Hail, Mary! Full of Grace. The Lord is with thee; Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners, Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Remember Dear Christian,
You have but one soul to save.
One God to love and serve.
One eternity to expect.
Death will come soon.
Judgment will follow and then,
Heaven or Hell forever.
Therefore, O child of Jesus and Mary,
Avoid sin and all dangerous occasions of sin.
Pray without ceasing.
Go frequently to Confession and to Holy Communion.
Begin and end every day by reciting the Hail Mary three times to honor
The Blessed Virgin Mary.
“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.
“Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.
“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.
“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.
Miraculous aspects of Our Lady of Guadalupe
"There is still time for endurance, time for patience, time for healing, time for change. Have you slipped? Rise up. Have you sinned? Cease. Do not stand among sinners, but leap aside."- St Basil
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary! that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother! To thee I come, before thee I stand sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Yesterday was the anniversary of the apparition to, and conversion of, Alphonse Ratisbonne. The prayer that was said for his conversion, by a dying man, was the Memorare.
Our Lady of the Miracle – January 20(Madonna del Miracolo)Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
In 1842, a 28-year-old French Jew named Alphonse Ratisbonne was visiting Rome. He was the youngest son of an important banking family in Strasbourg, a close relation of the Rothschilds. As often happens with European Jews, a family takes the name of a city. The French Ratisbonne comes from Ratisbona, the Latin name for Regensburg, a famous German city near Munich. Alphonse was a Jew by race and religion, virulently anti-Catholic, and libertine in his customs. Alphonse Ratisbonne was making a tour of Europe and the East before settling to marry his cousin Flore and assume a partnership at his uncle’s bank. Ending by coincidence in Rome instead of Palermo as he had intended, he was well received by the French diplomatic circle residing there. He reluctantly made a call on Baron Theodore de Bussières, a very fervent Catholic. Even though the Jew seemed quite far from any conversion, the Baron, undaunted by his sarcasm and blasphemy, saw in him a future Catholic and encouraged his visits.
Alphonse Ratisbonne became a Jesuit priest, took the name Marie-Alphonse, and later co-founded the Order of Sion to convert Jews
The Miraculous Medal Ratisbonne was wearing when Our Lady appeared to him
One afternoon, during a lively conversation in which Ratisbonne was ridiculing the superstitions of the Catholic religion, the Baron challenged Ratisbonne to submit to a simple test and wear the Miraculous Medal. Taken aback but wanting to prove the ineffectiveness of such religious baubles, Ratisbonne consented and allowed the Baron’s young daughter to put the medal around his neck. Baron de Bussières also insisted that Ratisbonne recite the Memorare once a day. Ratisbonne promised, saying, “If it does me no good, at least it will do me no harm.” The Baron and a close circle of aristocratic friends increased their prayers for the skeptical Jew. Notable among them was a devout Catholic who was seriously ill, Count Laferronays, who offered his life for the conversion of the “young Jew.” On the same day he entered a church and prayed more than 20 Memorares for this intention, he suffered a heart attack, received the last Sacraments, and died. The next day, his friend Baron de Bussières was on his way to arrange the Count’s funeral in the Basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte when he met Ratisbonne. He asked him to accompany him and wait in the church until he had arranged some matters with the priest in the sacristy. Ratisbonne did not accompany his friend into the sacristy. He wandered through the church admiring the beautiful marbles and various works of art. As he stood before a side altar dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, Our Lady suddenly appeared to him. It was January 20, 1842. Standing over the altar, Our Lady appeared wearing a crown and a simple long white tunic with a jeweled belt around her waist and blue-green mantle draped over her left shoulder. She gazed at him affably; her hands were open spreading rays of graces. Her bearing was quite regal, not just because of the crown she was wearing. Rather, her height and elegance gave the impression of a great lady, fully conscious of her own dignity. She transmitted both grandeur and mercy in an atmosphere of great peace. She had some of the characteristics of Our Lady of Graces. Alphonse Ratisbonne saw this figure and understood that he was before an apparition of the Mother of God. He knelt down before her and converted. Returning from the sacristy, the Baron was surprised to see the Jew fervently praying on his knees before the altar of St. Michael the Archangel. He helped his friend to his feet, and Ratisbonne immediately asked to go to a confessor so he could receive Baptism. Eleven days later, on January 31, he received Baptism, Confirmation and his First Communion from the hands of Cardinal Patrizi, the Vicar of the Pope. His conversion had enormous repercussions over all Christendom. The entire Catholic world became aware of it and was impressed by it. Afterward, Ratisbonne became a Jesuit priest. Ten years later, he and his brother Theodore, who also had converted from Judaism, founded a religious congregation – the Congregation of Sion – turned to the conversion of the Jews. The significance of the miracle
Our Lady of the Miracle appeared over a side altar, below, in the Church of Sant' Andrea delle Fratte, Rome
Shortly after the apparition, based on the description of Fr. Ratisbonne, a picture was painted representing Our Lady who had appeared to him that day in Sant' Andrea delle Fratte. When the picture was completed, he viewed it and said that it only vaguely depicted the beauty of the apparition he had seen. This is not difficult to believe since the actual beauty of Our Lady must far surpass any mere representation. The picture was placed on the exact spot where she had appeared to him, and became know as Madonna del Miracolo, Our Lady of the Miracle, referring to the two-fold miracle, her apparition and the instantaneous conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne. Obviously, that apparition represented a great benefit for the soul of Ratisbonne. It also represented a benefit for the Catholic Church with the foundation of the Congregation of Sion, with its special mission to work for the conversion of the Jews. This congregation expresses well the Church’s position toward the Jews. Her position is not to hate the Jews, but rather to defend herself against their attacks. To the measure that they attack the Church, she defends herself. But above all, she desires their conversion, the eradication of Judaism as a religion, and the entrance of the Jews into the Catholic Church, which is the true continuation of the chosen nation. But in the doctrinal and psychological context of those times, the Ratisbonne miracle had a more profound significance. In the 19th century, the Revolution was strongly promoting Rationalism, a school of thought that today has become outdated. Then the Revolution was emphasizing this point: the rational man, the man who tries to determine everything according to reason, cannot find the necessary supports in reason to believe that God exists, that the Catholic Church is the true Religion, and that she was founded by Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Revolution concluded, the entire Catholic edifice of doctrines cannot be accepted by human reason. Those revolutionary assertions were just myths, like the Roman mythology or legends of the indigenous and African peoples. Most of the rationalist arguments were chicaneries or sophisms, with only a few proceeding from captious arguments. But because the Revolution insisted relentlessly on those points and presented a torrent of objections to Catholic doctrine, many people of that time lost their faith. To counter this unrelenting wave of attacks against the Catholic Faith, Our Lady appeared and made miracles in several places. The miracle of Ratisbonne’s conversion that took place in Rome shook up all of Christendom. In those times there was not this accursed ecumenism we are witnessing today. Then, the separation of the religions was much deeper and, therefore, so also was the gorge that separates truth from error, and good from evil. A wealthy and influential Jew, with absolutely no reason to favor the Catholic Church, suddenly converted because he saw Our Lady. He gave proof of his sincerity by giving up his positions in the world and breaking his advantageous engagement. He embraced the religious life, and founded a religious congregation to convert other Jews and to combat Judaism. It is impossible to imagine a more objective proof of the truth of the apparition. This episode had an enormous impact throughout Italy and France, and then the whole Catholic world.
At Lourdes, Our Lady appeared and worked miracles to counter the Rationalism of the times
It was evidently a miracle, a miracle that fell from Heaven like a drop of water on a parched mankind that was being influenced by the rationalist myths of the Revolution. Divine Providence had done something very similar already in 1830 with the apparitions at Rue du Bac (Paris) to St. Catherine Labouré. There, among other things, Our Lady gave the world the Miraculous Medal, opening a torrent of graces and miracles for mankind. Our Lady also appeared in the grotto at Lourdes in 1858, and soon after there were reports of many miracles of healing for those who bathed in its waters. The miracles of Lourdes constitute the longest series of miracles ever to occur in the History of the Church. Inserted in this general sequence is the apparition of Madonna del Miracolo to Alphonse Ratisbonne. This series of apparitions and miracles was the blow Our Lady chose to give to the Revolution at that time. She counter-attacked with a skillful strategy, very well calculated. It was her way to smash the head of the serpent. The very head of Judaism was smashed by the public witness of an important Jew who affirmed that the Catholic Church is true. We should, therefore, analyze the miracles Divine Providence gives, looking for the higher rule that governs them. Miracles become more frequent in the epochs when they are more necessary. The miracle needed today Today we have reached the situation where the action of the Devil is becoming more evident with each passing day. I am speaking not only about UFOs and the hippy revolution. It is clear, in my opinion, that these phenomena are linked to a preternatural invasion. I am referring also to the death of rationality in public opinion. That men effectively stopped using their reason as they did in the ˜80s and ˜90s and acted only by temperamental impulses is something that cannot be explained except by a special action of the Devil. He is making an enormous effort to keep the Revolution going, notwithstanding its failure to convince public opinion. Since we cannot explain this preternatural action, it is also difficult to combat it efficiently. It continues to grow and is reaching such an apex that it seems to me an astounding miracle is necessary. What kind of miracle will it be? What would be the miracle that could move contemporary man to return to the Catholic Faith? The mysterious designs of God are beyond the knowledge of man. But this does not prevent us from speculating based on what He has done in the past. Contemporary man has reached such a hardness of heart that he is no longer touched by miracles like the one that took place with Ratisbonne, nor the series of miracles at Lourdes. In my opinion two miracles are necessary: First, we are in need of a miracle that would move the good Catholics to be unafraid to disagree with the prevailing opinion of the revolutionary milieu around them. They should become indifferent to that opinion. Further, they should take the offensive against it. This is the first part of what is necessary. It was what happened at Pentecost. Tongues of fire appeared over the Apostles, and they left the Cenacle with the courage to face everyone. Before this, they were cowards, but with this they became invincible fighters. Was it something interior or exterior that took place there? I do not know. The whole city of Jerusalem heard an enormous exploding sound that came from the Cenacle. Therefore, it seems that it was not only an interior action within their souls, but that it was preceded or followed by some exterior miracle. What really happened there we do not know. But since today commemorates the Madonna del Miracolo, we should ask Our Lady to give us a similar miracle to transform us into the Apostles of the End Times predicted by St. Louis Grignon de Montfort. Second, this divine intervention should be a chastisement that would punish the world for its acceptance of and concessions to the Revolution, and especially for the sin committed within the Catholic Church. To be more clear, for the acceptance of Progressivism within the Church even to her highest summits. I am referring to the chastisement Our Lady predicted in Fatima in which many nations will disappear. The miracle of the sun that left its orbit and raced toward the earth seems to prefigure a cosmic chastisement where the very equilibrium of the sun may be altered in obedience to a command of Our Lady. What would be the consequences in our solar system if the sun would actually shake and change its course for a short period of time? Such a cosmic disequilibrium could produce all kinds of meteorological catastrophes on the face of earth, destroying countless things and people. Even after that, many of the people who survived these catastrophes would still need the miracle of a conversion like the one Ratisbonne experienced. Both of these perspectives point to grandiose miracles necessary to make contemporary men return to the right path and make possible the Reign of Mary, as Our Lady predicted in Fatima. In order to be prepared for such miracles, I would advise praying the Memorare, the prayer that Ratisbonne said before his conversion. We should pray it often, asking the Madonna del Miracolo to give us these two miracles and the victory of the Holy Church over the Revolution.
Posted: February 12, 2013
Heavenly Father, We, the People of God, gathered in solidarity as did the disciples in the Upper Room, pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the cardinals who will be in conclave for the election of the next Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May the hearts of our cardinals be open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, beyond any human judgment, to elect the candidate most pleasing to You, Heavenly Father, and who will guide the Church at this momentous time in history at the beginning of the Third Millennium.
We invoke our Mother Mary, united in prayer with the disciples in the Upper Room, to intercede for our cardinals to select the next Holy Father in docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, her divine Spouse.
Holy Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, we entrust this conclave to your maternal and Immaculate Heart, and offer these prayers for your guidance and protection over the choosing of the next Vicar of your Son:
1 Our Father1 Hail Mary1 Glory Be
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!
H.H. Pope Benedict's lectio on St.Peter and Rome
Petrus Apostolus:the Pope's grand lectioon Saint Peter and Rome
Marian Apparitions Deemed "Worthy of Belief"
Skip to:Our Lady of GuadalupeOur Lady of Good SuccessOur Lady of the Miraculous MedalOur Lady of La SaletteOur Lady of LourdesOur Lady of KnockOur Lady of Fatima
"Fear God," says the Imitation of Christ, "and thou shalt have no need of being afraid of any man.
.....from "You and Thousands Like You".....by Owen Francis Dudley
"........I am assuming you are a person without the Faith, and you may have doubts of a Roman Catholic priest. I give you my word of honour before God, as a priest of God, I will not lead you wrong along that road..........do you mind taking my hand? I think it will give you confidence........You may on the way wish to transfer your hand to the hand of God......."
........."Men and women were not made to exist, but to live. To live is to live for God, Who is Life, the source of all life and its End. There is no particular point in going on with a world of human beings who merely exist. Whether God would keep humanity in earthly existence for the sake of a religious minority who fulfill the purpose of human life, is a matter of speculation. What we can say with confidence is this.......given an irreligious majority, you get a preponderance of evil in the world, and the supreme evil is doing without God. The greater the amount of evil the less of God there is in the world, and therefore the less of good. There must come a point at which evil so outweighs good that moral rectitude no longer rules the counsels of its leaders or controls the conduct of the masses. From then onwards, left to itself, humanity must inevitably like the Gadarene swine, drive downwards to destruction under the impetus of the weight of its own evil.
......I am inclined to think that stage has now come, and that the process of destruction has begun. The world was a very good place to live in as far as material prosperity was concerned and the general order of material existence, and then in the year 1914 that era came to an abrupt end. The first World War destroyed many millions. For a while there was partial recovery. The second World War destroyed more millions; and this time there has been no recovery. Red revolution is spreading over the earth and we are awaiting the third World War; it is impossible to conceal what it will mean........the end of what civilization is left. The writing is on the wall for all to see.
......We are all of us, if we are honest enough to admit it to ourselves, living consciously or subconsciously under fear. We may forget it, or repress it, or drown it in pleasure and work; but it is there the whole time and we know it. Life is not intended to be lived under fear. There is no need for us to live under fear. There is no need for us to regard the future with fear, whatever is going to happen. We can win freedom from fear if we wish it. We can take a road which is not the road the world has taken, or, at the moment, shows any sign of taking.
.....It is the road to a peace the world cannot give and which passes the world's understanding; the road from existence to life, the road of fulfillment, of attainment; those who tread it without wavering or looking back fulfill the purpose for which they were created and attain the end for which they were brought into being.
There is no other road to freedom from fear; no other road to Life, to the Heart of God, to the perfect love which casteth out fear, to a dawn when the shadows flee, to an ineffable happiness stretching away into all Eternity.
.....Whether we like it or not, we are every one of us fully aware of the shadow of a great darkness stealing over the face of the earth. We called the first World War the war to end war; we did not call the second World War the war to end war. We knew better. It is also a simple fact that in the event of a third World War and the inevitable use of unspeakably hideous weapons for mass-destruction, millions will be disintegrated or cremated into dust, or decay into things of horror, or perish of radio-activity, or bacterial poisoning. It is useless to avert our minds from all this. Worse than useless. It is dangerous to refuse to face up to it....For the present ordering of the world is inherently and inevitably suicidal. Only you and I, and thousands like us, the ordinary people of this world, can change that ordering; and we can only change it by changing ourselves.......
.....Any ordering of things divorced from human reason means de-ordination and ultimate disruption in whatever department of life it occurs. There could be no more complete disordering of things than the materialistic ordering of the world; for materialism is a total abandonment of human reason, and as a philosophy wholly irrational. It is so completely irrational that to be a sincere materialist is the most difficult thing in the world, and only possible after prolonged and exclusive concentration on the objections to the existence of God, until a state of self-delusion has been reached. A sincere materialist is an irrationalist who by some flight of fancy declares himself a rationalist. A man's first rational act is to acknowledge the Creator to Whom he owes his existence, without Whom he would not exist, upon Whom he depends for his next heartbeat, and without Whose will sustaining him in being he would fall back into the nothingness from which he cam. On his own confession the materialist is a person who has not yet attained the age of reason, for he has not performed his first rational act.
.....Mostly when men deny God they deny Him with their will, not their reason: "The fool hath said in his heart (not his head) there is no God." (Psalm 18:2).
......The average materialist is a man who is up against God for not running this world as he would run it himself and for laying down moral laws which would interfere with his own pleasures if he obeyed them. One has only to talk for five minutes with the average materialist to unearth his defiance of God.
...... It is a materialist who has made the world what it is by providing unthinking millions with an excuse for the irreligion. A world without religion is a world without God, and a world without God is a world without God's moral law............ and a world without God's moral law is a rudderless ship drifting helplessly towards the rocks and to its doom.
......The scientists in appealing for a 'revival of personal responsibility", stop short when confronted by something awkward.....the compelling need of a fixed and recognized code of moral law. What sort of 'personal responsibility' to they want to see revived? From the general tenor of 'One World or None', these scientists are proclaiming a moral imperative which, put to the test, reduces itself to an empty vaunt. Why should I consider myself personally responsible in the matter of preventing an atomic war? To whom am I responsible? To my fellow-beings? To humanity? Under what obligation am I responsible? It is futile to appeal to me without first proving my moral responsibility to humanity. I want a rational basis for concerning myself with my fellow-beings.
......Do these scientists suppose that irreligious masses to whom they appeal have any sense of responsibility in preventing the next war? They may find the idea of a third World War extremely depressing for that reason dismiss it as a far as possible from their minds......as they do.. They most certainly have no intention of regarding themselves under any personal responsibility to act. They leave the sole responsibility to their leaders and the governments of the world. In any case they are powerless to act, since they are not free to act. What government to-day would ask for, let alone attend to, the voice of the people on the matter of atomic war?
......The only people who have an adequate motive for acting on behalf of humanity are those who acknowledge God, and therefore their obligations under His moral law. If I acknowledge God I acknowledge my moral responsibility under Him for what I do, or don't do, for my fellow-beings. If I love God I love my fellow-beings, and for the love of God I do my utmost, in so far as I have the opportunity, to avert evil from descending upon them and above all the supreme evil of modern war.
If I may be forgiven for saying so, as a Catholic priest, however badly I may serve my God, I am under the strict obligation of charity to use my pen, my voice, every means in my power, every ounce of whatever feeble influence I have, to awaken others to what lies in wait for humanity. I am under the strict obligation of charity to exercise that 'personal responsibility's for who revival these scientists have pleaded and which is already laid upon me by God Himself.
Do you see what I am driving at?
........There can be no sense of 'personal responsibility' unless you believe yourself to be personally responsible to God. The appeal of 'One World or None' will meet with little response from the irreligious, for the simple reason that it can find no echo in their hearts. The bulk of mankind to-day, to their own detriment and that of humanity, are without religion from the cradle to the grave. And by religion I mean the acknowledgment by the human creature of his Creator and all that that acknowledgment involves......the worship of God that is His due, acceptance of the truths He has revealed, and obedience to the laws that He has made.
.....I am going to say something that will be highly unpopular with the irreligious who blame the Almighty for war and for the present state of the world........if any of them happen to read this book:
......It is not Almighty God, it is you, and thousands like you, who have no use for God, who are responsible for the present state of the world. I don't care whether you are a member of the government, a businessman, an editor of a newspaper, a medical man, a lawyer, a bank clerk, an industrial worker, a teacher, a mechanic, a housewife;.......I don't care whether your politics are Right of Left......IF YOU ARE GODLESS you are contributing, every one of you in varying measure, to the world being what it now is; and you, by being what you are, without God and His moral law, have brought about the tragic de-ordination of a Godless world, a human race left to itself, at the mercy of events, at the mercy of itself, and at the mercy of a final orgy of self-destruction.
.....You blame God because He is silent? Don't let that hypocrisy delude you. Certainly God is silent to those who are silent to Him. He will speak when they speak to Him. He is never silent to those who do.
You, who so glibly ignore your Creator, parade your indifference and consider religion beneath you; you who are so pitifully blind to what you are and to what your are doing in this solidarity of human beings called the world.....could you catch but one glimpse of yourself as you truly are and of what you are truly doing, you would shrink from that sight of yourself as you shrank from the horrors of Belsen. You would see what you are without God and what you do by being without God.
If you saw the film, 'The Picture of Dorian Grey', you saw in that portrait on the screen a strangely, repellently accurate glimpse of the soul of a man without God.
.....You may laugh all this off for weak-minded superstition, religious fanaticism, anything you like; but you will not be able to laugh this one off: Hitler was so Godless, and therefore goodless, that he drenched the world in tears and blood, the blood of your nearest and dearest. The Red hordes of Communism and their Moscow masters are so Godless in their open defiance of God and His moral law that they are now prepared by every means in their power to conquer the world for Red Communism, though it entail the massacre of millions, and the massacring has already begun.
.....That is Godlessness unloosed, irreligion at large; that is the future to which you and thousands like you, in lesser or greater degree, are contributing in virtue of your own personal irreligion. Every single Godless member of the human race, each in his own individual way, is adding to the total sum of human evil, thereby opening the road to its ultimate triumph; for evil will triumph just in proportion to the number of the Godless and goodless, and man cannot be good without God.
.....You retort that you 'can' be good without God, that you are living a moral life. Are you quite sure you are putting that accurately? Would it be truer to say that you are living what you consider a moral life to prove that you can do so without God? If so, then you start with an insult to God, which is hardly a moral proceeding. You are living a moral life?Would it be more accurate to say that you are living according to your own code of morality? It is amazing the number of people who include pride, malice, injustice, 'experience of life,' fornication, adultery in their own very convenient moral code. Your prated 'goodness' with its elastic morality may accommodate itself to the law and pagan opinion; but all goodness, which 'is' goodness, accommodates itself to the God of all goodness without Whom there is no goodness at all.
Strictly, the Godless should not talk of goodness, for they deny goodness in denying God, the Author of every grain of goodness in the world.
.....You say that you know people without religion whose selflessness, self-sacrifice and charity are evident to all? So do I know them, and experience a sense of inferiority in their presence. But I doubt if they are without religion. I find them very different from the irreligious to who I have referred. They don't boast that they can do without God, or parade morality without God; they combine their charity with humility and are the last people to consider themselves good. They may not profess religion in the sense of practicing it outwardly; mostly they are ignorant of Christianity, and, having never known it, they neither deny it nor affirm it. Their goodness is very much more than merely conforming with the accepted code of social behaviour; its quality is derived from acting on an ideal implanted in their hearts by God Himself. They are living not a Godless but a Godward life.
.....That ideal, however deep down, is somewhere in every man's heart......that spark of the Divine which suddenly fans into flame and transforms a man at the sight of his mate in danger. In that supreme moment he lives up to the highest that is in him, and, though it cost him his life he does it.....and acknowledges his Creator unawares; for in doing it 'unto the least of these my brethren, you have done unto me.' Somewhere in every man and woman the idealism implanted in their being lies dormant until awakened into action by the Divine impulse. Follow that impulse to its source and you will find not yourself but God.
.....I think you will agree with me, from this preliminary survey, that there are two kinds of irreligion....the one, that deliberate Godlessness which either actively or passively opposes belief in God or at least persistently ignores Him; the other, that unthinking vagueness which drifts on the general tide of indifference until suddenly confronted with what compels recognition of God.
The former loves darkness rather than the light.
The latter leaves the darkness for the light
You who make this journey with me are leaving the darkness for the light........
November 1, Feast of All Saints' Day
EXPLANATION OF THE EIGHT BEATITUDES
Why is the Gospel (Mt. 5:1-12) of the Eight Beatitudes read on the this day? (All Saints Day). Because they form, so to speak, the steps on which the saints courageously ascended to heaven. If you desire to be with the saints in heaven, you must also mount patiently and perseveringly these steps, then God's hand will assuredly aid you.
I. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
+ They are poor in spirit who, like the apostles, leave all temporal things for Christ's sake and become poor; they who have lost their property by misfortune or injustice, and bear this loss with patience and resignation to the will of God: they who are contented with their poor and lowly station in life, do not strive for greater fortune or a higher position, and would rather suffer want than make themselves rich by unlawful means; they who though rich do not love wealth, nor set their hearts upon it, but use their riches to aid the poor, and especially they who are humble, that is, who have no exalted opinion of themselves, but are convinced of their weakness and inward poverty, have a low estimate of themselves, therefore, feel always their need, and like poor mendicants, continually implore God's grace and assistance.
II. Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.
+ He is meek who represses every rising impulse of anger, impatience, and desire of revenge, and willingly puts up with every thing that God, to reprove him, decrees or permits to happen to him, or men inflict upon him. He who thus controls himself, is like a calm and tranquil sea, in which the image of the divine Sun is ever reflected, clear and unruffled. He who thus conquers himself is mightier than if he besieged and conquered strongly fortified cities (Prov. 16:32), and will without doubt receive this earth, as well as heaven, as an inheritance, enjoying eternally there the peace (Ps. 36:11) which is already his on earth.
III. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
+ The mourners here mentioned are not those who weep and lament over the death of relatives and friends, or over misfortune or loss of temporal riches, but those who mourn that God is so often offended, so little loved and honored by men, that so many souls, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, ARE LOST. Among these mourners are also those who lead a strict and penitential life, and patiently endure distress; for sin is the only evil, the only thing to be lamented, and those tears only, which are shed on account of sin, are useful tears, and are recompensed by everlasting joy and eternal consolation.
IV. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their fill.
+ Hunger and thirst denote the ardent longing for those virtues, which constitute Christian perfection. He who seeks such perfection with ardent desire and earnest striving, will be filled, that is, will be adorned by God with the most beautiful virtues, and will be abundantly rewarded in heaven.
V. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
+ They are merciful who assist the poor according to their means, who practice every possible spiritual and corporal work of mercy, who as far as they can, patiently endure the faults of others, strive always to excuse them, and willingly forgive the injuries they have received. They especially are truly merciful, who are merciful to their enemies, and do good to them, as written: "Love your enemies, and do good to them that hate you" (Mt. 5:44). Well is it for him who is merciful, the greatest rewards are promised him, but a judgment without mercy shall be passed on the unmerciful.
VI. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.
+ They are clean of heart, who carefully preserve the innocence which they received in baptism, and keep their heart and conscience free not only from all sinful words, and deeds, but from all sinful thoughts and desires, and in all their omissions and commissions think, and desire only good. These while yet on earth see God in all His works and creatures, because their thoughts are directed always to the Highest Good, and in the other world they will see Him face to face, enjoying in this contemplation a peculiar pleasure which is reserved for pure souls only; for as the eye that would see well, must be clear, so must those souls be immaculate who are to see God.
VII. Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.
+ Those are peace-makers who guard their improper desires, who are careful to have peace in their conscience and regulated tranquility in all their actions, who do not quarrel with their neighbors, and are submissive to the will of God. These are called children of God, because they follow God who is a God of peace (Rom. 15:33), and who even gave His only Son to reconcile the world, and bring upon earth that peace which the world does not know and cannot give (Lk. 2:14; Jn. 14:27).
VIII. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
+ Those suffer persecution for justice' sake who by their words, writings, or by their life defend the truth, the faith, and Christian virtues; who cling firmly to God, and permit nothing to turn them from the duties of the Christian profession, from the practice of their holy religion, but on its account suffer hatred, contempt, disgrace, injury and injustice from the world. If they endure all this with patience and perseverance, even, like the saints, with joy, then they will become like the saints and like them receive the heavenly crown. If we wish to be crowned with them, we must suffer with them,: " And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution " (II Tim. 3:12).
+ How blessed are they who have faithfully served Thee, for they carry Thy name on their forehead, and reign with Thee for all eternity. Grant us, we beseech Thee, O God, by their intercession, Thy grace that we, after their example, may serve Thee in sanctity and justice, in poverty and humility, in meekness and repentance, in the ardent desire for all virtues, by mercy, perfect purity of heart, in peacefulness and patience, following them, and taking part, one day, with them in heavenly joy and happiness. Amen.
All you saints, and martyrs, pray for us!
REMEMBER THE LAST THINGS AS IMPORTANT THINGS
Posted: 03 Nov 2014 05:48 PM PST
from FR. BROOM'S BLOG
In the context of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius invites his retreatants to meditate upon the Last things; however these last things should be among the most important things in our spiritual life.
In Spiritual Theology the technical word is “Eschatology” which means the study of the “Last Things.” Some authors write about the “four” last things; but we would like to add a fifth.
What then are these “five” last things? Here they are for your reflection and meditation: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell and yes Purgatory. There we have the big five! Let us give a brief reflection in these last things which are indeed very important things!
1. DEATH. Death is the most certain of the human condition, but it is also the most uncertain. Why this somewhat paradoxical statement? For this reason alone! No person who enters into the human scene can avoid the reality of death. Whether we are small or tall, fat or skinny, intelligent or quite the opposite, rich or poor—the phantom of death respects nobody, absolutely nobody! The richest person who walks planet earth as well as the poorest indeed will end up in the same place: six-feet beneath the ground! Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his famous meditation titled Principle and Foundation teaches us how to confront the inevitable reality of death. He reminds us: “We should not prefer a long life over a short life; health over sickness, riches over poverty, honor over humiliations. Rather, we should choose the means that is most conducive to the end for which we were created—the eternal salvation of our soul. (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, #23) In other words, what is most important is not a long life, but a holy life. St. Catherine of Siena reminds us: “The two most important moments of our lives are now and at the hour of our death.” Sounds like the last part of the Hail Mary! Therefore, we should do all in our power to live honest, dedicated and holy lives so as to die a holy death. Then we will be saved and be with the Lord for all eternity. Let us start right now and strive to always keep our mind, hearts and souls fixed on heaven—our eternal destiny!
2. JUDGEMENT. At the moment we die, we will pass into our JUDGMENT. It is Jesus who will be judging all of us. We pray in the Creed or Profession of faith every Sunday: “He (Jesus) will come to judge the living and the dead.” Our Judgment is the moment of truth! We can lie and deceive others, lie to our relatives and friends and loved ones; we can even lie to ourselves. This is all unfortunately true! However, the best of liars and deceivers cannot lie to Jesus who is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life. Indeed Judgment is the moment of truth. All that we have ever done in our life will be presented before our eyes together with Jesus. Nothing will be hidden. Not only will we see our actions, omissions, words, but we will even see our thoughts as well as the most intimate secrets and intentions of our hearts! Indeed this is the moment of truth. If you like Judgment can be compared to “Movie day”. The huge white screen will be set up; both you and Jesus will be seeing the film. You and just you will be the principal actor in this history and drama of your life. Obviously, the mere thought of our upcoming judgment before Jesus the Lord should shock us into reality and motivate us to renounce all that is dishonest, dirty, underhanded, and deceitful in our lives— knowing full well that this will be shown in graphic detail before the eyes of God Himself!
3. HELL. It is a teaching of the Catholic Church the existence and reality of Hell. Hell is an eternal abode of suffering and torment that never ends—it is forever and ever and ever! There are various sufferings. (Read the Diary of Mercy in my Soul of St. Faustina # 714) What are some of the sufferings mentioned: 1) Perpetual remorse of conscience; 2) No possibility to change, but forever fossilized in evil; 3) The presence of Satan perpetually as well as the other devils; 4) A fire that burns the soul but does not consume it, ignited by the just anger of God; 5)A putrid and suffocating smell that causes nausea; 6)Cries of despair and hatred against God of the damned.7) The worse suffering indeed is the loss of God for whom we were created for all eternity! In addition to these tortures, every soul will be tortured in the way that he abused his body and senses in this world. The classical work of Dante in his work “The Divine Comedy” depicts this in a masterful way! Who goes to hell? The person who has died in the state of mortal sin without repentance has merited due to his own fault this eternal separation from God. Our Lady of Fatima warned the world that many souls are lost because not enough people pray and sacrifice for sinners. Also, Our Lady said that most souls are lost due to sins against the virtue of purity. Look at the world around us and see how true were the words and prophecy of Our Lady of Fatima!!!
4. PURGATORY. Every year after the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1st the Church commemorates “All Souls day” (November 2nd). This is the day specified to pray for the souls in Purgatory. What is Purgatory? Different from Heaven and Hell, Purgatory is a temporary place. It is designed for those souls who have died in the state of sanctifying grace, yet are not perfect in love. Only those souls who have been perfected in love, without any stain on their souls can have admittance and entrance into Heaven. These are souls that have at present venial sins still on the wedding garment of their souls; or they have not sufficiently expiated or made up for some of their past sins—venial or mortal! Only the absolutely pure of heart will enter heaven. Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.” (Mt. 5: 8).We can help the souls in Purgatory! How? In many ways! Prayer, fasting for them, sacrifices, acts of charity—all of these are means to help in the purification of our brothers and sister detained in Purgatory. Nonetheless, the most powerful prayer and means to alleviate the sufferings of our brothers in sisters, who are patiently waiting for the Lord’s time is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. On one occasion Pope Saint Gregory the Great offered a month of consecutive Masses for a friend of his who died and only after the whole month of Masses were offered did his friend return to the saintly Pope and tell him that he had reached heaven! We can never mistake by praying for the souls in Purgatory, even more important, to offer Masses for them. They will be eternally grateful for this gesture of charity.
5. HEAVEN—OUR TRUE HOME! Before leaving this earth to return to the Heavenly Father Jesus made a most consoling promise. He said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am you also might be. In my Father’s house there are many mansions; if it were not so I would not have told you.” What a consoling message: Jesus has already prepared a place for you and for me in heaven. Our hearts should long for heaven. May the Psalmist’s words be the most earnest yearnings of our heart: “As the deer yearns for the running waters so my soul yearns for you my God.” We should have a true fear of the Lord with respect to the reality and possibility of hell. However, we should have an ever greater longing for heaven our true home. Call to mind the happiest day, or the happiest hour of your life. Now magnify this joy a billion times; then add to this eternity, forever and ever and ever. This is only a mere glimpse of what heaven really is. Saint Paul expressed the ineffable character of heaven with these words: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” And also: “The sufferings of the present cannot be compared to the glory that awaits the sons and daughters of God.” Let us lift our eyes, mind, heart and soul to Our Lady who is Queen of Angels, Queen of Virgins, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, and Queen of all the angels and saints and beg that through her most powerful intercession that one day we all might be a jewel in her heavenly crown so as to contemplate and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. Amen
By Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara
Whether we live, whether we die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)
The inviolable laws of natural and Christian morality must be observed everywhere. It is not from emotive considerations nor from a materialistic natural philanthropy that the essential principles of medical ethics derive, but from these laws: the dignity of the human body, the preeminence of the soul over the body, the brotherhood of all men, the sovereign dominion of God over life and destiny. (Pope Pius XII)
Our duty to preserve life is at present one of the most important and most discussed moral problems — in fact, one of the central questions — in the relatively new field of "bioethics." The development of medical technologies — which now allow us to mechanically preserve the appearance of life in a body that, according to the medical science of the past, would have been considered a corpse — forces us once again to ponder over the notions of life and death, and to reformulate their moral consequences in the light of Catholic doctrine.
People who have their relatives or friends in the hospital connected to machines, and also their doctors and their priests, have to face the same problem and answer similar questions. Can or should treatment continue? Can the machines be disconnected? Is it a sin to disconnect them? Are we obliged to preserve life at all costs? Even when there is no hope of recovery? To what extent does the duty to preserve life — our own, the life of our loved ones, the life that has been entrusted to our care — bind us?
The debate over these matters is particularly acute in the US, whose developments in the field of medical ethics are proposed as a model for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, these developments have suffered to different degrees the influence of some characteristics of American culture which proceed from non-Catholic roots.
According to the philosophy of the Enlightenment, which is at the base of American political doctrine,
...man has to be free, at least within the minimal limits which are compatible with public security, to follow and practice the faith in which he personally believes, in spite of its possible divergence regarding the prevailing ethics. The government has to protect his rights and it has specially to avoid the imposition of any religious value whatsoever on a society which is morally pluralistic.
In its most extreme forms, this doctrine exalts the values of personal freedom and autonomy above all others, making them the essential ethical values to be preserved at all costs: what preserves them is morally good and has to be done, what impedes them is morally evil and must be avoided.
Moreover, the basic tenets of Protestantism (even in its fundamentalist form, which would seem to be in opposition to these tendencies because of its insistence on an objective moral law dictated by God) favor the liberty of the individual in the interpretation of moral doctrine, bringing the conscience of the individual to a central position for the determination of what is morally permitted.
The economic philosophy of liberal capitalism adds to the present situation the tendency to consider the economy as more important than ethics. Physical health becomes one more among the material goods in the free market, and health care is consequently considered primarily as business, to the extent that today any agreement between doctors and hospitals on the reduction of health-care costs would be subject to legal penalties according to the "Sherman Anti-Trust Act," as if it were an attempt to set up a monopoly. The chronically ill, the incurable, and also the elderly, and the permanently handicapped risk being viewed as "bad investments" that have to be shunned.
American pragmatism, on its part, loves everything that works, is uneasy with speculative thought and abstract principles, and has doubts about, or plainly refuses, the existence of an objective and immutable moral order. This creates the tendency towards ethical utilitarianism: virtues might be exalted in political discourse, but when we get down to the level of practical realities, "ethical" is what works in a given situation.
Brought together, all these aspects of American life favor certain positions that have appeared in the last years in medical ethics: the tendency to withdraw food and drink, to consider as dead those who are partially "brain-dead," to use the tissues of aborted fetuses for experimentation, to attempt to put a price for the organs destined for transplants, to favor a position "pro-choice," even if one is opposed to abortion in itself, to have no consideration for those who argue from a theological point of view, and to favor the legalization of euthanasia and "assisted" suicide.
The ethical problem, daunting by itself, is today compounded by the intervention of the law courts, which have replaced the Church as the ultimate authority for the exposition and clarification of ethical principles and for the setting down of the parameters to be followed in these matters. The court rulings in many controverted cases, apart from giving a "solution" to a concrete case, have become the legal precedents to be used for the next — albeit slightly different — case. So throughout the years the complex question of the duty to preserve life, and of the means for that end, has become a slippery slope down which we are slipping a bit farther every day.
The first major question came in the court case of 22-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan, comatose since 1975, when her family asked in 1976 for a court ruling allowing her mechanical respirator to be disconnected, in opposition to the physicians’ judgment, who considered that such an action would certainly cause her death in a matter of minutes. In a landmark decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and granted permission. The incident is important because it had consequences that go far beyond the particular case. The legal recourse both made the law court the ultimate arbiter in an ethical decision, with the actual power to enforce it, and created a general precedent applicable to all similar (but not necessarily identical) cases. By the way, this incident also shows us how uncertain is the certainty of some physicians, because after withdrawal of the respirator Karen Ann Quinlan continued breathing on her own, and died in 1985.
The next precedent-setting case was that of Nancy Beth Cruzan, a 32-year-old woman who had been in a persistent vegetative state since a car crash seven years earlier. The question was not of disconnecting the respirator, because she was breathing by herself, but to disconnect the artificial nutrition and hydration — food and water artificially administered. The Missouri Supreme Court did not grant this request, not because it considered it its ethical duty to preserve life, but because there was no "clear and convincing evidence" she had requested this to be done. In a second hearing of the case, new testimony was entered convincing the judge that Nancy never wanted "to live like a vegetable," and removal of the artificial nutrition was granted. She died 12 days later, December 26, 1990. A new legal — and ethical! — precedent was set down: the removal of artificial nutrition and hydration is permissible if the patient himself requests it.
The Cruzan case was the foundation of the next case along the slippery slope. A conscious and lucid patient, Murray Putzer, himself requested the withdrawal of the feeding tubes, which was granted because there was no doubt that he had requested it. In ten days, he died.
And now we have the Society for the Right to Die and Americans Against Human Suffering… The Hemlock Society has published a "do-it-yourself" manual for those who are "considering the option of rational suicide," while Dr. Kevorkian still goes around helping terminally ill and simply depressed people to end their lives…. The press and the courts talk about our "constitutional right" to die…
In a crazed world which is on the verge of the absolute loss of its moral bearings, the last rampart of moral sanity and of sound ethical judgment is the traditional Catholic doctrine.
The answer to many of those questions relies upon the definition of ordinary and extraordinary means of preserving our own life. It is therefore necessary to start with these notions, their development and the changes which have ensued, particularly in modern times. Later, we shall investigate the application of these notions to the different medical technologies and set the Catholic guidelines for our judgment in these questions.
St. Thomas Aquinas set the initial parameters for the subsequent discussion about the question of the preservation of one’s life. Life is a gift from God. To take our own life is a sin, a violation of God’s dominion over life and death. The fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," is a negative precept, that is, it imposes the obligation not to do a certain action. In the context of our discussion, it means that we cannot kill ourselves. To this negative duty corresponds a positive duty, the obligation to do another action: we must preserve our life. To refuse this positive duty is equivalent to the violation of the negative precept, the Commandment of God:
A man has the obligation to sustain his body, otherwise he would be a killer of himself […]; by precept, therefore, he is bound to nourish his body and likewise we are bound to all the other items without which the body cannot live.
St. Thomas then asked if this is an absolutely binding obligation, and he answered; "Semper sed non pro semper," "always, but not in every circumstance." There are certain situations, certain conditions in which this positive duty does not bind, in which we can abandon the duty of preserving our own life for the attainment of the higher good — the service and attainment of God. The temporal good, that is, our life, must be sought if it helps us to attain our spiritual end, but it may be relinquished if it is an obstacle in our way towards God:
It is inbred for a man to love his own life and those things which contribute to it, but in due measure; that is, to love things of this kind not as though his goal were set in them, but inasmuch as they are to be used for his final end [the attainment of God, the salvation of his soul] 
In consequence, there is a binding obligation to preserve one’s life, but it is circumscribed by considerations related to the proper pursuit of our final end.
Having stated this, St. Thomas applied the principle of totality that Pius XII will recall again in this century. This principle considers the bodily integrity (wholeness) of man. Hence, a part of the body could be sacrificed for the good of the whole, and in this way, he concluded the lawfulness of mutilation: we can relinquish a part of our body to preserve our life.
In the 16th century Francisco de Vitoria, a Spanish Dominican, was the first to consider in greater detail the means to preserve our own life, without calling them as yet ordinary and extraordinary means. He stated that some means are obligatory, that is, that we are obliged to use them, and that to refuse their use when the need arises is equivalent to suicide, and consequently, a sin. Which are those? The means that are commonly used by men to preserve their own life and which are easily available to the vast majority of people: medicines, the recourse to a physician, food, water. The extraordinary means are, in consequence, those which are not common.
One is not held to employ all the means to conserve life, but it is sufficient to employ the means which are of themselves intended for this purpose and congruent.
But Vitoria added a consideration that was crucial for the development of moral doctrine: the judgment about the ordinariness of the means, if they are common or not, might, in certain particular cases, be relative to the condition of the person. Perhaps in a particular case, the means that are common and must be used by all — ordinary — might impose an excessive burden on a person. If it is morally impossible to use those means, even if they are common, even if they are the most easily available, a person may be exempted of their use without committing a sin. In other words: there might be circumstances in which, because of a subjective disposition, the ordinary means become extraordinary for a particular person; the excuse for not using them does not arise from the means themselves, but from the subjective moral impossibility of this concrete individual to use them.
Another Spanish Dominican, Domingo Banez, was the first to introduce the terms ordinary and extraordinary in the moral-theological discourse. Since then, the means that are commonly used are called ordinary, and their use is obligatory; those which are uncommon and from which use one can be excused, are called extraordinary.
Medical science had not advanced that much when Cardinal Juan de Lugo came back to the question, not to face new problems, but to propose a novel application of the axiom "moraliter pro nihilo reputatur": In the context of this discussion, it means that something, some means to preserve one’s life, is "morally considered as nothing." De Lugo himself gave an example: A man is high in a burning tower surrounded by flames; he cannot escape, but he finds that he has a bucket of water which he can throw to put out part of the fire and it will delay his death for some minutes. Is he obliged to use that water to try to put out the fire? No. Moraliter pro nihilo reputatur: such a small quantity will not affect the result, he will die no matter what. The distinction to be understood is that in this example the relief that is offered is so small that it amounts to nothing, and therefore, it does not create the moral obligation of using it.
The next theologian that we have in our listing is St. Alphonsus Liguori. He repeated everything that has been said before, but included another exception to obligatory action: the subjective repugnance of an individual to use a certain kind of medical treatment. He proposed the example of a virgin who, because of her delicacy of conscience and the real danger of temptation, refuses to be touched by a male physician.
The means to be used are not defined, but described according to their ordinariness. A precise, universally applicable definition would have been an impediment for the practical judgment regarding the obligation in some concrete cases, due to particular and subjective circumstances. There is no definition, but a description of features which help us to judge if the means proposed are ordinary or extraordinary.
The distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means is used both by physicians and moral theologians, but such a use does not mean that their notions of "ordinary" and "extraordinary" are exactly the same. It may happen that the notions overlap, but they are not necessarily co-extensive: a means may be "ordinary" for the physician, in the sense of usual, standard medical practice, but considered "extraordinary" by the moral theologian, and conversely.
Ordinary means are those means which are commonly used by men to preserve their own life, and which can be procured by ordinary diligence. Four features have to be considered:
Regarding extraordinary means, we continue as before, without a definition, only with their objective description. Which are the features that distinguish these means?
We have tried to describe these means objectively, but nevertheless references to the subject, the individual, keep creeping in. This brings us to note some important points in this listing of means and features.
The first is that the emphasis has always to fall upon the objective quality of the means. The manuals of Moral Theology have made every effort to describe as objectively as possible which are ordinary and extraordinary means. This objective description establishes primarily a certain means as ordinary or extraordinary. Then, as a second stage, it comes the subjective application of those means to the patient, their actual use by a concrete individual.
The second point is that the notion of the burden imposed by the means has to be considered both objectively and subjectively. A certain means can be objectively burdensome, because of the difficulty to obtain it, its excessive cost, the severe pain that it inflicts. But it can also be subjectively perceived as burdensome:
In some particular circumstances a means, which is by itself ordinary, may be considered extraordinary because of a reasonable motive, and consequently not used.
The third point is that there is an inverse relationship of proportion between the objective ordinariness of the means and the subjective circumstances of their use. When the means are objectively ordinary, the subjective circumstances which would lead us to refuse their use have to be more grave and solidly founded. In a simpler proposition: the more ordinary the means are, the more extraordinary the subjective circumstances have to be to refuse their use without committing a sin.
The fourth point we must notice is the close relationship between the burden imposed by the use of the means and the beneficial result to be expected from such recourse. If the benefit is slight but the use of the means do not impose any burden, the obligation to use them remains. If the hope of a beneficial result is slight, but the means are objectively extraordinary, the obligation to use them is not urged.
The two lights which have to guide us for a right judgment in the particular case are:
Confronting the new medical technologies, and the ever more daring theories widely spread by too liberal theologians, many persons found themselves in doubt and asked the Church to present again her point of view on these questions. Pope Pius XII went back to sound tradition, to the basic principles of natural and Christian morals.
He reaffirmed the principle of totality. The good of man is the good of the whole person, not only his bodily integrity, but also the subordination of biological life to higher goods, the common good of civil and ecclesiastical society, the good of our own spiritual welfare:
[The patient] is bound by the immanent purposes fixed by nature.…Because he is the beneficiary, and not the proprietor, he does not possess unlimited power to allow acts of destruction or of mutilation of anatomic or functional character. But in virtue of the principle of totality, of his right to employ the services of the organism as a whole, he can give individual parts to destruction or mutilation when and to the extent that it is necessary for the good of his being as a whole, to assure its existence or to avoid, and naturally to repair, grave and lasting damage which could otherwise neither be avoided nor repaired.
What purpose would be served by the use and development of the body, of its energies, of its beauty, if it were not at the service of something more noble and lasting, namely, the soul?…It is sound to teach man to respect his body, but not to esteem the body more than is right.…Care of the body is not man’s first anxiety, neither the earthly and mortal body as it is now, not the glorified body made spiritual as it will be one day. The first place in man’s composite being does not belong to the body taken from the earth’s slime, but to the spirit, to the spiritual soul.
Pius XII also restated the notions of ordinary and extraordinary means. Ordinary are those treatments which offer reasonable hope of benefit without imposing unacceptable burdens on the patient or others, and they are considered always in relation to the different circumstances of persons, places, times and cultures. Extraordinary are those means which do impose unacceptable burdens. The pope did not address the specific criteria for distinguishing between ordinary and extraordinary treatments, but made only one specific application: the respirator for a dying patient can be considered as extraordinary means.
But great changes in Catholic moral theology were already brewing in the Forties. Fr. Gerald Kelly, an American Jesuit, set the new direction in the "definition" of ordinary and extraordinary means.
The first change was a shift in the focus of the definition. The descriptive definitions of the past — that is, the description of the features which distinguish the ordinary from the extraordinary means — were turned into a normative definition: ordinary means are those which are obligatory, extraordinary are those which are not obligatory. With this shift from the degree of difficulty to obtain or use the means, to a judgment about the obligation to use certain means, the whole question of the objective quality of the means was put aside: it does not matter how the means are, their objective nature, but only the obligation in reference to a concrete subject.
The second change was more important, the introduction — in the definition of ordinary and extraordinary means — of the explicit notion of the benefit for the patient, in such a way that "extraordinary means" came to include all medicines and treatments which cannot be obtained without excessive expense, pain, or other inconvenience, or which, if used, do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit. In the traditional doctrine, it was required a keeping of proportion between burden and benefit, and a continuous balance between both. In this new utilitarian definition, the notion of benefit is freed from the notion of burden, and they become two equal and independent parameters to judge about the obligation of the use of the means: the imposition of an excessive burden, or the lack of expectation of a beneficial result.
It may seem that we are splitting hairs and that there is no real difference between these definitions, the traditional and the new. But let’s look at the practical applications. A case discussed by Fr. Kelly regards a patient dying of cancer, who is also a diabetic and is taking insulin to avoid dying from a diabetic coma. Is he obliged to continue taking the medicine that keeps at bay one cause of death, while letting the other cause of death run its course? …According to traditional doctrine, we judge the objective ordinariness of the means and their relation to the end intended. In reference to the control of diabetes, insulin is the ordinary means, it is easily available and does not imply any excessive burden; therefore, the patient is obliged to continue taking it. On the contrary, according to the new notions of ordinary and extraordinary means, nothing will prevent the patient from dying: even if insulin is taken, he will die of cancer. As there is no real hope of benefit (the patient will nevertheless die), he is not obliged to take insulin.
A second case refers to the artificial feeding of a man who will die in the near future of a certain illness. While the artificial feeding prevents death from happening now, it will happen eventually, very soon. Is there a proportionate benefit? According to traditional doctrine, the benefit is certainly very slight, but so is the burden imposed; therefore, it constitutes ordinary means and has to be used. According to the new definition, "ordinary" and "extraordinary" are relative to the patient’s physical condition and expectation of life. In this particular case, the patient will not stay alive; there is no benefit to be obtained, and consequently, no obligation to continue the artificial feeding.
What appeared to be simply a shift of emphasis in the definitions has lead us to completely opposite answers to these moral questions. But that was only the first step. Once the notion of the expectation of a benefit became widely accepted among theologians and relegated the objective nature of the means to almost oblivion, the next stage was only a question of time…
Fr. Richard McCormick, another American Jesuit, centered the moral analysis not on the duty to preserve life, but on the quality of the life that is preserved; not on the means themselves, but on their effectiveness for the preservation of a life of such quality — the notion of the hope of benefit taken to its extreme. According to this modern trend in moral theology, to judge which treatments are ordinary or extraordinary, we have to make "value of life" judgments: granted that we can preserve this life, which kind of life are we preserving? Physical life, being a good, is nevertheless a relative good, to be preserved as the condition for interpersonal relationships; these values are the foundation of the duty to preserve physical life and dictate the limits of this duty. Consequently, physical life is not a value to be preserved when the potential for these relationships has been lost or can never be attained…
In the context of the so-called "consequentialist" theory, the moral theologian considers what is the effect that he is trying to achieve: the preservation of a life, a human life, that is, an operational rational life capable of moral acts proceeding from knowledge and free will. If this effect can be achieved, all the actions tending to it, all the means are good, ordinary, and have to be used; if it cannot be achieved, the means are useless, extraordinary, and there is no obligation to use them.. Therefore, he cannot say right off that to disconnect a respirator is a morally good or bad action. First he has to ask himself what kind of life he is preserving by the use of a respirator. If the life preserved is less than fully human, because the person is unconscious and perhaps will never recuperate the full use of his powers, its preservation is not a good, but a moral evil, and consequently all the actions and means linked to it are also evil. The analysis of a consequentialist theologian starts with a judgment on the quality of life: all means have to be used that lead to the preservation of an "operational" human life. If that kind of life cannot be achieved, there is no obligation to do anything to preserve it.
The same analysis applies to the senile, the mentally handicapped, and to anyone judged to be lacking the complete use of his reason and will. And if somebody is making this judgment, it is because the patient is considered incompetent to do it by himself. It is indeed a "brave new world," the open road to euthanasia, because somebody will have to judge if that particular life has the necessary quality to deserve preservation.
In the traditional Catholic doctrine, one of the parameters that has guided us in the judgment regarding the use of certain means to preserve life is the burden imposed by those means. In the consequentialist analysis, the burden is not imposed by the means, but by the quality of life to be preserved: the burden is the life that will be led afterwards. Has that life to be terminated because somebody judges that it is not worthy of being lived, that it cannot be lived? So, the task of the moral theologian passes over the realm of the objective evaluation of the means to preserve life, to a moral judgment about the value of one particular life.
Let us turn now to the objective assessment of medical conditions and of life-sustaining procedures. For the moral judgment on what has to be done in a concrete case, the very first thing to be understood is the patient’s true medical condition, an assessment that can only be given by the physicians. It has to be remembered also that — even if the definition of death is a philosophical and theological question — the determination of the moment of death and of the parameters to ascertain that it has happened correspond to the physician, not to the theologian.
Moreover, the application of the means, based on their qualification as ordinary or extraordinary, depends on a clear understanding of the medical condition of the patient. One of the problems that arose in the Quinlan case was that the father appealed to the courts saying that his daughter was brain-dead; the physicians that were consulted said that she was in an irreversible coma; and in its final decision, the court said that she was in a vegetative state. That is to say, the father said that his daughter was practically dead; the physicians, that she was dying and would actually die in a foreseeable future, and the court considered that she was perhaps dying, perhaps not.
It is a scary thought that in these confusing circumstances, the court handed down a decision which since has been used as legal precedent for application in similar cases. For that reason, it is best to define the terms of our analysis.
Terminal state is defined by California’s Natural Death Act (1976) as:
...an incurable condition, caused by injury, disease or illness, which, regardless of the application of life-sustaining procedures, would, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death, and where the application of life-sustaining procedures serves only to postpone the moment of death of the patient.
Coma is a generic notion, to which precisions can be added to make reference to diverse medical conditions. Taken generically, "coma" is the condition in which, because of pathological causes, there exist a reduction (up to the abolition) of the state of consciousness and of somatic vital functions (movements, sensibility, verbal expression and understanding), associated with alterations of the vegetative functions (respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure and circulation).
Deep coma is the extreme reduction of the vital and vegetative functions: the patient is inert, with alterations of breathing, without verbal or motor response, particularly to intense painful stimuli; the pupils do not react to light, the eyes are immobile; the body presents a general rigidity or becomes progressively flaccid. In the majority of cases, such a condition is not reversible. Nevertheless, there is still some slight hope of recovery, and consequently, all life-sustaining procedures must be continued, at least until the disease evolves into another stage.
The coma provoked by traumatic lesions may not remain indefinitely unchanged, but evolve into a persistent vegetative state: the patient remains unresponsive and speechless after acute brain damage, but may open his eyes and have cycles of sleeping and waking.
The upper part of the brain [cortex] is impaired but the brainstem is functioning. This is often called "brain-dead" but that description is inaccurate.
After some weeks in this condition, the possibility of a return to normal levels of consciousness is, statistically, practically nil, but some clinical improvements may appear (eye opening, some verbal and motor response), even after two years in this condition. Consequently, life-sustaining procedures, in principle, have to be continued: nutrition and respiration always, other medical treatments in so far as they allow some hope of improvement:
In the past, cessation of heartbeat and spontaneous respiration always produced prompt death of the brain, and, similarly, destruction of the brain resulted in prompt cessation of respiration and circulation. In this context, it was reasonable that absence of pulse and respiration became the traditional criteria for pronouncement of death. Recently, however, technological advances have made it possible to sustain brain function in the absence of spontaneous respiratory and cardiac function, so that the death of a person can no longer be equated with the loss of these latter two vital functions. Furthermore, it is now possible that a person’s brain may be completely destroyed even though his circulation and respiration are being artificially maintained by mechanical devices.
The criteria to establish the condition called brain-death require:
a. Prerequisite: that all the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures have been executed;
b. Criteria (which have to be verified for 30 consecutive minutes at least 6 hours after the beginning of the coma and of the apnea):
c. Confirmation: absence of blood flow [i.e., to the brain]. Brain death corresponds to the irreversible destruction of practically the whole brain…. Diverse studies have shown that brain death, if confirmed by rigid criteria, is always followed by somatic death, and it can therefore be taken as a sure sign of biological death [i.e., the total cessation of life in all the tissues and cells of the organs].
When all the symptoms of the "brain-death" condition are present, the patient is dead, and consequently, it is morally permissible to discontinue all life-sustaining procedures. Nevertheless, it has to be observed that the strict time limits required for the harvesting of organs for transplants demand, in their turn, immediate action after the patient has been declared brain-dead, and therefore, there is always the danger that the checking of all the symptoms or the delays required to ascertain the real existence of such a condition — that is, the real death of the prospective organ donor — will be overlooked.
"Life-sustaining procedure" is, according to California’s Natural Death Act of 1976:
...a procedure or intervention which utilizes mechanical or other artificial means to sustain, restore or supplant a vital function, which, when applied to a qualified patient, would serve only to artificially prolong the moment of death and where, in the judgment of the attending physician, death is imminent whether or not such procedures are utilized.
Standard nursing care for the patient, like hygiene, changing of bed-clothing, turning the person regularly to avoid pressure sores, etc., is an obligation in charity, and as such, has to be maintained even when there is no founded hope of survival or of regaining consciousness — that is to say, in each and every one of the medical conditions listed above.
The basic ordinary procedure for the artificial provision of nutrition and fluids is either:
...through a nasogastric tube [a tube passed down the nose into the stomach and left permanently in place for those who cannot swallow], or through a gastrostomy tube [inserted through the skin directly into the stomach].
Among the different life-sustaining procedures, the artificial provision of food and fluids poses today one of the most acute ethical problems. As infants, we were given food and drink when we were too helpless to nourish ourselves. For many of us, a day will come before we die when we will be once again too helpless to feed ourselves. Even when the struggle against disease has been lost and there is nothing more than to wait for death, it would seem that the instinctive reaction is to continue providing food and drink for the dying. This assumption is today widely challenged:
Since permanently unconscious patients will never be aware of nutrition, the only benefit to the patient of providing such increasingly burdensome interventions is sustaining the body to allow for a remote possibility of recovery...
...or, putting it more bluntly...
...it is morally justifiable to withhold antibiotics and artificial nutrition and hydration, as well as other forms of life-sustaining treatment, allowing the patient to die.
To counter these conclusions, we are convinced that the provision of food and fluids is not simply — or strictly — "medical care," but the minimum care that must be provided for the sick, whatever their medical condition. All beings need food and water to live, but such nourishment by itself does not heal or cure disease. In consequence, to stop feeding the permanently unconscious patient is not to withdraw from the battle against illness, but simply to withhold the nourishment that sustains all life.
Moreover, to withdraw the artificial provision of food and fluids is not simply "to allow the patient to die" : what we are doing is not to cease a treatment against disease, but to withdraw what is essential to sustain the life of every human being, either healthy or ill. Death will happen, not because of the illness, but because of our omission to provide adequate nutrition and hydration.
In consequence, it can be affirmed that the procedure is neither useless nor burdensome: it preserves life, and the material inconveniences that it provokes are certainly and abundantly compensated by the good that it preserves. Consequently, whatever the medical condition of the patient, artificial nutrition and hydration have to be continued.
In some very particular and extraordinary instances (as examples, in the case of a patient in a terminal condition to whom the artificial nutrition imposes a pain excessive in proportion to the very short span of life remaining, or in the case of an irreversibly demented patient who keeps tearing apart the feeding tubes and causing himself serious wounds, and who cannot be continually restrained) the inconveniences may become so burdensome that the artificial nutrition might be considered an extraordinary, non-obligatory means of preserving life.
Respiration is equally basic for the preservation of life, but its artificial maintenance is nevertheless a medical procedure which replaces a vegetative function impaired or suspended by disease — that is to say, every human being breathes on his own since the moment of birth, and there is no natural stage in the development of a human being when breathing has to be assisted, the present disease is — in consequence — the direct cause of the inability to breathe.
Consequently, its use in certain medical conditions might be considered as an extraordinary means, and its withdrawal — unlike the case of withdrawal of artificial nutrition — would be this time equivalent to letting the disease continue its course, to allow the patient to die. In the case of a patient in terminal condition, that is, when death is imminent, this withdrawal is morally permissible.
In all the other conditions the procedure must be continued, unless it imposes a particularly excessive burden. As an example, in the case of a patient in a permanent vegetative state, the procedure may be discontinued if a very excessive burden caused by the procedure itself is imposed either on the patient or on his family — that is to say, artificial respiration may be withdrawn if it causes excessive, disproportionate discomfort to the patient, or if it threatens to throw the family in the most abject poverty because of the costs of maintaining it, but it cannot be withdrawn because the family does not like to see a loved one kept in such a state by a machine.
It is necessary here to forcefully insist on the fact that these guidelines are not a "do-it-yourself" manual to be perused on our own when the need to take decisions arises. What appears here as a simple, straightforward analysis, is, in real life, a complex and agonizing decision. No two cases are strictly identical: the medical conditions and the means at our disposal may be similar, but the subjective conditions of the applications of those means will be necessarily different, and the final moral decision will have to take into account those factors and a number of others which cannot be accurately described and evaluated in such a short exposition as this article.
It has to be remembered that the diagnosis about the medical condition of a patient corresponds to the physician, who has the knowledge and experience to ascertain the present physical condition and the prognosis of the illness, and to propose the treatments agreed upon or suggested by standard medical practice. On the other hand, the moral qualification of such means and the moral evaluation of their use in a concrete medical condition — in the light of Catholic doctrine — corresponds to the one trained to offer guidance in such decisions and who is moreover assisted by the particular graces granted by God to his state: the moral theologian, i.e., the priest. All this means that, in a concrete case, the final moral decision has to be taken after consultation with a priest, based on the medical condition of the patient objectively described and evaluated by the physicians.
This being said, it is also good to remember here some of the points we stressed before: that the qualification of some means as "ordinary" or "extraordinary" must always be referred to the objective nature of the means, and to their relationship with the subjective obstacles that may arise for their application in a concrete case. The consideration of the "usefulness" of the means must be always referred to the preservation of life, and not to any judgment of value about the "quality" of the life to be preserved. The benefit to be expected for the patient has to be estimated always in close relationship with the burdens imposed by the availability and/or use of the means.
There are only two ways in which the "quality of life" consideration of a seriously ill patient is relevant to moral decisions regarding a particular treatment:
Finally, life-sustaining procedures cannot not be withdrawn with the direct intention of causing death, but they may be withdrawn in certain medical conditions if they offer no reasonable hope of preserving life, while imposing at the same time disproportionate risks or burdens.
1 Pius XII, Allocution to Delegates at the Fourth International Congress of Catholic Doctors, September 29, 1949, in The Human Body, n.172.
2 The following paragraphs under this heading are a summary of the Appendix I, "Sviluppo e carattere dell’Etica biomedica negli USA," in Puca, Trapianto, pp.175-177.
3 Puca, op.cit., p.176, making reference to White, M. B. The Philosophy of the American Revolution, New York-Oxford, 1981.
4 Puca, op.cit., p.177.
5 Humphry, Derek. Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. Eugene: The Hemlock Society, 1991.
6 In II Tes., lect. II, n.77.
7 Summa Theologica, II-II, Q.126, A.1.
8 Cf. his Relectiones Theologicæ, IX (De Temperantia) and X (De Homicidio).
9 De Iustitia et Iure, disp.10, n.30.
10 Regatillo-Zalba, vol.II, n.254.
11 Koch-Preuss, vol.III, p.91.
12 Ubach, vol. I, n. 487.
13 Cf. the "Foreword" to The Human Body, p.9.
14 Allocution to the First International Congress of Histopathology, September 13, 1952, in The Human Body, n.359.
15 Allocution to the Scientific Congress of Sport, November 8, 1952, in The Human Body, n.404, 398.
16 Cf. "The Duty of Using Artificial Means of Preserving Life," in Theological Studies, June 1950, and "The Duty to Preserve Life," in Theological Studies, December 1951.
17 Cf. his article "To Save or to Let Die: The Dilemma of Modern Medicine," in America, July 7, 1974.
18 Puca, op.cit. pp.78 ff.
19 Puca, op.cit. p.48.
20 Puca, op.cit. p.49.
21 Puca, op.cit., p.53, quoting Jennet, B.–Bond, M., Assessment of Outcomes after Severe Brain Damage: A Practical Scale, in Lancet, 1, pp.480-484.
22 Dunn, Ethics, p.45.
23 Veith, Brain death, pp.171-172.
24 Zerbini, Prolungamento, p.47.
25 Dunn, op.cit. p.46.
26 For this whole question, a recommended reading is Meilaender, On Removing Food and Water, whose ideas are expressed in the following paragraphs.
27 The President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research, "Deciding to Forego Life-sustaining Treatment," 1982, quoted in Meilaender, On Removing Food and Water, p.216.
28 Wanzer and Sydney, in the New England Journal of Medicine, April 1984, quoted in Meilaender, loc.cit.
Note: The following bibliographical references are given only to indicate the works consulted for the preparation of this article, and their quotation in no way constitutes a blanket endorsement of all their conclusions. In fact, the works here quoted range from those that uphold the traditional Catholic positions, to others which — in the opinion of the author of this article —directly oppose traditional Catholic doctrine.
Dunn, H.P. Ethics for Doctors, Nurses and Patients. New York: Alba House, 1994.
Kelly, Gerald, S.J. Medico-Moral problems [Part V]. St. Louis: The Catholic Hospital Association of the United States and Canada, 1954.
Kenny, John P., O.P. Principles of Medical Ethics. Westminster: The Newman Press, 1962 (2nd ed.).
Koch, Antony and Preuss, Arthur. A Handbook of Moral Theology. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1919-1924 [5 vols.].
Lammers, Stephen E. and Verhey, Allen (Editors). On Moral Medicine. Theological Perspectives in Medical Ethics. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989 (reprint).
Meilaender, Gilbert. On Removing Food and Water: Against the Stream. In: Shannon, Thomas A. (Editor). Bioethics […].Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1987 (3rd ed.).
O’Donnell, Thomas J., S.J. Medicine and Christian Morality. New York: Alba House, 1991 (2nd ed.)
[Pontifical Academy of Science]. Prolungamento artificiale della vita. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987.
Puca, Antonio, M.I. Trapianto di cuore e morte cerebrale (Aspetti ettici). Turin: Edizione Camilliane, 1993.
Regatillo, E.F. S.J.–Zalba, M. S.J. Theologiæ Moralis Summa. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1953 [3 vols.].
Shannon, Thomas A. (Editor). Bioethics. Basic writings on the key ethical questions that surround the major modern biological possibilities and problems. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1987 (3rd ed.).
[Solesmes-Papal Teachings]. The Human Body. Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1979.
Sparks, Richard C.C.S.P. To Treat or Not To Treat. Bioethics and the Handicapped Newborn. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1988.
Tissier de Mallerais, Bernard, Fr. (et al.). Le Respect de la Vie: La Doctrine de l’ Eglise. Escurolles: Fideliter, 1988.
Ubach, Jose, S.J. Theologia Moralis. Buenos Aires: Sebastian de Amorrurtu, 1935 (2nd ed.) [2 vols.].
Veith, Frank J. (et al.). Brain Death. In: Shannon, Thomas A. (Editor). Bioethics […].Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1987 (3rd ed.).
Walter, James J.–Shannon, Thomas A. (Editors). Quality of life. The new medical dilemma. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1990.
Zerbini, E.J. Il prolungamento della vita e I criteri della morte. In: [Pontifical Academy of Sciences]. Prolungamento artificiale della vita. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987.
Two Saints of the EucharistTarsicius and Pius Xby Susan Vennari When I was eight years old, I fell in love. The boy was not much older than I was; I first read about him, or maybe someone told me about him. His name was "Tarsicius" -- Saint Tarsicius, and he became my dearest friend. How those few words I learned about him burned in my heart. Tarsicius, the boy-saint of the early days of the Church. Valerian's persecutions of the Christians had been ferocious, and every priest had to fear for his life. Christians already in prison were a kind of bait to ensnare priests who would carry the Eucharist to the prisoners. Thus, it was sometimes permitted that a faithful youth might be entrusted with the dangerous mission to carry this Sacrament to those heroic prisoners who were waiting to die. Tarsicius was such a one. His age is unknown to us, but one day he was sent, perhaps starting off up the long stairway from the catacombs of St. Callistus. We can only imagine his route, along the Appian Way, past the silent monuments to dead Romans. I used to imagine that I walked along with him. Some others would follow along, a little behind us, in case of any problems. Tarsicius, known to be a Christian, was yet a popular young man, always cheerful. As we approached the city, some boys who were playing called to him to join their games. "No," he called back to them, "not today." "Where are you going? -- You don't have to go off yet." And he smiled good- naturedly. Then one of the boys, peeved that Tarsicius would not help to even the sides, called out from a rooftop, "Hey, whatcha got, Tarsicius?" "Hey, maybe he's got the 'mysteries' -- Tarsicius, have you got the 'mysteries'?" "Lemme see," joined another. In that moment everything changed, as the boys smelled the blood of a hunt. Like jackals, they descended. Prickled with fear, I would look at Tarsicius -- "How can we escape?!" As we started to run, I caught a look at his face. It was not frightened, but clear. He would not deign "to cast pearls before swine". The first rock hit him in the shoulder, and as he spun around, I could hear shouts. Two more rocks flew together at his head -- and then, everything was slow motion. He smiled at me, I thought, as he fell. It seemed he spoke that prayer I had learned for my First Communion: "My Lord and My God." I saw the boys upon him now, yelling and beating him with sticks. They pushed past me, ignoring me. But I fell back. Through the crowd I could see Tarsicius curled up in a tight ball, protecting the sacred Mysteries with the cloak of that prayer. They were tearing at him, trying to see what he enveloped with his body, but they could not get to that which he enclasped so tightly. It seemed the longest time they beat upon him. Suddenly there was silence. "Tarsicius, are you dead?" Someone kicked at him, and the arms of the lifeless body fell back. And then the miracle was revealed: "Nothin'. He's got nothin'." As they stood there perplexed, they heard a shout. Now they were frightened off, as our distant companions caught up to us. I wanted to help carry him, but I was useless. I wanted to fall with him and be joined in that holy sacrifice he offered. But it was not my turn this day. So, quickly, I collected as much of the blood-soaked sand as I could. Then we fled through the alleys and back to our refuge at the catacombs. Many who read this story may remember it from a third-grade reader. Did this story stay with you as it did with me? Defender of the Eucharist When Pius X ascended to the Papacy in the summer of 1903, he was already known to be devoted to the Eucharist. As Cardinal Patriarch of Venice, the office he held immediately prior to the papacy, he demonstrated this in various ways. His work there exemplifies this service to the Eucharist and foreshadows his mission as Pope. He began perpetual adoration in Venice. He encouraged frequent Communion for the laity and for seminarians. He urged that children communicate at an earlier age than twelve or fourteen, which had become the practice, and he himself delivered many First Communions. He encouraged public veneration of the Blessed Sacrament in a Eucharistic Congress, so that "... in the light of day, God's supreme dominion over man and all things, … His right to command and His authority may be fully realized and respected." He was devoted to the Eucharist from his youth, and gave his priesthood over to serving It. As he matured, the ardor of his devotion only increased, especially the more he perceived It to be threatened or denigrated by others. An example of his vigilant response to defend the Eucharist is recalled from his patriarchate in Venice. In the early days after he became Cardinal of Venice, vandals broke into the tabernacle of Santa Maria in Nazareth, a church maintained by the Discalced Carmelites. The vandals stole the precious ciboria and scattered the Eucharistic hosts across the ground. Upon hearing the news of this sacrilege, Cardinal Sarto was deeply distressed. Wasting no time, he published a letter to all the clergy and faithful of Venice. The letter called for reparation for this profanity to the Blessed Sacrament. It was published as a poster and put up throughout the city. Three days of expiatory ceremonies were held in Santa Maria, where the desecration had taken place. In addition, all the churches of the city held Eucharistic adoration for an hour on the following Sunday. Pius' immediate response to the sacrilege, and the quantity and quality of the reparation called for, emphasized to the Venetians the sublimity of the Sacrament. Promoter of the Eucharist No wonder, then, that his Papal program as Pius X turned specific attention to the Eucharist. Within the first five years, he published the Decree concerning Frequent and Daily Communion. Within the next three years, he instructed that the sick be granted every facility to receive the Eucharist as often as possible. Shortly after that, he lowered the age for First Communion to the age of 'seven, more or less.' These decrees, though welcomed by many, were not met with universal pleasure. For nearly three hundred years, the Church had been fighting the heresy of Jansenism. Arising first in Holland, it became particularly virulent in France. Though it was condemned in 1653 by Innocent X, its effects were pernicious. Clergy and faithful alike had been diverted from the Sacrament. Catholics throughout the world had come to regard the reception of Holy Communion more as a "reward, than as a remedy for human frailty". The faithful received Communion rarely, and children were re- strained from First Communion until twelve or fourteen years of age, the opinion being that they could comprehend and give proper reverence to the Sacrament at the later age. But these practices were abuses, not the intention of the Church. Pius X enlarged upon the earlier efforts of Leo XIII to encourage frequent communion. He recalled to the Church the instruction by the Council of Trent. "[A]t each Mass, the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but also by the sacramental participation of the Eucharist that thereby a more abundant fruit might be derived to them from this most holy sacrifice." Pius X addressed the age of First Communion in the subsequent decree Quam Singulari, issued in 1910. He recalled first the joy Our Lord found in the company of children. "Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." He reminded Catholics that it had been the custom in the early Church to give communion to infants (as is still the practice in some of the venerable Eastern rites). The document defined the age of reason following Saint Thomas Aquinas, "as soon as children begin to have a certain use of reason, as so to be able to conceive devotion to this Sacrament". (This is called "incipient reason".) The benefits will be that "[the child] may approach Jesus Christ at an early age, live his life and there find protection against the dangers of corruption". Pius X considered it sufficient for the child to be able to distinguish the Eucharistic bread from ordinary bread. Catechism, of course, must follow, but the importance of the Food is to nourish the young soul and preserve its innocence. Early and frequent Communion would form eager hearts so as to develop pure love for Our Lord, which is a consolation to Him. "I have found it much easier to prepare little children" said Pius, "than those who are older -- the preparation is so much more objective than subjective. It is more a realization of how lovable, how desirable, how loving Our Lord is, than a preoccupation of how they can make themselves worthy -- or less unworthy -- to receive Him. ... The actual first communion appears to the little ones as the very loving embrace of a much-loved Father; to the older ones it is more a welcome to a loved and honored guest, with -- if I may so put it -- the preoccupations of a hostess." How his comment recalls Christ's words to Martha and Mary. "Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things; and yet only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the best part, and it will not be taken away from her." "Let the little children come" Pius X himself was generous in his judgment of "incipient reasoning". An Englishwoman who had a private audience with the Pope brought her little boy of four to receive his blessing. While she was talking, the child stood a little distance looking on; but presently he crept up to the Pope, put his hands on his knees and looked up into his face. "How old is he?" asked Pius, stroking the little head. "He is four," answered the mother, "and in two or three years I hope he will make his First Communion." The Pope looked earnestly into the child's clear eyes. "Whom do you receive in Holy Communion?" he asked. "Jesus Christ," was the prompt answer. "And who is Jesus Christ?" "Jesus Christ is God," replied the boy, no less quickly. "Bring him to me tomorrow," said Pius, turning to the mother, "and I will give him Holy Communion myself."  Pius X was a warrior Pope for the rights of God and to win souls. Every person of our times must be grateful to him for his proclamations on the Eucharist. The cumulative effects of the Eucharistic decrees were re- marked by priests and chaplains world wide in the years to follow. Jansenist tendencies were smashed. Biographers, writing some years after his pontificate, repeat the title "Pope of the Eucharist," which was applied to him by Pius XI on a monument erected in 1923. He "produced a spiritual revolution". Elsewhere, "The Eucharistic Decrees of Pius X are among the most important Acts ever put forth by the Papacy. They may well be called a stroke of genius." A few years later: "Pope Pius XII had described these Decrees as inspired by God Himself to bring the faithful back to the ecclesiastic practice and fervor of the early Church." Benefits of the Eucharist Pius X reminded us that to approach the altar worthily does not depend on knowledge, but on having the proper intention and love (as well as to be in a state of grace).The young mind and heart are unfettered and undivided in interest. What may be lacked in understanding is offset by ardor and purity of intention. But the effects of the Eucharist upon the soul are manifold, especially for children. Holy Communion provides food for the child's interior life; It unites the soul to Christ; It floods the soul with spiritual sweetness and delight; It lessens concupiscence; It is the children's antidote to temptations: to the attacks of the devil; to bad companionship and objectionable recreation; to impure and sinful conversations; to salacious literature and indecent movies; and to sinful desires and inclinations. The Eucharist delivers the child from daily venial sins. Pius X took literally the injunction from Christ, "Feed My lambs." He did not consider the words "spiritual food" to be some kind of metaphor, as the modern interpretation often goes. "I am the Bread of Life," and "My flesh is food indeed." were at the very heart of Father Giuseppe's priesthood. "The Divine Eucharist is the center of the faith, the final goal of every other devotion." This was the first truth he fought for as priest, as Cardinal and as Pope. To teach the soul at an early age to love Our Lord in the Eucharist will imprint an indelible memory of the sweetness of those innocent days. Tarsicius, acolyte of the early Church, would have been fed in frequent reception of the Blessed Sacrament, to which he was devoted in life, and to which he clung in death. His love for Christ in the Eucharist enkindled mine, for a child learns love before he learns reason. Because of the Eucharistic decrees of Pius X, I was given a taste of the strengthening Food called the "Bread of Angels". I did not have the discipline of piety as a child. But when I would receive Holy Communion, my thoughts would fly to my dear friend and my Friend. Sunday after Sun- day, this virtue was nurtured and fed. And Tarsicius stayed with me a long time, though my devotions turned to other saints as the years passed. A Memory Recalled One day, in 1977, it was announced in the parishes of my diocese, that we would now have the "option" to receive Communion in our hands. Pamphlets detailing the procedures for receiving the Eucharist were distributed to the stunned parishioners. Almost everyone fell in as this new upheaval began. As in those days I spent with Tarsicius, now I fell back anew. I saw him again, as I did when I was young, buffeted by the legs of those boys. How could his noble sacrifice be made so absurd? My old friend was being mocked, as if he had died for some noble sentiment instead of for the King of kings, the Truth. Although I had been a daily communicant for several years by then, and would continue to approach the altar on a frequent basis, I did not yet know about the Traditional movement. Nor was I to arrive back at Tradition for another fifteen years. But from that moment in 1977, until I was restored again to the Tridentine Mass, my love for St. Tarsicius helped me to realize that something terrible was being wrought. That spark of understanding encouraged me to resist in what ways I could, and to search for the truth. Spiritual Famine? I pondered the life and death of St. Tarsicius when I was a child, and I was increased in love for the Blessed Sacrament. As I have written this article, Saint Pius X has helped me to renew this contemplation. Once again, I have been able to focus in a special way on the Eucharist and to have my love for It enkindled. It is a grim irony, however, to consider that within one hundred years, we are again unable to receive Our Lord daily at the altar. When the very words of the Canons of the New Mass cause uncertainty as to the completion of the sacrifice, how can one approach the altar? Catholics are starving with Lazarus at the rich man's gate. We call out to our pastors for the Heavenly Food, and we find Jeremiah's lamentation applicable to our times: "The little ones asked for bread, and there was none to break it to them." Supernatural Courage As Cardinal Sarto processed through the streets of Venice, as Pope Pius X processed through the aisles of Saint Peter's, carrying the monstrance before him, might not his thoughts have recalled Tarsicius, the boy-saint of the Eucharist? As the words of the Tantum Ergo were sung at Benediction, might not he have seen Tarsicius as I did, 'Down in adoration falling?' The sublime words of the Angelic Doctor described the death of one youth, who loved the Eucharist with his whole being, laying out his life to protect and to defend the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord. As the Priest/Cardinal/Pope lifted the monstrance to bless the faithful, did he not hope that the faithful would gaze upon the Sacred Species with the ardor of that martyred acolyte? Tarsicius and Saint Pius X, united by love for the Eucharist, were graced by supernatural courage and fortitude. Knowing the difficulties of the tasks set before them, yet they found the service required of them easy, thanks to the workings of the Holy Ghost in souls fed upon the Living Bread. Saint Tarsicius's feast day, August 15, is overshadowed by the greater feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. He is believed to be buried in the catacombs of Saint Callistus, but his relics have never been positively identified. The feast of Saint Pius X is observed on September 3. His incorrupt body is entombed in an altar at Saint Peter's in Rome. Notes:1. The episode is recounted told in the Roman Martyrology, August 15.2. E Supremi, the first Encyclical of his pontificate. October 4, 1903, par. 7.3. Yves Chiron, Saint Pius X: Restorer of the Church. (Translated by Graham Harrison) Kansas City, Missouri, 2002, p. 105.4. Decree on Frequent Communion, December 20, 1905.5. Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, September 15, 1906, and Decree on Communion of the Sick and the Eucharistic Fast, December 7, 1906, as cited in Chiron, p. 291, n. 25.6. Quem Singulari, [sic], in Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, par. 2137 ff.7. "The Eucharistic Formation of Children," by Very Reverend Rudolph G. Bandas in A Symposium on the Life and Work of Pope Pius X, prepared under the Direction of the Episcopal Committee of The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Washington, D.C., 1946, p. 185.8. Council of Trent, Session XXII, Chapter 6, in Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma,1957.9. See discussions in Chiron, p. 291 f., and Bazin, p. 184 ff.10. As quoted, in F.A. Forbes' Pope Saint Pius X, (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. 84.11. Luke, 10:41-2.12. Forbes, op. cit., p.85.13. Chiron, op. cit., p. 303.14. McAuliffe, p. 13915. Pius X, by Rene Bazin. Translated from the Second Edition by the Benedictines of Talacre, (Saint Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1928), p. 187.16. McAuliffe, p. 140.17. Abstracted from Bandas, op. cit., 190 ff.18. John 21:16.19. John 6:35.20. John 6:56.21. Chiron, op. cit., p. 295.22. Lam. 4:4
Sr. Lucia of Fatima speaks of the Holy Rosary:
“The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given us a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.
With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves, we will sanctify ourselves, we will console Our Lord and obtain the salvation of many souls.”
Catholic World News - April 21, 2015
A Nigerian bishop has said that Jesus appeared to him and told him that the Boko Haram terrorist group can be defeated by the Rosary.
Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri told the Catholic News Agency that he was praying in his chapel when he experienced a vision, in which Jesus handed him a sword that turned into a rosary. “I didn’t need any prophet to give me the explanation,” he said. “It was clear that with the rosary we would be able to expel Boko Haram.”
The bishop said that he now feels compelled by the Holy Spirit to spread the message that the Rosary is the key to defeating the terrorist menace that has plagued his diocese in northeastern Nigeria.
Bishop Dashe reports that in the Maiduguri diocese, where Boko Haram has been particularly active, there were about 125,000 Catholics in 2009. That number has dropped to “only 50,000 to 60,000” today, he said, because so many families have fled to escape the threat of violence.
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