On the Feast of the Patron Saint of Moral Theologians: Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori was giving me "what for" in July of 2008 as I read each of the fifty-three sermons he wrote during the time that he was the Bishop of Saint Agatha dei Goti between 1762 and 1775. No matter the fact that there had been a passage of time of over two hundred fifty years since these sermons were composed, I felt the biting sting of his rebukes and the firm love of the Divine Redeemer, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that prompted Saint Alphonsus de Liguori to have such great, burning zeal for the salvation of souls as a tenderly devoted client of the Mother of God. The Sunday Sermons of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori are but a small part of the zealous work that he performed as a priest and as a bishop for the poor and the homeless of the Kingdom of Naples. They are but a small part of his body of writing, which includes such great volumes as The Glories of Mary and Preparation for Death, among many others. However, the Sunday Sermons of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori speak very plainly to us in our own day, explaining the Faith and our obligations to quite our tepidity and worldliness in no uncertain terms.

Although each of the fifty-three Sunday sermons is online at the "Save Thy Souls" section of Traditional Catholic Sermons.org, it is useful and appropriate to provide a few written excerpts from some of the sermons to demonstrate that Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, the Patron Saint of Moral Theologians and the Founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorist Fathers, a tireless worker in behalf of the poor and downtrodden, a priest and a bishop and a scholar who combated the hideous heresy of Jansenism and who was sought after for spiritual counsel by Dominicans and Franciscans and Jesuits, is most correct to give us "what for" some two hundred twenty after his death on August 1, 1797.

The sermon written for the First Sunday in Advent contains some very powerful admonitions to us to consider the General Judgment of the Living and the Dead each and every day our lives:

Worldlings now regard as fools the saints, who led mortified and humble lives; but then they shall confess their own folly, and say: "We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints"--Wis., v. 4, 5. In this world, the rich and the noble are called happy; but true happiness consists in a life of sanctity. Rejoice, ye souls who live in tribulation; "your sorrow shall be turned into joy"--John, xvi. 20. In the valley of Josaphat you shall be seated on thrones of glory. 

But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left, to await their last condemnation "Judici tempus", says Saint Chrysostom, "misericordiam non recipit". On the day of judgment, there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners. "Magna", says St. Augustine, "jam est poena peccati metum et memoriam divini perdidisse judicii"--serm. xx, de Temp. The greatest punishment of sin in those who live in enmity with God, is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment. Continue, continue. says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the day of judgment a treasure of the wrath of God. "But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest  up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath"--Rom., ii. 5. 

Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves; but, with insufferable pain, they shall be compelled to appear in judgment. "To lie hid", says St. Anselm, "will be impossible--to appear will be intolerable." The devils will perform their office of accusers, and as St. Augustine says, will say to the Judge: "Most just God, declare him to be mine, who was unwilling to be yours". The witnesses against the wicked shall be, first, their own conscience--"Their conscience bearing witness to them"--Rom., ii. 15; secondly, the very walls of the house in which they sinned shall cry out against them--"The stone shall cry out of the wall"--Hab., ii. 11; thirdly, the Judge himself will say--"I am the judge and the witness, saith the Lord:--Jer., xxix. 23. Hence, according to St. Augustine, "He who is now the witness of your life, shall be the judge of your cause"--lib. x. de Chrod., c. ii. To Christians particularly he will say: "Wo to thee Corazain, wo to thee Bethsaida; for in in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes"--Matt., xi. 21. Christians, he will say, if the graces which I have bestowed upon ou had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. "I will discover thy shame to they face"--Nahum., iii. 5. He will expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices, and cruelties. "I will set all they abominations against thee"--Ezech., vii. 3. Each of the damned shall carry his sins written on his forehead. 

What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah! they can offer no excuses. "All iniquity shall stop her mouth"--Ps., cvi. 42. Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will have not courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.

Third point. Sentence of the elect, and of the reprobate.  

St. Bernard says, that the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost. "Prius pronunciabitur sententia electis, ut acrius (reprobi) doleant videntes quid amiserint"--ser. viii. in Ps. xc. Jesus Christ, then, shall first turn to the elect, and with a serene countenance shall say: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"--Matt., xxv 34. He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and communions, above all, he will bless for them the pains of his passion, and the blood shed for their salvation. And, after these benedictions, the elect, singing alleluias, shall enter Paradise to praise and love God for all eternity. 

The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and shall pronounce the sentence of their condemnation in these words: "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire"--Matt., xxv. 41. They shall then be for ever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn for ever in the fire of Hell. "And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting"--Matt., xxv. 46. 

After this sentence, the wicked shall, according to St. Ephrem, be compelled to take leave for ever of their relatives, of Paradise, of the saints, and of Mary the divine mother. "Farewell, ye just! farewell, O cross! farewell, O Paradise! farewell, fathers and brothers: we shall never see you again! farewell, O Mary, mother of God!"--S. Eph. de variis serm. inf. Then a great pit shall be opened in the middle of the valley: the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those doors shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! to what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ! O unhappy souls! for whom is prepared such a melancholy end. But, brethren, have confidence. Jesus Christ is now a father, and not a judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent. Let us then instantly ask pardon from him. First Sunday In Advent: On The General Judgment   (15 Minutes)

Imagine saying farewell to your wife or your husband or your son or your daughter or your own parents and brothers and sisters as you yourself are sent to Hell for all eternity? Imagine saying farewell to the Mother of God whose suffering at the foot of her Divine Son's Most Holy Cross effect your spiritual rebirth as an adopted son or daughter of the Living God? Imagine saying farewell to the instrument of our salvation, the Most Holy Cross, that we mocked and scorned by means of our sins and bad confessions and our lukewarmness and unworthy Communions and overall attachment to the spirit of the world, to say nothing of our refusal to be the least bit mortified so as to store some merit for eternity as the consecrated slaves of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary?

Death can happen at any time, as Saint Alphonsus noted in his sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost: All Ends And Soon Ends   (21 Minutes).  We must be prepared at all times to face death, and to pray each day to be delivered from a sudden and sacramentally unprovided for death:

When one of the great of this world is in the full enjoyment of the riches and honours which he has acquired, death shall come, and he shall be told: "Take order with thy house; for thou shalt die, and not live"--Isa., xxxviii. 1.Oh! what doleful tidings! The unhappy man must then say: Farewell, O world! farewell, O villa! farewell, O grotto! farewell, relatives! farewell, friends! farewell, sports! farewell, balls! farewell, comedies! farewell, banquets! farewell, honours! all is over for me. "For when he shall die, he shall take nothing away; nor shall his glory descend with him"--Ps., xlviii. 18. St. Bernard says that death produces a horrible separation of the soul from the body and from all the things of this Earth. "Opus mortis horrendum divortium"-serm. xxvi., in Cant. To the great of this world, whom worldlings regard as the most fortunate of mortals, the bare name of death is so full of bitterness that they are unwilling even to hear it mentioned; for their entire concern is to find peace in their Earthly goods. "O death!" says Ecclesiasticus, "how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that hath peace in his possessions"--Eccl., xli. 1. But, how much greater bitterness shall death itself cause, when it actually comes! Miserable the man who is attached to the goods of this world! Every separation produces pain. Hence, when the soul shall be separated by the stroke of death from the goods on which she had fixed all her affections, the pain must be excruciating. It was this that made king Agag exclaim, when the news of approaching death was announced to him: "Doth bitter death separate me in this manner?"--I. Kings., xv. 32. The great misfortune of worldlings is, that when they are on the point of being summoned to judgment, instead of endeavouring to adjust the accounts of their soul, they direct all their attention to Earthly things. But, says St. John Chrysostom, the punishment which awaits sinners, on account of having forgotten God during life, is that the forget themselves at the hour of death. "hac animadversione percutitur impius, ut moriens oliviscatur sui, qui vivens oblitus est Dei.". . . .    

Men know well, and believe firmly, that they shall die; but they imagine death as far ass of it if were never to arrive. But Job tells us that the life of man is short. "Man born of a woman, living fora short time, is filled with many miseries. Who cometh forth like a flower and is destroyed"--Job., xiv. 2. At present the health of men is so much impaired, that, as we see by experience, the greater number of them die before they attain the age of seventy. And what, says St. James, is our life, but a vapour, which a blast of wind, a fever, a stroke of apoplexy, a puncture, an attack of the chest, causes to disappear, and which is seen no more? "For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while"--St. James, iv. 15. "We all die", said the woman of Thecua to David, "and like waters that return no more, we fall down into the earth"---II. Kings, xiv. 14. She spoke the truth;--as all rivers and streams run to the sea, and as the gliding waters return no more, so our days pass away, and we approach to death. 

They pass; they pass quickly. "My days", says Job, "have been swifter than a post"--Job, ix. 25. Death comes to meet us, and runs more swiftly than a post; so that every step we make, every breath we draw, we approach to death. St. Jerome felt, that even while he was writing, he was drawing nearer to death. Hence he said: 'What I write is taken away from my life". "Quod scribo de mea vita tollitur". Let us, then, say with Job: Years pass by, and with them pleasures, honours, pomps, and all things in this world pass away, "and only the rave remaineth for me"--Job, xvii. 1. In a word, all the glory of the labours we have undergone in this world, in order to acquire a large income, a high character for valour, for learning and genius, shall end in our being thrown into a pit to become the food of worms. The miserable worldling then shall say at death: My house, my garden, my fashionable furniture, my pictures and rich apparel, shall, in a short time, belong no more to me; "and only the grave remaineth for me". 

But, how much soever the worldling may be distracted by his worldly affairs and by his pleasures--how much soever he may be entangled in them, St. Chrysostom says, that, when the fear of death, which sets fire to all things of the present life, begins to enter the soul, it will compel him to think and to be solicitous about his lot after death. "Cum pulsare animam incipit metus mortis (ignis instar praesentis vitae omnia succendens) philosophari eam cogit, et futura solicita mente versari" serm. in II. tim.--Isa., xxxv. 5. Then indeed shall be opened the eyes of those blind worldlings who have employed their whole life in acquiring Earthly goods, and have paid but little attention to the interests of the soul. In all these shall be verified what Jesus Christ has told them--that death shall come when they least expect it. "At what hour you think not, the Son of Man will come"--Luke, xii.--40. Thus, on these unhappy men death always comes unexpectedly. Hence, because the lovers of the world are not usually warned of their approaching dissolution till it is very near, they must, in the last few days of life, adjust the accounts of their soul for the fifty or sixty years which they lived on this Earth. They will then desire another month, or another week, to settle their accounts, and to tranquilize their conscience. But, "they will seek for peace, and there shall be none:--Ezec., vii. 25. The time which they desire is refused. The assisting priest reads the divine command to depart instantly from this world: "Proficiscere anima Christiana de hoc mundo." Depart, Christian soul, from this world. Oh! how dangerous the entrance of worldlings into eternity, dying, as they do, amid so much darkness and confusion, in consequences of the disorderly state of the accounts of their souls. . . .  

All things in this world--acquisitions, applause, grandeur--must, as we have said, all end, and end very soon. "the fashion of this world passeth away"--I. Cor., vii. 31. The scene of this life passes away: happy they who, in this scene, act their part well, and save their souls, preferring the eternal interests of the soul to all the temporal interests of the body. "He that hateth his life in his world, keepeth it unto life eternal"--John, xii. 26. Worldlings say: Happy the man who hoards up money! happy they who acquire the esteem of the world, and enjoy the pleasures of this life! O folly! Happy he who loves God and saves his soul! The salvation of his soul and was the only favour which king David asked of God. "One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek after"--Ps., xxvi. 4. And St. Paul said, that to acquire the race of Jesus Christ, which contains eternal life, he despised as dung all worldly goods. "I count all things as loss.......and I count them as dung, that I may gain Christ"--Phil., iii. 8. 

But certain fathers of families will say: I do not labour so much for myself as for my children, whom I wish to leave in comfortable circumstances. But I answer: If you dissipate the goods which you possess, and leave our children in poverty, you do wrong, and are guilty of sin. But will you lose your soul in order to leave your children comfortable? If you call into Hell, perhaps they will come and release you from it? O folly! Listen to what David said: "I have not seen the just man forsaken, nor his seed seeking bread"--Ps., xxxvi. 25. Attend to the service of God; act according to justice; the Lord will provide for the wants of your children; and you shall save your souls, and shall lay up that eternal treasure of happiness which can never be taken from you--a treasure not like Earthly possessions, of which you may be deprived by robbers, and which you shall certainly lose at death. This is the advice which the Lord gives you--"But lay up to yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal"--Matt., vi. 20. In conclusion, attend to the beautiful admonition which St. Gregory gives to all who wish to live well and to gain eternal life. "Sit nobis in intentione aeternitas, in usu temporalitats". Let the end of all our actions in this life be, the acquisition of eternal goods; and let us use temporal things only to preserve life for the little time we have to remain on this Earth. The saint continues: "Sicut nulla est proportio inter aeternitatem et nostrae vitae tempus, ita nulla debet esse proportio inter aeternitatis, et hujus, vitae curas". As this is an infinite distance between eternity and the time of our life, so there ought to be, according to our mode of understanding, an infinite distance between the attention which we should pay to the goods of eternity, which shall be enjoyed for ever, and the care we take of the goods of this life, which death shall soon take away from us. (Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost: All Ends And Soon Ends.)

In order to get home to Heaven, therefore, we must surround ourselves with people who are not worldlings. No, this does not mean that we are any better than other people. We are sinners. Unlike worldlings and those steeped in lives of unrepentant sin, however, and solely because of God's gratuitous graces won for us by the shedding of every single drop His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross and that flow into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces, we are sorry for our sins and want to amend our lives as we do reparation for our sins and those of the whole world as the consecrated slaves of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must avoid bad company, Saint Alphonsus de Liguori explained in his sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost: On Avoiding Bad Company   (15 Minutes)

"A friend of fools:, says the Holy Ghost, "shall become like them"--Prov., xiii. 20. Christians who live in enmity with God, are, Father M. Avila used to say, all fools, who deserve to be shut up in a madhouse. For, what greater madness can be conceived than to believe in Hell, and to live in sin? But the man who contracts an intimacy with these fools, shall soon become like them. Although he should hear all the sermons of the sacred orators, he will continue in vice, according to the celebrated maxim: "Examples make greater impressions than words". Hence the Royal Prophet has said: "With the elect though wilt be elect, and with the perverse thou wilt be perverted"--Ps., xvii. 27. St. Augustine says, that familiarity with sinners is as it were a hook, which draws us to communicate in their vices. Let us, said the saint, avoid wicked friends, "lest by their company we may be drawn to a communion of vice". St. Thomas teaches, that to know whom we should avoid, is a great means of saving our souls. "Firma tutela salutis est, scire quem fugiamus".  

"Let their way become dark and slipper, and let the angel of the Lord pursue them"--Ps., xxxiv. 6. All men in this life walk in the midst of darkness, and in a slippery way. If, then, a bad angel--that is, a wicked companion, who is worse than any devil--pursue them, and endeavour to drive them into an abyss, who shall be able to escape death? "Talis eris", says Plato, "qualis conversatio quam sequeris?" And St. John Chrysostom said, that if we wish to know a man's moral habits, we have only to observe the character of the friends with whom he associates: because friendship finds or makes him like his friends. "Vis nosse hominem, attende quorum familiartate assuescat: amicitia aut pares invenit, aut pares facit:. First, because, to please his friends, a man will endeavour to imitate them; secondly, because, as Seneca says, nature inclines men to do what they see others do. And the Scripture says: "They were mingled among the heathens, and learned their works"--Ps., cv. 35. According to St. Basil, as air which comes from pestilential places causes infection, so, by conversation with bad companions, we almost imperceptibly contract their vices. "Quemadmodum in pestilentibus locis sensim attractus aer latentem corporibus morbum injuicit sic itidem in prava conversatione maxima a nobis mala haurinutur, etiamsi statim incommodum non sentiatur"--S. Bas., hom. ix. ex. var. Quod Deus, etc. And St. Bernard says, that St. Peter, in consequence of associating with the enemies of Jesus Christ, denied his Master. "Existens cum passionis dominicae ministris, Dominum negavit". 

But how, asks St. Ambrose, can bad companions give you the odour of chastity, when they exhale the stench of impurity? How can they infuse into you sentiments of devotion, when they themselves fly from it? How can they impart to you a shame of offending God, when they cast it away? "Quid tibi demonstrant castiatem quem non habent? Devotionem quam non sequuuntur? Verecundiam quam projiciunt?" St. Augustine writes of himself, that when he associated with bad companions, who boasted of their wickedness, he felt himself impelled to sin without shame; and to appear like them, he gloried in his evil actions. "Pudebat", he says, "me esse pudentum"-lib. 2, de Conf., c. ix. Hence Isaias admonishes you to "touch no unclean thing:--Isa., lii. 11. Touch not what is unclean: if you do, you too shall be polluted. he that handles pitch, says Ecclesiasticus, shall certainly be defiled with it; and they who keep company with the proud, shall be clothed with pride. The same holds for other vices: "He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it; and he hath fellowship with the proud, shall put on pride"--Eccl., xiii. 1.  

What then must we do? The Wise Man tells us, that we ought not only to avoid the vices of the wicked, but also to beware of treading in the ways in which they walk. "Restrain they foot from their paths"--Prov., i. 15. That is, we should avoid their conversations, their discourses, their feasts, and all the allurements and presents with which they will seek to entice us into their net. "My son," says Solomon, "if sinners shall entice thee, consent not them"--Prov., i. 10. Without the decoy, the birds are not enticed into the fowler's net. "Will the bird fall into the snare upon the earth, if there be no fowler?"--Amos, iii. 5. The Devil employs vicious friends as decoys, to draw so many souls into the snare of sin. "My enemies", says Jeremias, "have chased me, and have caught me like a bird without cause"--Lamen., iii. 52. He says, without cause. Ask the wicked whey they have made a certain innocent young man fall into sin; and they will answer: We have done it without cause; we only wish to see him to do what we ourselves do. This, says St. Ephrem, is one of the artifices of the Devil: when he has caught a soul in his net, he makes him a snare, or a decoy, to deceive others. "Cum primum capta fuerit anima, ad alias decipiendas fit quasi laqueus".  

Hence it is necessary to avoid, as you would a plague, all familiarity with these scorpions of Hell. I have said that you must avoid familiarity with them--that is, all fellowship in their banquets or conversation; for, never to meet them is, as the Apostle says, impossible. "Otherwise you must needs go out of this world"--I. Cor., v. 10. But, it is in our power to abstain from familiar intercourse with them. "But now I have written to you, not to keep company, etc........with such a one, not so much as to eat"--ibid., v. 11. I have called them scorpions: so they have been called by the Prophet Ezechiel: "Thou art among unbelievers and destroyers, and thou dwellest among scorpions"--Ezech., ii. 6. Would you live in the midst of scorpions? You must then fly from scandalous friends, who, by their bad examples and words, poison your soul. "A man's enemies shall be they of his own household"--Matt., x. 36. Wicked friends that are very familiar and intimate to us, become the most pernicious enemies of our souls. "Who", says Ecclesiasticus, "will pit an enchanter struck by a serpent, or any that come near wild beasts? So it is with him that keepeth company with a wicked man"--Eccl., xii. 13. If the man that makes free with serpents, or with ferocious wild beasts, be bitten or devoured by them, who will take pity on him? And so it is with him who associates with scandalous companions; if, by their bad example, he be contaminated and lost, neither God nor man will have compassion on him; because he was cautioned to fly from their society.  

One scandalous companion is enough to corrupt all who treat him as a friend. "Know you not", says St. Paul, "That a little leaven corrupts the whole lump?"--I. Cor., v. 6. One of these scandalous sinners is able, by a perverse maxim, to infect all his companions. They are the false prophets whom Jesus Christ warns us to avoid. "Beware of false prophets",--Matt., vii. 15. False prophets deceive, not only by false predictions, but also by false maxims or doctrines, which are productive of the greatest mischief. For, as Seneca says, they leave in the soul certain seeds of iniquity which lead to evil. "Semina in animo relinquunt, quae inducunt ad malum". It is too true that scandalous language, as experience proves, corrupts the morals of those who hear it. "Evil communications", says the Apostle, "corrupt good manner"--I. cor., xv. 33. A young man refuses, through the fear of God, to commit a certain sin; an incarnate David, a bad companion, comes, and says to him what the serpent said to Eve--"No; you shall not die the death"--Gen., iii. 4. What are you afraid of? How many others commit this sin? You are young; God will have pity on your youth. They will, as is written in the book of Wisdom, say: "Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present,...let us spend our time in amusements and in joy. "O nimis iniqua amicitia", says St. Augustine, "cum dicitur, eaumus, faciamus: pudet non esse impudentum". O cruel friendship of those who say: Let us go and do, etc.; it is a shame not e shameless. He who hears such language is shamed not to yield to it, and not to be as shameless as they who utter it.  

When any passion is kindled within us, we must be particularly careful in selecting the persons whom we will consult. For, then the passion itself will incline us to seek counsel from those who will probably give the advice which is most agreeable to the passion. But from such evil counsellors, who do not speak according to God, we should fly with greater horror than from an enemy; for their evil counsel, along with the passion which is excited, may precipitate us into horrible excesses. As soon as the passion shall subside, we shall see the error committed, and the delusion into which we have been led by false friends. But the good advice of a friend, who speaks according to Christian truth and meekness, preservers us from every disorder, and restores calm to the soul. 

"Depart from the unjust", says the Lord, "and evils shall depart from thee"--Eccl., vii. 2. Fly, separate from wicked companions, and you shall cease to commit sin. "Neither let the way of evil please thee. Flee from it, pass not by it; go aside and forsake it"--Prov., iv., 14, 15. Avoid the ways in which these vicious friends walk, that you may not even meet them. "Forsake not an old friend; for the new will not be like to him"--Eccl., ix.. 14. Do not leave your first friend, who loved you before you came into the world. "I have love thee with an everlasting love"--Jer., xxxi. 3. Your new friends do not love you; they hate you more than your greatest enemy; they seek not your welfare, as God does, but their own pleasures, and the satisfaction of having companions of their wickedness and perdition. You will, perhaps, say: I feel a repugnance to separate from such a friend, who has been solicitous for my welfare; to break off from him would appear to be an act of ingratitude. What welfare? what ingratitude? god alone wishes your welfare; to break off from him would appear to be an act of ingratitude. Your friend wishes your eternal ruin; he wishes you to follow him, but cares not if you be damned. It is not ingratitude to abandon a friend who leads you to Hell; but it is ingratitude to forsake God, who has created you, who has died for you on the cross, and who desires your salvation.  

Fly then from the conversation of the these wicked friends. "Hedge in thy ears with thorns, hear not a wicked tongue"--Eccl., xxviiii. 28. Beware of listening to the language of such friends; their words may bring you to perdition. And when you hear them speak improperly, arm yourself with thorns, and reprove them, not only for the purpose of rebuking, but also of converting them. "Ut non solum", says St. Augustine, "repellantur sed etiam compunganatur". Listen to a frightful example, and learn the evil which a wicked friend does. Father Sabatino relates in his Evangelical Light, that two friends of that kind were one day together. One of them, to please the other, committed a sin; but, after they separated, he died suddenly. The other, who knew nothing of his death, saw, in his sleep, his friend, and according to his custom, ran to embrace him. But the deceased appeared to be surrounded with fire, and began to blaspheme the other, and to upbraid him for being the cause of his damnation. The other awoke, and changed his life. But his unhappy friend was damned; and for his damnation there is not, and shall not be, any remedy for all eternity. (Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost: On Avoiding Bad Company.)

Those of us who are parents have a particular obligation to make sure that our children do not have bad companions, and that we do not give them scandal by associating with those who are unrepentant sinners who are hostile to the truths of the Holy Faith. It is better for there to be a little estrangement, yes, even from parents and brothers and sisters and other relatives, in this passing, mortal vale of tears than an unhappy reunion with them in Hell for all eternity.

It is far, far easier for bad example to corrupt the souls of our children than it is for our own "good" example (most of which involves being silent in the face of the promotion of evil and blasphemy and sacrilege, which is hardly "good" example at all but abject cowardice in the face of offenses to the honor and majesty and glory of God!) to influence those steeped in sins. Although each situation in this regard is unique and must be handled according to the direction offered by a true bishop or a true priest, whether in or out of the confessional, which is why hard and fast generalizations must yield to the direction of these confessors, it is nevertheless true, as Saint Alphonsus de Liguori noted, that we cannot be indifferent to the influence of bad companions and must endeavor, as far as is humanly possible and according to the direction offered us by our true shepherds, to avoid frequent and familiar intercourse with those steeped unrepentantly in sin. We must be serious about getting home to Heaven, preferring to love God rather than seeking to please men, and this applies, once again with pastoral direction, whether given in or out of the confessional, to those in the conciliar world whose opinionism and/or adherence to a false religious sect might pose a serious danger to the sanctification and salvation of our children's immortal souls.

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori wrote of the sin of human respect (the sin of seeking the esteem and support and friendship of others at the expense of speaking out in defense of the truth of the Holy Faith) in his sermon for Sixth Sunday After Easter: On Human Respect. There are people we know who called the late Bishop Robert Fidelis McKenna, O.P., a simply marvelous and humble shepherd of souls, "mean" because he insisted that they not cremate the body of their husband and father. Mean? Mean? It is not "mean" to do one's Catholic duty. It is not "mean" to seek the unconditional conversion of those outside of the true Church to her maternal bosom, outside of which there is no salvation.

Be attentive. Brethren, if we wish to save our souls, we must overcome human respect, and bear the little confusion which may arise from the scoffs of the enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ. "For there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that bringeth glory and grace"-Eccl., iv. 25. If we do not suffer this confusion with patience, it will lead us into the pit of sin; but, if we submit to it for God's sake, it will obtain for us the divine grace here, and great glory hereafter. "As," says St. Gregory, "bashfulness is laudable in evil, so it is reprehensible in good"--hom. x., in  Ezech.  

But some of you will say: I attend to my own affairs; I wish to save my soul; why should I be persecuted? But there is no remedy; it is impossible to serve God, and not be persecuted. "The wicked loathe them that are in the right way"--Prov., xxix. 27. Sinners cannot bear the sight of the man who lives according to the Gospel, because his life is a continual censure on their disorderly conduct; and therefore they say: "Let us lie in wait for the just; because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law"--Wis., ii. 12. The proud man, who seeks revenge for every insult he receives, would wish that all should avenge the offences that may be offered to him. The avaricious, who grow rich by injustice, wish that all should imitate their fraudulent practices. The drunkard wishes to see others indulge like himself, in intoxication. The immoral, who boast of their impurities, and can scarcely utter a word which does not savour of  obscenity, desire that all should act and speak as they do; and those who do not imitate their conduct, they regard as mean, clownish, and intractable--as men without honour and without education. "They are of the world; therefore of the world they speak"--I. John., iv. 5. Worldlings can speak no other language than that of the world. Oh! how great is their poverty and blindness! Sin has blinded them, and therefore they speak profanely. "These things they thought, and were deceived; for their own malice blinded them"--Wis., ii, 21. . . .  

Wicked friends come to you and say: "What extravagancies are those in which you indulge? Why do you not act like others? Say to them in answer: My conduct is not opposed to that of all men; there are others who lead a holy life. They are indeed few; but I will follow their example; for the Gospel says: "Many are called, but few are chosen"--Matt., xx. 16. "If", says St. John Climacus, "you wish to be saved with the few, live like the few". But, they will add, do you not see that all murmur against you. and condemn your manner of living? Let your answer be: It is enough for me, that God does not censure my conduct. Is it not better to obey God than to obey men? Such was the answer of St. Peter and St. John to the Jewish priests: "If it be just in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, judge yet"--Acts, iv. 19. If they ask you how you can bear an insult? or who, after submitting to it, can you appear among your equals? answer them by saying, that you are a Christian, and that it is enough for you to appear well in the eyes of God. Such should be your answer to all these satellites of Satan: you must despise all their maxims and reproaches. And when it is necessary to reprove those who make little of God's law, you must take courage and correct them publicly. "Then that sin, reprove before all"--I. Tim., v. 20. And when there is question of the divine honour, we should not be frightened by the dignity of the man who offends God; let us say to him openly: This is sinful; it cannot be done. Let us imitate the Baptist, who reproved King Herod for living his brother's wife and said to him: "It is not lawful for thee to have her"--Matt., xiv. 4. Men indeed shall regard us as fools, and turn us into derision; but, on the day of judgment they shall acknowledge that they have been foolish, and we have shall have the glory of being numbered among the saints. They shall say: "These are they whom we had some time in derision. . . . . We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints"--Wis., v. 3, 4, 5. (Sixth Sunday After Easter: On Human Respect.)

It is important to teach our children to eschew human respect, which will be very difficult if we are in the constant companionship of unrepentant sinners who are "nice," "tolerant," "compassionate," "charitable," and who shower our children with all manner of gifts and other treats.

"Uncle Bob doesn't agree with you, Dad. He says that there is no God to Whom we must submit ourselves. Why should I listen to you?"

"Aunt Jemima says that there are many different 'lifestyles' to embrace. Why can't I try one, Mama?"

Oh, my friends, yes, it is far, far easier to lose our children to "nice" relatives than it is for our constant familiarity with them to convert them to the true Faith. We are better off praying Rosaries for them and to give them blessed Green Scapulars, once again being careful to make sure that each situation, which is particular, is handled by means of the spiritual direction of a true bishop or a true priest. And we must be most assiduous about defending the honor and glory and majesty of God when it is under attack by the conciliar officials, including Jorge Mario Bergoglio, never fearing to hold the feet of those, especially those "priests" in the Motu communities, who choose to be silent in the face of these outrages in order to maintain their "good standing" with the false religious sect to which they are attached.

Obviously, many of us have given bad example and scandal to others! We are, however, supposed to learn from our mistakes, from our being influenced by the world, the flesh and the devil, from our having fallen prey to human respect and having spoken and acted indecently or immodestly. And one of the most salutary remedies for our past sins, as Saint Alphonsus de Liguori noted in his sermon for the Second Sunday In Advent: On The Advantages Of Tribulations   (23 Minutes), is to accept tribulations as coming directly from the hand of God and as a sign of His great love for us erring sinners:

Sixthly, tribulations enable us to acquire great merits before God, by giving us opportunities of exercising the virtues of humility, of patience, and of resignation to the divine will. The venerable John d'Avila used to say, that a single blessed be God, in adversity, is worth more than a thousand acts of thanksgiving in prosperity. "Take away", says St. Ambrose, "the contents of the martyrs, and you have taken away their crowns"--in Luc., c. iv. Oh! what a treasure of merits is acquired by patiently bearing insults, poverty, and sickness. Insults from men were the great objects of the desires of the saints, who sought to be despised for the love of Jesus Christ, and thus to be made like unto him. 

How great is the merit gained by bearing with the convenience of poverty. "My God and my all", says St. Francis of Assisium: in expressing this sentiment, he enjoyed more of true riches than all the princes of the Earth. How truly has St. Teresa said, that "the less we have here, the more we shall enjoy hereafter"! Oh! how happy is the mean who can say from his heart: My Jesus, thou alone art sufficient for me! If, says St. Chrysostom, you esteem yourself unhappy because you are poor, you are indeed miserable and deserving of tears; not because you are poor, but because, being poor, you do not embrace your poverty, and esteem yourself happy. "Sane dignus es lachyrmis ob hoc, quod miserum te existimas, non ideo quod pauper es"--serm. II. Epis. ad Phil. 

By bearing patiently with the pains of sickness, a great, and perhaps the greater, part of the crown which is prepared for us in Heaven is completed. The sick sometimes complain that in sickness they can do nothing; but they err, for, in their infirmities they can do all things, by accepting their sufferings with peace and resignation. "The cross of Christ", says St. Chrysostom, "is the key of Paradise"--hom,.in Luc. de vir. 

St. Francis de Sales used to say: "To suffer constantly for Jesus is the science of the saints; we shall thus soon become saints". It is by sufferings that God proves his servants, and finds them worthy of himself. "Deus tentavit es, et invenit eos dignos se"--Wisd., iii. 5. "Whom," says St. Paul, "the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth:--Heb., xii. 6. Hence Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa: "Be assured that the souls dearest to my Father are those who suffer the greatest afflictions"/ Hence Job said: "If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?'--Job., ii. 10. If we have gladly received from God the goods of this Earth, why should we not receive more cheerfully tribulations, which are far more useful to us than worldly prosperity? St. Gregory informs us, that, as flame fanned by the wind increases, so the soul is made perfect when she is oppressed by tribulations. "Ignis flatu permitur, ut crescat"--Ep., xxv. (Second Sunday In Advent: On The Advantages Of Tribulations. Three complete sermons are posted below.)

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori gave us "what for" in his Sunday sermons to help us get home to Heaven. Saint Alphonsus teaches us to walk the Way of the Cross (his own meditations for the Way of the Cross were the ones that were used at Saint Aloysius School in Great Neck, New York, when I was a student there from 1956 to 1962) by keeping close to the Mother of God, Mary our Immaculate Queen, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces, as he explained in The Glories of Mary:

From Jesus, however, it is (we must understand) that we receive grace as the author of grace, from Mary as a mediatress; from Jesus as a Savior, from Mary as an advocate; from Jesus as a source, from Mary as a channel. Hence St. Bernard says, that God established Mary as the channel of the mercies that he wished to dispense to men; therefore he filled her with grace, that each one's part might be communicated to him from her fullness; "A full aqueduct, that others may receive of her fullness, but not fullness herself." Therefore the saint exhorts all to consider, with how much love God wills that we should honor this great Virgin, since he has deposited the whole treasure of his graces in her: so that whatever we possess of hope, grace, and salvation, we may thank our most loving Queen for all, since all comes to us from her hands and by her powerful intercession. He thus beautifully expresses himself: "Behold with what tender feelings of devotion he wills that we should honor her! He who has placed the plenitude of all good in Mary; that thus, if we have any hope, or anything salutary in us, we may know that it was from her or that it over-flowed."  

Miserable is that soul that closes this channel of grace against itself, by neglecting to recommend itself to Mary! when Holofernes wished to gain possession of the city of Bethulia, he took care to destroy the aqueducts: He commanded their aqueduct to be cut off. And this the devil does when he wishes to become master of a soul; he causes it to give up devotion to the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and when once this channel is closed, it easily loses supernatural light, the fear of God, and finally eternal salvation. (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary.)

The Divine Office for today's feast contains the following account of the life and work of the Patron of Moral Theologians whose every word is a rebuke in a particular way to Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his fellow enablers of hardened sinners in their lives of determined perdition in the name of "mercy" and "accompanying" them on the path to their mutual eternal ruin:

Alphonsus Mary de' Liguori was born of a noble family, at Marianella, near Naples, on the 26th day of September, in the year of salvation 1696. From his earliest days he gave no dark signs of holiness. When he was but a babe, his parents carried him to holy Francis de Hieronymo, of the Society of Jesus, and holy Francis, after long prayer, said that the child would live to ninety years of age, that he would become a Bishop, and that he would be a great blessing to the Church. From his childhood, he had a strong distaste to games, and by his entreaty and example, induced the noble pages (of the Court, among whom he served,) to conduct themselves with Christian decency. As a young man, he became a member of divers godly guilds, and made it among his delights to nurse the sick in the hospitals, to spend much time in prayer in the Churches, and often to receive the Holy Sacraments. With his godliness he so joined zeal for learning, that when he was scarcely sixteen years of age he took degrees in Canon and Civil law in the University of Naples. In obedience to the wish of his father, he adopted the profession of an advocate, in which he gained great credit, but, finding dangers in the practice of the law, he entirely gave it up. He declined a very brilliant marriage which was proposed to him by his father, resigned his family inheritance as an eldest son, hung up his sword at the Altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, styled of Ransom, and surrendered himself altogether to the service of God. He became a Priest, in 1726, and made so zealous an onslaught on sin, running hither and thither in the office of an Apostle, that he accomplished the conversion of multitudes of lost creatures. The poor and the country-people most chiefly roused his compassion, and (in 1742) he founded the Congregation of Priests called that of the Most Holy Redeemer, to follow the Redeemer's footsteps by preaching the Gospel to the poor throughout the fields, villages, and hamlets.

That he might not turn aside from his work, he bound him- self by a vow never to lose any time. Inflamed with the love of souls, he toiled to gain them to Christ and to amend their lives, not only by preaching of the word of God, but also by writings full of holy learning and godliness. It is a marvel how many hatreds he stilled, and how many backsliders he led again into the paths of salvation. He was eminently devoted to the Mother of God, published a book on her glories, and when he was earnestly speaking thereof in his sermons, it happened more than once that all the people openly saw a strange brightness fall upon him from her image, till all his countenance shone, and he was rapt in an ecstasy. The sufferings of the Lord and the Holy Eucharist were ever before his eyes, and to them he spread abroad a wonderful love. When he was praying before the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament, or celebrating the Holy Liturgy, which he never failed to do every day, through the seraphic violence of his love, he wept burning tears, or shook with strange movements, or became altogether beside himself. He joined a wonderful innocence and purity, which he never polluted by the stain of deadly sin, to a wonderful depth of repentance, and chastised his body with hunger, iron chains, hair-cloth, and scourgings even to blood-shedding. Among all these things he was remarkable for the gift of prophecy, the power of seeing into the hearts of men, the ability to be in more places than one at the same time, and other miracles.

But firmly and perseveringly refused all high places in the Church which were offered him, but (in 1762) Pope Clement XIII. absolutely commanded him to take the Bishoprick of the Church of Santa Agata de' Goti. On becoming a Bishop, the only change which he made in the hardness of his life was that of his outer raiment. There remained, too, the same simplicity of meats, the same strong zeal for Christian discipline, the same determined will to put down sin and keep out false doctrines, and the same earnestness in all the duties of a shepherd of souls. In his tenderness to the poor, he spent among them all the revenues of his Church, and in a year of famine sold the furniture of his own house to feed his starving people. He was all things to all men and brought nuns to lead a more perfect life, while he saw to it that a monastery was opened for nuns attached to his own Congregation. On account of grievous and continual sickness, he resigned his Bishoprick, and poor as when he had left them, poor he returned among his disciples. On the 1st day of August, in the year 1787, he peacefully died at Noceradei - Pagani, amid the tears of his followers. He was then ninety years of age his body was worn out with old age and hard work, and with chronic gout, and other painful maladies, but the freshness of his mind never failed to the last, in talking and writing on heavenly things. In the year 1816 Pope Pius VII., finding him famous on account of his good works and miracles, enrolled his name among those of the Blessed. God still glorified him by new signs and wonders, and on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, in the year 1839, Gregory XVI., with solemn pomp, numbered him among the Saints of the Church. Lastly, Pope Pius IX., in accordance with a Resolution of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, gave him the title of Doctor of the Universal Church. (Matins, The Divine Office, Feast of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori.)

Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., provided a summary of Saint Alphosnus de Liguori’s work at the end of his reflection for this feast:

‘I have not hid Thy justice within my heart: I have declared Thy truth and Thy salvation.’ Thus sings the Church in thy name to-day, in gratitude for the great service thou didst render her in the days of sinners, when godliness seemed to be lost. Exposed to the attack of an extravagant pharisaism, and watched by a sceptical and mocking philosophy, even the good wavered as to which was the way of the Lord. While the moralists of the day could but forge fetters for consciences, the enemy had  a good chance of crying: Let us break their bonds asunder: and let us cast way their yoke from us. The ancient wisdom revered by their fathers, now that it was compromised by these foolish teachers, seemed but a ruined edifice to people eager for emancipation. In this unprecedented extremity, thou, O Alphonsus, wast the prudent man whom the Church needed, whose mouth uttered words to strengthen men’s hearts.

Long before thy birth, a great Pope had said that it belongs to doctors to enlighten the Church, to adorn her with virtues, to form her manners; by them, he added, she shines in the midst of darkness as a morning star; their word, made fruitful from on high, solves the enigmas of the Scriptures, unravels difficulties, clears obscurities, interprets what is doubtful; their profound works, beautified by eloquence of speech, are so many priceless pearls which ennoble no less than adore the House of God. Thus did Boniface VIII speak in the thirteenth century, when he was raising to the ranks of doubles the feasts of the apostles and evangelists, and of the four then recognized doctors, St. Gregory, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome. But is it not a description, striking as a prophecy, faithful as a portrait, of all that thou wert?

Glory, then, be to thee, who in our days of decadence renewest the youth of the Church, and through whom justice and peace once more embrace one another at the meeting of mercy and truth. For this object thou didst literally give unreservedly thy time and thy strength. ‘The love of God,’ says St. Gregory, ‘is never idle: where it exists it does great things: if it refuses to act, it is not love.’ What fidelity was thin in accomplishing that awful vow, whereby thou didst deny thyself the possibility of even a moment’s relaxation. When suffering intolerable pain, which would appear to anyone else to justify, if not command some rest, thou wouldst hold to thy forehead with one hand a piece of marble, which seemed to give some relief, and with the other wouldst continue thy precious writings.

But still greater was the example God set before the world, when, in thine old age, He suffered thee, through the treason of one of thine own sons, to be disgraced by the Apostolic See, for which thou hadst worn away thy life, and which in return withdrew thee, as unworthy, from the very institute thou hadst founded! Then hell was permitted to join its stripes with those of heaven; and thou, the doctor of peace, didst endure terrible temptations against faith and holy hope. Thus was they work made perfect in that weakness which is stronger than strength; and thus didst thou merit for troubled souls the support of the virtue of Christ. Nevertheless, having become a child once more in blind obedience required under such painful trials, thou was near at once to the kingdom of heaven and to the Crib, which thou didst celebrate in such sweet accents. And the virtue which the Man-God felt going out from Him during His mortal life escaped from thee, too, in such abundance that the little sick children presented by their mothers for thy blessing were all healed.

Now that thy tears and thy toils are over, watch over us evermore. Preserve in the Church the fruits of thy labours. The religious family begotten by thee has not degenerated; more than once, in the persecutions of the last century, the enemy has honoured it with special tokens of his hatred; already, too, ha he aureole of the blessed passed from the father to the sons; may they ever cherish these noble traditions! May the eternal Father, who in baptism made us all worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, lead us all happily by thy example and teachings in the footsteps of our most holy Redeemer into the kingdom of this Son of His love. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, Time After Pentecost—Book IV, Volume 14, pp. 243-246.)

Saint Alphonsus teaches us from eternity that Our Lady is the pathway to Heaven. She is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. She can plead for us with her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, now and the hour of our deaths. We need her intercession as we are enrolled in her Brown Scapular and as we pray as many Rosaries each day as our states in life permit. She will soften the blows of what we deserve by means of our sins by helping us to have true sorrow for them as we amend our lives and seek to do reparation for them by offering all that that we have and to the Most Sacred Heart of her Divine Son through her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Saint Alphonsus, who was firm on the pulpit and the quintessence of Christian meekness and humility in the service of the poor and the downtrodden, will help us increase our devotion to Our Lady, the Queen of Mercy, so that we will not get what our sins deserve in strict justice, eternal Hellfire, when we die.

Saint Alphonsus gave us "what for" in this life so that we can share eternity with Him in Heaven in the company of the Immaculate Queen of Heaven and Earth. We should thank him for being so brutally honest with us in the service of Christ the King and Mary our Immaculate Queen!

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, pray for us.

Appendix A

“On the Pains of Hell”

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

“Gather up first the cockle, and bind into bundles to burn.” Matt. 13:30. 

I shall first speak of the fire, which is the principal pain that torments the senses of the damned, and afterwards of the other pains of hell.

1. Behold! the final doom of sinners who abuse the divine mercy is to burn in the fire of hell. God threatens hell, not to send us there, but to deliver us from that place of torments. “Minatur Deus gehennem, “says St. Chrysostom, “ut a gehenna liberet, et ut firmi ac stabiles evitemus minas.” (Hom. v. de Poenit). Remember, then, brethren, that God gives you Today the opportunity of hearing this sermon, that you may be preserved from hell, and that you may give up sin, which alone can lead you to hell

2. My brethren, it is certain and of faith that there is a hell. After judgment the just shall enjoy the eternal glory of Heaven, and sinners shall be condemned to suffer the everlasting chastisement reserved for them in hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting.” (Matt. 25:46). Let us examine in what hell consists. It is what the rich glutton called it a place of torments. “In hunc locum tormentorum.” (Luke 16:28). It is a place of suffering, where each of the senses and powers of the damned has its proper torment, and in which the torments of each person will be increased in proportion to the forbidden pleasures in which he indulged. “As much as she has glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give you to her.” (Rev. 18:7).  

3. In offending God the sinner does two evils, he abandons God, the sovereign good, who is able to make him happy, and turns to creatures, who are incapable of giving any real happiness to the soul. Of this injury which men commit against him, the Lord complains by his prophet Jeremiah, “For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have dug to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13). Since, then, the sinner turns his back on God, he shall be tormented in hell, by the pain arising from the loss of God, of which I shall speak on another occasion [see the Sermon for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost], and since, in offending God, he turns to creatures, he shall be justly tormented by the same creatures, and principally by fire

4. “The vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms.” (Eccl 7:19). Fire and the remorse of conscience are the principal means by which God takes vengeance on the flesh of the wicked. Hence, in condemning the reprobate to hell, Jesus Christ commands them to go into eternal fire. “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. 25:41). This fire, then, shall be one of the most cruel executioners of the damned

5. Even in this life the pain of fire is the most terrible of all torments. However, St. Augustine says, that in comparison of the fire of hell, the fire of this earth is no more than a picture compared with the reality, “In cuius comparatione noster hie ignus depictus est." Anselm teaches, that the fire of hell as far surpasses the fire of this world, as the fire of the real exceeds that of painted fire. The pain, then, produced by the fire of hell is far greater than that which is produced by our fire because God has made the fire of this earth for the use of man, but he has created the fire of hell purposely for the chastisement of sinners; and therefore, as Tertullian says, he has made it a minister of his justice. “Longe alius est ignis, qui usui humano, alms qui Dei justitiæ deservit.” This avenging fire is always kept alive by the wrath of God. “A fire is kindled in my rage." (Jer. 15:14). 

6 “And the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell.” (Luke 16:22). The damned are buried in the fire of hell; Hence, they have an abyss of fire below, an abyss of fire above, and an abyss of fire on every side. As a fish in the sea is surrounded by water, so the unhappy reprobate are encompassed by fire on every side. The sharpness of the pain of fire may be inferred from the circumstance, that the rich glutton complained of no other torment. “I am tormented in this flame.” (Ibid, v 23).  

7 The Prophet Isaias says that the Lord will punish the guilt of sinners with the spirit of fire. “If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion by the spirit of burning” (4. 4).. “The spirit of burning” is the pure essence of fire. All spirits or essences, through taken from simple herbs or flowers, are so penetrating, that they reach the very bones. Such is the fire of hell. Its activity is so great, that a single spark of it would be sufficient to melt a mountain of bronze. The disciple relates, that a damned person, who appeared to a religious, dipped his hand into a vessel of water; the religious placed in the vessel a candlestick of bronze, which was instantly dissolved.  

8. This fire shall torment the damned not only externally, but also internally. It will burn the bowels, the heart, the brains, the blood within the veins, and the marrow within the bones. The skin of the damned shall be like a caldron, in which their bowels, their flesh, and their bones shall be burned. David says, that the bodies of the damned shall be like so many furnaces of fire. “You shall make them as an oven of fire in the time of your anger.” (Ps. 20:10). 

9. O God! certain sinners cannot bear to walk under a strong sun, or to remain before a large fire in a close room; they cannot endure a spark from a candle; and they fear not the fire of hell, which, according to the Prophet Isaias, not only burns, but devours the unhappy damned. “Which of you can dwell with devouring fire. “(Is.33:14). As a lion devours a lamb, so the fire of hell devours the reprobate; but it devours without destroying life, and thus tortures them with a continual death. Continue, says St. Peter Damian to the sinner who indulges in impurity, continue to satisfy your flesh; a day will come, or rather an eternal night, when your impurities, like pitch, shall nourish a fire within your very bowels. “Venit dies, imo nox, quando libido tua vertetur in picem qua se nutriet perpetuus ignis in visceribus tuis.” (Epist. 6). And according to St. Cyprian, the impurities of the wicked shall boil in the very fat which will issue from their accursed bodies.  

10, St. Jerome teaches, that in this fire sinners shall suffer not only the pain of the fire, but also all the pains, which men endure on this earth. “In uno igne omnia supplicia sentient in inferno peccatores.” (Ep. ad Pam). How manifold are the pains to which men are subject in this life. Pains in the sides, pains in the head, pains in the loins, pains in the bowels. All these together torture the damned.  

11. The fire itself will bring with it the pain of darkness; for, by its smoke it will, according to St. John, produce a storm of darkness which shall blind the damned. “To whom the storm of  darkness is reserved forever.” (St. Jude 13). Hence, hell is called a land of darkness covered with the shadow of death. “A land that is dark and covered with the mist of death a land of misery and darkness, where the shadow of death, and no order but everlasting horror dwells.” (Job 10:21, 22). To hear that a criminal is shut up in a dungeon for ten or twenty years excites our compassion. Hell is a dungeon closed on every side, into which a ray of the sun or the light of a candle never enters. Thus the damned “shall never see light.” (Ps 48:20). The fire of this world gives light, but the fire of hell is utter darkness. In explaining the words of David, “the voice of the Lord divides the flame of fire,” (Ps. 28:7,). St. Basil says, that in hell the Lord separates the fire that burns from the flame which illuminates, and therefore this fire burns, but gives no light. B. Albertus Magnus explains this passage more concisely by saying that God “divides the heat from the light.” St. Thomas teaches, that in hell there is only so much light as is necessary to torment the damned by the sight of their associates and of the devils, “Quantum sufficit ad videndum ilia quæ torquere possunt.” (3 p., q. 97, art. 5). And according to St. Augustine, the bare sight of these infernal monsters excites sufficient terror to cause the death of all the damned, if they were capable of dying. “Videbunt monstra, quorum visio postet illos occidere.”  

12. To suffer a parching thirst, without having a drop of water to quench it, is intolerably painful. It has sometimes happened, that travelers who could procure no refreshment after a long journey, have fainted from the pain produced by thirst. So great is the thirst of the damned, that if one of them were offered all the water on this earth, he would exclaim, All this water is not sufficient to extinguish the burning thirst which I endure. But, alas! the unhappy damned shall never have a single drop of water to refresh their tongues. “He cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. “ (Luke 16:24). The rich glutton has not obtained, and shall never obtain, this drop of water, as long as God shall be God.

13. The reprobate shall be likewise tormented by the stench which pervades hell. The stench shall arise from the very bodies of the damned. “Out of their carcasses shall arise a stink.” (Isaiah 34:3). The bodies of the damned are called carcasses, not because they are dead (for they are living, and shall be forever alive to pain), but on account of the stench which they exhale. Would it not be very painful to be shut up in a close room with a fetid corpse? St. Bonaventure says, that if the body of one of the damned were placed in the earth, it would, by its stench, be sufficient to cause the death of all men. How intolerable, then, must it be to live forever in the dungeons of hell in the midst of the immense multitudes of the damned! Some foolish worldlings say, If I go to hell, I shall not be there alone. Miserable fools! do you not see that the greater the number of your companions, the more insufferable shall be your torments? “There,” says St. Thomas, “the society of the reprobate shall cause an increase and not a diminution of misery.” (Suppl., q. 86, art. 1). The society of the reprobate augments their misery, because each of the damned is a source of suffering to all the others. Hence, the greater their number, the more they shall mutually torment each other. “And the people,” says the prophet Isaias, “shall be ashes after a fire, as a bundle of thorns they shall be burnt with fire.” (Is. 33:12). Placed in the midst of the furnace of hell, the damned are like so many grains reduced to ashes by that abyss of fire, and like so many thorns tied together and wounding each other.  

14. They are tormented not only by the stench of their companions, but also by their shrieks and lament. How painful it is to a person longing for sleep to hear the groans of a sick man, the barking of a dog, or the screams of an infant. The damned must listen incessantly to the wailing and howling of their associates, not for a night, nor for a thousand nights, but for all eternity, without the interruption of a single moment. 

15. The damned are also tormented by the narrowness of the place in which they are confined; for, although the dungeon of hell is large, it will be too small for so many millions of the reprobate, who like sheep shall be heaped one over the other. “They are,” says David, “laid in hell like sheep.” (Ps. 38:15). We learn from the Scriptures that they shall be pressed together like grapes in the winepress, by the vengeance of an angry God. “The winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 19:15). From this pressure shall arise the pain of immobility. “Let them become unmovable as a stone.” (Ex. 16:16). In whatever position the damned shall fall into hell after the general judgment, whether on the side, or on the back, or with the head downwards, in that they must remain for eternity, without being ever able to move foot or hand or finger, as long as God shall be God. In a word, St. Chrysostom says, that all the pains of this life, however great they may be, are scarcely a shadow of the torments of the damned. “Hæc omnia ludicra sunt et risus ad ilia supplicia, pone ignem, ferrum, et bestias, attamen vix umbra sunt ad ilia tormenta.” (Hom, xxxix. ad pop. Ant).

16. The reprobate, then, shall be tormented in all the senses of the body. They shall also be tormented in all the powers of the soul. Their memory shall be tormented by the remembrance of the years which they had received from God for the salvation of their souls, and which they spent in laboring for their own damnation; by the remembrance of so many graces and so many divine lights which they abused. Their understanding shall be tormented by the knowledge of the great happiness which they forfeited in losing their souls, Heaven, and God; and by a conviction that this loss is irreparable. Their will shall be tormented by seeing that whatsoever they ask or desire shall be refused. “The desire of the wicked shall perish.” (Ps. 111:10). They shall never have any of those things for which they wish, and must forever suffer all that is repugnant to their will. They would wish to escape from these torments and to find peace; but in these torments they must forever remain, and peace they shall never enjoy.

17. Perhaps they may sometimes receive a little comfort, or at least enjoy occasional repose? No, says Cyprian, “Nullum ibi refrigerium, nullum remedium, atque ita omni tormento atrocius desperatio.” (Serm. de Ascens). In this life, how great soever may be the tribulations which we suffer, there is always some relief or interruption. The damned must remain forever in a pit of fire, always in torture, always weeping, without ever enjoying a moment’s repose. But perhaps there is someone to pity their sufferings? At the very time that they are so much afflicted the devils continually reproach them with the sins for which they are tormented, saying, Suffer, burn, live forever in despair, you yourselves have been the cause of your destruction. And do not the saints, the divine mother, and God, who is called the Father of Mercies, take compassion on their miseries? No; "the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven.” (Matt. 26:29). The saints, represented by the stars, not only do not pity the damned, but they even rejoice in the vengeance inflicted on the injuries offered to their God. Neither can the divine mother pity them, because they hate her Son. And Jesus Christ, who died for the love of them, cannot pity them, because they have despised his love, and have voluntarily brought themselves to perdition. (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, “On the Pains of Hell,” Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori For All the Sundays of the Year, published originally in 1852 and photographically reproduced by TAN Books in 1982, pp. 89-95.)

Appendix B

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori: Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday

The Devil brings sinners to hell by closing their eyes to the dangers of perdition. He first blinds them, and then leads them with himself to eternal torments. If, then, we wish to be saved, we must continually pray to God in the words of the blind man in the gospel of this day,” Lord, that I may see." Give me light: make me see the way in which I must walk in order to save my soul, and to escape the deceits of the enemy of salvation. I shall, brethren, this day place before your eyes the delusion by which the devil tempts men to sin and to persevere in sin, that you may know how to guard yourselves against his deceitful artifices.  

2. To understand these delusions better, let us imagine the case of a young man who, seized by some passion, lives in sin, the slave of Satan, and never thinks of his eternal salvation. My son, I say to him, what sort of life do you lead? If you continue to live in this manner, how will you be able to save your soul? But, behold! the devil, on the other hand, says to him: Why should you be afraid of being lost? Indulge your passions for the present: you will afterwards confess your sins, and thus all shall be remedied. Behold the net by which the devil drags so many souls into hell. “Indulge your passions: you will hereafter make a good confession." But, in reply, I say, that in the meantime you lose your soul. Tell me: if you had a jewel worth a thousand pounds, would you throw it into a river with the hope of afterwards finding it again? What if all your efforts to find it were fruitless? God! you hold in your hand the invaluable jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his own blood, and you cast it into hell! Yes; you cast it into hell; because according to the present order of providence, for every mortal sin you commit, your name is written among the number of the damned. But you say.” I hope to recover God’s grace by making a good confession." And if you should not recover it, what shall be the consequences? To make a good confession, a true sorrow for sin is necessary, and this sorrow is the gift of God: if he does not give it, will you not be lost for ever?  

3. You rejoin:” I am young; God compassionates my youth; I will hereafter give myself to God." Behold another delusion! You are young; but do you not know that God counts, not the years, but the sins of each individual? You are young; but how many sins have you committed? Perhaps there are many persons of a very advanced age, who have not been guilty of the fourth part of the sins which you have committed. And do you not know that God has fixed for each of us the number of sins which he will pardon?” The Lord patiently expecteth, that, when the day of judgment shall come, he may punish them in the fulness of their sins." (2 Mach. vi. 14.) God has patience, and waits for a while; but, when the measure of the sins which he has determined to pardon is tilled up, he pardons no more, but chastises the sinner, by suddenly depriving him of life in the miserable state of sin, or by abandoning him in his sin, and executing that threat which he made by the prophet Isaias “I shall take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted.” (Isa. v. 5.) If a person has cultivated land for many years, has encompassed it with a hedge for its protection, and expended a large sum of money on it, but finds that, after all, it produces no fruit, what will he do with it? He will pluck up the hedge, and abandon it to all men and beasts that may wish to enter. Tremble, then, lest God should treat you in a similar manner. If you do not give up sin, your remorse of conscience and your fear of divine chastisement shall daily increase. Behold the hedge taken away, and your soul abandoned by God a punishment worse than death itself.

4. You say:” I cannot at present resist this passion." Behold the third delusion of the devil, by which he makes you believe that at present you have not strength to overcome certain temptations. But St. Paul tells us that God is faithful, and that he never permits us to be tempted above our strength. "And God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted above that which you are able." (1 Cor. x. 13.) I ask, if you are not now able to resist the temptation, how can you expect to resist it hereafter? If you yield to it, the Devil will become stronger, and you shall become weaker; and if you be not now able to extinguish this flame of passion, how can you hope to be able to extinguish it when it shall have grown more violent? You say: "God will give me his aid." But this aid God is ready to give at present if you ask it. Why then do you not implore his assistance? Perhaps you expect that, without now taking the trouble of invoking his aid, you will receive from him increased helps and graces, after you shall have multiplied the number of your sins? Perhaps you doubt the veracity of God, who has promised to give whatever we ask of him?” Ask, “he says,” and it shall be given  you." (Matt. vii. 7.) God cannot violate his promises.” God is not as man, that he should lie, nor as the son of man, that he should be changed. Hath he said, then, and will he not do ?" (Num. xxiii. 19.) Have recourse to him, and he will give you the strength necessary to resist the temptation. God commands you to resist it, and you say: “I have not strength." Does God, then, command impossibilities? No; the Council of Trent has declared that ” God does not command impossibilities; but, by his commands, he admonishes you to do what you can, and to ask what you cannot do; and he assists, that you may be able to do it." (Sess. 6. c. xiii.) When you see that you have not sufficient strength to resist temptation with the ordinary assistance of God, ask of him the additional help which you require, and he will give it to you; and thus you shall be able to conquer all temptations, however violent they may be.  

5. But you will not pray; and you say that at present you will commit this sin, and will afterwards confess it. But, I ask, how do you know that God will give you time to confess it? You say: “I will go to confession before the lapse of a week." And who has promised you this week? Well, then you say:” I will go to confession tomorrow." And who promises you tomorrow? “Crastinum Deus non promisit," says St. Augustine, “fortasse dabit, et fortasse non dabit." God has not promised you tomorrow. Perhaps he will give it, and perhaps he will refuse it to you, as he has to so many others. How many have gone to bed in good health, and have been found dead in the morning! How many, in the very act of sin, has the Lord struck dead and sent to hell! Should this happen to you, how will you repair your eternal ruin?” Commit this sin, and confess it after wards." Behold the deceitful artifice by which the devil has brought so many thousands of Christians to hell. We scarcely ever find a Christian so sunk in despair as to intend to damn himself. All the wicked sin with the hope of afterwards going to confession. But, by this illusion, how many have brought themselves to perdition! For them there is now no time for confession, no remedy for their damnation.  

6. “But God is merciful.” Behold another common delusion by which the devil encourages sinners to persevere in a life of sin! A certain author has said, that more souls have been sent to hell by the mercy of God than by his justice. This is indeed the case; for men are induced by the deceits of the devil to persevere in sin, through confidence in God’s mercy; and thus they are lost.  "God is merciful." Who denies it? But, great as his mercy, how many does he every day send to hell? God is merciful, but he is also just, and is, there fore, obliged to punish those who offend him. “And his mercy,” says the divine mother,” to them that fear him." (Luke i. 50.) But with regard to those who abuse his mercy and despise him, he exercises justice. The Lord pardons sins, but he cannot pardon the determination to commit sin. St. Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of repenting after his sins, is not a penitent but a scoffer.” Irrisor est non pœnitens." But the Apostle tells us that God will not be mocked.” Be not deceived; God is not mocked." (Gal. vi. 7.) It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you pleased, and afterwards to expect eternal glory.  

7. “But”; you say, “as God has shown me so many mercies hitherto, I hope he will continue to do so for the future.” Behold another delusion! Then, because God has not as yet chastised your sins, he will never punish them! On the contrary, the greater have been his mercies, the more you should tremble, lest, if you offend him again, he should pardon you no more, and should take vengeance on your sins. Behold the advice of the Holy Ghost:” Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? for the Most High is a patient rewarder." (Eccles. v. 4.) Do not say: “I have sinned, and no chastisement has fallen upon me.” God bears for a time, but not for ever. He waits for a certain time; but when that arrives, he then chastises the sinner for all his past iniquities: and the longer he has waited for repentance, the more severe the chastisement. “Quos diutius expectat,” says St. Gregory.” “durius damnat.” Then, my brother, since you know that you have frequently offended God, and that he has not sent you to hell, you should exclaim:” The mercies of the Lord, that we are not consumed." (Thren. iii. 22.) Lord, I thank you for not having sent me to hell, which I have so often deserved. And therefore you ought to give yourself entirely to God, at least through gratitude, and should consider that, for less sins than you have committed, many are now in that pit of fire, without the smallest hope of being ever released from it. The patience of God in bearing with you, should teach you not to despise him still more, but to love and serve him with greater fervour, and to atone, by penitential austerities and by other holy works, for the insults you have offered to him. You know that he has shown mercies to you, which he has not shown to others.” He hath not done in like manner to every nation." (Ps. cxlvii. 20.) Hence you should tremble, lest, if you commit a single additional mortal sin, God should abandon you, and cast you into hell.  

8. Let us come to the next illusion. “It is true that, by this sin, I lose the grace of God; but, even after committing this sin, I may be saved.” You may, indeed, be saved: but it cannot be denied that if, after having committed so many sins, and after having received so many graces from God, you again offend him, there is great reason to fear that you shall be lost. Attend to the words of the sacred Scripture: “A hard heart shall fare evil at the last." (Eccles. iii. 27.) The obstinate sinner shall die an unhappy death. Evil doers shall be cut off." (Ps. xxxvi . 9.) The wicked shall be cut off by the divine justice. “For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap." (Gal. vi. 8.) He that sows in sin, shall reap eternal torments. “Because I called and you refused, I also will laugh in your destruction and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared." (Prov. i. 24, 26.) I called, says the Lord, and you mocked me; but I will mock you at the hour of death. “Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time." (Deut. xxxii. 35.) The chastisement of sins belongs to me, and I will execute vengeance on them when the time of vengeance shall arrive. “The man that with a stiff neck despiseth him that reproveth him, shall suddenly be destroyed, and health shall not follow him." (Prov. xxix. 1.) The man who obstinately despises those who correct him, shall be punished with a sudden death, and for him there shall be no hope of salvation.  

9. Now, brethren, what think you of these divine threats against sinners? Is it easy, or is it not very difficult, to save your souls, if, after so many divine calls, and after so many mercies, you continue to offend God? You say: “But after all, it may happen that I will save my soul.” I answer: "What folly is it to trust your salvation to a perhaps? How many with this “perhaps I may be saved," are now in hell? Do you wish to be one of their unhappy companions? Dearly beloved Christians, enter into yourselves, and tremble; for this sermon may be the last of God’s mercies to you.

Appendix C

Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri: Sermon for First Sunday of Lent

1. St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and other fathers, teach that, as God (according to the words of Scripture, “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight”--Wis. xi. 21), has fixed for each person the number of the days of his life, and the degrees of health and talent which he will give him, so he has also determined for each the number of sins which he will pardon; and when this number is completed, he will pardon no more. “Illud sentire nos convenit,” says St. Augustine, “tamdiu unumquem que a Dei patientia sustineri, quo consummate nullam illi veniam reserveri.” (De Vita Christi, cap. iii.) Eusebius of Cesarea says: “Deus expectat usque ad certum numerum et postea deserit." (Lib. 8, cap. ii.) The same doctrine is taught by the above-mentioned fathers.  

2. “The Lord hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart.” (Isa. Ixi. 1.) God is ready to heal those who sincerely wish to amend their lives, but cannot take pity on the obstinate sinner The Lord pardons sins, but he cannot pardon those who are determined to offend him. Nor can we demand from God a reason why he pardons one a hundred sins, and takes others out of life, and sends them to hell, after three or four sins. By his Prophet Amos, God has said: “For three crimes of Damascus, and for four, I will not convert it.” (i. 3.) In this we must adore the judgments of God, and say with the Apostle: “the depth of the riches, of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments.” (Rom. xi. 33.) He who receives pardon, says St. Augustine, is pardoned through the pure mercy of God; and they who are chastised are justly punished.” Quibus datur misericordia, gratis datur: quibus non datur ex justitia non datur.” (1 de Corrept.) How many has God sent to hell for the first offence?

St. Gregory relates, that a child of five years, who had arrived at the use of reason, for having uttered a blasphemy, was seized by the devil and carried to hell. The divine mother revealed to that great servant of God, Benedicta of Florence, that a boy of twelve years was damned after the first sin. Another boy of eight years died after his first sin and was lost. You say: I am young: there are many who have committed more sins than I have. But is God on that account obliged to wait for your repentance if you offend him? In the gospel of St. Matthew (xxi. 19) we read, that the Saviour cursed a fig tree the first time he saw it without fruit.” May no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And immediately the fig tree withered away." You must, then, tremble at the thought of committing a single mortal sin, particularly if you have already been guilty of mortal sins.

3. “Be not without fear about sins forgiven, and add not sin to sin.” (Eccl. v. 5.) Say not then, O sinner; As God has forgiven me other sins, so he will pardon me this one if I commit it. Say not this; for, if to the sin which has been forgiven you add another, you have reason to fear that this new sin shall be united to your former guilt, and that thus the number will be completed, and that you shall be abandoned. Behold how the Scripture unfolds this truth more clearly in another place. “The Lord patiently expecteth, that when the day of judgment shall come, he may punish them in the fullness of sins.” (2 Mac. vi. 14.) God waits with patience until a certain number of sins is committed, but, when the measure of guilt is filled up, he waits no longer, but chastises the sinner. "Thou hast sealed up my offences as it were in a bag." (Job xiv. 17.) Sinners multiply their sins without keeping any account of them; but God numbers them that, when the harvest is ripe, that is, when the number of sins is completed, he may take vengeance on them. “Put ye in the sickles, for the harvest is ripe.” (Joel iii. 13.)  

4. Of this there are many examples in the Scriptures. Speaking of the Hebrews, the Lord in one place says: “All the men that have tempted me now ten times. . . . shall not see the land.” (Num. xiv. 22, 23.) In another place he says, that he restrained his vengeance against the Amorrhites, because the number of their sins was not completed.” For as yet the iniquities of the Amorrhites are not at the full.” (Gen. xv. 16.) We have again the example of Saul, who, after having disobeyed God a second time, was abandoned. He entreated Samuel to interpose before the Lord in his behalf. “Bear, I beseech thee, my sin, and return with me, that I may adore the Lord,” (1 Kings xv. 25.) But, knowing that God had abandoned Saul, Samuel answered: “I will not return with thee; because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee," etc. (v. 26.) Saul, you have abandoned God, and he has abandoned you. We have another example in Balthassar, who, after having profaned the vessels of the temple, saw a hand writing on the wall, "Mane, Thecel, Phares." Daniel was requested to expound the meaning of these words. In explaining the word Thecel, he said to the king: “Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.” (Dan. v 27.) By this explanation he gave the king to understand that the weight of his sins in the balance of divine justice had made the scale descend.” The same night, Balthassar, the Chaldean king, was killed." (Dan. v. 30.) Oh! how many sinners have met with a similar fate! Continuing to offend God till their sins amounted to a certain number they have been struck dead and sent to hell. “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment they go down to hell.” (Job xxi. 13.) Tremble, brethren, lest, if you commit another mortal sin, God should cast you into hell.  

5. If God chastised sinners the moment they insult him, we should not see him so much despised. But, because he does not instantly punish their transgressions, and because, through mercy, he restrains his anger and waits for their return, they are encouraged to continue to offend him. “For, because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the children of men commit evil without any fear.” (Eccles. viii. 11.) But it is necessary to be persuaded that, though God bears with us, he does not wait, nor bear with us forever. Expecting, as on former occasions, to escape from the snares of the Philistines, Samson continued to allow himself to be deluded by Dalila. “I will go out as I did before, and shake myself.” (Judges xvi. 20.) But “the Lord was departed from him.” Samson was at length taken by his enemies, and lost his life. The Lord warns you not to say: I have committed so many sins, and God has not chastised me. Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? For the Most High is a patient rewarder.” (Eccl. v. 4.) God has patience for a certain term, after which he punishes the first and last sins. And the greater has been his patience, the more severe his vengeance.

6. Hence, according to St. Chrysostom, God is more to be feared when he bears with sinners than when he instantly punishes their sins. “Plus timendum est, cum tolerat quam cum festinanter punit.” And why? Because, says St. Gregory, they to whom God has shown most mercy, shall, if they do not cease to offend him, be chastised with the greatest rigour. “Quos diutius expectat durius damnat.” The saint adds that God often punishes such sinners with a sudden death, and does not allow them time for repentance.” Sæpe qui diu tolerati sunt subita morte rapiuntur, ut necflere ante mortem liceat." And the greater the light which God gives to certain sinners for their correction, the greater is their blindness and obstinacy in sin. "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than, after they had known it, to turn back." (2 Pet. ii. 21.) Miserable the sinners who, after having been enlightened, return to the vomit. St Paul says, that it is morally impossible for them to be again converted. “For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated have tasted also the heavenly gifts, ... and are fallen away, to be renewed again to penance." (Heb. vi. 4, 6.)  

7. Listen, then, sinner, to the admonition of the Lord: “My son, hast thou sinned? Do so no more, but for thy former sins pray that they may be forgiven thee." (Eccl. xxi. 1.) Son, add not sins to those which you have already committed, but be careful to pray for the pardon of your past transgressions; otherwise, if you commit another mortal sin, the gates of the divine mercy may be closed against you, and your soul may be lost forever. When, then, beloved brethren, the devil tempts you again to yield to sin, say to yourself: If God pardons me no more, what shall become of me for all eternity? Should the Devil, in reply, say: “Fear not, God is merciful ;" answer him by saying: What certainty or what probability have I, that, if I return again to sin, God will show me mercy or grant me pardon? Because the threat of the Lord against all who despise his calls: "Behold I have called and you refused. . . I also will laugh in your destruction, and will mock when that shall come to you which you feared." (Prov. i. 24, 26.) Mark the words I also; they mean that, as you have mocked the Lord by betraying him again after your confession and promises of amendment, so he will mock you at the hour of death. “I will laugh and will mock. But God is not mocked.” (Gal. vi. 7.) “As a dog,” says the Wise Man, “that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly.” (Prov. xxvi. 11.) B. Denis the Carthusian gives an excellent exposition of this text. He says that, as a dog that eats what he has just vomited, is an object of disgust and abomination, so the sinner who returns to the sins which he has detested and confessed, becomes hateful in the sight of God.” Sicut id quod per vomitum est rejectum, resumere est valide abominabile ac turpe sic peccata deleta reiterari."  

8. O folly of sinners! If you purchase a house, you spare no pains to get all the securities necessary to guard against the loss of your money; if you take medicine, you are careful to assure yourself that it cannot injure you; if you pass over a river, you cautiously avoid all danger of falling into it; and for a transitory enjoyment, for the gratification of revenge, for a beastly pleasure, which lasts but a moment, you risk your eternal salvation, saying: "I will go to confession after I commit this sin." And when, I ask, are you to go to confession? You say: “On tomorrow." But who promises you tomorrow? Who assures you that you shall have time for confession, and that God will not deprive you of life, as he has deprived so many others, in the act of sin? “Diem tenes,” says St. Augustine, “qui horam non tenes.” You cannot be certain of living for another hour, and you say: “I will go to confession tomorrow.” Listen to the words of St. Gregory: “He who has promised pardon to penitents, has not promised tomorrow to sinners.” (Hom. xii. in Evan). God has promised pardon to all who repent; but he has not promised to wait till tomorrow for those who insult him. Perhaps God will give you time for repentance, perhaps he will not. But, should he not give it, what shall become of your soul? In the meantime, for the sake of a miserable pleasure, you lose the grace of God, and expose yourself to the danger of being lost for ever.  

9. Would you, for such transient enjoyments, risk your money, your honour, your possessions, your liberty, and your life? No, you would not. How then does it happen that, for a miserable gratification, you lose your soul, heaven, and God? Tell me: do you believe that heaven, hell, eternity, are truths of faith? Do you believe that, if you die in sin, you are lost for ever? Oh! what temerity, what folly is it, to condemn yourself voluntarily to an eternity of torments with the hope of afterwards reversing the sentence of your condemnation! "Nemo," says St. Augustine, “sub spe salutis vultæ grotare.” No one can be found so foolish as to take poison with the hope of preventing its deadly effects by adopting the ordinary remedies. And you will condemn yourself to hell, saying that you expect to be afterwards preserved from it. Folly! which, in conformity with the divine threats, has brought, and brings every day, so many to hell. “Thou hast trusted in thy wickedness, and evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not know the rising thereof.” (Isa. xlvii. 10, 11.) You have sinned, trusting rashly in the divine mercy: the punishment of your guilt shall fall suddenly upon you, and you shall not know from whence it comes. What do you say? What resolution do you make? If, after this sermon, you do not firmly resolve to give yourself to God, I weep over you, and regard you as lost.