with me exactly as He liked.

I can only offer very little things to God. These little sacrifices bring great peace of soul, but I often let the chance of making them slip by. However, it does not discourage me. I put up with having a little less peace, and try to be more careful the next time.

[M]ost of all, I follow the example of Mary Magdalene, my heart captivated by her astonishing, or rather loving audacity, which so won the heart of Jesus. It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I fly to Jesus with such confidence and love; even if I had all the crimes possible on my conscience, I am sure I should lose none of my confidence. Heartbroken with repentance, I would simply throw myself into my Savior’s arms, for I know how much He loves the Prodigal Son.

Your arms, My Jesus, are the elevator which will take me up to Heaven. There is no need for me to grow up; on the contrary, I must stay little, and become more and more so. END QUOTES

Protestantism- Modernism- Atheism JULIA MELONI

Protestantism- Modernism- Atheism



“The reality of the apostasy of faith in our time rightly and profoundly frightens us,” said Cardinal Burke in honor of Fatima’s centenary.

In 1903, Pope St. Pius X declared himself “terrified” by humanity’s self-destructive apostasy from God: “For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish” (Ps. 72:27). How much more “daunting,” said Cardinal Burke, is today’s “widespread apostasy.”

In 1910, St. Pius X condemned the movement for a “One-World Church” without dogmas, hierarchy, or “curb for the passions”—a church which, “under the pretext of freedom,” would impose “legalized cunning and force.” How much more, said Cardinal Burke, do today’s “movements for a single government of the world” and “certain movements with the Church herself” disregard sin and salvation?

In Pascendi, St. Pius X named the trajectory toward the “annihilation of all religion”: “The first step … was taken by Protestantism; the second … by [the heresy of] Modernism; the next will plunge headlong into atheism.”

So let us, said Cardinal Burke, heed Fatima’s call for prayer, penance, and reparation. Let us be “agents” of the triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.

A few weeks after that speech, the Vatican announced its shining tribute to the Protestant revolution: a golden stamp with Luther and Melanchthon at the foot of the cross, triumphantly supplanting the Blessed Virgin and St. John.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has asked how the Vatican can call Luther a “witness to the gospel” when he “called the Mass … a blasphemy” and “the papacy an invention of Satan.” The signatories of the filial correction have expressed “wonderment and sorrow” at a statue of Luther in the Vatican—and documented the “affinity” between “Luther’s ideas on law, justification, and marriage” and Pope Francis’s statements.

At a 2016 joint “commemoration” of the Protestant revolution, Pope Francis expressed“joy” for its myriad “gifts.” He and pro-abortion Lutherans with female clergy jointly declared that “what unites us is greater than what divides us.” Together they “raise[d]” their “voices” against “violence.”   They prayed for the conversion of those who exploit the earth. They declared the “goal” of receiving the Eucharist “at one table” to express their “full unity.”

In Martin Luther: An Ecumenical Perspective, Cardinal Kasper confirms that the excommunicated, apostate monk is now a “common church father,” a new St. Francis of Assisi. This prophet of the “new evangelization” was “forced” into calling the pope the Antichrist after his “call for repentance was not heard.” But Kasper finds ecumenical hope in Luther’s “statement that he would…kiss the feet of a pope who allows and acknowledges his gospel.”

Kasper says Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, “without mentioning him by name,” makes Luther’s concerns “stand in the center.”

So it’s Luther’s “gospel of grace and mercy” behind, apparently, the high disdain for “self-absorbed promethean neopelagianis[ts]” plagued by a “soundness of doctrine” that’s “narcissistic and authoritarian” (EG 94).

So it’s Luther—the bizarre protagonist of “ecumenical unity”—behind the demand for a “conversion of the papacy” that gives “genuine doctrinal authority” to episcopal conferences (EG 32). Sandro Magister says the pope is already creating a “federation of national Churches endowed with extensive autonomy” through liturgical decentralization.

So it’s Luther behind the demand to “accept the unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our…ways of thinking” (EG 22). Kasper says Luther’s faith in the “self-implementation of the word of God” gave him a heroic “openness to the future.”

Ultimately, Kasper’s Luther—a prophet of “openness” to futurity, a “Catholic reformer” waiting for a sympathetic pope—emerges as a symbolic father for Modernism’s struggle to change the Church from within. Modernism falsely claims that God evolves with history—making truth utterly mutable. So Kasper the Modernist says dogmas can be “stupid” and Church structures can spring from “ideology” and denying the Eucharist to adulterers because of “one phrase” from Christ is “ideological,” too.

Kasper baldly calls the “changeless” God an “offense to man”:

One must deny him for man’s sake, because he claims for himself the dignity and honor that belong by right to man….

We must resist this God … also for God’s sake. He is not the true God at all, but rather a wretched idol. For a God … who is not himself history is a finite God. If we call such a being God, then for the sake of the Absolute we must become absolute atheists. Such a God springs from a rigid worldview; he is the guarantor of the status quo and the enemy of the new.

A shocking ultimatum from the man hailed as “the pope’s theologian”: either embrace a mutable God who’s not an “enemy of the new”—or profess “absolute,” unflinching, hardcore atheism.

Kasper says the Church must be led by a “spirit” that “is not primarily the third divine person.” That ominous “spirit,” says Thomas Stark, is apparently some Hegelian agent of creation’s self-perfection. Pope Francis, against all the “sourpusses” (EG 85), describes our “final cause” as “the utopian future” (EG 222). Because God wants us to be “happy” in this world, it’s “no longer possible to claim that religion … exists only to prepare souls for heaven” (EG 182).

But Christ said, “In the world you shall have distress” (Jn. 16:33). The 1907 dystopian novel The Lord of the World hauntingly imagines the travails of history’s last days, when humanity has heeded Kasper’s call to “resist” God with absolute atheism if necessary. By this point, “Protestantism is dead,” for men “recognize at last that a supernatural religion involves an absolute authority.” Those with “any supernatural belief left” are Catholic—persecuted by a world professing “no God but man, no priest but the politician.”

More and more clergy apostatize. Man “has learned his own divinity.” Yet Fr. Percy Franklin still adores the Eucharistic Lord, still believes that “the reconciling of a soul to God” is greater than the reconciling of nations. He secretly hears a dying woman’s confession before the “real priests”—the euthanizers—come.

Her daughter-in-law, Mabel, scoffs that the new atheism has perfected Catholicism:

Do you not understand that all which Jesus Christ promised has come true, though in another way? The reign of God has really begun; but we know now who God is. You said just now you wanted the forgiveness of Sins; well, you have that; we all have it, because there is no such thing as sin. There is only Crime.

And then Communion. You used to believe that that made you a partaker of God; well, we are all partakers of God, because we are all human beings.

Mabel and the rapt multitudes ritually worship Man. God was a “hideous nightmare.” Their spirits swoon before a politician promising “the universal brotherhood of man.”

That “savior of the world” is the Antichrist. All must deny God or die.

For history, like the novel itself, ends not with rapturous utopia but with tribulation, apostasy, martyrdoms, and “God’s triumph over the revolt of evil [in] the form of the Last Judgment” (CCC 677). In the throes of his own tribulation, Fr. Franklin calls us to cling to the faith and those refuges of old:

The mass, prayer, the rosary. These first and last. The world denies their power: it is on their power that Christians must throw all their weight. END QUOTES

Sir 50:22-24

Thanksgiving Day

Reading 1 Sir 50:22-24

And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days. {AMEN}

The Eucharist and Thanksgiving by……  Bl. John Henry Newman


The Eucharist and Thanksgiving

Our Lord, as I have observed, wrought the miracle of the loaves by means of the same outward acts, which He observed in the mystery of His Supper, and which His Apostles have carefully recorded as the appointed means of consecrating it. St. John says, “He took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples.”

Compare this with St. Luke’s account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. “He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them.” Again, a fuller account of the consecration of the loaves is given by the other Evangelists thus: “He. . .took the five loaves and the two fishes,” says St. Matthew, “and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to His disciples.”

And what, on the other hand, is told us by the same Evangelist, in his account of the institution of the Holy Communion? “Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples.” Again, in the second miracle of the seven loaves, He observed the same form: “He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks and brake them, and gave to His disciples.”

And the form is the same in the account of our Lord’s celebration of the Sacrament after His resurrection: “As He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.” And of St. Paul we read, “he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all, and when he had broken it, he began to eat.” [John vi. 11. Luke xxii. 19. Matt. xiv. 19. Matt. xxvi. 26. Matt. xv. 36. Luke xxiv. 30. Acts xxvii. 35.]

One cannot doubt, then, that the taking bread, blessing or giving thanks, and breaking is a necessary form in the Lord’s Supper, since it is so much insisted on in these narratives; and it evidently betokens something extraordinary, else why should it be insisted on?—and what that is, the miracle of the Loaves tells us. For there the same form is observed, and there it was Christ’s outward instrument in working a great “work of God.” The feeding then of the multitude with the loaves, interprets the Lord’s Supper; and as the one is a supernatural work, so is the other also. . . .

At first sight, an objection may be brought against what has been said from a circumstance, which, when examined, will be found rather to tell the other way. The Jews objected to our Lord, that He had said what was incredible, when He spoke of giving us His flesh. They “strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

Our Saviour in answer, instead of retracting what He had said, spoke still more strongly: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” But when they still murmured at it, and said, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?”—then He did in appearance withdraw His words. He said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.”

It would take us too long to enter now into the meaning of this declaration; but let us, for argument’s sake, allow that He seems in them to qualify the wonderful words He had used at first; what follows from such an admission? This: that our Lord acted according to His usual course on other occasions when persons refused His gracious announcements, not urging and insisting on them, but as if withdrawing them, and thus in one sense aiding those persons even in rejecting what they ought to have accepted without hesitation.

The Institution of the Eucharist by Ercole de’ Roberti, c. 1490 [National Gallery, London]

This rule of God’s dealings with unbelief, we find most fully exemplified in the instance of Pharaoh, whose heart God hardened because he himself hardened it. And so in this very chapter, as if in allusion to some such great law, He says, “Murmur not among yourselves; No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him;” as if He said, “It is by a Divine gift that ye believe; beware, lest by objections you provoke God to take from you His aid, His preventing and enlightening grace.”

And then, after they had complained, He did in consequence withdraw from them that gracious light which He had given, and spoke the words in question about the flesh and spirit, which would seem to carnal minds to unsay, or explain away, what He had said.

But observe, He adds, “There are some of you that believe not. . . .Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto Him of My Father.”

All this is parallel, let it be observed, to His dealings with the Jews in the tenth chapter of the same Gospel. He there declares, “I and My Father are One.”

The Jews, instead of embracing, stumble at the truth, and accuse Him of blasphemy, as if He being a man made Himself God. This was their inference from His words, and a correct inference, just as in the other case they rightly understood Him to promise that He would give us His flesh to eat. But when they, instead of embracing the truth which they had correctly inferred, instead of humbling themselves before the Mystery, repel it from them, He does not force it upon them. . . .

Such reflections as the foregoing lead us to this conclusion, to understand that it is our duty to make much of Christ’s miracles of love; and instead of denying or feeling cold towards them, to desire to possess our hearts with them.

There is indeed a mere carnal curiosity, a high-minded, irreverent prying into things sacred; but there is also a holy and devout curiosity which all who love God will in their measure feel. The former is exemplified in the instance of the men of Bethshemesh, when they looked into the ark; the latter in the case of the Holy Angels, who (as St. Peter tells us) “desire to look into” the grace of God in the Gospel.

Under the Gospel surely there are wonders performed, such as “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man.” Let us feel interest and awful expectation at the news of them; let us put ourselves in the way of them; let us wait upon God day by day for the treasures of grace, which are hid in Christ, which are great beyond words or thought.

Above all, let us pray Him to draw us to Him, and to give us faith. When we feel that His mysteries are too severe for us, and occasion us to doubt, let us earnestly wait on Him for the gift of humility and love. Those who love and who are humble will apprehend them; carnal minds do not seek them, and proud minds are offended at them; but while love desires them, humility sustains them.

Let us pray Him then to give us such a real and living insight into the blessed doctrine of the Incarnation of the Son of God, of His birth of a Virgin, His atoning death, and resurrection, that we may desire that the Holy Communion may be the effectual type of that gracious Economy.

No one realizes the Mystery of the Incarnation but must feel disposed towards that of Holy Communion. Let us pray Him to give us an earnest longing after Him – a thirst for His presence – an anxiety to find Him – a joy on hearing that He is to be found, even now, under the veil of sensible things, – and a good hope that we shall find Him there.

Blessed indeed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed. They have their reward in believing; they enjoy the contemplation of a mysterious blessing, which does not even enter into the thoughts of other men; and while they are more blessed than others, in the gift vouchsafed to them, they have the additional privilege of knowing that they are vouchsafed it. – from Parochial & Plain Sermons, Vol. VI, no. 11 END QUOTES

Happy Thanksgiving from the editors and staff of The Catholic Thing


7 Reasons I Love My Urban Parish: by Suzan Sammons … re-blogged

{Some years a go I attended a Religious Conference at this parish: Beautiful!

7 Reasons I Love My Urban Parish

The answer to the question “What parish do you belong to?” is important where I live. Cincinnati is a town in which until the recent past “parish” was included on real estate listings. It was something most buyers wanted to know.

My answer brings responses ranging from “You drive that far?” to “Isn’t that downtown?” to simply “Why?” Our home is on a quiet couple of acres so far west of the city it’s practically in the next town. I’m sure there are a dozen parishes between us and the one we call ours. Why do I drive 20 miles to go to Mass in an area of town that’s historically been riddled with crime, drugs, and poverty? Why join an urban parish?

I.  It’s Historic
Every downtown has its stories of those who first settled it, and your downtown parish probably tells the story of the first Catholics in your city. In the case of my parish it was nineteenth century German immigrants, possibly including my father’s grandparents. On the other side of my family, I know that in about 1945 my grandfather stood in the church where I now stand each Sunday. An Irishman, it was not his parish, but he was part of a huge assembly of Catholic men that celebrated a special Mass there. Unusual in his day, he brought my mother along with him almost everywhere he went. She’s fairly certain she was the only female in the entire church that day. And as she tells it, hearing nearly a thousand men’s voices raised in the signing of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” is an awe-inspiring experience one never forgets. I often imagine what it must have been like for her to hear them as I sit in the pew with my own daughters.

II.  I Can Breathe
A downtown parish tends to draw folks from a variety of backgrounds, socioeconomic strata, and even spiritualities. As a result, one doesn’t get the feeling that there’s only one right way to be a faithful Catholic. Some women wear veils, some don’t. Many people dress up, but then being downtown you also have your baristas just getting off work, your wandering-in-to-see-what-it’s-all-about types, and people like my homeless friend, Durell. More on him in a minute.

III.  The Church is Large
If you’re a Catholic mama there’s a good chance you know what it feels like to try to get a fussy newborn to latch on during the gospel while the three dudes behind you (seem to) evaluate your progress over your shoulder. Not usually a problem in a church that seats 900. And when little Joey gets bigger and chimes in periodically with MAMAMA! followed inevitably by BABABA! you’ll be thankful for the way a large church seems to absorb sound from the congregation.

IV.  It’s Beautiful
Where are your city’s most beautiful churches found? In the suburbs?

V.  It’s Close to the Physically Impoverished…
Our downtown parish finds itself at the crossroads of poverty and affluence. It’s in an area of town undergoing a rather successful, privately-funded revitalization. Crackhouses have become hipster bars, dilapidated buildings have become high-rent studio condos. But the poor don’t go away, the poor are part of downtown life. That’s where Durell comes in.

It was an evening Mass and I was loitering in the back of the church with my toddler. A man who was clearly homeless came up the steps of the church to ask me if I could help him out. I explained that I didn’t have anything on me at the moment, but if he didn’t mind waiting I’d be glad to give him something after Mass.

Well now, this was a special Mass; after the closing we were to venerate a relic of St. Philip Neri. I had noticed the man who’d approached me in the back pews of the church, kneeling and standing with the rest of the congregation. I wondered whether he’d have the patience to keep waiting for me. After my children and I venerated the relic I looked around for him and realized that he was kneeling at the communion rail with everyone else, about to venerate the relic. After he did, he remained for some time kneeling, then slowly came down the center aisle. He was not looking for me; it was I who stopped him. When I gave him something he returned my kindness with an 80 proof hug and thanked me repeatedly. We talked for a few moments. He’d been moved by the experience of venerating the relic. When we parted he said emphatically, “I hope I see you up there,” pointing heavenward.

I can’t fix poverty. But I don’t want to live my life in such a way that I can ignore it.

VI.  …and the Spiritually Impoverished
The bars, restaurants, artsy destinations, and other attractions that surround our church draw a wide range of people to the area who have no interest in Catholicism. But when the doors and windows are wide open on a Friday evening in spring and the choir’s plainchant wafts out along with the incense … well, we’re hard to ignore. And pacing around with the antsy toddler I notice the varied reactions of those who pass by. There’s “Glance in and then glance away before someone notices you’re interested” and of course the look of contempt or the laugh—“People still do that?” And of course “Eyes straight ahead! If you don’t look then it doesn’t exist!” In post-Christian America, it’s good that signposts still exist for the bar-goers, and I’m glad to play my part.

VII.  It’s Where the Renewal of the Liturgy Finds its Epicenter
Look, “the liturgy wars” aren’t my thing. But it doesn’t take a genius (or an ideologue) to identify the music one hears in most suburban parishes today as banal. It’s not classic, it’s not contemporary, it’s not traditional… If someone could please pass on the message, 1972 called: they want their music back. Other aspects of the liturgy are suffering, too. As a result, many Sunday Masses are nothing short of lackluster.

But there are signs of hope. In some quarters, priests and laity alike are finding ways to restore the beauty, dignity, and grandeur of the Mass which are its birthright. This isn’t happening exclusively in urban parishes, but urban parishes—where the architecture, the acoustics, the very “feel” of the churches seem to demand reverence and beauty—do have a much higher participation rate in this renewal effort than others.

Perhaps you love your parish. Maybe it celebrates liturgies worthy of our Creator, serves the surrounding community in visible ways, and is beautiful and open-hearted. Then wherever you are, be grateful! But if not, perhaps it’s time to check out your city’s downtown parish. It might need you, and you might need it. 

Editor’s note: Pictured above is St. Patrick’s Church, Clevelan

“What Does the Term “Eucharist” Mean? …Re-blogged


What does the word “Eucharist” mean?

 Philip Kosloski

The word isn’t of English origin, and has many different levels of meaning.

One of the most used words in Catholicism is the word “Eucharist.” It’s heard every Sunday at Mass and Catholics use it all the time. What does it mean?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a brief definition of the word.

The inexhaustible richness of [the sacrament of the eucharist, i.e. the “Mass”] is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called:

Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim — especially during a meal — God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. (CCC 1328)

In the original Greek version of the Gospels, Jesus is recorded using a similar word while celebrating the Last Supper.

Take this, and divide it among yourselves … And he took bread, and when he had given thanks [εὐχαριστήσας – eucharistēsas] he broke it and gave it to them (Luke 22:18-19).

Essentially, the word “Eucharist” means “giving thanks,” but in a Jewish context is directed specifically towards giving thanks to God.

Early on the word was adopted to refer to the entire sacrament of the Eucharist, more commonly known as the Mass, where Catholics celebrate God’s saving act on the cross. There is even an ancient document called the Didache that possibly dates to the time of the apostles and uses this word in this context.

Celebrate the Eucharist as follows: Say over the cup: “we give you thanks, Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be glory for ever.”

Over the broken bread say: “We give you thanks, Father, for the life and the knowledge which you have revealed to us through Jesus your servant. To you be glory for ever” … Do not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord.

Besides referring to the entire celebration of the Eucharist, the word is also used even more specifically to refer to the bread and wine that are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.

So the word “Eucharist” is a multi-faceted word with many different dimensions, all going back to the basic human need of giving thanks to God.


“What is Eternal Life” by Msgr, Charles Pope… re-blogged

What Is Eternal Life?

Msgr. Charles Pope

This is the seventh in a series of articles on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

I often think that we haven’t done a very good job of setting forth the doctrine of eternal life. For most people, the concept seems a rather shallow one: that we will live forever. Frankly, many may not consider it all that appealing if the place where we live forever is Heaven. Too often, Heaven is reduced to merely this: a place where I’ll be happy. I’ll have a mansion, I’ll see my mother again, and I won’t ever have to suffer. The description never gets around to mentioning God. If He is mentioned at all, He’s way down on the list somewhere rather than at the top where He belongs. This is sad, for the heart of Heaven is to be with God!

Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical “Spe Salvi,” pondered the problem of the generally poor understanding of eternal life:

Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever—endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable. … The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown.” Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal,” in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it (Spe Salvi, 10, 12).

My own pondering and experience has led me to conclude that ultimately eternal life is not about the length of life, but its fullness. To enter eternal life means to become fully alive. Here on this earth we are not fully alive. We experience much of death in these lowly bodies of ours. However, most of us do get glimpses of eternal life and can experience some aspects of it. For example, have you ever had a day when you felt you had all the energy in the world? Not only did you feel energetic but your mind was sharp and you were efficient and effective. Everything seemed to click; there was joy and contentment. Days like that and feelings like that don’t last, but they provide a glimpse of what eternal life might be like—except that eternal life will be immeasurably better!

Another experience I have of eternal life is one that I hope you share. At the age of 56, my body is no longer in prime condition. It is aging and death will one day come to it, but my soul is more alive than ever. I am more joyful, serene, confident, prayerful, and content than ever. Many sins that used to plague me are gone or at least greatly diminished. In effect, I am more alive now than I was when I was in my twenties. Just wait until you see me at 75 or 90! As I get older I become more alive. What I am saying is that eternal life doesn’t just begin after we die. It begins now and should grow in us more and more. Its fulfillment will only be in Heaven but I am a witness (and I hope that you are too) that eternal life has already set deep roots in me.

This experience of being fully alive is to be contrasted with one of the descriptions of Hell in the Scriptures which refers to it as the “second death” (e.g., Rev 21:8). This means that the dammed, having died in the corporal sense, now descend to what is not really life. Yes, they have existence and experience, but their lives are dead because they are not living for what God made them for: His very self. Theirs is a “life” of frustration and emptiness because the whole key to happiness is missing. Having rejected God, His Kingdom, and His values, they have nothing left with which to fill the God-sized hole in their hearts. It is a life so far from eternal life that it is barely a life at all; thus Scripture calls it the “second death.”

Again, the main point is that “eternal” in “eternal life” refers not so much to the length of life as to its fullness. To enter eternal life is to become fully alive with God forever; to experience untold joy, serenity, and peace in an eternal embrace with Him forever. Having our communion with God perfected, we will also have our communion with one another perfected. We will be caught up in the great movement of love that is the life of the Trinity. Who really needs a mansion when you can live in the heart of God? That is our true dwelling place that the Father is preparing. It’s not about houses and seats of honor; it’s about a place in the heart of the God who made us and loves us. It is to become fully alive and perfect as the Father is perfect.

Pope Benedict presents this beautiful image of eternal life:

To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John’s Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22) (Spe Salvi, 12).

In the following video from a few years back, Bishop Robert Barron makes an interesting point, one that I have made in other posts as well: when the Church fails to teach her doctrine well or casts aside her traditions, the world often picks them up but distorts them. In this video, Bishop Barron discusses the current obsession with vampires. He notes that as we have struggled to present well the concept of eternal life, the world has taken up the notion of those “who can never die” in the vampire craze. The fact that they live forever is a horrible curse to them and any biblical notion of eternal life is absent; they are merely the “un-dead.” Yes, when the Church drops the ball, the world picks it up—but flattens and distorts it. END QUOTES

“Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?” by Francious Blot S.J. re-blogged

Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?

All the blessed, admitted into heaven, know each other perfectly, even before the general resurrection. This is proved by Scripture as well as by tradition.

I shall confine myself to quoting the New Testament to you; I shall content myself, too, with the parable of the rich man, and with some words that have reference to the Last Judgment.

This parable is so fine that I cannot resist the pleasure of placing some of its leading points before you.

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasted sumptuously every day; and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table — but none were given to him; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell. And, when he was in torments, lifting up his eyes, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom, and he cried and said: “Father, Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.”

And Abraham said to him: “Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. . . .

And the rich man said: “Father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they come also in this place of torment.” (Luke 16:19-31)

In the eighth century, the Venerable Bede put this question to himself: “Do the good know each other in the kingdom of heaven, and do the bad know the bad in hell?” He answered in the affirmative:

This article is from the book “In Heaven We’ll Meet Again.” Click image to preview or order.

I see a proof of it, clearer than day, in the parable of the bad rich man. Does not our Lord there openly declare that the good know each other, and the wicked also? For if Abraham did not know Lazarus, how could he speak of his past misfortunes to the bad rich man who is in the midst of torments? And how could this rich man not know those who are present, since he is mindful to pray for those who are absent? We see, besides, that the good know the wicked, and the wicked the good. In fact, the rich man is known to Abraham; and Lazarus, in the ranks of the elect, is recognized by the rich man, who is among the number of the reprobate.

This knowledge fills up the measure of what each shall receive; it causes the just to rejoice the more, because they see those they have loved rejoice with them; it makes the wicked suffer not only their own pains, but also in some sort the pains of others, since they are tormented in company with those whom they loved in this world to the exclusion of God. There is, even for the blessed, something more admirable still. Beyond the recognition of those whom they have known in this world they recognize also, as if they had seen them and previously known them, the good whom they never saw. For of what can they be ignorant in heaven, since all there behold, in the plenitude of light, the God who knows all?

On the Last Judgment, we have these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, that you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). We have these words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “Know you not that the saints shall judge this world? Know you not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2, 3).

Such is the basis of the argument of St. Theodore Studites (d. 826), in a discourse that he composed at the end of the eighth or the commencement of the ninth century, to refute the error that we are here combating. He said:

Some deceive their hearers by maintaining that the men who rise again will not recognize each other when the Son of God comes to judge us all. How, they exclaim, when from perishable we become incorruptible and immortal — when there will no longer be Greek or Jew, barbarian or Scythian, slave or freeman, husband or wife — when we shall all be as spirits, how could we recognize each other?

Let us, in the first place, reply that that which is impossible to man is possible to God; otherwise, blinded by human reasons, we should even disbelieve the resurrection. How, in fact, can a body already in a state of corruption — perhaps devoured by wild beasts, by birds, or by fishes, themselves devoured by others — and that in several ways and at various times successively, be reunited or gathered together on the last day? It will be thus, however, and the hidden power of God will reunite all its scattered parts and raise it up. Then each soul will recognize the body in which it lived.

But will every soul recognize also the body of its neighbor? We cannot doubt it, unless, at the same time, we doubt the general judgment. For no one can be summoned to judgment without being known, and a person must be known to be judged, according to this expression of Scripture: “I will reprove thee and set [thy own transgressions] before thy face” (Ps. 49:21 [RSV = Ps. 50:21]).

The value of this reasoning depends upon the following distinction: in the private judgment, we are judged by God alone, but in the general judgment we shall be, in some measure, judged by one another. Whilst the former will manifest the justice of God only to the soul that is judged, the latter will make it evident to every creature. Therefore, all await that great day for “the revelation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19), which will alter all the estimations of men.

The saint continues in these terms:

This is why, if we do not recognize one another, we shall not be judged; if we are not judged, we shall not be rewarded or punished for that which we shall have done and suffered while we were of the number of the living. If the apostles are not to recognize those whom they will judge, will they see the accomplishment of this promise of the Lord: “You shall sit on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28)? If he is not to recognize them in the kingdom of heaven, will the blessed Job be able to receive twice as many children (Job 42:10-13)? For here below he received only a part, and in order that the promise made to him may be fully accomplished, is it not a necessity that he should receive the remainder in the life to come? Besides, from these words: “No brother can redeem, nor shall man redeem” (Ps. 48:8 [RSV = Ps. 49:7]), does not the holy king David suppose a brother to know his brother?

From all quarters we can collect arguments and authorities against those who assert that we do not recognize one another in heaven — a senseless assertion, whose impiety may be compared to the fables of Origen. For us, my brethren, let us believe still and ever that we shall rise again, we shall be incorruptible, and that we shall know one another, as our first parents knew each other in the earthly paradise, before the existence of sin, when they were yet exempt from all corruption. Yes, it must be believed — the brother will know his brother, the father his children, the wife her husband, the friend his friend. I will even add, the religious will know the religious, the confessor will know the confessor, the martyr his fellow soldier, the apostle his colleague in the apostleship — we shall all know one another, in order that the habitation of all in God may be rendered more joyous by this blessing, added to so many others — the blessing of mutual recognition!

The light thrown by Catholic tradition upon this sub­ject is so vivid and constant that it dissipates all the clouds of sophistry and prejudice.

The testimonies from tradition may be divided into two classes — those that simply affirm the fact and those that draw consolation from it.

Among the works commonly attributed to St. Athanasius (c. 297-373), that pure glory of the fourth century, is one that has for its title Necessary Questions of Which No Christian Should Be Ignorant. Now, in reply to the twenty-second question we read, “To the souls of the just in heaven God grants a great gift, which is mutual recognition.”

In the seventh century Pope St. Gregory the Great (c. 540-604), after having related that a religious saw, when dying, the prophets come toward him, and that he addressed them by their names, added: “This example makes us clearly understand how great will be the knowledge which we shall have of one another in the incorruptible life of heaven, since this religious, though still in a corruptible flesh, seemed to recognize the holy prophets, whom, however, he had never seen.”

The most illustrious of the abbots of Clairvaux, St. Bernard (1090-1153), also said in the twelfth century: “The blessed are united among themselves by a charity which is so much the greater as they are the nearer to God, who is charity. No envy can throw suspicion into their ranks, for there is nothing in one which is concealed from the other; the all-pervading light of truth permits it not.”

Have you lost a brother or a sister? Console yourself, then, as St. Ambrose (c. 340-397) did:

Brother, since you have preceded me thither, prepare for me a place in that common abode of all, which is for me henceforward the most desirable; and as, here below, everything was in common between us, so in heaven let us remain ignorant of any law of division. I conjure you, keep me not waiting long, so pressing is the desire I experience of rejoining you, help me who am hastening forward, and if I seem to you still to tarry, make me advance; we have never been long separated, but it is you who were in the habit of returning to me. Now that you can no longer return, I will go to you. O my brother! What comfort remains to me but the hope of soon meeting you again? Yes, I comfort myself with the hope that the separation that your departure has caused will not be of long duration, and that by your prayers you will obtain the grace to hasten the coming of him whose regrets for you are so bitter.

Have you lost a son or a daughter? Receive the consolations of a patriarch of Constantinople addressed to a bereft father. This patriarch, Photius, can no more be counted among great men than among saints, as he was the author of the cruel schism that separates the East and the West. Nevertheless, his opinions only prove the better that, on this point, the Greeks and the Latins entertain the same views. Photius says:

If your daughter were to appear to you, and, placing her face, resplendent with glory, against your face and her hand within yours, thus were to speak to you, would it not be to describe the joys of heaven? Then she would add: “Why do you grieve, father? I am in paradise, where felicity is unbounded. You will come someday with my beloved mother, and then you will find that I have not exaggerated the delights of this place, so far will the reality exceed my description. O dearly beloved father, detain me no longer in your arms, but be pleased to permit me to return whither the intensity of my love attracts me.” Let us then banish sorrow, for now your daughter is happy in Abraham’s bosom. Let us banish sorrow; for it is there that, after a very little time, we shall see her in the ecstasy of joy and delight.

Have you lost your husband? Alas! The mourning gar­ments you so constantly wear show plainly the misfortune that you have sustained; they show, also, how affection has survived the tie broken by death. Seek aid, then, in the consolations so frequently presented by the Church to Christian widows.

St. Jerome (c. 347-420) wrote to a widow:

Regret your Lucinius as a brother; but rejoice that he reigns with Christ. Victorious and secure of his glory, he looks down upon you from the heights of heaven; he is your support in your works and woes, and he prepares for you a place by his side, ever preserving for you the same love and charity that, making him forget the names of husband and of wife, compelled him, during his life, to love you as his sister, and to live with you as a brother. For, in the pure union that chastity forms between two hearts, the difference of sex that constitutes marriage is unknown.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), in a homily on St. Matthew, said, as if to each of his hearers individually:

Do you wish to behold him whom death has snatched from you? Lead, then, the same life as he in the path of virtue, and you will soon enjoy that blessed sight. But you would wish to see him even here. Ah! Who prevents you? It is both easy and allowable, if you are virtuous; for the hope of future goods is clearer than the possession itself.

This sublime orator found, in his own history, all that could make him sympathize with the sorrows of the wife who has lost her husband. The only son of a young woman, weak alike from her age and her sex, and early left a widow to struggle with the world, he had been the confidant of her tears and of her grief, when he made her as though a second time a widow, by escaping from her love to plunge into solitude. He has himself related to us that the pagan rhetorician Libanius, learning that his mother had been bereft of her husband from the age of twenty, and would never be induced to contract another marriage, exclaimed, turning toward his idolatrous hearers: “O ye gods of Greece! What women there are among those Christians!”

Divine Providence found means to supply Chrysostom with an opportunity of exercising the compassionate feelings of his heart toward the widowed, by consoling another young woman who had passed only five years of her life with her husband, Therasius, one of the principal personages of his time. He wrote two treatises for her, and they are among his most remarkable productions. He says to her, among other comforting things:

If you desire to see your husband, if you wish to enjoy each other’s presence, let your life shine with purity like his, and be assured that you will thus enter into the same angelic choir that he has already reached. You will abide with him, not only during five years, as on earth — not only during twenty, a hundred, a thousand, two thousand, ten thousand, or many more years, but during ages without end. Then you will once more find your husband, no longer with that corporal beauty with which he was gifted when he departed, but with a different splendor — beauty of another sort, which will surpass in brilliancy the rays of the sun.

If it had been promised to you that the empire of the whole earth should be given to your husband, on condition that during twenty years you should be separated from him, and if, in addition, you had received a pledge that after those twenty years, your Therasius should be restored to you, adorned with the diadem and the purple, and you yourself placed in the same rank of honor as he, would you not have resigned yourself to this separation, and easily have preserved continence? You would even have seen in this offer a signal favor, and something worthy of all your desires. Now, therefore, bear with patience the separation which gives your husband the kingdom, not of earth, but of heaven; bear it, that you may find him among the blessed inhabitants of paradise, clad, not with a vesture of gold, but with one of glory and immortality.

This is why, in thinking of the honors that Therasius enjoys in heaven, you must cease to weep and lament. Live as he lived, and even with more perfection. By this means, after having practiced the same virtues, you will be received into the same tabernacles, and you can once more be united to him in the eternal ages, not by the tie of marriage, but by another and a better tie. The first unites bod­ies only, while the second, more pure, more blissful, and more holy, unites soul to soul.

image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / , via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter from In Heaven We’ll Meet Again: The Saints and Scripture on our Heavenly Reunionwhich is available through Sophia Institute Press.

The Fire of Love in Purgatory: by Saint CATHERINE OF GENOA

The Fire of Love in Purgatory


Nota bene: The following words of St. Catherine of Genoa are selections from her book, Fire of Lovewhich record her meditations and prayerful insights on purgatory. We offer this for November, the month dedicated to praying for the dead.

All these things, which I have securely in mind to the extent that in this life I have been able to understand them, are, compared with what I have said, extremely great. Beside them, all the sights and sounds and justice and truths of this world seem to me lies and nothingness. I am left confused because I cannot find words extreme enough for these things.

I perceive there to be so much conformity between God and the soul that when He sees it in the purity in which His Divine Majesty created it, He gives it a burning love, which draws it to Himself, which is strong enough to destroy it, immortal though it be, and which causes it to be so transformed in God that it sees itself as though it were none other than God. Unceasingly God draws the soul to Himself and breathes fire into it, never letting it go until He has led it to the state from which it came forth — that is, to the pure cleanliness in which it was created.

When with its inner sight the soul sees itself drawn by God with such loving fire, then it is melted by the heat of the glowing love for God its most dear Lord, which it feels overflowing it. And it sees by the divine light that God does not cease drawing it, nor from leading it, lovingly and with much care and unfailing foresight, to its full perfection, doing this out of His pure love. But the soul, because it is hindered by sin, cannot go where God draws it; it cannot follow the uniting look by which God would draw it to Himself. Again the soul perceives the grievousness of being held back from seeing the divine light; the soul’s instinct, too, since it is drawn by that uniting look, craves to be unhindered.

I say that it is the sight of these things that begets in the souls the pain they feel in Purgatory. Not that they make account of their pain; although it is most great, they deem it a far less evil than to find themselves going against the will of God, whom they clearly see to be on fire with extreme and pure love for them.

This article is from “Fire of Love.” Click image to preview other chapters.

Strongly and unceasingly this love draws the soul with that uniting look, as though it had nothing else than this to do. Could the soul who understood this find a worse Purgatory in which to rid itself sooner of all the hindrance in its way, it would swiftly fling itself therein, driven by the conforming love between itself and God.

Mercy in Purgatory 

When I look at God, I see no gate to Paradise, and yet he who wishes to enter there does so, because God is all mercy. God stands before us with open arms to receive us into His glory. But well I see the divine essence to be of such purity, far greater than can be imagined, that the soul in which there is even the least note of imperfection would rather cast itself into a thousand Hells than find itself thus stained in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Therefore the soul, understanding that Purgatory has been ordained to take away those stains, casts itself therein, and seems to itself to have found great mercy in that it can rid itself there of the impediment that is the stain of sin.

No tongue can tell nor explain, no mind understand, the grievousness of Purgatory. But although I see that there is in Purgatory as much pain as in Hell, I yet see the soul that has the least stain of imperfection accepting Purgatory as though it were a mercy, as I have said, and holding its pains of no account as compared with the least stain that hinders a soul in its love. I seem to see that the pain that souls in Purgatory endure because of that in them which displeases God (that is, what they have willfully done against His great goodness) is greater than any other pain they feel in Purgatory. And this is because they see the truth and the grievousness of the hindrance that prevents them from drawing near to God, since they are in grace. END QUOTES

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Fire of Love: Understanding Purgatorywhich is available through Sophia Institute Press.
image: Peter Paul Rubens [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons