Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Secret of Lent

The young and old may not be bound by the fast, but they are bound by the spirit, each according to his capacity. If we feel that it is unnatural to ask penances of children while they are still very  young—penances within their reach—we forget that self-denial must be learned very young, that it is the forming of character, that the very grace of their Baptism flows from the Cross.

The end (that is, the ultimate reason) of the penitential seasons imposed by the Church is not mere performance. The Church is a wise mother, who knows that the cutting away of self-will frees our souls for a more radiant love affair with Christ. If we think of the penance without pondering the effect, we misunderstand it. It is not over and done with the doing, but will bear fruit, if it is done with the right spirit; not alone by the piling up of treasure in Heaven but by an increase in our taste for God; a change in the habits of our souls.

Our Lord tells us how to behave during Lent when He speaks to us in the Ash Wednesday Gospel (Matt: 6:16-21): 

“When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to thee, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth; where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” 

So let us remember, when we choose something to give up: no moaning and groaning! Hypocrites (Our Lord was talking about the Pharisees) make much of their performances because they want attention. That being their motives, He says, they already have their reward: attention. There will be opportunities, before Lent is over, for us to attract attention, but so long as this is not our motive, we can accept and use whatever God permits to come to us.

A father will be asked by business associates why he, too, doesn’t order steak for lunch. One mother will be asked by fellow club-members why she doesn’t eat sandwiches and cake after their evening business  meeting. Some children will be asked why they say “No, thank you,” to proffered candies at school, to decline and invitation to a Lenten movie, to not join with others to watch a television show. These are the opportunities, with many more, to give reasons “for the faith that is in you.” (1)

The Main Tips: We know that, if pressed or if asked why we refuse certain activities or foods, we need not say, “Because I’m fasting” or “Because I gave that up for Lent.” If, however, someone continues to urge us, we can say (with a smile!), “Thank you for offering, but at the moment I don’t care for any or something to that effect, so that we don't (1) shame the person who is urging us and (2) give the impression of being a bit of a braggart, a "holier-than-thou." Otherwise, we have found another way to draw attention to ourselves. 

“Anoint thy head; wash thy face…” Show your happiest face, because Lent is a time of making grateful reparation to God for our sins and that of others. Do not groan or moan or find a way to complain. Be careful not to inadvertently brag. Our Lord teaches us to hide our sacrifices, and to keep them secretwith God.

(1) Mary Reed Newland, The Year and Our Children

Thursday, April 17, 2014

St. Bernadette: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part 2

Bernadette, the Little Maiden of Lourdes:
A Life of the Beatitudes (Part II)

“I must become a saint. My Jesus wants it.”
– St. Bernadette

by Marianna Bartold

 “At fourteen, not knowing how to read or write, a complete stranger to the French language and ignorant of the Catechism, Bernadette looked upon herself as the most worthless child of her years.” [1]  On Thursday, January 28, 1858, the 14 year-old Bernadette returned to her parents, joyfully exclaiming, “Now at least I shall be able to go to school and Catechism! That’s why I’ve come back.” [2]
Circumstances were no better for the Soubirous family, but her parents gave their promise. The next day, Bernadette was in school. Upon hearing the child’s motive and determination, the Sisters enrolled her as a future communicant.
Coincidentally, on Thursday, February 11, 1858 – exactly two weeks after her return because she greatly desired her First Holy Communion - the humble girl was graced to see a “most beautiful Lady.” Bernadette would see this Lady a total of 18 times, the last vision occurring on July 16, 1858.

That particular Thursday was a school holiday, so Bernadette was home with her family. Although a bitterly cold day, the air was still and there was no wind under the sunless sky. Shortly after 11 a.m., Bernadette set out on a necessary, tiresome task, accompanying her sister Toinette and a younger, impulsive classmate, Jeanne Abadie. The trio went in search of two things: fallen branches and twigs that they could rightfully take and use in the Soubirous’ fireplace and old bones to sell to the rag-and-bone man. [3] Their expedition led them into a forest and then over a foot-bridge to the Lafitte family’s property, which formed an island. One side was enclosed by a bend in the Gave River, the other by a canal which powered a saw-mill and flour-mill, called the Savy. The extreme point of the triangle was a tall, rocky formation known as “Massabielle” (Old Hump).

Massabielle was “naturally shaped into an arch from which a cave ran backwards, and to the right, about fourteen feet up, there was a small niche where a wild rosebush was growing.” [4]   In the spring season, the bush was “ablaze with white blooms.” This wild outgrowth of rock, with its little oval niche, was also called “the grotto.” In the small space before the grotto, Bernadette was forced to wait, as her healthier companions decided to remove their shoes and stockings, cross the freezing cold stream, and continue their search for dead branches and discarded bones.

They were already on the stream’s other side when, anxious to help, Bernadette resolved to join them. She removed her shoes in anticipation of walking through the water. “I had hardly begun to take off my stocking when I heard the sound of wind, as in a storm.” [5]  (Two days later, Fr. Pomian – an assistant priest to Fr. Peyramele, the parish priest at Lourdes – was particularly struck by Bernadette’s mention of the “sound of wind, as in a storm.” It reminded him of Acts 2:2, when the Holy Ghost descended upon the Virgin and the Apostles: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”)

Although the trees across the way were not moving at all, Bernadette said, “I had half-noticed, but without paying any particular heed, that the branches and brambles were waving beside the grotto.” She returned to removing her stockings and was already putting one foot into the water when she again heard the same sound of wind, this time in front of her. She looked up and saw the branches and brambles “underneath the topmost opening in the grotto tossing and swaying to and fro, though nothing else stirred around.”

The Lady at the Grotto
It was within the oval niche that Bernadette saw a “golden cloud” and then a beautiful light, instantly followed by “a girl in white, no bigger than myself, who greeted me with a slight bow of the head; at the same time, she stretched out her arms slightly away from her body, opening her hands, as in pictures of Our Lady; over her arms hung a Rosary.” Bernadette described that the Lady was “smiling at me most graciously and seemed to invite me to come nearer. But I was still afraid. It was not, however, a fear such as I have had at other times, for I would have stayed there forever looking at her; whereas, when you are afraid, you run away very quickly.”

The Lady wore “a white dress reaching down to her feet, of which only the toes appeared. The dress was gathered very high at the neck by a hem from which hung a white cord. A white veil covered her head and came down over her shoulders and arms almost to the bottom of her dress. On each foot, I saw a golden rose. The sash of the dress was blue and hung down below her knees. The chain of the Rosary was yellow; the beads white, big, and widely spaced. The girl was alive, very young, and surrounded with light.” [6]
When asked for additional details, Bernadette would also describe the girl’s face as oval in shape and of “an incomparable grace.” The Lady’s eyes were blue, and her voice, “Oh, so sweet!” The Rosary held by the Lady was not the usual length for the Psalter of all 15 decades but a five-decade Rosary. As Bernadette prayed the Rosary, the Lady let Her own Rosary slip through Her fingers, silently counting the beads with Bernadette. The Lady, however, did not pray the Our Father or the Hail Mary, but She did pray the Glory Be.

Abbé Trochu, her foremost biographer, noted: “This last detail, which the little one in her ignorance could not have invented, reveals an accurate and deep theological truth. The Gloria, which is a hymn of praise to the Adorable Trinity, and is Heaven’s Canticle, is indeed the only part of the Rosary suitable for Her, whose name Bernadette would not learn for another month. The Pater is the prayer of needy mortals, tempted and sinful, on their journey to the Fatherland; as for the Ave, the Angel’s greeting (to the Virgin Mary), this could be used only by the visionary, as the Apparition had no need to greet Her own self.” [7]

In the first two apparitions, the Lady did not speak to Bernadette, although She greeted the girl with a noble, yet inviting, bow of the head. During the third apparition, the Lady spoke for the first time, asking Bernadette, “Will you do me the favour of coming here for a fortnight?” [8] Bernadette said, “After asking permission from my parents, I will come,” to which the Lady replied, “I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the other” (a literal French-to-English translation).

As Bernadette would soon understand, the Lady did not state that She herself would always appear. Rather, the request applied only to Bernadette.  A brief summary provided by the first inquiry of the ecclesiastical Commission which later investigated the Lourdes apparitions thus states: “Bernadette was faithful to her appointment: she went most punctually to the grotto for a fortnight.  She always obtained the same favours there, except on two days when the Apparitions did not appear.” It was from this time forward that the young Bernadette was “accompanied by an ever increasing crowd. When she had the happiness of seeing the Vision, she forgot everything: she no longer noticed what was taking place around her: she was entirely absorbed.” [9]
This World and the Other
As for the Lady saying, “I do not promise you happiness in this world, only in the other,” her words quickly became self-evident. From the first day of the Apparition and until the end of her brief life, Bernadette would suffer misunderstandings, humiliations, false accusations, open derision, and many other trying circumstances.

For example, when her mother, Louise, first heard the story from the younger sister, Toinette, she questioned Bernadette and then took a rod to discipline both girls. At school, a much younger student slapped Bernadette across the face, while some of the teaching sisters taunted her to learn her catechism from the Lady. For many hours, the secular authorities would discourteously treat her, not even offering her a chair while they interrogated her. Even Fr. Peyramele was, at the first, very gruff with Bernadette.

Throughout her life, Bernadette was many times cross-examined about the Apparitions. In fact, she “wrote and signed numerous accounts of her visions In addition, she underwent repeated interrogations by both ecclesial and civil authorities, during which her testimony was transcribed. In none of these accounts did she contradict herself; on the other hand, there is no one single version that includes every detail.” [10]

What is consistent is Bernadette’s fidelity to testifying to the Virgin’s message and in living it. In the total of 18 apparitions, the Blessed Mother only spoke a handful of times. Once, She delivered three secrets that were for Bernadette alone – “a commission which, on her deathbed, she [Bernadette] declared she had carried out.” [11] For the public, however, the main message was one of penance, prayer for the conversion of sinners, and a request that the priests build a chapel and that processions come to the grotto. There was also the Lady’s gift, through the hands of Bernadette, of a hidden spring of water where graces of spiritual and bodily healing are to this day bestowed.

When the fortnight ended, the Lady had still not identified herself. During that interim, Bernadette had, at Father Peyramale's insistence, requested two things of the heavenly visitor – Her name, as well as a sign to confirm that the Apparition’s request for a chapel was truly from God.  On Thursday, February 25, 1858, the Lady had already instructed Bernadette, “Go and drink at the spring and wash yourself in it.” From young girl’s hand, the miraculous spring of Lourdes would come forth.  To the request for Her name, however, the Lady only gave Bernadette a gentle smile.

After March 4, Bernadette felt no inner call to return to the grotto until March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. When she arrived, she found the Lady was already waiting for her. On this day, Bernadette thrice implored the Lady for Her name.  Then came the final confirmation of Lourdes, for the Lady raised Her eyes to Heaven as She joined Her hands, brought them close to Her heart, and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” After the briefest moment, She then smiled at Bernadette and disappeared.

Life after Lourdes
The Holy Communion so ardently desired by Bernadette was received on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Then, on July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the Lady appeared to Bernadette one last and unexpected time. To deter pilgrims, civil authorities placed boards around the grotto, including the spring. Bernadette was by the Gave River when suddenly the Lady appeared: “I saw neither the boards nor the Grave. It seemed to me that I was in the grotto, no more distance than the other times. I saw only the Holy Virgin. I had never seen her so beautiful.” [12]

Bernadette’s actions during the apparitions emphasized both the Rosary and humiliating penance for sinners, but the Vision’s requests also tested her humble piety, fortitude, spirit of penance, and perseverance. Thus her coming years were foreshadowed, for she would continue to practice and interiorly grow in these and many other virtues.

The future saint was well aware that the grace of seeing the Mother of God did not grant her automatic access to Heaven. She would later write in her spiritual diary: “Often remind yourself of this word that the Most Holy Virgin said to you: Penance! Penance! You should be the first to put it into practice. For this intention, suffer trials in silence so that Jesus and Mary may be glorified…” [13]
Bernadette learned to read, write, embroider and sew. She became a Sister of Charity and Christian Instruction at Nevers, France, and was given the name of Sister Marie-Bernard. She worked in the infirmary as a nurse’s aide, and was later given the lighter task of altar sacristan. In the convent, she lived a life of both interior and physical suffering. She was often ill and frequently misunderstood and humiliated by her superiors and, on occasion, her fellow sisters. Abbé Trochu noted that “for the space of eleven years – much as she was esteemed and loved by her companions – she had been subjected to an undeserved coldness by those in authority over her. She always refused to speak of her suffering, which was a mixture of bewilderment and pain. She put up submissively with being reprimanded in public and more frequently than was her share.” [14]

Due to Bernadette’s lack of higher education and her frequent illnesses, to cite just two examples, she was called a “good for nothing” and “a lazy lie-abed.” Deeply hurt by such uncharitable comments, Bernadette never retaliated, although on occasion she might respond with a brief, appropriate remark. Once, when a passing superior flung a quick jest that the ailing Bernadette needed to arise and get about her business, the saint calmly replied, “It is my business to be ill.”

St. Bernadette understood that hers was an apostolate of suffering. A brief glimpse into her diary reveals the hidden gem of her interior life: “My divine Spouse has made me desire a humble and hidden life. Jesus has often told me that I will not die until I have sacrificed all to Him. And to convince me, He has often told me that when it is over, He alone, Jesus crucified, will console me.” [15]

At the young age of 35 years, on April 16, 1879, St. Bernadette died an agonizing death from tuberculosis of the bone. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933.  Enclosed in a glass casket in the convent chapel in Nevers, France, her incorrupt body sleeps, as it awaits its reunion with her holy soul at the final Resurrection.

What was the secret of Bernadette? She tells us in her own words: “To love what God wills always, to will it always, to desire it always, to do it always: this is the great secret of perfection, the key to paradise, the foretaste of the peace of the saints!” [16]

---In case you missed it, you can also read St. Bernadette: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part I

   [1] Trochu, Abbé Francois. St. Bernadette Soubirous: 1844-1879 [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1985. Translated and adapted by John Joyce, S.J. First published in France under the same title by Librairier Catholique Emmanuel Vitte, Paris, 1954. English edition copyright 1957 by Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., London. Published by TAN in arrangement with Longman Group Limited, London. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, June 21, 1957): p. 36.
  [2] Ibid.
  [3] Bones were used “for knife handles, toys and ornaments, and when treated, for chemistry. The grease extracted from them was also useful for soap-making.” Rag-and-bone man, Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rag-and-bone_man]
  [4] Foley, Donal Anthony. Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World. [Herefordshire, England: Gracewing, 2002. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur]: p . 159.
  [5] Trochu, loc. cit., p. 42.
  [6] Loc. cit., pp. 42-43.
  [7] Loc. cit., p. 44.
  [8] A fortnight is 15 consecutive days.
  [9] Trochu, op. cit., p. 63.
  [10] McEachern, Ph.D., Patricia A. A Holy Life: The Writings of St. Bernadette of Lourdes [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005. Kindle Edition]:  Loc. 116.
  [11] Foley, op. cit., p. 160.
  [12] McEachern, op. cit., Loc. 2354.
  [13] Ibid., Loc. 573.
  [14] Op. cit., Loc. 284.
  [15] Op. cit., Loc. 330.
  [16] Op cit., Loc. 542.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

St. Bernadette of Lourdes: A Life of the Beatitudes

Bernadette, the Little Maiden of Lourdes:
A Life of the Beatitudes

 Humility is the secret of God’s glory.”

– St. Bernadette Soubirous

by Marianna Bartold

In reading the lives of the saints, St. Bernadette once mused, ““I think that they ought to point out the faults the Saints had and indicate the means they employed to correct them. That would be helpful to us. We would learn how to set about it. But all that is mentioned is their revelations or the wonders they performed. They cannot serve our advancement.” [1]

However, her most famous biographer, Abbé Trochu, did not quite agree. “She failed to add that, even so, these imperfect authors are to be commended for raising the pre-eminent qualities of the Saints, and that she found in them examples to imitate. The Church in its infallible decisions was one day to adopt the well-founded verdict of a Superior General of Saint-Gildard: ‘It is my own opinion that during her life Sister Marie-Bernarde [the saint’s name in religious life] put into practice the virtues that constitute sanctity.” [2]

What is sanctity? It is the “state of Christian perfection,” which is the result of a “fervent surrender of one’s self to God and the practice of virtue. It does not require extraordinary works. The Blessed Mother of God, the most holy of mortals, never performed any extraordinary works to excite worldly admiration.  ‘Love is fulfilling of the law.’ ” [3] 

A saint is a person who “fulfills all the demands of the law” (Rom. 13:10) which is accomplished by charity, the virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbors as ourselves. Charity is considered the queen of all virtues, since it is the one virtue that will always exist in Heaven. In the Beatific Vision, souls will no longer possess any need for the other virtues. Charity, however, will remain, since it perfectly unites God and man, just as it perfectly unites man to man. [4]  Those souls who are canonized as saints by the Catholic Church are those who were known to practice all of the virtues to a heroic degree – i.e., heroic virtue.

What is meant by heroic virtue? Pope Benedict XIV, “whose chapters on heroic virtue are classical,” thus describes it: “In order to be heroic, a Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.” The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia comments,  “A heroic virtue, then, is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power [that is] stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, capable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable, difficulties.” [5]
In reading the lives of the saints, time and prayer are needed to assess, study, and contemplate in them the supernatural virtues and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost. In addition, “the Holy Ghost also grants certain extraordinary gifts, which are given only on rare occasions and to selected persons. Such extraordinary graces are granted principally not only for the benefit of the recipient, but of others.” Among these graces are included the gift of visions, of miracles, and of prophecy.

In St. Bernadette – handmaiden of the Lord’s Handmaiden, the Blessed Virgin Mary - we will discover all of these things: the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity); the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude); the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), the twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost (charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity) and the extraordinary graces of visions, miracles, and prophecy. Of St. Bernadette’s many virtues and gifts, space will permit that only a few examples can be spotlighted – especially her fortitude and long-suffering.

The Saint’s Early Years
Bernadette Soubirous, the firstborn of her parents, was born about two o’clock in the afternoon, as the bell was ringing for Vespers on Sunday, January 7, 1844 in Lourdes, France, a small market town near the Pyrenees in the country’s southwest.  Her parents had named her Bernarde Marie, but the priest who baptized her kept referring to her and registered the name as Marie Bernarde. Her father reminded the priest that the child’s name was already registered at the Town Hall as Bernarde-Marie, but history shows that the priest never did change the register. Her family, however, considered her first name to be Bernarde, although she was called by the diminutive of Bernadette.

As for the parents, neither had ever gone to school but they were known to be good Catholics who faithfully carried out their religious duties and respectable people of irreproachable integrity. Of the nine children born of the marriage between Louise Castérot and Francois Soubirous, not all lived to adulthood.

In Bernadette’s sixth year, she began to suffer from asthma, which afflicted her until the end of her life. She was small for her age but she was a happy and lovable child with a sweet smile. She easily took to caring for her younger siblings so her parents could work. She, like her parents, received no education.

By her tenth year, 1854, the family was in serious financial straits. For various reasons, their mill was lacking customers and so the father sought odd jobs, as did her mother. Bernadette remained at home, taking care of her younger siblings. (On an important and related note, it was in this same year that Pope Pius IX defined as a dogma the Immaculate Conception.)

In the saint’s 11th year of life, Bernadette became one of many children who were stricken by a cholera epidemic. Since cholera is usually fatal, her recovery truly must have been a miraculous one. In her 12th year, her godmother Aunt Bernarde took her home, where she was fed well but also became nurse-maid to her younger cousins.  Once again, her education was neglected. Her aunt would later say that Bernadette knew the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Credo. However, she had never been taught to read, so her only prayer book was a small Rosary.

By the winter of 1856, Bernadette insisted on returning to her family. By this time, the Soubirous became so impoverished that they were forced to accept the free lodging of a cold, damp room known as Le Cachot (The Dungeon), once used to hold prisoners. Everyone in the town knew the family’s situation, but this “was an age of scant help for the poor. For example, no conference of St. Vincent de Paul was established in Lourdes till 1874 (three years before Bernadette’s death). It was a harsh age when too many of the wealthy, lacking pity because they lacked the Gospel, exploited the labour of the poor; and mothers of large families received only ten sous for a whole day’s work!” [6]
Bernadette’s father found work from day to day with the baker or the horse-and-coach service, while her mother worked in the fields, or gathered wood in the forest and later sold it to buy bread, or did the washing and housework for people in town. Previously, Bernadette and her sister Toinette stayed at home, caring for the younger brothers. Now, however, Toinette at age ten was able to attend school with the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, who had come to Lourdes in 1834.

For her part, the 13 year old Bernadette would often say that books were not meant for her, that the Sisters did not know in which class to put her since she could not read and could hardly scratch out a few letters. There was also her asthma and the fact that she was needed at home. Her only real desire for herself was the reception of her First Holy Communion.

Little Shepherdess of Bartres
Louise Soubirous thought of what seemed to be a good solution. In June of 1857, Bernadette was sent to Bartres, to the household of Marie Lagües, who had been Bernadette’s wet-nurse after Louise suffered an unfortunate accident with a candle. As a baby of 10 months of age, Bernadette was brought to live with the Lagües and there she stayed until her 20th month of life. Considering Marie’s supposed affection for the child, as well as her home’s proximity to church and school, Louise had thought it would be easier for Bernadette to attend school and Catechism at Bartres.

In reality, however, Bernadette again became a nursemaid, this time to her former “foster mother’s” four young children. By August, she was also entrusted with the care of the family’s lambs, and so she became a shepherdess. When school opened in September, she was not sent to class. Instead, she was given the additional care of the sheep.

What this meant was that the young girl worked from sunup to sundown, caring for children in the early morning and spending the rest of the day outside, in good weather or bad, with the sheep and lambs. At first, she was allowed to attend some catechism classes and the Sunday Masses and holy days. However, her inability to read and her legitimate exhaustion made it difficult for her to memorize the catechism.

Bernadette was a responsible worker, she never complained, she asked for nothing, and she gratefully accepted whatever was given to her. This made it easy to treat her as an unpaid servant, working for her bed and board. The true purpose for which she was sent to her former wet-nurse was neglected. A priest, the brother-in-law of Mr. Lagües, did intervene on Bernadette’s behalf, telling his sister’s husband that he was not treating Bernadette as one of the family. The reproach had little effect. Rarely was she seen at catechism, and never was she seen in school.

It was during these solitary days as a shepherdess that Bernadette made a stone altar at the foot of an old chestnut tree, setting on top of it a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There she would kneel, praying the Rosary with a gift given to her by her mother – a set of poor black beads, threaded on plain string.  She would play with the flock of lambs and then, resting, her eyes would fall on the valley; her ears heard the rustling of the trees, the occasional bird song and the other sounds of nature. “God made all that,” she would think to herself. She did not know she was in the very early stages of meditation or that God was already preparing her soul. She was to be another handmaiden of the Immaculate Mother of God.

In early January of 1858, Bernadette’s 14th birthday found her still at the house of the Lagües. Circumstances continued as they had since August – she still helped with the children, she still retained the entire responsibility of the flock, and she still was not receiving any form of proper catechesis and education.

In humility, Bernadette did all that was asked of her, and she did it well - but eventually her ardent longing for her First Holy Communion began to manifest itself. At least three times, she asked to be brought home, through verbal messages given to her visiting Aunt Bernarde, a neighbor from Lourdes who was passing through the area, and the Lagües servant who one day took a trip to Lourdes. For the Soubirous, however, the situation was no better, so their daughter’s entreaties fell on deaf ears. Finally, Bernadette took matters into her own hands.

On a Sunday near the end of January 1858, she requested permission to go to Lourdes. Although given consent, she was instructed by the Lagües to return the very next day. She came back three days later, humbly yet forthrightly explaining, “I must go home. The parish priest is going to have the children prepared for First Communion, and if I go back to Lourdes, I shall make mine.” In this one example, one should easily recognize Bernadette’s fortitude, that “moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” [7]

Within two weeks upon Bernadette’s return to Lourdes, the Queen of Heaven would appear to this poor, neglected, and uneducated child. She was obedient, meek, and conscientious and had never insisted upon anything for herself – until now. Her only longing was a spiritual one, and that was to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  Bernadette was humble and set her sight not on material riches but only those of the interior life. At the age of 14 years, her brief life was already one of which Our Lord taught in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [8]

-Continue with St. Bernadette of Lourdes: A Life of the Beatitudes, Part 2

[1]  Trochu, Abbé Francois. St. Bernadette Soubirous: 1844-1879 [Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, 1985. Translated and adapted by John Joyce, S.J. First published in France under the same title by Librairier Catholique Emmanuel Vitte, Paris, 1954. English edition copyright 1957 by Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd., London. Published by TAN in arrangement with Longman Group Limited, London. Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, June 21, 1957): p. 346.
[2]  Ibid.
[3]   Morrow D.D., Most Rev. Louis LaRavoire, My Catholic Faith: A Manual of Religion [Kansas  City, MO: Sarto House. Third edition published from the 1954 edition by Sarto House]:  p. 85.
[4]  Ibid., p.83.
[5]  BENEDICT XIV, De servorum Dei beatificatione et beatorum canonizatione, chs. xxxi-xxxviii, in Opera omnia, III (Prato, 1840); DEVINE, Manual of Mystical Theology (London, 1903); SLATER, A Manual of Moral Theology (London, 1908); WILHELM AND SCANNELL, Manual of Catholic Theology (London, 1906). Cited by Wilhelm, Joseph. "Heroic Virtue." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 6 Jan. 2014 <
[6]  Trochu, op cit., p. 17.
[7]  "Divine Mysteries: The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance," Legion of Mary website <
 [8] Matt. 5:3, The Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims translation. With revisions and footnotes (in the text in italics) by Bishop Richard Challoner, 1749-52. Taken from a hardcopy of the 1899 Edition by the John Murphy Company.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Visitation of the Virgin and the Hidden Jesus

"Thy Blood, the price of our redemption, O Lord Jesus, is indeed most precious and deserving of our special veneration because of its immaculate origin in Mary, thy spotless Mother, on account of its surpassing innocence and its union with Thy divinity."

---From a prayer to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Visitation of Our Lady, in which the Church remembers the Virgin's unsurpassed charity and humility as she made haste to visit her older and expectant cousin, Elizabeth. Hidden behind this mystery of the Virgin's visit to St. Elizabeth are many rich teachings and examples. One such mystery is the sanctification of St. John Baptist in the womb at the very moment the Virgin Mary spoke to his mother.

Let's see what the Gospel of Luke (Ch. 1: 26-57) records of these wondrous events, beginning with the Incarnation of Christ, which the Church celebrates on March 25, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin:

[26] And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, [27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin' s name was Mary. [28] And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. [29] Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. [30] And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

[31] Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. [33] And of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? [35] And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

[36] And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: [37] Because no word shall be impossible with God. [38] And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. [39] And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. [40] And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. 

[41] And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: [42] And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
[46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.

[51] He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. [52] He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. [53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. [54] He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: [55] As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

[56] And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house. [57] Now Elizabeth' s full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son.

First, the Annunciation, when Jesus incarnated in the womb of the Virgin, is the greatest mystery of the universe. There is much that could be said of this portion of St. Luke's Gospel, but let it suffice for now to say that the Virgin was greeted by the angel (sent by God) with the name by which God Himself considers her:  "Hail, full of grace." This Virgin was the one chosen by God to be the Mother of God, the Word, and hence, she is the grace-filled Mother of God.

Second, St. Ambrose remarks that when Our Lady visited Elizabeth, it was she who first greeted her older cousin. There is no snobbery on the chosen Virgin's part, even though she knows that she is the chosen Mother of the Messiah. It is she who hastens to visit her older cousin who is six months with child; it is the Virgin who enters the house and immediately offers the first sincere "hello." It could have gone quite differently; she could have gone to help her cousin but upon the way, reflecting upon her own prerogatives, pride might have slipped in. She could have treated Elizabeth in a manner that made clear what a great favor she was bestowing on her older cousin simply by visiting her. But that is not what happened.

God had prepared Mary to become the Mother of the Son. She was conceived without sin so that Christ could assume from her His human nature - Body and Blood. Her soul had to be immaculate, because God is holy.  Like Her Son, she never committed any sin but grew in wisdom and grace. She was the first Tabernacle of Jesus Christ.

And so Mary's visit to Elizabeth "brought with it an accumulation of graces," as writes St. Alphonsus de Liguori. "The moment she entered that dwelling, on her first salutation, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; and St. John was cleansed from Original Sin, and sanctified; and therefore gave this mark of joy by leaping in his mother's womb, wishing thereby to manifest the grace that he had received by the means of the Blessed Virgin, as St. Elizabeth herself declared: As soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy."

Third, while there are many more doctrinal depths to these passages of St. Luke's, may it suffice to say that there are many reasons why we call the Blessed Virgin Mary by the title of "Our" Lady, for the one hailed by an angel as "full of grace" is truly a "channel of grace" to lead others to her Divine Son.

Last but not least, since this is the month of July, the month of the Precious Blood of Jesus, which he assumed from His Virgin Mother, it would not be remiss, when contemplating the mystery of the Visitation, to also consider the following  prayers:

O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! O Jesus! O Mary! All ye blessed angels of God and saints of Paradise, obtain for me these graces which I ask through the Most Precious Blood of Jesus:

1. Ever to do the holy will of God.
2. Ever to live in union with God.
3. Not to think of anything but God.
4. To love God alone.
5. To do all for God.
6. To seek only the glory of God
7. To sanctify myself solely for God.
8. To know well my own utter nothingness.
9. Ever to know more and more the will of my God.
10. (Here ask for any special grace)

O Mary most holy, offer to the Eternal Father the Most Precious Blood of Jesus for my soul, for the poor souls in Purgatory, for the needs of the Holy Church, for the conversion of sinners, and for the entire world. Amen.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Prayer Consecrating Pope Francis' Papacy

On May 13, 2013, Cardinal Policarpo of Lisbon consecrated the papacy of Pope Francis to Our Lady of Fatima. It was an unusual event, in which a reigning pope asked a subordinate to make on his behalf such an act. The Pope was not present at Fatima for the consecration of his pontificate to the Virgin of Fatima, which occurred on the 96th annniversary of the first Fatima apparition. At Fatima, Mary's International Pilgrimage also took place. News of this event hasn't seem to gather much attention. Meanwhile, let's literally pray and hope that Pope Francis will be the prophesied pope who will command and lead the bishops in the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

What follows below is the prayer - as it was translated from a Portuguese site to English (source at the end):

Consecration to Our Lady of Fatima's Ministry of Pope Francisco
Blessed Virgin,

1. We are at Thy feet
, the Bishops of Portugal and this crowd of pilgrims, in the 96th Anniversary of Your Appearance to the Shepherds, at this Cova da Iria, to comply with the desire of Pope Francisco, clearly expressed, to consecrate to You, Virgin of Fatima, his ministry as Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor. So, we consecrate to You Our Lady, Thou who art the Mother of the Church, the Ministry of the new Pope: fill his heart with the tenderness of God, that You have experienced as nobody did, so that he can embrace all men and women of this time with the love of Thy Son Jesus Christ. The contemporary humanity needs to feel loved by God and by the Church. Just by feeling loved they overcome the temptation to violence, materialism, of forgetting God, the loss of direction that will lead them to a new world, where love will reign. Give him the gift of discernment to know how to identify the ways of renewal of the Church; give him the courage not to hesitate to follow the ways suggested by the Holy Spirit; support him in hard hours of suffering, to win, in charity, the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring. Always be at his side, speaking to him as you well know those words: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it in me to Thy word." [KIC Note: Perhaps this is a translation error, for the latter words should be "let it be done to me according to thy word."]

2. The ways of renewing the Church leads us to rediscover the relevance of the message you have left to Shepherds: the requirement of conversion to God who has been so offended, and so forgotten. The conversion is always a return to the love of God. God forgives because he loves us. That is why His love is called Mercy. The Church, protected by Thy maternal solicitude and guided by this Pastor has to be firm, more and more, as a Place of conversion and forgiveness, because in her it expresses the truth always in charity.

You have indicated prayer as the path of decisive conversion. Teach the Church, You who are a member and model, to be, increasingly, a people of prayer, in communion with the Holy Father, the first prayer of the people, and also in silent communion with the previous Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, who chose the path of silent prayer, challenging the church to the ways of prayer.

3. In Your Message to the Shepherds here in Cova da Iria,You have put into relief the Ministry of the Pope, "the man in white." [KIC Note: This is an unusual phrasing in which to address the Pope. Is this a reference to the Third Secret's "bishop dressed in white"?] Three of the last Popes made themselves pilgrims of Your Sanctuary. Only You, Lady, in Thy motherly love for the whole Church can put in the heart of Pope Francisco the desire to be a pilgrim in this Shrine. It is not something that you can ask for other reasons, only the silent complicity between You and He led him to feel attracted to this pilgrimage in sure it will be joined by millions of believers, willing to listen again Your Message.

Here, in this world Altar, he may bless mankind, to impress on the world today that God loves all men and women of our time, the Church loves them and You, Mother of the Redeemer, lead them tenderly into the ways of salvation.Fatima, May 13, 2013

D. José Policarpo

Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon and President of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference
Source: http://www.agencia.ecclesia.pt/cgi-bin/noticia.pl?id=95484

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Day a Pope Spoke to Mothers

The Pope Speaks to Mothers:
Address of Pope Pius XII to the Concourse of Women of Catholic Action and Their Helpers from all the Dioceses of Italy

October 26, 1941, The Feast of Christ the King


As We look round upon this splendid gathering of mothers, teaching sisters, school-mistresses, representatives of the children of Italian Catholic Action, and others who devote themselves to the work of education, Our thoughts go beyond the threshold of this hall, beyond the confines of Italy, and reach to the ends of the earth as We embrace all those dear children who are the flower of the human race and the joy of their mothers' hearts. [Cf. Ps. cxii. 9] At the same time We are mindful of the immortal Pope Pius XI who in his Encyclical Divini illius Magistri of 31 December, 1929, treated so profoundly of the Christian education of the young. Dealing with this important subject he judiciously allocated the parts which belong respectively to the Church. the family, and the State, and then went on regretfully to observe that parents are often unprepared or ill-equipped for their work as educators. Accordingly, and since the limits of that lucid and exhaustive document did not permit him to deal in detail with education in the home, he exhorted in the name of Christ all pastors of souls 'to use every means, by catechism and instruction, by word of mouth and in widely published writings, to ensure that Christian parents are well instructed both in general and in particular regarding their duties in the religious, moral, and civic education of their children, and regarding the best methods-----apart from their own example-----of attaining that end.' [Cf. A.A.S.. XXII, 1930, pp. 73-4]

In so exhorting the pastors of souls the great Pontiff was exhorting parents also, fathers and mothers alike. But We believe that We are acting in accordance with the desire of Our venerated Predecessor in reserving this special audience for mothers and other teachers of children. It is true that when We speak to the newly wed Our words are addressed also to you; nevertheless We are glad to have this opportunity of speaking to you in a special way, dearly beloved daughters, because We see in mothers, and in their expert and pious helpers, those who exert the earliest and the most intimate influence upon the souls of little ones and upon their growth in piety and virtue.

We need not delay to remind you how important and now necessary is this work of education in the home, and how grave a mother's obligation not to neglect it or perform it with indifference. Speaking as We are to Our beloved daughters of Catholic Action We can have no doubt that they regard this obligation as the first of their duties as Christian mothers, and as a task in which none can fully take their place. But it is not enough to be conscious of an obligation and to have the desire to discharge it; it is necessary also to render oneself capable of discharging it competently.

The Need of Serious Preparation for the Difficult Work of Education

It is a curious circumstance and, as Pope Pius XI remarked in his encyclical, a lamentable one, that whereas no one would dream of suddenly becoming a mechanic or an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer, without any apprenticeship or preparation, yet every day there are numbers of young men and women who marry without having given an instant's thought to preparing themselves for the arduous work of educating their children which awaits them. And yet, if St. Gregory the Great could speak of the government of souls as "the art of arts", [Regula pastor., lib. I, c. 1] surely no art is more difficult and strenuous than that of fashioning the souls of children; for those souls are so very tender, so easily disfigured through some thoughtless influence or wrong advice, so difficult to guide aright and so lightly led astray, more susceptible than wax to receive a disastrous and indelible impression through malignant influences or culpable neglect. Fortunate the child whose mother stands by its cradle like a guardian Angel to inspire and lead it in the path of goodness! And so while We congratulate you upon what you have already achieved, We cannot but exhort you warmly and anew to develop those splendid organizations which are doing so much to provide for every rank and social class educators conscious of their high mission, in mind and bearing alert against evil and zealous to promote good. Such sentiments in a woman and a mother give her the right to that reverence and dignity which belong to a man's loyal helpmeet; such a mother is like a pillar, for she is the central support of the home; she is like a beacon whose light gives an example to the parish and brings illumination to the pious associations of which she is a member.

The Mother's Work of Training During Infancy

Especially opportune are those organizations of your Union of Catholic Action which seek to help and train the young wife before childbearing and during the infancy of her offspring. In this you are doing an Angel's work, watching over the mother and the little one she bears within her, [Cf. S. Th. I, 113, 5, ad. 3] and then, when the baby comes, standing by the cot to help the mother as with breast and smile she feeds body and soul of the tiny angel that Heaven has sent her. To woman, God has given the sacred mission, painful yet how joyous, [Cf. John xvi. 21] of motherhood; and to her too, more than to anyone else, is entrusted the first education of the child in its early months and years. Of heredity, which may exercise such an influence upon the future cast of a child's character, We will not speak-----except to say that this hidden heritage sometimes points an accusing finger at the irregular life of the parents, who are thus gravely responsible for making it difficult for their offspring to lead a truly Christian life. Fathers and mothers, whose mutual love is sanctified by the faith of Christ, see that before your child is born you prepare a pure family atmosphere in which it may open its eyes to light and its soul to life, so that the good odor of Christ may linger about every step of its moral development.

Mothers, your sensibility is greater and your love more tender, and therefore you will keep a vigilant eye upon your babies throughout their infancy, watching over their growth and over the health of their little bodies, for they are flesh of your flesh and the fruit of your womb. Remember that your children are the adopted sons of God and specially beloved of Christ; remember that their Angels look for ever on the face of the Heavenly Father; [Cf. Matt. xviii. 10] and so you too as you rear them must be angels in like manner, in all your care and vigilance keeping your eyes fixed upon Heaven. It is your task from the cradle to begin their education in soul as well as in body; for if you do not educate them they will begin, for good or ill, to educate themselves. Many of the moral characteristics which you see in the youth or the man owe their origin to the manner and circumstances of his first upbringing in infancy: purely organic habits contracted at that time may later prove a serious obstacle to the spiritual life of the soul. And so you will make it your special care in the treatment of your child to observe the prescriptions of a perfect hygiene, so that when it comes to the use of reason its bodily organs and faculties will be healthy and robust and free from distorted tendencies. This is the reason why, except where it is quite impossible, it is most desirable that the mother should feed her child at her own breast. Who shall say what mysterious influences are exerted upon the growth of that little creature by the mother upon whom it depends entirely for its development!

Have you observed those little eyes, wide open, restlessly questioning, their glance darting from this thing to that, following a movement or a gesture, already expressing joy or pain, anger and obstinacy, and giving other signs of those little passions that nestle in the heart of man even before the tiny lips have learned to utter a word? This is perfectly natural. Notwithstanding what certain thinkers have maintained, we are not born endowed with knowledge or with the memories and dreams of a life already lived. The mind of the child as it comes forth from its mother's womb is a page upon which nothing is written; from hour to hour as it passes on its way from the cradle to the tomb its eyes and other senses, internal and external, transmit the life of the world through their own vital activity, and will write upon that page the images and ideas of the things among which it lives. Hence an irresistible instinct for truth and goodness turns 'the simple soul that nothing knows ' [Dante, Purg., XVI, 88] upon the things of sense; and all these powers of feeling, all these childish sensations, by way of which mind and will come gradually to their awakening, need to be educated, trained, carefully guided, otherwise the normal awakening and proper direction of these noble faculties of the spirit will be compromised and distorted. From that early age a loving look, a warning word, must teach the child not to yield to all its impressions, and as reason dawns it must learn to discriminate and to master the vagaries of its sensations; in a word, under the guidance and admonition of the mother it must begin the work of its own education.

Study the child in his tender age. If you know him well you will educate him well; you will not misconceive his character; you will come to understand him, knowing when to give way and when to be firm; a naturally good disposition does not fall to the lot of all the sons of men.

The Training of the Mind

Train the mind of your children. Do not give them wrong ideas or wrong reasons for things; whatever their questions may be, do not answer them with evasions or untrue statements which their minds rarely accept; but take occasion from them lovingly and patiently to train their minds, which want only to open to the truth and to grasp it with the first ingenuous gropings of their reasoning and reflective powers. Who can say what many a genius may not owe to the prolonged and trustful questionings of a childhood at the home fireside!

The Training of the Character

Train the character of your children. Correct their faults, encourage and cultivate their good qualities and co-ordinate them with that stability which will make for resolution in after life. Your children, conscious as they grow up and as they begin to think and will, that they are guided by a good parental will, constant and strong, free from violence and anger, not subject to weakness or inconsistency, will learn in time to see therein the interpreter of another and higher will, the will of God, and so they will plant in their souls the seeds of those early moral habits which fashion and sustain a character, train it to self-control in moments of crisis and to courage in the face of conflict or sacrifice, and imbue it with a deep sense of Christian duty.

The Training of the Heart

Train their hearts. Frequently the decision of a man's destiny, the ruin of his character, or a grave danger threatening him, may be traced to his childish years when his heart was spoiled by the fond flattery, silly fussing, and foolish indulgence of misguided parents. The impressionable little heart became accustomed to see all things revolve and gravitate around it, to find all things yielding to its will and caprice, and so there took root in it that boundless egoism of which the parents themselves were later to become the first victims! All this is often the just penalty of the selfishness of parents who deny their only child the joy of having little brothers and sisters who, sharing in the mother's love, would have accustomed him to think of others besides himself. What deep and rich potentialities for love, goodness, and devotion lie dormant in the heart of a child! You, mothers, must awaken them, foster them, direct them, raise them up to Him Who will sanctify them, to Jesus; to Jesus, and to Mary, their Heavenly Mother, who will open the child's heart to piety, will teach it by prayer to offer its pure sacrifices and innocent victories to the Divine Lover of little ones; she will teach it to feel compassion for the poor and unhappy. How joyous is the springtime of childhood, unruffled by wind or storm!

The Training of the Will in Adolescence

But the day will come when the childish heart will feel fresh impulses stirring within it; new desires will disturb the serenity of those early years. In that time of trial, Christian mothers, remember that to train the heart means to train the will to resist the attacks of evil and the insidious temptations of passion; during that period of transition from the unconscious purity of infancy to the triumphant purity of adolescence you have a task of the highest importance to fulfill. You have to prepare your sons and daughters so that they may pass with unfaltering step, like those who pick their way among serpents, through that time of crisis and physical change; and pass through it without losing anything of the joy of innocence, preserving intact that natural instinct of modesty with which Providence has girt them as a check upon wayward passion. That sense of modesty, which in its spontaneous abhorrence from the impure is akin to the sense of religion, is made of little account in these days; but you, mothers, will take care that they do not lose it through indecency in dress or self-adornment, through unbecoming familiarities, or immoral spectacles; on the contrary you will seek to make it more delicate and alert, more upright and sincere. You will keep a watchful eye on their steps; you will not suffer the whiteness of their souls to be stained and contaminated by corrupt and corrupting company; you will inspire them with a high esteem and jealous love for purity, advising them to commend themselves to the sure and motherly protection of the Immaculate Virgin. Finally, with the discretion of a mother and a teacher, and thanks to the open-hearted confidence with which you have been able to inspire your children, you will not fail to watch for and to discern the moment in which certain unspoken questions have occurred to their minds and are troubling their senses. It will then be your duty to your daughters, the father's duty to your sons, carefully and delicately to unveil the truth as far as it appears necessary, to give a prudent, true, and Christian answer to those questions, and set their minds at rest. If imparted by the lips of Christian parents, at the proper time, in the proper measure, and with the proper precautions, the revelation of the mysterious and marvelous laws of life will be received by them with reverence and gratitude, and will enlighten their minds with far less danger than if they learned them haphazard, from some disturbing encounter, from secret conversations, through information received from over-sophisticated companions, or from clandestine reading, the more dangerous and pernicious as secrecy inflames the imagination and troubles the senses. Your words, if they are wise and discreet, will prove a safeguard and a warning in the midst of the temptations and the corruption which surround them, 'because foreseen an arrow comes more slowly.' [Dante, Par., XVII, 27]

The Powerful Aid of Religion

But in this great work of the Christian education of your sons and daughters you well understand that training in the home, however wise, however thorough, is not enough. It needs to be supplemented and perfected by the powerful aid of religion. From the moment of Baptism the priest possesses the authority of a spiritual father and a pastor over your children. and you must co-operate with him in teaching them those first rudiments of catechism and piety which are the only basis of a solid education, and of which you. the earliest teachers of your children. ought to have a sufficient and sure knowledge. You cannot teach what you do not know yourselves. Teach them to love God, to love Christ, to love our Mother the Church and the pastors of the Church who are your guides. Love the catechism and teach your children to love it; it is the great handbook of the love and fear of God, of Christian wisdom and of eternal life.

Valiant Helpers in the Work of Education

In your work of education, which is many-sided, you will feel the need and the obligation of having recourse to others to help you: choose helpers who are Christians like yourselves, and choose them with all the care that is called for by the treasure which you are entrusting to them: you are committing to them the faith, the purity, and the piety of your children. But when you have chosen them you must not think that you are henceforth liberated from your duty and your vigilance; you must co-operate with them. However eminent school-teachers may be in their profession they will have little success in the formation of your children without your collaboration-----still less if instead of helping and lending support to their efforts you were to counteract and oppose them. What a misfortune it would be if at home your indulgence and fond weakness were to undo all that has been done at school, at catechism, or in Catholic associations, to form the character and foster the piety of your children!

But-----some mother may say-----children are so difficult to manage nowadays! I can do nothing with that son of mine; that daughter of mine is impossible! Admittedly many boys and girls at the age of twelve or fifteen show themselves intractable. But why? Because when they were two or three years old they were allowed to do as they pleased. True, some temperaments are ungrateful and rebellious; but however unresponsive, however obstinate, he is still your child. Would you love him any the less than his brothers and sisters if he were sickly or deformed? God has given him to you; see that you do not treat him as the outcast of the family. No child is so unruly that he cannot be trained with care, patience, and love; and it will rarely happen that even the stoniest and most unpromising soil will not bear some flower of submission and virtue, if only an unreasonable severity does not run the risk of exterminating the seed of good will which even the proudest soul has hidden within it. The whole education of your children would be ruined were they to discover in their parents-----and their eyes are sharp enough to see-----any signs of favoritism, undue preferences, or antipathies in regard to any of them. For your own good and for the good of the family it must be clear that, whether you use measured severity or give encouragement and caresses, you have an equal love for all, a love which makes no distinction save for the correction of evil or for the encouragement of good. Have you not received them all equally from God?

Teachers side-by-side with Christian Mothers

Our words have been addressed principally to you, Christian mothers. But with you We see around Us today a gathering of nuns, teachers, and others engaged in the work of Christian education. They are mothers too, not by nature or by blood but by the love which they bear to the young, who are so dear to Christ and to His Bride the Church. Yes, you too are mothers, you who work side by side with Christian mothers in the work of education: for you have a mother's heart, burning with the charity which the Holy Spirit has poured out in you. In this charity, which is the charity of Christ that presses you on the path of well-doing, you find your light, your comfort. and the work that brings you so close to mothers, fathers, and children. You gather together these living branches of society, these children who are the hope of their parents and of the Church, and form them into a great family of thousands and thousands of little ones; you develop the training of their minds, characters, and hearts, bringing them up in a spiritual and moral atmosphere in which the joyousness of innocence appears side by side with faith in God and reverence for holy things, with a sense of duty towards parents and country. Our praise and gratitude, joined with the thanks of all mothers, go out to you in full measure. In your schools, homes, colleges, and associations you emulate and continue the mother's work of training. You are truly a sisterhood of spiritual mothers whose offspring is the pure flower of youth.


Christian mothers and beloved daughters, of your incomparable mission-----fraught in these days with so many difficulties and obstacles-----We have been able only briefly to describe the glories. What a majestic figure is that of the mother in the home as she fulfills her destiny at the cradle side, the nurse and teacher of her little ones! Hers is truly a task full of labor, and We should be tempted to deem her unequal to it were it not for the grace of God which is ever at hand to enlighten, direct, and sustain her in her daily anxieties and toil; were it not, too, for those other educators, mother-like in spirit and energy, whom she calls to aid her in the formation of these youthful souls. Imploring God to fill you to overflowing with His graces and to give increase to your manifold labors on behalf of the young entrusted to you, We grant you from Our heart, as a pledge of Heavenly favors, Our fatherly Apostolic Benediction.