|Devotion to Our Lady||
WHO WAS ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE?
If we are about to treat of a highly volatile sermon of St. Leonard--"The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved"—then it is not a bad idea to have a look at who he was and what his credentials are.
Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751) was an Italian Franciscan preacher and spiritual writer. One of his contemporaries, who also lived in Italy, St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696 –1787), called St. Leonard "the great missionary of the 18th century."
Leonard was born on December 20th, 1676, the son of Domenico Casanova and Anna Maria Benza. He was given the name Paul Jerome Casanova. Leonard’s father was a ship captain whose family lived in Port Maurice (Porto Maurizio) on the northwestern coast of Italy.
At 13, Leonard went to Rome to live with his uncle Agostino and study at the Jesuit Roman College. He was a good student and destined for a career in medicine. In 1697, however, he joined the Friars Minor. When he decided against medicine, his uncle disowned him.
On October 2nd, 1697, he received the habit and took the name Brother Leonard, after a relative who had been kind to him. After making his novitiate at Ponticelli in the Sabine mountains, he completed his studies at St. Bonaventura on the Palatine at Rome.
He then began to study at the Jesuit College in Rome. On October 2nd, 1697, he joined the Franciscans of the Strict Observance and took the name Brother Leonard. He was ordained in Rome in 1703. He taught for a while and expected to become a missionary in China, but after ordination Leonard contracted a bleeding ulcer and, in 1704, was sent to his hometown, where there was a monastery of the Franciscan observance. It took several years for him to recover and regain his strength. After four years he was restored to health, and began to preach in Porto Maurizio and the vicinity, in his native Porto Maurizio for the several years it took for him to recover and regain his strength.
It turned out that he was a great preacher, and was often invited to visit and preach in other areas. He worked to increase devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Conception, and the Stations of the Cross.
In 1709, he was sent to Florence where he preached in the city and nearby region. When Cosimo III de Medici handed over the monastery del Monte (on San Miniato near Florence, also called Monte alle Croci) to the members of the Riformella, St Leonard was sent there under the auspices and by desire of Cosimo III, and began shortly to hold missions among the people of Tuscany. His colleagues and he practiced great austerities and penances during these missions.
In 1710 he founded the monastery of Icontro, on a peak in the mountains about four and a quarter miles from Florence, whither he and his assistants could retire from time to time after missions, and devote themselves to spiritual renewal.
St. Alphonsus Liguori called St. Leonard "the great missionary of the 18th century." A great preacher, he was often invited to visit and preach in other areas. Leonard spent over forty years preaching retreats, Lenten sermons and parish missions throughout Italy. His missions lasted 15 to 18 days, and he often stayed an additional week to hear confessions.
In 1720 he crossed the borders of Tuscany and held his celebrated missions in Central and Southern Italy. Everywhere the saint made conversions, and was very often obliged both in cities and country districts to preach in the open, as the churches could not contain the thousands who came to listen.
Pope Clement XII and Pope Benedict XIV called him to Rome; the latter especially held him in high esteem both as a preacher and as a apologist for the Faith, and exacted a promise from Leonard that he would come to Rome to die. Pope Benedict XIV appointed him to several complex diplomatic assignments.
In Genoa and Corsica, in Lucca and Spoleto the citizens expected a jeweled cardinal to represent the intentions of the pope. Instead, they were confronted by a humble, shoeless, muddy friar to confound their hostility and pride.
For a time, St. Leonard was the spiritual director of Clementina Sobieska of Poland, the wife of King James II of England.
St Leonard founded many pious societies and confraternities, and exerted himself to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. He was among the few to insist that the concept of the Immaculate Conception of Mary be defined as a dogma of the faith.
The Franciscans had been the custodians of the Holy Sites in the Holy Land, including of the "Way of the Cross", since 1343. Though many saints were devoted to the Stations of the Cross, few if any did more to promote them than St. Leonard. As a Franciscan priest, he preached the Way of the Cross at missions for forty-three years and reportedly set up stations in 571 locations throughout Italy, including the Colosseum in Rome.
From May to November, 1744, he preached in Corsica, which at that time belonged to the Republic of Genoa and which was torn by party strife. In November, 1751, when he was preaching to the Bolognese, Benedict XIV called him to Rome, as already there were indications of his rapidly approaching end. The strain of his missionary labors and his mortifications had completely exhausted his body. He arrived on the evening of November 26th, 1751, at his beloved monastery of St. Bonaventura on the Palatine, and expired on the same night at eleven o'clock at the age of seventy-five.
Pope Pius VI pronounced his beatification on June 19th, 1796, and Pope Pius IX his canonization on June 29th, 1867. The Franciscan Order celebrates his feast on November 26th, but outside this Order it is often celebrated on November 27th.
The partly incorrupt body of the saint is kept in the high altar of the church of St. Bonaventure monastery in Rome, where he died.
The numerous writings of the saint consist of sermons, letters, ascetic treatises, and books of devotion for the use of the faithful and of priests, especially missionaries.
The Diary of his missions is written by Fra Diego da Firenze. A treasure for asceticism and homiletics, many of his writings have been translated into the most diverse languages and often republished: for example his Via Sacra spianata ed illuminata (the Way of the Cross simplified and explained), Il Tesoro Nascosto (on the Holy Mass); his celebrated Proponimenti, or resolutions for the attainment of higher Christian perfection.
A complete edition of his works appeared first at Rome in thirteen octavo volumes (1853–84), Collezione completa delle opere di B. Leonardo da Porto Maurizio. Then another in five octavo volumes, Opere complete di S. Leonardo di Porto Maurizio (Venice, 1868-9).
In English, German, etc., only single works have been issued, but a French translation of the entire set has appeared: Œuvres complètes de S. Léonard de Port-Maurice (8 vols., Paris and Tournai, 1858), and Sermons de S. Léonard de Port-Maurice (3 vols., Paris).
The Thorny Problem of Salvation
Mankind has always been curious—if not obsessed—with the number of souls that are saved. We already see this in Our Lord’s time, where a man asks Our Lord if only a few souls are saved:
“Lord, are they few that are saved”
“And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But He said to them: ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able! But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: “Lord! Open to us!” And he answering, shall say to you: “I know you not, whence you are!” Then you shall begin to say: “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets!” And he shall say to you: “I know you not, whence you are! Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity!” There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out! And there shall come from the east and the west, and the north and the south; and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And behold, they are last that shall be first; and they are first that shall be last!’” (Luke 13:23-30).
The Broad Gate and the Narrow Gate … The Many and the Few
This is by no means the only reference to the number of souls that are saved or damned. Our Lord also speaks of this on another occasion—during His Sermon on the Mount: “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” (Matthew 7:13-14). “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:13-14).
Wise and Foolish Virgins
Another parable told by Our Lord was that of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins: “Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride. And five of them were foolish, and five wise. But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps. And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made: ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh! Go ye forth to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: ‘Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out!’ The wise answered, saying: ‘Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves!’ Now whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. But at last come also the other virgins, saying: ‘Lord! Lord! Open to us!’ But he answering said: ‘Amen I say to you, I know you not!’” (Matthew 25:1-12).
Two Shall Be In The Field…
Notice the numbers—five and five. Not all get to go to the banquet—which symbolizes Heaven. Though we should place absolute value and credence on the numbers mentioned, they do match another statement by Our Lord, concerning the last days, where He speaks of the numbers who will be taken up by the angels and the numbers left behind: “But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone. And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark, and they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be. Then two shall be in the field: one shall be taken, and one shall be left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill: one shall be taken, and one shall be left. Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come!” (Matthew 24:36-42).
The 'Unchosen Ones' Among the Chosen People
Our Lord mentioned the time of Noe and the Ark, reminded us of how few were saved--“the flood came, and took them all away.” God had no qualms about eliminating most of the human race because of sin and wiped them off the face of the Earth—“It repented Him that He had made man on the earth. And being touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, He said: ‘I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the Earth!’” (Genesis 6:6-7).
We see the same anger in God during the Exodus from Egypt on the journey to the Promised Land: “And again the Lord said to Moses: ‘See that this people is stiff-necked! Let Me alone, that My wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them, and I will make of thee a great nation!’” (Exodus 32:9-10).
St. Paul reminds us of this in the New Testament: “For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea! And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea! And did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ! But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert!” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5).
God was not well pleased with most of them! What a horrifying thought! They were His Chosen People—were they not? Yet He was ready to destroy them, He made them wander and die in the desert so that only two (Josue and Caleb) of the original millions who had left Egypt actually entered the Promised Land—the rest were a new generation! With most of them God was not well pleased! What, then, would God think of our ultra-sinful world today? We shiver to think!
DO NOT DOUBT
THE MERCY OF GOD!
“For God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:16).
“Go then and learn what this meaneth: ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice!' For I am not come to call the just, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).
“They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For I came not to call the just, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
“I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance” (Luke 5:32).
“If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias 1:18).
BUT BE AFRAID OF ABUSING
THE MERCY OF GOD!
“Be not deceived, God is not mocked!” (Galatians 6:7).
“And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more” (Luke 12:47-48).
“Be not without fear about sins forgiven, and add not sin to sin!" (Ecclesiasticus 5:5).
LEARN FROM THE PAST
What happened to Sodom and Gomorrha, will happen to us tomorrow if we do not repent and change our way of life. Our Lady of Akita said:
"If men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead."
Do Not Paint an Untrue Rigorous or Mushy Picture of God!
We poor humans, with our limited capacities of mind and reason, sometimes have difficulty on focusing on more than one thing at a time. We sometimes tend to make things "black and white" and fail to grasp subtle distinctions of gray that can exist between those two extremes.
For some people God is "ALL LOVE" and "ALL MERCY". They could not imagine that God would send to Hell a soul guilty of just one or several mortal sins. Their favorite Scriptural quotes are such as: “The Lord is gracious and merciful: patient and plenteous in mercy. The Lord is sweet to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 144:8-9). “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias 1:18).
Others see God as "ALL JUSTICE" and "FIRE AND BRIMSTONE". They find it hard to imaging God having mercy on sinners and, like St. James and St. John, they want to see punishment and retribution happening right away. “And it came to pass, when the days of His assumption were accomplishing, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers before His face; and going, they entered into a city of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. And they received Him not, because His face was of one going to Jerusalem. And when His disciples, James and John, had seen this, they said: ‘Lord! Wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from Heaven, and consume them?’ And turning, He rebuked them, saying: ‘You know not of what spirit you are!’” (Luke 9:51-55).
The hard and rigid ones have favorite quotes such as: “For behold the Lord will come with fire, and His chariots are like a whirlwind, to render His wrath in indignation, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For the Lord shall judge by fire, and by His sword unto all flesh, and the slain of the Lord shall be many” (Isaias 66:15-16). “Who can stand before the face of His indignation? And who shall resist in the fierceness of His anger? His indignation is poured out like fire and the rocks are melted by Him!” (Nahum 1:6).
What we have trouble with is imagining how God can be both extremely just and extremely merciful at one and the same time. Yet we must never forget that GOD IS EXTREME simply because GOD IS PERFECT and something that is perfect is EXTREMELY good, way above the average!
Abuse God's Mercy At Your Own Risk
What matters just as much—if not more—is not just what God says, but what God does. Even though God is extremely merciful, He will not let His mercy be abused. It is suggested that you set aside to time to read and reflect upon the sermon of St. Alphonsus Liguori for the First Sunday of Lent, entitled: “On The Number Of Sins Beyond Which God Pardons No More” (click here and go to sermon #8). This is a wake-up call for modern-man’s tendency to abuse the mercy of God by downplaying His justice.
There is a Limit to God's Mercy
Here are just a few extracts from that sermon of St. Alphonsus—a Doctor of the Church and patron of moral theologians:
“God, as the Apostle Paul says, “will have all men to be saved,” (1 Timothy 2:4); but He also wishes us all to labor for our own salvation, at least by adopting the means of overcoming our enemies, and of obeying Him when He calls us to repentance. Sinners hear the calls of God, but they forget them, and continue to offend Him. But God does not forget them. He numbers the graces which He dispenses, as well as the sins which we commit. Hence, when the time which He has fixed arrives, God deprives us of His graces, and begins to inflict chastisement.”
“St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and other fathers, teach that, as God, according to the words of Scripture, “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:21), has fixed for each person the number of the days of his life, and the degrees of health and talent which he will give him, so he has also determined for each the number of sins which He will pardon; and when this number is completed, He will pardon no more.”
“God is ready to heal those who sincerely wish to amend their lives, but cannot take pity on the obstinate sinner. The Lord pardons sins, but He cannot pardon those who are determined to offend Him. Nor can we demand, from God, a reason why He pardons one person a hundred sins, and takes others out of life, and sends them to Hell, after three or four sins.”
“How many has God sent to Hell for the first offence? St. Gregory relates, that a child of five years, who had arrived at the use of reason, for having uttered a blasphemy, was seized by the devil and carried to Hell. The divine Mother revealed to that great servant of God, Benedicta of Florence, that a boy of twelve years was damned after the first sin. Another boy of eight years died after his first sin and was lost.”
“‘Be not without fear about sins forgiven, and add not sin to sin.’ (Ecclesiasticus 5:5). Say not then, O sinner, ‘As God has forgiven me other sins, so He will pardon me this one if I commit it!’ Say not this; for, if to the sin which has been forgiven you add another, you have reason to fear that this new sin shall be united to your former guilt, and that thus the number will be completed, and that you shall be abandoned.”
“Listen, then, sinner, to the admonition of the Lord: ‘My son, hast thou sinned? Do so no more, but for thy former sins pray that they may be forgiven thee’ (Ecclesiasticus 21:1). Son, add not sins to those which you have already committed, but be careful to pray for the pardon of your past transgressions; otherwise, if you commit another mortal sin, the gates of the divine mercy may be closed against you, and your soul may be lost forever.” You can read the rest of this most edifying sermon for yourself in your own good time! You will find under the LENT tab, in the subsection SERMONS FOR LENT (or click here and go to sermon #8).
God will show us His mercy if we do not abuse His mercy through presumption of His mercy. “Be not without fear about sins forgiven, and add not sin to sin" (Ecclesiasticus 5:5). As St. Alphonsus says: “God is ready to heal those who sincerely wish to amend their lives, but cannot take pity on the obstinate sinner."
WHO'S IN CHARGE?
YOU OR GOD?
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19).
“Remember, I beseech thee Lord, that Thou hast made me as the clay, and Thou wilt bring me into dust again!” (Job 10:9).
“Abraham answered, and said: ‘I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes!’” (Genesis 18:27).
“I have heard the murmuring of the children of Israel: say to them: … ‘You shall know that I am the Lord your God!’” (Exodus 16:12).
“I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me!” (Exodus 20:2-3).
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not do according to the custom of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelt: neither shall you act according to the manner of the country of Chanaan, nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall do My judgments, and shall observe My precepts, and shall walk in them. I am the Lord your God. Keep My laws and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them. I am the Lord!”’ ” (Leviticus 18:1-5).
“I am the Lord thy healer!” (Exodus 15:26).
“There is one God, and there is no other besides Him” (Mark 12:32).
GOD WILL BREAK
“For thy power, O Lord, is not in a multitude, nor is Thy pleasure in the strength of horses, nor from the beginning have the proud been acceptable to Thee” (Judith 9:16).
“Scatter the proud in Thy indignation, and behold every arrogant man, and humble him. Look on all that are proud, and confound them, and crush the wicked in their place!” (Job 40:6-7).
“I will break the pride of your stubbornness, and I will make to you the Heaven above as iron, and the Earth as brass!” (Leviticus 26:19).
THERE IS ONLY ONE PATH
ONLY ONE WAY
“There is none among the gods like unto Thee, O Lord: and there is none according to Thy works” (Psalms 85:8).
“Jesus saith to him: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me!’” (John 14:6).
“Be it known to you all … that Our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth … is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under Heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12).
THE CROSSROADS OF LIFE
My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the Heavens are exalted above the Earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts” (Isiaias 55:8-9).
WHICH PATH ARE YOU ON?
Seeing the young rich man, whom Jesus loved, become sad and walk away, because he was so attached to his riches and possessions, “Jesus said to His disciples: ‘How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the Kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus again answering, said to them: ‘Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the Kingdom of God? It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!’ The disciples wondered the more, saying among themselves: ‘Who then can be saved?’” (Mark 10:23-26).
The Plan of God
Our Lord Himself says to us: “Be perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48). St. Peter tells us: “It is written: ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy!’” (1 Peter 1:16), to which we can add the words of St. Paul: “For this is the will of God―your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is not just a “New Testament thing”—it has been the command of God from the very beginning: “You shall be holy men to Me!” (Exodus 22:31). “For I am the Lord your God! Be holy because I am holy! Defile not your souls… You shall be holy, because I am holy!” (Leviticus 11:44-46).
Nor did this command end in the time of the Christ, for, closer to our times, St. Louis de Montfort (1673 – 1716) writes: “Chosen soul, living image of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, God wants you to become holy like Him in this life, and glorious like Him in the next (Matthew 5:48). It is certain that growth in the holiness of God is your vocation. All your thoughts, words, actions, everything you suffer or undertake, must lead you towards that end. Otherwise you are resisting God, in not doing the work for which He created you and for which He is even now keeping you in being!” (St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary, §3).
The One Necessary Plan―The Only Plan
Even in our own times the message is still the same, as seen by the words of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877–1964), who was a renowned professor of Mystical Theology at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, when he retired:
“We shall briefly recall what constitutes the one thing necessary for every Christian … This constitutes the interior life. No sincere man will have any difficulty in recognizing it. The one thing necessary, of which Jesus spoke to Martha and Mary (Luke 10:42), consists in hearing the word of God and living by it.
“The interior life thus conceived is something far more profound and more necessary in us than intellectual life or the cultivation of the sciences, than artistic or literary life, than social or political life. Unfortunately, some great scholars, mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers have no interior life, so to speak, but devote themselves to the study of their science as if God did not exist. In their moments of solitude they have no intimate conversation with Him. Their life appears to be in certain respects the search for the true and the good in a more or less definite and restricted domain, but it is so tainted with self-love and intellectual pride that we may legitimately question whether it will bear fruit for eternity. Many artists, literary men, and statesmen never rise above this level of purely human activity which is, in short, quite exterior. Do the depths of their souls live by God? It would seem not.
“This shows that the interior life, or the life of the soul with God, well deserves to be called the one thing necessary, since by it we tend to our last end and assure our salvation. This last must not be too widely separated from progressive sanctification, for it is the very way of salvation. There are those who seem to think that it is sufficient to be saved and that it is not necessary to be a saint. It is clearly not necessary to be a saint who performs miracles and whose sanctity is officially recognized by the Church. To be saved, we must take the way of salvation, which is identical with that of sanctity. There will be only saints in Heaven, whether they enter there immediately after death or after purification in Purgatory. No one enters Heaven unless he has that sanctity which consists in perfect purity of soul.
“Every sin, though it should be venial, must be effaced, and the punishment due to sin must be borne or remitted, in order that a soul may enjoy forever the vision of God, see Him as He sees Himself, and love Him as He loves Himself. Should a soul enter Heaven before the total remission of its sins, it could not remain there and it would cast itself into Purgatory to be purified. The interior life of a just man who tends toward God and who already lives by Him is indeed the one thing necessary. To be a saint, neither intellectual culture nor great exterior activity is a requisite; it suffices that we live profoundly by God. This truth is evident in the saints of the early Church; several of those saints were poor people, even slaves” (Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the author of the magnificent Spiritual Exercises, laments: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them, if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly!” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).
While St. Alphonsus Liguori adds: “God, as the Apostle Paul says, ‘will have all men to be saved,’ (1 Timothy 2:4); but He also wishes us all to labor for our own salvation, at least by adopting the means of overcoming our enemies, and of obeying Him when He calls us to repentance. Sinners hear the calls of God, but they forget them, and continue to offend Him” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent).
There is only one plan that will work, only one path that we can take, only one price that must be paid if we want a ticket to Heaven: “Be perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48). “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). Take it or leave—your choice will result in being taken or left: taken to Heaven, or being left behind for Hell.
The Plan of Man
As St. Alphonsus pointed out: “God will have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4); but He also wishes us all to labor for our own salvation … Sinners hear the calls of God, but they forget them, and continue to offend Him.” This is typical—God has His plans, but we know better!! “A fool shall be filled with his own ways” (Proverbs 14:14). “A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways” (James 1:8)—especially so if he seeks to serve both God and mammon!
Pride is our downfall! Pride was the downfall of Lucifer—“I will not serve!” Pride was the downfall of Adam and Eve, who wanted to be like God--“Know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil!” (Genesis 3:5). “Of old time thou hast broken my yoke, thou hast burst my bands, and thou saidst: I will not serve!’” (Jeremias 2:20).
God has already warned us of this disagreement that leads to disobedience to His plans: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the Heavens are exalted above the Earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts” (Isiaias 55:8-9). “And His ways who shall understand” (Ecclesiasticus 16:21).
The Path of God
Our Lord—Who, in His own words, is "the way"—points out that way to us: “And Jesus said to all: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me!’” (Luke 9:23). “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me!” (Matthew 10:38). Simple, clear, blunt, brutal, stark and uncompromising.
And in case some desired or needed further clarifications, Jesus adds: “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me … He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for Me, shall find it” (Matthew 10:37-39). “And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My Name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first … So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 19:29-30; 20:16).
The Path of Man
But man will reply the same to God--Your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor Your ways my ways!" Man does not like God's plan—especially modern-man, to whom so many wonderful worldly goods are available, that it almost seems like Heaven-on-Earth!
Never before have their been so many 'goodies' and never before have they been so readily available at such an affordable price. Kings of old would make war upon us in order to get their hands on some of our modern-day 'goodies'—they never had horseless chariots (cars), nor planes, nor telephones, nor TV sets, nor computers, nor cameras and video recorders, nor the incredibly wide selection of food and drink available to us, etc., etc. Most of us have far more possessions that these kings of old—and way far more than God Himself, in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Modern-man does not want much to do with “prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20), he would much more prefer to be among those who “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (1 Corinthians 10:7). Modern-man plans on being rich and amassing many possessions! He is more like the person in one of Our Lord’s parables:
“The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. And he thought within himself, saying: ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?’ And he said: ‘This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods. And I will say to my soul: “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer!”’ But God said to him: ‘Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’ So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God!” (Luke 12:16-21).
This makes us think of Our Lord’s warning: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
The Price of Salvation
The above parable leads us to consider the price of salvation and reminds us of an encounter Our Lord had with a young rich man, who, though he was well-intentioned, could not make the final break from his many possessions. What a waste of time to spend one’s life pursuing riches and the comforts they can buy! Have we forgotten Our Lord’s encounter with the rich young man?
“And behold a certain man running up and kneeling before Him: ‘Good Master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?’ And Jesus said to him: ‘Thou knowest the commandments—keep the commandments!’ The young man said to Jesus: ‘All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?’ And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: ‘One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me!’ And when the young man had heard this word, being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
Our Lord then spoke those terrifying words—terrifying to our consumer society—“Amen, I say to you: How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the Kingdom of God! And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27).
Some Do Not Want to Pay the Price of Salvation
When we love something very much, we cannot bring ourselves to part from it—if we love the world, we will not want to leave the world: “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also” (Matthew 6:21). Our Lord asked the rich young man to pass into the next grade or class in the school to salvation, from merely keeping the Commandments, to giving up all things for God, saying: “One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me!” (Mark 10:21; Matthew 19:21). But “death to the world” was too high a price and too much of a sacrifice for the rich young man, “and when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 10:22).
He wanted to save his soul and get to Heaven on his terms and at his price! He was trying to serve God and mammon. He loved Jesus and “Jesus looking on him, loved him” (Mark 10:21), but the young man loved the world and his possessions more than Jesus—he was looking for a painless life: pleasure on Earth and pleasure in Heaven. He was not prepared to pay the price Jesus was asking.
Jesus’ thoughts were not the young man’s thoughts; nor were the young man’s ways the ways of Jesus. Jesus was showing him the way, and he did not want that way. So he turned away from the way! Jesus did not chase after him and make him a "better offer"! No! He let him go the way of his choosing. Where did that way lead to? How did it all end for him? We do not know, but it is recorded in Holy Scripture as a warning to us. Let us not fool ourselves. Many of us probably possess far more today, than the rich young man owned in his day!
Seeing the young rich man, whom Jesus loved, become sad and walk away, because he was so attached to his riches and possessions, “Jesus said to His disciples: ‘How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the Kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus again answering, said to them: ‘Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the Kingdom of God? It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!’ The disciples wondered the more, saying among themselves: ‘Who then can be saved?’” (Mark 10:23-26).
The spiritual masters, in explaining the Three Stages or Ages of the Spiritual Life, say that God is progressively trying to detach us from all things throughout the course of our entire life—so that, sooner or later, we are left with nothing but God as our sole focus in life. The souls in Purgatory are currently going through ‘remedial school’ for having failed to do so on Earth. They have nothing; they focus on nothing; they want nothing, but God alone. The souls in Hell are in an even worse predicament and are not in ‘remedial school’, for there is no longer any remedy for their refusal of God’s way.
WHICH ROAD ARE YOU ON?
“Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” (Matthew 7:13-14).
IN A MAD RUSH TO GO WHERE?
Extracts from the Catechism
MY CATHOLIC FAITH
On the Topic of Sin
Chapters 20 to 23
God punished Adam and Eye for the sin they committed. “And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the Earth from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:23). All the calamities in the world today, war, disease, poverty, etc., are consequences of Adam’s sin. We inherited all the weaknesses that were part of his punishment.
On account of their sin Adam and Eve lost sanctifying grace, the right to Heaven, and their special gifts; they became subject to death, to suffering, and to a strong inclination to evil, and were driven from the Garden of Paradise.
They lost their special gifts: they became subject to suffering and death. Their minds and wills were so weakened that they became inclined to evil, subjected to temptation. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the Earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:16-19).
Some wonder how the eating of one fruit could have been so grievous a crime. We must remember that God gave Adam and Eve every blessing. He only required them, as proof of their faithfulness, to abstain from eating the fruit of one tree. Doubtless Paradise was filled with trees having more delicious fruit than the forbidden tree. Pride and disobedience and ingratitude caused them to sin. They defied God, and despised His threats.
On account of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishment, as we would have inherited his gifts had he been obedient to God.
The chief punishments of Adam which we inherit through Original Sin are: death, suffering, ignorance, and a strong inclination to sin.
There are two general classes of sins: original and actual. Original sin is the kind of sin that we inherit from Adam. Actual sin is the kind of sin that we ourselves commit. In general, when we speak of “sin” we mean actual sin.
Sin is an offense against God, a violation of His commandments. To sin is to despise God, to disobey Him, to offend Him. One who sins takes the gifts that God has given, and uses them to insult Him.
We share in another’s sin: (1) by counsel; (2) by command; (3) by consent; (4) by provocation;
(5) by praise or flattery; (6) by silence; (7) by assistance; (8) by defense or concealment; and (9) by not punishing the evil done.
Mortal Sin is the greatest evil in the world. It separates us from God. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, Mortal Sin makes the soul an enemy of God.
Any willful thought, word, action or omission, in serious violation of God’s law, is a Mortal Sin. Without sanctifying grace, the soul is displeasing to God, unclean, and can never behold Him or be with Him in Heaven.
Without sanctifying grace, the soul is without God; and without God, the devil makes the soul his habitation.
The Broad Ways of Sin
During His Sermon on the Mount Our Lord said: “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” (Matthew 7:13-14). “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments” (Matthew 19:17). “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me … He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My words” (John 14:21-24).
From these words of Our Lord, we get the expression "Keep on the strait and narrow!" Or if we look at it from the perspective of targets, Heaven is like having to hit the "bulls-eye" while Hell makes the target as easy as hitting the side of the barn.
We speak of a broad spectrum, a broad range, a wide variety and wide scope, etc. Thus, if the gate to Hell is wide and the way to destruction is wide, this means that there is not just one sin, but many sins that can send us to Hell. Many specific and individual examples and particular applications of the Ten Commandments are mentioned throughout the Bible.
In both the Old and New Testaments, there are nearly 700 references to the various nuances of sin that break the Ten Commandments. The Examination of Conscience found on another page (click here) is a long but nowhere near exhaustive list of possible sins based on the Ten Commandments. Our Lord and the Apostles and Evangelists list a good number of them in their teaching.
Little Known, Little Loved, Little Kept
We have, of course, the Ten Commandments—which every Catholic should now, but they don’t! You cannot love or keep what you do not know! St. Thérèse of Lisieux used to say: “Jesus is so little loved because He is so little known!” We could well apply that to the Commandments, saying “The Commandments are so little kept because they are so little known!” Each of the Ten Commandments is merely a chapter heading to a much longer list of sins that come under that Commandment. It sounds a little hollow to say we ‘love’ God if we cannot even be bothered to study His Commandments in greater detail! Did Our Lord not say: “If you keep my Commandments” (John 15:10)?
Our Lord refers to the Ten Commandments when answering the rich young man, who asked what he had to do to save his soul: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments … Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honor thy father and thy mother and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 19:17-19), Elsewhere He says: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first Commandment” (Mark 12:30) and stresses that the keeping of these Commandments is the proof of a love of God: “If you keep my Commandments” (John 15:10).
Failure in Keeping the Commandments
God the Father speaks of the failure in keeping the Commandments when He says: “If you and your children revolting shall turn away from following Me, and will not keep My commandments, and My ceremonies, which I have set before you, but will go and worship strange gods, and adore them: then I will take away Israel from the face of the land which I have given them; and the temple which I have sanctified to My Name, I will cast out of My sight; and Israel shall be a proverb, and a byword among all people. And this house shall be made an example of. Everyone that shall pass by it, shall be astonished, and shall hiss, and say: ‘Why hath the Lord done thus to this land, and to this house?’ And they shall answer: ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and followed strange gods, and adored them!’” (3 Kings 9:6-9).
God Never Changes—So the Consequences Do Not Change
We now that God never changes―”with Whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (James 1:17). God is Truth “I am the Truth” (John 14:6) and so Truth never changes. Neither does the attitude of God change with regard to sin, nor His actions when faced by sin: “What is it that hath been? The same thing that shall be! What is it that hath been done? The same that shall be done!” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). “I am, I am the Lord: and there is no savior besides Me. I have declared and have saved … saith the Lord, and I am God. And from the beginning I am the same, and there is none that can deliver out of My hand” (Isaias 43:11-13).
A Matter of Life and Death
“Behold all souls are mine: the soul that sinneth, the same shall die!” (Ezechiel 18:4) … and again a little further on God says the same “The soul that sinneth, the same shall die” (Ezechiel 18:20). It is clear, as St. Paul says: “For the wages of sin is death!” (Romans 6:23). Death was the wage God promised Adam if he would sin and death is our wage for sin--“Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Sin Brings Death—Repentance Brings Life
“But if the wicked do penance for all his sins which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, living he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done: in his justice which he hath wrought, he shall live. Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live? But if the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? All his justices, which he hath done, shall not be remembered: in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die! For when the just turneth himself away from his justice, and committeth iniquity, he shall die therein: in the injustice that he hath wrought he shall die. And when the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness, which he hath wrought, and doeth judgment, and justice: he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth and turneth away himself from all his iniquities, which he hath wrought, he shall surely live and not die” (Ezechiel 18:21-28).
Don’t Like It? Tell God!
“ ‘And you have said:’ The way of the Lord is not right!’ Hear ye, therefore, O house of Israel: Is it My way that is not right, and are not rather your ways perverse? ... And the children of Israel say: ‘The way of the Lord is not right!’ Are not My ways right, O house of Israel, and are not rather your ways perverse? Therefore will I judge every man according to his ways, O house of Israel!’ saith the Lord God” (Ezechiel 18:25-30). “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways My ways!’ saith the Lord. ‘For as the Heavens are exalted above the Earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts!” (Isaias 55:8-9).
Want Life? Only One Way!
“Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities: and iniquity shall not be your ruin … Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new heart, and a new spirit: and why will you die, O house of Israel? For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, return ye and live!” (Ezechiel 18:30-32).
Discounted Sins? No Way!
However, we do not want to do penance—the Church has even reduced obligatory penance (40 days of Lenten fasting have been reduced to merely 2 days—a 95% discount). Has God discounted sin by 95%? You must be dreaming or kidding! This is why Our Lady has repeatedly come to insist upon penance for sin in our times. If we refuse, then God will take His usual steps.
Our Lady of Good Success says that preservation will only come “at the cost of much penance”—therefore, there is no discount! Our Lady of Lourdes demands: “Penance! Penance! Penance!”
Our Lady of La Salette laments that “the chiefs, the leaders of the people of God, have neglected prayer and penance” and warns that “the righteous will suffer greatly. Their prayers, their penances and their tears will rise up to Heaven and all of God’s people will beg for forgiveness and mercy” and that many “will do penance through hunger.”
At Fatima, Our Lady said that “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to Hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and pray for them”—meaning that there is no discount for sin! It still counts!
Blessed Jacinta Marto of Fatima said shortly before dying: “Men must do penance! If they amend their lives Our Lord will still pardon the world; but if they do not, the chastisement will come!”
Our Lady of Akita, in the same vein, said: “Prayer, penance and courageous sacrifices can soften the Father’s anger” … [but] “if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.”
Physical Death and Eternal Death
There is an added twist to this―for the wage for sin is not only physical death, but it can also be eternal death! Death is this world is bad enough—for God did not originally make man’s soul to be separated from his body as occurs at death—Adam was not made to die, but he brought death upon himself through sin. “And God commanded Adam, saying: ‘Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat! But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat! For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death!’” (Genesis 2:16-17).
Adam ate and thus sinned and he could well say: “The sorrows of death surrounded me: and the torrents of iniquity troubled me!” (Psalm 17:5). Yet God in His mercy gave Adam and Eve a chance to still attain Heaven, and this would be through many centuries (Adam died aged 930 years) of suffering, sweat and penance: “And all the time that Adam lived came to nine hundred and thirty years, and he died” (Genesis 5:5). Though Adam was forgiven, he still paid the price for sin—death.
We too have sinned and we are doubly sentenced to death—death through Adam’s Original Sin and death through our own sins. Yet physical death is nowhere near as serious and tormenting as ‘eternal death’—which is not death in the strict sense, as the soul cannot die, but it is a loss of eternal life because of unrepented and unforgiven moral sin. As St. John says there is “a sin which is not to death” and “there is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16). We could take this to mean either venial sin in comparison to mortal sin; or St. John may mean repented and forgiven sin as opposed to unrepented and unforgiven sin.
The Killer Sin—The Ticket to the Broad Way
Mortal sin is the killer sin—it kills the life of sanctifying grace in the soul and thereby kicks-out God from the soul and places the person at enmity with God. At that point, Hell is the only option—unless sincere repentance takes place. As the Psalmist writes: “The sorrows of death have encompassed me: and the perils of Hell have found me!” (Psalm 114:3).
JESUS SPEAKS OF "MANY" WHO ARE ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION!
“Wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat!” (Matthew 7:13).
FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST and FOLLOWERS OF THE WORLD
(from Letter to Friends of the Cross, by St. Louis de Montfort)
Dear Brethren, there are the two groups that appear before you each day, the followers of Christ and the followers of the world.
Our loving Savior’s group is to the right, scaling a narrow path made all the narrower by the world’s corruption.
The world’s group, the devil’s in fact, which is far superior in number, and seemingly far more colorful and splendid in array. Fashionable folk are all in a hurry to enlist, the highways are overcrowded, although they are broad and ever broadening with the crowds that flow through in a torrent. These roads are strewn with flowers, bordered with all kinds of amusements and attractions and paved with gold and silver (Matthew 7:13-14).
Worldlings rouse one another to persist in their unscrupulous depravity. “Enjoy life, peace and pleasure,” they shout, “Enjoy life, peace and pleasure. Let us eat, let us drink, let us sing, let us dance, let us play. God is good, He did not make us to damn us, God does not forbid us to enjoy ourselves; we shall not be damned for that; away with scruples; we shall not die.”
And so they continue.
“I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance” (Luke 5:32).
God says, if “My people, upon whom My Name is called, being converted, shall make supplication to Me, and seek out My face, and do penance for their most wicked ways: then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sins” (2 Paralipomenon 7:14).
“Let him do penance for his sin!” (Leviticus 5:5). “Hear, I beseech you, my words, and do penance!” (Job 21:2). “Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities: and iniquity shall not be your ruin!” (Ezechiel 18:30).
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: ‘Do penance! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’” (Matthew 4:17).
“Then Jesus began to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance!” (Matthew 11:20).
He then laments and warns:“The men of Ninive shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas; and behold more than Jonas here” (Luke 11:32).
“God hath given him place for penance, and he abuseth it unto pride!” (Job 24:23).
In All Things Look to the End
The Imitation of Christ—and many other spiritual writers—says: “In all things look to the end.” The Church even recommends meditation upon “The Four Last Things” above all else—which are Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.
“In all things look to the end, and how thou wilt stand before the strict Judge, from Whom there is nothing hid; Who takes no bribes, and receives no excuses, but will judge that which is just. O most miserable and foolish sinner, what wilt thou answer unto God, Who knoweth all thine evil deeds―thou who art sometimes afraid of an angry man? Why dost thou not provide thee against the day of judgment, when no man can be excused or defended by another, but each one will have enough to do to answer for himself?” (The Imitation of Christ, book 1, chapter 24).
We are all doomed to die—“tomorrow we shall die” (Isaias 22:13). “Everyone shall die for his own iniquity” (Jeremias 31:30). “The soul that sinneth, the same shall die” (Ezechiel 18:4). “By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Death is inevitable—and if Our Lady is to be believed, most of humanity will face death shortly.
Death is not as frightening as the Judgment that follows death! According to St. Jerome, the presence of Jesus Christ will give the reprobate more pain than Hell itself. “It would,” he says, “be easier for the damned to bear the torments of Hell than the presence of the Lord.” Hence, on that day, the wicked shall, according to St. John, call on the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the sight of the Judge. “And they shall say to the mountains and the rocks: ‘Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” (Apocalypse 6:16).
To Christians particularly Our Lord and Judge will say: “Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida; for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). Christians, He will say, if the graces which I have bestowed on you had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. “I will discover thy shame to thy face.” (Nahum 3:5). He will expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices, and cruelties. “I will set all thy abominations against thee” (Ezechiel 7:3).
What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah, they can offer no excuses! “All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” (Psalm 106:42). Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will not have courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.
Heaven and Hell
St. Bernard says, that “the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost” (Sermon 8, on Psalm 90). Jesus Christ, then, shall first turn to the elect, and with a serene countenance shall say: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and Communions. Above all, He will bless for them the pains of His Passion and the blood shed for their salvation. And, after these blessings, the elect, singing alleluias, shall enter Paradise to praise and love God for eternity. The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and shall pronounce the sentence of their condemnation in these words: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41). They shall then be forever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn forever in the fire of Hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting” (Matthew 25:46).
St. Alphonsus says, in his sermon for the First Sunday of Advent: “Then a great pit shall open in the middle of the valley: the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those doors shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! To what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ! O unhappy souls, for whom is prepared such a melancholy end! But, brethren, have confidence! Jesus Christ is now a Father, and not Judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent.”
Neglect of the Cross and Penance
What is that damns so many souls? Well of course everyone has their own particular concoction of sins that damn them. Yet the fact that it has sinned is not the ultimate reason behind a soul’s damnation. God tells us in the Old Testament: “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias 1:18). Sodom and Gomorrha would have been spared had penance been done, despite the gravity of their sins: “The men of Sodom were very wicked, and sinners before the face of the Lord, beyond measure … And the Lord said: ‘The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous” (Genesis 13:13; 18:20).
Likewise with the grate city of Ninive: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonas, saying: ‘Arise, and go to Ninive the great city, and preach in it: for the wickedness thereof is come up before Me!’ [Jonas did not go and ends up in the belly of the whale] … And the word of the Lord came to Jonas the second time, saying: ‘Arise, and go to Ninive the great city: and preach in it the preaching that I bid thee!’ And Jonas arose, and went to Ninive, according to the word of the Lord: and he cried, and said: ‘Yet forty days, and Ninive shall be destroyed!’ And the men of Ninive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least ... And God saw their works, that they were turned from their evil way: and God had mercy with regard to the evil which He had said that He would do to them, and He did it not” (Jonas 1:2; 3:1-10).
It is not for nothing that the Church, in Her liturgy, has phrases such as: “In cruce salus” (In the Cross is Salvation) and “Ave crux, spes unica” (Hail Cross, Our Sole Hope). The cross is the scalpel and the medicine that cuts and cures us from the ravages and penalties of sin. The cross is the central element to our salvation. Christ died on the cross and He wants us die with Him on the cross by carrying the cross: “And he said to all: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me!’” (Luke 9:23). “And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me!” (Matthew 10:38). No cross, no Heaven.
Salvation is Offered, Damnation is Chosen
Our Lord came to seek and save sinners: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). “Go then and learn what this meaneth, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice!’ For I am not come to call the just, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13). “I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance” (Luke 5:32). Yet, Our Lord warns us that neither He nor the Father are going to turn a blind-eye to sin and give Heaven away as a ‘freebie’!
God says, if “My people, upon whom My Name is called, being converted, shall make supplication to Me, and seek out My face, and do penance for their most wicked ways: then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sins” (2 Paralipomenon 7:14). “Let him do penance for his sin!” (Leviticus 5:5). “Hear, I beseech you, my words, and do penance!” (Job 21:2). “Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities: and iniquity shall not be your ruin!” (Ezechiel 18:30).
It was not just an “Old Testament thing”—for Our Lord preached the same message, as did His precursor and His followers. Before Our Lord arrived on the scene, St. John the Baptist “was in the desert baptizing, and preaching the baptism of penance, unto remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), “saying: ‘Do penance! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! … Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance!’” (Matthew 3:2; 3:8). “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: ‘Do penance! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’” (Matthew 4:17). “Then Jesus began to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance!” (Matthew 11:20). He then laments and warns:“The men of Ninive shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas; and behold more than Jonas here” (Luke 11:32).
“God hath given him place for penance, and he abuseth it unto pride!” (Job 24:23). Yet God laments: “I waited and lisetened … there is none that doth penance for his sin, saying: ‘What have I done?’ They are all turned to their own course” (Jeremias 8:6). “If we do not penance, we shall fall into the hands of the Lord!” (Ecclesiasticus 2:22). Our Lord, in the space of a few seconds, twice says: “No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish! … No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:3-5).
It not so much sin that damns souls—for Our Lord came to save sinners from their sins—but a lack of penance. Souls are not lost so much by sin, as they are lost by a neglect or refusal to do penance for those sins. Penance is a remedy for sin and reparation for sin. Refuse or neglect the remedy or refuse to make reparation and you condemn yourself to the consequences!
“No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish! … No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:3-5).
TOP OF HELL'S
Scream and Shout or Seek Remedies?
We know, from Holy Scripture and the testimonies of the Saints, that most souls are probably lost—but our reaction and approach to this truth can be one of running round like a headless chicken, or, on the other hand, trying not to lose our heads over the issue, but trying to do something about it. If my house is on fire, I can either run around wildly screaming: “The house is on fire! The house on fire! The house is on fire!” Or I can try to do something constructive and useful, by attempting to evacuate its inhabitants and put out the fire, or at least contain it and call for professional help—the Fire Department.
Shouting and screaming, that most souls are on the road to Hell, is of little use if we are not going to look for an answer or a remedy to that terrible plight. A doctor is not just supposed to tell patients that they are terribly ill without trying to prevent the fatal demise. The old song, ”There’s A Hole In My Bucket”, says it adequately enough: “There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole! … Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry, Oh mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it!” A spiritual version for today could well be: “There's a sin in my soul, dear Lord, dear Lord! There's a sin in my soul, dear Lord, a sin!… Then mend it, dear friend, dear friend, dear friend! Oh mend it, dear friend, dear friend, mend it!”
Don't Just Be Part of Problem, Be Part of the Solution
In others words, if there is a problem, don’t just state the obvious, try find a solution and fix the problem. The problem is that most souls are lost. Repeating that truth a million times will not solve the problem—it will only alert us to the problem and either make us discouraged or heart-hearted. In either case, we will have heard the problem spoken of a million times, but the remedy will be never or rarely mentioned. If you read St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, you will notice that it is full of problems—for St. Thomas starts out each question, that he will treat of, with several problems which looks as though he is trying to “shoot himself in the foot”. But then he solves the problems by exposing his remedies to each problem he has stated.
God may, in His own way, ‘scream’ at us about most souls going to Hell, but He is more interested in coming up with a solution for that terrible tragedy. Whenever God sets a goal, He also supplies the means to that goal. Our Lord does not say of Himself—“I have come to tell you most souls go to Hell”, even though that is very true and He did suggest that—but He said of Himself: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” … “Go then and learn what this meaneth, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice!’ For I am not come to call the just, but sinners” (Luke 19:10; Matthew 9:13)—in other words He comes to seek a remedy. He then tells us what that remedy is: “I came not to call the just, but sinners to penance” (Luke 5:32) and “unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish! … No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:3-5).
It is not ultimately sin that damns souls, but their neglect or refusal to take the God-given remedies for sin. For God has said: “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias 1:18). Yet, we cannot keep punching a hole in the hull of the boat of our soul with repeated sins while at the same time we are trying to fix previous holes made by sin. It is stupid and illogical. As Holy Scripture points out: “So a man that fasteth for his sins, and doth the same [sins] again, what doth his humbling himself profit him? Who will hear his prayer?” (Ecclesiasticus 34:31). That is what we call the sin of presumption—keep on sinning and keep on believing God will always forgive you!
The Devil's "Hit Parade"
In life there are certain tools, or appliances, or even words that are use more often than other tools, appliances and words. A team will pick and use several of many thousands of tactics in their game plan against opponents. The same applies to medicine: doctors will prescribe what they find to have worked on other patients. Usually the tools, appliances, words, tactics or medicines that we use, are those that we know will get the job done.
The same applies to the devil and his use of temptations in order to bring about the damnation of souls. The tactics and variations upon tactics are endless, but some things will always work better than others. The devil must have his favorite “best sellers” that have worked on most people by selling to them the idea that this or that sin is desirable, useful and profitable to them.
Who on Earth can know what is the “Devil’s Top Ten” temptations—we could argue over that, as the proverb says, “until the cows come home” or until the world ends and still have differences of opinion. Yet using a little common sense and lot of Scriptural and Saintly advice, we can form a reasonable list of likely candidates for the “Devil’s Top Ten”.
Our enumeration is purely arbitrary, though not imaginary.
THE DEVILS "TOP TEN" HIT PARADE
#1 The Root of All Sin—PRIDE
Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange writes: “To know the true nature of pride, we should first note that it is a spiritual sin, in itself less shameful and less debasing, but more grievous, says St. Thomas Aquinas, than the sins of the flesh, because it turns us more away from God. The sins of the flesh could not be in the demon, who was irremediably lost through pride. Scripture on several occasions says that “pride is the beginning of all sin” (Ecclesiasticus. 10:15) because it does away with the humble submission and obedience of the creature to God. The first sin of the first man was a sin of pride, the desire of the knowledge of good and evil, that he might be his own guide and not have to obey ... St. Thomas defined pride as the inordinate love of our own excellence. The proud man wishes, in fact, to appear superior to what he really is―there is falsity in his life ... Pride is therefore, as St. Augustine says, a perverse love of greatness; it leads us to imitate God in a wrong way, by not bearing with the equality of our fellow men and by wishing to impose our domination on them … Pride is a bandage over the eyes of the spirit, which hinders us from seeing the truth.”
Our Lord warns of this blindness: “Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit” (Matthew 15:14). “Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 16:5). Yet we are all born with the stain or virus of Original Sin—which was a sin of pride and disobedience. Hence there is no person who can say: “I am not proud!” Pride is something that is within all persons, for “pride is the beginning of all sin” (Ecclesiasticus 10:15) and “If we say that we have not sinned, then we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us!” (1 John 1:10). For if we have all sinned and pride is the beginning of all sin, then we all have pride within us.
This is not the time and the place to deal at length with the sin of pride, but suffice it to say that one of the most valuable books we can have in our spiritual arsenal is one or books on the virtue of humility and the vice of pride. Ignore that at your own risk. A good starter would be Humility Of Heart by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, from which book we will now quote:
“God banished Angels from Heaven for their pride; therefore how can we pretend to enter therein, if we do not keep ourselves in a state of humility? Without humility, says St. Peter Damian, not even the Virgin Mary herself, with her incomparable virginity, could have entered into the glory of Christ … How rarely do we use diligence and caution to conquer spiritual vices, of which pride is the first and the greatest of all, and which, sufficed of itself to transform an Angel into a demon! … Oh, how true it is that every man is a liar, for one need have but little pride in order to be a liar, and. there is no one who has not inherited through our first parents something of that pride! … In reality a lie dwells essentially in that pride, which makes us esteem ourselves above what we are. Whoever regards himself as more than mere nothingness is filled with pride, and is a liar. It is St. Paul’s statement: ‘If any man think himself to be something whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself’ (Galatians 6”3) ... In the same way that to recognize that we are proud is the beginning of humility, so to flatter ourselves that we are humble is the beginning of pride, and the more humble we think ourselves the greater is our pride” (Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, Humility Of Heart).
#2 The Most Common of All Sins—LUST
At Fatima, Our Lady revealed, through Blessed Jacinta Marto, that the sin that damns most souls today is the sin of impurity. The sin of impurity can be committed through not only our actions, but also our thoughts and words. Our Lord says: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). We can also commit this sin by our words by speaking impurely, with our ears by listening to impure things or songs, our eyes by reading impure material, and our bodies by dressing impurely or acting impurely.
This sin is so powerful, that it can kill grace in an instant—it only takes an instant to have an impure desire—a second or two suffices. To make matters worse, it lurks everywhere—on the internet, the TV screen, movie theaters, billboards, magazines, newspapers, catalogs, and walks all around us “in the flesh” wherever we go: stores, public places, offices, schools, neighborhood, etc.
The danger is that, with all this saturation of our environment with impurity, we risk becoming desensitized to it due its overwhelming prevalence. If Our Lady warned that most souls were being damned through impurity BACK IN 1917—then what are the numbers today?!! Back then there was no internet, no TV, no movie theaters, and the images in books, magazines, newspapers and catalogs were nowhere near as flagrant, blatant and damning as they are today! Have we grown desensitized towards this sin in our life? Are we perhaps walking around in mortal sin without admitting or realizing it? Lukewarmness is almost always the precondition for such a terrible state. Of lukewarmness we will deal further below.
#3 The Smokescreen Sin—BAD (SACRILEGIOUS) CONFESSIONS
Let us not be fooled not complacent. There are many bad confessions being made out there! The ultimate cause—as mentioned above—is always pride: a false shame, a human respect that fears what the priest may think, a desire to “look good” or at least better than what we really are. We forget the comment that Our Lord once made to one of His mystic saints, when He said if she could see herself as He saw her, then she would die of fright.
Bad confessions are a favorite and fruitful battleground for the devil. At first he will have us omit the more embarrassing venial sins—for strictly speaking, we do not have to confess each and every venial sin. However, this serves are a seedbed for human respect and pride to sink their roots deep into the soul. Once the omission of venial sins becomes a habit, then the devil will move onto the borderline mortal sins—the ones that are just over the border and in the territory of serious sin. These, the devil has us view (and rationalize) as serious venial sins and so tries to make us conceal them.
St. Alphonsus Liguori says: “The devil does not bring sinners to Hell with their eyes open: he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. ‘For their own malice blinded them’ (Wisdom 2:21). He thus leads them to eternal perdition. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labors to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that, through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession. Thus, he leads us to Hell by a double chain, inducing us, after our transgressions, to consent to a still greater sin the sin of sacrilege.”
“God has made sin shameful, that we may abstain from it, and gives us confidence to confess it by promising pardon to all who accuse themselves of their sins. But the devil does the contrary: he gives confidence to sin by holding out hopes of pardon; but, when sin is committed, he inspires shame, to prevent the confession of it … What hope of salvation can he have who goes to confession and conceals his sins, and makes use of the tribunal of penance to offend God, and to make himself doubly the slave of Satan? What hope would you entertain of the recovery of the man who, instead of taking the medicine prescribed by his physician, drank a cup of poison? God! What can the sacrament of penance be to those who conceal their sins, but a deadly poison, which adds to their guilt the malice of sacrilege?
“Go as soon as possible in search of a confessor. Do not give the devil time to continue to tempt you and to make you put off your confession: go immediately: for Jesus Christ is waiting for you” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Sunday Sermons).
#4 The Want to Look Good Sin—BAD (SACRILEGIOUS) HOLY COMMUNIONS
The child or offspring of bad Confessions is that of bad Communions. The latter would not exist without the former. If bad Confessions were not made, then a bad Communion would not ensue. Yet the bad Communion should not automatically follow a bad Confession. The sinner should realize that it would be better to stay away from Holy Communion after having (1) committed a mortal sin, and/or (2) having made a bad Confession. However, our old enemy, pride, once again lurks behind the reason for these bad Communions.
Pride says: "What will the wife (or husband) think of me if I don't go to Holy Communion with her (him) today? What will the children think? What will other parishioners think?" Or if it is a child: "What will my parents, siblings, friends or parishioners think?" Nobody stops to think what God or Heaven thinks!
“In giving absolution, the confessor dispenses to his patient the Blood of Jesus Christ; for it is through the merits of that Blood that he absolves from sin. What, then, does the sinner do, when he conceals his sins in confession? He tramples underfoot the Blood of Jesus Christ. And should he afterwards receive the Holy Communion in a state of sin, he is, according to St. John Chrysostom, as guilty as if he threw the consecrated Host into the sewer. Unhappy souls! They think only of the shame of confessing their sins, and do not reflect that, if they conceal them, they shall be certainly damned” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Sunday Sermons).
The Catechism states: “He who knowingly receives Holy Communion in mortal sin receives the Body and Blood of Christ, but he does not receive His graces and commits a grave sin of sacrilege. To receive Holy Communion unworthily is a serious abuse of the Sacred Body and Blood of the Lord, and therefore a sacrilege.”
#5 The Wannabe Rich Sin—AVARICE & GREED
Covetousness, or its aliases of Avarice or Greed, taking a lead from the gang-leader, Pride, will lead to a selfishness, a stinginess and draw us away from fraternal charity and alms-giving—because the focus in on self (me, my family, my job, my house, my things, my opinions, my invention, my talents, my…, my…, my…). If allowed to grow, it can become so feverish that it leads to lying, cheating, stealing, bitterness, anger and even murder in extreme cases.
The concupiscence of the eyes is the inordinate desire of all that can please the sight: of luxury, wealth, money, persons, objects, places. From it is born avarice. The avaricious man ends by making his ‘hidden treasure’ his god, adoring it, and sacrificing everything to it: his time, his strength, his family, and sometimes his eternity.
Covetousness, avarice, greed—they all come down to the same thing: an inordinate desire and love of earthly goods. There has never been such an enormous store of earthly goods as there is today, in this over-materialistic twentieth century. The whole economy revolves around an ever increasing creation and consumption of earthly goods. Much of family life revolves around the same thing. Even sacred feasts such as Christmas, have seen the spiritual aspect take a distant second place to the material aspect!
Many of us fall into this sin of covetousness. If we cannot satisfy our greed, by actually possessing the thing we desire, then we at least encourage that greed, by avidly gorging everything with our eyes.
It is undeniable that we do require certain material goods to help us live in a way that will help, rather than hinder, our salvation. Yet this appetite, when uncontrolled, soon runs rampant. We start to pursue money, wealth and goods with great eagerness, using all kinds of means, regardless of the rights or needs of others, in order to get them. We risk our health and livelihood, or that of our employees, by overwork or taking too many financial risks. We become stingy and mean in spending our money, because we wish to accumulate more and more. We give little or nothing to charitable concerns or the poor, for the same reason.
It finally gets to the point where we idolize money or material goods, hoarding them beyond sane measure. This kind of attitude is sinful, because it makes a god of what is simply a means to salvation. It also refuses to rely upon Divine Providence. What did Our Lord say upon the matter?...
“Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? … Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:28-33).
#6 The Devil is Your Father Sin—LYING & CHEATING
Lying is another devilish sin, that makes us similar to the devil. On the matter of lying, the Catechism teaches: “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving. The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.
The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.
By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.
Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.
Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another's reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.
#7 The Devil Look Alike Sin—DETRACTION & CALUMNY
Calumny is the telling of lies or falsehoods about another person—it is a particularly devilish sin. The word devil comes from the way the wicked spirit goes about his work. It comes from the Greek verb diaballo meaning “to twist, accuse and calumniate.” Detraction (from Latin detrahere, meaning “to take away”) is the unjust damaging of another's good name by the revelation of some fault or crime of which that other is really guilty or at any rate is seriously believed to be guilty by the defamer.
An important difference between detraction and calumny is at once apparent. The calumniator says what he knows to be false, whilst the detractor narrates what he at least honestly thinks is true. Detraction in a general sense is a mortal sin, as being a violation of the virtue not only of charity but also of justice. It is obvious, however, that the subject-matter of the accusation may be so inconspicuous or, everything considered, so little capable of doing serious hurt that the guilt is not assumed to be more than venial. The same judgment is to be given when, as not unfrequently happens, there has been little or no advertence to the harm that is being done.
The determination of the degree of sinfulness of detraction is in general to be gathered from the consideration of the amount of harm the defamatory utterance is calculated to work.
In order to adequately measure the seriousness of the damage wrought, due regard must be had not only to the imputation itself but also to the character of the person by whom and against whom the charge is made. That is, we must take into account not only the greater or lesser criminality of the thing alleged but also the more or less distinguished reputation of the detractor for trustworthiness, as well as the more or less notable dignity or estimation of the person whose good name has been assailed.
Thus it is conceivable that a relatively small defect alleged against a person of eminent station, such as a bishop, might seriously tarnish his good name and be a mortal sin, whilst an offense of considerable magnitude attributed to an individual of a class in which such things frequently happen might constitute only a venial sin, such as, for instance, to say that a common sailor had been drunk.
#8 The Anti-Mortification Sin—WORLDLINESS & LUKEWARMNESS
Our Lady, in speaking to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, says:“Weep in deepest sorrow over the ruin of so many souls absorbed in such dangerous tepidity [lukewarmness]. They live in the obscurity of their passions and depraved inclinations, forgetful of the danger, unmoved by their losses, and heedless of their dealings. Instead of fearing and avoiding the occasions of evil, they encounter and seek for them in blind ignorance. In senseless fury they follow their pleasures, place no restraint on their passionate desires, and care not where they walk, even if to the most dangerous precipices. They are surrounded by innumerable enemies, who pursue them with diabolical treachery, unceasing vigilance, unquenchable wrath and restless diligence. What wonder then, that irreparable defeats should arise among the mortals? And that, since the number of fools is infinite, the number of the reprobate should also be uncountable, and that the demon should be inflated by his triumphs in the perdition of so many men?” (Our Lady to Venerable Mary of Agreda, The Mystical City of God).
Our Lord complained of the lukewarmness, indifference, coldness and sacrilege of many souls to St. Margaret Mary, in his apparitions to her from 1673-1675. And the fruit of lukewarmness is clearly stated in the Book of the Apocalypse: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing: and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire tried, that thou mayest be made rich; and mayest be clothed in white garments, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear; and anoint thy eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance” (Apocalypse 3:15-19).
The road to Heaven is a road that leads us away from sin. It leads us away from worldliness and it leads us to virtue, which is a prerequisite for entrance to Heaven. There is no unrepentant sinner in Heaven; nor is there any lukewarm soul in Heaven—for only saints go to Heaven.
Fr. Faber, writing back in the 1800’s, when the world was considerably better than it is today, states: “Lukewarmness is in no sense a beginning. We may begin by being cold, but not by being lukewarm. For lukewarmness implies that a great deal has gone before, that a height has been climbed, and that from cowardice, human respect or weariness, we have come down from it.
“The diseases and evils of the body are in a great degree typical of the miseries and misfortunes of the soul. If we seek the correlative of lukewarmness, we shall find it in blindness. It is a blindness which does not know even its own self, and does not suspect that it is blind. This blindness is owing principally to three causes: the frequency of venial sins, habitual dissipation of mind and the ruling passion. The immediate results of this blindness are three also.
“In the first place conscience becomes untrue. In proportion as conscience becomes dark, in the same proportion the bad instincts of the human spirit get more animated. These instincts lead us to avoid anything which will restore animation to the conscience. Thus they make us shrink from anything like vigorous spiritual direction. We must, it says, be moderate in everything! So in hearing sermons, reading books, cultivating acquaintances, patronizing works of mercy, it draws back from everything that is likely to come too near or hit too hard. This is the second result of this blindness, which renders the cure still less likely. Out of the two preceding results flows a third, which is a profane use of the Sacraments. To go to Holy Communion when we are physically drowsy, yawning and half asleep, or to make our general Confession half-stupefied, would be fair types of the way in which we morally use the Sacraments. Thus, frequent, or even daily, Communion seems to have only a negative effect upon us. We do not know how bad things might be without it; and that is all. Weekly confession gives us no additional power over our commonest imperfections. Alas! We are asleep as well as blind.
“I fear this evil of lukewarmness is very common, and that at this moment it is gnawing the life out of many souls who suspect not its presence there. It is a great grace, a prophecy of a miraculous cure, to find out that we are lukewarm; but we are lost if we do not act with vigor, the moment we make this frightening discovery. It is like going to sleep in the snow, almost a pleasant tingling feeling at the first, and then―lost forever.”
#9 The Fool Yourself About God Sin—PRESUMPTION & DESPAIR
Presumption is here considered as a vice opposed to the theological virtue of hope. It may also be regarded as a product of pride. It may be defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God's mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them. Presumption is said to offend against hope by excess, as despair by defect.
St. Alphonsus writes: “If you intend to continue in your sinful course, tremble lest God should wait no longer for you, but cast you into Hell. Why does God wait for sinners? Is it that they may continue to insult Him? No; He waits for them that they may renounce sin, and that thus He may have pity on them, and forgive them. ‘Therefore the Lord waiteth, that He may have mercy on you’ (Isaias 30:1, 8). But when He sees that the time—which He gave them to weep over their past iniquities—is spent in multiplying their sins, He begins to inflict chastisement, and He cuts them off in the state of sin, that, by dying, they may cease to offend Him. Then He calls against them the very time He had given them for repentance” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Sunday Sermons).
Salvation is not guaranteed! The Catholic Church teaches us that salvation was gained through the agonizing death of Jesus on the Cross, but it is not guaranteed to all people. Many fundamentalist denominations profess that Christ actually promised that Heaven is theirs in exchange for a remarkably simple act―they are only required at one point in their lives, to “accept Jesus as their personal Savior”―then forget about it! The Catholic Church teaches that salvation depends on the state of the soul at the time of death. Christ has redeemed us, but this is not a guarantee of salvation. This is why Holy Scripture tells us: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20) and “With fear and trembling work out your salvation!” (Philippians 2:12).
If we lead a sinful life in the expectation that we can repent at the end of our life and thus gain salvation we are guilty of the sin of presumption! It is also quite illogical to assume that we will be aware of our last moment on earth and risk our eternal future on this line of thinking, for we never know when “the Master will return.” Our Holy Mother Church teaches dogmatically that is sinful for us to rely solely on God’s mercy for salvation without our repentance. This is the most evil form of the sin of presumption.
Despair is the most serious sin a person can commit! Like presumption, despair is a sin against the First Commandment. It steers us away from hope. We must remember that we are guaranteed forgiveness of even our most horrendous sins if we merely avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, are truly penitent, and do penance for those sins. “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias 1:18).
#10 The I’ll Do It Later Sin—OMISSION & NEGLIGENCE (SLOTH / LAZINESS)
In Catholic teaching, an omission is a failure to do something one can and ought to do. It is synonymous with negligence. The best presentation of these sins of omission or negligence, comes from the mouth of Our Lord Himself, in His parable about the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
“And when the Son of man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left.
“Then shall the King say to them that shall be on His right hand: ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; naked, and you covered Me; sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to me!’
“Then shall the just answer Him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry, and fed Thee; thirsty, and gave Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? Or naked, and covered Thee? Or when did we see Thee sick or in prison, and came to Thee?’
“And the King answering, shall say to them: ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me!’
“Then He shall say to them also that shall be on His left hand: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me not in; naked, and you covered Me not; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me!’
“Then they also shall answer Him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see Thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to Thee?’
“Then He shall answer them, saying: ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to Me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting!’” (Matthew 25:31-46).
Cardinal Edward Manning, writing in the 19th century, speaks of sins of omission, saying: “If we leave undone the good or the duties to which we are bound by those obligations, we commit sins of omission. Sins of omission may be mortal, but we shall begin by considering venial sins of omission.
Now a sin of omission, or the leaving of duty undone, may indeed arise from any one of the seven capital sins, and then it is also a sin of commission. A son may omit his duty to his father through anger. The sin of anger adds a sin of commission. So I might take examples from the others; but I will select one only, and that because it has the greatest affinity to sins of omission; I mean the sin of sloth.
We understand at once that pride, anger, jealousy, and the like may be mortal sins, but sometimes men say, “How can a sin of sloth be mortal?” We must therefore distinguish. The sin of slothfulness is not mortal, except under certain circumstances; but a state of sloth and a habit of sloth is certainly a mortal sin. We must therefore distinguish between slothfulness and sloth. Slothfulness is the habit or state of the soul, tending towards the last mortal state of sloth, which I will describe hereafter. Let us take this as our example, and I will show how this slothfulness leads to sins of omission, and how these sins of omission lead to sins of commission, and how these sins of commission at last terminate in the mortal sin of sloth.
Now, what is the effect of sins of omission in respect to prayer? Let me suppose that business, professions, pleasure, worldly distractions, begin to break the habit of prayer. Perhaps at first a man only shortens his prayers; or he does not even shorten them, he says them more hastily. His heart is somewhere else. He is in haste, and though he repeats literally his usual prayers, his heart is far off. His mind is full of colors cast in from the world, even while kneeling before God. Little by little his mind gets the habit of wandering, and then he begins to complain that he cannot pray. When he kneels down, his heart is in his house of business, or in the pleasures of last night, or in the amusements of tomorrow. He is, as we say, in the state of distraction or of dissipation; his mind is scattered, he has lost his recollection.
What is the next step? He begins to talk much, to scatter his words without consideration. A man of prayer has a habit of weighing, of measuring his words. As he has the habit of prayer, so he will have the habit of silence; he will be what we call an interior man. His mind will be turned in on itself. He will not be a chatterer; but men who begin to lose their habit of recollection before God become chatterers among men. Solitude becomes irksome; to be alone is torment; to be silent is a pain — he must be always speaking. An uneasiness of being alone with themselves makes such men seek for society; and a desire to get rid of uneasy recollections makes them continually talk: and in this way they commit a multitude of faults by their tongue. But for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall account in the Day of Judgment. (Matthew 12:36).
This is the first effect of a sin of omission; the next is that it produces a kind of sluggishness in everything that he does. Outwardly, perhaps, the actions of his life are to the eye of his neighbors just the same as they were before; but to the eye of God, a change has passed upon him. The eye of God, to whom all things are open, sees that the inward state of that man is not what it was. There is a certain sluggishness which no human eye can detect, but God sees it in everything that he does.
Then he begins to be unpunctual. He puts off his prayers in the morning; he forgets them till noonday, and perhaps, at noonday, he says only half of them; and at night he says them with an uneasy conscience. Perhaps the next day it is the same, or even worse. Unpunctuality begins to run through all his secret duties before God. Then comes irregularity. That is to say, he used to live by rule, he used to take the will of God as his will, and try to conform himself to it as well as he could; but now he lives by the rules of the world, the customs of men, and I may say, at haphazard and at random. The next step is this: he begins openly to leave duties undone.
Next comes neglect of the manifold duties of Charity towards our neighbor. Lastly comes the sin of omission of love towards God. Then, thirdly, from these sins comes a certain animosity against those who love God. Just as the soul turns away from God, in that proportion it has an animosity against those who continue to persevere it the love of God; so much so, that the very sight of anyone who is fervent in the love of God becomes an eyesore. We know — and you, I have no doubt, know by your own experience — that we can tolerate anybody as a companion who is less pious than we are, but we cannot easily tolerate anybody who is more pious. Anyone who prays more, or anyone who makes more of his duties towards God and his neighbor — anyone who is more just or more holy — is a constant reproof and rebuke to us. We are ill at ease in his presence, but anybody who is lower than ourselves we can tolerate easily.
A fourth effect of the sins of omission and of this decline of the soul is despondency, which is akin to despair. A consciousness of sin has the effect of depressing the soul, and, unless it soften it, of making it to doubt its own salvation. This consciousness of sinfulness, coupled with the consciousness of impenitence, the sense that he is not softened, nor humbled, but rather that he is irritated by the clear sight of his own sin and of the graces of those that are about him, lights up a high fever of resentful heat which grows more fierce as Charity declines. The will in its stiffness refuses to bow itself before God, and though a cloud on the conscience half hides many sins that are not altogether forgotten, he is half conscious of many, and therefore full of fear, not knowing whether or no he is the object of a final hatred. A soul in that state becomes desponding and reckless, so that in a multitude of cases, instead of turning towards God by repentance, it turns recklessly away from God and plunges further into sin.
Christ was clear that most people don’t make it to Heaven, despite the fact that most people think to the contrary. One of the great deceptions from the devil is that God is so merciful that He will not send people to Hell. The fact is people send themselves there because they don’t truly love God in word and deed.
St. Teresa of Avila said most priests go to Hell. St. John Chrysostom said the road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. I submit that many if not most of the popes probably even went to Hell because of their thirst for power, greed, or luxury. If you want to be among the few that are saved, then you must live like the very few that are saved. Below are those statements found in the Holy Bible and the great men of the Church that teach the fewness of the saved.
In this, the fist of two articles giving quotes by the saints, we will look at what the "BIG GUNS" have to say—that is to say: Holy Scripture, the Popes who were saints, and the Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church. In the next article of quotes, we will look at the "LITTLE GUNS"—that is to say the regular saints and little known saints.
First, the Holy Scriptures:
“‘Lord, are there few that are saved?’ But He said to them: ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able!’” (Luke 13:23-24)
“Enter ye in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate and how strait is the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it!” (Matthew 7:13-14)
“Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:13-14).
“For many are called, but few chosen.” (Mark 20:16).
“If the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly man and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:18).
“Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.” (Luke 13:23-24).
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, impurity, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, acts of selfishness, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
“Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
“Work out your salvation in fear and trembling!” (Philippians 2:12).
“But that which brings forth thorns and briers is reprobate, and very near unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt.” (Hebrews 6:8).
“We know that we are of God, and the whole world is seated in wickedness” (1 John 5:19).
“And they […] shall be so few that they shall easily be counted, and a child shall write them down” (Isaias 10:19).
“And it shall be as when a man gathers in the harvest which remains. […] And the fruit thereof that shall be left shall be as a single cluster of grapes; and as the shaking of the olive tree: two or three berries on the top of the bough, of four or five on the top of the tree, says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Isaias 17:5-6).
“For thus it shall be in the midst of the Earth, in the midst of the people, as though a few olives that remain should be shaken out of the olive tree, or grapes when the vintage is ended” (Isaias 24:13).
“The holy man is perished from off the Earth, and there is no one upright amongst men: they all lie in wait for blood, every one. […] He who is best among them is like a brier, and he who is righteous as the thorn” (Micheas 7:2,4).
“The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite.” (Ecclesiastes 1:15).
The Popes who are Saints:
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604): “There are many who arrive at the Faith, but few who are led into the heavenly kingdom. Behold how many are gathered here for today’s Feast-Day: we fill the church from wall to wall. Yet who knows how few they are who shall be numbered in that chosen company of the Elect?” (Gregory: “On the Gospels,” Homily 19. Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers).
“The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in patience; for, on the threshing floor, few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire” (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church: Homily 38).
“They who are to be saved as Saints, and wish to be saved as imperfect souls, shall not be saved” (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church: Dignities and Duties of the Priest, 97).
“The Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a symbol of the Church, was wide below and narrow above; and, at the summit, measured only a single cubit. […] It was wide where the animals were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church is indeed wide in the number of those who are carnal-minded, narrow in the number of those who are spiritual” (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church: Homily 38:8).
Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914): “Oh, Jesus, Divine Redeemer of souls, behold how great is the multitude of those who still sleep in the darkness of error! Reckon up the number of those who stray to the edge of the precipice. Consider the throngs of the poor, the hungry, the ignorant, and the feeble who groan in their abandoned condition. Oh Lord, our sins darken our understanding, and hide from us the blessing of loving Thee as Thou dost merit. Enlighten our minds with a ray of Thy divine light. Thou art the Friend, the Redeemer, and the Father of the one who turns penitent to Thy Sacred Heart. Amen” (Raccolta, Boston: Benzinger Bros., 1957, 659).
Saints who are Doctors of the Church
St. Justin Martyr, Father of the Church (100-165): “The majority of men shall not see God, excepting those who live justly, purified by righteousness and by every other virtue.” (St. Justin Martyr, Father of the Church: First Apology, XXI).
St. Jerome, Doctor and Father of the Church (347-420): “So that you will better appreciate the meaning of Our Lord’s words, and perceive more clearly how few the Elect are, note that Christ did not say that those who walked in the path to Heaven are few in number, but that there were few who found that narrow way. It is as though the Savior intended to say: The path leading to Heaven is so narrow and so rough, so overgrown, so dark and difficult to discern, that there are many who never find it their whole life long. And those who do find it are constantly exposed to the danger of deviating from it, of mistaking their way, and unwittingly wandering away from it, because it is so irregular and overgrown” (Jerome: “Commentary on Matthew…Many begin well, but there are few who persevere. “Commentary on Matthew”).
“Out of one hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin until death, scarcely one will be saved” (St. Jerome, Doctor and Father of the Church).
St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church (347-407): “What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!” (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church).
“I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many bishops are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous.” (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church).
“Do you not perceive how many qualities a priest must have that he may be strong in his teaching, patient, and hold fast to the faithful word which is according to doctrine? What care and pains does this require! Moreover, he is answerable for the sins of others. To pass over everything else: If but one soul dies without Baptism, does it not entirely endanger his own salvation? For the loss of one soul is so great an evil that it is impossible to express it in words. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value that the Son of God became man and suffered so much, think of how great a punishment must the losing of it bring.” (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church).
St. Augustine, Doctor and Father of the Church (354-430): “Take care not to resemble the multitude whose knowledge of God’s will only condemns them to more severe punishment.” (St. Augustine).
“It is certain that few are saved” (Sermon 111; also Against Cresconius).
“If you wish to imitate the multitude, then you shall not be among the few who shall enter in by the narrow gate” (St. Augustine, Sermon 224:1).
“The Lord called the world a ‘field’ and all the faithful who draw near to him ‘wheat.’ All through the field, and around the threshing-floor, there is both wheat and chaff. But the greater part is chaff; the lesser part is wheat, for which is prepared a barn not a fire. […] The good also are many, but in comparison with the wicked the good are few. Many are the grains of wheat, but compared with the chaff, the grains are few” (St. Augustine, Against Cresconius).
“Not all, nor even a majority, are saved. . . They are indeed many, if regarded by themselves, but they are few in comparison with the far larger number of those who shall be punished with the devil” (St. Augustine, Doctor and Father of the Church).
“As a man lives, so shall he die!” (St. Augustine).
“The Lord called the world a “field” and all the faithful who draw near to him “wheat.” All through the field, and around the threshing-floor, there is both wheat and chaff. But the greater part is chaff; the lesser part is wheat, for which is prepared a barn not a fire. . . The good also are many, but in comparison with the wicked the good are few. Many are the grains of wheat, but compared with the chaff, the grains are few” (St. Augustine, Doctor and Father of the Church).
“Beyond a doubt the elect are few.” (St. Augustine).
“'It is certain that few are saved.” (St. Augustine).
“If you wish to imitate the multitude, then you shall not be among the few who shall enter in by the narrow gate.” (St. Augustine).
“The Apostle commands us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. For, you see, as Scripture says, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world will be counted as God's enemy. Just as a man cannot serve two masters, so too no-one can rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.” (St. Augustine).
St. Basil the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church: “I exhort you, therefore, not to faint in your afflictions, but to be revived by God's love, and to add daily to your zeal, knowing that in you ought to be preserved that remnant of true religion which the Lord will find when He comes on the Earth. Even if bishops are driven from their Churches, be not dismayed. If traitors have arisen from among the very clergy themselves, let not this undermine your confidence in God. We are saved not by names, but by mind and purpose, and genuine love toward our Creator. Bethink you how in the attack against our Lord, high priests and scribes and elders devised the plot, and how few of the people were found really receiving the word. Remember that it is not the multitude who are being saved, but the elect of God. Be not then affrighted at the great multitude of the people who are carried hither and thither by winds like the waters of the sea. If but one be saved, like Lot at Sodom, he ought to abide in right judgment, keeping his hope in Christ unshaken, for the Lord will not forsake His holy ones. Salute all the brethren in Christ from me. Pray earnestly for my miserable soul” (St. Basil the Great).
St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor and Father of the Church: “Nor should we think that it is enough for salvation that we are no worse off than the mass of the careless and indifferent, or that in our faith we are, like so many others, uninstructed” (St. Bede the Venerable).
“Christ's flock is called ‘little’ (Luke 12:32) in comparison with the greater number of the reprobates.” (St. Bede the Venerable).
St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor and Father of the Church: “How few the Elect are may be understood from the multitude being cast out.” (St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor and Father of the Church).
St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor and Father of the Church: “It is as though Jesus said: ‘O My Father, I am indeed going to clothe myself with human flesh, but the greater part of the world will set no value on my blood!’” (St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor and Father of the Church).
“The greater part of men will set no value on the blood of Christ, and will go on offending Him.” (St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor and Father of the Church).
St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church (1033-1109): “If thou wouldst be certain of being in the number of the elect, strive to be one of the few, not of the many. And if thou wouldst be quite sure of thy salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few… Do not follow the great majority of mankind, but follow those who enter upon the narrow way, who renounce the world, who give themselves to prayer, and who never relax their efforts by day or by night, that they may attain everlasting blessedness” (Fr. Martin Von Cochem, The Four Last Things, p. 221. Anselm, Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers).
“It is impossible to be saved if we turn away from thee, O Mary.” (St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church).
“If you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few. Do not follow the majority of mankind, but follow those who renounce the world and never relax their efforts day or night so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.” (St. Anselm).
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church (1225-1274): “There are a select few who are saved” (Summa Theologica, Ia, q.23, art.7, ad 3.) “Those who are saved are in the minority” (Summa Theologica, Ia, q.23, art.8, ad.3).
“Since their eternal happiness, consisting in the vision of God, exceeds the common state of nature, and especially in so far as this is deprived of grace through the corruption of original sin, those who are saved are in the minority. In this especially, however, appears the mercy of God, that He has chosen some for that salvation, from which very many in accordance with the common course and tendency of nature fall short.” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church: “It is granted to few to recognize the true Church amid the darkness of so many schisms and heresies, and to fewer still so to love the truth, which they have seen, as to fly to its embrace.”
(St. Robert Bellarmine).
St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church (1696-1787): “The greater number of men still say to God: ‘Lord we will not serve Thee; we would rather be slaves of the devil, and condemned to Hell, than be Thy servants!’ Alas! The greatest number, my Jesus – we may say nearly all – not only do not love Thee, but offend Thee and despise Thee. How many countries there are in which there are scarcely any Catholics, and all the rest either infidels or heretics! And all of them are certainly on the way to being lost” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ, 292).
“Everyone desires to be saved but the greater part is lost.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori,).
“The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Way of Salvation and Perfection, 311).
“He who abuses too much the mercy of God will be abandoned by him.” St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“The saints are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are; yet among those few I wish to be!” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, 494).
“The saved are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are: yet amongst those few I wish to be!” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“The common opinion is that the greater part of adults is lost” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Preparation for Death, 174).
“All persons desire to be saved, but the greater part, because they will not adopt the means of being saved, fall into sin and are lost. […] In fact, the Elect are much fewer than the damned, for the reprobate are much more numerous than the Elect” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Preparation for Death, 407-8; The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection, 129).
“All would wish to be saved and to enjoy the glory of paradise; but to gain Heaven, it is necessary to walk in the straight road that leads to eternal bliss. This road is the observance of the divine commandments. Hence, in his preaching, the Baptist exclaimed: Make straight the way of the Lord” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“Some will say: ‘It is enough for me to be saved!’ ‘No,’ says St. Augustine, ‘it is not enough; if you say that it is enough, you will be lost.’” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“It is certainly a great happiness for some sinners who, after a bad life, are converted at their death, and are saved; but these cases are very rare: ordinarily he that leads a bad life dies a bad death” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“In the Great Deluge in the days of Noe, nearly all mankind perished, eight persons alone being saved in the Ark. In our days a deluge, not of water but of sins, continually inundates the Earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Sermons).
“The great deluge at the time of Noe was the cause why all mankind perished, with the exception of eight persons who were saved in the Ark. In our time a deluge, not of water, but of sins, continually inundates the Earth, and few persons escape it, especially among seculars” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“In the Great Deluge in the days of Noe, nearly all mankind perished, eight persons alone being saved in the Ark. In our days a deluge, not of water but of sins, continually inundates the Earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“We owe God a deep regret of gratitude for the purely gratuitous gift of the true faith with which he has favored us. How many are the infidels, heretics and schismatics who do not enjoy comparable happiness? The Earth is full of them and they are all lost!” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Instructions on the Commandments and Sacraments, 66, no. 19).
“What is the number of those who love Thee, O God? How few they are! The Elect are much fewer than the damned! Alas! The greater portion of mankind lives in sin unto the devil, and not unto Jesus Christ. O Savior of the world, I thank Thee for having called and permitted us to live in the true faith which the Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches. […] But alas, O my Jesus! How small is the number of those who live in this holy faith! Oh, God! The greater number of men lie buried in the darkness of infidelity and heresy. Thou hast humbled Thyself to death, to the death of the cross, for the salvation of men, and these ungrateful men are unwilling even to know Thee. Ah, I pray Thee, O omnipotent God, O sovereign and infinite Good, make all men know and love Thee!” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, On the Council of Trent).
“St. Teresa, as the Roman Rota attests, never fell into any mortal sin; but still Our Lord showed her the place prepared for her in Hell; not because she deserved Hell, but because, had she not risen from the state of lukewarmness in which she lived, she would in the end have lost the grace of God and been damned” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Dignities and Duties of the Priest, 90).
“We were so fortunate to be born in the bosom of the Roman Church, in Christian and Catholic kingdoms, a grace that has not been granted to the greater part of men, who are born among idolaters, Mohammedans, or heretics. […] How thankful we ought to be, then, to Jesus Christ for the gift of faith! What would have become of us if we had been born in Asia, in Africa, in America, or in the midst of heretics and schismatics? He who does not believe is lost. He who does not believe shall be condemned. And thus, probably, we also would have been lost” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy, 153, 156).
“All infidels and heretics are surely on the way to being lost. What an obligation we owe God! for causing us to be born not only after the coming of Jesus Christ, but also in countries where the true faith reigns! I thank Thee, O Lord, for this. Woe to me if, after so many transgressions, it had been my fate to live in the midst of infidels or heretics!” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy, 291-2).
“God, observes a certain author, wishes to be served by his priests with the fervor with which the seraphim serve him in Heaven; otherwise he will withdraw his graces and permit them to sleep in tepidity, and thence to fall, first into the precipice of sin and afterwards into Hell.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“To obtain salvation we must tremble at the thought of being lost, and tremble not so much at the thought of Hell, as of sin, which alone can send us thither. He who dreads sin avoids dangerous occasions, frequently recommends himself to God, and has recourse to the means of keeping himself in the state of grace. He who acts thus will be saved; but for him who lives not in this manner it is morally impossible to be saved.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“What is the number of those who love Thee, O God? How few they are! The Elect are much fewer than the damned! Alas! The greater portion of mankind lives in sin unto the devil, and not unto Jesus Christ. O Saviour of the world, I thank Thee for having called and permitted us to live in the true faith which the Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches. . . But alas, O my Jesus! How small is the number of those who live in this holy faith! Oh, God! The greater number of men he buried in the darkness of infidelity and heresy. Thou hast humbled Thyself to death, to the death of the cross, for the salvation of men, and these ungrateful men are unwilling even to know Thee. Ah, I pray Thee, O omnipotent God, O sovereign and infinite Good, make all men know and love Thee!” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“Let us bear in mind that unless we are humble we shall not only do no good, but we shall not be saved. ‘Unless you . . . become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.’ In order, then, to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, we must become children, not in age, but in humility. St. Gregory says that as pride is a sign of reprobation, so humility is a mark of predestination” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“It is certain that we absolutely require the divine assistance, in order to overcome temptations … Whoever prays obtains this grace; but whoever prays not, obtains it not, and is lost. And this is more especially the case with regard to the grace of final perseverance, of dying in the grace of God, which is the grace absolutely necessary for our salvation, and without which we should be lost forever. St. Augustine says of this grace, that God only bestows it on those who pray. And this is the reason why so few are saved, because few indeed are mindful to beg of God this grace of perseverance.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“The greater number of men still say to God: ‘Lord we will not serve Thee; we would rather be slaves of the devil, and condemned to Hell, than be Thy servants!’ Alas! The greatest number, my Jesus ― we may say nearly all ― not only do not love Thee, but offend Thee and despise Thee. How many countries there are in which there are scarcely any Catholics, and all the rest either infidels or heretics! And all of them are certainly on the way to being lost.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
St. John Climacus, Father of the Church: “Live with the few if you want to reign with the few.” (St. John Climacus).
St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church: “Behold how many there are who are called, and how few who are chosen! And behold, if you have no care for yourself, your perdition is more certain than your amendment, especially since the way that leads to eternal life is so narrow.” (St. John of the Cross).
“Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love.” (St. John of the Cross).
St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church (+1582): “I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell, especially those Lutherans ... I saw souls falling into Hell like snowflakes!” (St. Teresa of Avila).
St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552): “Ah, how many souls lose Heaven and are cast into Hell!” (Francis: Letters and Shorter Works)
St. Vincent de Paul (1580-1660): “Ah! A great many persons live constantly in the state of damnation!” Vincent: cf. Voice of the Saints, (Francis W. Johnston, London: Burnes and Oats, 1965.)
St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716): “Be one of the small number who find the way to life, and enter by the narrow gate into Heaven. Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so many of whom are lost. Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort, The Love of Eternal Wisdom, trans. A. Sommers, SMM, Bayshore, NY: Montfort Publications, 1960, p.133)
“The number of the elect is so small – so small – that, were we to know how small it is, we would faint away with grief: one here and there, scattered up and down the world!” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
“The number of the elect is so small - so small - that were we to know how small it is, we should faint away with grief. The number of the elect is so small that were God to assemble them together, He would cry to them, as He did of old, by the mouth of His prophet, “Gather yourselves together, one by one” - one from this province, one from that kingdom.” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort).
“Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort).
St. John Marie Vianney (1786-1859): “The number of the saved is as few as the number of grapes left after the vineyard-pickers have passed” (John Mary: GOH p.37)
“Nothing afflicts the heart of Jesus so much as to see all His sufferings of no avail to so many” (Thoughts of the Cure d’Ars, Rockford, IL: TAN, 1984)
“We shall find out at the day of judgment that the greater number of Christians who are lost were damned because they did not know their own religion” (Sermons of the Cure of Ars, page 99.)
“Nothing afflicts the heart of Jesus so much as to see all His sufferings of no avail to so many.” (St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars, Patron Saint of Parish Priests).
“Shall we all be saved? Shall we go to Heaven? Alas, my children, we do not know at all! But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.” (St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars, Patron Saint of Parish Priests).
“Alas, my friend. We cannot be together in Heaven unless we have begun to live so in this world. Death makes no change in that. As the tree falls, so shall it lie. . . Jesus Christ said . . . “He that does not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.” And he also said, “There shall be one fold and one shepherd,” and He made St. Peter the chief shepherd of His flock. My dear friend, there are not two ways of serving Jesus Christ. There is only one good way, and that is to serve Him as He Himself desires to be served.” (St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars, Patron Saint of Parish Priests).
St. John of the Cross (1542-1591): “Behold how many there are who are called, and how few who are chosen! And behold, if you have no care for yourself, your perdition is more certain than your amendment, especially since the way that leads to eternal life is so narrow” (John of the Cross: Complete Works)
St. Philip Neri: “So vast a number of miserable souls perish, and so comparatively few are saved!” (St. Philip Neri).
St. Francis Xavier: “Ah, how many souls lose Heaven and are cast into Hell!” (St. Francis Xavier).
LESSER KNOWN SAINTS
St. Arsenius (Egyptian deacon 345-450): “Brethren, the just man shall scarcely be saved. What, then, will become of the sinner?” (Arsenius: Life of,)
St. Regimius (437-533): “Among adults there are few saved because of sins of the flesh. […] With the exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned!” (Regimus: Book 1 (with Cyprian.)
St. John Climacus (Syrian monk 525-600): “Live with the few if you want to reign with the few!” (John: “Ladder to Paradise”)
St. Robert Southwell (1561-1595): “Oh how much are the worldlings deceived that rejoice in the time of weeping, and make their place of imprisonment a palace of pleasure; that consider the examples of the saints as follies, and their end as dishonorable; that think to go to Heaven by the wide way that leadeth only to perdition!” (Letters From the Saints, op. cit. 19).
“The path to Heaven is narrow, rough and full of wearisome and trying ascents, nor can it be trodden without great toil; and therefore wrong is their way, gross their error, and assured their ruin who, after the testimony of so many thousands of saints, will not learn where to settle their footing.” (St. Robert Southwell).
St. John Eudes (1601-1680): “Get out of the filth of the horrible torrent of this world, the torrent of thorns that is whirling you into the abyss of eternal perdition. […] This torrent is the world, which resembles an impetuous torrent, full of garbage and evil odours, making a lot of noise but flowing swiftly passed, dragging the majority of men into the pit of perdition!” (John Eudes: The Admirable Heart of Mary)
St. Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751): Here are just a few extracts from his great sermon entitled "The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved". Since we will publish the sermon in its entirety, beginning in the next article, we will limit ourselves to only a few quotes:
“The subject I will be treating today is a very grave one; it has caused even the pillars of the Church to tremble, filled the greatest Saints with terror and populated the deserts with anchorites. The point of this instruction is to decide whether the number of Christians who are saved is greater or less than the number of Christians who are damned; it will, I hope, produce in you a salutary fear of the judgments of God" (St. Leonard of Port Maurice).
“First…let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine. They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote, “The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls.” (St. Leonard of Port Maurice).
“Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone" (St. Leonard of Port Maurice).
“Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly, “Many attain to faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom.” Saint Anselm declares, “There are few who are saved.” Saint Augustine states even more clearly, “Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned.” The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: “Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence" (St. Leonard of Port Maurice).
“Yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into Hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on Earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, “I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater.” (St. Leonard of Port Maurice).
“A great number of Christians are lost!” (St. Leonard of Port Maurice).
St. Benedict Joseph of Labre (1748-1783): “Yes, indeed, many will be damned; few will be saved… Meditate on the horrors of Hell which will last for eternity because of one easily-committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think of the eternal flames of Hell, and how few there are that are saved…I was watching souls going down into the abyss as thick and fast as snowflakes falling in the winter mist” (Life of the Servant of God, Benedict Joseph Labre).
“Meditate on the horrors of Hell which will last for eternity because of one easily-committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think of the eternal flames of Hell, and how few there are that are saved.” (St. Benedict Joseph Labre).
“I was watching souls going down into the abyss as thick and fast as snowflakes falling in the winter mist.” (St. Benedict Joseph Labre).
“Yes, indeed, many will be damned; few will be saved.” (St. Benedict Joseph Labre).
St. Veronica Giuliani: “The number of the damned is incalculable.” (St. Veronica Giuliani).
St. Vincent Ferrer: “Many religious go straight to Hell because they do not keep their vows!” (St. Vincent Ferrer).
St. Peter Julian Eymard: “And how very small is the kingdom of Jesus Christ! So many nations have never had the Faith!” (St. Peter Julian Eymard).
St. Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870): “A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that all who die in mortal sin are condemned forever and ever. According to statistics, approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so also will be their end” (Madrid: Library of Christian Authors, 1947).
St. Bridget of Sweden: “O Jesus! . . . Remember the sadness that Thou didst experience when, contemplating in the light of Thy divinity the predestination of those who would be saved by the merits of Thy sacred passion, thou didst see at the same time the great multitude of reprobates who would be damned for their sins, and Thou didst complain bitterly of those hopeless, lost, and unfortunate sinners.” (St. Bridget of Sweden).
St. Regimius of Rheims: “With the exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned.” (St. Regimius of Rheims).
St. Francesca Saverio Cabrini: “How many among these uncivilized peoples do not yet know God, and are sunk in the darkest idolatry, superstition and ignorance! . . . Poor souls! These are they in whom Christ saw, in all the horror of His imminent Passion, the uselessness of His agony for so many souls!” (St. Francesca Saverio Cabrini).
St. Joseph Cafasso: “Cast a look round the world, just observe the manner of living, of speaking, and you will see immediately whether the evil of sin is known in the world or whether any attention is paid to it. Not to speak of those who live decidedly irreligious and wicked lives, how few are those who pass for good and who approach the sacraments are aware of the great evil that sin is, and the great ruin it brings with it. It must necessarily happen that, on account of this certainly culpable ignorance in which most men live, an enormous number will come to be damned, because no sin is pardoned which is not detested, and it is impossible to detest sin properly if it is not known as such.” (St. Joseph Cafasso).
St. John of Avila: “Take care not to resemble the multitude whose knowledge of God's will only condemns them to more severe punishment.” (St. John of Avila).
St. John Neumann: “Notwithstanding assurances that God did not create any man for Hell, and that He wishes all men to be saved, it remains equally true that only few will be saved; that only few will go to Heaven; and that the greater part of mankind will be lost forever.” (St. John Neumann).
St. Leo of Patara: “I see around me a multitude of those who, blindly persevering in error, despise the true God; but I am a Christian nevertheless, and I follow the instruction of the Apostles. If this deserves chastisement, reward it; for I am determined to suffer every torture rather then become the slave of the devil. Others may do as they please since they are. . . reckless of the future life which is to be obtained only by sufferings. Scripture tells us that “narrow is the way that leads to life” . . . because it is one of affliction and of persecutions suffered for the sake of justice; but it is wide enough for those who walk upon it, because their faith and the hope of an eternal reward make it so for them. . . On the contrary, the road of vice is in reality narrow, and it leads to an eternal precipice.” (St. Leo of Patara).
THE BLESSED AND VENERABLES
Blessed Angela of Foligno: “They who are enlightened to walk in the way of perfection, and through lukewarmness wish to tread the ordinary path, shall be abandoned” (Blessed Angela of Foligno).
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, (1769-1837): “The greater number of Christians today are damned. The destiny of those dying on one day is that very few ― not as many as ten ― went straight to Heaven; many remained in Purgatory; and those cast into Hell were as numerous as snowflakes in midwinter.”
Blessed Sebastian Valfre (1629-1710): “I fear that Last Day, that day of tribulation and anguish, of calamity and misery, of mist and darkness, that Day on which, if the just have reason to fear, how much more should I: an impious, wretched, and ungrateful sinner!” (Sebastian: Letters From the Saints, NY: Hawthorne Books, 1964).
Blessed James of Voragine (Dominican, 1230-1298): “One day, St. Macarius found a skull and asked it whose head it had been. “A pagan’s!” it replied. “And where is your soul?” he asked. “In Hell!” came the reply. Macarius then asked the skull if its place was very deep in Hell. “As far down as the Earth is lower than Heaven!” “And are there any other souls lodged even lower?” “Yes! The souls of the Jews!” “And even lower than the Jews?” “Yes! The souls of bad Christians who were redeemed with the blood of Christ and held there privilege so cheaply!” (The Golden Legend)
Ven. Louis de Granada: “A greater number is lost through false confidence than through excessive fear” (Ven. Louis de Granada).
Ven. Mary of Agreda: “That those who walk in the way of salvation are the smaller number is due to the vice and depraved habits imbibed in youth and nourished in childhood. By these means Lucifer has hurled into Hell so great a number of souls, and continues thus to hurl them into Hell every day, casting so many nations from abyss to abyss of darkness and errors, such as are contained in the heresies and false sects of the infidels” (Ven. Mary of Agreda).
'The majority of souls appear before the Judgment empty-handed. They did nothing good for eternity.” (Ven. Mary of Agreda).
THE FATIMA CHILDREN
Lucia Santos of Fatima (1907-1958?): “Taking into account the behavior of mankind, only a small part of the human race will be saved” (Lucy: The Secret of Fatima: Fact and Legend, Joaquin Maria Alonso, CMF, Cambridge: Ravensgate Press, 1982, p.106)
“Taking into account the present development of humanity, only a limited number of the human race will be saved […] many will be lost” (Lucy: Fatima, The Great Sign, Francis Johnston, Rockford, IL: TAN, 1980, p.36)
Blessed Jacinta Marto of Fatima (1910-1920): “Lucia found Jacinta sitting alone, still and very pensive, gazing at nothing. ‘What are you thinking of, Jacinta?’ ‘Of the war that is going to come. So many people are going to die. And almost all of them are going to Hell!” (Our Lady of Fatima, William Walsh p. 94; p. 92 in some versions)
“So many people are going to die, and almost all of them are going to Hell! So many people falling into Hell!” (Bl. Jacinta Marto of Fatima).
THE SERMON OF ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE
Part 1 of 3
We will publish this sermon in three parts:
Part One on Holy Thursday
Part Two on Good Friday
Part Three on Holy Saturday
St. Leonard's Introduction
Thanks be to God, the number of the Redeemer’s disciples is not so small that the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees is able to triumph over them. Although they strove to calumniate innocence and to deceive the crowd with their treacherous sophistries by discrediting the doctrine and character of Our Lord, finding spots even in the sun, many still recognized Him as the true Messias, and, unafraid of either chastisements or threats, openly joined His cause.
Did all those who followed Christ follow Him even unto glory? Oh, this is where I revere the profound mystery and silently adore the abysses of the divine decrees, rather than rashly deciding on such a great point! The subject I will be treating today is a very grave one; it has caused even the pillars of the Church to tremble, filled the greatest Saints with terror and populated the deserts with anchorites.
The point of this instruction is to decide whether the number of Christians who are saved is greater or less than the number of Christians who are damned; it will, I hope, produce in you a salutary fear of the judgments of God.
Brothers, because of the love I have for you, I wish I were able to reassure you with the prospect of eternal happiness by saying to each of you: You are certain to go to paradise; the greater number of Christians is saved, so you also will be saved. But how can I give you this sweet assurance if you revolt against God’s decrees as though you were your own worst enemies? I observe in God a sincere desire to save you, but I find in you a decided inclination to be damned. So what will I be doing today if I speak clearly? I will be displeasing to you. But if I do not speak, I will be displeasing to God.
Therefore, I will divide this subject into two points.
In the first one, to fill you with dread, I will let the theologians and Fathers of the Church decide on the matter and declare that the greater number of Christian adults are damned; and, in silent adoration of that terrible mystery, I will keep my own sentiments to myself.
In the second point I will attempt to defend the goodness of God versus the godless, by proving to you that those who are damned are damned by their own malice, because they wanted to be damned.
So then, here are two very important truths. If the first truth frightens you, do not hold it against me, as though I wanted to make the road of Heaven narrower for you, for I want to be neutral in this matter; rather, hold it against the theologians and Fathers of the Church who will engrave this truth in your heart by the force of reason. If you are disillusioned by the second truth, give thanks to God over it, for He wants only one thing: that you give your hearts totally to Him. Finally, if you oblige me to tell you clearly what I think, I will do so for your consolation.
The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church
It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to Hell. To disillusion them and waken them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned?
Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them. To resolve this doubt, let us put the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, on one side; on the other, the most learned theologians and erudite historians; and let us put the Bible in the middle for all to see. Now listen not to what I will say to you ― for I have already told you that I do not want to speak for myself or decide on the matter ― but listen to what these great minds have to tell you, they who are beacons in the Church of God to give light to others so that they will not miss the road to Heaven. In this manner, guided by the triple light of faith, authority and reason, we will be able to resolve this grave matter with certainty.
Note well that there is no question here of the human race taken as a whole, nor of all Catholics taken without distinction, but only of Catholic adults, who have free choice and are thus capable of cooperating in the great matter of their salvation. First let us consult the theologians recognized as examining things most carefully and as not exaggerating in their teaching: let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine. They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote: “The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls.”
Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone.
Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly: “Many attain to Faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom.” Saint Anselm declares: “There are few who are saved.” Saint Augustine states even more clearly: “Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned.” The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: “Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence.”
The Words of Holy Scripture
But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noe, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says: “This ark was the figure of the Church,” while Saint Augustine adds: “And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark.”
The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat.
I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him: “Lord, is it only a few to be saved?” Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: “You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?” Here is My answer: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.
Salvation in the Various States of Life
But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God?
At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into Hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes: “I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater.”
Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions.
There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said: “Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, ‘We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.’”
Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him: “Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to Heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.”
Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said: “When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.”
O abyss of the judgments of God! Out of thirty thousand, only five were saved! And out of sixty thousand, only three went to Heaven! You sinners who are listening to me, in what category will you be numbered?... What do you say?... What do you think?...
I see almost all of you lowering your heads, filled with astonishment and horror. But let us lay our stupor aside, and instead of flattering ourselves, let us try to draw some profit from our fear. Is it not true that there are two roads which lead to Heaven: innocence and repentance? Now, if I show you that very few take either one of these two roads, as rational people you will conclude that very few are saved. And to mention proofs: in what age, employment or condition will you find that the number of the wicked is not a hundred times greater than that of the good, and about which one might say: “The good are so rare and the wicked are so great in number”?
We could say of our times what Salvianus said of his: it is easier to find a countless multitude of sinners, immersed in all sorts of iniquities, than a few innocent men. How many servants are totally honest and faithful in their duties? How many merchants are fair and equitable in their commerce; how many craftsmen exact and truthful; how many salesmen disinterested and sincere? How many men of law do not forsake equity? How many soldiers do not tread upon innocence; how many masters do not unjustly withhold the salary of those who serve them, or do not seek to dominate their inferiors?
Everywhere, the good are rare and the wicked great in number. Who does not know that today there is so much libertinage among mature men, liberty among young girls, vanity among women, licentiousness in the nobility, corruption in the middle class, dissolution in the people, impudence among the poor, that one could say what David said of his times: “All alike have gone astray... there is not even one who does good, not even one.”
Go into street and square, into palace and house, into city and countryside, into tribunal and court of law, and even into the temple of God. Where will you find virtue? “Alas!” cries Salvianus: “except for a very little number who flee evil, what is the assembly of Christians if not a sink of vice?” All that we can find everywhere is selfishness, ambition, gluttony, and luxury. Is not the greater portion of men defiled by the vice of impurity, and is not Saint John right in saying: “The whole world” ― if something so foul may be called ― “is seated in wickedness?” I am not the one who is telling you; reason obliges you to believe that out of those who are living so badly, very few are saved.
COMMENTARY AND CLARIFICATIONS ON THE SERMON OF ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE
The first part is the most gruesome and most truthful thing you will hear.
The second part looks at the possibility of being saved through penance and gives some hope.
The third part looks at the goodness of God and is encouraging us to change our lives and take a path that is more likely to save our souls.
THE SERMON OF ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE
Part 2 of 3
In the first part of his sermon (see previous article, #9), St. Leonard established the fact, based in numerous quotes by the greatest saints, that very few souls are saved. In this second part, he looks at some objections against what he has said and inquires about possible remedies for this tragedy.
What About Penance? Does That Not Save?
But you will say: Can penance not profitably repair the loss of innocence? That is true, I admit. But I also know that penance is so difficult in practice, we have lost the habit so completely, and it is so badly abused by sinners, that this alone should suffice to convince you that very few are saved by that path. Oh, how steep, narrow, thorny, horrible to behold and hard to climb it is!
Everywhere we look, we see traces of blood and things that recall sad memories. Many weaken at the very sight of it. Many retreat at the very start. Many fall from weariness in the middle, and many give up wretchedly at the end. And how few are they who persevere in it till death! Saint Ambrose says it is easier to find men who have kept their innocence than to find any who have done fitting penance.
Bad Confessions Galore!
If you consider the Sacrament of Penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions!
Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them? Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them? Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament!
One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit. One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion?
Where are they now, those who believe that the number of the saved among Christians is greater than that of the damned and who, to authorize their opinion, reason thus: the greater portion of Catholic adults die in their beds armed with the sacraments of the Church, therefore most adult Catholics are saved?
Oh, what fine reasoning! You must say exactly the opposite! Most Catholic adults confess badly at death, therefore most of them are damned. I say “all the more certain,” because a dying person who has not confessed well when he was in good health will have an even harder time doing so when he is in bed with a heavy heart, an unsteady head, a muddled mind; when he is opposed in many ways by still-living objects, by still-fresh occasions, by adopted habits, and above all by devils who are seeking every means to cast him into Hell.
Now, if you add to all these false penitents all the other sinners who die unexpectedly in sin, due to the doctors’ ignorance or by their relatives’ fault, who die from poisoning or from being buried in earthquakes, or from a stroke, or from a fall, or on the battlefield, in a fight, caught in a trap, struck by lightning, burned or drowned, are you not obliged to conclude that most Christian adults are damned? That is the reasoning of Saint Chrysostom. This Saint says that most Christians are walking on the road to Hell throughout their life. Why, then, are you so surprised that the greater number goes to Hell? To come to a door, you must take the road that leads there. What have you to answer such a powerful reason?
But What About the Mercy of God?
The answer, you will tell me, is that the mercy of God is great. Yes, for those who fear Him, says the Prophet; but great is His justice for the one who does not fear Him, and it condemns all obstinate sinners.
So you will say to me: Well then, who is Paradise for, if not for Christians? It is for Christians, of course, but for those who do not dishonor their character and who live as Christians. Moreover, if to the number of Christian adults who die in the grace of God, you add the countless host of children who die after baptism and before reaching the age of reason, you will not be surprised that Saint John the Apostle, speaking of those who are saved, says: “I saw a great multitude which no man could number.”
And this is what deceives those who pretend that the number of the saved among Catholics is greater than that of the damned... If to that number, you add the adults who have kept the robe of innocence, or who after having defiled it, have washed it in the tears of penance, it is certain that the greater number is saved; and that explains the words of Saint John: “I saw a great multitude,” and these other words of Our Lord: “Many will come from the east and from the west, and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven,” and the other figures usually cited in favor of that opinion.
But if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned. Do not believe that because of this, paradise is empty; on the contrary, it is a very populous kingdom. And if the damned are “as numerous as the sand in the sea,” the saved are “as numerous at the stars of Heaven,” that is, both the one and the other are countless, although in very different proportions.
One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask: “Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?” And, not waiting for an answer, he added: “Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred.”
What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it.
That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says: “Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved.”
So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God: “Just Father, the world has not known Thee,” said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say “Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father.” He says “just Father,” so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears?
King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, the Venerable Marcellus of St. Dominic?
One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to Hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed: “Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!” Let me repeat with Jeremiah: “Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.”
Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward Hell? For mercy’s sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable.
COMMENTARY AND CLARIFICATIONS ON THE SERMON OF ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE
THE SERMON OF ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE
Part 3 of 3
In the first part of his sermon (see previous article, #9), St. Leonard established the fact, based in numerous quotes by the greatest saints, that very few souls are saved. In second part, he looks at some objections against what he has said and inquires about possible remedies for this tragedy and shows that we cannot and must not be complacent about our salvation.
The Goodness of God
Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation!
In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of saying that if only one man were going to be damned, he would do all he could to make sure he was not that man.
So what must we do, we who know that the greater number is going to be damned, and not only out of all Catholics? What must we do? Take the resolution to belong to the little number of those who are saved. You say: If Christ wanted to damn me, then why did He create me? Silence, rash tongue! God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be. Therefore, I will now strive to defend the goodness of my God and acquit it of all blame: that will be the subject of the second point.
Before going on, let us gather on one side all the books and all the heresies of Luther and Calvin, and on the other side the books and heresies of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, and let us burn them. Some destroy grace, others freedom, and all are filled with errors; so let us cast them into the fire. All the damned bear upon their brow the oracle of the Prophet Osee: “Thy damnation comes from thee,” so that they may understand that whoever is damned, is damned by his own malice and because he wants to be damned.
First let us take these two undeniable truths as a basis:
(1) “God wants all men to be saved,”
(2) “All are in need of the grace of God.”
Now, if I show you that God wants to save all men, and that for this purpose He gives all of them His grace and all the other necessary means of obtaining that sublime end, you will be obliged to agree that whoever is damned must impute it to his own malice, and that if the greater number of Christians are damned, it is because they want to be. “Thy damnation comes from thee; thy help is only in Me.”
God Desires All Men to be Saved
In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly His desire to save all men. “Is it My will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live?... I live, saith the Lord God. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live” (Ezechiel 18). When someone wants something very much, it is said that he is dying with desire; it is a hyperbole. But God has wanted and still wants our salvation so much that He died of desire, and He suffered death to give us life.
This will to save all men is therefore not an affected, superficial and apparent will in God; it is a real, effective, and beneficial will; for He provides us with all the means most proper for us to be saved. He does not give them to us so they will not obtain it; He gives them to us with a sincere will, with the intention that they may obtain their effect. And if they do not obtain it, He shows Himself afflicted and offended over it. He commands even the damned to use them in order to be saved; He exhorts them to it; He obliges them to it; and if they do not do it, they sin. Therefore, they may do it and thus be saved.
Far more, because God sees that we could not even make use of His grace without His help, He gives us other aids; and if they sometimes remain ineffective, it is our fault; for with these same aids, one may abuse them and be damned with them, and another may do right and be saved; he might even be saved with less powerful aids. Yes, it can happen that we abuse a greater grace and are damned, whereas another cooperates with a lesser grace and is saved.
Saint Augustine exclaims: “If, therefore, someone turns aside from justice, he is carried by his free will, led by his concupiscence, deceived by his own persuasion.” But for those who do not understand theology, here is what I have to say to them: God is so good that when He sees a sinner running to his ruin, He runs after him, calls him, entreats and accompanies him even to the gates of Hell; what will He not do to convert him? He sends him good inspirations and holy thoughts, and if he does not profit from them, He becomes angry and indignant, He pursues him. Will He strike him? No. He beats at the air and forgives him. But the sinner is not converted yet. God sends him a mortal illness. It is certainly all over for him. No, brothers, God heals him; the sinner becomes obstinate in evil, and God in His mercy looks for another way; He gives him another year, and when that year is over, He grants him yet another.
But if the sinner still wants to cast himself into Hell in spite of all that, what does God do? Does He abandon him? No. He takes him by the hand; and while he has one foot in Hell and the other outside, He still preaches to him, He implored him not to abuse His graces. Now I ask you, if that man is damned, is it not true that he is damned against the Will of God and because he wants to be damned? Come and ask me now: If God wanted to damn me, then why did He create me?
Ungrateful sinner, learn today that if you are damned, it is not God who is to blame, but you and your self-will. To persuade yourself of this, go down even to the depths of the abyss, and there I will bring you one of those wretched damned souls burning in Hell, so that he may explain this truth to you.
Here is one now:
“Tell me, who are you?”
“I am a poor idolater, born in an unknown land; I never heard of Heaven or Hell, nor of what I am suffering now.”
“Poor wretch! Go away, you are not the one I am looking for.”
Another one is coming; there he is!
“Who are you?”
“I am a schismatic from the ends of Tartary; I always lived in an uncivilized state, barely knowing that there is a God.”
“You are not the one I want; return to Hell.”
Here is another.
“And who are you?”
“I am a poor heretic from the North. I was born under the Pole and never saw either the light of the sun or the light of faith.”
“It is not you that I am looking for either, return to Hell.”
Brothers, my heart is broken upon seeing these wretches who never even knew the True Faith among the damned. Even so, know that the sentence of condemnation was pronounced against them and they were told: “Thy damnation comes from thee.” They were damned because they wanted to be. They received so many aids from God to be saved! We do not know what they were, but they know them well, and now they cry out: “O Lord, Thou art just... and Thy judgments are equitable.”
Brothers, you must know that the most ancient belief is the Law of God, and that we all bear it written in our hearts; that it can be learned without any teacher, and that it suffices to have the light of reason in order to know all the precepts of that Law. That is why even the barbarians hid when they committed sin, because they knew they were doing wrong; and they are damned for not having observed the natural law written in their heart: for had they observed it, God would have made a miracle rather than let them be damned; He would have sent them someone to teach them and would have given them other aids, of which they made themselves unworthy by not living in conformity with the inspirations of their own conscience, which never failed to warn them of the good they should do and the evil they should avoid.
So it is their conscience that accused them at the Tribunal of God, and it tells them constantly in Hell: “Thy damnation comes from thee.” They do not know what to answer and are obliged to confess that they are deserving of their fate. Now if these infidels have no excuse, will there be any for a Catholic who had so many sacraments, so many sermons, so many aids at his disposal? How will he dare to say: “If God was going to damn me, then why did He create me?” How will he dare to speak in this manner, when God gives him so many aids to be saved? So let us finish confounding him.
You who are suffering in the abyss, answer me! Are there any Catholics among you? There certainly are! How many? Let one of them come here! “That is impossible, they are too far down, and to have them come up would turn all of Hell upside down; it would be easier to stop one of them as he is falling in.” So then, I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin, in hatred, in the mire of the vice of impurity, and who are getting closer to Hell each day. Stop, and turn around; it is Jesus who calls you and who, with His wounds, as with so many eloquent voices, cries to you:
“My son, if you are damned, you have only yourself to blame: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee!’ Lift up your eyes and see all the graces with which I have enriched you to insure your eternal salvation. I could have had you born in a forest in Barbary; that is what I did to many others, but I had you born in the Catholic Faith; I had you raised by such a good father, such an excellent mother, with the purest instructions and teachings. If you are damned in spite of that, whose fault will it be? Your own, My son, your own: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee!’
“I could have cast you into Hell after the first mortal sin you committed, without waiting for the second: I did it to so many others, but I was patient with you, I waited for you for many long years. I am still waiting for you today in penance. If you are damned in spite of all that, whose fault is it? Your own, My son, your own: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee!’ You know how many have died before your very eyes and were damned: that was a warning for you. You know how many others I set back on the right path to give you the good example. Do you remember what that excellent confessor told you? I am the one who had him say it. Did he not enjoin you to change your life, to make a good confession? I am the One who inspired him. Remember that sermon that touched your heart? I am the One who led you there. And what has happened between you and Me in the secret of your heart ... that you can never forget.
“Those interior inspirations, that clear knowledge, that constant remorse of conscience, would you dare to deny them? All of these were so many aids of My grace, because I wanted to save you. I refused to give them to many others, and I gave them to you because I loved you tenderly. My son, My son, if I spoke to them as tenderly as I am speaking to you today, how many others souls return to the right path! And you... you turn your back on Me. Listen to what I am going to tell you, for these are My last words: You have cost Me My blood; if you want to be damned in spite of the blood I shed for you, do not blame Me, you have only yourself to accuse; and throughout all eternity, do not forget that if you are damned in spite of Me, you are damned because you want to be damned: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee!’”
O my good Jesus, the very stones would split on hearing such sweet words, such tender expressions. Is there anyone here who wants to be damned, with so many graces and aids? If there is one, let him listen to me, and then let him resist if he can.
Baronius relates that after Julian the Apostate’s infamous apostasy, he conceived such great hatred against Holy Baptism that day and night, he sought a way in which he might erase his own. To that purpose he had a bath of goat’s blood prepared and placed himself in it, wanting this impure blood of a victim consecrated to Venus to erase the sacred character of Baptism from his soul. Such behavior seems abominable to you, but if Julian’s plan had been able to succeed, it is certain that he would be suffering much less in Hell.
Sinners, the advice I want to give you will no doubt seem strange to you; but if you understand it well, it is, on the contrary, inspired by tender compassion toward you. I implore you on my knees, by the blood of Christ and by the Heart of Mary, change your life, come back to the road that leads to Heaven, and do all you can to belong to the little number of those who are saved. If, instead of this, you want to continue walking on the road that leads to Hell, at least find a way to erase your Baptism.
Woe to you if you take the Holy Name of Jesus Christ and the sacred character of the Christian engraved upon your soul into Hell! Your chastisement will be all the greater. So do what I advise you to do: if you do not want to convert, go this very day and ask your pastor to erase your name from the baptismal register, so that there may not remain any remembrance of your ever having been a Christian; implore your Guardian Angel to erase from his book of graces the inspirations and aids he has given you on orders from God, for woe to you if He recalls them! Tell Our Lord to take back His faith, His baptism, His Sacraments.
You are horror-struck at such a thought? Well then, cast yourself at the feet of Jesus Christ and say to Him, with tearful eyes and contrite heart: “Lord, I confess that up till now I have not lived as a Christian. I am not worthy to be numbered among Your elect. I recognize that I deserve to be damned; but Your mercy is great and, full of confidence in Your grace, I say to You that I want to save my soul, even if I have to sacrifice my fortune, my honor, my very life, as long as I am saved. If I have been unfaithful up to now, I repent, I deplore, I detest my infidelity, I ask You humbly to forgive me for it. Forgive me, good Jesus, and strengthen me also, that I may be saved. I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul.”
And You, O Jesus! What do You say? O Good Shepherd, see the stray sheep who returns to You; embrace this repentant sinner, bless his sighs and tears, or rather bless these people who are so well disposed and who want nothing but their salvation. Brothers, at the feet of Our Lord, let us protest that we want to save our soul, cost what it may. Let us all say to Him with tearful eyes: “Good Jesus, I want to save my soul,” O blessed tears, O blessed sighs!
Brothers, I want to send all of you away comforted today. So if you ask me my sentiment on the number of those who are saved, here it is: Whether there are many or few that are saved, I say that whoever wants to be saved, will be saved; and that no one can be damned if he does not want to be. And if it is true that few are saved, it is because there are few who live well. As for the rest, compare these two opinions: the first one states that the greater number of Catholics are condemned; the second one, on the contrary, pretends that the greater number of Catholics are saved.
Imagine an Angel sent by God to confirm the first opinion, coming to tell you that not only are most Catholics damned, but that of all this assembly present here, one alone will be saved. If you obey the Commandments of God, if you detest the corruption of this world, if you embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in a spirit of penance, you will be that one alone who is saved.
Now imagine the same Angel returning to you and confirming the second opinion. He tells you that not only are the greater portion of Catholics saved, but that out of all this gathering, one alone will be damned and all the others saved. If after that, you continue your usuries, your vengeances, your criminal deeds, your impurities, then you will be that one alone who is damned.
What is the use of knowing whether few or many are saved? Saint Peter says to us: “Strive by good works to make your election sure.” When Saint Thomas Aquinas’s sister asked him what she must do to go to Heaven, he said: “You will be saved if you want to be.” I say the same thing to you, and here is proof of my declaration. No one is damned unless he commits mortal sin: that is of faith. And no one commits mortal sin unless he wants to: that is an undeniable theological proposition. Therefore, no one goes to Hell unless he wants to; the consequence is obvious.
Does that not suffice to comfort you? Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved. Why torment yourself so? For it is certain that you have to commit mortal sin to go to Hell, and that to commit mortal sin you must want to, and that consequently no one goes to Hell unless he wants to. That is not just an opinion, it is an undeniable and very comforting truth; may God give you to understand it, and may He bless you. Amen.
Here ends the sermon of St. Leonard of Port Maurice.
In the first Rules on the discernment of spirits, Saint Ignatius shows that it is typical of the evil spirit to tranquilize sinners. Therefore, we must constantly preach and give rise to confidence and the duty of hope in the Lord’s infinite pardon and mercy, for conversion is easy and His grace is all-powerful. But we must also recall that “God is not mocked,” and that someone who is living habitually in the state of mortal sin is on the road to eternal damnation.
There are last-minute miracles, but unless we contend that miracles are the general run of things, we are obliged to agree that for the majority of people living in the state of mortal sin, final impenitence is the most probable eventuality.
Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s reasons have persuaded us. They are worth listening to. With eloquence and clarity, they develop a consideration of Father Lombardi in his public debate with Italian Communist leader Velio Spano in Cagliara on December 4, 1948. “I am horror-struck at the thought that, if you continue in this manner, you will be condemned to Hell,” said Father Lombardi to the Marxist Spano. Spano replied: “I do not believe in Hell.” And Father Lombardi retorted: “Precisely, and if you continue, you will be condemned; for to avoid being condemned, one must believe in Hell.”
We could generalize Father Lombardi’s answer. Perhaps it is precisely such a lack of supernatural faith that is preventing people from arriving at a deep appreciation of the pastoral transcendence of preaching in the manner of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice in its application to our contemporary life. At any rate, it is not because morals are any better now than in the famous missionary’s day. No occasion could be finer for us to apply this reproach of Cardinal Pie: “I see prudence everywhere; soon we will not see courage anywhere; rest assured, if we continue in this manner, we will die from an attack of wisdom.” Not divine wisdom, surely; for only carnal and worldly prudence give rise to vain knowledge, which mocks at the sermon of Saint Leonard.
The doctrine of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice has saved and will save countless souls till the end of time. Here is what the Church says in the prayer of the Divine Office, Sixth Lesson, speaking of Saint Leonard’s heavenly eloquence: Upon hearing him, even hearts of iron and brass were powerfully inclined to penance, by reason of the astonishing effectiveness of the sermon and the preacher’s burning zeal. And in the liturgical prayer we ask of the Lord, Give the power to bend the hearts of hardened sinners by the works of preaching.
This sermon by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was preached during the reign of Pope Benedict XIV, who so loved the great missionary.
COMMENTARY AND CLARIFICATIONS ON THE SERMON OF ST. LEONARD OF PORT MAURICE
In this third part, he discusses the goodness of God, but a goodness that cannot and must not be abused, otherwise we will find ourselves in Hell with most of the human race. It must be stressed again, and again, and again—God does not want our damnation, but our salvation! Damnation does not come from God, but from ourselves. It is the result of the audacity, the pride, the stubbornness of not wanting to do things God's way, but our way. Not wanting to abide by God's rules, but making up our own rules on how we want to be saved.
Yet as God says: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the Heavens are exalted above the Earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaias 55:8-9).