|Devotion to Our Lady||
The “Catechism Collection”
The “Catechism Collection” will be a collection and synthesis of the best traditional catechisms available, which will clearly explain, in-depth, all the traditional subjects dealt with by catechisms—with the additional aspects of:
(1) Including more scriptural elements, both as proofs and as examples of the catechetical teaching.
(2) Relating the teaching to our daily life, both spiritually and practically.
(3) Looking at the moral consequences of the catechetical teaching—as regards what virtues should be practiced in applying the teaching, and what sins are committed against the teaching.
Challenging Times Require Challenging Catechetics
You cannot love what you do not know. You will not lay down your life for something you do not love GREATLY. Truth was made to be loved, but, before it can be loved, it must be known. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower”, once said that the reason that Jesus is so little loved is because He is so little known. We all know who Jesus is, but we know so little about Him. Likewise, we all know what the Faith is, but we know so little about it.
Pope St. Pius X once said that the greatest enemy of the Church was not Protestantism, nor paganism, nor the Masons, or some other body or group. He said that the greatest enemy of the Catholic Church was IGNORANCE. For it is the ignorance of Catholics that allows all kinds of false teachings and pitiful morals to enter into the fold. We know things, but we know too little. We know things, but too vaguely. We are content with a mere superficial knowledge of the Faith. We argue emotionally and not logically, using “two-bit” phrases haphazardly with an air of pretended intellectualism. That is why Catholics have succumbed to apostasy today. They are too dumb to know better and they don’t really want to know better, for the world and its worldliness offers a better package deal!
Not a “Drive-Thru” Catechism
Consequently and obviously, this is not going to be a “McDonald’s Drive-Thru” Catechism or an “Express Catechism Check-Out Line.” It will be a challenge to gather together, edit and produce and it will be a challenge to read and assimilate—yet such a challenge must be met at a time when our Faith is being challenged like never before. We, according to reputable prophecies, are living at time of apostasy, or loss of Faith, which ominously point towards Our Lord’s words: “The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, Faith on Earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Our Lady of Good Success, referring to our times, speaks of “the small number of souls, who hidden, will preserve the treasures of the Faith and practice virtue.” For the Faith will diminish as “the effects of secular education will increase … The Christian spirit will rapidly decay, extinguishing the precious light of Faith, until it reaches the point that there will be an almost total and general corruption of morals” … “Moreover, in these unhappy times, there will be unbridled luxury which, acting thus to snare the rest into sin, will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will be lost.”
Our Lady of La Salette reinforces this, saying: “People will think of nothing but amusements” while the clergy, “the leaders of the people of God, have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has bedimmed their intelligence. They have become wandering stars which the old devil will drag along with his tail to make them perish” because “by their wicked lives, by their irreverence and their impiety in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, by their love of money, their love of honors and pleasures, the priests have become cesspools of impurity.”
Consequently, it will be easy for the devil to make the Faith crumble: “Lucifer, together with a large number of demons, will be unloosed from Hell; they will put an end to Faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. They will blind them in such a way, that, unless they are blessed with a special grace, these people will take on the spirit of these angels of Hell. Several religious institutions will lose all Faith and will lose many souls … The true Faith to the Lord having been forgotten … the Church will witness a frightful crisis” (Our Lady of La Salette).
The Whittling-Away of the Faith
What is true in the natural and physical realm, is often also true for the supernatural and spiritual realm. In our natural life, we have to be always working upon certain things for mere survival alone. Each and every day we need water, food, sleep, exercise and protection from danger. If we neglect any or all of these things, nature will strike back in one way or another and we will suffer in some way. Even if we have all these things, but in an insufficient manner, then the same thing will happen—only more slowly. Eat poorly or eat junk food; drink too little water and too many sugary drinks or too much alcohol; regularly sleep too little; rarely exercise; be negligent about maintaining your home or car—and very soon things will start to go wrong and fall apart.
The same is true for our supernatural life. Our food is the Word of God—“Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Grace is water for our spiritual life—the water that is poured over us in our Baptism, signifies the grace that is poured into our souls. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Spiritual sleep or spiritual rest is where we withdraw ourselves from the world to restore spiritual energies through meditation and prayer. Protection from spiritual danger is the avoidance of the occasions of sin, which the world, the devil and our flesh bombards us with plentifully each day and which must be resisted by mortifications (meaning “to put to death” these assaults) and penance (which is paying for our past failings in this regard).
A Lack of Love is Fatal
Fr. Francis Spirago, author of The Catechism Explained, states that the teaching of the Faith should be “calculated to touch the heart and kindle the flame of charity towards God and one’s neighbor, and is not this the effect which every good hand-book of religion, every good sermon, every good catechetical instruction ought to produce? We already possess in abundance catechisms and religious manuals which appeal only to the intellect; books which do not aim at the warmth of expression and the fervent, persuasive eloquence which appeal to the heart, the force and vivifying power which affect the will through the influence of the Holy Spirit” (Preface, The Catechism Explained).
To satisfy the demands of disinterested Catholics, catechisms, over time, have become like fast-food chains, dispensing the word of God in a minimalized and truncated package. Only the bare essentials! Bite-sized chunks! Yet those bare essentials barely suffice when the Faith is under attack and cannot bear the ferocity of the attack due to the ignorance of the faithful. A pocket-knife will help you do the bare essentials, but it will not win a war for you. The celebrated “Penny Catechism” is fine, if it serves a memory jogger for the greater and deeper intricacies of the Faith that you have already learnt, but if you intend to win others over to the Faith or defend your Faith with the “Penny Catechism”, you will find that a penny does not go very far!
To Keep the Faith, We Must Love the Faith
Those who want to keep the Faith, must love the Faith. Yet love is little when your knowledge is little. Or, at best, it is only a sentimental, emotional, illogical love that cannot explain itself—which is what we must do with the Faith, as St. Peter commands: “Being ready, always, to satisfy everyone that asketh you for a reason of that hope which is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). We love our family and friends because we know them well. There are plenty of better people out there—but we don’t know them and so we don’t love them. A supporter or a fan of a sports team, usually knows a lot about the team. If we want to be supporters or fans of the Faith, we had better know a lot about our Faith—otherwise our love will gradually grow cold, weaken and then fail. This happens in so many natural settings—spouses, who don’t work hard at keeping their love alive, will grow apart. Students, who do not love their studies, will gradually see their grades worsen and will eventually fail. Teachers, who do not love what they teach, will fail to communicate a love of the subject to most students. Athletes, who do not love their field of discipline, will perform poorly. A craftsman, who does not love his craft, will produce poor work.
Knowledge and Love
All of this is perfectly reflected in the shocking and terrifying statement by God: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth!” (Apocalypse 3:16). This shows us what a lack of love fervor leads to—rejection by God. Therefore, we must not only KNOW our Faith, but work hard to ensure that we also LOVE our Faith. That is why we have been given those two powers of the soul—the intellect and the will. The intellect KNOWS things, while the will LOVES things. We sometimes call the intellect and will by the similar names of MIND and HEART. The mind KNOWS, the heart LOVES. Yet the danger for our days—which are days of apostasy according to many prophecies—is both a lack of Faith and lack of charity or love of the Faith. As Holy Scripture says: “The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, Faith on Earth?” (Luke 18:8). “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Knowledge leads to love, and love preserves knowledge by keeping it focused on what is loved.
It’s a Fight, Folks!
The true preservation of the true Faith requires true effort. “The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew 11:12), which is why St. Paul writes: “Know you not that they that run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain … I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty: I so fight, not as one beating the air; but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). “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).
But to love God wholeheartedly, we must wholeheartedly throw ourselves into knowing Him. How many people are like that? Most won’t do that! “God looked down from heaven on the children of men: to see if there were any that did understand, or did seek God. All have gone aside, they are become unprofitable together, there is none that doth good, no not one!” (Psalm 52:3-4). Most people want to “fast-track” most things that deal with God. They want a fast Mass, a fast Rosary, a short meditation, little or no spiritual reading—and little or no catechism. The fewer the pages in the catechism, the better! Try explain all that on the Day of Judgement—when you want to get into Heaven, but couldn’t be bothered with the things of Heaven while you were on Earth! You cannot fake-out God! What you sow is what you reap: “He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly!” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Sowing and Reaping and Knowing
At the end of the day, “minimalists” will have a minimal chance of salvation. What is your interpretation of these words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Luke 12:31) … “Love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength!” (Mark 12:30)? Does that call for minimal study about God, or maximum. Most people give at least ten times more attention to trivial, worldly things than they do to God. That’s trying to fake-out God. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Short Catechisms Are For Little Children, Not Adults
A catechism is meant to be a compendium of the Faith—yet people want it to be so small that it can fit in the pocket! A compendium of the Faith means a summary of the essentials of the Faith. How is it that we have nerve to trivialize the Faith when St. John says of Jesus: “There are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written!” (John 21:25). It is only the cheap Catholic who wants to be a minimalist! Sports fans can pore over material about their teams for hours a day! Teenagers can spend hours a day on the social media! On our Day of Judgment this will be brought to our attention, with words similar to: “For the children of this world are wiser than the children of light!” (Luke 16:8). In other words, the children of the world have put in far more hours into their worldliness than the children of God have put into godliness.
A Challenge to Produce
To even think about this Catechism Collection or Catechetical Compendium is a challenge, for, as Fr. Clarke, the editor writing the Preface to Fr. Francis Spirago’s The Catechism Explained, correctly points that “Technical terms, in which almost all religious manuals abound, even those intended for children, are carefully eliminated from his pages, since, while useful and necessary for seminarians and theologians, they are out of place in a book intended for the laity. Popular manuals of religion ought to be couched in plain and simple language, like that used by Our Lord and the Apostles, easy of comprehension; for what we need is something that will touch the heart and influence the will, not cram the mind with knowledge unattractive to the reader. The state of society and the spirit of the age have also been, taken into consideration in the preparation of this book. The writer has endeavored in the first place to combat the self-seeking, pleasure-loving materialism of the day.” This sad state has worsened considerably since Fr. Spirago first compiled his 700+ page The Catechism Explained back in 1899 (republished in 1921, 1927, 1949 and 1993). Different facets of worldliness have come on the scene that simply did not exist back then—and these have to be duly covered.
Yet there are other worthy Catechisms that cannot be brushed aside—for they either contain elements that Fr. Spirago has not covered, or they explain certain things with either greater clarity or greater depth. The researching of all these Catechisms, comparing them, assessing them and blending them is not a “fast-track” project of the kind that is preferred today. Yet a Catechism has to relevant to the problems of its day, for, as the Preface of The Catechism Explained says that the “Catechism is, in fact, nothing more or less than an abstract of Our Lord’s teaching, and may be called a guide book for the Christian soul on the road to Heaven.” The lay of the land changes with each decade, as new side roads are added, that are meant to lead the Christian aside and astray. Therefore, Catechisms need to be “current” so to speak, dealing not only with teaching from the past, but also its application to the problems of the present time.
The challenge is that today's problems have become complicated, whereas the Catholic mind has become too simple, or "dumbed-down" for want of another expression. We are "dummies" as regards our knowledge of the Faith, yet very intelligent as regards things of the world. But a simple "dumb" answer cannot solve the complexities caused by today's sinfulness and worldliness.
A Challenge to Read
The above dilemma produces a problem akin to “growing pains” or perhaps “physiotherapy”, whereby the half-crippled mind has to be painfully forced through exercises that a normal mind would perform with ease—but since we have been “dumbed-down” in matters of the Faith, it is like having a person who has the body of a 40 year-old, but the mind of 10 year old. We are way behind in our religious development, but way advanced in our worldly development. Yet, as they say, “No pain, no gain!” So rather than produce just another simplistic, dumbed-down Catechism for the fast-track Catholics of the world, who don’t have time to think in any real depth, but only have time for a “two-bit” quickie answer on matters of the Faith, we will try to produce a thought provoking (thus pain inducing and time consuming) Catechism that goes into depth, rather than skims the surface.
Modern Mushy Minds
Our minds have atrophied and have been turned to mush by the worldliness of our times. Yet, the mental muscle is necessary if we are to keep our Faith in these times of apostasy. Remember that, merely 50 years ago, better minds than ours grasped the Faith far better than we do today—yet they ended up going down the fatal road of Modernism, Liberalism and Ecumenism. If such strong minds could fall by the wayside, then there but for the grace of God go we! Therefore, allied to the learning of the Faith, must be the praying of the soul—as Our Lord said: “And He spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Hence the wisdom of the ancient adage: “Pietas cum doctrina, et doctrina cum pietate”—literally meaning “piety with doctrine, doctrine with piety.” We could paraphrase that to say: “Unite prayer with doctrinal learning, and doctrinal learning with prayer.” The Catechism should be able to furnish material for rich and fruitful meditation, while meditation on the truths of the Catechism should strengthen our Faith and a love of it.
Pope St. Pius X on Religious Knowledge
In his papal encyclical, Acerbo Nimis (1905), Pope St. Pius X writes: “It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life - for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones - but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it.
“And so they arrive at life’s end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God. And even this as too often happens only when the dying man is not so sinfully ignorant as to look upon the ministration of the priest as useless, and then calmly faces the fearful passage to eternity without making his peace with God. And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’ How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion! And on the other hand, how necessary and how beneficial is religious instruction! It is indeed vain to expect a fulfillment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them.
“For this reason the Council of Trent, treating of the duties of pastors of souls, decreed that their first and most important work is the instruction of the faithful. It therefore prescribes that they shall teach the truths of religion on Sundays and on the more solemn feast days; moreover during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent they are to give such instruction every day or at least three times a week. This, however, was not considered enough!
“Perhaps there are some who, wishing to lessen their labors, would believe that the homily on the Gospel can take the place of catechetical instruction. But for one who reflects a moment, such is obviously impossible. The sermon on the holy Gospel is addressed to those who should have already received knowledge of the elements of faith. It is, so to speak, bread broken for adults. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, is that milk which the Apostle Peter wished the faithful to desire in all simplicity like newborn babes. The task of the catechist is to take up one or other of the truths of Faith, or of Christian morality, and then explain it in all its parts; and since amendment of life is the chief aim of his instruction, the catechist must needs make a comparison between what God commands us to do and what is our actual conduct. After this, he will use examples appropriately taken from the Holy Scriptures, Church history, and the lives of the saints ― thus moving his hearers and clearly pointing out to them how they are to regulate their own conduct. He should, in conclusion, earnestly exhort all present to dread and avoid vice and to practice virtue.
“We are indeed aware that the work of teaching the Catechism is unpopular with many, because, as a rule, it is deemed of little account and for the reason that it does not lend itself easily to the winning of public praise. But this in Our opinion is a judgment based on vanity and devoid of truth. We do not disapprove of those pulpit orators who, out of genuine zeal for the glory of God, devote themselves to defense of the Faith and to its spread, or who eulogize the saints of God. But their labor presupposes labor of another kind―that of the catechist. And so, if this be lacking, then the foundation is wanting; and they labor in vain who build the house.
“Too often it happens that ornate sermons which receive the applause of crowded congregations serve but to tickle the ears and fail utterly to touch the hearts of the hearers. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, plain and simple though it be, is the word of which God Himself speaks, through the lips of the prophet Isaias: ‘And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth and water it, and make it to spring and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: so shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it’ (Isaias 55:10-11). We believe the same may be said of those priests who work hard to produce books which explain the truths of religion. They are surely to be commended for their zeal, but how many are there who read these works and take from them a fruit commensurate with the labor and intention of the writers? The teaching of the Catechism, on the other hand, when rightly done, never fails to profit those who listen to it.
“On every Sunday and holy day, with no exception, throughout the year, all parish priests and in general all those having the care of souls, shall instruct the boys and girls, for the space of an hour from the text of the Catechism on those things they must believe and do in order to attain salvation. Since it is a fact that in these days adults need instruction no less than the young, all pastors and those having the care of souls shall explain the Catechism to the people in a plain and simple style adapted to the intelligence of their hearers. This shall be carried out on all holy days of obligation, at such time as is most convenient for the people, but not during the same hour when the children are instructed, and this instruction must be in addition to the usual homily on the Gospel which is delivered at the parochial Mass on Sundays and holy days. The catechetical instruction shall be based on the Catechism of the Council of Trent; and the matter is to be divided in such a way that in the space of four or five years, treatment will be given to the Apostles’ Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Precepts of the Church.
“No matter what natural facility a person may have in ideas and language, let him always remember that he will never be able to teach Christian doctrine to children or to adults without first giving himself to very careful study and preparation. They are mistaken who think that because of inexperience and lack of training of the people the work of catechizing can be performed in a slipshod fashion. On the contrary, the less educated the hearers, the more zeal and diligence must be used to adapt the sublime truths to their untrained minds; these truths, indeed, far surpass the natural understanding of the people, yet must be known by all - the uneducated and the cultured ― in order that they may arrive at eternal happiness.
“We again insist on the need to reach the ever-increasing numbers of those who know nothing at all of religion, or who possess at most only such knowledge of God and Christian truths as befits idolaters. How many there are, alas, not only among the young, but among adults and those advanced in years, who know nothing of the chief mysteries of Faith.
"In consequence of this ignorance, they do not consider it a crime to excite and nourish hatred against their neighbor, to enter into most unjust contracts, to do business in dishonest fashion, to hold the funds of others at an exorbitant interest rate, and to commit other iniquities no less reprehensible. They are, moreover, ignorant of the law of Christ, which not only condemns immoral actions, but also forbids deliberate immoral thoughts and desires. Even when for some reason or other they avoid sensual pleasures, they nevertheless entertain evil thoughts without the least scruple, thereby multiplying their sins above the number of the hairs of the head.
"These persons are found, we deem it necessary to repeat, not merely among the poorer classes of the people or in sparsely settled districts, but also among those in the higher walks of life, even, indeed, among those puffed up with learning … Reflect on the great loss of souls due solely to ignorance of divine things” (Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis).
Introduction & Table of Contents
Lesson #1 The Knowledge of God
Lesson #2 Revelation Scripture & Tradition
Lesson #3 It's All About the Faith
Lesson #4 The Cross & the Creed
Lesson #5 Existence of a Supreme Being
Lesson #6 The Divine Essence of God
Lesson #7 The Perfection of God (Part 1)
Lesson #8 The Perfection of God (Part 2)
Lesson #9 The Blessed Trinity
Lesson #10 The History of Creation
Lesson #11 Divine Providence
Lesson #12 The Christian Under Suffering
Lesson #13 Angels and Devils
Lesson #14 The Creation of Man
Lesson #15 Original Sin
Lesson #16 The Redemption & the Redeemer
Lesson #17 Promise & Prophecies on Christ
We call by the name of divine providence God’s preservation and government of the world.
1. God maintains the world, i.e., He preserves all creatures in existence as long as He wills.
A ball hanging from a piece of string falls to the ground as soon as the string is cut. So the whole world would sink into nothing if God were to withdraw from it His supporting power for a single instant. In order that creatures may continue to exist, He provides all that is needed for their sustenance: wheat, vegetables, the various fruits of the Earth, etc. As soon as God wills it, they die. “When Thou shalt take away their breath, they shall die, and return again to the dust” (Psalm 103:29). If the sun were to cease to cast its rays upon the Earth, all light would disappear from the world; so if God cease to support us in existence, our life at once fails us. When Our Lord says, “Heaven and Earth shall pass away,” He does not mean that they will be annihilated, but that they will be changed into a better. St. Peter says, “We look for a new Heaven and a new Earth, wherein dwelleth justice” (2 Peter 3:13).
2. God governs the world, i.e., He conducts all things in the world, so that they contribute to His glory and to our advantage.
What the engine is to the train, and the pilot to the vessel, God is to the world. He guides the stars according to fixed laws, so that the firmament proclaims His glory. He guides all nations (Daniel 4:32).
We see His guiding hand in the lives of the patriarchs, in the history of the Jews, in that of the Christian Church. Yet we cannot understand God’s arrangements at the first glance; often we cannot understand them at all, and never shall till we get to Heaven. Yet in our own lives we can trace again and again the good providence of God. But as to the world generally we are forced to exclaim, “How incomprehensible are God’s judgments, and how unsearchable His ways!” (Romans 1:33).
There is no one on the Earth for whom God does not care, and provide for his welfare. A mother would sooner forget her child than God would forget us (Isaias 49:15). God cares even for the irrational creatures; for the beasts and birds and plants (Matthew 6:25-30).
God has a special care for those who are in humble circumstances, and are despised by the world. God has made small as well as great, and cares equally for them (Wisdom 6:8). God loves to declare His glory by means of the little (1 Corinthians 1:27). He chose poor shepherds to receive the first news of the birth of Christ; He chose poor fishermen for His apostles; a poor maiden for His Mother; it is to the humble that He gives His grace (James 4:6). “He raises the needy from the Earth, and takes the poor from the dunghill, that He may place him among princes” (Psalm 112:7-8).
3. Nothing happens to us all through our lives without the will or the permission of God.
Hence the patriarch Joseph says to his brethren, “Not by your counsel was I sent hither, but by the will of God” (Genesis 45:8). Our Lord says that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, i.e., the providence of God descends to the smallest details of our life. Hence there is nothing that happens by chance. There are indeed many things, the causes of which we are ignorant of, but all have some cause, and God guides all. There are many things in the world that God does not will, and of which He is not the cause, e.g., murder, theft, and every crime. But God permits them, i.e., He does not prevent them. This is a consequence of His having given to man free will. Moreover, God knows how to bring good out of evil, and all evil He employs for His good purposes. Even the evil that God permits is for our good.
God, in His love for us, has in all that happens to us the intention to make us happy. He turns to our good all temporal misfortunes, the temptations of the devil, the sins of other men. “To those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). We see this in the history of the patriarch Joseph; his imprisonment was the means of bringing him to high honor, and of saving Egypt from the horrors of famine. The captivity of the Jews was the means of spreading the knowledge of the true God among heathen nations (Tobias 13:4). The persecution of the early Christians in Palestine and in Rome was the means of making known the Gospel in the countries to which they fled or were banished; so, too, was the expulsion of the religious Orders from Italy, France, and Germany in modern times. So again the persecution of the Irish has done much to Christianize America and England. “The unbelief of St. Thomas,” says St. Augustine, “has been more useful to us than the belief of the other apostles.” The sin of Peter made him humble and forbearing towards others. The fury of the Jews against Our Lord was the instrument of the redemption of mankind. “How inscrutable are God’s judgments and how unsearchable His ways!” (Romans 11:33). The very means employed by wicked men against the saints were the means of bringing them glory and honor.
4. For this reason a pious Christian should resign himself entirely to the will of God.
Christ teaches us to pray: “Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” St. Peter exhorts us to cast all our care upon God, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Holy David says: “Though an army should stand in battle against me, my heart will not fear” (Psalm 26:3). We must not allow ourselves to be troubled about the arrangements of God’s providence, which we cannot alter, but must resign ourselves to the will of God, e.g., in sickness, loss of money, the death of those dear to us, persecution, war, etc.
Above all we must resign ourselves to the will of God in the hour of our death. “He who dies resigned to the will of God,” says St. Alphonsus, “leaves in the minds of others the knowledge that he has saved his soul.” In order to gain the friendship of men we adapt ourselves to their humors and fancies; but we take too little trouble to win the friendship of God by adapting ourselves to His holy will. The man who cheerfully resigns himself to the will of God obtains true peace of mind, attains great perfection, and will be blessed by God.
The soul resigned to the will of God is like the needle pointing to the North. The soul that submits itself to all God’s arrangements has already begun to live the life of Heaven upon Earth. If trouble comes, its peace is not disturbed; every trial is extinguished, like a spark that falls into the sea; it loves sufferings, because it knows that they come from God’s hand. A man resigned to God’s will has his cross carried for him. He who renounces his own will in order to carry out the holy will of God, soon attains to perfection. Thus the resigning of our will to God’s is the most perfect offering we can make Him. The man who is resigned is like a ship in the hands of the pilot; he is sure to arrive safely into port. A farmer whose fields bore better crops than those of others was asked the reason for it. He answered that he always got the weather that he wanted. When asked to explain himself, he replied, “I am always content with the weather that God sends. This pleases God and so He blesses my crops.”
Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane is a beautiful example of submission to the will of God. Christ’s prayer was “Father, not My will, but Thine be done.” He was obedient to His heavenly Father even to death, the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). The holy angels find their happiness in the fulfillment of the will of God. St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi said, “I would bear with joy the heaviest troubles, so soon as I knew that they were the will of God.” So also said all the saints. How are the Misfortunes of the Good and the Prosperity of the Wicked to be Reconciled with the Providence of God? The answer is that these are only apparent, not real. Seneca says that the prosperity of those who ore clad in purple is often like the splendor of the actor, who is dressed up in royal purple.
5. The sinner after a time loses all enjoyment from his sins.
(a) No sinner has true happiness, and no servant of God true misery. For true happiness is impossible without inner peace and contentment; and this is possessed by the true servant of God, but not by the sinner.
The world, i.e., riches, honors, sensual pleasures, eating, drinking, etc., can never give us true peace (John 14:27). This can only be attained by following the teaching of Christ. True peace and happiness are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The wicked have no peace; they are like the raging sea, which cannot rest (Isaias 57:20). Peace and happiness do not come of riches, or of a high position, or of bodily strength, or of intellectual vigor; still less do they come from the wearing of fine clothes, or from the enjoyment of rich feasts, but from peace of soul and a good conscience. The beggar at the gate of the rich Dives was a happier man, even in this world, than Dives himself.
(b) Moreover the good fortune of the sinner is for the most part only transitory.
The prosperity of the wicked is like the cedar of Lebanon, which in a few hours is cut down and is no more seen. It is a building built on sand: the storms and winds soon lay it low. How quickly Napoleon the Great fell from the height to which his vaulting ambition had raised him at the cost of so many lives!
(c) The real recompense of man only begins after death.
Hence Our Lord says, “Many that are first shall be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30). Many rich and distinguished men will be far below those who have been beggars at their door. God has provided for His friends in the next life an enjoyment and happiness far surpassing any enjoyments on this Earth. This is the explanation of the apparent injustice of the present life. Our Lord says to His disciples, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, that you shall lament and weep, and the world shall rejoice; and you shall be made sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
6. Sinners are rewarded on this Earth for the little good that they have done. The just on the other hand are for the most part punished in this life for the evil they have done.
Our Lord says, “Woe to you that are rich; for you have your consolation,” i.e., your reward for the good you have done is given you in this world (Luke 6:24).
How is Sin to be Reconciled with the Providence of God?
(a) It is not God Who is responsible for sin and its consequences, but man’s wrong use of his free will.
God created man free, and therefore does not hinder even those free actions which are evil. There are also many reasons why He should not hinder evil. If there were no evil in the world, man would have no opportunity of doing what is good; he would not have the choice between good and evil, and would not be able to earn the reward of good accomplished. Compare the parable of the cockle among the wheat. “God,” says St. Augustine, “would never have permitted evil if He had not intended to bring some greater good out of it.”
(b) God in His wisdom employs even sin for a good end.
The patriarch Joseph very truly said to his brethren, “You thought evil against me, but God turned it into good” (Genesis 1:20).
God turned to good even the treachery of Judas; it contributed to the work of man’s redemption. The bee makes honey out of poisonous plants; the potter makes beautiful vessels out of dirty Earth. God does something similar to this.
(c) Besides, it does not become us to pry into the secret designs of God; we poor miserable creatures must adore His wisdom and submit ourselves humbly to what He ordains.
What is true of sin, is true of all the suffering that is the consequence of sin.