This is a question we all ask ourselves at one time or another. To answer this question, I am posting the contents of a good pamphlet of the same name that was written by F.J. Remler, C.M., published by St. Anthony'd Guild, and was copyright 1950. Reputedly Good Catholics Every now and then we learn from various sources that certain persons of prominence are good Catholics. At one time it may be a famous football or baseball player; at another a celebrated actress or movie star; or again, it may be a banker, a politician, an industrialist or a senator of the United States. Often this announcement is made with an air of boastfulness that seems to imply that the Church is highly honored by this fact and should consider herself obliged to pay special deference to such a one. As a matter of fact, however, these persons owe more to the Church than the Church owes to them. They and not the Church are the real beneficiaries. The question now arises quite naturally: By what standards of eval- uation are these persons adjudged and proclaimed good Catholics? Is it by the standards of God, who reads the inmost secrets of the heart and cannot be deceived by outward appearances and per- formances; or by the standards of men, who can never attain to an accurate knowledge of a person's true state of soul, for the simple reason that they cannot probe another's conscience and therefore must base their judgment on outward appearances only? Is it by the standards established by the gospel of Christ, or by those which dominate the world, that these men and these women are heralded as good Catholics? In trying to answer this question we must keep in mind that God's thoughts and judgments differ from those of men as light differs from darkness. Hence it can easily be that the famous baseball player and movie star who are paraded before the public as good Catholics may in reality be very bad ones in the sight of God, because they happen to be living in the state of mortal sin and hence at enmity with God; while the poor day laborer, the grimy coal miner, the lowly washer- woman and the Negro Pullman porter who are often looked down upon and dubbed the "poorer class of Catholics," may be great favorites of heaven because they rank high in the grace and love of God, perhaps even to the extent of being entitled to take their place among the most exalted angelic choirs. Those only who are in God's grace are good Catholics in the truest sense of the term. In view of this great difference of estimates, it will not be out of place to present an outline of the various elements that enter into the making of genuinely good Catholics, that is, of Catholics who are good according to God's standards of evaluation. Before all else it must be clearly understood that good Catholics are good Christians, that is, faithful followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. Hence they are not merely refined pagans, but "new creat- ures," regenerated in Baptism and formed in the image and likeness of Christ. They are living members of His mystical body. Therefore Christ lives in them, and they on their part seek to reproduce Him faithfully in their daily conduct by always conforming to the precepts and the maxims of the Gospel. Evil of False Standards At this point we must draw attention to a very mistaken idea which almost amounts to a heresy that has firmly taken root in many circles of the catholic laity and is doing a vast amount of harm to souls. The opinion is widely current that a close imitation of Jesus Christ--known as Christian perfection--is not meant for all Catholics without excep- tion, but only, or at least principally, for those men and women who live in religious communities or orders, that is, for monks and nuns, as they are called. This false concept of the Christian life has led countless Catholics to take for granted that a Sunday-go-to-church religion is all that Christ demands of those who claim to be His follow- ers. With them it is simply a question of trying to steer clear of mortal sin--and even this some do not take very seriously--and not a ques- tion of trying to live a liife of holiness, practicing habitual self-denial, daily carrying the cross and walking in the footsteps of Christ, whose last journey was up the slopes of Calvary, there to die for man's sal- vation. With them it is not a question of resisting evil inclinations, of dying to the world and living to God, of being preoccupied with the things that pertain to their eternal salvation; but rather an attempt to do what Christ has declared impossible, namely to serve God and other masters at one and the same time. The truth of the matter is that our divine Lord addressed the hard lessons of His gospel not to monks and nuns -- for these appeared only later in the life of the Church -- but to the rank and file of the multitudes who listened to Him and whom He invited to become His followers. This makes it plain that everyday Catholics -- laymen and laywomen -- are meant to be living reproductions of Jesus Christ, just as they are destined by the grace of Baptism to reign with Him forever in Heaven. Monks and nuns are not the only ones to enjoy the privilege of being predestined heirs of the kingdom of Heaven. To all Catholics without exception the words of our Lord are addressed: "You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48); and those of St. Paul: "This is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thess.4:3). Accordingly, good Catholics are those who realize these three all- important truths and put them into practice, namely: first, that it is their bounden duty to love and serve God with their whole heart and soul and mind and strength; second, that by doing this they are earn- ing for themselves the glory and happiness of heaven; and third, that they must make every effort to become truly Christlike, that is become conformed to Christ by the diligent practice of the various Christian virtues according to His own words: "I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do" (John 13:15). Let us now pass to a consideration of the qualities and activities that combine to make good Catholics according to the pattern revealed to them in the Son of God made man, the standard of Christian perfection. * * * * * * * 1. Living in the State of Sanctifying Grace The first and indispensable requisite for those who would be good Catholics is this: They must be living in the state of sanctifying grace. What the right of citizenship is to citizens, that sanctifying grace is to Christians. Only those who possess this grace are super- naturally united with God, share in His divine nature, and are His adopted children and fully titled joint heirs with Jesus Christ of the endless glory of heaven. This necessarily means that they must be free from mortal sin. All who are in the state of mortal sin are utt- erly devoid of sanctifying grace. For this reason alone they cannot,as long as they remain in the state of mortal sin, be good Catholics in the sight of God, even though they may rank very high in the estima- tion of men, perhaps be prominent leaders in church affairs and even be considered "pillars of the church." The truth is that as long as they remain in mortal sin they are living at enmity with God, under the dominion of Satan and in the state of incipient damnation. A death without previous repentance would hopelessly consign them to the end- less misery of hell. They have lost their right of heavenly citizen- ship and are aliens in the kingdom of God. And as long as they remain in the state of sin, their good works have no supernatural value what- soever; hence such persons are incapable of meriting for themselves a reward in heaven. 2. Treasuring the Gift of Faith Enlightened by grace, good catholics set a very high value on the precious gift of Faith, which they received in the Sacrament of Bapt- ism. For this reason they take greater precautions to safeguard it against error ans falsehood than people ordinarily take to safeguard their health against contagious diseases. Hence they will never read books and articles dangerous to faith; never listen to heretical ser- mons on the radio; never make concessions to non-Catholics in matters of faith; and never send their children to schools in which their faith is endangered by anti-Christian teaching and bad companionship. On the contrary, they will constantly try to enlarge and expand their knowledge of religious truths by reading and studying spiritual books; by hearing sermons and instructions; and by frequently reflecting and meditating on the word of God. Lastly, they try to make their faith a living faith by applying its teachings to their daily conduct accord- ing to the instruction of Christ: "If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them" (John 13:17). Further, in all matters relating to the Christian faith they are guided by the Church which Christ instituted as the official teacher and guardian of the truths taught by Him. Whatever official pronounce- ments in matters of faith and morals she may make, they accept with childlike docility and without presuming to criticize or find fault, mindful of the words of Christ: "He that hears you, hears me; and he that rejects you, rejects me" (Luke 10:16). In their attitude toward divine truth men can only be either humble and obedient disciples or proud and rebellious critics. There is no room in the Church for Cath- olics who are critical, "liberal" and "broad-minded" in these matters. Those who are such are a sorry lot. They have gone over to the camp of the enemies of the Church. There is no tampering with the truths of the Christian faith any more than there is with the truths of mathem- atics. 3. Loving God above All Things Good Catholics realize that as creatures of God, and especially as Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ, it is their strict duty to love God with their whole heart, their whole soul, their whole mind and their whole strength, and above all things. In order to fulfill this first and greatest of the commandments they seek to make all their thoughts, words and actions so many expressions of this love, taking care to perform them solely for the honor and glory of God and in intimate union with Jesus Christ. They practice what is called Affective Love by making many fervent acts of love, adoration, praise, thanksgiving and reparation; and Effective Love by faithfully observ- ing the commandments and doing in all things the holy will of God. "If you love me, keep my commandments...He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" (John 14:15,21). This love compels them to take the utmost care never to offend God by deliberate sin of any kind, even the smallest; and in case of having failed in this, to repent promptly and make atonement by acts of self-denial and penance. And since the second commandment-that of the love of neighbor-is like to the first, they seek to practice genuine brotherly love toward all men according to the rules laid down by Christ: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," and, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (Matt. 19:19; John 15:12). [See Sections 18 and 19.] 4. Being Conscious of Their Dignity By the light of their holy faith good Catholics have a right under- standing of their place in the order of God's creation. Where an ath- eistic science asserts that man is a mere animal and nothing more, and that his destiny is limited to this earth, they firmly believe that man was created only a little less than the angels and is destined, after a life of probation and service here on earth, to inherit an eternal life of surpassing happiness in intimate union with God in heaven. They are fully conscious of the fact that they are now the well-beloved children of their heavenly Father, who loves them with a love that is boundless and everlasting; and that they are nothing less than blood brothers of Jesus Christ, who proved His immense love for them by dying a most painful death on the cross for their salvation. By His bitter Passion and death He saved them from hell, restored to them the right and title to heaven, which has been lost to them by original sin, and merited for them the graces they need for the winn- ing of heaven. They also have a keen realization that they are "temp- les of the Holy Spirit," consecrated to Him by Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion, and that they are the abode of the Blessed Trin- ity. "If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and my Father will love him, and We will make our abode with him" (John 14:23). Always nmind- ful of this indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in their souls, they maintain a reverent respect for their body, taking great care never to abuse it by making it an instrument of sin, especially of the sin of impurity, in any shape or form. 5. Living Always in God's Presence Always mindful of the future union with God in heaven to which they are aspiring, they now try to live habitually in His presence by the exercise of a living faith. Shunning useless thoughts and an excess of worldly amusements, they learn to love pious meditation on divine and heavenly things and communion with God in the prayer of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, reparation and petition. At all times and in all places they are conscious of God's presence and hence conduct themsel- ves as they would if they were in His visible presence. They cultivate the rememberance of Jesus Christ and of His life, words and actions in such a way that He is never entirely absent from their minds for any great length of time. By this means they are constantly preparing themselves in a fitting manner for a fuller enjoyment of the unveiled sight of God in heaven, known as the Beatific Vision. They live accor- ding to the rule of life which God gave to Abraham: "Walk before me, and be perfect" (Gen. 17:1). Always remembering that they do not have a lasting city here on earth, being only strangers and pilgrims on their way to eternity, they keep their minds and hearts fixed on hea- ven, where God has prepared an everlasting dwelling for those who love Him. 6. Fostering a Personal Love for Jesus Christ An outstanding characteristic of good Catholics is found in their practicing an ardent personal love for their Divine Saviour Jesus Christ. They love Him with their whole heart and soul as thier God, their Redeemer and their Friend. They derive great joy and consolation from meditating on the assurances of His love as contained in these words: "As the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love..No longer do I call you servants,..but I have called you friends ..You are My friends if you do the things I command you" (John 15:9, 15,14). Fully convinced that Christ's love for them is as great as the love of His heavenly Father for Him, and that proof of this love of Christ for them lies in his bitter Passion and agonizing death on the cross, they never grow weary in their efforts to reciprocate this love to the best of their ability. It prompts them to maintain an unswer- ving loyalty to Him, by reason of which they avoid most carefully any- thing and everything that they know to be displeasing to Him, even though it may not be positively sinful. So, too, on the other hand, they aim to be most generous in always doing what they know to be His will, even though this should entail great sacrifices. Without this personal love for Christ, religion tends to become a mere collection of disagreeable commands and prohibitions-you must do this, you must not do that, under the pain of sin. But a personal love for Christ makes the keeping of the commandments easy, besides making the service of Him a foretaste of heaven. 7. Striving To Avoid All Manner of Sin. This personal love of Christ makes good Catholics determined to avoid sin at all costs-even, if need be, at the cost of their lives. They are firmly resolved to abstain from all deliberate offenses agai- nst Him, no matter how small these may seem to be. Sin is as real to them as cancer and the plague. As to mortal sin, they fully realize that it robs them of sanctifying grace, puts them in a state of enmity with God, subjects them to the power of Satan, and exposes them to the danger of the eternal punishment of hell. As to venial sin, they are convinced that even the smallest is a far greater evil than any harm that can befall them in the temporal and physical order; since even the slightest sin offends God, weakens the love off Him, exposes one to the danger of commiting mortal sin, and entails a proportionate amount of temporal punishment, which must be cancelled either in this life or in purgatory. 8. Condemning and Despising the "World" Good Catholics are of one mind with Jesus Christ in regard to what He calls the "world." By the world He means that attitude of men and women which excludes God and His holy Law from their life and cond- uct. Its spirit, known as worldliness, is the direct opposite of the spirit of the Gospel. It causes people to neglect the care of their eternal salvation; makes them disregard the awe-inspiring truths of the four last things and even deny them altogether; and leads them to make the unbridled enjoyment of sensual and often downright sinful pleasures the one and only purpose of their earthly existence. This is the world which Christ condemned without mercy and for which he refu- sed to pray, as being His most bitter and irreconcilable enemy. "Not for the world do I pray" (John 17:9). Hence all those who love this world and cultivate its friendship place themselves in the ranks of His enemies. It is plain that in this matter that all who desire to enjoy the friendship of Christ must be of one mind with Him, even tho- ugh this will of necessity expose them to ridicule and other forms of persecution. "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own. But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). Suffering the hatred of the world is the price men must pay for the friendship of Christ. Further, in this matter good Catholics must be of one mind with the Church, which more than thirty times during the course of the ecclesi- astical year bids her children to pray in the Mass that God will grant them the grace to despise earthly and worldly, and to love and cherish heavenly things. This may be said to apply with special force to the intemperate use of the many luxuries and new means of entertainment and pleasure of the present time-the auto, the movies, radio, tele- vision, laborsaving devices, sports, secular literature, pleasure trips by land and sea, and social doings of all kinds. These things, though not sinful in themselves, have nevertheless become for millions of Catholics a great hindrance to prayer and to serious reflection on the "one thing necessary." How needful it is for them to heed the war- ning of St. John: "Do not love the world, or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh [impur- ity, sensual pleasures], and the lust of the eyes [avarice, greed], and the pride of life [pride, ambition, disobedience]; which is not from the Father, but from the world" (1 John 2:16). 9. Habitually Practicing Self-denial True Catholics put a literal interpretation on Christ's teaching concerning self-denial and mortification. There is a reevealing pass- age in the Gospel of St. Mark on this subject: "Calling the crowd to- gether with His disciples, He said to them: 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me' " (Mark 8:34). Fully convinced that hell cannot be avoided and heaven cannot be gained except under the conditions laid down by Christ, true Christians will resolutely do that which the natural man abhors and the world considers rankest nonsense and folly. Inspired by the teach- ing and encouraged by the example of their divine Saviour, they dilig- ently practice self-denial and self-abnegation not only in regard to pleasures that are sinful or are occasions of sin, but also in regard to many pleasures that are innocent and perfectly lawful. This they do for the purpose of making atonement for their sins and cancelling the punishment due to them, and of meriting for themselves a great in- crease of glory in heaven. But most of all they mortify and deny them- selves because of their ardent love of Jesus crucified, whom they de- sire to resemble now in His sufferings that they may merit to resemble Him hereafter in His glory. According to the words of St. Paul they wish to be nailed to the cross with Christ, to crucify their flesh with its vices and desires, and to be crucified to the world and let the world be crucified to them (cf. Gal 2:20; 5:24; 6:14). They real- ize that a life of self-indulgence and softness cannot be reconciled with a life of imitation of the crucified Saviour. The way to heaven is that of the cross; the way to hell is that of sensual pleasures. "Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter that way. How narrow is the gate and close is the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it" (Matt. 7:13-14). 10. Edifying Others by Good Example Mindful of the words of Christ: So let your light shine before men, in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16), true Catholics will strive at all times and in all places to edify their fellow men by leading lives of genuinely Christian virtue. They clearly understand that gratitude for the grace of faith obliges them to contribute their share to the ex- tension of the kingdom of God in the souls of their fellow men. Their vocation is to be "the salt of the earth,...the light of the world... a city set on a mountain" (Matt. 5:13-14). They are always conscious of the tremendous influence of example, both for evil and for good. Hence, they take great care never to scandalize others, that is, to be an occasion of disedification or temptation or sin to them. They stand in awe of the terrible malediction which Christ pronounced against all who give scandal: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it must needs be that scandals come [on account of the wickedness of some], but woe to the man through whom scandal does come!" (Matt. 18:6-7). This wholesome fear of the severe punishment of scandal makes good Catholics watch closely over their speech and conduct lest they use words and expressions and en- gage in actions that might in any way be suggestive of evil or be the cause or occasion of sin to those around them. But this is not all. Knowing that good example has a greater power of persuasion than even the most cogent arguments, and that theirs is the duty of illustrating the gospel to non-Catholics, they will consistently try to order their daily lives strictly according to the dictates of the Christian faith. They will also gladly take an active part in various religious under- takings; prudently use their contacts with non-Catholics to win them for Christ; help to spread the faith by distributing Catholic liter- ature; and generously lend thier aid to organizations that seek to promote God's interests among men, such as the Confraternity of Chris- tian Doctrine, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Legion of Mary, the like. Given a large number of Catholics of this type, the work of converting the world to Christ would proceed by leaps and bounds.
11. Being Zealous in Performing Good Works The necessity of doing good works in addition to believing is stressed by our Lord when He says: "Not everyone who says to Me: 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven...If you know these things, blesed shall you be if you do them (Matt. 7:21; John 13:17). On the day of the last judgment those who will be invited to enter heaven are they who have been charitable to the needy and poor; while those who have failed to perform works of charity will be condemned. Hence good Catholics do not restrict the practice of their religion to the mere avoidance of evil and the performance of such duties as oblige under the pain of sin; but they consider themselves in duty bound to be zealous and generous in performing all manner of good works for the glory of God and the temporal and spiritual welfare of their neighbor. Heaven is not won by merely kee- ping from doing evil; it must be won and earned by means of suitable good works in the service of God. In this connection it is well to remind the reader that it is by the performance of good works while in the state of sanctifying grace that Christians acquire supernatural merits, which in turn procure for them eternal rewards in heaven. The kind and amount of these merits will be in exact proportion to the kind and amount of good works they perform while in the state of grace here on earth. "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6). Our divine Saviour urges all His followers to store up the imperish- able treasures of supernatural merit when He says: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust and moth consume, and where thi- eves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consumes, nor thieves break in and steal" (Matt. 6: 19-20). While there is an endless variety of good works to be performed by the followers of Christ, they can all be grouped under three heads, namely, Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These are known as the Three Eminent Good Works. 12. Prayer Heeding the instructions given by Christ concerning prayer and mindful of His own example in this matter, good Catholics practice this spiritual exercise to such an extent that they can be said to have mastered the sec- ret of "praying always" and of "praying without ceasing." Their efforts are untiring. Prayer becomes to their supernatural life what breathing is to their natural existence. Truly devout souls turn to God as naturally and easily in prayer as the magnetic needle turns to the pole. It is therefore not merely when some need or misfortune bears down on them that they think of prayer; on the contrary, they make it their duty to pray as often and as much as their daily occupations allow. Their ardent love of God prompts them to offer to Him frequent acts of fervent adoration, pra- ise, thanksgiving and reparation, thus imitating the angels and saints in heaven, who ceaselessly glorify God by these forms of prayer throughout the endless ages of eternity. From the same motive devout Catholics are most faithful in performing regularly what they consider a very important part of their service to God, namely, their daily morning and night pray- ers; grace before and after meals; the practice of family prayers and dev- otions, especially the Rosary; the frequent renewal of their good intent- ion during the day; assisting at Mass and receiving Holy Communion as often as circumstances permit; reading spiritual books and making meditations; taking part in public devotions; often making fervent aspirations, and cul- tivating recollection and union with God. 13. Fasting In the spirit of humble obedience to the regulations made by the Church for the spiritual benefit of her children, good Catholics will religiously observe the laws of fast and abstinence as far as their health and occupat- ions permit. Should they for a good reason be dispensed from complying with these laws, they will in the spirit of penance substitute some other form of mortification. They also understand that the word fasting implies much more than retrenching oneself in the use of food and drink. It also means renouncing the full enjoyment of certain pleasures and gratifications which are lawful in themselves but had better be sacrificed for several reasons. Among these reasons are: to do penance for one's sins and to cancel the temporal punishment due to sin; to fortify oneself against temptations and future sins; to imitate Jesus Christ, who for love of man freely chose a life of painful suffering; and lastly, to render one's prayers more effic- acious and deserving of being answered. The necessity of reinforcing pray- ers with self-denial and suffering to ensure their being heard, especially when there is question of obtaining the conversion for sinners, is pointed out by our Lord in these words: "This kind [of devil] can be cast out only by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:20). 14. Almsgiving True disciples of Christ will practice almsgiving as much as their means and circumstances allow. In this they try to act on the advice which the elder Tobias gave to his son: "My son...according to thy ability be merci- ful...If thou have much, give abundantly; if thou have little, take care even so to bestow willingly a little" (Tob 4:8-9). Catholics who are rich must attend to two things: first, if they have acquired any part of their wealth by unjust means, by dishonesty, injustice, underpayment of workers, etc., they must make restitution. Without this their almsgiving cannot be meritorious. Works of charity do not cancel the claims of justice, nor can they under ordinary circumstances be made a substitute for it. Secondly, of the wealth they possess honestly they must give alms liberally, since they are not absolute owners of it but God's stewards, on whom rests the oblig- ation of aiding the needy and poor and doing other works of charity. They must stand in fear of the danger of being told at judgment: "Remember that thou in thy lifetime hast received good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now here he is comforted whereas thou art tormented" (Luke 16:25). Those who are in moderate circumstances will not fail to deny them- selves certain luxuries and superfluities in order to have wherewith to aid their more unfortunate fellow men in their need and distress. A living faith in the great truth that whatever good is done to the suffering memb- ers of the mystical body is done to Christ Himself will make good Catholics eager and glad not only to give alms as liberally as possible, but also to devote themselves to the rendering of personal services to those in need, a form of charity that often calls for the painful sacrifice of one's comfort and convenience, the conquest of natural repugnance, and occasionally the patient endurance of ingratitude. In short, good Catholics realize that it is not a mere counsel but a strict duty for them to be diligent in perform- ing the seven corporal and the seven spiritual works of mercy according to their means and ability. On the fulfillment of these works hinges the sent- ence that Christ will pronounce over the good and the bad in the judgment at the end of the world: "Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink.... Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for Me....Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you did not give Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me no drink....Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do it for Me. And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into everlasting life"(Matt.25:34-35,40-42,45-46). Heaven is the eternal reward of works of charity and mercy; hell the eter- nal punishment of the neglect of them. 15. The Gospel Their Rule of Life Those who are in earnest about being loyal followers of Christ will con- stantly try to shape their conduct strictly according to the precepts and maxims of the Gospel, and not according to the spirit and example of the worldly-minded and quasi-pagan people among whom they happen to live. They will be always conscious of the fact that they were regenerated in Baptism and made "new creatures in Christ." They "have put on Christ" and hence are no longer leading a merely natural life, but one that is supernatural: Christ lives in them. Hence they consider themselves obliged to be Christ- like in their thoughts, words and actions. By reason of their living in Christ and Christ's living in them, they realize that they must be differ- ent and act differently from the non-Christians around them who have not the true faith to enlighten and teach them how to control their passions and unruly desires. True, this aloofness from the things which the world loves and pursues and this being different from the rank and file of the people around them will often expose them to ridicule and other forms of persecution; but these they endure willingly because they know that this is the price they must pay for the grace and honor of being disciples of Jesus Christ. "All who want to live piously in Christ Jesus, will suffer persec- ution" (2 Tim. 3:12). And so, being determined to remain loyal to Christ, they will, even in the face of bitter opposition, apply the rule of His Gospel to every department of their lives: to their private conduct, marr- ied life, the home, the shop, the store, the farm, the place of business or work, to their meals, dress, fashion, recreation, amusements and to their social and public life. Everywhere and at all times they will strive to be replicas of Jesus Christ, the divine Model of holy living. His Gospel is their manual of instruction. 16. Practicing the Virtues of the Beatitudes By reason of making the Gospel their rule of conduct, they understand that they must do much more than merely keep the commandments in order to refrain from committing sin. They feel obliged to practice the virtues of the Eight Beatitudes proclaimed by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-10). These are:(1) Poverty of Spirit. Those who are actually poor will be contented with their lot and resigned to God's holy will; they will not be avaricious for wealth nor will they envy the rich. They will derive con- solation from the knowledge that they are sharing the poverty of Jesus Christ who, though He was rich, became poor for our sake. Those who are rich will not tenaciously cling to their wealth, but will use it with mod- eration and devote a goodly portion of it to the relief of the needy and poor and the promotion of the welfare of souls. They will stand in fear of the warning of Christ: "Woe to you rich! for you are now having your comf- ort" (Luke 6:24). (2) Meekness. Christians practice this virtue by gener- ously forgiving all who injure them in any way; by refusing to revenge themselves or take mean advantage of others; and by showing kindness to all, even to those who are unkind to them. (3) Mourning. To cultivate this virtue they foster an abiding sorrow for their past sins, never ceasing to do penance for them; and they endeavor to make reparation to God for the sins of others by practicing self-denial and patiently enduring the suffer- ings that come their way. (4) Hunger and Thirst after Justice. Moderating their desires for temporal things, they foster a longing for the things of God; an increase of faith, hope and charity, holiness, virtue, the grace of final perseverance and the happiness of the Beatific Vision of God in heaven. (5) Mercifulness. Fully aware of how sorely they themselves stand in need of the mercy of God they carefully avoid all harshness and severity in judging and condemning the actions of others. They also practice this virtue by generously aiding the needy and poor, not only with their alms, but also by means of personal service. (6) Purity of Heart. Since only the pure of heart will be admitted to the blessed vision of God in heaven, true Catholics resolutely practice the virtue of chastity according to their state in life - the single by abstaining from all indulgences in sexual pleasures, and the married by fidelity and the use of the rights of marr- iage according to the law of God. The practice of this virtue demands of all the avoiding of sins against the sixth and ninth commandments and the shunning of the occasions of such sins, such as bad reading, suggestive pictures, movies and radio programs, certain dances,promiscuous company- keeping and the like. In a wider sense, this virtue also includes freedom from deliberate sin of any kind. (7) Peacefulness. Fully alive to their duty of trying to promote the peace of Christ among men, they will use what influence they have with others to maintain peace, concord and harmonious living. When differences arise they will gladly suffer rather than do wrong; they will never be guilty of returning evil for evil. (8) Suffering Persecution for Justice' Sake. Well knowing that they cannot be perfect Christians unless they are ready to suffer for their faith, they are pre- pared to endure ridicule, insults, hatred, physical sufferings, imprison- ment, tortures and even death, if need be, rather than renounce their alle- giance to Christ od offend God by any other sin. At such times they are en- couraged and fortified by the words of Christ: "Blessed shall you be when men hate you, and when they shut you out, and reproach you, and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and exult, for behold, your reward is great in heaven" (Luke 6:22). 17. Living in Union with Christ That the supernatural life of the Christian may attain its fullest deve- lopment, he must be as intimately united with Jesus Christ as a branch is united with the vine that sustains its life. A branch seperated from the vine cannot possibly bear fruit. So, too, a Catholic seperated from Christ by mortal sin is incapable of performing even the least supernaturally good action. Our Blessed Lord has taught this important truth by means of a par- able which is so clear in its meaning that it requires no explanation. "I am the true vine...Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:1,4-5). Union with Christ by sanctifying grace is therefore an essential requisite for making one's good actions meritorious of an eternal reward. In order to render this union more and more intimate and hence productive of a greater amount of holiness and virtue, fervent Catholics will so arrange their lives that every thought, word and action of the day is an expression of their love of God. In this way they manage to make the whole day's activity a continuous and uninterrupted act of perfect charity. In all things their will is one with God's. This union with the divine will makes them accept with humble and loving resignation all the trials, cross- es and sufferings that come into their lives and enables them to endure them in intimate union with Christ on the cross. Thus living entirely in Christ and Christ living in them, they are able to attain to a very high degree of love of God in a very short span of time, and to earn for them- seelves a correspondingly high degree of heavenly glory hereafter. "In this is My Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit" (John 15:8). 18. Brotherly Love for All Men We learn from the first Epistle of St. John that an infallible proof of true love for God is found in the honest effort to love all men without ex- ception according to the rules laid down in the Gospel. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20). Hence good Catholics will make every effort to practice this most necessary virtue in the most perfect manner. In this they are guided, not by sentiment or natu- ral feelings, nor by likes and dislikes, but by purely supernatural moti- ves. They have learned the secret of seeing Jesus Christ in every human being regardless of race, color and culture; and therefore they give to each the love and treatment they would accord to Christ Himself. (Hence those who draw the "color line" and refuse to treat Negroes and others acc- ording to the rules of Christian charity are guilty of serious sin. Their boasted love of God is a mere pretense. St. John does not hesitate to call them liars.) Well-instructed Catholics recognize in every person, even the most degraded, an immortal soul created to the image and likeness of God, and infinitely precious in His sight by reason of the Precious Blood that was shed for it on the cross. They regard all around them as brothers and sisters in Christ who are predestined even as themselves to be joint heirs with Him of the glory of heaven. In the practice of this charity they try to follow two rules: (1) "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," hence always treating others as they themselves wish to be treated; and (2) "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you"; that is by imitating as perfectly as possible the unselfish and self-sacrificing charity which Christ has shown us, especially in His Passion and death on the cross (Matt. 19:19; John 15:12). Without an honest effort to carry into effect this love for all men, the practice of perfect love of God is as im- possible as carrying water in a sieve or preserving wine in a leaking cask. Whatever good is done to one's neighbor is rewarded by Christ as if done to Himself; and whatever evil is done to one's neighbor is punished by Him as if done to Himself. "As long as you did it for...the least of My brethren, you did it for Me" applies to all actions, good as well as evil, done to one's fellow men. 19. Forgiveness of Injuries and Love of Enemies Intimately connected with the foregoing concepts-in fact, inseperable from them-is the fulfillment of the difficult commandments of "forgiving from the heart" and "loving one's enemies" as demanded by the Gospel. Our Blessed Lord took special pains to remove from our minds all misconceptions and misinterpretations in regard to this subject. Thus when St. Peter asked Him whether one was obliged to forgive as often as seven times, he received this answer: "I do not say to thee seven; but seventy times seven," which is a figurative way of saying always. And insisting on the love of enemies, Christ declared: "Bit I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:43). There can be no arguing about the necessity of faithfully carrying out these two commands, not only by those who desire to practice perfect love of God, but by all who wish to obtain pardon of their sins. To the object- ion that is often raised that these two commandments impose an impossible duty, the answer is that they do not call for what is impossible, but for what is perfect-for what, however difficult it may be, becomes possible with the aid of God's grace. But no matter how difficult it is to forgive injuries and to love one's enemies, there are two very cogent reasons that compel Christians to comply faithfully with the instructions of Christ on this point. The first is that the pardon of one's own sins depends on it. Only they who forgive fully and completely all who have wronged them in any way will obtain forgiveness of their own offenses against God. There can be no room for self-deception in this matter: "If you forgive men their offen- ses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your offenses. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your offenses"(Matt 6: 14-15). And at the end of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant we read: "So also My heavenly Father will do to you, if you do not each forgive your brothers from your hearts" (Matt. 18:35); that is, He will refuse to pardon your sins and will condemn you to eternal punishment. The second compelling reason for carrying out Christ's command to forgive injuries and love one's enemies is the desire of Christians to give expression to their deep sense of gratitude to God for the great mercy He has shown in granting them the full pardon of their own sins, not only once or twice, but literally "seventy times seven," and perhaps even more frequently. And not only this: the pardon granted them is final and full, so that it can never be recall- ed; besides, God showers them with new graces and treats them as if they had never offended Him. To put it in a human way: He has forgotten all about their past iniquities. If, then, God so generously remits the enor- mous sum of ten thousand talents-about 19 million dollars in U.S. money- which in the parable stands for a man's sins against Him, how can a good Christian refuse to forgive the paltry sum of one hundred denarii-about 17 dollars-which represents the injuries done him by a fellow man? The same applies to the love of enemies, which may well be considered the supreme test of true love of God. But this love must be genuinely supernatural, actuated by divine grace. As such it does not depend on sentiment or feel- ing. One can never "feel" toward an enemy as he naturally feels toward a friend. But despite the natural repugnance one may feel toward a wrongdoer or an enemy, he can still regard him as a brother in Christ, foster kind thoughts about him, never say anything unkind to him or about him, refuse to take unkind advantage of him, pray for him and on favorable occasions do good to him. Nor can one actually "forget" an injury; but he can act as if he had forgotten it. It must be stressed that not hating an enemy does not fulfill Christ's commandment of perfect charity; loving him with a super- natural love is what Christ demands. 20. Justice and Charity These two virtues are fundamental and indispensable for the maintenance of the peace and happiness that is meant to be enjoyed by all the members of the human family, both individually and collectively, in families, comm- unities and states. Where they are practiced order and tranquility will prevail; where they are disregarded, discontent, turbulence and violence will be the order of the day. Now there can be no question but that it is required of Catholics more than of anyone else to excel in the faithful practice of these two essential virtues. They must exhibit them in all their dealings with their fellow men: in their vocational work as teachers, lawyers, judges, doctors, officers of the law, and the like, and especially in the proper discharge of the duties that attach to any public office they may be holding. Here it is required that they be thoroughly honest, incorr- uptible and absolutely proof against the temptations and solicitations to dishonesty, bribery, graft, and other violations of their oath of office that they may encounter. Examples to the contrary must never mislead them. Wrongdoing of any kind can never become lawful and right simply because it happens to be done by many. The plea "Everybody is doing it" cannot abrog- ate the law of God nor invalidate the claims of justice. Justice and charity must also regulate the relations between Capital and Labor, between employers and employees. The application of these principles will mean a harmonious and peaceful working together; the disregard of them will spell unrest, bitter feelings, hatred and violent outbursts of class wars. Employers are in justice and conscience bound to establish dec- ent and equitable labor conditions, and to give their employees such wages as will enable them to maintain their families in decent comfort and to provide for future contingencies. And they are required by charity to take a kindly interest in the temporal and spiritual welfare of their employees since these also are members of the same Christian family and of the myst- ical body of Christ. On their part, employees are bound by justice to be upright and honest in doing the work assigned to them, to take care not to waste time or material, to refrain from damaging the property of their em- ployers, from "loafing on the job, " and from similar acts of wrongdoing. So, too, they must seek to maintain charitable relations with those who employ them, refrain from fostering or promoting ill will or enmities ag- ainst them, and never resort to violence for the settlement of differences or disputes that may arise. In one word (sic), good Catholics are those who in all their dealings with their neighbor carry out this instruction of our Lord: "Even as you wish men to do to you, so also do you to them" (Luke 6: 31). 21. Fidelity to the Duties of One's State of Life The faithful dicharge of the special duties attached to one's state of life is an essential requisite for those who wish to be good Catholics. Hence those who are united by the sacred bonds of Christian matrimony will religiously cooperate with God in the procreation of new lives, never dar- ing to interfere in a sinful manner with God's plan in the use of their rights of marriage. They will educate the children that are entrusted to them and train them in the knowledge and fear and love of God. Married people who sinfully avoid parenthood cannot be good Catholics for the sim- ple reason that they are living in the unhappy state of mortal sin. Good Catholic couples will not allow themselves to be mislead by the pagan and secularistic ideas of people who have adopted the materialistic view of life, which makes man merely an animal, denies the existence of the immort- al soul, holds that there is no life after death, and therefore denies the existence of heaven and hell. On the contrary, Christian couples, enlight- ened by faith, will realize that every child is as precious in the sight of God as is the Blood of Christ which was shed for him on the cross. For this reason it is utterly impossible for them to commit those heinous sins of onanism and abortion, of which those are guilty who practice sinful birth limitation. In the same way, unmarried persons, fully conscious of fact that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, consecrated to Him by Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion, will strive to lead lives of purity and chastity, abstain from the pleasures of sexual indulgence, be modest in dress and behavior, and rigorously avoid all wilfull near occas- ions of sin, such as bad company, suggestive pictures, movies, radio and television programs, books and articles dangerous to faith and morals, in- decent dances, promiscuous company-keeping and the like. The kind of behav- ior that should characterize Christians in their respective conditions in life is clearly pointed out by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians: "Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord....Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the Church....Children, obey your parents in the Lord....Fath- ers, do not provoke your children to anger....Slaves, obey your masters... as you would Christ....And you, masters, do the same toward them," that is, treat them kindly (Ephes., chapters 5 and 6). 22. Conduct in Times of Suffering An unfailing test of the attitude Catholics maintain toward God is fur- nished by their conduct in time of suffering. The cross they may have to carry may be sickness, loss of temporal goods, injustice, calumny or detr- action, loss of relatives by death, and the like. When a substance that is suspected to be gold resists the action of nitric acid, it is proof that it is the pure metal; if it is dissolved by the acid, it is proof that it was of some less valuable material. Catholics who accept whatever sufferings come to them and bear them resignedly, patiently, and in union with their crucified Saviour, give clear proof that their love of God is genuine and not a form of disguised self-love. Those on the other hand who break down and become rebellious against what they consider an unjust and undeserved punishment clearly reveal that their allegiance to God is defective and lacking in very essential qualities. Where the former recognize in the cross a convincing proof of God's special love for them, the latter see in it nothing but a sign of God's displeasure. Not a few go so far as to find fault with Him and demand an explanation by asking: "What wrong have I done to deserve this punishment?" This great difference of views necessarily produces a great difference of results.
The former derive immense spiritual benefits from their sufferings: the can- cellation of the temporal punishment due to their sins, countless new graces, vast treasures of merit for heaven, the grace of conversion for sinners, etc. The latter involve themselves in greater sins: murmuring against God, accu- sing Him-at least tacitly-of injustice, perhaps neglecting their religious duties, and sometimes even completely giving up the practice of their reli- gion. Catholics who have a living faith are fully persuaded that God sends them afflictions for the purpose of furthering their advancement in holiness and virtue. There is no sanctity without suffering. The greatest saints were the greatest sufferers. What part suffering plays in the lives of true Chris- tians was clearly indicated by Our Lord when He said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit He will take away; and every branch that bears fruit He will cleanse [or prune] that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:1-2). So, too, He pointed out the nec- essity of suffering when after His resurrection He said: "Did not the Christ have to suffer these things before entering into His glory?" (Luke 24:26). And St. Paul assures us that if we suffer with Christ we shall also be glor- ified with Him. The conclusion is that suffering is a sign of predestination. Those who have nothing to suffer are to be pitied, for they have great reason to fear for their salvation. Their freedom from suffering may be due to the fact that God forsees their eternal damnation; and being perfectly just, He rewards what little good they do by means of temporal blessings in this life since He cannot reward them hereafter. But who in his right senses can envy the condemned criminal enjoying his last meal, which the prison authorities furnish him before he goes to his execution? In all their trials good Cath- olics are sustained by the knowledge that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18), especially when these trials are borne with perfect resig- nation and in intimate union with Jesus dying on the cross for love of man. 23. Devotion to the Blessed Eucharist A fervent devotion to the great mystery of the Most Blessed Sacrament is an essential part of a true Christian's life. Devout Catholics consider the Blessed Sacrament their greatest treasure here on earth. A church or chapel is for them a sort of antechamber of heaven. Their living faith makes them hold firmly to the truth that Jesus Christ is as really and truly present in the consecrated host as He was in the manger in Bethlehem and on the cross on Calvary. From this living faith springs an ardent love of Him which they manifest in three ways. The first is by making as many visits to Jesus in the tabernacle as time and occupations permit, there to commune with Him as friend with friend. The second is by assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as often as possible, knowing that by doing so they can receive the very same graces they could have obtained had it been their privilege to assist with the Blessed Virgin, St. John, St. Mary Magdalen and the other holy persons at the first holy Mass which Christ offered on the altar of the cross on Calvary. Enlightened by faith they clearly understand that by hearing Mass devoutly they can offer God a more perfect worship than by all their other actions of the day, make full satisfaction for all their sins, and acqire a vast amount of grace and merit that can be obtained in no other way. The third is by responding to Christ's urgent invitation to rec- eivee Him frequently in Holy Communion. Deeply grateful for this unique favor, which, with its vast possibilities of an increase in grace and glory, is not granted even to the saints in heaven and was never granted to the angels, they will communicate as often as they can, even daily when possible. The devout reception of Holy Communion is for them a sweet foretaste of the surpassing happiness they confidently hope to enjoy in the Beatific Vision of God in heaven. Besides this, they will also practice the devotion of mak- ing a spiritual communion, especially when hindered from receiving Holy Communion sacramentally. In htese three ways does the Blessed Eucharist be- come for fervent Catholics an anticipation of the hapiness and bliss which God has prepared in His eternal kingdom for those who love Him here on earth. It can be asserted without fear of exaggeration that a better appreciation of these consoling truths would have this wonderfiul result: our churches would be too few and too small to hold the crowds that would daily assist at holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. But as it is, we are now confronted by the deplorable fact that many Catholics have so little appreciation of God's greatest gift to them that they never even think of making visits to the Blessed Sacrament; that they assist at Mass only on days of obligation and that because they are obliged to do so under pain of mortal sin; and receive Holy Communion very rarely, perhaps only once a year, and that too, because commanded under pain of sin. What a deplorable blindness and unpardonable ingratitude for God's most wonderful gift of love to mortal man! 24. Childlike Devotion to the Mother of God Fully persuaded that a tender and childlike devotion to the ever blessed Mother of God is a devotion that is not merely optional but really necessary, good Catholics will cherish a fervent love for her and seek to honor and ven- erate her to the best of their ability. For this purpose they will often medi- tate on her life, her sublime dignity, her marvelous graces, her tremendous sufferings and her glorious exaltation as Queen of angels and saints in the kingdom of her divine Son. Uniting themselves with the whole court of heaven, they will render fervent thanks to God for the wonderful privileges and graces He conferred on her that she might be a worthy mother of the Son of God made man. They will regularly perform certain devotions in her honor, such as fre- quently invoking her aid, often reciting the Hail Mary, saying the Angelus three times a day, making use of various aspirations, reciting the Rosary, hearing Mass and receiving Holy Communion in her honor, and celebrating her feasts with great devotion. But most of all, they will seel to imitate her faithfully in the example of perfect Christlike living that she has given us, for they know that without this imitation their other forms of deviotion lose much of their efficacy and value. 25. Imitation of Jesus Christ All that has been said in the foregoing pages can now be summed up in this concluding paragraph. Good Catholics are those who, true to their vocations as Christians, that is, followers of Christ, aim perseveringly at becoming as perfectly Christlike in thought, word and action as is possible for them with the never-failing grace of God and their own faithful cooperation. God will readily grant them all the graces and helps they need; but they must not fail to do their own part. Both must work together; the one without the other can accomplish nothing. Christ must live and work in them; and they must live and work in Christ. The world in which they live is a place of trial and probat- ion. As Christ lived in this world but was not of it, so also must they live in it but not be of it. They must, as St. Peter tells them, look upon them- selves as strangers and pilgrims who are on their journey from earth to heaven. Therefore they must not allow themselves to become entangled with the things of this world with which Satan is constantly trying to allure them in order to make them forget their eternal destiny and through sin bring about their eternal damnation. Those who have the right view of this great destiny take scrupulous care not to offend God even in small things; they are zealous in doing good works and in promoting the glory of God by word and deed; and they labor for the temporal and spiritual welfare of their neighbor. By doing these tings they are sanctifying themselves and fitting themselves for the fullest enjoyment of the glory of the kingdom of heaven, which was prepared for them from before the creation of the world. No matter what their partic- ular vocation or station in life may be, whether single or married, lay or religious, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, they seek to reproduce in themselves the image and likeness of Jesus Christ according to His own inst- ruction: "I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do" (John 13:15). A very great reward will one day be theirs, which consists in the unveiled vision of the Blessed Trinity, the secure possession, love and enjoyment of God, the happy companionship of all the angels and saints, all of which constitute the beatitude of heaven, of which we are asuure that: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the heart of man what things God has prepared for those who love Him"(1 Cor. 2:9). An "overwhelming weight of glory" will more than a millionfold recompense them for all the sacrifices they made, the self-denial they practiced, the good works they performed and the sufferings they endured here on earth that they might be genuinely good Catholics, that is, faithful followers and imi- tators of Jesus Christ, their Saviour and Master, their God and their all.
This is the text of a pamphlet written by Rev. John A O'Brien and originally copyrighted in 1944. Why Not Receive Daily? What is the greatest gift which a merciful and loving God has ever bestowed upon mankind? We answer: Jesus Christ. For Christ is God in- carnate. His delight was to be with the children of men. That He might be with them always as their changeless Friend, their inspiring Coun- selor, their great High Priest, he instituted the Sacrament of the Real Presence. In a myriad tabernacles scattered among all the countries of the wor- ld, the Eucaristic Christ is dwelling among His people. Not only does he dwell among them, but He gives Himself to them for the nourishment of their souls. Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, consubst- antial with the Father, gives Himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divi- nity, to mortal man in Holy Communion, as the food of man's spiritual life. Here is divine omnipotence emptying itself in the frail bosom of hum- anity. Here is divine love exhausting itself in the heart of man. Stripping Himself of the outward effulgence of the Godhead that he may not overawe us with His dazzling splendor, Jesus Christ comes to us under the lowly appearance of the Eucharistic Host. The mind reels and staggers in trying to conceive how even an infinite God could bestow such a gift upon His creatures. Christ, who cleansed lepers, restored sight to the blind, healed the sick, pardoned sinners, and died on Calvary's cross for the redemption of mankind, is present in the Eucharist. When He appeared to His apos- tles in the upper chamber after His resuurection, the doors and wind- ows were closed. Yet He suddenly stood in their midst and spoke to them. In that same glorified body, which transcends the properties of matter, Christ is present in the Sacrament of His love. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist stands, therefore, as an antidote for the vagueness of contemporary thought, as an anchor agai- nst the shifting currents of modern uncertainty and doubt. It takes God out of the mists of speculation and brings him into our very mid- st. In Holy Communion he comes to us as our heavenly manna, the bread of angels and the nutriment for our souls. All who hold steadfastly to this central doctrine of historical Christianity will find in it an invincible armor against the assaults of modern unbelief. It is the soldier's shield against danger and temptation. The Teaching of Christ Let us glance briefly at the teaching of Christ on this subject. It is stated with great clearness in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. John in the following verses: "'Amen, amen, I say to you, he who believes in me has life everlast- ing. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert, and have died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that if anyone eat of it he will not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.' "The Jews on that account argued with one another, saying, 'How can this Man give us his flesh to eat?' Jesus therefore said to them, 'Am- en, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day. "'For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me. This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and doed. He who eats thisbread shall live forever.'...Many of his disc- iples, therefore, when they heard this, said, 'This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?'" After this many of his disciples "turned back, and no longer went about with him. Jesus therefore said to the Twelve, 'Do you also wish to go away?' Simon Peter therefore answered, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast words of eternal life, and we have come to believe and to know that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.'" Christ fulfilled the promise to give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, at the Last Supper the night before He died. St. Matt- hew thus records the fulfillment: "And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke, and gave it to His disciples, and said, 'Take and eat. This is my body.' And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, 'All of you drink of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.'" With the added words, "Do this in rememberance of me," Christ author- ized and commanded the apostles and their successors to do the same as He had just done. St. Paul reflects this belief and practice of the Church in the first century, which is the same as that of the Church in the twentieth century, when he writes to the Corinthians: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the sharing of the blood of Christ? And the bread that we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?" Such, then, is the clear teaching of Christ concer- ning the Holy Eucharist - the Sacrament bringing to us His Body and Blood as our food and nourishment. Such from the beginning has been the belief of the apostles and of all the members of the Church found- ed by Christ. "The Word of Christ is Sufficient" One day a messenger, breathless with haste, burst in upon King Louis IX of France with surprising news. "Your Majesty," he cried, "hasten to the church! A great miracle is occurring there. A priest is saying Holy Mass, and after the consecration instead of the Host there is visible on the altar Jesus Himself in His human figure. Everybody is marveling at It. Hurry before It disappears." To the astonishment of the messenger, the saintly monarch replied: "Let them go to see that miracle who have any doubt regarding the Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Sacrament. As for me, even if I saw Jesus on the altar in His visible form, and touched Him with my hand, and heard His voice, I should not be more convinced that I now am that He is present in the consecrated Host. The word of Christ is suffic- ient for me. I need no miracle." Such too should be the faith of every believer in Christ. For what greater credential can there be for any Christian than the word of Christ Himself? We come now to the question: What use are we making of this greatest gift within the power of an omnipotent God to bestow upon mankind? We can avail ourselves of this divine benefaction by attending Holy Mass and offering in union with the priest the Eucharistic Victim in atone- ment for our sins, by visiting our Eucharistic King in the tabernacles on our altars, and particularly by receiving our Divine Lord in Holy Communion. No devotion is dearer to the Church than that of frequent, even daily Holy Communion. Fruits of the Sacrament The fruits of this Sacrament are manifold. It deepens our sense of the reality of God, makes us conscious of His comradeship, enables us to perceive Him as the witness of our every deed, the auditor of our every word, the spectator of the thoughts and aspirations which stir inarticulately in the silent kingdom of the soul. It thus frees us from the tyranny of the senses with their dependence upon the visible, the tangible, the palpable. It helps us to realize that the most profound realities of life are those which are spiritual and lie beyond the reach of the senses. It delivers us from the narrow prison cell of time and place by making us one in spirit with the cho- ice souls of every generation to whom the Presence of God is the most abiding reality in life. It enables us to break through the shell of external circumstances and grasp the kernel of spiritual reality which alone gives meaning and significance to human life. While making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1925, the writer chan- ced to pass through Smyrna (known now as Izmir) in Asia Minor. It was shortly after the Turks had pillaged and burned the city, and put hun- dreds to the sword. Still standing among the ruins was a convent, am- ong whose nuns was one from Ireland. "Do you not feel lost," she was asked, "in this out-of-the-way corner of the world, so far from your home in Ireland?" Pointing to the tabernacle she replied: "Father, wherever the Blessed Sacrament is, there I am at home. For there is my Lord and my God." Those are words which every believer - religious, priest, nun, or lay person - may utter. How effectively does the Eucharistic Lord dispel the touch of nostalgia from the heart of the missionary arriving in a foreign land! Where our Lord and our God is, there can be no homesick- ness. For He is the essential element in every home. Hidden Source of Strength The present writer has visited homes in Mexico where Sisters, wearing the dress of laywomen, were carrying on the work of Christian educat- ion in spite of the government's prohibition. No religious picture, image or symbol could be displayed. No tabernacle, altar or chapel was permitted. Yet in every such home would be a room where, hidden away in a bureau, bookcase or other furniture, was the Blessed Sacrament. Thither the Sisters repaired for the strength and courage to continue their uphill fight against the systematic efforts of the enemies of religion. Take away their garb, their altar, their chapel, their cruc- ifixes and all the external symbols of their faith, but leave them their Eucharistic Lord and King, and you will have left them all that matters. It is not only to missionaries in distant lands, and to Christians under the fire of persecution, however, that the Holy Eucharist brings strength and intrepidity, but to all lonely and home sick souls. The day these lines were written a student said to the writer: "Father, when I came to the university a few weeks ago I was homesick and al- one. It is so large an institution and this my first real absence from home. But after receiving Holy Communion, all feelings of loneliness vanished." He was only voicing the experience of many, many persons away from the warmth of the family fireside and the loving atmosphere of home; civilians, and soldiers and sailors as well. When Christ com- es into our heart, there we are at home-in any city or in any land. Another fruit of Holy Communion is the strength which it gives us to resist temptation and to break the habits of sin. There are some who think that frequent Holy Communion should be the exclusive privilege of holy souls far removed from moral danger. Yet the Sacred Congreg- ation of the Council thought otherwise, for it expressly declared: "The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church that all the faithful should daily approach the sacred banquet is directed chiefly to this end, that the faithful, being united to God by means of the Sacrament, may hence derive strength to resist their sensual passions, to cle- anse themselves from the stains of daily faults, and to avoid those graver sins to which human frailty is liable;...Hence the holy Council of Trent calls the Eucharist 'the antidote whereby we are delivered from daily faults and preserved from deadly sins.'" It is therefore needed most of all by those who are weak or who are struggling to break the manacles of a sinful habit. It is the supreme remedy against temptation; and there is no habit, no matter how strong the links in the chain whereby it binds us, which can long resist the transcendent power of this Sacrament. Sensuality, intoxication, anger, jealousy, greed - all yield to its silent force. Any confessor can say to any penitent groveling in the mire of sens- uality: "Do you really wish to break this habit? Then go to daily Com- munion until you have done so. If you are not willing to do that, you are making a mockery of the purpose of amendment. You are lacking in determination and in sincerity." It is high time for penitents to realize that "purpose of amendment" means more than a mere moving of the lips. It means the whole-hearted utilization of a remedy of demonstrated effectiveness. In short, it means having recourse to daily Holy Communion. "But Now I am Strong" During the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian, many Christians paid with their lives for their faith in Christ. Among the number brought before the pagan tribunal were a father and his young son. The Emperor commanded the father to offer incense to the gods of imperial Rome or pay the penalty with his life. "Rather than betray the faith which has been purchased for me at the cost of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ," replied the father, "I will die." He was cast into the arena and there under the executioner's sword sealed with his life's blood his faith in the Redeemer. As the twelve-year-old boy witnessed the cruel death inflicted upon his father, he was overcome with horror. The Emperor, seeing him trem- ble and turn pale, said: "You surely will not be so foolish as your father. Come, offer inc- ense to the gods of Rome, and I will not only spare your life but will give you anything your youthful heart asks." The boy had taken a few steps toward the incense pyre when suddenly he stopped spellbound. What was that voice he heard echoing in his in- ner ear? It was the voice of his father repeating his dying words. Turning, the boy walked quickly over to the spot in the arena where the sand was still crimsoned with the martyr's blood. He stooped and took up a handful of this wet sand. "A few moments ago," he said, "I was weak and about to yield, but now I am strong with the blood of my father. Rather than deny the faith purchased for me by the Blood of Jesus Christ and of my own martyred father, I too will die." Unfalteringly he placed his head upon the swordsman's block. As the head fell, severed from the body, the boy's blood trickled down to mingle with the man's. Devout Christians who stood by saw in that un- ion a reflection of the other union beyond the skies, where father and son were clasped in the arms of the Master to receive from his hand the glorious crown of martyrdom. Those words of the martyred youth in ancient Rome are the words which every communicant can truthfully utter: "A little while ago I was weak and about to yield. But now I am strong with the blood of my Father and my God. Rather than betray Him by commiting a deliberate mortal sin, I too would be willing to die." In Holy Communion, moreover, we do not merely clench in our hands sand crimsoned with blood - we rec- eive into our very hearts the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We become partakers of His divine life and secure a foretaste of that union with Him in the Beatific Vision which constitutes the essential happiness of heaven. Other Advantages Among the other fruits of Holy Communion are an increase of sanctify- ing grace, the remission of venial sins, a strengthening of the will, an increased horror of sin and the remission of the temporal punish- ment due to sin. Even mortal sin is washed from the soul of the per- son who, not remembering the offense, receives Holy Communion in good faith. This implies that the communicant have sorrow for all his sins and that if the mortal sin should later come to his mind, he will men- tion it in his next confession. The reason for this indirect remission of mortal sin through Holy Communion is to be found in the fact that it infuses sanctifying grace into the soul of the person who does not knowingly place an obstacle in the way; and sanctifying grace not only beautifies the soul, but also removes any sin, mortal or venial, that may be there. Hence, Holy Communion INDIRECTLY remits even mortal sin. Treating of the efficacy of the Sacrament in strengthening the will to resist temptation, the Catechism of the Council of Trent says: "In the holy mysteries is, moreover, such efficacy as to preserve us pure and unhurt from sin and from the assault of temptations, and prepare the soul, as it were by a heavenly medicine, against the easy approach and infection of virulent and deadly disease...It also restrains and represses the lust of the flesh; for while it inflames souls more with the fire of charity, it of necessity extinguishes the ardor of concup- iscence" (Part II, Chap. 4, quest. 51). St. Thomas Aquinas, prince of the Church's theologians, thus sums up the far-reach effects of Holy Communion: "The Sacrament of the Body of the Lord puts the demons to flight, defends us against the incentives to vice and concupiscence, cleanses the soul from sin, assuages the anger of God, enlightens the understanding to know God, inflames the will and the affections witht he love of God, fills the memory with spiritual sweetness, confirms the entire man in good, frees us from eternal death, multiplies the merits of a good life, leads us to our everlasting home, and reaninmates the body to eternal life." The person who is strengthened to resist temptation is by that very fact heartened to fight more courageously for virtue, honor, right, manliness. One who knows he is free from sin and whose friendship with his Lord and Maker has been deepened and made more intimate through Holy Communion, enters into all his undertakings with greater resolve and abandon. Knute Rockne's Story Knute Rockne, the late famed coach at Notre Dame, once told of the deep impression made upon him by witnessing his players arise on the morning of a game and go off to receive Holy Communion. His observant eye could not fail to notice how fully such players threw themselves into the game and how courageously they fought. "One night before a big game in the East" - this is the way Rockne related the story - "I found myself worried about how it would go and unable to sleep. I tossed and rolled about the bed until I finally decided to dress and go downstairs. It must have been two or three o'clock in the morning when I arrived in the deserted lobby, so I took a chair and tried to get that football game off my mind by engaging the bellboys in conversation. "Along about five or six o'clock in the morning I suddenly saw two of my players hurrying out through the lobby. I asked them where they were going at such an hour, although I had a good idea. "Then I retired to a chair in the corner where I could see everyone who went in or out of the door. Within the next few minutes, my play- ers kept hurrying out in pairs and groups. Finally I got over near the door so I could question the next one who came along. In a minute or two, the last members of the squad hurried out of an elevator and made for the door. I stopped them and asked them if they, too, were going to Mass, and they replied that they were. I decided to go along with them. "Although they probably didn't realize it, those youngsters were mak- ing a powerful impression on me with their piety and devotion, and when I saw all of them walking up to the Communion rail to receive, and realized the several hours' sleep they had sacrificed in order to do this, I understood for the first time what a powerful ally their religion was to them in their on the football field. This was when I really began to see the light; to know what was missing in my life.... Later on, I had the great pleasure of being able to join my boys at the Communion rail." Requirements for Daily Communion What are the requirements for daily Communion? On December 16, 1905, the Sacred Congregation of the Council decreed: "1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a thing most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the holy table with a right and devout disposition, can lawfully be hindered therefrom. "2. A right disposition consists in this: that he who approaches the holy table should do so, not out of routine, or vainglory, or human respect, but for the purpose of pleasing God, of being more closely united to Him by charity, and of seeking this divine remedy for weak- nesses and defects." From this it is evident that any person who is not certain that he is in the state of mortal sin, and who approaches the holy table for the purpose of nourishing his soul with this heavenly bread, is to be ad- mitted to the Sacrament. Mere scruples or doubts are not sufficient to prohibit him: nothing but the absolute certainty of mortal sin. Furthermore, it is not necessary to go to confession every time one wishes to receive. This would would impose some inconvenience and would doubtless deter many. The Council is explicit in declaring that nothing need keep a person from approaching as often as he wishes, provided only that he is in the state of grace and has the proper dis- position. By making daily Communion so easily available, the Church shows her profound solicitude that the faithful should approach with the greatest frequency. Objections Based on Fear "I do not believe myself worthy to receive Holy Communion often." This objection is based upon a misconception of the primary purpose of Holy Communion. It is not so much a reward for virtue as an anti- dote for sin. "If you are not worthy to communicate everyday," asks St. Ambrose, "are you more worthy after abstaining a year from from Communion?" (De Sacramentis, lib. V.C.IV). The very fact that you feel yourself weak and easily drawn into sin is reason for you to receive often. The Church bids you to repeat with the priest before Communion the humble acknowledgement: "Lord, I am not worthy." The longer you abstain from this heavenly food the less worthy do you become to re- ceive, since it is, as the Council of Trent so beautifully points out, "the antidote whereby we are delivered from daily faults and preserved from deadly sins." "I am afraid of losing my respect and devotion for Holy Communion by too great familiarity. The reception will become mere mechanical rout- ine." Loss of devotion will result from improper preparation. But if one prepares devoutly for Holy Communion, frequent reception will deepen one's sentiments of reverence and love. Familiarity in the sense of intimacy and union with Christ is not to be deprecated; indeed, it is the object of all prayer and spiritual exercise. In regard to routine, two kinds are to be distinguished. There is the routine objected to in Rule 2 of the Decree on Daily Holy Communion. This is the purely mech- anical reception of the Sacrament with an attitude of irreverence or at least of indifference, in short, with an absence of "right and dev- out disposition." This attitude is the very opposite of the one engen- dered by frequent Communion when care is taken to prepare properly for this great act by the arousing of sentiments of reverence and love. "He who eats of me will hunger still, he who drinks of me will thirst for more." This saying of Sirach reflects the experience of every dev- out recipient of frequent Communion. The second kind of routine is that which is synonymous with habit. In this sense routine indicates a facility of action which is most desir- able in regard to all virtuous deeds. Thus it is eminently desirable to make the daily recitation of one's morning and evening prayers a matter of routine or habit. Hence, too, it is most desirable to make the devout reception of daily Communion a matter of habitual practice instead of one dependent on whim or caprice. The whole aim of the spiritual life is to render the performance of virtuous actions, in this sense, a matter of routine. "I don't like going to Communion without confession, and I don't have either the time or the opportunity to go to confession everyday." As we have said, the Church teaches that one may receive Holy Comm- union repeatedly without going to confession, provided of course one is not conscious of any mortal sin. The Decree on Holy Communion al- ready quoted explicitly states that only two conditions are requisite, namely, the "state of grace" and "a right and devout intention." It is not the mark of a good Catholic to be more exacting than the Pope. Consequently, one may go to Communion with a clear conscience as long as he remains free from mortal sin. Other Misunderstandings "Frequent Holy Communion is all right for women and children, but it is inappropriate for men." With God there is no double standard of morality or piety. Prayer and the sacraments are the means of grace alike for men, women and child- ren. Because men are frequently exposed to a great variety of tempt- ations, they have a correspondingly great need for this divine anti- dote to sin. It is a complete misconception of purpose for which Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist to doubt that it was meant for all, and especially for those who encounter many moral dangers. It is their best fortification. The martyrs who walked out into the arena of the Roman ampitheater to face wild animals or the sword found in the devout reception of the Holy Eucharist the strength to meet their ordeal without faltering. He who bows his head in the frequent reception of this divine manna be- comes the strongest, the most manly and most courageous among men. "I do not have sufficient time for proper preparation for Holy Comm- union or the thanksgiving afterward. Hence I cannot receive often." True, there should be due preparation. But does this mean the recit- ation of many prayers, the performance of many devotional exercises? Not at all. The best preparation for Communion is a good life and the sanctifying of one's ordinary daily actions. If one is hurried, it will still be possible to make the immediate preparation while going to the Church, and to continue the thanksgiving on the way home. There are two axioms which apply here, namely, "Where there is a will, there is a way," and "Love will find a way." The individual who has once experienced the warmth and intimacy of daily union with Christ in Holy Communion will laugh at the trivial excuses which deter the faint -hearted and the indifferent. "Why should I start the practice of daily Communion when I know that I shall not be able to keep it up?" Because half a loaf is better than no bread. Even if the practice cannot be continued when one leaves school, or moves to a different location, it will nevertheless be a matter of supreme importance to have fortified one's character and deepened one's virtue and piety by having received frequently for even a limited period. And a word may be said of young people especially. The fact is that during the plas- tic days of their youth they stand in greater need of spiritual rein- forcement than they will after their characters are formed. During adolescence new passions are awakening within them. Their experience is very limited and offers but little help in restraining the forces striving for the mastery. During this crucial period when the youth is sculpting his character for weal or for woe, it is an immense advan- tage to form the habit of frequent Communion so that he may have on his side the most powerful ally in the world. If he enlists this ally earnestly, there can be no doubt of the successful outcome of his struggle. The habit of frquent Communion will tide him over the crit- ical years and plant so deeply in his young soul the seeds of piety and virtue that the after years will bring an abundant harvest. Daily Holy Communion for the youth of every school and college in our land is the ideal placed before us by the Sovereign Pontiff. And a ministry of more than a quater of a century among students has crystallized in the writer an unshakable belief that the formation of such a habit is the best guarantee of enduring faith and the most valuable contribut- ion to character-building that we can give them. Christ Knocks, But You Must Open In the chapel of Keble College, Oxford, there hangs the famous mast- erpiece, The Light of the World, by Holman Hunt. It depicts the Master standing and knocking at a door. Vines are growing over it, and the hinges are rusty from long disuse. In His hand He holds a lantern. "Behold!" He is saying, "I stand at the door, and knock." When Hunt had finished his painting, he invited his fellow-artists to inspect it. They viewed it carefully from this angle and from that. Their praises were loud. "It is the masterpiece of all time," they said. "But," said one of them, "you have forgotten one thing." "What is that?" asked Hunt. "You have forgotten to place a knob on the door." "No," said Hunt, "I have not forgotten it. I have omitted it purpose- ly. For that is the door of the human heart and it opens only from within." Christ may knock. Christ may plead. But it is only we who can admit Him. Christ is standing today before the door of every human heart, pleading for admittance in the Sacrament of His Love. Will you not open it each day and let Him in? (Continued below)
If Catholics but understood how easy and simple it is to receive Holy Communion frequently, even daily, and how fruitful is this practice, the number of frequent communicants would grow by leaps and bounds. Certainly, weekly reception is most easy. We are all obliged to hear Mass on Sunday. Why not arise at the Communion time, walk up to the railing and receive the Source of all goodness and the Author of all holiness? Why not thus receive the maximum fruit of the Eucharistic Sacrifice? Let us put aside all vacillation and hesitancy and do our part thro- ugh frequent Communion in bringing about the Eucharistic renaissance which means so much for the happiness of the individual and the peace and welfare of the world. Let us show the world once and for all by the eloquence of our actions that we believe with a profound and deathless faith the words of our divine Master, Jesus Christ: "My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed...He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day."