Giving Us What For
by Thomas A. Droleskey
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 three hundred forty 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 him 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, I thought it useful and appropriate on this great saint and Doctor the Church's feast day 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 three hundred eleven years 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 (and yes, I did omit most of the Latin phrases in my recording; although I can pray the Rosary in Latin and can sing with decent pronunciation, my reading out loud of Latin words that I do not normally speak is halting to the point of absolute embarrassment!):
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 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 th 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 yo 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 don, 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 His Excellency 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. Brethern, 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 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 Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, 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.)
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 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 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!
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, pray for us.
Pope Saint Stephen, pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints