Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fun with Christmas Toys

A Rodeo Allegory

Ranching was the only life the seven McDermott boys knew in eastern Oklahoma. Unlike other children in modern America, the McDermott's grew up in a religious home with its most prominent display of, not a large plasma TV, but rather a life sized statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, their spiritual Mother in Heaven.

Mrs. McDermott would tell her children:

"Jesus, our Lord, is both God and Man. Jesus proved this by his many miracles - the most important proof was when He rose from the dead. The Apostle St. Thomas didn't believe this last miracle until he saw Jesus. Then Thomas said to Him, 'My Lord and my God.' As God, Jesus fulfilled the promise of a Redeemer God made to Adam after Adam sinned that day long ago in the Garden of Eden. This is why Christmas is so special - we celebrate God becoming man to save us from the sin we inherited from Adam. He came to correct Adam's wrong and reopen the gates of Heaven for you and me, giving us, as God promised, the New Covenant, His Church. As Man, Jesus - the new Adam - gave the human race a new start and showed us how to follow God's Covenant and how to please the Father in Heaven. Since Christ was both Man and God, He perfectly kept the commandments including the 4th: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. Since Jesus is the new Adam, he is our good brother in the human race, therefore we should honor the Father in Heaven and honor our Mother in Heaven, Mary. After all, what Kingdom has a King, but no Queen? When you boys get big, you keep our family photo albums, there are wonderful memories in them. You also keep this statue of your other family member, Mary. She's family too, together with all the Saints in Heaven. Our statues are like our family photo albums."

Childhood memories on this Catholic ranch involved the rigors of ranch life - throwing hay, stretching fence, rounding strays on horseback - but it also included the tranquility of working the land that God created and prayer. As they grew older they became top hands and developed a reputation of fairness at their cattle sales. The harder they worked the land and invested in the gifts that God gave them, the greater their returns in both profit and spiritual growth. This devotion to duty also gave them the reputation of steadfast strength.

However Martin, took this to an irrational extreme for no good purpose. The more unscathed he emerged from each risk that he took, the more self inflated he became. As Martin grew up, his brothers around him matured in the faith while he remained rather prideful and selfish.

The oldest brothers, Peter, James, and John, grew in wisdom and piety. They successfully operated not only the 6,400 acre family-owned ranch, but also their own roping and penning arena. They volunteered to help neighboring ranchers brand and inoculate their cattle, as well as train other green cowboys to master the trade of horsemanship. The arena was also wisely used to hone their own roping, penning, and cutting job skills. All three gave thanks to God for the healthiest livestock in the state. God blessed each and every endeavor from these eldest sons and they never forgot to return God praise and thanks. They did this partly by serving at daily mass and by generously providing for their aging parents and the needs of those less fortunate around them. The McDermott brothers grew up knowing that God helps His friends, not his enemies. Although not all the brothers were as steadfast.

This morning began as usual with a low Latin mass at 0600 in the country chapel of Immaculate Conception Church.

The previous day, Martin managed to talk a professional stock contractor into letting him kennel two of the world's most popular and rankest bulls from the PBR Circuit named Vanity and his next closest kin, Pride.

Martin was much too eager to tempt fate against these dangerous beasts and even enticed his younger brother into giving his two new acquaintances a whirl in the arena. The twins, blinded by glory, wanted their own piece of the action by doing some rodeo clowning against the bulls.

Today, they offered their two younger brothers a quick trip from mass to the arena on their ATV's zooming past their older brothers who orderly walked the distance to the church.

As Peter, James, and John departed from mass blessing themselves with holy water, Martin the twins and his younger brother left in a raucous belch of exhaust from their ATV's, whooping "Let's take 'em boys!"

They arrived excitedly with their reckless ambitions for glory and daring buffoonery and to see their first glimpse of the world renowned bulls.

With a leap and a holler, the two younger brothers hastily threw their gear over the fence and dove after their fame.

While George gathered his gear he felt a whoosh under his hat and turned to watch Martin faceplant in the manure tilled earth of the arena. Shaking his head, George asked, "You okay?"

As they were gearing up George admonished Martin for his usual recklessness saying, "You know, you've gotta stop acting like you're invincible." Martin retorted, "Don't you remember that I'm older than you? Let me give you some experienced advice little brother: let a real man instruct you in the ways of life."

George replied, "Great! Where can I find one?"

After gearing up they met up with the twins who, in the meantime, outfitted themselves as rodeo clowns, ready to take on the Brahmas. They looked at the bulls and discussed the animals bucking patterns.

Vanity, a tan colored, shy looking bull, appeared harmless, young, and inexperienced, but once it was tried, would lead every bull rider down a long perilous journey through the arena. Vanity would toy with his passenger, deceptively breaking out of the chute into a predictable straight buck, deceiving the rider into thinking he can easily cover the 8 seconds and impress a full crowd. Only at 7.8 seconds when the rider thought that he triumphed in glory and honor would the bull finally dump its rider with a dramatic belly roll in full spectacle of the grandstands.

Meanwhile Peter, James, and John arrived and began a similar discussion about the popular, experienced, and notorious bull, Pride, as the bull watched out of the corner of his ugly worn out eye.

Peter leaned against the gate and explained, "Out of the seven deadliest bulls in the world, Pride has killed more men then all seven combined. There's nothing deceptive about him, you know his moves, a powerful jerk out of the chute, then he goes into a rage of twisting and spinning - always to the left - and once he's got you off he belows in triumph. It takes advantage of any mistake the rider makes. If the rider shows one flaw, Pride will eventually exploit it to your ruin. Boys, there's nothing worse than Pride. It's as if the devil himself invented him." At that the bull quickly spun around in agitation of the cowhands behind him and snorted loudly. The three brothers, all in unison, exclaimed, "Whoa!!"

Peter subsequently turned to his reckless younger brothers and cautioned, you boys better think again before trying to take on Pride and Vanity. Martin scoffed and hollered back, "load 'em up".

George was first to ride and he picked Vanity. He admitted, "Vanity appears a little less experienced, but Pride . . . well, I'm just not that brash to say I can stick a spur into him."

Peter, James, and John stated, "it's your free will, if your mind is that stubbornly set into hooking into one of the 7 deadliest bulls in the world, then we'll oblige." James helped George rosin his rope while Peter cinched it tight across George's palm. Martin merely looked on without even as much as a word of encouragement while, apprehensively awaiting his turn.

The clowns waited impatiently, repeatedly checking the time when George started to give the nod.

James jumped in and said, "Hold it, hold it. George, at least make the sign of the cross before your ride."

George wasn't that foolish or proud to admit that this was probably a good idea seeing that Vanity was a universally popular bull. So George proceeded: "In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. . . . Let's go boys!"

As meek as Vanity appeared, he charged out of the chute with a bang, meanwhile keeping its innocent appearance. It bucked straight down the arena and the ride went surprisingly well for George until he was dumped at 7.8 seconds . . . in front of the grandstands.

George emerged embarrassed and sore, but otherwise uninjured. As he later admitted, "my back hurt, my legs hurt, my arms hurt . . . heck, even my hair hurt."

Now Martin, instead of trusting in the sign of salvation, the sign of the cross, as he was instructed throughout his childhood, superstitiously dug up a used white shirt "for good luck". A superstition similar to what he had witnessed in all the sporting events he had participated in. While he changed, the twin brothers had an idea of their own: to bullfight Pride.

The quick bull turned out to be no match for the bullfighters as the bull first outran, outwitted, then overran the stumbling clown as bystanders covered their eyes in fear.

Pride proceeded to toss one, then another, and another about the arena like ragdolls.

Finally, Pride was lured into the bullpen for Martin's ride. Martin readied himself in the chute, and with his superstitious practice in operation quoted Chris Ledoux saying, "open the gate an itty bitty crack". The next scene summarized Martin's attempt with Pride.

The bull then repeated his rampage of destruction around the arena. Pride didn't care who he hurt. He even hooked into John, flicking him out of the arena and sent James running down the fenceline.

Peter, meanwhile, simply held his ground like a rock holding the rope to the gate.

Martin regained his composure and tried again, this time switching to his white hat. A gesture, he presumed, would bring him better luck.

The superstition again proved costly. As Pride exploded out of the chute Martin's rope twisted over his riding hand. Leaving him "hung up in the well."

James desperately tried to free his hand while the clowns distracted the dangerous beast. Peter even had a close call, although he never left his ground.

Exasperated, Martin gave up trying to ride pride for glory and honor. Instead, he thought he might cover 8 seconds of fame on a seemingly less provocative bull, Vanity. His superstitions continued as this time he borrowed George's riding chaps. With determination Martin completely ignored making the sign of the cross and murmured Frank Sinatra's adage, "I'll do it my way". The gate creaked open and the bull drove it open wide with its broad body.

Predictably, the bull went straight down the arena giving Martin a false sense of accomplishment and recognition. That is, until at 7.7 seconds when, in Vanity's typical fashion, the bull rejected its rider to Martin's embarrassment.

The superstitious cowboy, now fresh out of lucky combinations, save one, rubbed his old black hat for 'good luck' and thought for sure that his everyday working cover would finally produce his desired result. These silly superstitions finally caught up to the young cowboy, who certainly knew better. Vanity must have had enough when immediately out of the gate he dove into the air twisting his torso and causing the rider to slam into the ground with a thud. Then Martin was charged while everyone scrambled to rescue him.

Vanity was surprisingly unstoppable in the arena causing injuries, diving over the barrel, and trampling cowboys.

When everyone emerged they quickly penned the animals and sent them packing back to their owners. Martin, needing his hand amputated, finally admitted self defeat vowing never again to use superstition or to attempt Pride and Vanity.

Years later the brothers donated the ranch to a Carmelite convent in need of a home. Soon after they founded a Carmelite missionary order in following St. Therese of Lisieux's vision.

This time embarking on new, more self fulfilling adventures in life: to conquer not the world's idea of success, but to conquer themselves; and to work, not for their own glory, but for God's.

(Reference of names to real persons are purely coincidental)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blessing the Christmas Tree & Manger Scene

Since Advent is a penitential season the Christmas Tree is traditionally displayed on Christmas Eve in final preparation for Christmas and then blessed. The Nativity Scene in our home is set up in stages throughout Advent, then blessed on Christmas Day while adding the Child Jesus. I'll admit we don't always perfectly adhere to the following time line, but we try to do it something like this:

The stable is set up on the First Sunday of Advent. The next Sunday, livestock and empty manger are positioned. On the Third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday (Latin: 'To Rejoice'), is the same weekend that the Christmas Tree generally arrives in our home. This Sunday in Advent reminds us and mankind that our redemption is near as Christ soon approaches. At Mass the sacred ministers are clothed in rose colored vestments (the color of joy), flowers are allowed back on the altar, and the organ is once again played as on feast days. The arrival of the tree in the home coincides perfectly with Gaudete Sunday since the evergreen is the symbol of hope and eternity. Branches from the tree can also be added to the Manger Scene today. The Fourth Sunday of Advent brings the arrival of the Expectant Mother, Mary, her chaste spouse St. Joseph, and the donkey (this can also be done on Christmas Eve). With the arrival of Mary, we also place pine cones among the evergreen branches. Pine cones symbolize fertility and new life (because of the abundance of seeds in the cone). Before Midnight Mass and during the blessing of the Nativity Scene, described below, baby Jesus can be placed in the manger. On Christmas morning, the angel can appear together with the shepherds and their flock. Finally, on the twelfth day of Christmas, the Magi make their appearance on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6 which marks the visit by the three wise men.

The festive 12 days of celebrating Christmas traditionally begins with Midnight Mass. After the tree has been decorated and lit the family gathers near the tree while the Father initiates the sign of the cross.


Father or Leader. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All. Who made Heaven and earth.

Antiphon (Father or Leader).
All the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes.

(Psalm 95 begs us to praise the Lord and sings of His coming at the end of time. Our Lord warned us to watch for the signs of His Second Coming in the Gospel for the first Sunday in Advent. We add, this night, our anticipation of His first coming).

Psalm 95 (can alternate reading the lines).

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all ye lands: Sing to the Lord, bless His name, announce His salvation, day after day:

Among the heathen tell His glory, His marvels to every people.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, to be feared more than all the gods:
The gods of the heathen are nothings, but the Lord - He made the Heaven.
Glory and majesty stand before Him, strength and splendor are in His sanctuary.
Declare to the Lord, ye families of nations, declare to the Lord His glory and strength:
declare to the Lord the glory of His name:
Offer sacrifice and come into His courts: worship the Lord in holy attire,
Tremble before Him, all the earth! say among the nations: The Lord is King.
He has set the earth firm, not to be moved, He rules the peoples with justice.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice, the sea thunder with all its waves:
Let the fields be glad, and all their creatures, all the trees of the wood shout for joy
Before the Lord, for He comes, for He comes to rule the earth:
He will judge the world with justice, and the peoples with His truth.

Antiphon repeated (Leader). All the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord, for He comes.

Leader. Lesson from the Prophet Ezechiel, 17:22-24.

Thus said the Lord God: I Myself will take the top of the high cedar, and will set it: I will crop off a tender twig from the top of the branches thereof, and I will plant it on a mountain high and eminent. On the high mountains of Israel will I plant it and it shall shoot forth into branches, and shall bear fruit, and it shall become a great cedar: and all the birds shall dwell under it, and every fowl shall make its nest under the shadow of the branches thereof, and all the trees of the country shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, and exalted the low tree: and have dried up the green tree, and have caused the dry tree to flourish. I the Lord have spoken and have done it.

All. Thanks be to God.

Leader. And there shall Come forth a shoot.
All. Out of the root of Jesse.
Leader. In Him was life.

Leader. O Lord hear my prayer.
All. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Leader. The Lord be with you.
All. And with thy spirit.
Leader. Let us pray. Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, Who hast caused Thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be planted like a tree of life in Thy Church, by being born of the most Holy Virgin Mary, bless, we beseech Thee, this tree that all who see it may be filled with a holy desire to be ingrafted as living branches into the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of " the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.

All. Amen. (Sprinkles tree with holy water.)

Then the family can sing a hymn. The blessing of a manger scene can then follow, can occur before Midnight Mass, or on Christmas Day, but should occur after the Child Jesus is placed in the manger:


: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

Leader. A continuation of the holy gospel according to Saint Luke:

The birth of Jesus. In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.

Or: Isaiah 7:10-15--The birth of Emmanuel.

Leader. God of every nation and people, from the very beginning of creation you have made manifest your love: when our need for a Savior was great you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. To our lives he brings joy and peace, justice, mercy, and love.

Lord, bless all who look upon this manger; may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus, and raise up our thoughts to him, who is God-with-us and Savior of all, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

All. Amen.

Source: Book of Blessings Prepared by International Commission on English in the Liturgy A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops' Conferences, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1989


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Connecticut Atheists reveal their true agenda

Atheists are not really A-theist. They do worship a god, it's just not the One True God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Pope Benedict. A recent article covers how a group of Connecticut atheists have taken "advantage of a town's policy of allowing holiday-season displays in its public park" by putting up a 10-foot tall sign celebrating the winter solstice. An idea in modern society, that is, celebrating a Christless Christmas, that Pope Benedict calls 'senseless'. The sign reveals what god they really do worship.

Part of the sign reads: ". . .
Today we know that there are no gods, and that the sun moves by natural causes, and we celebrate not only the movement of the sun but our ability to understand that movement." Their fancy wordplay only reveals their true colors. They have placed not only themselves as gods with humanistic-self-grandisement, but have chosen the sun as their modern 'golden calf' to worship, bypassing the Creator for the creation. What is trumpeted as atheism today, was for past centuries more accurately referred to as idolatry.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Causa Nostrae Laetitiae - Cause of Our Joy

Our Blessed Mother brings joy out of sorrow. The Hail Mary, petitioning Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of Our Savior, and Help of Christians to help her 'other' children, those who love, know, and serve Jesus Christ:
"And the dragon was angry against the woman; and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and give testimony to Jesus Christ" - The Apocalypse (Revelations) Chapter 12:17.

Mary, Cause of Our Joy, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Ten Most Common Abuses in Modern Mass

Catholic Answers featured an article by the author of Why Do Catholics Do That?, Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D, in which he outlines the problems still plaguing our modern liturgy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Tree Decorating Tradition

Why we wait to decorate our tree until Christmas Eve.

For the past few years our family has practiced this tradition as opposed to decorating the tree immediately after it is positioned in the home. Ideally, I would like to place the tree in the home on Christmas Eve however, this is almost as unpopular as opening gifts the day after Christmas. The family endures an undecorated tree until Christmas Eve for good reason. Its roots are echoed in our salvation history.

Differing from those homes and shops with beautifully adorned Christmas trees long before Christmas Day, the family endures a kind of expectation, an awaiting for more than just gifts. This suffering, so to speak, has its spiritual rewards. Yes, the mean dad has his good reasons.

The effect of waiting to decorate a tree, alongside with waiting to open gifts, further anticipates the expectation of Christ in a however non-consumerist way. The effect is similar to the long awaited four thousand year expectation of the Promised Messias for mankind's redemption. It is consistent with the preparation for Christmas that the Church provides us with in the Advent season tradition. For it is not until Christmas morning that the tree display is finally fulfilled with long awaited beauty and finally sparkling with long anticipated adornment. Throughout Advent the family knows that not until the Incarnation of the Redeemer, will the tree be lit just as not until the Incarnation was the promise of the light of salvation revealed. This relief and satisfaction of a promise fulfilled translates to a deep and real appreciation of the true expectation experienced with mankind's longing for the Messias and God's making good on His promise to the world.

An argument can be attempted that the same effect is achieved by waiting until Christmas morning to open gifts. There are, in my estimation, deep problems with this solitary approach towards celebrating Christmas. When I grew up I spent my evenings before Christmas gazing upon our decorated tree, thinking nothing more than the momentous unwrapping of gifts. We had our religious traditions, lighting the advent wreath candles, placing the Christ Child into the nativity set on Christmas Day, etc. but I soon discovered that celebrating Christmas too soon, that is, adorning our home inside and out with festive party decor as if Christmas was a 32 day ordeal, led to a sort of battle fatigue by the time Christmas Day arrived. The 'Christmas blues', that we hear about, I believe stems from this kind of fatigue. Christmas is celebrated in the 12 days AFTER the Feast of the Incarnation, not a month before. Spending Advent and then Christmas Day in an exhausting ritual of purchases, ripping apart wrapping paper, and sifting through styrofoam, in my experience was tiresome, boring, and just plain shallow. Not that this was ever the focus of Christmas in my childhood, as my parents and local priests did their duty in instilling Christ as the center of the Advent season. Nevertheless, the allurements of the world as seen in a constant stream of commercials and 'holiday' music can take its toll on our perception of what should be a penitential season.

Pope Benedict XVI recently lamented this type of consumerism at his Dec. 8, 2007 noon blessing in St. Peter's Square:

"I think about today's young people, raised in an environment saturated with messages proposing false models of happiness . . . These boys and girls risk losing hope because they often seem to be orphans of true love, which fills life with meaning and joy . . . adolescents, youths and even children are easy victims of the corruption of love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism."

And again at his Dec. 11, 2007 noon blessing in St. Peter's Square where he called for conversion saying:

"men and women of our time, who live and receive Christmas in such a way that unfortunately, they often suffer from a materialistic mentality.

. . . at the end of our days on earth, at the time of death, we will be judged according to our likeness or unlikeness with the child that is born in the poor cave of Bethlehem, because he is the standard of measure that God gave mankind. . . [St. John the Baptist's] clear and harsh words – I agree- are much healthier for us, men and women of our time, where the way of life and frequent perception of Christmas unfortunately suffers from a materialistic mentality. The 'voice' of the great prophet calls us to prepare the way for the Lord to come, in the deserts of today, deserts outside and inside, thirsty for the living water that is Christ."

Unfortunately, in modern cultures Christmas Day is stripped down with a rush of opening gifts and hopefully attending Mass on the Feast Day itself. By adopting other traditions - arrival of Jesus in the crib of the manger scene, arrival of the sheep and shepherds in the manger scene, lighting the outside lights and the Christmas tree beginning first on Christmas Day, all can contribute to our true joy fulfilled in anticipating the Day long awaited by the human race. A joy that reminds us of our last end and true vocation in life - to get to heaven.

The whole objective with all this is to turn our hearts toward our redemption and how merciful God is to mankind and to us. It'd be nice to wait until Christmas Eve for the tree itself - an old Christmas tradition or maybe using such a repulsive plant (like a Joshua tree) that the children's thoughts, and ours can be turned away from gifts. This, as well as keeping the Christmas films and music packaged away until the Feast Day - December 25 - when, for the next 12 days, we can celebrate in full splendor (music, singing, lights, prayer, and appropriate entertainment) the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sermon on the Second Sunday of Advent by Saint John Vianney

St. John Marie Baptiste Vianney (1786-1859)
Patron Saint of Parish Priests
The Incorrupt Body of the Cure' of Ars Rests in the Basilica at Ars, France

Excerpts from Sermons of the Cure d'Ars, printed in 1901, reproduced in 1995 by Neumann Press :

"Memorare novissima tua et in aeternum non peccabis."

"In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin." Ecclus. vii. 40

How is it that these truths, which have converted so many sinners, make so little impression upon us? Ah! my brethren, that is because we do not take them to heart sufficiently. Nothing is more likely to draw us away from ourselves and from the goods of this world,nothing so powerful to spur us on to bear better the sufferings of this life in a spirit of penance, than an earnest consideration of these truths.

Behold, my brethren, how much Jesus Christ wishes to save us; at one time he appears to us as a poor child in the crib, lying on a handful of straw, which He moistens with His tears; again treated like a criminal, bound, pinioned, crowned with thorns, scourged, falling under the weight of the cross, and dying in martyrdom out of love for us. If this is not capable of moving us, drawing us towards Him, then He announces to us that He will one day come, clothed in the radiance of His glory and the Majesty of His Father, to judge us without clemency and without mercy; where before the whole world He will reveal the good and the bad which we have committed in the course of our lives. Tell me, dear brethren, if we rightly considered all this, should we require anything further to make us live and die like Saints?

But for a Christian, dear brethren, who has lost sight of his last aim, the matter has quite another aspect; the shortness of life is a trouble and a bitter thought which disturbs him in the midst of his pleasures; he does his utmost to keep this thought of death far from him. Everything that reminds him of it frightens him, doctors and remedies; everything is tried to keep away the thought that death is near. He is in pursuit of happiness on earth, but he deceives himself. Whilst this poor unfortunate man forsakes God, God forsakes him. He will be obliged at the end of his days to admit that he has spent his life seeking for a good which he never found. Outside of God, oh, so many sufferings, so much misery, and no consolation, no recompense! Ah, death, the consolation of the just, brings only despair to him; he must die, and he has never once given thought to it.

My God, how blind we are concerning our everlasting happiness. Ah, my brethren; tell me had the great Saints, whom we admire, another Gospel to follow? Did they have another religion to practice? Had they another God to serve; another eternity to fear or to hope? No; certainly not, my brethren; but they had a faith which we have not, which, through the multitude of our sins, we have almost extinguished; but they worked zealously for the salvation of their soul, whilst we leave our poor soul without attention.

To whom do we give our hearts? What have we done for God, who is our first and last aim? What zeal and what ardor have we shown for the glory of God, and the salvation of our poor soul, which has cost Jesus Christ such bitter sufferings? What have we got to offer him? What answer can we give to all His questions, when on the one hand He will hold up to us all the graces which He had lent us during our whole lives, and, on the other hand, the little use, or, rather the misuse, which we have made of it? Is it then possible that we who are in the possession of so many precious gifts, are still so lukewarm, so lazy, and so indolent in the service of God.

Let us remind ourselves, my brethren, of all that God has done for us since we came into this world. How many have died in your midst without having received holy Baptism? How many others, after having committed a single mortal sin, have been cut off by death and cast into hell? And from how many bodily dangers hast he mercy of God spared us, while he preferred us to so many others, who in extraordinary ways lost their lives? How often has God, when we had the misfortune to sin grievously, pursued us with remorse of conscience, and good intentions? How many instructions, how many good examples were afforded us, to arouse us from our indifference for the salvation of our soul?

Yes, my brethren, He awaits us with open arms. He opens to us the wound of His divine Heart, to hide us therein from the severity of His Father; He offers us all the merits of His death and Passion, in satisfaction for our sins. If our conversion is sincere, He takes it upon Himself to answer for us at the judgment seat of His Father, when we shall be called upon to give an account of our whole life. Happy is he who follows the voice of His God who calls him! Happy is he, my brethren, who has never forgotten that his life is short, and that he may die at any moment, whom the thought never leaves that he is destined after this life for a happy or unhappy eternity, for heaven or for hell.

Yes, my brethren, if we were only fortunate enough to ponder well what is before us after this life, which is so short, we should feel obliged to pass our lives in fear and trembling, working so as to accomplish the salvation of our souls. Happy is he, my brethren, who holds himself always in readiness! That is what I wish you all. Amen.