The Holy Innocents
Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today’s feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven’s blessing stream down upon them.
“Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers’ womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
Saint Augustine pray for us as we do battle with those who would bring on a new cruel, cold winter of unbelief, replete with millions of new Holy Innocents. Continue reading
Concluding our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102 and 2013, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, and here, we come to Isaiah 40: 1-5:
 Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.
 Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.
 The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.
 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.
 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see, that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.
As Saint Augustine notes, this is a clear reference to John the Baptist: Continue reading
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”
Saint Augustine, De Genesi ad Litteram Libri Duodecim Continue reading
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here ,here , here, here , here , here and here to read the first eight posts in the series, we come to the conclusion with the eternal glory of Easter.
In this Vale of Tears we lead lives afflicted by sin and always in the shadow of death. Christ came to free us from the chains of sin and to prove to us that death is not an end, but merely our beginning in infinity. My mother died thirty years ago on Easter Sunday 1984. Because of Easter I know that I will see her again, along with my son who died last year on Pentecost. Without either hope or love we are but poor creatures indeed. Easter gives us hope and tells us that we are children of a loving God. Saint Augustine reminds us of these great truths: Continue reading
Christ bore Himself in His hands, when He offered His body saying: “this is my body.”
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here ,here , here, here , here and here to read the first seven posts in the series, we come to Holy Thursday and the First Mass. As Catholics, we join in the great mystery of God sacrificing Himself for us at every Mass we witness, just as if we were sitting at the Last Supper watching Christ transforming the bread into His Body and the wine into His Blood. Saint Augustine explained to new Catholics why bread and wine are placed on Catholic altars: Continue reading
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here ,here , here, here and here to read the first six posts in the series, we come to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Looked at in purely human terms Palm Sunday was the height of the career of Christ, His moment in the sun when he was acclaimed by crowds as he entered Jerusalem, causing enough commotion that Caiaphas decided that He must die to prevent his followers from alarming Rome sufficiently to start a war. Cold political calculation began its work on Palm Sunday and led to the swift death of Christ on a cross by Good Friday. How many, many movements throughout history have died still-born as a result of the leader swiftly being put to death! Saint Augustine reminds of us why this did not happen to the Christian “movement”: Continue reading
“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here ,here , here and here to read the first five posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent. One of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the eternal enemy of Man is despair. How many people abstain from confession and reconciliation with God on the mistaken belief that their sins are too great and they are beyond redemption. It would seem in our day that these people would be small in number since so many would appear to have lost any sense of sin. Perhaps, but perhaps also a denial of the fact of sin is merely a surface attempt to avoid the gnawing guilt and emptiness that sin usually causes in most souls, whether the sin is recognized as such or not. For all lost and wandering souls the forgiveness of God is close at hand for His mercy is as infinite as His justice is sure. What so many of us have earned at the hands of His justice, He spares us by His mercy. Despair is a sin, and in Lent we should turn our backs on it, as we do all sin. Here is what Augustine wrote in regard to forgiveness of sins, no matter how great they are: Continue reading
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here ,here and here to read the first four posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent. We repent our sins and turn away from them, but these are not ends in themselves. We do them to help reawaken in our souls our love of God. God loves each of us with a love the intensity and magnitude of which we, in this life, cannot hope to fathom. It has been said that God loves each man as if he were the only one. He loves us enough to die for us, the creator of life suffering an ignominious human death to bring us to Him. Blinded by sin and the follies of this Vale of Tears we are often unable to see that the sweet loves we encounter in this life are but pale reflections of His love. Saint Augustine, after a wasted youth, did finally understand that love, and wrote about his discovery in imperishable words: Continue reading
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here , here and here to read the first three posts in the series, we come to Augustine’s discussion of why we should avoid sin. Augustine thought that refraining from sin due to fear of Hell did not involve the rejection of sin but rather fear of burning. The true reason for avoiding sin is love of God and therefore rejection of sin as a result of that love. Our Act of Contrition mentions both motivations but is clear what should be the most important:
O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.
As the saying goes, fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and no doubt the fear of Hell for many a sinner is the beginning of repentance, but that is only the beginning, and not the end, of our struggle against sin. Christ taught us to call God Father and that He is a loving Father. Anything that turns us from the God who loves us with such an eternal love, we reject, not out of fear but out of love: Continue reading
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here and here to read the first and the second in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s description of what he viewed as one of his worst sins, the theft of pears from a pear tree. More than a few people have been mystified as to why this incident caused Saint Augustine such pain. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, for example, wrote “Rum thing to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens”. Such critics of course completely miss the point. The incident of the pear tree is the classic example of pure sin. Augustine and the other rowdies did not steal the pears to feed themselves, they threw the pears to hogs. They did this evil not to satisfy some hunger or desire, but for the sake of the sin itself, and that is what makes the act so monstrous in retrospect in the eyes of Saint Augustine. The worst sort of sin we can do is a sin that has no purpose other than to engage in sin, in disobedience to God. Most sins men do are a bad road to reach a worldly good. A thief who robs a bank to gain money. A couple who fornicate with each other to show their love for one another. A glutton who gorges himself because he loves fine food. The pear tree sin lacks any good as a goal that led to the commission of the sin, and leaves only the desire to do an evil act. Saint Augustine was right to weep over this, as should we all whenever we do evil solely for the sake of doing evil. Saint Augustine on the pear tree: Continue reading
Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here to read the first in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s comments on sins of the flesh. It is interesting that Saint Augustine begins the passage noting that some argue that the sins of the flesh are not sins, precisely the same argument that is made in our time. Saint Paul mentioned, and refuted, this argument in his epistles, so it is as old as Christianity. The sins of the flesh are not the most dire of sins, rather the reverse, that pride of place going to the sin of pride, a sin I have ever struggled with, and that caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven to Hell. However, sins of the flesh are sins, being a perversion of the love that is at the heart of Christianity. Lust is ever an inadequate substitute for love, and attempting to make it a substitute is at the core of many of our social problems today, treating people as things, means to our own gratification, rather than children of a loving God that we love with fidelity and self-sacrifice, to mirror in our lives some minute fragment of the love that God lavishes on us. Here is Saint Augustine on sins of the flesh: Continue reading
Since Vatican II Catholics have largely deserted the confessional. Our Communion lines are full and our confessionals are empty. Unless there has been some radical change in human nature over the past half century, something I see no evidence for, there is something very, very wrong in all this.
Saint Augustine, who once prayed before his conversion, Lord make me chaste, but not now, knew the temptation to put off until some theoretical tomorrow repentance. We know that God will accept our repentance, but true repentance means putting away sins we are deeply attached to, or ones we in despair think we cannot summon up the willpower to avoid in future. Saint Augustine, in Sermon 32 responds to this manana mentality by reminding us that while God has promised us forgiveness He has not promised us endless tomorrows to seek His forgiveness. As we enter Lent, let us recall these words of the Bishop of Hippo: Continue reading
Something for a Christmas weekend. Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Written by Charles Wesley in 1739, the hymn we enjoy today developed and changed over a century with input from many hands. No hymn I think better exemplifies the sheer joy that the coming of Christ should awake in the hearts of all Christians. Continue reading
Beginning our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, which we began in Advent 2011 and continued last year, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , here, and here, we come to Psalm 2:
 Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?
 The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against his Christ.
 Let us break their bonds asunder: and let us cast away their yoke from us.
 He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them.
 Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and trouble them in his rage.
 But I am appointed king by him over Sion his holy mountain, preaching his commandment.
 The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.
 Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
 Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron, and shalt break them in pieces like a potter’ s vessel.
 And now, O ye kings, understand: receive instruction, you that judge the earth.
 Serve ye the Lord with fear: and rejoice unto him with trembling.
 Embrace discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the just way.
When his wrath shall be kindled in a short time, blessed are all they that trust in him.
Saint Augustine wrote regarding this Psalm: Continue reading
O blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay thee thy just dues of praise and thanksgiving, thou who by the wondrous assent of thy will didst rescue a fallen world? What songs of praise can our weak human nature recite in thy honor, since it is by thy intervention alone that it has found the way to restoration. Accept, then, such poor thanks as we have here to offer, though they be unequal to thy merits; and receiving our vows, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offenses. Carry thou our prayers within the sanctuary of the heavenly audience, and bring forth from it the antidote of our reconciliation. May the sins we bring before Almighty God through thee, become pardonable through thee; may what we ask for with sure confidence, through thee be granted. Take our offering, grant us our requests, obtain pardon for what we fear, for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for the remission of our sins, and in thee, O blessed Lady, is our hope of reward. Holy Mary, succour the miserable, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for thy people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God; may all who keep thy holy commemoration feel now thy help and protection. Be thou ever ready to assist us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it thy continual care to pray for the people of God, thou who, blessed by God, didst merit to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.
Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.
He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.
Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. Continue reading
Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies which we began last Advent, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here and here, we look today at Malachi 3: 1-5.
 Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts.
 And who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire, and like the fuller’s herb:
 And he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice.  And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years.
 And I will come to you in judgment, and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers, and adulterers, and false swearers, and them that oppress the hireling in his wages; the widows, and the fatherless: and oppress the stranger, and have not feared me, saith the Lord of hosts. Continue reading