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This section dedicated to Our Most Blessed Holy Mother Maria,
The Mother of God.
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“Take hold on instruction, leave it not:
keep it, because it is thy life.”
An Exhaustive Exposition of
The Catholic Religion
Rev Francis Spirago
Professor of Theology
Edited by Rev. Richard F Clarke, S.J.
Arthur J Scanlan, S.T.D.
Imprimatur +Patrick J Hayes D.D.
Archbishop of New York New York
October 18 1921
Library of Congress Catalog Card No: 93-61206
Continued; Ninth article of the Creed:
6. THE HIERARCHY OF THE CHURCH.
1. The ministers of the Church fall into three classes of distinct dignity and power: bishops, priests, and deacons (Council of Trent, 23 c. 4. Can. 6).
These were foreshadowed in the high priest, the priests, and the Levites of the Temple, as well as in Our Lord, the apostles, and disciples. To the apostles our Lord said: "As a Father hath sent Me, so I send you " (John xx. 21); to the disciples merely: “Go behold I send you” (Luke x. 3). The apostles were sent to all the nations on the earth (Matt. xxviii. 20); the disciples only to those places where the Lord was himself to go (Luke x, 1). And the bishops are now the successors of the apostles (Council of Trent, xxiii. 4); hence the bishops are of higher rank than priests because they belong to a higher order of the clergy and have higher orders; besides that they have greater powers, being the only real pastors of the flock, and in virtue of their jurisdiction deciding how far any one else may share in their government of those committed to their charge. " The bishop alone can give orders," says St. Jerome, and according to St. Cyprian he is the only ordinary minister of Confirmation. The Council of Trent assigned to bishops many other privileges beyond those enjoyed by the other ministers of the Church. In addition they have a judicial vote in councils. Priests rank higher than deacons, having higher orders and greater powers; they can offer the holy sacrifice, and forgive sins, while deacons can only baptize, preach, and give communion.
2. This hierarchy was in force in the time of the apostles.
We see in the Scriptures Timothy appointed with powers to judge priests (1 Tim. v. 19), to ordain them (1 Tim. v. 22) and to appoint them to various cities (Tit. i. 5). St. Ignatius of Antioch (107 AD) names the three orders: “Let all obey the bishops as Jesus obeyed the Father; let them obey the priests as the apostles, and honor the deacons as being the messengers of God. " similar expressions occur in Clement of Rome (100 AD), and Clement of Alexandria (217 AD). There was, however, a certain vagueness in the use of terms in the time of the apostles; priests were called "elders" or "overseers. " The former title owed its origin to the Jewish converts, the latter to the heathen. In every community there were several priests (1 Tim. iv. 14), of whom one was the superior or "high priest," known in latter times as the bishop. He was often called priest merely because he was in reality a priest; even the apostles Peter and John called themselves priests (1 Pet. v. 1; 2 John i. 1).
3. The episcopal and priestly office was instituted by Christ Himself; the diaconate by the apostles.
The deacons were appointed by the apostles to distribute alms, and were consecrated to this duty by the laying on of hands, accompanied with prayer (Acts vi. 6); they also had spiritual functions as preaching (as in the case of St. Stephen) and baptizing (as in the case of St. Philip). In the early ages there were also deaconesses - widows who tended the sick and taught young girls. They were no part of the hierarchy, since it was a fixed principal in the Church that no woman should preach (1 Cor, xiv, 34), Because she is subject to man and was first led astray in paradise (1 Tim. ii. 12, etc. ).
4. Besides these three classes there are other degrees varying in their powers: for example, Pope, cardinals, archbishops.
The distribution of authority is the basis of this classification: all, without exception, owe obedience to the Pope; the bishop rules all the clergy of his diocese; the clergy are in authority over those committed to their charge (1 Pet. v. 5; Heb. xiii. 17). The Church has its differences of rank like an army (Council of Trent, xxiii. 24); without these grades it would be a society without organization.
7. NOTES OF THE TRUE CHURCH.
"When," says St. Cyprian, "The devil saw that the worship of idols was abolished, and the heathen temples emptied, he be thought him of a new poison, and lead men into error under cover of the Christian religion, the poison of false doctrine and pride, through which more than 200 churches have started up in opposition to the true Church founded by Christ. " Now God has ordained that men should come to knowledge of the truth; i.e., of the true Church as distinguished from all others by certain marks.
1. The true Church is that one which is most persecuted by the world, and which has received God's seal in the form of miracles.
Christ often spoke to His disciples of these persecutions: "The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me they will also persecute you " (John xv. 20). "They will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. . . you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake" (Matt. x. 17-22). "Yea, the hour cometh that whosoever killeth you, will think that he does a service to God" (John xvi.2). "Because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you " (John xv. 19). Never in the history of the Catholic Church has it been free from persecution. Whatever be the differences between the sects they unite against the Church. The apostles, especially St. Paul, were objects of hate to the Jews (Acts xiii. 50; xvii. 8), and Saint John (166 AD) testifies that their hatred of the Christians had not died out in his day. The present day is not wanting in examples in the sufferings inflicted on religious communities, in the interference of the secular governments in things spiritual, in the opposition made to processions and meetings and other devout practices. Can any Church be the true Church which does not oppose the spirit of the world? Then to it is only in the Catholic Church that we have miracles: those, for instance, of the apostles, all the saints worked both in their lifetime and after death, either at their graves or by the application of their relics. We know that God would work miracles only in confirmation of the truth.
2. The true Church is that one in which the successor of St. Peter is to be found.
The Church rests on a rock and that rock is Peter: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church" (Matt. xxviii. 20). "Where Peter is, there is the Church," says St. Ambrose.
3. The true Church is known by the following four marks: she is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic.
The Catholic Church alone has these marks.
1. The true Church is One. She has at all times and in all places the same doctrine, the same means of grace, and only one Head.
Truth can only be one; hence the teaching of the Church cannot change. Christ wished His Church to be one; for that He prayed at the Last Supper (John xvii. 20); "There shall be one fold and one shepherd" (John x. 16); He appointed one head for the whole Church (John xvi. 17). The Catholic Church is One: her Catechisms the world over teach precisely the same doctrine. Everywhere the holy sacrifice is offered, and the sacraments given in the same way; the same ceremonies and feasts are observed all over the world. All Catholics acknowledge the Pope as Head of the Church. If there were antipopes it is none the less true that someone was the true Pope; the existence of many pretenders to a throne does not exclude the claim of the true king. Nor can heresy destroy this unity, for the heretic who refuses to submit is no longer a member of the Church. None need accuse the Church of want of progress because it holds fast by its old established doctrines; there is no true progress in giving up the truth and adopting error. The truth cannot change; hence Bossuet might well say:" Protestantism, thou art changeable, therefore thou canst not be the truth!"
2. The true Church is Holy, i.e., it has the means and the endeavor to lead all men to holiness.
Christ founded the Church for the very purpose of making men holy. The Catholic Church is holy. All its teaching is lofty and pure; the great principle underlying its commands are self denial and the love of one's neighbor; all its sacraments, and especially penance and the Holy Eucharist are great aids to the sanctification of mankind, and the complete following out of the evangelical counsels can lead a man to the highest point of perfection; moreover the Catholic Church has a host of saints, whose holiness is attested by miracles. The misdeeds of some members, or abuses occurring within the Church are due not to the Church, but to the perversity of men. Even among the apostles there was a traitor, and Christ compared some members of the Church to weeds and worthless fish. Can any Church be holy which adopts Luther's teaching that faith alone is sufficient for salvation, and good works on unnecessary? or Calvin's doctrine that some men are predestined by God to hellfire? or any Church which, on its own confession, owns that none of its members have been saints and their sanctity confirmed by miracle?
3. The true Church is universal or Catholic, i.e., she is empowered to receive men into her bosom in all places and all times.
Christ died for all men, and on ascending into heaven gave His apostles the mission to teach all the nations of the earth till the end of time (Matt. xxviii. 20). Hence His Church was meant to be for all nations, and this is confirmed by the miracle of tongues on the first Pentecost. The Catholic Church is universal; her teaching applies to all people, the polished Greek, the victorious Roman, the rude barbarian as well as to the outcast slave. At present the Catholic Church is spread over the whole world. "Heretics are everywhere," said St. Augustine, "But no particular heresy is everywhere. " the Church has about 260,000,000 members, hence it is more widespread than any other religion, and is continually sending missionaries to the heathen. Can, then, any Church which depends entirely on the government, as, for instance, the Russian Church, or the Anglican, which is wholly national in England,, be the true Church? or can one which has no real success among the heathen have a claim to truth?
4. The true Church is Apostolic; i.e., she comes down from the time of the apostles, her teaching is always what it was in the time of the apostles, and her ministers are legitimate successors of the apostles.
The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles of which Christ is the corner-stone (Eph. ii. 20). "That is the true Church," says St. Jerome, "which was founded by the apostles and endures unto the present day. " The Catholic Church is Apostolic; it has lasted nineteen hundred years, Luther himself confessed that it was the oldest. The teaching of the oldest of the Fathers agrees perfectly with our Catechism, and our services are substantially the same as those of the first ages.
The consideration of these notes and marks has, in the course of ages, led many of the noblest of men into the bosom of the Catholic Church.
It is remarkable that men of the greatest learning and virtue have, even in the face of great sacrifices, entered the Catholic Church, while those who have deserted it have generally shown by their lives what they really were. We have reason to rejoice in our religion that it offers us such special consolation in trouble and at the hour of death. Thus Melancthon wrote to his Catholic mother: "The Protestant faith is the best one to live in, but the Catholic is the best to die in," and again: "The new religion makes the best show, the Catholic gives most security. "
8. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALONE GIVES SALVATION.
In other words: "Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation. "
1. The Catholic Church alone gives salvation; i.e., the Catholic Church alone possesses those means which lead to salvation, viz., the doctrine of Christ, the means of salvation appointed by Christ, and the teachers and guides of the Church established by Christ.
The Church cannot teach that truth and error lead equally well to salvation; she makes no declaration as to who is saved, but states only what is necessary for salvation. The judgment of particular individuals is left to the God Who searches hearts (Ps. vii. 10). Her doctrine is not a declaration of intolerance to the individual, but of intolerance of error, such an intolerance as God Himself expressed when He forbade false gods to appear before Him (1 Cor. v.). So far is the Church from hating those outside her pale that in her public prayers on Good Friday she begs God's mercy for them. The persecutions of the Middle Ages formed no part of the work of the Church, which desired not the death, but the conversion of the sinner; it was the civil power which used force to repress heretics, because as a rule they disturbed the public peace and morality. The Church is the way to salvation; it differs in this respect from the synagogue; the latter merely pointed out the way of salvation in the distant future, while the Church claims itself to be the true way. The Catholic Church is distinct from the heretical churches which have corrupted Christ’s doctrine and have rejected the means of grace, especially Mass and penance. Their way is a roundabout way, or the wrong way. "The further one goes out of the right path," says St. Augustine, "The further he is from the goal of his journey. "
2. Hence every man is bound to become a member of the Catholic Church.
Some will say that a man ought not to change his religion; they might just as well argue that a man may keep an inheritance which his father obtained unjustly. Others say: "One faith is as good as another, and all lead equally well to heaven." This is to profess indifferentism. It is certain that one religion only can be the true one, i.e., the one revealed by God; and reason alone would tell us that the truth is what we should aim at. It is absurd to suppose that God is unconcerned whether man adore him or sticks and stones, or whether Christ be regarded as His Son or as a blasphemer. Why should Christ, and after Him the apostles, preach the Gospel amid so much persecution, if it were of no moment what a man believed? Why were the apostles so vehement in denouncing those who perverted the teaching of Christ (Gal, i, 8; 2 John i. 10)? Why should God have converted Saul, and sent an angel to Cornelius? The apostles gave the reason: "There is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved" (Acts iv. 12). And Christ said: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man, cometh to the Father but by Me" (John xiv. 6). Hence it is that so many eminent people enter the Church, despite the sacrifices entailed. Queen Christina, the only daughter of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, the arch-enemy of the Catholics, studied the Catholic teaching and was persuaded of its truth; and as the laws of the land forbade her to practice her faith, she resigned her crown and spent the rest of her days in Rome. So, too, in the beginning of the century Count Stolberg resigned his post on his conversion. In England during the last few decades very many most distinguished men have entered the Church, especially Cardinals Newman and Manning. Even from Judaism there have been remarkable conversions, as, e.g., those of Ratisbonne and Liebermann.
3. Whoever through his own fault remains outside the Church will not be saved.
A man who, knowing the Catholic Church to be the true one, leaves it, say, to make a good marriage, or to push on his business, or for some such unworthy motive, will not be saved; so, too, of the man who from a cowardly fear of the reproaches or the disesteem of others, does not enter the Church. The same is true of the man who having solid doubts as to whether his Church is the true one, takes no pains to find out the truth. Such as these love the darkness better than the light (John iii. 19). "He cannot have God for a Father, who has not the Church for a Mother," says Saint Cyprian. “He who has not Christ for a Head," are the words of St. Augustine, "cannot be saved; and he who does not belong to the body of Christ, i.e., to the Church of Christ, has not Christ for his head. " "He who breaks away from the Church separates himself from Christ" (Council of Lateran, iv.).
If, however, a man, through no fault of his own, remains outside the Church, he may be saved if he lead a God-fearing life; for such a one is to all intents and purposes a member of the Catholic Church.
The majority of men who have been brought up in heresy think that they belong to the true Church; their error is not due to hatred of God. A man who leads a good life and has the love of God in his heart, really belongs to the Church, and such a one is saved, not by his heresy, but by belonging to the Church. St. Peter said: "In every nation he that feareth God and worketh justice is acceptable to Him" (Acts x. 35).
“The Catholic Church," says St. Gregory the Great, "Embraces all the just from Abel to the last of the elect at the end of the world. " All who live up to their lights were Christians, though they might have been looked upon as godless, as,e.g., Socrates among the Greeks, Abraham and Elias among the Jews. They do not belong to the body of the Church, that is, they are not externally in union with the Church, but they are of the soul of the Church, i.e., they have the sentiments which the members of the Church should have.
Thus the Catholic Church has members both visible and invisible.
The visible members are those who have been received into the Church by Baptism. The following are not members: the unbaptized (heathens, Jews Mohammedans), formal heretics (Protestants), and schismatics (the Greeks), who are excommunicated. The invisible members are those who without any fault of their own are outside the Church leading God-fearing lives.
The visible members of the Church are called living or dead members, according as they are in the state of sanctifying grace or not.
It is an error to think that those who have fallen into grave sin are no longer members of the Church. The Church is like a field, in which grow both wheat and cockle (Matt. xiii. 24), or like a net which contains fish both good and bad (Matt. xiii. 47). It is not enough to belong to the Church; a man should also live up to his belief, otherwise his membership will help only to his greater condemnation.
9. THE RELATIONS BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE .
The state might be defined as an institution having for its end the promotion of the temporal well-being of its members. Church and state have similar ends in view, but the Church looks mainly to the eternal welfare of its members. Both have their power from God, the Church holding hers from Christ, while the State receives its powers, not from an assembly of men, but from God (Leo XIII.). There are various points of difference between Church and State: the Church is one, while States are many; the State includes one or more nations, the Church embraces all the nations of the earth; States grow up and pass away, the Church remains forever. The Church recognizes every form of existing government, for there is nothing in the various forms that contradicts Catholic teaching (Leo XIII). Hence Leo XIII has frequently enjoined on the French monarchists to recognize and support the existing republic. Christ himself taught that what was Caesar's should be given to Caesar (Matt. xxii. 21).
1. The Church is, in its own department, absolutely independent of the state, for Christ left the teaching and government of his Church to the apostles and their successors, not to any temporal sovereign.
Hence the State has no claim to dictate to Christians what they are to believe and reject, nor to instruct priests what they are to preach, nor how and when they are to give the sacraments, say Mass, etc.. Such interference has always been resented by the Church; thus Hosius, at the Council of Nicća, addressed at the Roman emperor when the latter was meddling in matters of faith: "Here you have no right to dictate to us; it is rather your duty to follow our commands. " The State, too, is in its own affairs independent of the Church. "The power of the State as well as that of the Church is circumscribed by limits within which it can work uncontrolled" (Leo XIII.). There are many points however where these limits touch; hence a mutual agreement is necessary on both sides. If contrary orders were given in the same matter strife would arise, and the subject would not know where his duty lay (Leo XIII.). Between the two powers there should be some such union as there is between the body and soul in man (Leo XIII.). Agreements between State and Church are of frequent occurrence in history: they are called Concordats. These are often conspicuous proofs of the tender love of the Church in pushing her mildness and toleration as far as is consistent with her duty (Leo XIII.).
2. The Church is an essential factor in promoting the welfare of the State, for she teaches obedience to authority, prevents many crimes, incites men to noble endeavor, and unites together various nations.
Plutarch speaks of religion forming a better protection for a city that its walls. The Church teaches that the civil authority has its power from God (Rom. xiii. 1), and that even wicked rulers are to be obeyed (1 Pet. ii. 18). How many sinners have been rescued by the Church and changed into saints and benefactors of mankind! How many have been restrained from crime by the teaching of the Church, or God's judgments! How much unjustly acquired property has been restored, and how many enemies reconciled! More than this, the Church teaches that salvation depends on works of mercy, and makes it a point of duty for her members to assist their suffering brethren. How many institutions for orphans, for the sick and blind and deaf mutes, etc.. , owe their foundation to the servants of the Church! Indeed, the needy are the Church's first care. Moreover the Church binds the nations together in the bonds of brotherhood, both by a common profession of faith and by the precept of charity. Hence it is that as far as possible the priests of the Church should keep aloof from all strife between nations.
In consequence of this all, good rulers and statesmen have supported the Church to the best of their power.
Such was the policy of Constantine the Great, of Charlemagne, of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, St. Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia. Rulers who reject the Church saw at the branch which supports them; the people see in them no longer the representatives of God but merely the elected of the people removable at the people's will.
The States which have persecuted the Church have always sooner or later experienced the evil results of so doing.
Our Lord's words are very apt here: "Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation" (Luke xi. 17). Religion is to the State what the soul is to the body. " The nation and the kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish" (Is. lx. 12). "The surest sign of ruin in a State," writes Machiavelli, "is when religion is neglected. " the fall of the great Roman empire and the horrors of the French revolution may be traced to the same cause. Even Napoleon confessed that no nation could be governed without religion. The absence of religion means the introduction of crime: "There is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing, and lying, and killing, and theft, and adultery have overflowed " (Osee iv. 1,2). Our prisons are filled with people who for the most part neglect religion.
3. The Church was, from the earliest times, the patron of true education and culture.
It is to the interest of the Church to promote culture. Ignorance and immorality are usually close companions. The world is a book displaying the wisdom of God; the more we know of this book, the more we shall know of God, and the more will our love for Him be increased. Hence it is the duty of the Church to encourage scientific research (Leo XIII.). It was Christianity which tamed the wild nations of Europe, civilizing them and making them the rulers of other people's (Leo XIII.). "Had the Church been established with the view of ministering to the temporal wants of man, it could not have conferred greater benefits than it has done," is the judgment of St. Augustine on the work of the Church.
It was the Church which first charged itself with the education of the young and founded the first schools.
The schools of the monastery, cathedral and parish in the time of Charlemagne owed their origin to the Church. Most of the university's owe their existence to the Pope. Whole Orders of religious, such as the Benedictines', Jesuits, Christian Brothers and others devote themselves to the education of youth. The success of the Jesuits was acknowledged even by their enemies, and in spite of their suppression in 1773 Frederick of Prussia, and Catherine of Russia, neither of them Catholics, retained them to instruct the youth of their kingdoms.
It was the Church which rescued the great works of antiquity from destruction.
The monks of the Middle Ages transcribed the works of the heathen philosophers and historians, thus preserving them to posterity. The great libraries of the monasteries, as well as the museums and libraries of the Popes, preserved many treasures. We might remark, too, that the Benedictines have produced sixteen thousand authors and the Jesuits, in their comparatively short existence, twelve thousand.
It was the Church which, from early times, raised the noblest buildings.
Such a structure, for instance, as St. Peter's in Rome, which was on hundred and ten years in building, or the cathedral at Cologne, begun in 1249 and finished in 1880. Not to mention the glorious structures to be seen all over the continent, in Germany, France, Spain, Italy. England is filled with magnificent buildings like Westminister, Lincoln, York, Durham, etc.. A large proportion of the finest edifices in the United States are Catholic churches.
It was the Church which from the earliest times gave the greatest encouragement to the fine arts.
We owe Plain Chant or Gregorian to St. Ambrosia, Bishop of Milan. (397 A.D.) and St. Gregory the Great (604 A.D.), and its developments to many other artists. It was the Popes who encouraged men like Palestrina (1594). Twice in its history the Church resisted the Iconoclast (or image-breaking) movement, at Nicća in 787, and at Trent in 1563. Artists of world-wide fame, such as Leonardo da Vinci (1519), Raphael (1520), Michael Angelo (1564), Correggio (1564), Canova (1822), etc., owed much of their success to the support of the Popes. It was the cloister which produced some of the finest artists and their works.
It was the Church which made whole tracts of land fertile and habitable.
The work of the Benedictines' and Cistercians in the way of clearing and draining land and developing agriculture was especially conspicuous in the German forests. The same work is carried on in savage countries now by the Trappists and other religious Orders.
It is to priests and monks that we owe some of the greatest discoveries.
The Deacon Flavio Gioja discovered the magnet and compass in 1300; Veit, a monk of Arezzo, discovered the scale, the rules of music and harmony; the Dominican Spina the use of spectacles; the Franciscan Berthold Schwarz gunpowder (1300); the Jesuit Kircher exhibited the first burning glass (1646); Copernicus, a canon of Frauenberg discovered his famous system (1507); the Jesuit Cavaliere the components of white light (1647); the Spanish Benedictine Pontius invented a method of teaching deaf-mutes (1570); the Jesuit Lana a way of teaching the blind to read (1687); and the Jesuit Secchi (1878) made many discoveries with regard to sun-spots. Only lately the Dominican Calandoni invented a type-setter to replace the compositor. The enemies of the Church are always crying her down as opposed to progress, enlightenment and freedom.
10. THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
The members of the Church may be divided into three classes: those who are still on the earth, "having not here a lasting city, but seeking the one that is to come" (Heb. xiii. 14); those who have reached their goal in heaven, the saints; and those who are expiating their sins in purgatory. All are " fellow citizens with the saints and domestics of God," working together for the same object of union with God. The members of this great community are called "saints" because all are sanctified by Baptism (1 Cor. vi. 11) and are called to a holy life (1Thess. iv. 3). Those in heaven have already attained to perfect holiness. Yet St. Paul calls the Christians still on earth "saints" (Eph. i. 1).
1. The communion of saints is the union and intercourse of Catholics on earth, of the souls in purgatory, and of the saints in heaven.
The Church on earth is called the Church Militant, because of its ceaseless struggle with its three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. The souls in purgatory form the Church Suffering. Because they are still expiating their sins in the cleansing fire. The blessed in heaven are called the Church Triumphant, because they have already secured their victory. These three divisions are one Church by the common bond of Baptism.
2. Catholics on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the blessed in heaven are united with Christ, just as are the members of a body with the head (Rom. xii. 4).
The Holy Spirit works in all the members (1 Cor. xii. 13). "The soul," says St. Augustine, "animates all the organs of the body, and causes the eye to see, the ear to hear, etc;" just so does the Holy Spirit work in the members of Christ's body; and as the Holy Spirit proceeds from Christ, Christ is the head of the Christian body (Col. i 18). He is the vine carrying strength and nourishment to the branches (John xv. 5). Each member of the body has its own special functions, so each member of the Church has his own gifts (1 Cor. xii. 6-10, 28). Each member of the body works for the whole body; so every member of the Church works for the common good. All the members of the body share the pain or pleasure felt by one, and the same is true of the mutual sympathy of the communion of saints: "If one member suffer anything, all the member suffer with it; or, if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it" (Cor. xii. 26). Thus the saints in heaven are not indifferent to our condition. Catholics who have fallen into mortal sin are still members of this great body, though dead members; but they cease to be members if they are excommunicated.
3. All the members of the communion of saints have a share in the spiritual goods of the Catholic Church, and can help one another by their prayers and other good works. The saints alone in heaven have no need of help.
In a similar manner all the people of a country have a share in the institutions supported by the country, such as hospitals, asylums, law courts, etc.. So also, in the family circle, all the members have a claim to share in the common goods, such as riches or honors. Thus all the Masses, the means of grace, the prayers of the Church, and all the good works done by individuals, are for the benefit of all its members. In the Our Father we pray for others as well as for ourselves; holy Mass is offered for the dead as well as the living, and the same is true of the Office recited by the priest. Hence it is that one may have more hope of converting the greatest sinner who still belongs to the Church than a Freemason who outwardly leads a good life, yet who was cut off from it; and a Catholic may look forward to a quicker release from purgatory than others. St. Francis Xavier constantly cheered himself with the thought that the Church was praying for him, and supporting him with her good works. Moreover, all the members of the Church can give mutual help. There is the same sympathy as in the human body, were a sound member comes to the help of one that is weaker, and the possession of good lungs, a sound heart, or healthy stomach, may help the body to recover from what might otherwise have been a fatal illness. The eye does not act for itself alone; it guides the hands and feet. Sodom would have been saved had ten just men been found within its walls.
1. All Catholics can help each other by prayer and good works.
St. Peter was freed from prison by the prayers of the Christians. "The prayer of St. Stephen," says St. Augustine, "procured the conversion of St. Paul." The tears and prayers of St. Monica converted her son. Even in the Old Testament God promised that He would be merciful to the prayers of the priest (Lev. iv. 20). St. James bid us: "Pray one for another, that you may be saved" (Jas. v. 16), and Saint Paul: "I beseech you . . . help me in your prayers for me to God" (Rom. xv. 30). Christ revealed to Marie Lataste that as Esther saved her people by her intercession with Assuerus, so the prayers of a single soul may save a whole nation from the avenging hand of God. Prayer is a work of mercy, and brings down a blessing on the one who prays and the one who is prayed for. Fasting and almsgiving are also means of help. As a mans debts may be paid off by his neighbor, so the debt of sin may in some measure be paid off by the good works of others; and thus it was in the early Church that penances were often remitted or shortened at the intercession of the martyrs.
2. We can also help the holy souls in purgatory by prayers and other good works; they in turn can help us by their prayers, especially when they reach heaven.
The Jews even believe that help could be given to the souls of the departed; for we read (2 Mach. xii.) how Judas Machabeus caused sacrifices to be offered for those who had fallen in battle, and sent money to the Temple for that purpose. The passing bell and the knell are signals to pray for the dying and the dead. In the Memento after the Consecration at Mass a special petition is made for the departed. "Prayer," says St. Augustine, "Is the key by which we open the gates of heaven to the suffering souls." the prayers of the living, especially Holy Mass, almsdeeds, and other works of piety are of great efficacy in lessening the sufferings of the holy souls (Council of Lyons, 1274). The souls in purgatory can also help us. Many saints held that we can call the holy souls to our help (Bellarmine; St. Alphonsus). St. Catherine of Bologna (1463), used often to call upon the holy souls when the saints seemed to fail in helping her, and she never asked them in vain.
3. The saints in heaven can help us by their prayers before the throne of God (Apoc. viii. 4), especially if we call upon them for help.
The saints must know much of what happens on earth, for their happiness consists in the complete satisfaction of all their desires. The devil knows all our weaknesses, as we know from the way in which he tempts us. The prophets of the Old Testament sometimes foretold future events, and knew the most hidden things; it is likely that the saints are less favored than they? They rejoice when a sinner is converted (Luke xv. 7). "What can escape those," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "Who see him who sees all things?" And the Church teaches us that when we call upon the saints for their prayers, they join their prayers to ours. There intercession has great efficacy, for the "continual prayer of a just man even on the earth availeth much" (Jas. v. 16). What power Abraham had when pleading for Sodom ! (Gen. xviii.) “If,” says St. Jerome, "The saints had such power when in the flesh, what can they not obtain for us now that they have secured their victory?" St. John Chrysostom compares their intercession to the pleading of old soldiers who display their wounds. This power has often been demonstrated by miracles.
Our dead relatives and friends, who are in heaven, are always pleading for us at the throne of God, and often save us from danger.
"Charity never dies" (1 Cor. xiii. 8), and the ties which bind us to those we love remain unbroken by death. Even in hell the wretched Dives showed he had some affection still for his relatives on earth (Luke xvi. 27). The prophet Jeremias, and the holy high priest Onias, prayed in limbo for the Jewish nation (2 Mach. xv. 14); and Christ promised His apostles that He would pray for them (John xiv. 16; 1 John ii. 1). St. Augustine, after the death of his mother St. Monica, and St. Wenceslaus after the death of his grandmother St. Ludmilla rapidly advanced to greater heights of sanctity. So too the saints help the souls in purgatory. "Our Lady alone rescues daily some souls from purgatory by her prayers." On the anniversary of the Assumption of Our Lady thousands of souls are delivered from their prison (St. Peter Damian; St. Alphonsus). On Saturdays, the day specially dedicated to our Lady, she rescues many poor souls from purgatory (John XXII., Sabbatine Bull). Nor are the holy angels indifferent to their future companions; one of the Church's prayers speaks of St. Michael leading souls into heaven. Our angel guardian, and the angels whom we have specially honored on earth, will take up our cause in purgatory.
JPII and his predecessors.
Saint Paul to the Hebrews,
Chapter 10. vs. 28.
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