March 2019: Olive Tree
Volume II/Issue 35/March 2019
From The Editorial Desk:
An education in our wilderness
When God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. He had marked out a route for them to travel in the wilderness on their way to Canaan. They however could know it only as they followed the pillar of cloud and fire, day by day. For each of His redeemed children today, God has a pathway marked out too. But they can know it only as they walk with Him each day. If we are to fully lay hold of the purpose for which God has laid hold of us, we must learn to walk with God. And here is where we shall find resistance from Satan at every step. Even as thieves invade the homes of the rich more than of the poor, Satan aims his darts more at the believer who is spiritually minded than at the one who is carnally minded. We shall therefore find the battle getting thicker with every step of progress in spiritual maturity.
There are many forces that seek to hinder the believer who would press on to do all of God's will: the world with its varied attractions, the flesh with its unclean lusts, and the Devil with his subtle devices. If these are hindrances to the believer's spiritual growth, we may wonder why God does not eliminate them, or at least protect the believer from them. This has been a problem that has plagued many minds down the centuries. Sufficient here is for us to know that it is our heavenly Father, who is wiser than all of us, who has permitted these forces to exist. One good reason at least may be in order that our spiritual strength may be built up. Even in the physical realm, our muscles can be built up only as we subject them to resistance through exercise. Otherwise our muscles will be flabby and powerless. A wrestler who is training for a bout will need constant exercise, wrestling with others in order to fit himself for the event. In the same way our spiritual strength can never be developed if we are protected from the trials and temptations of the world, the flesh and the Devil.
It should bring us strong consolation to know however that the Lord Jesus was Himself tempted with every single temptation that comes to us (Hebrews 4:15). Luke tells us that Jesus went into the wilderness, "full of the Holy Spirit," and that at the end of the temptation, He returned "in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:1, 14). Overcoming the temptations common to man had strengthened even Him, as a man. Can it not do the same for us? Let us never imagine that we can become spiritually strong just by reading Christian books and attending religious conferences. Such activities are the equivalent of taking food, but along with our food we need exercise too if we are to be strong. That is why those who cut themselves off from contact with the people of the world and live protected Christian lives never become spiritually robust.
Holiness is like health. To be fully healthy, we need to take regular exercise. Then only can we resist disease. Thus to be made perfect, we have to go through temptation and overcome it. If we evade testing, we can never be made perfect. This suggests another reason why God placed the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It gave Adam the opportunity to overcome temptation and to become positively holy. There is no need for us to fear temptation. The Lord has assured us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that He will never allow us to be tempted above our ability to bear it.
Psalm 66:10-12 is one of those wonderful Old Testament passages that suggest what tremendous benefits can come to us through trial and testing. The fire and the water make us not only spiritually wealthy but spiritually healthy too. The men of God in the Bible were all subject to the same temptations that plague us. James 5:17 tells us that even Elijah had the same lusts and passions to overcome as we have. It was because these men of God overcame in their trials and testings, that they became strong, and thus usable in God's hands. God permits temptation to come to us in order to test us. Everyone who would be used by God must be tested. The temptations that come to us when we are alone are meant to prove our fitness for more public service. Overcoming temptation is like learning to swim. You cannot learn to swim in one day. But if you are determined, you will sooner or later acquire the skill. Then you are no longer afraid of the water. In just the same way, if we are determined, we shall learn the secret in Christ of victory over temptation, and then of that too we shall no longer be afraid.
Many think of Lent as a time to give something up, to do some special penance. When I was in grade school, around Ash Wednesday they would go around the room and ask each one of us what we were giving up for Lent. The most common answer was candy. There was always the joker, that was going to give up school. Then someone would say they were giving up television, which around 1970 was a big thing for someone to give up. Today some people give up Facebook.
However, Lent is not about giving up things as much as it is about removing the obstacles between us and Almighty God. True things like television and Facebook can be obstacles, but removing them for a time is not the answer. We need to take a serious look into our lives and find out what God is asking from us that we are refusing to give Him.
Saint Joseph Cafasso says: “That layman, for example, does not appear to do anything bad, but yet does nothing good. One day after another is passed in sleep and laziness and idleness, and the years of his life are spent in the same way. That is not right, it is a sin.” 1 Are we doing the good God wants us to do? There is a lot of good that needs to be done. Take out your catechism and look up the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. When was the last time your performed one of these holy works?
Father Goffine in his work on the Ecclesiastical year comments: “[T]he market-place, that is the world, they are standing idle who, however much business they attend to, do not work for God and for their own salvation; for the only necessary employment is the service of God and the working out of our salvation. There are three ways of being idle: doing nothing whatever; doing evil; doing other things than the duties of our position in life and its office require, or if this work is done without a good intention, or not from the love of God. This threefold idleness deprives us of our salvation, as the servant loses his wages if he works not at all, or not according to the will of his master. We are all servants of God, and none of us can say with the laborers in the Vineyard that no man has employed us; for God, when He created us, hired us at great wages, and we must serve Him always as He cares for us at all times; and if, in the gospel, the householder reproaches the workmen, whom no man had hired, for their idleness, what will God one day say to those Christians whom He has placed to work in His Vineyard, the Church, if they have remained idle?”
Let us consider these three ways of being idle. The first way is simple, doing nothing whatsoever. This is the sin of omission, that is omitting to do our duty. The second way is easy to understand, doing evil. The third way is doing other things than our duty.
Let us consider the construction of a house. The general contractor hires various people to do various jobs. The house is ready for the plumbing and the electrical to be installed. The general contractor hires an electrician. The electrician comes in and puts in the plumbing. Although he does an excellent job, he will not get paid, because he was hired to install the electrical, not the plumbing. Today many electricians are putting in plumbing, that is they are busy about everything but what is their duty.
It is time we get back to doing our own duty, which is the will of God. And what is God calling you to do? Consider this well and then get busy doing God's will.
1. The Priest, the Man of God page 26.
Making Time for God
"Like so many of you, I scan social media. Most of the time I just scroll through and move on. Every once in a while I read something that causes me to step back and seriously reflect on what it says. Recently, I had one of those very moments. The post read: "You are killing yourself for a job that would replace you within a week if you dropped dead. Take care of yourself." Reading these words truly did cause to think about its' meaning.
I would agree. Those of us who work. Those of us who have careers. Those of us who take our jobs seriously. I would imagine most of us have been in this position at one point or another. We run around like the proverbial "chicken with its' head cut off" trying to accomplish everything that we need to do. We try to jam Twenty hours worth of work into an Eight hour work day. We prioritize all the things that needed to be done "five minutes ago." All the while we try to "put out the fires" that spring up without notice. We try to cover all the bases.
And it's just not the job where this is the case. We try to do the best at our career; take care of our home; take care of our family; take care of ourselves; raise children; go shopping; find time to relax; etc. The list goes on and on. And the sad thing is that we are not only killing ourselves for our jobs. Sometimes we are killing ourselves for people that are only using us. Sometimes we are killing ourselves to maintain an image. Sometimes we are killing ourselves to "fit in" with a crowd that is not really worth our time to begin with.
Again, the point of the meme referenced above is to "Take care of yourself." In other words, we need to prioritize what is really important in life. This is difficult to do, quite frankly, in my humble opinion. Why do I say this? I say it because there is so much for us to do in a given day but there are not that many hours to accomplish what we want to do. We need to work. We need to do things in the house. We need to exercise. We need to shop. We need to go to church. We need to spend time with the family. We need to spend time improving ourselves . . . taking a class .. . . reading . . . . And then you factor in time you spend sleeping . . . . getting ready in the morning . . . . travel times . . . . the list goes on and on. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming because there just does not seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish every single thing we need to do on a daily basis, a weekly basis . . .
Yes, we need to work. Yes, we need to take care of our home. Yes, we need to spend time with our family. We need to do all of these things. But that being said we also have to put priorities in life. That is part of the problem as well. Sometimes our priorities are all messed up. We place our careers ahead of our family. We place popularity ahead of being true to ourselves. We place greater value on attaining wealth than doing what's right.
And through all of this we need to remember God. We need to have God in our lives. We need to make time for God. We make "time" for everything that is important to us. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (St. Matthew 12:34) If we really want to see a movie, we will make time to watch it. If we really want to exercise, we will find time to do it. But how much time do we spend with God each day? How much time do we dedicate to reading the Bible each day? How about Sundays? Are we too busy on Sunday to get up and go to church? Maybe we're too exhausted from all our activities the other six days of the week to go to church on Sunday. If it is important to you, you will find time for it. "But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (St. Matthew 6:33) Ahead of everything else in life, we need to place God in the first position. We need to acknowledge that God is first and foremost in our life. " . . . and be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)
Lent is a good time to step back and reflect on what we have done in life. Lent provides us with time to focus on what is important. Lent allows us to reflect on what we have done wrong . .. where we have missed the mark . . . and where we have fallen short. But more importantly, Lent allows us the opportunity to focus on what is ahead of us: Easter. Lent gives us the opportunity to look ahead. Thus, Lent is truly a season of hopefulness. Let us spend the next forty days to "take care of ourselves" by focusing on God. Spend the next forty days spending time with God. Make God a priority in your life.
The Funny Pharmacy
A joyful mind maketh age flourishing: a sorrowful spirit drieth up the bones. - Proverbs 17:22
Who is Pope Michael and how is he related to the Catholic Church?
In 1958, Cardinal Roncalli was elected as “John 23rd”, and many accepted him as pope. However it has subsequently been shown that he was a pre-election modernist heretic and unable to be elected. Therefore, there was no pope at that time, and this problem continued onward for many years.
There were some talks about electing a pope, but instead many followed the lineage in the Vatican which we believe to be invalid because of its compromise with the Catholic Faith. Cardinals should have proceeded to an election of a pope since Roncalli’s election did not produce a pope but an invalid election, but they did not do so.
The traditional bishops and clergy did not prevent this invalid election of Roncalli or respond by electing a pope, so this shifted the burden of electing a pope to the laymen. Therefore, pope Michael called for a papal election among as many known sedevacantist chapels as possible, using Radko Janskey’s listings of traditional Catholic masses, and was elected pope in 1990 by 6 laymen. (Sedevacantists then believed correctly that there was no pope; there are still sedevacantists today who reject pope Michael’s election.)
So we believe pope Michael is pope of the Catholic Church, and that most churches that claim to be Catholic today, including “pope” Francis in the Vatican, are non-Catholic and are like a counterfeit Catholicism. Just like a fake dollar bill, this counterfeit Catholicism, which is sometimes called the “conciliar church”, looks like Catholicism but is not due to a substantial change in Catholic teaching which attempted to deny Catholic teaching or accept heresies as Catholic teaching.
Therefore, in response to this rise in a counterfeit of Catholicism, we have worked to conserve the Catholic Church with the unchangeable dogmatic teachings the Catholic Faithful profess.
The Pope Speaks: March 2019
The Current Persecution
Who will grant that my request may come: and that God may give me what I look for? And that he that hath begun may destroy me, that he may let loose his hand, and cut me off? And that this may be my comfort, that afflicting me with sorrow, he spare not, nor I contradict the words of the Holy One. (Job 6:8-10)
When we think of persecution, we think of the bloody persecutions of the early ages of the Church which have continued down until a little less than a century ago, when the Communists surrounded the Ukraine, cutting it off then taking all of the food from the Catholics of that nation starving them to death. We think of the glorious martyrdoms beginning with the stoning of Saint Stephen and continuing on through the centuries. Saint Alphonsus wrote a book, Victories of the Martyrs, to detail many of these glorious events. In this book he wrote: “The faith became further strengthened by the constancy of the martyrs of both sexes; men and women, the aged and the young, the noble and the plebeian, the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlearned, married and single.” 1
Consider the fortitude, courage and bravery of these martyrs. Christians were presented with a clear choice, apostatize or die. And some chose each path, which brought up the question of what to do with those who compromised, but now wish to return to Christianity. These people were called the lapsi in that they lapsed from the Faith, during persecution.
Tertullian wrote that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Faith. This is indeed true. There I nothing like a good persecution to strengthen good Christians and weed out the bad. When professing the Faith could easily be a death sentence, Christians take the faith seriously.
There is a story told of a man going into a church on Sunday morning about the time of the sermon. He has a machine gun and cranks a round into the chamber. Then he asks: “Who will take a bullet for Jesus Christ?” the church soon empties, except for the priest and a couple of people. The man then turns to the priest: “Father, you can preach now, I got rid of the insincere people.”
There is another type of persecution, which is far more dangerous. Without persecution the lapsi remain in the church in their comfortable pew, Sunday after Sunday. In fact even fervent Christians can slack off without realizing it.
Over a half a century ago The Enemy inspired men to organize a conspiracy to attempt to destroy the Church. An instruction was published by some of these men and came to light and was ordered published by Pope Pius IX as The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita.
In 1873 Father Delaporte wrote a book, The Devil, in which he said of The Enemy's plans: “Let us make no martyrs, but make vice popular among the masses.” 2 Let us remember who The Enemy is: “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 the high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) However, The Enemy has enlisted men in his service here on earth, and The Enemy has a plan to bring about the damnation of all men, which is his perfidious goal. We will not go into details about this plan, except to point out a small part of it as it gives us direction spiritually how to combat this in our own hearts.
This persecution began a century and a half ago, although bloody persecutions still have arisen in that time. In the Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, we read of two important points. First they want “a Pope according to our own wants.”
“Now then, in order to secure to us a Pope in the manner required, it is necessary to fashion for that Pope a generation worthy of the reign of which we dream.” How do you fashion such a generation? You must weaken each successive generation morally and spiritually. A Protestant observed around 1970: “Have you notice in church that what used to be a sin isn't a sin any more?” Two heresies arose, Liberalism and Modernism, which attacked not only Catholicism, but all that calls itself Christian.
The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita also says: “Our final end is that of Voltaire and of the French Revolution, the destruction for ever of Catholicism and even of the Christian idea which, if left standing on the ruins of Rome, would be the resuscitation of Christianity later on.”
Rather than offer to kill us, The Enemy prefers to Kill us by inches, that is to leave us alive. The Enemy prefers to weaken and destroy us by luxury rather than kill us and water the roots of the Church with our blood. How far have we allowed ourselves to become weakened by The Enemy?
Let us go back a century and a half to Ars in France. The pastor Father John Vianney became well known for his spirituality. He campaigned against two things, dancing and neighborhood bars. He did all he could to eliminate both from his parish. One wonders how long it was after the death of Father Vianney that a dance was held by the Pastor in the parish hall. If one looks, there are now three bars in Ars. How many Catholics go to Ars to visit the grave of Saint John Vianney and stop in one of these bars?
We have been lulled to sleep by the lack of bloody persecution. We have begun compromising with the world, and we can have no part of the world. “And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Let us take up our weapons, prayer and penance and walk away from the world and worldly thinking.
Dear soul, it is a joy to write to you again. I think that you will find that this month's decade of counsels from Evagrius will serve us well as we enter into the Lenten fast.
I will add very little in the way of commentary, dear soul. You have a wealth of experience and ideas now from which to draw, and the plain counsels of Evagrius will themselves serve well as instruction. So let us dive right in!
To start with, we are reminded of the necessity of food for the soul:
101 . Bread is food for the body and holiness is food for the soul; spiritual prayer is food for the intellect.
102. When you are in the inner temple pray not as the Pharisee but as the publican, so that you too are set free by the Lord (cf Luke 18:10-14).
Here we are reminded - as we need to be reminded - of the examples of the Publican and Pharisee which we so recently heard in our preparation for the Great Fast on the Sunday which is named for that parable.
103. Try not to pray against anyone in your prayer, so that you do not destroy what you are building, and make your prayer loathsome.
104. Learn from the man who owed the ten thousand talents that, if you do not forgive your debtor, you yourself will not be forgiven. For it is said, 'He delivered him to the tormentors' (Matt. 18:34).
105. Detach yourself from concern for the body when you pray: do not let the sting of a flea or a fly, the bite of a louse or a mosquito, deprive you of the fruits of your prayer.
Here use your good common sense, dear soul. Distractions - even physical distractions - are always going to be with us in this life. The lesson here is not to allow them to take the first place in your mind and in your heart as you engage in prayer.
This lesson is illustrated in the following counsels. While we are not likely to encounter physical attacks of wild animals while we pray, we must nevertheless be on guard against the attacks of our own unruly nature. Remember this, dear soul, as you are instructed and you grow.
106. We have heard that the evil one attacked a certain saint so fiercely as he prayed that, when the saint lifted up his hands, the evil one changed himself into a lion and raising his front legs fixed his claws into the saint's thighs; and he kept them there until the saint lowered his hands, which was only when he had come to the end of his usual prayers.
107. There is too the case of that great monk, John the Small. He lived the hesychastic life in a pit, and his communion with God was not interrupted even when a demon in the form of a serpent wound itself round him, chewed his flesh and spat it out into his face.
108. You have surely read the lives of the monks of Tabennesis. When Abba Theodore was preaching to the brethren, two vipers crawled under his feet: but he calmly made an arch of his feet and let them stay there until he had finished his sermon. Then he showed the vipers to the brethren and told them what had happened.
109. We read how, when another spiritual brother was praying, a viper came and wound itself round his leg. But he did not lower his hands until he had finished all his usual prayers; and because he loved God more than himself, he was not harmed at all.
110. Do not let your eyes be distracted during prayer, but detach yourself from concern with body and soul, and give all your attention to the intellect.
There, dear soul, we have a set of colorful remembrances but serious instruction on how we are to continue to grow in the life of prayer during this Lenten season.
While we fast bodily, we must not neglect to feed the soul. Do not allow distractions of any sort to take the first place in your mind and heart, but rather turn your attention back to prayer always. Even if it is a thousand times a day, simply turn back, turn back, always turn back the mind and the heart to prayer.
We enter the desert armed with great graces, dear soul. Let us rejoice, and go forward.
Saints from East and West
Saints whose feasts are celebrated this month
March 11 (Byzantine) - Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem
Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was born in Damascus. From his youthful years he distinguished himself by his piety and his love for the classical sciences. He advanced especially in philosophy, for which they were wont to call him the Wise. But the future hierarch sought out an higher wisdom in the monasteries, and in conversations with the wilderness-dwellers. He arrived in Jerusalem at the monastery of Saint Theodosius, and there he became close with the Hieromonk John Moskhos, becoming his spiritual son and devoting himself to him in obedience. They journeyed together through the monasteries, and they wrote down descriptions of the lives and precepts of the ascetics found there. From these jottings was afterwards compiled their reknown book, the "Leimonarion" or "Spiritual Meadow," which was highly esteemed at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
To save themselves from the devastating incursions of the Persians, Saints John and Sophronius quit Palestine and withdrew to Antioch, and from there they went to Egypt. In Egypt Saint Sophronius became seriously ill. During this time he also decided to become a monk and so he accepted tonsure from the Monk John Moskhos. After the return to health of Saint Sophronius, they both decided to remain in Alexandria. There they were fondly received by the holy Patriarch John the Merciful, to whom they rendered great aid in the struggle against the Monophysite heresy. At Alexandria Saint Sophronius' eyesight was afflicted, and he recoursed with prayer and faith to the holy Unmercenaries Cyrus and John, and he received healing in a church named for them. In gratitude, Saint Sophronius then wrote the Vita of these holy unmercenaries.
When the barbarians began to threaten Alexandria, the holy Patriarch John, accompanied by Saints Sophronius and John Moskhos, set out for Constantinople, but along the way he died. Saints John Moskhos and Sophronius with eighteen other monks then set out for Rome. At Rome the Monk John Moskhos also died (+622). His body was conveyed by Saint Sophronius to Jerusalem and buried at the monastery of Saint Theodosius.
In the year 628 the Jerusalem patriarch Zacharias (609-633) returned from the Persian Captivity. After his death, the patriarchal throne was occupied for a space of two years by Saint Modestus (633-634). After the death of Saint Modestus, Saint Sophronius was chosen patriarch. Sainted Sophronius toiled much for the welfare of the Jerusalem Church as its primate (634-644).
Towards the end of his life, Saint Sophronius with his flock lived through a two year siege of Jerusalem by the Mohammedans. Worn down by hunger, the Christians finally consented to open the city gates, on the condition that the enemy spare the holy places. But this condition was not fulfilled, and holy Patriarch Sophronius died in deep grief over the desecration of the Christian holy places.
Written works by Patriarch Sophronius have come down to us in the area of dogmatics, and likewise his "Excursus on the Liturgy", the Vita of the Nun Mary of Egypt, and also about 950 tropars and stikhi-verses from Pascha to the Ascension. And the "triodic song" of the saint for the Holy Forty Day Great Lent is included in the composition of the contemporary Lenten Triodion.
March 9 - Saint Pacian of Barcelona
Saint Pacian is chiefly remembered through his writings, for very little is known of his history. At some time in his life he married-probably before he became a priest - and his son, Flavius Dexter, was chamberlain to the Emperor Theodosius and captain of the royal bodyguard under Honorius. Saint Jerome, who was intimate with Dexter, had the greatest regard for the father, whose eloquence, learning and sanctity he extolled while dedicating to the son his Catalogue of Illustrious Men.
Saint Pacian lived to old age and was a voluminous writer; but of his many works the only ones which have come down to us are an exhortation to penance, a sermon on baptism and three epistles addressed to a nobleman called Sympronian, who had embraced the Novatian heresy and had sent Pacian a letter in which he censured the Church for allowing repentance and absolution for all sins and also for taking the title of Catholic. In his reply Saint Pacian makes the now famous retort: "My name is Christian, my surname Catholic. The one puts me in a class, the other gives me a character. The second is a testimonial, the first is a label." Elsewhere he insists that those alone are embraced in the unity of the Church who are united to the chair of St Peter. "To Peter alone did the Lord speak" (Thou art Peter, etc.) "that from him, the one, He might establish unity."
Amongst Saint Pacian's lost writings was one entitled Cervulus, directed against an obscene heathen pageant which took place annually at the new year and in which, apparently, Christians sometimes participated. The performance, which centered round a little stag and which is alluded to by St Ambrose and other writers, consisted of masquerades in which those who took part were dressed up as wild animals.
Like many a modern censor the bishop found that his strictures acted rather as an advertisement, and at the beginning of his treatise on penance he deplores that the chief effect of his censure was to make more people curious to witness the objectionable revels.
Books to feed your faith!
Lenten Instructions from the Roman Breviary
The Roman Breviary is full of inspirational prayers and lessons. These lessons are compiled from the lessons of Matins. On Sundays and greater feasts Matins consists of three nocturns. Each nocturn consists of three psalms and three lessons. The first nocturn has lessons from Sacred Scripture. Since the Bible is readily available, this is omitted from this work. The second nocturn on the feast of saints gives their life story. It is these stories, which are most instructive. On Sundays, these lessons are an explanation either of the current Scripture or some other inspirational instruction and these are included here. The third nocturn is on the day's Gospel. The first lesson begins with a short quote from the Gospel of the day, followed by the beginning of the instruction. These are included here. On smaller feasts and ferial days, there is only one nocturn of nine psalms and three lessons. In Lent, these lessons are on the day's Gospel, while on other ferial days they are from Scripture. On minor feast days, the first two are from Scripture, the third on the day's feast. In Lent there are forty different Gospels read, and the lessons on these form the bulk of this work. The lessons in the Breviary come from the Fathers of the Church and are quite instructive. This work would serve as a good companion to Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, as it covers material not contained in this other excellent work. The Fathers of the Church bring out points we may not have considered in our meditations on the daily Gospels. We pray all find these instructions as fruitful as I have. We have included the instructions for the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday, Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, as they form a remote preparation for the commemoration of the mysteries of our Redemption at the end of Holy Week.
Instructions From the Saints on How to Preach
Four saints have given us sage advice on preaching. They all recommend a simple method that will bring about the conversion of sinners and strengthen the just in virtue. They advised shorter sermons that get to the point and teach virtue, than long drawn out sermons, which gain the applause of men, but do not touch the heart.
Saint Francis de Sales revived preaching after the Protestant Revolt. In his letter to a fellow bishop, he outlines the basics on how to preach profitably. Saint Francis de Sales says: “As to preparation, I am in favor of making it in the evening, and in the morning of meditating within oneself on what one wishes to say to others.”
Saint Vincent de Paul at the same time presented his Little Method, which is outlined below. He asked the question: “What would Jesus do?” long ago. He said: “Hold fast to the simplicity which you have found to be so successful in other missions. The spirit of the world, with which this district is saturated, can neither be fought not conquered save by the spirit of Jesus Christ.” He also said: “Mental prayer is the great book of the preacher.”
Saint John Eudes also gives some sage advice on preaching in his work on the priesthood. He says: “The end and purpose of this heavenly office is to form Christ in the hearts of the faithful that He may reign there; to dispel the darkness of hell and illumine the light of heaven in men's souls; to destroy sin and open the floodgates of grace; to destroy the tyranny of Satan on earth and reestablish the Kingdom of God.”
After the death of these three saints, God raised up Saint Alphonsus, whose advice caused some controversy, which he refuted. He followed Saints Francis de Sales and Vincent de Paul and their methods and ideas. Saint Alphonsus said: “It is related in the life of Saint Philip Neri that he commanded those who gave instructions to the people to speak on subjects that are useful and popular, and never enter into scholastic questions, or to seek after sublime conceptions.”
These works of the saints are presented without comment, so that the reader may form his own opinions. It is strongly recommended that you take notes as you go along and mark up this book, so you can find important points later. I pray that this work will help preachers to preach the Word of God, clearly and with profit to the faithful.
For More Good Traditional Catholic Books:
Giancarlo's Classic Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
Simple and delicious
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 22 minutes
Ready In 32 minutes
1 pound uncooked spaghetti
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a pasta bowl.
2. Combine garlic and olive oil in a cold skillet. Cook over medium heat to slowly toast garlic, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low when olive oil begins to bubble. Cook and stir until garlic is golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Stir red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt into the pasta. Pour in olive oil and garlic, and sprinkle on Italian parsley and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; stir until combined.
Serve pasta topped with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Spinach Cheese Pie
The old favourite!
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Ready In 50 minutes
2 (9 inch) pie crusts
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
15 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups diced Cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Press bottom pie crust into glass pie dish.
2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, salt, pepper, nutmeg, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Cheddar cheeses. Mix together well and pour into bottom pie crust. Place second pie crust on top of filling and trim edges.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and cut into wedges.
Video sermons and instructions: Timeless timely truths for living the Faith
First Sunday in Lent - 2011
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VIE CATHOLIC RADIO EVENTS FOR MARCH
Saint Basil the Great: On Creation
The creation of luminous bodies.
1. At the shows in the circus the spectator must join in the efforts of the athletes. This the laws of the show indicate, for they prescribe that all should have the head uncovered when present at the stadium. The object of this, in my opinion, is that each one there should not only be a spectator of the athletes, but be, in a certain measure, a true athlete himself. Thus, to investigate the great and prodigious show of creation, to understand supreme and ineffable wisdom, you must bring personal light for the contemplation of the wonders which I spread before your eyes, and help me, according to your power, in this struggle, where you are not so much judges as fellow combatants, for fear lest the truth might escape you, and lest my error might turn to your common prejudice. Why these words? It is because we propose to study the world as a whole, and to consider the universe not by the light of worldly wisdom, but by that with which God wills to enlighten His servant, when He speaks to him in person and without enigmas. It is because it is absolutely necessary that all lovers of great and grand shows should bring a mind well prepared to study them. If sometimes, on a bright night, whilst gazing with watchful eyes on the inexpressible beauty of the stars, you have thought of the Creator of all things; if you have asked yourself who it is that has dotted heaven with such flowers, and why visible things are even more useful than beautiful; if sometimes, in the day, you have studied the marvels of light, if you have raised yourself by visible things to the invisible Being, then you are a well prepared auditor, and you can take your place in this august and blessed amphitheatre. Come in the same way that any one not knowing a town is taken by the hand and led through it; thus I am going to lead you, like strangers, through the mysterious marvels of this great city of the universe. Our first country was in this great city, whence the murderous daemon whose enticements seduced man to slavery expelled us. There you will see man's first origin and his immediate seizure by death, brought forth by sin, the first born of the evil spirit. You will know that you are formed of earth, but the work of God's hands; much weaker than the brute, but ordained to command beings without reason and soul; inferior as regards natural advantages, but, thanks to the privilege of reason, capable of raising yourself to heaven. If we are penetrated by these truths, we shall know ourselves, we shall know God, we shall adore our Creator, we shall serve our Master, we shall glorify our Father, we shall love our Sustainer, we shall bless our Benefactor, we shall not cease to honour the Prince of present and future life, Who, by the riches that He showers upon us in this world, makes us believe in His promises and uses present good things to strengthen our expectation of the future. Truly, if such are the good things of time, what will be those of eternity? If such is the beauty of visible things, what shall we think of invisible things? If the grandeur of heaven exceeds the measure of human intelligence, what mind shall be able to trace the nature of the everlasting? If the sun, subject to corruption, is so beautiful, so grand, so rapid in its movement, so invariable in its course; if its grandeur is in such perfect harmony with and due proportion to the universe: if, by the beauty of its nature, it shines like a brilliant eye in the middle of creation; if finally, one cannot tire of contemplating it, what will be the beauty of the Sun of Righteousness? If the blind man suffers from not seeing the material sun, what a deprivation is it for the sinner not to enjoy the true light!
2. "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to divide the day from the night." Heaven and earth were the first; after them was created light; the day had been distinguished from the night, then had appeared the firmament and the dry element. The water had been gathered into the reservoir assigned to it, the earth displayed its productions, it had caused many kinds of herbs to germinate and it was adorned with all kinds of plants. However, the sun and the moon did not yet exist, in order that those who live in ignorance of God may not consider the sun as the origin and the father of light, or as the maker of all that grows out of the earth. That is why there was a fourth day, and then God said: "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven."
When once you have learnt Who spoke, think immediately of the hearer. God said, "Let there be lights . . . and God made two great lights." Who spoke? and Who made? Do you not see a double person? Everywhere, in mystic language, history is sown with the dogmas of theology.
The motive follows which caused the lights to be created. It was to illuminate the earth. Already light was created; why therefore say that the sun was created to give light? And, first, do not laugh at the strangeness of this expression. We do not follow your nicety about words, and we trouble ourselves but little to give them a harmonious turn. Our writers do not amuse themselves by polishing their periods, and everywhere we prefer clearness of words to sonorous expressions. See then if by this expression "to light up," the sacred writer sufficiently made his thought understood. He has put "to give light" instead of" illumination." Now there is nothing here contradictory to what has been said of light. Then the actual nature of light was produced: now the sun's body is constructed to be a vehicle for that original light. A lamp is not fire. Fire has the property of illuminating, and we have invented the lamp to light us in darkness. In the same way, the luminous bodies have been fashioned as a vehicle for that pure, clear, and immaterial light. The Apostle speaks to us of certain lights which shine in the world without being confounded with the true light of the world, the possession of which made the saints luminaries of the souls which they instructed and drew from the darkness of ignorance. This is why the Creator of all things, made the sun in addition to that glorious light, and placed it shining in the heavens.
3. And let no one suppose it to be a thing incredible that the brightness of the light is one thing, and the body which is its material vehicle is another. First, in all composite things, we distinguish substance susceptible of quality, and the quality which it receives. The nature of whiteness is one thing, another is that of the body which is whitened; thus the natures differ which we have just seen reunited by the power of the Creator. And do not tell me that it is impossible to separate them. Even I do not pretend to be able to separate light from the body of the sun; but I maintain that that which we separate in thought, may be separated in reality by the Creator of nature. You cannot, moreover, separate the brightness of fire from the virtue of burning which it possesses; but God, who wished to attract His servant by a wonderful sight, set a fire in the burning bush, which displayed all the brilliancy of flame while its devouring property was dormant. It is that which the Psalmist affirms in saying "The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire." Thus, in the requital which awaits us after this life, a mysterious voice seems to tell us that the double nature of fire will be divided; the just will enjoy its light, and the torment of its heat will be the torture of the wicked.
In the revolutions of the moon we find a new proof of what we have advanced. When it stops and grows less it does not consume itself in all its body, but in the measure that it deposits or absorbs the light which surrounds it, it presents to us the image of its decrease or of its increase. If we wish an evident proof that the moon does not consume its body whet, at rest, we have only to open our eyes. If you look at it in a cloudless and clear sky, you observe, when it has taken the complete form of a crescent, that the part, which is dark and not lighted up, describes a circle equal to that which the full moon forms. Thus the eye can take in the whole circle, if it adds to the illuminated part this obscure and dark curve. And do not tell me that the light of the moon is borrowed, diminishing or increasing in proportion as it approaches or recedes from the sun. That is not now the object of our research; we only wish to prove that its body differs from the light which makes it shine. I wish you to have the same idea of the sun; except however that the one, after having once received light and having mixed it with its substance, does not lay it down again, whilst the other, turn by turn, putting off and reclothing itself again with light, proves by that which takes place in itself what we have said of the sun.
The sun and moon thus received the command to divide the day from the night. God had already separated light from darkness; then He placed their natures in opposition, so that they could not mingle, and that there could never be anything in common between darkness and light. You see what a shadow is during the day; that is precisely the nature of darkness during the night. If, at the appearance of a light, the shadow always falls on the opposite side; if in the morning it extends towards the setting sun; if in the evening it inclines towards the rising sun, and at mid-day turns towards the north; night retires into the regions opposed to the rays of the sun, since it is by nature only the shadow of the earth. Because, in the same way that, daring the day, shadow is produced by a body which intercepts the light, night comes naturally when the air which surrounds the earth is in shadow. And this is precisely what Scripture says, "God divided the light from the darkness." Thus darkness fled at the approach of light, the two being at their first creation divided by a natural antipathy. Now God commanded the sun to measure the day, and the moon, whenever she rounds her disc, to rule the night. For then these two luminaries are almost diametrically opposed; when the sun rises, the full moon disappears from the horizon, to re-appear in the east at the moment the sun sets. It matters little to our subject if in other phases the light of the moon does not correspond exactly with night. It is none the less true, that when at its perfection it makes the stars to turn pale and lightens up the earth with the splendour of its light, it reigns over the night, and in concert with the sun divides the duration of it in equal parts.
4. "And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years." The signs which the luminaries give are necessary to human life. In fact what useful observations will long experience make us discover, if we ask without undue curiosity! What signs of rain, of drought, or of the rising of the wind, partial or general, violent or moderate Our Lord indicates to us one of the signs given by the sun when He says, "It will be foul weather to-day; for the sky is red and lowering." In fact, when the sun rises through a fog, its rays are darkened, but the disc appears burning like a coal and of a bloody red colour. It is the thickness of the air which causes this appearance; as the rays of the sun do not disperse such amassed and condensed air, it cannot certainly be retained by the waves of vapour which exhale from the earth, and it will cause from superabundance of moisture a storm in the countries over which it accumulates. In the same way, when the moon is surrounded with moisture, or when the sun is encircled with what is called a halo, it is the sign of heavy rain or of a violent storm; again, in the same way, if mock suns accompany the sun in its course they foretell certain celestial phenomena. Finally, those straight lines, like the colours of the rainbow, which are seen on the clouds, announce rain, extraordinary tempests, or, in one word, a complete change in the weather.
Those who devote themselves to the observation of these bodies find signs in the different phases of the moon, as if the air, by which the earth is enveloped, were obliged to vary to correspond with its change of form. Towards the third day of the new moon, if it is sharp and clear, it is a sign of fixed fine weather. If its horns appear thick and reddish it threatens us either with heavy rain or with a gale from the South. Who does not know how useful are these signs in life? Thanks to them, the sailor keeps back his vessel in the harbour, foreseeing the perils with which the winds threaten him, and the traveller beforehand takes shelter from harm, waiting until the weather has become fairer. Thanks to them, husbandmen, busy with sowing seed or cultivating plants, are able to know which seasons are favourable to their labours. Further, the Lord has announced to us that at the dissolution of the universe, signs will appear in the sun, in the moon and in the stars. The sun shall be turned into blood and the moon shall not give her light, signs of the consummation of all things.
5. But those who overstep the borders, making the words of Scripture their apology for the art of casting nativities, pretend that our lives depend upon the motion of the heavenly bodies, and that thus the Chaldaeans read in the planets that which will happen to us. By these very simple words "let them be for signs," they understand neither the variations of the weather, nor the change of seasons; they only see in them, at the will of their imagination, the distribution of human destinies. What do they say in reality? When the planets cross in the signs of the Zodiac, certain figures formed by their meeting give birth to certain destinies, and others produce different destinies.
Perhaps for clearness sake it is not useless to enter into more detail about this vain science. I will say nothing of my own to refute them; I will use their words, bringing a remedy for the infected, and for others a preservative from falling. The inventors of astrology seeing that in the extent of time many signs escaped them, divided it and enclosed each part in narrow limits, as if in the least and shortest interval, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, to speak with the Apostle, the greatest difference should be found between one birth and another. Such an one is born in this moment; he will be a prince over cities and will govern the people, in the fulness of riches and power. Another is born the instant after; he will be poor, miserable, and will wander daily from door to door begging his bread. Consequently they divide the Zodiac into twelve parts, and, as the sun takes thirty days to traverse each of the twelve divisions of this unerring circle, they divide them into thirty more. Each of them forms sixty new ones, and these last are again divided into sixty. Let us see then if, in determining the birth of an infant, it will be possible to observe this rigorous division of time. The child is born. The nurse ascertains the sex; then she awaits the wail which is a sign of its life. Until then how many moments have passed do you think? The nurse announces the birth of the child to the Chaldaean: how many minutes would you count before she opens her mouth, especially if he who records the hour is outside the women's apartments? And we know that he who consults the dial, ought, whether by day or by night, to mark the hour with the most precise exactitude. What a swarm of seconds passes during this time! For the planet of nativity ought to be found, not only in one of the twelve divisions of the Zodiac, and even in one of its first subdivisions, but again in one of the sixtieth parts which divide this last, and even, to arrive at the exact truth, in one of the sixtieth subdivisions that this contains in its turn. And to obtain such minute knowledge, so impossible to grasp from this moment, each planet must be questioned to find its position as regards the signs of the Zodiac and the figures that the planets form at the moment of the child's birth. Thus, if it is impossible to find exactly the hour of birth, and if the least change can upset all, then both those who give themselves up to this imaginary science and those who listen to them open-mouthed, as if they could learn from them the future, are supremely ridiculous.
6. But what effects are produced? Such an one will have curly hair and bright eyes, because he is born under the Ram; such is the appearance of a ram. He will have noble feelings; because the Ram is born to command. He will be liberal and fertile in resources, because this animal gets rid of its fleece without trouble, and nature immediately hastens to reclothe it. Another is born under the Bull: he will be enured to hardship and of a slavish character, because the bull bows under the yoke. Another is born under the Scorpion; like to this venomous reptile he will be a striker. He who is born under the Balance will be just, thanks to the justness of our balances. Is not this the height of folly? This Ram, from whence you draw the nativity of man, is the twelfth part of the heaven, and in entering into it the sun reaches the spring. The Balance and the Bull are likewise twelfth parts of the Zodiac. How can you see there the principal causes which influence the life of man? And why do you take animals to characterize the manners of men who enter this world? He who is born under the Ram will be liberal, not because this part of heaven gives this characteristic, but because such is the nature of the beast. Why then should we frighten ourselves by the names of these stars and undertake to persuade ourselves with these bleatings? If heaven has different characteristics derived from these animals, it is then itself subject to external influences since its causes depend on the brutes who graze in our fields. A ridiculous assertion; but how much more ridiculous the pretence of arriving at the influence on each other of things which have not the least connexion! This pretended science is a true spider's web; if a gnat or a fly, or some insect equally feeble falls into it it is held entangled; if a stronger animal approaches, it passes through without trouble, carrying the weak tissue away with it.
7. They do not, however, stop here; even our acts, where each one feels his will ruling, I mean, the practice of virtue or of vice, depend, according to them, on the influence of celestial bodies. It would be ridiculous seriously to refute such an error, but, as it holds a great many in its nets, perhaps it is better not to pass it over in silence. I would first ask them if the figures which the stars describe do not change a thousand times a day. In the perpetual motion of planets, some meet in a more rapid course, others make slower revolutions, and often in an hour we see them look at each other and then hide themselves. Now, at the hour of birth, it is very important whether one is looked upon by a beneficent star or by an evil one, to speak their language. Often then the astrologers do not seize the moment when a good star shows itself, and, on account of having let this fugitive moment escape, they enrol the newborn under the influence of a bad genius. I am compelled to use their own words. What madness! But, above all, what impiety! For the evil stars throw the blame of their wickedness upon Him Who trade them. If evil is inherent in their nature, the
Creator is the author of evil. If they make it themselves, they are animals endowed with the power of choice, whose acts will be free and voluntary. Is it not the height of folly to tell these lies about beings without souls? Again, what a want of sense does it show to distribute good and evil without regard to personal merit; to say that a star is beneficent because it occupies a certain place; that it becomes evil, because it is viewed by another star; and that if it moves ever so little from this figure it loses its malign influence.
But let us pass on. If, at every instant of duration, the stars vary their figures, then in these thousand changes, many times a day, there ought to be reproduced the configuration of royal births. Why then does not every day see the birth of a king? Why is there a succession on the throne from father to son? Without doubt there has never been a king who has taken measures to have his son born under the star of royalty. For what man possesses such a power? How then did Uzziah beget Jotham, Jotham Ahaz, Ahaz Hezekiah? And by what chance did the birth of none of them happen in an hour of slavery? If the origin of our virtues and of our vices is not in ourselves, but is the fatal consequence of our birth, it is useless for legislators to prescribe for us what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid; it is useless for judges to honour virtue and to punish vice. The guilt is not in the robber, not in the assassin: it was willed for him; it was impossible for him to hold back his hand, urged to evil by inevitable necessity. Those who laboriously cultivate the arts are the maddest of men. The labourer will make an abundant harvest without sowing seed and without sharpening his sickle. Whether he wishes it or not, the merchant will make his fortune, and will be flooded with riches by fate. As for us Christians, we shall see our great hopes vanish, since from the moment that man does not act with freedom, there is neither reward for justice, nor punishment for sin. Under the reign of necessity and of fatality there is no place for merit, the first condition of all righteous judgment. But let us stop. You who are sound in yourselves have no need to hear more, and time does not allow us to make attacks without limit against these unhappy men.
8. Let its return to the words which follow. "Let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years." We have spoken about signs. By times, we understand the succession of seasons, winter, spring, summer and autumn, which we see follow each other in so regular a course, thanks to the regularity of the movement of the luminaries. It is winter when the sun sojourns in the south and produces in abundance the shades of night in our region. The air spread over the earth is chilly, and the damp exhalations, which gather over our heads, give rise to rains, to frosts, to innumerable flakes of snow. When, returning from the southern regions, the sun is in the middle of the heavens and divides day and night into equal parts, the more it sojourns above the earth the more it brings back a mild temperature to us. Then comes spring, which makes all the plants germinate, and gives to the greater part of the trees their new life, and, by successive generation, perpetuates all the land and water animals. From thence the sun, returning to the summer solstice, in the direction of the North, gives us the longest days. And, as it travels farther in the air, it burns that which is over our heads, dries up the earth, ripens the grains and hastens the maturity of the fruits of the trees. At the epoch of its greatest heat, the shadows which the sun makes at mid-day are short, because it shines from above, from the air over our heads. Thus the longest days are those when the shadows are shortest, in the same way that the shortest days are those when the shadows are longest. It is this which happens to all of us "Hetero-skii" (shadowed-on-one-side) who inhabit the northern regions of the earth. But there are people who, two days in the year, are completely without shade at mid-day, because the sun, being perpendicularly over their heads, lights them so equally from all sides, that it could through a narrow opening shine at the bottom of a well. Thus there are some who call them "askii" (shadowless). For those who live beyond the land of spices see their shadow now on one side, now on another, the only inhabitants of this land of which the shade falls at mid-day; thus they are given the name of "amphiskii," (shadowed-on-both-sides). All these phenomena happen whilst the sun is passing into northern regions: they give us an idea of the heat thrown on the air, by the rays of the sun and of the effects that they produce. Next we pass to autumn, which breaks up the excessive heat, lessening the warmth little by little, and by a moderate temperature brings us back without suffering to winter, to the time when the sun returns from the northern regions to the southern. It is thus that seasons, following the course of the sun, succeed each other to rule our life
"Let them be for days" says Scripture, not to produce them but to rule them; because day and night are older than the creation of the luminaries and it is this that the psalm declares to us. "The sun to rule by day ... the moon and stars to rule by night." How does the sun rule by day? Because carrying everywhere light with it, it is no sooner risen above the horizon than it drives away darkness and brings us day. Thus we might, without self deception, define day as air lighted by the sun, or as the space of time that the sun passes in our hemisphere. The functions of the sun and moon serve further to mark years. The moon, after having twelve times run her course, forms a year which sometimes needs an intercalary month to make it exactly agree with the seasons. Such was formerly the year of the Hebrews and of the early Greeks. As to the solar year, it is the time that the sun, having started from a certain sign, takes to return to it in its normal progress.
9. "And God made two great lights " The word "great," if, for example we say it of the heaven of the earth or of the sea, may have an absolute sense; but ordinarily it has only a relative meaning, as a great horse, or a great ox. It is not that these animals are of an immoderate size, but that in comparison with their like they deserve the title of great. What idea shall we ourselves form here of greatness? Shall it be the idea that we have of it in the ant and in all the little creatures of nature, which we call great in comparison with those like themselves, and to show their superiority over them? Or shall we predicate greatness of the luminaries, as of the natural greatness inherent in them? As for me, I think so. If the sun and moon are great, it is not in comparison with the smaller stars, but because they have such a circumference that the splendour which they diffuse lights up the heavens and the air, embracing at the same time earth and sea. In whatever part of heaven they may be, whether rising, or setting, or in mid heaven, they appear always the same in the eyes of men, a manifest proof of their prodigious size. For the whole extent of heaven cannot make them appear greater in one place and smaller in another. Objects which we see afar off appear dwarfed to our eyes, and in measure as they approach us we can form a juster idea of their size. But there is no one who can be nearer or more distant from the sun. All the inhabitants of the earth see it at the same distance. Indians and Britons see it of the same size. The people of the East do not see it decrease in magnitude when it sets; those of the West do not find it smaller when it rises. If it is in the middle of the heavens it does not vary in either aspect. Do not be deceived by mere appearance, and because it looks a cubit's breadth, imagine it to be no bigger. At a very great distance objects always lose size in our eyes; sight, not being able to clear the intermediary space, is as it were exhausted in the middle of its coarse, and only a small part of it reaches the visible object. Our power of sight is small and makes all we see seem small, affecting what it sees by its own condition. Thus, then, if sight is mistaken its testimony is fallible. Recall your own impressions and you will find in yourself the proof of my words. If you bare ever from the top of a high mountain looked at a large and level plain, how big did the yokes of oxen appear to you? How big were the ploughmen themselves? Did they not look like ants? If from the top of a commanding rock, looking over the wide sea, you cast your eyes over the vast extent how big did the greatest islands appear to you? How large did one of those barks of great tonnage, which unfurl their white sails to the blue sea, appear to you. Did it not look smaller than a dove? It is because sight, as I have just told you, loses itself in the air, becomes weak and cannot seize with exactness the object which it sees. And further: your sight shows you high mountains intersected by valleys as rounded and smooth, because it reaches only to the salient parts, and is not able, on account of its weakness, to penetrate into the valleys which separate them. It does not even preserve the form of objects, and thinks that all square towers are round. Thus all proves that at a great distance sight only presents to us obscure and confused objects. The luminary is then great, according to the witness of Scripture, and infinitely greater than it appears.
10. See again another evident proof of its greatness. Although the heaven may be full of stars without number, the light contributed by them all could not disperse the gloom of night. The sun alone, from the time that it appeared on the horizon, while it was still expected and had not yet risen completely above the earth, dispersed the darkness, outshone the stars, dissolved and diffused the air, which was hitherto thick and condensed over our heads, and produced thus the morning breeze and the dew which in fine weather streams over the earth. Could the earth with such a wide extent be lighted up entirely in one moment if an immense disc were not pouring forth its light over it? Recognise here the wisdom of the Artificer. See how He made the heat of the sun proportionate to this distance. Its heat is so regulated that it neither consumes the earth by excess, nor lets it grow cold and sterile by defect.
To all this the properties of the moon are near akin; she, too, has an immense body, whose splendour only yields to that of the sun. Our eyes, however, do not always see her in her full size. Now she presents a perfectly rounded disc, now when diminished and lessened she shows a deficiency on one side. When waxing she is shadowed on one side, and when she is waning another side is hidden. Now it is not without a secret reason of the divine Maker of the universe, that the moon appears from time to time under such different forms. It presents a striking example of our nature. Nothing is stable in man; here from nothingness he raises himself to perfection; there after having hasted to put forth his strength to attain his full greatness he suddenly is subject to gradual deterioration, and is destroyed by diminution. Thus, the sight of the moon, making us think of the rapid vicissitudes of human things, ought to teach us not to pride ourselves on the good things of this life, and not to glory in our power, not to be carried away by uncertain riches, to despise our flesh which is subject to change, and to take care of the soul, for its good is unmoved. If you cannot behold without sadness the moon losing its splendour by gradual and imperceptible decrease, how much more distressed should you be at the sight of a soul, who, after having possessed virtue, loses its beauty by neglect, and does not remain constant to its affections, but is agitated and constantly changes because its purposes are unstable. What Scripture says is very true, "As for a fool he changeth as the moon."
I believe also that the variations of the moon do not take place without exerting great influence upon the organization of animals and of all living things. This is because bodies are differently disposed at its waxing and waning. When she wanes they lose their density and become void. When she waxes and is approaching her fulness they appear to fill themselves at the same time with her, thanks to an imperceptible moisture that she emits mixed with heat, which penetrates everywhere. For proof, see how those who sleep under the moon feel abundant moisture filling their heads; see how fresh meat is quickly turned under the action of the moon; see the brain of animals, the moistest part of marine animals, the pith of trees. Evidently the moon must be, as Scripture says, of enormous size and power to make all nature thus participate in her changes.
11. On its variations depends also the condition of the air, as is proved by sudden disturbances which often come after the new moon, in the midst of a calm and of a stillness in the winds, to agitate the clouds and to hurl them against each other; as the flux and reflux in straits, and the ebb and flow of the ocean prove, so that those who live on its shores see it regularly following the revolutions of the moon. The waters of straits approach and retreat from one shore to the other during the different phases of the moon; but, when she is new, they have not an instant of rest, and move in perpetual swaying to and fro, until the moon, reappearing, regulates their reflux. As to the Western sea, we see it in its ebb and flow now return into its bed, and now overflow, as the moon draws it back by her respiration and then, by her expiration, urges it to its own boundaries.
I have entered into these details, to show you the grandeur of the luminaries, and to make you see that, in the inspired words, there is not one idle syllable. And yet my sermon has scarcely touched on any important point; there are many other discoveries about the size and distance of the sun and moon to which any one who will make a serious study of their action and of their characteristics may arrive by the aid of reason. Let me then ingenuously make an avowal of my weakness, for fear that you should measure the mighty works of the Creator by my words. The little that I have said ought the rather to make you conjecture the marvels on which I have omitted to dwell. We must not then measure the moon with the eye, but with the reason. Reason, for the discovery of truth, is much surer than the eye.
Everywhere ridiculous old women's tales, imagined in the delirium of drunkenness, have been circulated; such as that enchantmeats can remove the moon from its place and make it descend to the earth. How could a magician's charm shake that of which the Most High has laid the foundations? And if once torn out what place could hold it?
Do you wish from slight indications to have a proof of the moon's size? All the towns in the world, however distant from each other, equally receive the light from the moon in those streets that are turned towards its rising If she did not look on all face to face, those only would be entirely lighted up which were exactly opposite; as to those beyond the extremities of her disc, they would only receive diverted and oblique rays. It is this effect which the light of lamps produces in houses; if a lamp is surrounded by several persons, only the shadow of the person who is directly opposite to it is cast in a straight line, the others follow inclined lines on each side. In the same way, if the body of the moon were not of an immense and prodigious size she could not extend herself alike to all. In reality, when the moon rises in the equinoctial regions, all equally enjoy her light, both those who inhabit the icy zone, under the revolutions of the Bear, and those who dwell in the extreme south in the neighbourhood of the torrid zone. She gives us an idea of her size by appearing to be face to face with all people. Who then can deny the immensity of a body which divides itself equally over such a wide extent?
But enough on the greatness of the sun and moon. May He Who has given us intelligence to recognise in the smallest objects of creation the great wisdom of the Contriver make us find in great bodies a still higher idea of their Creator. However, compared with their Author, the sun and moon are but a fly and an ant. The whole universe cannot give us a right idea of the greatness of God; and it is only by signs, weak and slight in themselves, often by the help of the smallest insects and of the least plants, that we raise ourselves to Him. Content with these words let us offer our thanks, I to Him who has given me the ministry of the Word, you to Him who feeds you with spiritual food; Who, even at this moment, makes you find in my weak voice the strength of barley bread. May He feed you for ever, and in proportion to your faith grant you the manifestation of the Spirit in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
The Priesthood of All Believers.
Ordinary Christians share a common priesthood.
So even in the very same chapter God is calling the whole nation a kingdom of priests, there is still a separate, ministerial priesthood.
How to Reduce Your Aggravation
A lot of things can frustrate me. Sometimes they get into my head and make it hard to sleep or concentrate on the important things in life. Sometimes they aggravate me and change my mood. I have come to the conclusion that there are some things I can do to take away some of my frustration. Here are couple of them.
Listen less to talk radio.
When I stop listening as much to people's opinions, even those with whom I agree, it reduced a lot of my frustration (and anger). Talk radio is built on the concept of confrontation and confrontation leads to frustration.
Reduce your social media intake.
There are many things on social media which cause my blood pressure to rise. There are people who post things I don't need to read. I am very cautious how much social media reaches my eyes and this my mind
Read your news carefully.
Notice I didn't say watch or listen. I said read because reading allows you to control what you allow in your mind. I carefully scan through the news to decide what I want to read. Even then I merely scan through most of what is in those articles. I promise you reading the news has made a huge difference for me.
Avoid gossips critics and naysayers.
When you know what you don't need to know it can leave you frustrated because you have no control. I do not read negative things. I do not read slander or gossip. When I see it, I pass right by it. I don't need those thoughts in my mind.
As little as those things may seem I promise they will take away a lot of your anxiety and frustrations. I know what gets me going and I do my best to avoid it so that I can be at my best for the things and people which are important to me.
Pray for the Holy Father! Pray with the Holy Father!
- Your prayers are asked this month and every month for the intentions of the Holy Father, Pope Michael.
- Be sure to keep the new foundation of St. Helen Catholic Mission in your prayers. Why not go on over to the site now and see what they have to offer and how you might be able to help!
- Your prayers are asked for the newly-ordained Father Francis Dominic as he embarks upon the important work entrusted to him within the Church.
- Please pray for Brother Stephen's wife who is having health issues. May God grant the swift grace of His healing!
- Pray for those outside the Church and those who do not know God, that they may see the light of grace and be led safely home to the refuge of the Holy Catholic Church.
- As always, we also ask that you pray for yourself! Never forget your own state of soul. God is calling you to His service in His love. We know that our Lord can count on you to answer.
- We are all praying especially for you, too. May you correspond with every grace of God!
- In what other needs or intentions may we pray for you? Let us know!
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