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I. It requires great patience to endure the language of careless livers, breathing atheism itself, and ruinous to devotion; as for instance, “A Mass more or less counts for little.” “It is no small thing to hear Mass on festivals.” “The Mass of this or that priest is for length like one in Holy Week; when he appears at the altar, I generally get out of church forthwith.” He who talks in this way lets it be perceived that he has little or no esteem for the thrice-holy sacrifice af the Mass. That sacrifice is the sun of Christianity, the soul of faith, the centre of the Catholic religion, wherein are beheld all her rites, all her ceremonies, and all her Sacraments; in fine, it is the compendium of all the good and beautiful to be found in the Church of God. Wherefore, O ye who now read my words, ponder well how great are the matters to be spoken of in these instructions.

II. It is a certain truth that all the religions which have existed from the beginning of the world have ever had some sacrifice as an essential part of the worship which they offered to God. But because their whole law was either vain or imperfect, so were their sacrifices either vain or imperfect. Most vain were the sacrifices of the idolaters, nor is there any occasion to mention them; and those of the Hebrews, although, indeed, then professing the true religion, were poor and deficient, by St. Paul called infirma et egena elementa, “weak and poor elements” (Gal. iv. 9), because they could neither cancel sin nor confer grace. The sole sacrifice which we have in our holy religion, that is to say, Holy Mass, is a sacrifice, holy, perfect, in every point complete, with which each one of the faithful nobly honors God, protesting at one and the same time his own nothingness and the supreme dominion which God hath over him; a sacrifice called, therefore, by David, sacrificium justitiae, “the sacrifice of justice” (Ps. iv. 5); both because it contains the Just One Himself, and the Saint of Saints, or rather justice and holiness themselves, and because it sanctifies souls by the infusion of grace and the affluence of gifts which it confers. Being, then, a sacrifice so holy—–a sacrifice the most venerable and the most excellent of all—–in order that you may form a due conception of so great a treasure, we shall here explain, in a manner quite succinct, some of its Divine excellencies. To express them all were not a work to which our poor faculties could attain. Continue reading

St. Bernardine’s Preaching

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St. Bernardine’s Preaching

The worship of this adorable name was still more widely extended and popularized by the preaching of the disciples of St. Francis. One of the foremost of them, St. Bernardine of Siena, was not satisfied with preaching the holy name of Jesus in the cities and towns of Italy, he had the monogram of Our Lord, surrounded with rays, painted on little tablets and advised all his hearers to procure one of these tablets for their homes. He himself always wore one, and he would show it to the people at the end of his sermon, inviting the congregation to bend the knee before the holy picture in honor of Jesus. This devotion had a great effect in producing reverence, love, and fear for the Saviour of mankind.

When, in 1427, Bernardine was denounced to Pope Martin V for having introduced “a profane and idolatrous new devotion by exposing the people to the danger of adoring the letters of the name of Jesus, and not the Saviour Himself,” the saint, accompanied by St. John Capistran and Blessed Matthew of Girgenti, pleaded the cause of the Holy Name so well that the Pope exhorted him to pursue his fruitful apostolate, to teach the people reverence and love for the Holy Name of Jesus, and, moreover, told him that he might present without fear to the veneration of the faithful the representation of this blessed name. Then he ordered a general procession in Rome in honor of the Holy Name of Jesus, so as to leave no doubt as to the feeling of the Church for a devotion from which she gathered such precious fruits. St. John Capistran carried the banner of the name of Jesus, against which so many sacrilegious attacks had been directed. Religious of all Orders, the secular clergy and a large body of the people followed, singing canticles. Thus the holy name of Jesus was blessed, glorified, and extolled to the enthusiastic delight of every Christian heart.

The memory of this event was perpetuated later on in the Order of St. Francis, by the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus. This feast was, by permission of Pope Innocent VIII, established in the Franciscan Order in the year 1530, and observed on the I4th day of January. In 1721 Innocent XIII extended the celebration of the feast to the universal Church, and appointed it to be kept on the second Sunday after Epiphany. In 1863 Pius IX approved the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus, at the request of the general of the Franciscan Order.

St. Bernardin of Sienna

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St. Bernardin of Sienna, Confessor

St. Bernardin, of whom the Roman Martyrology says that he was a light to all Italy, by his teachings and his holy example, was born at Massa, in the republic of Sienna, in the year 1380. He became an orphan early in life and a pious aunt took charge of him and educated him in the fear of the Lord. His only pleasure in boyhood consisted in praying, studying and going to Church. He used to repeat to other boys the sermons that he had heard with so much ability that he even astonished older people. All his words and actions evinced great inclination to retirement and a truly angelic purity. No indecent word was ever heard to pass his lips, and he was so well known for his modesty, that when his school-mates conversed in too unrestraineded a manner and only saw Bernardin far off, they immediately interrupted their conversation, saying: “Hush hush! Bernardin is coming.” A grown man, who was not ashamed to speak indecently, he slapped in the face. Against another, who persisted in indecent discourse, he assembled all his young companions and pelted him with dirt until he was obliged to flee from the town. Diana, his aunt, had a very pious daughter, named Tobia, whom Bernardin sometimes visited in order to receive religious instructions. One day, he told her he had fallen deeply in love with a most bealitiful virgin, and that he had no peace day or night, unless he had paid her a daily visit. The pious Tobia, not a little shocked at this speech, said nothing, but followed him when he left the house, to ascertain who this virgin was, and where she lived. She soon saw, to her great comfort, that it was no other than the Virgin Mother, of whom an exceedingly beautiful image stood on one of the city gates. To her Bernardin went daily to say his prayers on bended knees. He confessed also, later, to Tobia, that it was she, the Blessed Virgin, to whom he was thus devoted and whom he daily requested to guard him from all danger and keep him spotless and pure. To this end he also fasted every Saturday and did other good works.  Continue reading