Archives for 2013

Elsewhere: subsidiarity

Catholic Social Teaching, in service of social justice, has well developed principles. In the political world we also here the words “social justice” used, but often in service of highly distorted, political ends.

The principal of solidarity is commonly misused in support of ever-growing, unrestrained central government. Some people simply assume that more government programs, more government regulations, more government everything is the solution. It is not. Such thinking inevitably tramples human dignity, reducing people into minor cogs in the wheel. In my opinion, many people are about to learn first-hand of their increasing “cog-ness” as ObamaCare unfolds.

The balancing principal which keeps solidarity in check is subsidiarity. These are equal and complimentary principals, one without the other leads to disaster.

James Kalb recently wrote an excellent piece for The Catholic World Report on what subsidiarity is and how it is currently practiced (spoiler: it isn’t).

Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching. Like other such principles, it is praised more than practiced, because it is at cross purposes with the outlook that now governs our public life.

It springs from concern for man in all his dimensions. Each of us participates in the human nature that is common to all. Each of us also has his own will and destiny, and knows who he is through a social identity that includes local and particular connections. So we are at once universal, individual, and socially situated, and become what we are through active participation in a complex of networks and institutions.

Concern with that aspect of human life puts Catholic social teaching at odds with the understandings of social life now dominant, which take equality and efficiency as their concern, and consequently want to reduce society to a sort of machine run from the top down for simple purposes. Such understandings make man less than he is, and end up treating him at bottom as an employee, voter, and consumer: someone who holds a position in a system of production and distribution designed and run by other people, periodically registers his assent to that system and how it is governed, and otherwise is free to amuse himself however he wants, as long as he doesn’t interfere with other people or the smooth operation of the system.

Dissent from that vision puts Catholic social teaching at cross purposes with every other political ideal now prominent. Catholic teaching wants man to be an effective participant in his world, so it wants the center of gravity of social life to be within his reach. For that reason it insists, in the face of the modern tendency toward the industrialization of social relations, on making the business of society as local as reasonably possible. It therefore asserts the principle of subsidiarity, which insists that lower-level groups such as families and local communities are not tools in the hands of higher-ups but have their own life and integrity that must be respected.

Subsidiarity rejects all forms of tyranny. It makes hierarchy more a matter of enabling those in the middle and bottom to carry on their lives than giving those at the top the power to plan out what is wanted and see to its achievement. It rejects the conception of social justice most common today, which emphasizes equality and universality and thus a comprehensive system of supervision and control. Instead, it stands for the Catholic and classical conception of social justice, a state of affairs in which each part of the social order receives its due so it can carry out its proper function.

More generally, it rejects present-day liberalism, the attempt to turn the social order into a technically rational contrivance for maximum equal satisfaction of individual preferences. It opposes it not only in its leftist or progressive form, which emphasizes expertise and equality, and prefers to act through neutral bureaucracies and international authorities, but also in its rightist or conservative form, which emphasizes energy and efficiency, and prefers global markets and the exercise of national power. So it is ill at ease with both the politically-correct welfare state and such aspects of present-day capitalism as outsourcing, big box stores, the penetration of commercial relations into all aspects of life, and the bottom line as the final standard for business decisions.

It nonetheless accepts certain tendencies often identified as conservative or liberal. It generally favors family values, distributed powers, federalism, local control, and freedom of enterprise and association, all of which now count as conservative causes. It also favors causes that count as liberal, such as grassroots democracy, limitations on big business as well as big government, and certain kinds of unionism. It favors neighborliness and an active civil society, which everyone says he likes, and maintenance of borders and limits on globalization, which our major parties along with the whole of our ruling class now reject.

Read James’ whole piece: Subsidiarity.

See also my previous essays touching this subject: social justice / not social justice and hijacking CST.

Son of the Living God

2013.12.27 Son of the Living God [guest] Author: Ed Trego

Guest contributor:   Ed Trego

“Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Matthew 16:13). Jesus asked the apostle’s this question while on the way to Caesarea Philippi. The apostle’s answered that some said John the Baptist, others Elijah, or one of the prophets. He then made the question specific to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16).

The importance of this question is the fact that Jesus is God. He doesn’t represent God, he doesn’t preach the word of God as a minister or priest. He isn’t a prophet of God. He is God! In order for the new covenant to succeed, people needed to understand that the covenant Jesus would institute was a covenant with God. Just as was Abraham’s and just as was Moses’.

The significance of Peter’s answer is evident in Jesus’ response, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Farther who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 1:17-19) The divinity of Jesus was acclaimed in his proclamation. God had granted Peter the grace to fully understand the true identity of Jesus. He was thus designated as the head of Jesus’ church, to be the continuing force in the church once Jesus had returned to the Father.

Today, we need to reclaim the strength and confidence displayed by Peter. We are too willing to allow others to define Jesus. Rather than defend our faith strongly and confidently, we tend to want to avoid conflict. We’ve been taught that it isn’t polite to “argue” religion. Even when the eternal life of others, and perhaps our own as well, is at stake we still hesitate, and too many times refuse to boldly state what we know to be true: Jesus Christ is our God and Savior!

Have you ever heard someone say that they thought Jesus was a great teacher, a holy man, and even a prophet? They will go this far but aren’t willing to say he is God. I’m sure that we’ve all heard these statements from non-believers or even some who claim Christianity but don’t have the courage to fully state their belief. This is a blasphemous statement that we, as Christians, should never allow to go unchallenged. In fairness, they possibly make these statements in an effort to avoid confrontation or maybe in an effort to not offend their Christian friends by admitting that they don’t believe at all. Whatever the reason, the statement is categorically wrong.

Jesus was either the Messiah or he was a liar, a blasphemer, a revolutionary, and a very dangerous man. There is no other choice, we must either accept him as the Son of God, or condemn him for his lies and blasphemy. In this there is no middle ground and those who claim one need to recognize that fact.

As Christians, we must be willing to stand up for who Jesus truly is. We must have the courage to debunk any definition that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ. We, as believers, must not allow false images and theories about our Lord and Savior to go uncontested. If our faith is not strong enough to stand up for our Lord we have lost the race. We might as well admit to ourselves that we have abandoned the Savior who gave his life for us.

Standing up for the true identify of Christ can be difficult and may result in being seen as a religious fanatic, or old fashioned. Perhaps you will be ostracized and your friends will be uncomfortable with your stand. We are not intended to seek comfort; we are intended to seek the Lord. The disciples suffered for their belief and their courage in preaching it. Saint John is the only one of the apostles who did not suffer a martyr’s death. They did not shrink from their responsibility as Christians. They accepted their fate, knowing that Jesus had prepared a place for them if only they remained true to him.

Peter, when called before the high priest to be questioned concerning the healing of a cripple, replied to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12).

This is the courage of a man convinced of his salvation and its source. We must strive to have this same courage to stand tall before those who would question the divinity of our Lord, and say with Peter, there is salvation in no one else! This is not faith in a prophet or a religious “leader” this is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. When the Sanhedrin ordered them not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:29-20)

Peter and John were facing the same group of men who had condemned Jesus before Pilate and sought his death by crucifixion. Yet they had the courage to not only stand up for Jesus and his divinity, they told the high priest and his council that they would disobey their order not to speak of Jesus. They had to know that they could have been put to death for their actions, but chose to stand for Christ regardless of the consequences.

Stephen, the first Deacon in the church, was also a man who was willing to risk everything rather than deny the divinity of Christ. When brought before the high priest for questioning he related the history of all of Israel and their continual rejection of God’s prophets and representatives. When the Sanhedrin became enraged at his recounting of the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, he stood his ground, saying, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56). Even as he was being stoned to death for his convictions, he had the courage to plead with Jesus for the forgiveness of those stoning him. “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)

When Jesus found the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals in the temple, he didn’t hesitate to make a whip of cords and run them out of the temple (see John 2:13-16). The apostles faced imprisonment, torture and death, but chose to stand up for their faith. Martyrs over the years have suffered grievously, yet still clung to their faith. At one point Nero used Christians soaked in oil as street lamps in Rome, but they accepted this death rather that deny Christ.

The history of Christianity is replete with the stories of martyrs who willing went through horrible torture and death rather than deny our Lord. Yet it seems that we have lost that courage in many ways today. Rather than risk being seen as a fanatic we’ve become willing to allow non-believers to dominate the discussion of who and what Jesus truly is. If we continue to deny him, how can we expect him to not deny us before the Father at our judgment”

In today’s society we are not encouraged to stand up for Jesus, but are actually encouraged to not mention him at all. We are not supposed to talk about our faith at work, or even in public. We might offend someone. This idea that religion and faith is off-limits offends me, and I hope you as well. We have a right, guaranteed under our constitution, in addition to our God-given right, to stand up for our faith. We need to exercise those rights, just as those who would silence us exercise their rights to state their non-belief. If not, we risk eliminating faith from our culture. Without faith, our culture will not survive.

We hear repeatedly about the so-called separation of church and state which, by the way, does not appear in our constitution. What the constitution actually says in the first amendment is, “Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” Maybe we should stop calling this the “establishment clause” and start calling it the “free expression clause”. We tolerate atheists, agnostics and others who wish to denigrate our faith yet fail to allow the faithful their free expression to dispute those statements. As Christians, we must confront those issues and stand our ground.

Jesus asked his apostles to pray to the father for workers to help gather the harvest (see Matthew 9:37-38). We are those workers. However, we must be willing to take a stand for Jesus if we are to be of service. We are his hands and his feet, but we can’t walk the path he lays out for us if we are afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to proclaim, as Peter did, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”


The above meditation is a chapter from Ed’s new eBook “Thoughts of God”. Only $1.99 on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony and other fine publishers.

Merry Christmas

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

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #122)

This week: Thomas Aquinas College students organize a Christmas flash mob. Remembering an English Eucharistic flash mob. Belgium will soon euthanize children. Fr. Barron on some obscure magazine’s “person of the year.” The human carnage left in the wake of one abortionist. Successful, positive health care reform is possible (not ObamaCare, of course). Joe Biden humor: “a war on Christmas.”

— 1 —

Students at Thomas Aquinas College (motto: Truth Matters) staged this Christmas flash mob 2 weeks ago:

— 2 —

A Catholic Eucharistic flash mob formed 2 years ago for Ascension Thursday (in Preston, Lancashire, England). The organizer was Brother Paul, a Capuchin (Franciscan) friar. It is a wonderful remembrance for this Advent too.

Spotted by John Quinn

— 3 —

Belgium is a world leader against life. Not only in the womb, but really anytime. They embrace euthanasia for those over 18…   if they are “sound mind” (widely ignored). Now that is being expanded to born CHILDREN as well. Belgium, a national face of evil where no life is sacrosanct. LifeSiteNews has the story.

— 4 —

Many of us are surprised at Time magazine’s “person of the year.” Not their selection of Pope Francis, an extremely obvious choice. The surprise is in the fact that they are still published and anyone notices or cares what they say. I have not read them in decades and will not now. Fr. Barron has read at least this piece and offers some observations:

— 5 —

Abortion: safe, legal and rare. They don’t even claim that any more. It is only legal and far from safe or rare. It is (almost) always fatal for the child. The mother is not guaranteed a trouble-free outcome either. She will have long-term issues. Some don’t make it to the long-term:

— 6 —

Catholic social justice is based upon the concepts of solidarity and subsidiarity. Basically, that is helping each other at the most local level possible. The socialized healthcare track we are on attempts to address only the first (and will fail at that). It is just the opposite of achieving the second. Here is one alternate solution:

— 7 —

Humor: a Joe Biden (“war on”) Christmas…


Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

Baltimore Catechism: on the first commandment

Lesson 30

315Q. What is the First Commandment?
A. The First Commandment is: “I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.”

“Strange gods.” The Israelites were surrounded on all sides by pagan nations who worshipped idols and false gods, and sometimes by mingling with these people they fell into sin, and, forgetting the true God, worshipped their idols. Sometimes, too, they were at war with these pagan nations, and when defeated were led captive into pagan countries and there fell into the sin of worshipping false gods. It was against this sin that God cautioned His people in the First Commandment. From this sin of idolatry among the Israelites we have an example of the evil results of associating with persons not of the true religion. One would think that the Israelites, knowing the true God, might have converted their pagan neighbors to the true religion by the influence of their teaching and example; but, on the contrary, they lost the true faith themselves, as nearly always happens in such cases. How do we sometimes worship false or strange gods? By making dress, money, honor, society, company, or pleasure our god – that is, by giving up the worship of God and sinning for their sake, and thus making them god, at least for the time being, by giving them our heart, mind, and service.

*316Q. How does the First Commandment help us to keep the great Commandment of the love of God?
A. The First Commandment helps us to keep the great Commandment of the love of God because it commands us to adore God alone.
317Q. How do we adore God?
A. We adore God by faith, hope, and charity, by prayer and sacrifice.
318Q. How may the First Commandment be broken?
A. The First Commandment may be broken by giving to a creature the honor which belongs to God alone; by false worship; and by attributing to a creature a perfection which belongs to God alone.

“Creature” – that is, anything created; anything but God Himself, for all other persons and things have been created. If one knelt before a king and adored him, he would be giving to a creature the honor due to God alone. “False worship” – that is, worshipping God not as He directs us by His Church, but in some ways pleasing to ourselves. For example, to sacrifice animals to God would now be false worship; to offer now any of the sacrifices commanded in the Old Law would be false worship, because all these were figures of the real sacrifice of the Cross and Mass, and were to put the people in mind that one day Christ the promised Redeemer would offer up the one great sacrifice of His own body and blood to blot out all the sins of the world. And now that we have the real sacrifice it would be sinful to use only figures, and it would be a false worship displeasing to God. So, too, all those who leave the true Church to practice a religion of their own have a false worship, for they worship God not as He wishes, but as they wish.

Heaven is a reward, and when we see how the saints labored to secure it we must be ashamed of the little we do for God. Take out of a whole year – that is, 365 days or 8,760 hours – the time you give to the service of God, and you will find it very little. Even the time you spent at Mass and prayers was filled with distraction and little of it entirely given to God. Since this is true for one year, what will it be for all the years of your life? Think of them all and you will perceive that God, who gave you all the time you had, and who on the last day will demand an exact account of it, will find very little of it spent in His honor or in His service. Even the time wasted in school and instructions will all stand against you. Time lost is lost forever, and you can never make it up. Next to grace, time is the most valuable thing God gives us, and we should use it well. “Attributing to a creature a perfection” etc. Persons who go to fortune tellers do this. Fortune tellers are persons who pretend to know what is going to happen in the future. We know from our religion that only God Himself knows the future. Neither the angels nor saints, nor even the Blessed Virgin, know the future. Even they could not tell your fortune unless God revealed it to them. So when you go to a fortune teller you place the poor sinful person who is doing the devil’s work above the Blessed Virgin and all the saints and angels, and make that wretch equal to God Himself. Surely this is a sin, even if you do not believe these so-called fortune tellers, but go to them merely through curiosity or with others. Again, we pay these persons for telling us some foolish nonsense, and thus encourage them to continue their sinful business. They doubtless laugh at the foolishness of those who go to them or believe what they say and pay them generously. You might with as much sense stop a man on the street, ask him to tell your fortune, and hand him your money, for he would know as much about it as so-called fortune tellers do. Rarely these sinful people might tell you something that has happened in your life; but if they do, they merely guess at it or are aided by the devil. The devil did not lose his intelligence when driven out of Heaven, and he uses it now for doing evil. He has vast experience, for he is as old as Adam, or older, and has seen and known all the men that have lived in the world. He can move rapidly through the world and easily know what is visibly taking place, so that, strictly speaking, he could make known to his sinful agents what is present or past, but never the future. Thus some fortune tellers, clairvoyants, mindreaders, mediums, or whatever else they call themselves, who are truly in league with the devil, may by his power tell you the past of your life to make you believe that they know also the future. The past and present in your life you already know, and the future they cannot tell; therefore it is useless as well as sinful to go to them. I say only it is possible for some fortune tellers to employ the assistance of the devil, for all of them, with very rare exception, are clever impostors who take your money for guessing at what they suspect you will be most pleased to hear.

*319Q. Do those who make use of spells and charms, or who believe in dreams, in mediums, spiritists, fortune tellers, and the like, sin against the First Commandment?
A. Those who make use of spells and charms, or who believe in dreams, in mediums, spiritists, fortune tellers, and the like, sin against the First Commandment, because they attribute to creatures perfections which belong to God alone.

“Spells” are certain words, the saying of which persons believe will effect for them something wonderful – a miraculous cure, for instance, or protection from some evil. “Charms” are articles worn about the body for the same purpose. They may be little black beans, little stones of a certain shape, the teeth of animals, etc. In uncivilized countries the inhabitants use many of these charms. But you may ask, Are not these medals, scapulars, etc., that we wear, also charms? No. These things are blessed and worn in honor of God, of His Blessed Mother, or of the saints. We do not expect any help from the little piece of brass or cloth we wear, but from those in whose honor we wear it, and from the prayers said in the blessing for those who wear it. But they who wear charms expect the help from the thing itself, which makes their conduct foolish and sinful, since God alone can protect from evil. Again, such things as medals, crosses, and scapulars are blessed by the Church and worn by its consent, and it could never allow all its children to do a sinful thing. It is good and praiseworthy, therefore, to wear the blessed sacramentals in God’s honor; but even with these holy things we must be careful not to go too far. It is true the Blessed Virgin will protect those who wear her scapular; but it would be sinful willfully to expose ourselves to danger without any necessity, because we wear a scapular. Thus it would be suicide for a boy who could not swim to plunge into deep water because, having his scapulars on, the Blessed Virgin ought to save him by a miracle. Again, it is wrong to look for miracles from God when natural help will answer. Thus it would be wrong for a man who broke his leg to refuse to have the doctors set it, because he wanted God alone to heal it. “Dreams” are caused by the mind being at work while the body is sleeping or at rest. The mind never sleeps; it is always awake and working. Thus when we are asleep the imagination, without the reason to guide it, mixes together a number of things we have seen, heard, or thought of, and gives us strange scenes and pictures. Sometimes what we dream of seems to happen; but that is only because we dream so much that it would be strange if none of the things ever happened. We will generally dream about whatever was on our mind shortly before. We read in the Holy Scriptures that God at times made known His will to certain persons by dreams; as when the king of Egypt dreamt of the great famine that was to come; or when the angel appeared in sleep to St. Joseph, telling him to take Our Lord into Egypt, where Herod the king could not kill him. (Matt. 2).

The dreams mentioned in the Holy Scripture were more frequently visions than dreams. In a vision the things we see are really present, whereas in dreams they are not, but we imagine they are. God no longer makes use of dreams as a means of communicating with His creatures, because His Church will make known to us His will. He sometimes, however, makes known certain things to His holy servants on earth in a very special and private manner: as, for example, when Our Lord appeared to Saint Margaret Mary and told her He would like to have the devotion to the Sacred Heart established. We must always believe what the Church tells us God has made known to it; but when holy people tell us that God revealed special things to them, we are not obliged to believe what they say, unless the Church confirms it. I say we are not obliged – that is, we may if we please; but we would not be heretics and commit sin if we did not believe all the revelations and wonderful things we find recorded in the lives of saints, though they may all be true.

“Mediums and spiritists” are persons who pretend they can talk with the dead in the other world, and learn where they are and what they are doing. They have figures to move and apparently speak, and other contrivances to deceive those who confide in them. Their work is all deception and very sinful. If any of these things could be done, or if God wished them to be known, He would give the power to the Church founded by His divine Son, and not to a few sinful men or women here and there. After a soul leaves the body its fate is hidden from us, and we can say nothing with absolute certainty of its reward or punishment. No one ever came back from the other world to give a minute account of its general appearance or of what takes place there. All that is known about it the Church knows and tells us, and all over and above that is false or doubtful. By thinking a little you can see how all these dealings with fortune tellers, etc., are giving to creatures what belongs to God alone.

320Q. Are sins against faith, hope, and charity also sins against the First Commandment?
A. Sins against faith, hope, and charity are also sins against the First Commandment.
321Q. How does a person sin against faith?
A. A person sins against faith, first, by not trying to know what God has taught; second, by refusing to believe all that God has taught; third, by neglecting to profess his belief in what God has taught.

“Not trying to know.” Thus children who idle their time at Sunday school or religious instruction, and do not learn their Catechism, sin against faith in the first way. In like manner grown persons who do not sometime or other endeavor to hear sermons or instructions, to attend missions or learn from good books, sin against faith. “Refusing to believe,” as all those do who leave the true religion, or who, knowing it, do not embrace it. “Neglecting to profess.” We may do this by not living up to the practice of our holy religion. We believe, for example, we should hear Mass every Sunday and holy day; we should receive the Sacraments at certain times in the year; but if we only believe these things and do not do them, we neglect to profess our faith, neglect to show others that we really believe all the Church teaches, and are anxious to practice it. Many know and believe what they should do, but never practice it. Such persons do great injury to the Church, for persons who do not live up to their holy religion but act contrary to its teaching give scandal to their neighbor. How many persons at present not Catholics would be induced to enter the true Church if they saw all Catholics virtuous, truthful, sober, honest, upright, and industrious! But when they see Catholics – be they ever so few – cursing, quarrelling, backbiting, drinking, lying, stealing, cheating, etc. – in a word, indulging in the same vices as those who claim to have no religion, what must they think of the moral influence of Catholic faith? Thus they do great injustice to the Church and the cause of religion, and are working against our Blessed Lord when they should be working for Him.

The Christian religion spread very rapidly through the world in the first ages of its existence; and one of the chief reasons was the good example given by the Christians; for pagans seeing the holy lives, the kindness and charity of their Christian neighbors, could not help admiring and loving them, and wishing to be members of the Church that made them so good and amiable. How many pagans do you think would be converted nowadays by the lives of some who call themselves Catholics? Not many, I think. Besides this, the early Christians really labored to instruct others in the Christian religion, and to make them converts. Often we find servants – even slaves – by their instructions converting their pagan masters and mistresses. They all felt that they were missionaries working for Jesus Christ, and their influence reached where the priest’s influence could not reach, because they came in contact with persons the priests never had an opportunity of seeing. If all Catholics had the same spirit, what good they could do! Their business or duty may often bring them into daily intercourse with persons not of their faith, and who never knew or perhaps heard any of the beautiful truths of our holy religion. Yes, Catholics could do much good if they had only the good will and knew their religion well. I do not mean that they should be always discussing religion with everyone they meet. Let them preach chiefly by the example of their own good lives, and when questioned explain modestly and sincerely the truths they believe.

If you should be asked, for instance: Why do you not eat flesh-meat on Friday? you should be able to answer: “Because I am a Christian and wish to keep always before my mind how our Blessed Lord suffered for me in His holy flesh on that day; and anyone who claims to be a Christian, ought, I think, to be glad to do what reminds him so regularly and well of Our Lord’s Passion.” Such an answer if given kindly and mildly would silence and instruct your adversary; it might make him reflect, and might, in time, bring him to the true religion. Sometimes a few words make a great impression and bring about conversion. St. Francis Xavier was a worldly young man, learned and ambitious, and he heard from St. Ignatius these words of Our Lord: “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?” He went home and kept thinking of them till they impressed him so strongly that he gave up the world, became a priest and by his labors and preaching in India, converted to the true religion many thousand pagans. In the lives of the saints there are many examples of a few words, by God’s grace, bringing men from a life of sin to a life of great holiness.

*322Q. How do we fail to try to know what God has taught?
A. We fail to try to know what God has taught by neglecting to learn the Christian doctrine.
*323Q. Who are they who do not believe all that God has taught?
A. They who do not believe all that God has taught are the heretics and infidels.

There are many kinds of unbelievers: atheists, deists, infidels, heretics, apostates, and schismatics. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God, saying there is no God. A deist is one who says he believes God exists, but denies that God ever revealed any religion. These are also called freethinkers. An infidel properly means one who has never been baptized – one who is not of the number of the faithful; that is, those believing in Christ. Sometimes atheists are called infidels. Heretics are those who were baptized and who claim to be Christians, but do not believe all the truths that Our Lord has taught. They accept only a portion of the doctrine of Christ and reject the remainder, and hence they become rebellious children of the Church. They belong to the true Church by being baptized, but do not submit to its teaching and are therefore outcast children, disinherited till they return to the true faith. A schismatic is one who believes everything the Church teaches, but will not submit to the authority of its head – the Holy Father. Such persons do not long remain only schismatics; for once they rise up against the authority of the Church, they soon reject some of its doctrines and thus become heretics; and indeed, since Vatican Council I, all schismatics are heretics.

*324Q. Who are they who neglect to profess their belief in what God has taught?
A. They who neglect to profess their belief in what God has taught are all those who fail to acknowledge the true Church in which they really believe.

There are some outside the Church who feel and believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and yet they do not become Catholics, because there are so many difficulties in the way. For example, they have been brought up in another religion, and all their friends, relatives, or associates are opposed to the Catholic religion. Their business, their social life, their worldly interests will all suffer if they become Catholics. So, although they feel they should at once embrace the true religion, they keep putting off till death comes and finds them outside the Church – and most probably guilty of other mortal sins. Such persons cannot be saved, for they reject all the graces God bestows upon them. A very common fault with such people is to excuse this conduct by saying: Oh! I was brought up in the Protestant religion, and everyone ought to live in the religion in which he was brought up. Let me ask: If persons were brought up with some bodily deformity that their parents neglected to have remedied while they were young, would they not use every means themselves to have the deformity removed as soon as they became old enough to see and understand their misfortune? In like manner, if unfortunately parents bring up their children in a false religion – that is, with spiritual deformities, it is the duty of the children to embrace the true religion as soon as they know it. Again persons will say: Oh, I believe one religion as good as another; we are all Christians, and all trying to serve God. If one religion is as good as another, why did not Our Lord allow the old religions – false or true – to remain? If one man says a thing is black and another says it is white, they cannot both be right, for a thing cannot be black and white at the same time. Only one can be right; and, if we are anxious about the color of the object, we must try to find which one is right. Just in the same way all the religions that claim to be Christian contradict one another; one says a thing is false and another says it is true: one says Our Lord taught so and so and another says He did not. Now since it is very important for us to know which is right, we must find out which is really the Church Our Lord established; and when we have found it we will know that all the other pretended Christian religions must be false. Our Lord has given us marks by which we can know His Church, as we saw while speaking of the marks of the Church; and the Roman Catholic Church is the only Church that has all these marks. We say that we are Roman Catholics to show that we are in communion with the Church of Rome, established by St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles.

*325Q. Can they who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe expect to be saved while in that state?
A. They who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe cannot expect to be saved while in that state, for Christ has said: “Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven.”
326Q. Are we obliged to make open profession of our faith?
A. We are obliged to make open profession of our faith as often as God’s honor, our neighbor’s spiritual good, or our own requires it. “Whosoever,” says Christ, “shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven.”

It is not necessary for us to proclaim in the streets that we are Catholics; neither need we tell our religion to impudent people that may ask us only to insult us; but when a real need of professing our faith presents itself, then we must profess it. Suppose you are stopping in a hotel in which you are the only Catholic. If flesh-meat is placed before you on a Friday in Lent you must quietly push it aside and ask for fish or other food; although by so doing you will show that you are a Catholic and make a silent profession of your faith. God’s honor and your own good require it, for you must keep the laws of God and of His Church on every possible occasion. Suppose again there were in the same hotel some indifferent Catholics, socially your equals or inferiors, who through human respect were ashamed to go to Mass on Sunday; then you should publicly go to Mass and even declare that you must go, for by so doing you would encourage these indifferent Catholics to follow your example. In that case your neighbor’s good requires that you profess your faith. In a word, you must keep up the practice of your religion even if by so doing you have to make an open profession of your faith and suffer for it. But suppose it is something that God or the Church does not command you to do but only recommends, such as blessing yourself before meals or some pious practice, you could in public omit such an action if you pleased without any sin or denial of faith, because you violate no law.

327Q. Which are the sins against hope?
A. The sins against hope are presumption and despair.
328Q. What is presumption?
A. Presumption is a rash expectation of salvation without making proper use of the necessary means to obtain it.

A person who goes on leading a bad life, and says when warned of his danger that he is in no hurry to reform, that he will repent some day before he dies, is always living in and committing the sin of presumption. It is a great sin, for it is living in open defiance of Almighty God. Such persons are very seldom given the opportunity to repent at the last moment, and are, in most cases, called to judgment when they least expect it. We are all presumptuous sometimes. Do we not often, when we have fallen into a certain sin, easily repeat the act, saying to ourselves, now that we will have to confess the sin committed, the mention of the number of times will not make such difference for it will not increase our shame and confusion? This is presumption; for we do not know whether God will ever give us the opportunity of making a confession. Again, one mortal sin is sufficient to keep our souls in Hell for all eternity; what then will be our punishment for many mortal sins? Then there is another thing you should remember: God has fixed a certain number of sins that He will suffer you to commit before He sends His punishment. You do not know which sin will complete the number and be the last. The very sin you are now about to commit may be that one, and the moment you have committed it, God will call you to judgment, whether it be night or day, whether you are at home or in the streets – though perhaps not immediately, but before you commit another sin. Such a thought alone should keep you from sinning. Moreover, after confession you strongly resist the first temptation to mortal sin, but after you have yielded to the first you scarcely make any more resistance, but easily yield again and again. You should therefore, to prevent this, go to confession just as soon as you possibly can after falling into mortal sin. It is bad enough to commit mortal sin, but it is terrible to be living in that state day and night – always an enemy of God – losing the merit of all the works you do and yet you must stay in that state of sin till you go to confession and receive absolution. Peter the Apostle committed the sin of presumption. (Matt. 26). Our Lord told him to watch and pray for he would be tempted and yield that night, but Peter said: “No Lord, I will never deny Thee.” Instead of begging Our Lord’s help and grace, he trusted to himself and fell miserably into sin. He went into dangerous company and that was another cause of his fall. But afterwards he saw his sin and folly and never ceased to repent of it.

329Q. What is despair?
A. Despair is the loss of hope in God’s mercy.

Despair is a sin because by it you deny that God is infinitely merciful – that He is merciful enough to forgive even your many and great sins if you are truly sorry for them. Judas committed the sin of despair. After he had betrayed Our Lord, he went and hanged himself, thus committing, besides the sin of betraying his divine Master, two other great sins; namely, despair in God’s mercy and suicide. If he had gone to Our Lord and confessed his sin, and implored pardon and promised penance, can we doubt that He would have forgiven even Judas, as He forgave Peter, and those that crucified Him, praying that His Father might not punish them for their sins? Therefore, no matter what sins you have committed, never lose confidence in God’s mercy. See how Our Lord pardoned the thief on the cross and Mary Magdalen and other sinners. Be sorry for your sins, and God will hear your prayers. Call upon the Blessed Virgin, your patron saint, and guardian angel to help you, and ask others, especially good persons, to pray for you.

*330Q. How do we sin against the love of God?
A. We sin against the love of God by all sin, but particularly by mortal sin.

I have no comments on this particular lesson. Feel free to leave your own!

Click here to see the Baltimore Catechism portions published to date.
For general info on this series, see my initial post.

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