|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
1. THE NATURE OF GOD (OR WHAT GOD DOES)
THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES OR PERFECTIONS OF GOD
We ascribe to God various attributes, because the unity of the divine perfection is reflected in different ways in creatures. The sun is sometimes red, sometimes yellow, or a pale white. It is the mists around the Earth that cause the variety in it as it is seen by us. The attributes of God are therefore various manifestations of God’s one and indivisible perfection or essence. In God they are all one and the same; His goodness is the same as His justice, His wisdom as His power, and His power as His eternity, etc. The divine attributes are also identical with God Himself: God is wisdom, power, eternity, etc. God is a Being of the most perfect and absolute simplicity; there is no sort of multiplicity or obscurity in Him. There is no sort of division between His attributes; it is from our understanding that the distinction between them arises. In created things it is quite different; they possess attributes which are really distinct from each other.
The attributes of God may be divided into those which belong to God’s essence, those that belong to His understanding, and those that belong to His will.
The attributes of the divine essence are omnipresence, eternity, immutability; those that belong to His understanding are omniscience, perfect wisdom, etc., and those that belong to His will are omnipotence, goodness, holiness, justice, truth, and faithfulness.
1. God is eternal, that is to say, He always was, is, and ever will be.
God’s words to Moses “I am Who am” (Exodus 3:14), express His eternity. There never was a time when God did not exist; He never began to exist. He existed before the world, as a builder must exist before the house that he builds, and the watchmaker before the watch that he fashions.
God can never cease to live, as men do. Hence He is called the living God (Matthew 16:16) and immortal (1 Timothy 1:17). He existed before all time, and He will exist to all eternity. With Him there is no past or future; all is present with Him. The whole history of the world is and has ever been in His sight; there is for Him no succession of events; for Him there is no time. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Millions of ages are as nothing compared with eternity. If a bird were to carry away from the ocean one drop of water every thousand years, the time would come when the ocean would be dry: but that immense period of time, which seems to us inexhaustible, is less than the shortest moment compared with the eternity of God’s existence. “Dost thou desire eternal joy,” says St. Augustine, “thou must be faithful to Him Who is the Eternal.”
2. God is omnipresent, i.e., He is in every place.
After Jacob had seen, in the open country, the ladder reaching up to Heaven, he exclaimed: “God is in this place, and I knew it not!” (Genesis 28:16). The same words are true of every place. God is not only present everywhere with His power, but He Himself fills and penetrates all space. “‘Do not I fill Heaven and Earth’, saith the Lord?” (Jeremias 23:24).
1. God is everywhere present, because all created things exist in God.
All creatures exist in God, as thought exists in our minds. As mind is of more extent than thought, so God is of more extent than the world and all it contains. As mind penetrates thought, so God penetrates the world. “In Him we live, and move, and exist” (Acts 17:28). God is at the same time quite distinct from creatures and from the whole world.
2. God is not circumscribed by any place, nor by the whole of creation, because He has no limits, either actual or possible.
In his prayer at the dedication of the Temple Solomon said: “If Heaven and the Heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house that I have built” (3 Kings 8:27). The infinite cannot be contained in measurable space. Only bodies are contained in space. Spirits indeed are not contained in space, but they cannot be in more than one place at the same time. “God is everywhere,” says St. Bernard, “and yet nowhere. He is near us and yet is far away. All creation is in Him, and yet it is as if He were not in it.”
3. Yet God is of more extent than space, and therefore can be in every place at the same time.
Though God is of more extent than all space, and His presence extends from Earth to Heaven and far beyond, He is not scattered over the universe, partly on Earth and partly in Heaven, but He is wholly everywhere and wholly in each separate place; wholly in Heaven and wholly on Earth. He fills Heaven and Earth. So the soul of man fills his entire body, but yet it is wholly in every separate portion of His body.
4. God is present in a special manner in Heaven, in the Blessed Sacrament, and in the souls of the just.
God is present in Heaven to the gaze of the angels and saints. He is present as the God-man in the Blessed Sacrament: He is present in the souls of men through the Holy Ghost Who is given to them. A king is present in his whole palace, but is specially present in the chamber where he sits on his throne, and gives audiences to his subjects.
5. There is no place where God is not.
“The eyes of the Lord in every place behold the good and the evil” (Proverbs 15:3). We sometimes see in churches a large eye painted over the altar, to remind us that God is present everywhere. “No one can hide himself from God” (Jeremias 23:23-24). Hence no one can escape from God (Psalm 138:7-8). Jonas made the attempt, but with very poor success. Hence learn to avoid every sin. See with what unspeakable shame a man is filled, if he is detected by one of his fellow-men in a despicable action. Yet we are not ashamed to practice the most disgraceful vices in the presence of God (St. Augustine).
6. We ought therefore continually to bear in mind that God is always present with us.
Think, wherever you are, that God is near you. As there is no moment of time when we are not enjoying some benefit from the hand of God, so there ought to be no moment of time when we have not God in our thoughts. “He who always has God in his thoughts,” says St. Ephrem, “will become like an angel on the Earth.” The continual remembrance of the presence of God is very profitable to us. It has great power to deter us from sin, and to keep us in the grace of God; it incites us to good works and makes us intrepid in His service.
The remembrance of the presence of God gives strength in time of temptation and holds us back from sin. Look at Joseph in Egypt. A soldier fights more bravely in the presence of his king. The remembrance of the presence of God is also the best means of remaining in the grace of God. It is like Ariadne’s clew, by means of which we, like Theseus, can find the way through the labyrinth of our life on Earth, and remain unscathed by the Minotaur of Hell. The remembrance of the presence of God increases our zeal in God’s service and leads us on to the practice of all the virtues: it makes us more careful in the performance of all our duties. The nearer the water is to the spring the purer it is: the nearer one is to the fire the greater the warmth; the closer we keep to God, the greater our perfection. When the tree is closely united to the root, it brings forth plenteous fruit. The Christian brings forth good fruit to eternal life if he is closely united to God. The thought of God also renders us fearless.
When the Empress Eudoxia threatened St. John Chrysostom with banishment, he answered “You will not frighten me, unless you are able to send me to some place where God is not.” David says to God: “Though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me” (Psalm 22:4). If a timid man has a companion with him, his fear disappears: so we shall not fear if God, the all-powerful God, is with us.
3. God is immutable, that is to say, He ever remains the same.
God never changes: He never becomes better or worse: He never breaks His word (Numbers 23:19). Creation made no change in God; from all eternity He had decreed the creation of the universe. God changes His works, but not His eternal decrees. By the Incarnation humanity was changed, but the Godhead underwent no change, just as the sun is in no way changed when it hides itself behind a cloud. Our thoughts are not changed when they clothe themselves in words: so the divinity was not changed when it clothed itself in the nature of man. God does not change when He punishes the sinner.
When the heart of man is in friendship with God, God shows Himself to him as a God of infinite love and mercy; when the heart is estranged from Him, the sinner sees in the unchangeable God an angry and avenging judge. When the eye is sound, the light is pleasant to it; but if it is diseased, light causes it pain: it is not the light that is changed, but the eye that looks upon it. When an angry man looks in the glass he sees a different reflection from that which he saw when he was cheerful and in good-humor; it is not the glass that has changed, but the man. When the sun shines through colored glass, its rays take the color of the glass; the sun does not change, but the light is changed by the medium through which it passes. So when God rewards, it is not God Who changes, but man, who performs different and better actions, thereby meriting the grace of God. When in Scripture we read that God repented of having made man, that God is angry with the wicked, the phrases used are accommodated to our imperfect comprehension.
4. God is omniscient, that is to say, He knows all things, the past, the present, and the future, and also our inmost thoughts (Jeremias 17:10).
God knew that Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit. Our Lord foreknew St. Peter’s denial, the destruction of Jerusalem, etc. He knew the thoughts of Simon the Pharisee, and that he was angry at Our Lord showing such kindness to Magdalen the sinner. God sees as in a glass all men, and their every action (Psalm 32:13). “He that planted the ear shall He not hear? He that made the eye shall He not see?” (Psalm 93:9).
God also foresees evil, but man is not thereby constrained to do evil. It is just as if we see from a distance a man who is committing some crime. God sees the deed because the man does it; the man does not do it because God sees it. When some past action is present to our thoughts, it did not happen because it is in our thoughts: so when God foresees some future action, it does not happen because God has foreseen it, but He has foreseen it because the man is going to commit it the man is not compelled to commit because God has foreseen it. When God foresees that some man will be lost forever, God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of the man’s damnation. The physician foresees the approaching death of his patient, but his knowledge is not the cause of the man’s death.
The learned Franciscan Duns Scotus, once heard a farmer uttering terrible curses and begged him not to damn his soul so thoughtlessly. The farmer answered: “God knows everything. He knows whether I shall go to Heaven or to Hell. If He knows that I shall go to Heaven, why to Heaven I shall go; if He knows that I shall go to Hell, I shall go to Hell. What, then, does it matter what I do or say?”
The priest answered, “In that case why plough your fields? God knows whether they will bear a good crop or not. If He knows that they will bear a good harvest, the harvest will be good, whether you plough the land or not. If He knows that they will be unfruitful, why unfruitful they will be. Why then should you waste your time in ploughing?”
Then the farmer understood that it is not the omniscience of God, but the free action of man, that determines both our temporal and our eternal happiness or misery.
God also knows what would have happened under certain given circumstances; this is the reason why He sends us trials, in order to prevent greater evils that otherwise would have happened to us.
Thus Our Lord knew that the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon would have done penance, if such wonders had been worked among them, as He worked in Corozain and Bethsaida. God foresees that some of the just will be led astray by the seductions of the world, and sometimes in His mercy takes them at an early age to Himself. He foresees that some will be ruined by riches, or by prosperity, and therefore brings them to poverty and to earthly misfortune. This ought to make us bear our troubles with patience. The trials of the just are an opportunity offered them to advance in virtue. God, Who knows all things, will one day bring all hidden things to light.
Our Lord says, “There is nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest: or secret that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke 8:17). God will, in the Last Day, disclose and make known our whole life. As the morning sun shows all things in their true light, so Christ, the Sun of justice, will at the Day of Judgment reveal all our actions in their true light. All prayers, alms, fasts, penances, that are done according to His will, will be made manifest to the whole world. Nothing is so small as to escape notice at the Last Day.
We should think on God’s omniscience, especially when we are tempted, that we may pass through our temptations unscathed.
A little boy who was in a strange house saw there a basket full of beautiful apples. As he could see no one in the room, he was much tempted to help himself to some. But the thought came to him of God’s omniscience. “No,” he said, “I must not take them, for God sees me.” At that moment a man who was hidden from him by a curtain, called out to him, “You may take as many apples as you like.” What a blessing it was for him that he had not taken them without permission. If we know that someone is watching us we are very careful what we do; if we remember that God sees us, we shall be still more careful. Job took refuge in God’s knowledge of his innocence, when he was mocked at by his friends; so did Susanna when falsely accused (Job 16:16; Daniel 13:42).
5. God is supremely wise, that is to say, He knows how to direct everything for the best in order to carry out His designs.
The design at which God aims is nothing else than His own glory, and the good of His creatures. If the farmer wishes for a good harvest, he ploughs his field, manures it, sows good seed, etc. Such a farmer is a wise man, because he chooses the means best qualified to attain his end. God acts in an exactly similar way. He prepared the world for the coming of the Redeemer by the call of Abraham, the sending of the prophets, etc. The wisdom of God shows Itself in the life of individuals, e.g., of Joseph in Egypt, of Moses, of St. Paul, and also in the history of nations and kingdoms. (Cf. Romans 11:33).
1. The wisdom of God shows itself especially in the way in which He brings good out of evil.
The life of the patriarch Joseph is an excellent example of this. God’s ways are not as our ways, or His thoughts as our thoughts. Man proposes and God disposes. A man inexperienced in war would be puzzled by the orders issued by the general, and would not be able to understand how they all could tend to insure victory. We shall understand God’s ways in Heaven, but we cannot understand them here. A child saw how the thorns tore away little pieces from the fleece of a sheep and wanted to remove the thorns. Presently the child saw how the singing-birds collected the bits of wool to make their nests, and no longer wished to remove the thorns. Many men are like this child.
2. The wisdom of God is also displayed in this, that God makes use of the most unlikely means for His own honor.
St. Paul says: “The weak things of this world God has chosen to confound the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). God chose the small and despised land of Palestine as the cradle of Christianity; He chose a poor maiden to be the Mother of God, and a poor carpenter to be His foster-father. He chose poor, ignorant fishermen to preach the Gospel and spread it over all the Earth. He often uses the most improbable means in helping His friends. St. Felix of Nola, when flying from his persecutors, took refuge in a hole in a rock. A spider came and spun its web at the mouth of the cave, and his pursuers, on seeing this, concluded that he could not be inside. A poor woman was summoned to pay some money which had already been paid by her husband, who was dead. She searched everywhere for the receipt, but in vain. The very morning when she had to appear before the court a cockchafer flew in at the window, and behind a press. One of the children wanted to get it, so the mother moved the press a little to reach it, and from behind the press the long-sought receipt fell to the ground. This was God’s answer to the poor widow’s prayers. It is God’s law that all works done for God should meet with difficulties and hindrances. “A work that begins with brilliant promise,” St. Philip Neri used to say, “has not God for its author and protector.”
3. Lastly the wisdom of God shows itself in directing the course of the world to carry out His purposes.
All things in the world have a mutual relation to one another. If a man removes or displaces a single wheel in a watch, the watch stops: so if anything were altered in the arrangement of the world, all things would be confused; e.g., without the birds the insects would soon destroy all vegetation. So the animals that serve us for food increase rapidly, while the beasts of prey breed but slowly. Nothing in the world is useless; the alternations of sunshine and rain, summer and winter, day and night, all serve some useful end. How useful is the uneven distribution of wealth, of the talents of men, etc.! The smallest insect has its usefulness in the world: the butterfly, going from flower to flower, carries with it the fertilizing pollen. Even the destructive agencies in the world, storms, earthquakes, and floods, serve God’s purposes, and are intended by Him to help men to save their souls. How wonderful, too, is the orderly course of the heavenly bodies! The movement of the Earth around the sun, and of the moon around the Earth, serve to make this world a pleasant habitation for man. The beautiful arrangement of the universe compels us to recognize the wisdom and prudence of Him Who has created it.
“How great are Thy works, O Lord! Thou hast made all things in wisdom; the Earth is filled with Thy riches” (Psalm 103:24).