Monday, July 31, 2017

A Curious Lesson in Pastoral Theology - A Funeral Sermon


A CURIOUS LESSON IN PASTORAL THEOLOGY



Just as the year 1906 was about to give its parting salutations, it was my good fortune to get a practical lesson in pastoral theology, the memory of which I shall cherish while I live. Mistake me not, however. I do not mean that the incident I am about to relate is without parallel, or that the like happens only in the lives of exemplary priests.

What I would say is that the experience was new to me; it came so suddenly and unexpectedly that for the moment I lost my mental moorings and looked for a tragedy where there was nothing but charity. I was reminded, not of the prudence urged by able theologians, nor of the suggestions and advice of seminary professors, but of what I had read in the lives of the saints, and particularly of the conduct of St. Ambrose with the Emperor Theodosius when the latter was publicly reproached for his misdeeds.

The occasion was a funeral service. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred until the final absolution had been given. I was preparing to leave when a member of the choir whispered: “Wait. He is going to preach.” “By no means,” I answered positively. The statutes of the diocese forbid sermons at the obsequies of the laity; and, what convinced me the more, this particular pastor is a strict observer of episcopal regulations. My arguments were to the wind, as I heard him request the people to be seated. Perhaps this is an exceptional case, I thought, and he has secured permission to speak. The beginning was in no way different from the ordinary funeral sermon; but when the conclusion was reached, I found it so unique that I regretted not having paid closer attention to it all.



*******

In substance he spoke as follows:

Dear Brethren—Death is a subject that generally appears in the abstract to us. It usually visits our neighbors. Sometimes, indeed, it comes to our own houses and snatches away a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter. Then the thought is brought home to us that our time must come; that the hour and the day are uncertain; that a strict account is to be rendered sooner or later to an omniscient God.

The imperative summons for the woman whose remains are in this coffin came last Saturday. Her accounting is over now. By this time she has seen what is recorded of her in the book of life; the good as well as the evil works her hands had done from the dawn of reason until her last breath were brought vividly before her, and the irrevocable sentence has already been passed. It is not for me to judge her. What transpired between her soul and God before she lost consciousness is unknown to any mortal.

Perhaps the good Lord dealt kindly with her, seeing, as He does, what is hid from men. It may be that what seems contrary to Christian principles in her was rather the effect of ignorance and human frailty than of downright malice. To all outward appearance her life was far from being a source of edification; but the priest was with her before she died; and, for all I know, God may have pardoned all and admitted her to Paradise. On the other hand, her neglect of religious duties may have proceeded from a bad will. Perhaps resistance to grace was so manifestly voluntary in her as to be inexcusable on every count. Should this be the case, she is surely in hell now. For my part I know absolutely nothing of her present condition of soul; nor do you, my friends.

You can not imagine how glad I am to have this opportunity of speaking to you—I mean the relatives of the deceased. Death will some day come to you. I need not tell you this. From the youngest person here present, to him that is tottering in feeble old age, there is not one that denies the existence of this dreaded, mysterious visitor. But you do not think seriously enough of it. Otherwise you would serve God better; you would take pity on your souls; you would not live—as I must confess you are now living—in vain.

Hence I am glad to have this chance of speaking plainly to you, in order to save you from eternal damnation. My words of admonition do not reach you on Sundays, for I never see you here. Last night the devotion of the Forty Hours was brought to a close in a manner that did honor to the parish at large. I doubt much if any of you put in an appearance to grace the ceremony. During all the time the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in this church, I have not seen one of you enter to do homage to your Redeemer.

What is worse still, should I ask you if you were at Mass last Sunday, none of you could in conscience answer yes. At least you did not attend your parish church. Were I to ask you if you assisted at divine service within the past month, or within the year that is nearing its close, or within the last two years, which of you could in justice say yes? Yet you know that it is a mortal sin to act thus. You keep on heaping guilt upon guilt, as if there were no eternity, no hell, no God.



You are aware that to neglect one's Easter duty is deemed a grave offense in the Catholic Church. The penalty in such a case is to be deprived of Christian burial. And you are guilty of this outrage. Can any of you stand up and say truthfully, "I have made my Easter duty this year?" This is not by any means a private matter. Every parishioner has knowledge of it. Of course you have some reason to give for your misconduct. But do you think your excuses will stand before God? I fear not. Then what will become of you? To my knowledge you have been idling on street corners, aye, spending your precious time in saloons, while you should have been here in church assisting at the holy Mass. I could reproach you with more shameful deeds, but I forbear for the sake of your ancestors.

Now I have touched on a bright spot in the history of your family. Tradition has it that forty or fifty years ago nobody gave greater edification, nobody was more exact in what concerns the service of God, at least in this part of the country, than those who bore your name. Since you are their descendants, why do you not imitate them? Where is your self-respect? Where is your family pride? Surely you do not wish to bring disgrace upon the fair reputation of your ancestors. Not long ago a Canadian priest visited me. Among other things he asked, "Are there any Y's in this city?" "Why, yes," I answered, "a goodly number of them." "The Y's form the backbone of my parish," he continued. "You could not find better Catholics in a day's journey. Years ago, I am told, some of them emigrated to places hereabouts. They must be fine people. Pray, tell me of them. Are they models in this vicinity as they are in Canada?" I could not answer affirmatively, and so I tried to evade the question. But he insisted so pointedly that I was at length obliged to confess, "Truly they are not as pious as they might be; but I cherish the hope that they will square their actions with the law of God before they die."

Really that was the best report I could give of you. Now, in order that my hope be realized, an important step is to be taken before you leave this church. Death is so uncertain that you cannot promise yourselves another day. Time may not be given you to send for a priest. Besides, death-bed repentances are unsafe assurances to depend upon. Suppose the priest arrives in time, does it stand to reason that after outraging the mercies of Heaven all your life, you can in a moment, by his assistance, jump, as it were, into eternal delight, which is the reward of the just, and not of the wicked?

The woman who lies dead before you rented a pew some weeks ago, when it became manifest that her illness was fatal; and at her request a priest was called to administer the last sacraments. In this she acted wisely. Now I want you to follow her example and that of your pious forefathers before it is too late. Let us begin at once. I request you to advance, place your hand on the coffin and promise to start anew to serve God by attending Mass next Sunday.

For the sake of good example, the husband of the deceased ought to come first.

*******



He came, carried out the instructions to the letter, and shook hands with the pastor. The latter dismissed him with "May God bless you!" spoken so loud and with such feeling that there was many a tearful eye in church. One after another came forward, timidly, meekly, some with moist eyes, and all evidently not without a struggle.

At the end five Our Fathers were said, but I was so full of emotion that I could not speak. As the silent cortege passed from the church, I went to the sacristy and thanked that courageous priest for the lesson he had unconsciously given me. He was surprised when I asked the privilege of shaking his hand. "Do you too wish to mend your ways?" he remarked pleasantly.


TAKEN FROM THE AMERICAN ECCLESIASTICAL REVIEW (Volume 36; 1907).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Prayer for all Things Necessary to Salvation

Prayer for all things necessary to Salvation
BY POPE CLEMENT XI

 

O my God, I believe in Thee; do Thou strengthen my faith.  All my hopes are in Thee; do Thou secure them.  I love Thee with my whole heart; teach me to love Thee daily more and more.  I am sorry that I have offended Thee; do Thou increase my sorrow.

I adore Thee as my first beginning; I aspire after Thee as my last end.  I give Thee thanks as my constant benefactor; I call upon Thee as my sovereign protector.

Vouchsafe, O my God, to conduct me by Thy Wisdom, to restrain me by Thy Justice, to comfort me by Thy Mercy, to defend me by Thy Power.

To Thee I desire to consecrate all my thoughts, all my words, all my actions, and all my sufferings; that henceforward I may think only of Thee, speak only of Thee, refer all my actions to Thy greater glory, and suffer willingly whatever Thou shalt appoint.

Lord, I desire that in all things Thy Will may be done, because it is Thy Will, and in the manner that Thou willest.

I beg of Thee to enlighten my understanding, to inflame my heart, to purify my body, and to sanctify my soul.

Give me strength, O my God, to expiate my offenses, to overcome my temptations, to subdue my passions, and to acquire the virtues proper to my state.

Fill my heart with tender affection for Thy Goodness, hatred of my faults, love of my neighbor, and contempt of the world.

Let me always remember to be submissive to my superiors, condescending to my inferiors, faithful to my friends, and charitable to my enemies.

Assist me to overcome sensuality by mortification, avarice by alms-deeds, anger by meekness, and tepidity by devotion.

O my God, make me prudent in my undertakings, courageous in dangers, patient in affliction, and humble in prosperity.

Grant that I may be ever attentive at my prayers, temperate at my meals, diligent at my employments, and constant in my resolutions.

Let my conscience be ever upright and pure, my exterior modest, my conversation edifying, and my comportment regular.

Assist me that I may continually labor to overcome nature, to correspond with Thy Grace, to keep Thy commandments, and to work out my Salvation.

Discover to me, O my God, the nothingness of this world, the greatness of Heaven, the shortness of time, and the length of eternity.

Grant, O Lord,  that I may prepare for death, that I may fear Thy Judgments, that I may escape Hell, and in the end obtain Heaven; through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.
 

 
*
 *
 *
 *
 *

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Spanish Cardinal - Pedro Crisólogo Segura y Sáenz

Below are pictures and some information about the great Spanish Cardinal: His Most Rev. Eminence Pedro Crisólogo Segura y Sáenz. Born on 4 December 1880; he died on 8 April 1957. He served as Archbishop of Toledo from 1927 to 1931, and Archbishop of Seville from 1937 until his death.
 
“A man of integral character, of a traditionalist (ultraconservative) position, and of a medieval intolerance.”
 
(He thought that Franco's government was too soft on non-Catholic sects and criticized the government for trying to declare all religions as equal).
*
“A man of great rectitude, strong character, an intransigent Catholic, opposed to fascism and without diplomatic tact, it is said that ‘he only bowed down before the Pope.’”
 
“Hombre de gran rectitud, fuerte carácter, católico intransigente, opuesto al fascismo y sin tacto diplomático, se ha dicho de él que ‘solo inclinó su frente ante el Papa.’"
*
 *
*
He embarrassed Franco a couple of times. On one occasion, at a special dinner at which Franco, his wife, and Cardinal Segura were invited, Franco, as the head of State, occupied the first place. The second place, however, was given to Franco's wife, and not to Cardinal Segura. The Cardinal demanded that the second place be given to him, as is proper, because he is a Cardinal of the Roman Church, and he would only give up that second place to Franco's wife if she were a queen or the heir to the throne, which she was not. 
*
*
“Undoubtedly, he was a man of virtue, very pious –organizer of missions—but very fanatic, hard-headed, and with positions that gave the Republic—and Rome—headaches.”
 
He gave Franco headaches by maintaining the rigid (iron-like) intolerance of a medieval Bishop in the ruling of his diocese (he did not allow Franco to enter churches --or go in procession-- under a canopy because he was not the king) by proscribing unnecessary pass-times, forbidding services in towns where inappropriate dances (too close to each other) were permitted, and by demanding a strict asceticism.
*
 *
 *
 *
 *
 *
*
Because Cardinal Segura wanted and believed in a theocracy (the Catholic Faith being the one the State accepts and confesses), he was usually referred to as “un Bonifacio VIII a la Española” (the Spanish Boniface VIII).  
*
 *
(Above and below) Procession of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
*
*
*
Picture of Cardinal Segura being expelled from Spain by the government for his public and very outspoken criticisms of Franco's regime.
*
*
Chicago Tribue reported on May 8, 1931 – “The Spanish republic tonight asked for the scalp of the primate of Spain, Pedro Cardinal Segura, archbishop of Toledo.” “… and he must be recalled ‘urgently,’ the minister of justice said.” All that simply because Cardinal Segura called for the election of deputies who will “defend and guarantee the rights of the Church.”
*
Cardinal Segura in 1954.
*
He was exiled a couple of times; He did not see eye to eye with the Republican government since he wanted a theocracy; he did not see eye to eye with Franco and his dictatorship - he opposed the privilege of the Canopy for Franco; he did not see eye to eye with all the Bishops/Cardinals in Spain because they did not always actively opposed errors and injustices; he did not see eye to eye with everyone in the Roman Curia. He did not like Protestantism either, and he was friends with Alfonso XIII.
*
*
Notice the WHITE Vestments (even though black is the color for Requiem Masses and services) used for the funeral! It is (or was) an ancient custom to use white vestments for the funeral offices for the Archbishops of Sevilla. (One cannot argue with tradition!).
*
 *
Funeral procession
*
He was very devoted to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.    
*
*
What a Prelate!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Sacrament of Baptism


"Baptism: The Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word."
~The Catechism of the Council of Trent.

*
 *
 *
 *
"The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death."
~The Catechism of the Council of Trent.
*
 *
*
"With regard to those of adult age who enjoy the perfect use of reason ... [T]o them the Christian faith is to be proposed; and they are earnestly to be exhorted, persuaded, and invited to embrace it. ... Besides, the longer they defer Baptism, the longer are they deprived of the use and graces of the other Sacraments, by which the Christian religion is practised, since the other Sacraments are accessible through Baptism only."
~The Catechism of the Council of Trent.
*
 *
*
"In order that grown-up persons having the use of reason may receive this Sacrament worthily and profitably, they must believe and profess their belief in the necessary Articles of the Christian Faith -- they must have trust in the mercy and merits of Christ, and be sorry for their sins; being assisted in so doing by actual grace, which grace God grants to every one and without which no one can move a single step towards heaven."
~The Glories of the Catholic Church, Vol. I, pg. 88.
*
 *
*
"Baptism is a Sacrament absolutely necessary for all, without which no one can enter into the kingdom of God, for Jesus Christ has said: 'Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"
~The Glories of the Catholic Church, Vol. I, pg. 87.
*
 *
*
"First Effect of Baptism: The remission of sin
Second Effect of Baptism: Remission of all punishment due to sin
Third Effect of Baptism: Grace of regeneration
Fourth Effect of Baptism: Infused virtues and incorporation with Christ
Fifth Effect of Baptism: Character of Christian
Sixth Effect of Baptism: Opening the gates of Heaven."
~ The Catechism of the Council of Trent 
*
 *
*
"It is manifest that ceremonies contribute to the more religious and holy administration of the Sacraments  and serve to place, as it were, before the eyes the exalted and inestimable gifts which they contain, and impress on the minds of the faithful a deeper sense of the boundless beneficence of God."
~The Catechism of the Council of Trent
*
*
"As infants are made heirs to earthly property before they are capable of consenting to receive it, so also in holy Baptism infants are made heirs of heaven before they are capable of consenting to be baptized; their consent in both cases is justly presumed." 
~The Glories of the Catholic Church, Vol. I, pg. 88.
*
 *
 *
*
[In Spain, these little "arms" were used to put blessed salt in the mouth of the babies being baptized]
*
 *
*
"Finally, a name is given [to] the person baptized. It should be taken from some person whose eminent sanctity has given him a place in the catalogue of the Saints. The similarity of names will stimulate each one to imitate the virtues and holiness of the Saint, and, moreover, to hope and pray that he who is the model for his imitation will also be his advocate and watch over the safety of his body and soul." 
~The Catechism of the Council of Trent.
*
 *
[Offering of newly-born babies to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- a very Hispanic custom, which is done much less frequently and much less solemnly these days]
*