|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
PERFECTIONS OF GOD (CONTINUED)
6. God is almighty, i.e., God can do all that He wills, and that by a mere act of His will.
God can do things which appear to men impossible, e.g., the preservation of the three young men in the midst of the fiery furnace of Babylon. A thousand similar wonders occurred in the time of the persecutions of the Christians. Our Lord says “With God nothing is impossible” (Matthew 19:26). Yet God cannot do that which is in contradiction with His own perfections. He cannot lie, and He cannot deceive. God could always have done more wonderful works than He has done. He could have created a more beautiful world than this and more creatures than He has actually made. When any of the creatures that God has made desires to do anything, he can only make use of the things that God has made, and in accordance with the laws that God has established. But God is bound by no laws save those of His own infinite goodness and truth. He has only to will a thing and what He wills happens at once. “He spoke, and the heavens were created: He commanded, and they were created” (Psalm 148:5).
The omnipotence of God shows itself especially in the creation of the world, in the miracles wrought by Our Lord, and in those miracles which before and after Our Lord’s time God has worked for the confirmation of the true religion.
The Earth is 24,899 miles in circumference; the sun is far larger, for its diameter is one hundred times greater than that of the Earth. Some of the heavenly bodies are far greater: some of them if they occupied the place of the sun and were to begin to rise at 6 a.m., would not have completely risen above the horizon by 6 p.m. Our Earth is over ninety-one million miles distant from the sun. A body travelling from the Earth to the sun at the ordinary rate of a cannon-ball, would take twenty-five years to reach the sun. The planet Neptune, according to the latest information, is 2,794,000,000 miles distant from the sun. A cannon-ball would take eight hundred years to travel thence to the sun. There are stars outside our planetary system which are a million times further from us. Light which travels at the rate of 24,000 miles a second would take many millions of years to reach these stars. Around our sun there move eight larger and two hundred and eighty smaller planets. The nearest (Mercury) is thirty-six million miles distant from the sun, and the most distant (Neptune) over two billion miles. There are also in the heavens thirty million fixed stars, all of them real suns and mostly larger than our sun, and around these move many other heavenly bodies. All these God has created out of nothing. How infinite, then, is the power of God! Think also of the miracles wrought by Christ, the raising of Lazarus, the stilling of the tempest, etc., the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, the wonders that are now being worked at Lourdes, etc. “Who shall declare the powers of the Lord, or set forth all His praises?” (Psalm 105:2).
Since God is almighty, we can hope for help from Him in our greatest needs.
God has a thousand different ways of helping us. He can send an angel to help us, as He did to St. Peter in prison; or work a miracle, as He did to feed the multitude in the desert: as a rule He makes use of the most unlikely means, and thereby shows the greatness of His power. He freed Bethulia from the Assyrians by means of a woman. He saved the Israelites from their enemies by making a path through the sea. It is easy for the Lord to save by many or by few.
7. God is supremely good, i.e., He loves His creatures far more than a father loves his children.
God loves His creatures and loads them with benefits. He is love itself (1 John 4:8).
The spring cannot but send forth water and the sun light. The goodness of God differs from that of His creatures as the sun differs from the light shed upon a wall. His creatures are good, because God sheds His goodness upon them. Hence Our Lord says: “None is good but One, that is God” (Mark 10:18).
1. The love of God extends to all the creatures that He has made (Wisdom 11:25).
As the sun lights up the boundless firmament, so God extends His goodness to all creatures. Not one of them is excluded from it. “Not one of them is forgotten by God” (Luke 12:6).
2. But God has an especial love for mankind. He imparts countless benefits to them and sent His Son on Earth to redeem them.
What wonderful bodies God has given us! He has bestowed upon us our senses, and the gift of speech. How many gifts He has conferred upon our souls! He has given us understanding, free will, and memory. For our bodies He gives us food, drink, clothing, health, etc. How well He has provided for our necessities on this Earth: light, warmth, the air, the plants, the trees, and their various fruits. How many powers He has implanted in nature, for us to use for our own benefit: coal, salt, stone, marble, precious stones, etc. He has, in fact, made man the lord of the whole world. He loves us far more than we love ourselves. His love for us is far greater than that of the fondest mother for her child. The love of all creatures for God is not nearly as great as the love of God for each one of us.
But above all, God has shown His love for us in this that He gave His only-begotten Son for us (John 3:16). Abraham could not show his love for God in any more perfect way than this, that he gave to God that which was dearest to him, namely, his only son. God did just the same: He gave us His dearest and best possession, His only-begotten Son.
Our Lord says of Himself: “Greater love no man has than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He underwent His sacred Passion and death in order to prove the excess of His love for us. His attitude on the cross proclaims it. His head bowed, to give us the kiss of peace, His arms extended to embrace us, His Heart opened to admit us therein. In the Blessed Sacrament His love keeps Him in the midst of us, and seeks the closest union with us in holy communion. Finally He promised to grant all the prayers that we offer in His name (John xiv. 14).
3. Among men God shows the greatest love to the just.
“A perfect soul,” says St. Alphonsus, “is dearer to God than a thousand imperfect ones.” “To them that love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). “O how great is the multitude of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou hast hidden for them that fear Thee” (Psalm 30:20). God rewards the good works of the just far beyond what they deserve. He repays them a hundredfold, even in this present life (Matthew 19:29). He loves the just in spite of their sins and imperfections, just as a mother loves her child tenderly in spite of its many defects.
4. God manifests His love even to sinners.
God continues to confer graces and benefits upon sinners until the last moment of their life (Matthew 5:44). He sends them troubles to bring them to repentance. He finds some good in all, and He also loves them for what He hopes they may become. The love of God is like the powerful magnet that draws iron to itself. Sometimes there is an obstacle in the way, so that the piece of iron cannot reach the magnet, but the magnet continues to draw it all the same. So God continues to draw sinners, even though they do not come near to Him. God hates only the devil and the lost. Even in Hell He shows His goodness by not punishing the lost as much as they deserve. It is because of God’s love for men that Hell will be so intolerable.
The lost will say, “If God had not loved us so much, we should not be so miserable now.” Since God loves us so dearly we should love Him dearly in return (1 John 4:10). We should not be afraid of Him, but should draw near to Him with childlike confidence. Since God is so good to us we must also be good to our fellow-men. God has given us a command to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love our enemies, and also to perform works of mercy. God also wishes us to be kind and merciful to the brute creation.
8. God is very patient, i.e., He leaves the sinner time for repentance and a change of life.
Men are inclined to punish quickly: not so God. He endures long the rebellion of the wicked. It is not the will of God that a sinner should die, but that he should be converted from his wicked ways, and live (Ezechiel 18:23). God often gives men long warning of coming judgments. He gave those who lived in the days of Noe a warning of one hundred and twenty years: to the Ninivites of forty days: to the Jews a warning of forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. A storm does not break at once; we are forewarned by the gathering clouds and the darkness: so God warns us of coming punishment. He does not at once cut down the barren tree (Luke 13:8-9). God’s manner of action is opposite to that of man. Man constructs slowly, and destroys quickly. God constructed the universe in six days, but He took seven days for the destruction of the little town of Jericho. Even man prefers to build up, rather than to destroy: much more so God. God is so patient with us because He has compassion on our weakness, and because He desires to make conversion easy to the sinner.
God deals with us as a mother deals with a peevish infant; she presses it closer to her breast and coaxes it to be good. “Knowest thou not,” says St. Paul, “that the goodness of God leadeth thee to penance?” (Romans 2:4). God deals with us patiently for our sakes, not being willing that any should perish, but that all should come to penance (2 Peter 3:9).
With many sinners God’s patience has not been lost, e.g., St. Mary Magdalen, St. Augustine, St. Mary of Egypt, etc., but with others it effects nothing. The same sunlight hardens mud and softens wax. If God were not patient with us, no one could be saved, for we are all sinners who have been unfaithful to Him. But though God is so patient, it is dangerous to put off conversion. For the longer God delays His vengeance, the more terrible it is when it comes upon the sinner. It is just like an arrow from the bow: the more the bow is drawn back, the greater the force with which the arrow flies. Compare the awful end of Antiochus Epiphanes (2 Machabees 9:5 seq.). We must not think, because God is so patient, that He has forgotten our sins. “Say not, I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? The Most High is a patient rewarder” (Ecclesiasticus 5:4).
9. God is full of mercy and compassion, i.e., He very readily forgives our sins when we are sincerely sorry for them.
Our Lord gives a beautiful object-lesson of the mercy of God in the story of the prodigal son. See how quickly God forgave the sin of David (2 Kings 12:13). It is a property of God to have mercy and to spare. His mercy is infinite; like the sea, it has no bounds. God requires of us that we should forgive seventy times seven: how immeasurably merciful therefore must God be!
The mercy of God especially shows itself in the way in which He seeks out the sinner, seeking to win him both by benefits and by the sufferings He inflicts; and also in the love with which He receives again and again the greatest sinner, after his conversion showing him a greater good will than before. God is like the good shepherd who goes after the lost sheep until he finds it (Luke 15:4). God sent the prophet Nathan to David; He Himself sought out the Samaritan woman (John 4). Often He sends troubles that through them the prodigal son may be brought to his senses. He is like a fisherman who tries every sort of device to entice fishes into his net.
God is always ready to pardon even the greatest sinner; for He says, “If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool” (Isaias 1:18). In fact, the greater the sinner the more lovingly does God receive him if he is willing to amend. Hence David says to God, “Be merciful to my sin, for it is great” (Psalm 24:11). God is like a fisherman, who is more glad to catch big fish than small ones. No one is lost because he has committed great sins, but many are lost because they have committed one sin of which they will not repent. Even Judas would have received forgiveness if he had asked for it.
God sometimes forgives the sinner in the last moment of life. He received the good thief on the cross. Yet this is no reason for putting off repentance till the last. “God justified one man at the last moment that none might despair; but only one, that none might presume,” says St. Augustine. A deathbed repentance is generally a very doubtful business: the dying sinner forsakes his sins rather because he cannot help it, than because from his heart he detests them; he is like the mariner who throws his goods into the sea simply from fear of death, not because he wishes to get rid of them. Witness how rarely a conversion made in peril of death proves lasting if the sick man recovers. “It is absurd,” says St. Bernardine of Sienna, “that a man who would not fight when he was well and strong, should be moved to the combat when he is sick and weak.”
God also receives the repentant sinner most lovingly. See how Christ received with tender compassion Magdalen, the woman taken in adultery, and the thief on the cross (Luke 7:47; John 8:11: Luke 23:43). How kindly the father of the prodigal son received him! God receives the sinner far more kindly than that. “Before he knocks at the door, it is opened to him: before he falls on his knees before Thee, Thou stretchest out Thy hand to him” (St. Ephrem).
Our Lord says that there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner doing penance, than over ninety-nine just men, who need not penance (Luke 15:7). The reason of this is that the sinner who does penance generally serves God more zealously and faithfully. God bestows upon the sinner after his conversion greater benefits than He did before he went astray. The father of the prodigal son killed the fatted calf, and made a great feast, with music and dancing. Sometimes the benefits God bestows on the converted sinner are external, more often they are inner consolations and graces. Witness St. Paul, raised to the third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). The Good Shepherd has more joy over the return of the one wandering sheep, than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
10. God is infinitely holy, i.e., He loves good and hates all evil.
God’s holiness is nothing else than a love of His own infinite perfections. He is free from the faintest stain, and therefore desires that all should be like to Himself. How pure is the blue Heaven on which there is no cloud! How pure is the white snow on which no spot is to be found! Yet God is infinitely purer. Even angels are not pure in His sight (Job iv. 18). The purity of the angels as compared with that of God is like the light of a lamp compared with the light of the sun. “All our justice is like a soiled rag before Thee, O God!” (Isaias 64:6). He says to us: “Be ye holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). With this object He implants in our breast the natural law (conscience): with this object He gave the law on Mount Sinai; with this object He attached evil consequences to evil deeds. And to cleanse the just from the impurities that cling to them, He purifies them by suffering (John 15:2). He also cleanses them by the fire of purgatory, since nothing unclean can enter Heaven. Why is it that the saints and angels in Heaven are represented as dressed in white garments? Why is it that at Baptism a white robe is given to the newly baptized? Be pure and holy, and then you will be a child of God.
11. God is infinitely just, i.e., He rewards all good and punishes all evil deeds.
God’s justice is identical with His goodness. He punishes men to make them better, and to make them happy.
1. God punishes and rewards men partly on Earth, but chiefly after death.
Good actions bring men respect, sometimes riches, health, and a peaceful conscience. Bad actions bring just the opposite. Abraham, Noe, the patriarch Joseph, were rewarded in this life. Absalom, the sons of Heli, and Antiochus Epiphanes were punished in this life. But it is in the next life, and especially after the resurrection, that body and soul alike will receive their full reward. If all sins were punished in this life men would not believe in the Judgment Day. If none were punished here they would not believe in God’s retributive justice (St. Augustine).
2. God rewards the least good action, and punishes the smallest sin.
Christ tells us that even a cup of cold water given in His name will have its reward. A mere look or gesture will meet with its due reward. Christ tells us that we shall give account for every idle word (Matthew 12:36).
3. God punishes men for the most part in kind, i.e., in the same way in which they have sinned.
“By what things a man sinneth,” says the Wise Man, “by the same he also is tormented.” Absalom prided himself on his long hair and it caused his death. The rich glutton sinned with his palate and it was his tongue and palate that were tormented in the fire of Hell. Antiochus tormented the seven Machabean brethren by tearing and maiming their flesh, and his own flesh was eaten by worms (2 Machabees 9:6). Aman wished to hang Mardochai, and prepared a gallows for him, and on the same gallows he was himself hanged. The women of Bethlehem would not shelter the Mother of God and the divine Son, and their children perished at the revengeful and cruel hand of Herod. Napoleon I. imprisoned the Holy Father, and in his turn was imprisoned first in Elba, and then in St. Helena. In these and many similar events, the Christian sees the finger of God.
4. In rewarding and punishing, God has regard to the circumstances of the individual, and especially to the intention with which he acts, and to the talents that he possesses.
Men judge from the outward appearance of any action, God judges from the heart (1 Kings 16:7). The poor widow who threw in only two mites into the treasury of the Temple, had more merit before God than many of the rich men who gave large gifts (Luke 21:4). The servant who knows his lord’s will and does it not, will receive more stripes than the servant who did not know the will of his lord (Luke 12:47-48). The more knowledge any one has of God, the more severely will God punish him for his sins.
5. God is no respecter of persons.
Many who are first in this world will be last in the world to come. The story of the rich glutton and poor Lazarus is an instance of this. Many who have their names in the mouths of men, and in the records of their country, will not have their names written in the book of life. Because God is a God of perfect justice we have good reason to fear Him.
Christ exhorts us to fear God, Who is able to cast both body and soul into Hell (Matthew 10:28). On account of one single sin, that of our first parents, millions of men have to suffer pain and death; and countless numbers will be forever miserable. Thence we gather how God hates sin. The same conclusion follows from the fact that Our Lord had to die an agonizing death to atone for sin. Who, then, can fail to fear God? But our fear of God must be a filial, not a servile fear, i.e., we must fear not so much the punishment of sin, as the offence against God. A filial fear is the result of a great love of God.
Yet we must try and avoid, from fear of punishment, those sins from which the love of God is not sufficient to deter us. The fear of God is of great advantage to us; it keeps us back from sin, leads us on to perfection, and insures for us peace and happiness both in time and in eternity. The fear of God keeps us back from sin. It was the fear of God that held back the aged Eleazar from eating swine’s flesh (2 Machabees 6:26). He who fears God knows no other fear. As the wind drives away the clouds, so the fear of God drives away fleshly lusts, and enables us to escape the snares of the devil. He who fears God casts aside all attachment to things of Earth, as the mariner in danger throws overboard the wares that otherwise would sink his ship. As the needle pierces the stuff and makes way for the thread, so the fear of God prepares the way for the love of God and for every virtue.
“The fear of God,” says the Psalmist, “is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 110:10). The fear of man is full of bitterness and makes a man a slave; the fear of God is full of sweetness, and makes him a free man. The fear of God brings with it honor and glory; it is crowned with joy and gladness, it gladdens the heart, and gives strength and happiness and long life. “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord” (Psalm 111:1). The more we fear God now, the less we shall fear His judgments at the Last Day. The fear of God is a special grace given by God to those who love Him. The fear of God is a special gift of the Holy Ghost. God says of His people, “I will give My fear in their hearts, that they may not revolt from Me.” Hence our prayer should be, “Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear” (Psalm 118:120).
12. God is a God of perfect truth, i.e., all that He reveals to man is true.
God cannot err for He is omniscient; He cannot deceive for He is all-holy. “God is not as a man that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should be changed” (Numbers 23:19). Hence we must believe all that God has revealed, even though our feeble understanding cannot comprehend it e.g., the mysteries of the Christian religion, the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
13. God is faithful, i.e., He keeps His promises and carries out His threats.
See how exactly God carried out His threat of death to our first parents, and His subsequent promise of a Redeemer. See again how exactly Our Lord’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled; and how the prophecy of Daniel, that the Temple would never again be rebuilt (Daniel 9:27) was accomplished; for when Julian the Apostate made an attempt to rebuild it, an earthquake destroyed the foundations, and flames issuing from the ground compelled the builders to fly. Promises and threats are necessary to move our feeble wills. Our Lord used the fear of punishment as an incentive to virtue. Ordinary men are more influenced by fear than by any higher motive. With them the fear of Hell is a stronger motive for virtuous living than the hope of Heaven. God threatens us out of mercy. The man who cries “Beware!” does not want to strike. So God threatens punishment that He may not have to punish.
Hence all that Our Lord and the prophets have foretold either has already happened, or will happen in the future. The time will therefore never come when the Catholic Church will be destroyed, or when the Papacy will cease to exist (Matthew 16:18). The Jews will all be converted before the end of the world (Osee 3:5). Awful signs in the Heaven and Earth will precede the final judgment (Matthew 24:29). If we trust our fellow-men they give us their promise on paper; how much more should we trust Christ, since He has left us whole books, i.e., the Scriptures, filled with His promises!