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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
The account of the creation of man is found in the beginning of the book of Genesis. Nothing is said about the time when man was created, but the general belief fixes the date at 4000 B.C. The four weeks of Advent seem to indicate that the Church adopts this view.
1. God made the body of man out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into him a living soul.
The soul of man is a spiritual substance. The materialist who denies the existence of the soul because it cannot be perceived by his senses, might as well deny the existence of human reason because he cannot see it. The soul is endowed with the two faculties of reason and free will. Some have supposed that there are in man two souls, on account of the different inclinations which strive for mastery in him, and the struggle that takes place between the leaning towards sensual enjoyment and the reason that condemns it. But this struggle only proves that the soul has different tendencies, in virtue of our nature being partly material and partly spiritual.
The relations between the body and the soul of man are as follows: the body is the dwelling-place of the soul. As the nutshell to the kernel, as the dress to the man, as the hut to the hermit, such is the body to the soul. The body is also the instrument of the soul, whereby it may attain to eternal happiness. What his tools are to the carpenter, his brush to the painter, the organ to the organist, such the body is to the soul. The soul is the guide of the body, as the driver of his steed, or the captain of his ship. Too often the soul allows the evil desires of the body to lead it astray, to the ruin of both.
The body is a good servant but a bad master. The soul also is the life of the body; as soon as the two are parted, the body soon returns to the dust from which it was formed. The souls of men are essentially different from those of the lower animals; and have different faculties and capabilities. The souls of animals are incapable of striving after perfection, or of searching into the causes of things; hence they can have no knowledge of their end; they are led by instinct, not by reason. They have no craving after a higher happiness and are quite satisfied with the enjoyment of sense; they have no spiritual nature, but are essentially dependent on matter.
2. It is an error to think that the bodies of men are developed out of those of the lower animals.
Many think that men are sprung from the lower animals by a process of gradual development This is the theory advanced by the English naturalist, Darwin, who believed that the first man was a highly developed kind of monkey. There is an essential difference between the shape of the body of a man and an ape, and between the form of their skulls. The brain of man is far larger and heavier than that of an ape. Man has the gift of speech, the ape has not. Man has the power of forming abstract ideas, the ape has not. Man has a long period of growth, and a gradual development of his faculties; the ape shoots up very quickly to its full development. The ape only lives about thirty years; man can attain to the age of eighty or even one hundred years. Man is capable of the highest cultivation; the ape is not. No bones have ever yet been found which bridge over the impassable gulf that separates men from apes. There is no difference between the bones of men in the present day and those of men who lived thousands of years ago.
Tradition and language bear witness to an early period when men enjoyed a higher cultivation, from which they afterwards fell away through sin and vice. The apes which bear the greatest resemblance to man in bodily form are stupid and without intelligence, and seem to have been created in order that we may see what man would have been if God had not breathed into him an immortal soul, and made him like to Himself. To those who trace the origin of men from apes may be applied the words of Holy Scripture, “Man when he was in honor did not understand; he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them” (Psalm 48:21).
3. The first human beings that God created were Adam and Eve.
Eve was made from a rib of Adam while he slept, and from Adam and Eve all the millions who now cover the face of the Earth were descended. Hence all are members of one and the same family. The differences of color and of the shape of the skull are the result of differences of climate, food, and way of living. We find that animals gradually change their shape and color under a different climate. All men have certain common bodily characteristics, and also the mental faculties of will, memory, and understanding. The oldest legends of all existing peoples tell of a primeval happiness from which man fell, of a deluge over all the inhabited portion of the Earth, etc., and so bear witness to a common origin.
4. Yet all men derive only their bodies from Adam; for the soul of every man is created by God.
It is not man, but God, Who communicates to each of us his soul when he comes into existence. “The Lord formeth the spirit of man in him” (Zacharias 12:1). Just as the Holy Spirit in Baptism or in the Sacrament of Penance descends into the soul of man, and gives it spiritual life, so God gives natural life to the body of man when formed, and places the soul in it. So He did with the bodies of Adam and Eve at their creation. God creates each soul and at the same moment places it in the body which He has prepared for it. It is therefore an error to suppose, as Tertullian did, that the soul of the child is sprung from the soul of its parent, as one flame is engendered from another. Some have foolishly asserted that all men have one and the same soul, others that God created the souls of all men when He first created the world. This was the doctrine of Plato and Origen, and is entirely false.
THE SOUL OF MAN
1. The soul of man is made in the image of God, since it is a spirit like to God.
Before the creation of man God said, “Let us make man to Our own image and likeness and let him have dominion over the beasts and the whole Earth” (Genesis 1:26). Man is made in the image of God; his likeness to God is to be found in his soul, which possesses reason and free will, and thence has the power of knowing what is beautiful and good, and of loving it. He, moreover, through these two faculties has dominion over the visible world, as God has dominion over the whole universe. In the words spoken before the creation of man, God joined together the likeness of Himself and dominion over the Earth. Man attains to a perfect likeness to God only when he is in the grace of God, for in this case he is made a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The just man is truly the lord of the whole Earth and of all creatures upon it, whereas the sinner is the slave of creatures.
Man, through his likeness to God, has not only the power of knowing the true and the beautiful and the good, but he has also the power of knowing, loving, and enjoying God in His divine majesty. Just as a globe has a feeble resemblance to the Earth, so the soul of man has a feeble resemblance to God. The soul is also an image of the Blessed Trinity, in virtue of its three powers, memory, understanding, and will. In its memory it resembles the Father, in its understanding the Son, and in its will the Holy Ghost. As these three powers are united in one soul, so the three persons of the Blessed Trinity are united in one and the same nature.
Notice the words used at the creation: “Let us make man,” thereby indicating the plurality of persons in the Blessed Trinity. It is its likeness to the Blessed Trinity that gives to every single soul its priceless value; it is this which explains the Incarnation. The soul of man is worth more than all the stars of heaven. The body of man is not made in the image of God, for God is a pure spirit, but yet the likeness to God stamps itself in some way on the body, as being the instrument of the soul, both in its upright bearing, and in the dominion it exerts over the irrational animals (Cf. Psalm 8:5-6). “What is man that Thou art mindful of him? Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast given him dominion over the works of Thy hands.”
2. The soul of man is immortal, i.e., it can never cease to exist.
The soul can never cease to exist, but it becomes spiritually dead when it loses the grace of God by mortal sin. It cannot lose consciousness, but it can lose God. A branch that falls from the tree continues to exist, but is nevertheless dead. Sinners are thus dead, even while they live; the just on the other hand live even after they are dead.
That the soul of man is immortal we know from the words of Jesus Christ. Our Lord says, “Fear not them who can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28), and to the good thief on the cross He says, “Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). He teaches the same truth in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19). “God is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; and is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:32).
(a) We learn the same truth from the numberless appearances of the dead to the living.
At Our Lord s transfiguration Moses appeared, who had been long dead (Matthew 17:3). At the time of Our Lord s crucifixion many who were dead appeared in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:53). The prophet Jeremias and the priest Onias appeared to Judas Maccabeus before his victory over Nicanor (2 Machabess 15:11 seq.). Our Lady has constantly appeared to saints and to others, and so have many of the saints as well as those who are suffering in purgatory; sometimes to console and encourage the living, sometimes to warn them, and in the case of the holy souls, to ask for prayers.
The lost or damned souls rarely (and some think never) appear to men, unless it may be in some rare cases to warn the living. It is unlawful to invoke the appearance of the dead, and those who do so are tricked by the devil, who takes the form of the person invoked, or indicates their supposed presence by sounds, raps, etc. All true appearances of the dead are wrought by the instrumentality of the angels. We must be very cautious in accepting such appearances as real, but yet we ought not to reject them altogether. Many reject all such appearances, because they know that, if they acknowledged them to be true, they would have to change their way of living, and this they are not willing to do.
(b) We can also prove from reason that the soul is immortal.
Man has a longing after a perfect and lasting happiness. This longing is common to all men, and is implanted in them by their Creator. Such happiness can never be attained in this world and therefore if man possessed the desire for it, without any hope of its being satisfied, he would be more unfortunate than the brutes who have no such desire, and God, in implanting it in his breast would be, not good, but cruel. If man had no immortal soul, the wicked who do evil all their lives long would go unpunished, and the just, who by self-sacrifice have robbed themselves of the enjoyments of life, would go unrewarded. This would be an injustice impossible to a God of perfect justice.
We are also conscious of an individual unity in each one of us, which is independent of our body, which perseveres in spite of all bodily changes, and continues from childhood to old age. It is present during sleep as well as during waking hours, and is active when all our bodily senses are wrapped in repose and inactivity. St. Augustine tells a story of Gennadius, a physician of Carthage, who would not believe in the immortality of the soul. One night he had a dream, in which he saw standing before him a beautiful young man, clothed in white, who said to him:
“Dost thou see me?” He answered,
“Yes, I see you.” The young man replied,
“Dost thou see me with thine eyes?”
“No,” answered Gennadius, “for they are closed in sleep.”
“With what, then, dost thou see me?”
“I know not.”
The young man continued: “Dost thou hear me?”
“With thine ears?”
“No, for these too are wrapped in sleep.”
“With what then dost thou hear me?”
“I know not!”
“Are you speaking to me?” was the next question.
“With thy mouth?”
“With what then?”
“I know not!”
Then the young man said: “See now, thou sleepest and yet thou seest, hearest, and speakest. The hour will come when thou wilt sleep in death, and yet thou wilt see and hear and speak and feel.”
Gennadius woke, and knew that God had sent an angel to teach him the immortality of the soul. No particle of matter is ever lost. Matter takes different forms, but the same amount of matter remains throughout. If matter never perishes, is it possible that the soul, which belongs to a far higher order, is destined to perish? All nations of the Earth believe in the immortality of the soul. When Jacob heard of the death of his son Joseph, he expressed a wish to go and join him in the nether world (Genesis 37:35).
The Jews were forbidden to call up the dead or hold intercourse with them (Deuteronomy 18:11). The Greeks and Romans believed in Tartarus and Elysium. The Egyptians believed that the soul wandered about for three thousand years before finding rest. In other nations the offerings for the dead, and the cultus of the departed spirits or Manes, testify to the same belief. There are only a few, and those men who are in mortal sin, who declare that they think that death is the end of our existence. Most of those who put an end to their lives do so, not with the idea that after death they will cease to be, but because they imagine life is intolerable not realizing the consequences of their act.
THE SUPERNATURAL ENDOWMENTS OF MAN.
Our first parents before the Fall had a happiness almost equal to that of the angels when first created. Hence the Psalmist says of man, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:6). Heathen nations have legends of the happiness of the first man; they termed it the golden age. Hesiod says that men lived then like gods, in perfect happiness.
1. Our first parents were created in the grace of God, and therefore possessed singular perfections of soul and body.
“Adam was created,” says the Council of Trent, “in justice and holiness; he was a partaker of the divine nature.” This justice and holiness he did not have of himself, but God gave it to him; just as the eye does not possess light from within, but absorbs it from without.
The special privileges granted to the soul of man at his first creation were as follows: An enlightened understanding, a will free from all weakness, and the possession of sanctifying grace. Through means of these he was the child of God, the heir of Heaven, and well-pleasing in the sight of God.
“God filled them with wisdom and the knowledge of understanding,” says the Wise Man (Ecclesiasticus 17:5-6). He gave Adam an insight into the inner nature of things, so that he was able to give appropriate names to all the animals. He also knew by inspiration the indissolubility of marriage. The will of man was weakened by no sensual desires. Adam and Eve were naked, but felt no shame, because in them there was no rebellion of the flesh against the spirit, no struggle necessary to avoid sin. They also had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, and His sanctifying grace; they were like to God, full of love for Him, and children of God; and because children, also heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
The special perfections of their bodies were that they were immortal, and free from all liability to sickness and disease; they were in paradise, and had dominion over all the creatures around them.
God created man immortal (Wisdom 2:23). Death only came in as the punishment of disobedience (Genesis 2:17). The death threatened was bodily as well as spiritual death, for the punishment of their sin was “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19). Man had indeed to work in paradise, but this work was part of his happiness, and caused him no fatigue. He had no sickness, for sickness is the forerunner of death. Paradise was a lovely garden, full of noble trees and lovely flowers, and the fairest fruits; many beautiful animals were there, who were perfectly obedient to his behests.
There was also a river in paradise divided into four branches. In the midst of the garden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and close by it the tree of life, the fruits of which were a protection against disease and death. Paradise is said to have been situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Man had also a complete dominion over all the wild beasts. Not that their nature was then different from now, but the grace and dignity of man rendered them submissive to his will, and made them fear and obey him (Ecclesiasticus 17:4).
Something of this power still remains to man; it is said that no wild beast can look a man steadily in the face. We see the same thing in the natural order now, in the wild beast tamers; and in the supernatural in the power that many of the saints possessed over the wild beasts, e.g., St. Francis of Assisi, and many of the martyrs before whose feet the fiercest of the animals in the Roman amphitheater lay down in prostrate homage. This was due to their great purity and freedom from sin.
2. These special perfections of our first parents we call super natural gifts, because they are something altogether beyond, and were added to, human nature.
Thus a rich man out of compassion provides a poor orphan with food, clothing, lodging, instruction in a trade. These would correspond to the natural gifts given by God to man. But the rich man in his bounty goes further; he adopts the orphan, clothes him as if he were his own son, gives him a room in his own house, and the education of a gentleman. These would correspond in some way to the supernatural gifts given by God to man. The first of natural gifts bestow upon the orphan a sort of likeness to the giver, but the second impart to him a far closer likeness.
So the supernatural gifts of God to man impart to him a far closer likeness to God than the natural. Or to take another illustration; a painter can trace the portrait of a man with a few strokes in black and white. But if he takes his brush and colors the drawing, if he paints the eyes blue, the cheeks red, the hair brown, etc., the likeness becomes more beautiful and corresponds more closely to the original. So it is with the natural and the supernatural gifts of God. When God at man s creation said, “Let us make man in Our image and likeness,” the image refers to the natural, the likeness to the supernatural gifts of God.