Christ is risen! the Conqueror of Death

I Cor. xv. 55: "Christ is risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep:
O Death, where is thy victory? O Death, where is thy sting?"

All hail! dear Conqueror! All hail!
O what a victory is Thine!
How beautiful Thy strength appears,
Thy crimson wounds how bright they shine!
They worshipped while the beauteous soul
Paused by the body's wounded side:--
Bright flashed the cave--before them stood
The living Jesus glorified.
Thou camest at the dawn of day:
Armies of souls around Thee were,
Blessed spirits thronging to adore
Thy flesh, so marvellous, so fair.
Down, down, all lofty things on earth,
And worship Him with joyous dread!
O sin! thou art undone by love!
O death! thou art discomfited!
The everlasting Godhead lay
Shrouded within those limbs Divine,
Nor left untenanted one hour
That sacred human heart of Thine.
Ye heavens, how sang they in your courts,
How sang the angelic choirs that day,
When from His tomb the imprisoned God,
Like the strong sunrise broke away!
They worshipped Thee, those ransomed souls,
With the fresh strength of love let free;
They worshipped joyously, and thought,
Of Mary while they looked on Thee.
Oh, I am burning so with love,
I fear lest I should make too free;
Let me lie silent, and adore
Thy glorified Humanity.
And Thou too, soul of Jesus, Thou
Towards that sacred flesh didst yearn,
And for the beatings of that heart,
How ardently Thy love did burn!
Ah! now Thou sendest me sweet tears;
Fluttered with love my spirits fail--
What shall I say? Thou know'st my heart;
All hail! dear Conqueror! all hail.

Christ is risen! the Prince of Peace

John xx. 19: "Now when it was late, that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace be to you."

To Christ, the Prince of Peace,
And Son of God most High;
The Father of the world to come,
Sing we with holy joy.
O fount of endless life!
O spring of waters clear!
O flame celestial, cleansing all
Who unto Thee draw near.
Deep in His heart for us
The wound of love He bore;
That love with which He still inflames
The hearts that Him adore.
Hide me in Thy dear heart,
For thither do I fly;
There seek Thy grace through life, in death
Thin immortality.
O Jesu! Victim blest!
What else but love divine
Could Thee constrain to open thus
That sacred heart of Thine?
Praise to the Father be;
Praise to His only Son;
Praise to the blessed Paraclete,
While endless ages run.

Christ is risen! the Good Shepherd

John x. 14: "The Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep."

I met the Good Shepherd
but now on the plain,
As homeward He carried
His lost one again:
I marvelled how gently
His burden He bore,
And as he passed by me
I knelt to adore.
Ah me, how the thorns
have entangled Thy hair
And cruelly riven
that forehead so fair!
How feebly Thou drawest
Thy faltering breath,
And, lo, on Thy face
is the paleness of death!
O Shepherd, Good Shepherd,
Thy wounds they are deep;
The wolves have sore hurt Thee
in saving Thy sheep;
Thy raiment all over
with crimson is dyed,
And what is this rent
they have made in Thy side?
O Shepherd, Good Shepeherd,
and is it for me,
Such grievous affliction
hath fallen on Thee?
Oh, then, let me strive,
for the love Thou hast borne,
To give Thee no longer
occasion to mourn.

And Jesus, hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed Him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.--Matt. Viii. 10.

         Dear Catholics, Our Lord came down from the Mount of the Beatitudes, healed a leper at the foot of the hill, and started on His way towards Capharnaum. As He approached the town there came to Him messengers, begging that He would heal the servant of a Roman centurion. This Roman officer had command over one hundred soldiers in the garrison at Caphamaum, and, although a Gentile, was a devout proselyte, and had built a synagogue for the Jews. So great was his faith in our Lord that when he heard the Saviour was coming to cure his servant, he came out and told Him not to inconvenience Himself by going all the way to the house of the sick man, but only to say the word and the servant would be well. This Gentile looked upon the power which Christ had over life and death, over sickness and health, in the same way as upon his own power and authority over the soldiers under him: it was only necessary to say a word, to give a command, and obedience would follow.

          This admirable faith of the Roman centurion, so highly praised by our Lord Himself, has been considered throughout the centuries as a model for all true believers.

          Faith is a supernatural, theological virtue by which, relying on the authority of God, we firmly believe whatever God has revealed and the Church proposes for our belief. Faith is called a virtue because it is a habit inclining us to good; it is supernatural, because it is not acquired by our own efforts, but is infused into our souls by God Himself; it is termed theological, because it has God for its immediate object; its motive is the authority of God, because only God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, is the author of the truths of faith. God delivers His word to us, not directly, but through His infallible Church (Matt. xxviii. 19; Rom. x. 17). Scripture and tradition, without an authoritative interpreter, are not reliable guides in matters of faith, as is proved by the numerous mutually contradicting Protestant sects. Faith differs, from opinion, which is doubtful assent; from knowledge, which rests on experience or reason; from human belief, which depends on the authority of men. The object of faith is not some, but all of the truths that God has revealed and proposes to us through the Church. The Church proposes the teachings of revelation to us mainly in the Apostles' Creed, and in the definitions of the Popes and Councils. The Apostles' Creed contains the fundamental truths which we are to believe. It is necessary to believe all the truths the Church teaches, but it is not necessary to know them all explicitly. The truths absolutely necessary to be known by all are: that there is a God; that there is a future life of reward and punishment (Heb. xi. 6 ff.). Since the preaching of the Gospel, it is also required to know and believe the mysteries of the Trinity and of the Incarnation and Redemption (John xiv. 6; xvii. 33). Anyone ignorant of these essential truths cannot be absolved in confession. Parents should instruct their children in these important doctrines from their earliest years. Truths that all are bound to know, as far as they are able are: the Articles of the Creed; the Commandments; the Sacraments, at least those that a given person needs to receive; the Lord's Prayer, the acts of the various virtues, such as, the acts of faith, hope, charity, contrition.

          Faith must be firm, i.e., it must exclude all doubt, hesitation, or disbelief. It must be blind, i.e., we must not seek any other reason than the authority of God for what we are asked to believe (John xx. 29). The reason for this latter quality is that faith, being concerned with supernatural truths, is above the natural grasp of our finite minds. The fact that we cannot understand the truths of faith is no reason for rejecting them; because they have God for their author; because the natural world is filled with mysteries which we accept but cannot understand; because constantly we blindly trust the authority of scientists, historians, doctors, lawyers, etc. Faith is reasonable, i.,e., we can establish on rational grounds all the foundations of faith, namely, the existence, knowledge, and truthfulness of God, the divinity of Christ and of the mission of the Church. Faith should be entire, i.e., it must extend to every dogma without exception.

          Faith is necessary for salvation (Heb. xi. 6), for it is the root and foundation of our justification. Without faith it is impossible to perform works that are meritorious of life eternal, although one may do many things that are naturally good. Faith imposes a two-fold obligation: a negative obligation, which always binds, of never sinning against it; a positive obligation of making acts of faith before God and of professing our faith before men. Sins against faith are: infidelity, i.e., the total rejection of the Christian religion by those who remain outside the true faith, although they know it sufficiently well to embrace it; apostasy, i.e., the rejection of the Christian religion for a false one; heresy, i.e., the obstinate denial of an Article of faith by a baptized person; deliberate doubt concerning a matter of faith; exposing one's self to the danger of losing the faith by keeping bad company, reading injurious literature, etc. We are obliged to make acts of faith from time to time, especially when in danger of losing our faith. It is never permissible to deny the faith before men, even in appearance (2 Mach. vi. 21 ff.), or by silence; on the contrary, a person is bound to profess his faith publicly whenever God's glory or our neighbor's good requires it (Matt. v. 16).

          The knowledge derived from faith is infinitely superior to that which comes from human wisdom, and is at the same time far easier and more secure. How highly then should we appreciate the gift of faith! We should carefully avoid all things by which faith is lost, such as, wilful doubt or denial of Articles of faith; or imperiled, such as, neglect of religious duties, bad books or company, mixed marriages, Godless education, joining secrete societies (ex.Freemasons), etc. We should pray for a great and living faith.

         Dear Catholics--one of the greatest dangers to faith is Immorality. It is a widespread danger, as widespread as human nature. Be not surprised, my brethren, at the term or at its application. Whatever is sinful is immoral, inasmuch as it contravenes the laws of conduct; and whatever makes for sin, or even for the lower natural life, is necessarily inimical to so holy and perfect a virtue as divine faith. Arguments need not be multiplied; hear the Old Testament and the New: "The wicked man is void of knowledge" (Prov. xxix. 7) ; "for wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins" (Wis. i. 4); "everyone that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved" (John iii. 20) ; "how can you believe, who receive glory one from another; and the glory which is from God alone you do not seek?" (Ib. v. 44); "you do not believe because you are not of my sheep" (Ib. x. 26). So, no light, no knowledge, no wisdom for the sinful; no believing for the evil, the proud, the disobedient, who hear not the Shepherd's voice, nor come when He calls. It is not that every sin, be it even mortal, immediately destroys faith: holy Church found it necessary to define the contrary; only sin against faith at once destroys faith. But all sin obscures, weakens and endangers it. The word of God says that we can neither commence nor continue to believe without divine help. And if we turn that help aside? If we reject it? The Holy Ghost alone can form in us acts of this supernatural virtue. But if we sacrilegiously expel Him ? if we close our souls against His breathings, if we heartlessly shut our ears to His unspeakable pleadings? In a small yacht, as you are all aware, you may cross a wide lake or ascend a strong river-- provided you have sound wind-filled sails. But you will not go far if you keep out of the way of the wind, if your sails are torn and worthless, if you refuse to carry or hoist any sails at all. So do many Catholics in the progress of Christian life.

         This point, my brethren, needs much attention from some of you. The earthen vessel in which we have so divine a treasure as faith, is, you must admit, perilous enough in its unstable fragility, without being sordidly neglected, without being corroded and buffeted by filth and iniquity. Now, you easily grant that you fail in other matters, but not, you think, in faith. You do not see that contradicting your religion in practice is endangering your belief of it. I know, my brethren, and am glad to proclaim that poor sinners can fall very low and yet never doubt about Catholicity. In that, too, is their one hope of salvation; for faith keeps open their access to the Church, and access to her is access to God's mercy. They begin to look hopeless only when, by word or act, they cast themselves into the morass of soul-destroying heresy. It is of apostates St. Paul uses the fearful words about the impossibility of being renewed again to penance. But notice that on this very question of preserving or losing faith, the same Apostle has a word of warning for those who fail not in belief but in conscience. When he writes: "Having faith and a good conscience, which some rejecting have made shipwreck concerning the faith" (i Tim. i. 19), he sufficiently shows that where conscience was otherwise violated the way was taken toward loss of belief. He continues to enforce that teaching by speaking of the mystery of faith that is to be held "in a pure conscience" (Ib. iii. 9). The words seem like an echo of his abiding anxiety about the heavenly treasure which he had been instrumental in placing in so many earthen vessels.

         But earthly as we are, we yet can have this good conscience, this pure conscience: not, however, with sin. All sin is iniquity and foulness; hence with it, of any kind, conscience is bad and unclean, and faith feels not at home. Two vices are so speedily destructive of the delicate virtue that we require special caution against them. Impurity and pride are necessary and deadly enemies of this sacred dignity of our elevated nature. It has been figuratively yet accurately said that as was St. John the Baptist in the court of Herod, so is faith in the unchaste soul: beheading is the consequence. For the proud we have the Lord's intimation that they could not believe in Him so long as they sought false glory. Witness the Pharisees, who knew so much of the law and professed belief so formally, yet persisted in rejecting the true Messiah even when testified to by Himself, by His Father, and by the Holy Spirit!


         To what, then, my brethren, do our reflections lead us? Surely to the conclusion that, as faith is most high and precious, so must our jealous care of it be most humbly assiduous. We should not lose it, we would not lessen it: we need it all for our eternal salvation, for our filial service of our heavenly Father. Without it we cannot please God, without it we can be but condemned. For no earthly bribe will we betray it, for no fleshpots renounce it, for no mess of pottage barter it, for no passing enjoyments endanger it. Far from us be the folly of the worldlings who have finally to say: "We have erred from the way of truth; and the light of justice hath not shined unto us; and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us" (Wis. v. 6) ; farther still be the counsel of the malicious who said to God: "Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job xxi. 14). We, my brethren, believe in the Almighty, we serve Him and find profit in praying to Him. We know that of His wrath the unbelieving wicked shall drink; that their lamp shall be put out; that a deluge shall come upon them; that they shall be as chaff before the face of the wind, and as ashes which the whirlwind scattereth. Fearing our human weakness, but trusting in the grace of faith which, as we so often sing, alone suffices to strengthen the sincere heart-- ad firmandum car sincerum sola fides sufficit--we simply hold our ground in the ranks of the Church's children who have their eyes opened, who are converted from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, who receive forgiveness of sins, and a lot among the saints by the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Prayer for the Preservation of Faith

O my Redeemer, will that terrible moment ever come, when but few Christians will be found animated with a spirit of faith? that moment when, provoked to indignation, Thou wilt remove from us thy protection? The vices, the evil habits of our children, have perhaps irrevocably moved thy justice this very day to vengeance! O Thou who art the author and finisher of our faith, we conjure Thee, in the bitterness of our hearts, humbled and contrite, not to permit the beautiful light of faith to be extinguished in us. Be mindful of thy mercies of old, cast a compassionate regard upon that vine which Thou hast planted with thy right hand, which was bedewed with the sweat of the Apostles, watered with the precious blood of thousands upon thousands of martyrs and the tears of so many generous penitents, and made fruitful by the prayers of so many confessors and innocent virgins. O divine Mediator, have regard for those zealous souls who incessantly raise their hearts to Thee and pray for the maintenance of that most precious treasure, the true Faith. Suspend, O must just God, the decree of our reprobation, turn away thine eyes from our sins, and fix them on the adorable blood, shed upon the Cross as the price of salvation, and daily pleading for it, on our behalf, upon our altars. Oh, preserve us in the true Catholic Roman Faith. Infirmities afflict us, annoyances wear us away, misfortunes oppress us: but preserve to us thy holy faith ; for, endowed with this precious gift, we shall willingly bear every sorrow, and nothing can affect our happiness. On the other hand, without this supreme treasure of the faith, our misfortunes will be unspeakable and immense. O good Jesus, author of our faith, keep it pure; keep us safe within the bark of Peter, faithful and obedient to his successor, thy True Vicar here on earth, that so the unity of holy Church may be preserved, holiness fostered, the Holy See kept free and protected, and the universal Church extended, to the advantage of souls. O Jesus, author of our faith, humble and convert the enemies of thy Church ; bestow on all Kings and Christian Princes, and on all the faithful, peace and true unity; strengthen and maintain all in thy holy service, to the end that we may live by Thee and die in Thee. Ah! my Jesus, author of our faith, in Thee I would live, and in Thee would I die. Amen.

(Indulgence 300 days--Leo XIII.)

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice, (1676 - 1751)

Noah's Offering to God after the Deluge

In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, "This ark was the figure of the Church," while Saint Augustine adds, "And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark."

"And a certain man said to Him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But He said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are."--Luke 13: 23-25


Thanks be to God, the number of the Redeemer's disciples is not so small that the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees is able to triumph over them. Although they strove to calumniate innocence and to deceive the crowd with their treacherous sophistries by discrediting the doctrine and character of Our Lord, finding spots even in the sun, many still recognized Him as the true Messiah, and, unafraid of either chastisements or threats, openly joined His cause. Did all those who followed Christ follow Him even unto glory? Oh, this is where I revere the profound mystery and silently adore the abysses of the divine decrees, rather than rashly deciding on such a great point! The subject I will be treating today is a very grave one; it has caused even the pillars of the Church to tremble, filled the greatest Saints with terror and populated the deserts with anchorites. The point of this instruction is to decide whether the number of Christians who are saved is greater or less than the number of Christians who are damned; it will, I hope, produce in you a salutary fear of the judgments of God.

Brothers, because of the love I have for you, I wish I were able to reassure you with the prospect of eternal happiness by saying to each of you: You are certain to go to paradise; the greater number of Christians is saved, so you also will be saved. But how can I give you this sweet assurance if you revolt against God's decrees as though you were your own worst enemies? I observe in God a sincere desire to save you, but I find in you a decided inclination to be damned. So what will I be doing today if I speak clearly? I will be displeasing to you. But if I do not speak, I will be displeasing to God.

Therefore, I will divide this subject into two points. In the first one, to fill you with dread, I will let the theologians and Fathers of the Church decide on the matter and declare that the greater number of Christian adults are damned; and, in silent adoration of that terrible mystery, I will keep my own sentiments to myself. In the second point I will attempt to defend the goodness of God versus the godless, by proving to you that those who are damned are damned by their own malice, because they wanted to be damned. So then, here are two very important truths. If the first truth frightens you, do not hold it against me, as though I wanted to make the road of heaven narrower for you, for I want to be neutral in this matter; rather, hold it against the theologians and Fathers of the Church who will engrave this truth in your heart by the force of reason. If you are disillusioned by the second truth, give thanks to God over it, for He wants only one thing: that you give your hearts totally to Him. Finally, if you oblige me to tell you clearly what I think, I will do so for your consolation.

The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church

It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to hell. To disillusion them and waken them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned?

Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them. To resolve this doubt, let us put the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, on one side; on the other, the most learned theologians and erudite historians; and let us put the Bible in the middle for all to see. Now listen not to what I will say to you -- for I have already told you that I do not want to speak for myself or decide on the matter -- but listen to what these great minds have to tell you, they who are beacons in the Church of God to give light to others so that they will not miss the road to heaven. In this manner, guided by the triple light of faith, authority and reason, we will be able to resolve this grave matter with certainty.

Note well that there is no question here of the human race taken as a whole, nor of all Catholics taken without distinction, but only of Catholic adults, who have free choice and are thus capable of cooperating in the great matter of their salvation. First let us consult the theologians recognized as examining things most carefully and as not exaggerating in their teaching: let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine. They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote, "The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls."

Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone. Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly, "Many attain to faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom." Saint Anselm declares, "There are few who are saved." Saint Augustine states even more clearly, "Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned." The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: "Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence."

The Words of Holy Scripture

But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, "This ark was the figure of the Church," while Saint Augustine adds, "And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark." The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat.

I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, "Lord, is it only a few to be saved?" Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: "You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?" Here is My answer: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, "Many are called, but few are chosen." He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.

Salvation in the Various States of Life

But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, "I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater."

Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, "Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, 'We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.'"

Woe to you who command others! If so many are damned by your fault, what will happen to you? If few out of those who are first in the Church of God are saved, what will happen to you? Take all states, both sexes, every condition: husbands, wives, widows, young women, young men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, rich and poor, noble and plebian. What are we to say about all these people who are living so badly? The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance, and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, "Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell."

Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, "When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned."

O abyss of the judgments of God! Out of thirty thousand, only five were saved! And out of sixty thousand, only three went to heaven! You sinners who are listening to me, in what category will you be numbered?... What do you say?... What do you think?...

I see almost all of you lowering your heads, filled with astonishment and horror. But let us lay our stupor aside, and instead of flattering ourselves, let us try to draw some profit from our fear. Is it not true that there are two roads which lead to heaven: innocence and repentance? Now, if I show you that very few take either one of these two roads, as rational people you will conclude that very few are saved. And to mention proofs: in what age, employment or condition will you find that the number of the wicked is not a hundred times greater than that of the good, and about which one might say, "The good are so rare and the wicked are so great in number"? We could say of our times what Salvianus said of his: it is easier to find a countless multitude of sinners immersed in all sorts of iniquities than a few innocent men. How many servants are totally honest and faithful in their duties? How many merchants are fair and equitable in their commerce; how many craftsmen exact and truthful; how many salesmen disinterested and sincere? How many men of law do not forsake equity? How many soldiers do not tread upon innocence; how many masters do not unjustly withhold the salary of those who serve them, or do not seek to dominate their inferiors? Everywhere, the good are rare and the wicked great in number. Who does not know that today there is so much libertinage among mature men, liberty among young girls, vanity among women, licentiousness in the nobility, corruption in the middle class, dissolution in the people, impudence among the poor, that one could say what David said of his times: "All alike have gone astray... there is not even one who does good, not even one."

Go into street and square, into palace and house, into city and countryside, into tribunal and court of law, and even into the temple of God. Where will you find virtue? "Alas!" cries Salvianus, "except for a very little number who flee evil, what is the assembly of Christians if not a sink of vice?" All that we can find everywhere is selfishness, ambition, gluttony, and luxury. Is not the greater portion of men defiled by the vice of impurity, and is not Saint John right in saying, "The whole world -- if something so foul may be called -- "is seated in wickedness?" I am not the one who is telling you; reason obliges you to believe that out of those who are living so badly, very few are saved.

But you will say: Can penance not profitably repair the loss of innocence? That is true, I admit. But I also know that penance is so difficult in practice, we have lost the habit so completely, and it is so badly abused by sinners, that this alone should suffice to convince you that very few are saved by that path. Oh, how steep, narrow, thorny, horrible to behold and hard to climb it is! Everywhere we look, we see traces of blood and things that recall sad memories. Many weaken at the very sight of it. Many retreat at the very start. Many fall from weariness in the middle, and many give up wretchedly at the end. And how few are they who persevere in it till death! Saint Ambrose says it is easier to find men who have kept their innocence than to find any who have done fitting penance.

If you consider the sacrament of penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions! Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them? Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them? Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament! One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit. One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion?

Where are they now, those who believe that the number of the saved among Christians is greater than that of the damned and who, to authorize their opinion, reason thus: the greater portion of Catholic adults die in their beds armed with the sacraments of the Church, therefore most adult Catholics are saved? Oh, what fine reasoning! You must say exactly the opposite. Most Catholic adults confess badly at death, therefore most of them are damned. I say "all the more certain," because a dying person who has not confessed well when he was in good health will have an even harder time doing so when he is in bed with a heavy heart, an unsteady head, a muddled mind; when he is opposed in many ways by still-living objects, by still-fresh occasions, by adopted habits, and above all by devils who are seeking every means to cast him into hell. Now, if you add to all these false penitents all the other sinners who die unexpectedly in sin, due to the doctors' ignorance or by their relatives' fault, who die from poisoning or from being buried in earthquakes, or from a stroke, or from a fall, or on the battlefield, in a fight, caught in a trap, struck by lightning, burned or drowned, are you not obliged to conclude that most Christian adults are damned? That is the reasoning of Saint Chrysostom. This Saint says that most Christians are walking on the road to hell throughout their life. Why, then, are you so surprised that the greater number goes to hell? To come to a door, you must take the road that leads there. What have you to answer such a powerful reason?

The answer, you will tell me, is that the mercy of God is great. Yes, for those who fear Him, says the Prophet; but great is His justice for the one who does not fear Him, and it condemns all obstinate sinners.

So you will say to me: Well then, who is Paradise for, if not for Christians? It is for Christians, of course, but for those who do not dishonor their character and who live as Christians. Moreover, if to the number of Christian adults who die in the grace of God, you add the countless host of children who die after baptism and before reaching the age of reason, you will not be surprised that Saint John the Apostle, speaking of those who are saved, says, "I saw a great multitude which no man could number."

And this is what deceives those who pretend that the number of the saved among Catholics is greater than that of the damned... If to that number, you add the adults who have kept the robe of innocence, or who after having defiled it, have washed it in the tears of penance, it is certain that the greater number is saved; and that explains the words of Saint John, "I saw a great multitude," and these other words of Our Lord, "Many will come from the east and from the west, and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," and the other figures usually cited in favor of that opinion. But if you are talking about Christian adults, experience, reason, authority, propriety and Scripture all agree in proving that the greater number is damned. Do not believe that because of this, paradise is empty; on the contrary, it is a very populous kingdom. And if the damned are "as numerous as the sand in the sea," the saved are "as numerous at the stars of heaven," that is, both the one and the other are countless, although in very different proportions.

One day Saint John Chrysostom, preaching in the cathedral in Constantinople and considering these proportions, could not help but shudder in horror and ask, "Out of this great number of people, how many do you think will be saved?" And, not waiting for an answer, he added, "Among so many thousands of people, we would not find a hundred who are saved, and I even doubt for the one hundred." What a dreadful thing! The great Saint believed that out of so many people, barely one hundred would be saved; and even then, he was not sure of that number. What will happen to you who are listening to me? Great God, I cannot think of it without shuddering! Brothers, the problem of salvation is a very difficult thing; for according to the maxims of the theologians, when an end demands great efforts, few only attain it.

That is why Saint Thomas, the Angelic Doctor, after weighing all the reasons pro and con in his immense erudition, finally concludes that the greater number of Catholic adults are damned. He says, "Because eternal beatitude surpasses the natural state, especially since it has been deprived of original grace, it is the little number that are saved."

So then, remove the blindfold from your eyes that is blinding you with self-love, that is keeping you from believing such an obvious truth by giving you very false ideas concerning the justice of God, "Just Father, the world has not known Thee," said Our Lord Jesus Christ. He does not say "Almighty Father, most good and merciful Father." He says "just Father," so we may understand that out of all the attributes of God, none is less known than His justice, because men refuse to believe what they are afraid to undergo. Therefore, remove the blindfold that is covering your eyes and say tearfully: Alas! The greater number of Catholics, the greater number of those who live here, perhaps even those who are in this assembly, will be damned! What subject could be more deserving of your tears?

King Xerxes, standing on a hill looking at his army of one hundred thousand soldiers in battle array, and considering that out of all of them there would be not one man alive in a hundred years, was unable to hold back his tears. Have we not more reason to weep upon thinking that out of so many Catholics, the greater number will be damned? Should this thought not make our eyes pour forth rivers of tears, or at least produce in our heart the sentiment of compassion felt by an Augustinian Brother, Ven. Marcellus of St. Dominic? One day as he was meditating on the eternal pains, the Lord showed him how many souls were going to hell at that moment and had him see a very broad road on which twenty-two thousand reprobates were running toward the abyss, colliding into one another. The servant of God was stupefied at the sight and exclaimed, "Oh, what a number! What a number! And still more are coming. O Jesus! O Jesus! What madness!" Let me repeat with Jeremiah, "Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people."

Poor souls! How can you run so hastily toward hell? For mercy's sake, stop and listen to me for a moment! Either you understand what it means to be saved and to be damned for all eternity, or you do not. If you understand and in spite of that, you do not decide to change your life today, make a good confession and trample upon the world, in a word, make your every effort to be counted among the littler number of those who are saved, I say that you do not have the faith. You are more excusable if you do not understand it, for then one must say that you are out of your mind. To be saved for all eternity, to be damned for all eternity, and to not make your every effort to avoid the one and make sure of the other, is something inconceivable.

The Goodness of God

Perhaps you do not yet believe the terrible truths I have just taught you. But it is the most highly-considered theologians, the most illustrious Fathers who have spoken to you through me. So then, how can you resist reasons supported by so many examples and words of Scripture? If you still hesitate in spite of that, and if your mind is inclined to the opposite opinion, does that very consideration not suffice to make you tremble? Oh, it shows that you do not care very much for your salvation! In this important matter, a sensible man is struck more strongly by the slightest doubt of the risk he runs than by the evidence of total ruin in other affairs in which the soul is not involved. One of our brothers, Blessed Giles, was in the habit of sa