¶ And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee…
Everyone knows that the Church is against abortion. But how completely do we always understand why, for Catholics, this is such a major issue? I begin with a story from the National Catholic Register:
“NEW YORK — Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an obstetrician who oversaw the performance of about 75,000 abortions before becoming a leading pro-life advocate and a convert to the Catholic faith, died at his home in New York Feb. 21 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 84.
…In his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby…
He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age”.
That phrase of Dr Nathanson’s, “the humanity of the unborn baby”, is obviously enough the first part of what we need to understand. But that’s not enough. Being pro-life isn’t just a matter of being against abortion; it’s a positive, not negative, set of beliefs: it’s about knowing with certainty (which not everyone does) that all life is a priceless gift. And we begin with ourselves: with gratitude for our own life.
This gratitude is a distinguishing mark of all holy men and women. I think (as some of my readers may have noticed) that G K Chesterton is one of them, and that there is a strong case for his beatification and ultimate canonisation. His was one of the great prophetic voices of the 20th century: prophetic in both senses of the word, that is; he foresaw many things then still in the future and he also had a deep insight into what was wrong with the world in which he lived. This in turn had its origins in a profound sense of what human life ought to be.
And that all began with his gratitude for the gift of life. “I hung onto religion,” he wrote in his autobiography, “by one thin thread of thanks. I thanked whatever gods might be, not like Swinburne, because no life lived for ever, but because any life lived at all”. Seventy years before the pro-life movement Chesterton wrote this early poem, entitled “By the Babe Unborn”, about the wonder of life: in it, he imagines a child in the womb longing for birth:
If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,
If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.
In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.
Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.
I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.
They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.
A few years later, he attacked the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, one of whose key essays was entitled “The emptiness of existence”, and whose deep and systematic pessimism was to have such a massive influence on the literature and thought of the 20th century, by evoking once more his own key image of “the babe unborn”. Schopenhauer, wrote Chesterton, “had not that highest order of imagination which can see the things which surround us on every side with purified and primitive eyes. Had he possessed this he would have felt as we all dimly feel that a child unborn, offered the chance and risk of so vivid and magical an experience as existence, could no more resist taking it than a living child could resist opening a cupboard in which, he was told, were toys of which he could not even dream. He did not realise that the question of whether life contains a preponderance of joy or sorrow is entirely secondary to the fact that life is an experience of a unique and miraculous character, the idea of missing which would be intolerable if it were for one moment conceivable.”
Nobody has ever better summed up why Catholics don’t speak of their beliefs as being merely anti-abortion, but as being “pro-life”, an infinitely vaster conception. When Chesterton died, in the 1930s, abortion was still thought of, certainly by Christians of whatever persuasion, as unthinkably wicked. This was also generally true of secular public opinion, though there were, of course, exceptions: the Nazis believed in it, so did Adolf Hitler’s gushing English admirer, Marie Stopes.
By the 1960s, after the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, and then of Stalinism and other human monstrosities, there had been a great movement towards Schopenhauer’s vision of the futility of human life, towards believing in his words that “in a world like this … it is impossible to imagine happiness”: and one result was the comparative ease with which ordinary men and women were more and more persuaded that the taking of life in the womb was a matter of very much less consequence than their parents and grandparents had supposed.
That’s what’s at stake here. That’s why the Church is so insistently (the secular world thinks obsessively and unreasonably) hostile to the taking of unborn life: because Catholics believe – more fundamentally than in anything else – in God’s Creation of this world and in the fact that, in Chesterton’s words, life in it “is an experience of a unique and miraculous character, the idea of missing which would be intolerable if it were for one moment conceivable”. The deepest tragedy of the 20th century is that for so many men and women, this dreadful notion became not merely “conceivable” (was ever a word used with a more poignant irony?) but normal.
At the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, more than 51,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were wounded, missing, or dead. Many of those who died were laid in makeshift graves along the battlefield. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin commissioned David Wills, an attorney, to purchase land for a proper burial site for the deceased Union soldiers. Wills acquired 17 acres for the cemetery, which was planned and designed by landscape architect William Saunders.
The cemetery was dedicated on November 19, 1863. The main speaker for the event was Edward Everett, one of the nation’s foremost orators. At the ceremony, Everett spoke for more than 2 hours; Lincoln spoke for 2 minutes.
President Lincoln had given his brief speech a lot of thought. He saw meaning in the fact that the Union victory at Gettysburg coincided with the nation’s birthday; but rather than focus on the specific battle in his remarks, he wanted to present a broad statement about the larger significance of the war. He invoked the Declaration of Independence, and its principles of liberty and equality, and he spoke of “a new birth of freedom” for the nation. In his brief address, he continued to reshape the aims of the war for the American people—transforming it from a war for Union to a war for Union and freedom. Although Lincoln expressed disappointment in the speech initially, it has come to be regarded as one of the most elegant and eloquent speeches in U.S. history.
Knowledge of what happened before us is not a hobby. To call someone a history buff is like calling someone a DNA buff. We are walking inheritances, and if we do not know about people who lived before us, we cannot know ourselves. Lacking experience of what Matthew Arnold called “the best which has been thought and said,” we cannot prudently reject the worst that has been thought and said.
Prudence is the guide for its fellow natural virtues: it discerns justice, which in turn justifies temperance, which then tempers courage. Aristotle called prudence “right reason in action.” Prudence analyzes experience, correctly judges what is right and wrong, and acts accordingly. It is imprudent to underestimate the machinations of evil. Christ requires prudence in a world hostile to Christ: “Behold, I am sending you as lambs among wolves; be therefore crafty as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
The prudent remember, for example, that the Nazis began the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, a Friday, and that the British cabinet members were taken by surprise because “gentlemen do not start wars on weekends.” Better knowledge of history would have taught them that the Devil is not a gentleman.
Craftiness without innocence is cynical, and innocence without craftiness is naive. The cynic mocks those who are naive. It would be naive to be surprised by the increasing mockery of religion in our cynical society. It would be imprudent not to detect cynicism in the current Administration’s opposition to the addition of a prayer to the World War II Memorial in our capital. The director of the Bureau of Land Management said that it would “dilute the memorial’s message.”
That prayer, read over the radio by President Roosevelt on June 6, 1944, at the start of the Normandy invasion, ended: “O Lord, give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment – let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace – a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
Prudence knows that this prayer does not “dilute the message.” It is the message.
Margaret Higgins Sanger was a radical feminist, eugenicist, Marxist, and the founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She talks to Mike Wallace about why she became an advocate for birth control, over-population, and against the Catholic Church and morality.
Margaret Higgins Sanger was a radical feminist, eugenicist, Marxist, and the founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Sanger was born Margaret Higgins in 1879 in Corning, New York. Her parents, Michael Hennessy Higgins and Anne Purcell Higgins, were socialists and early activists in the women’s suffrage movement.
In 1902 Miss Higgins (i.e., Margaret Sanger) earned a degree as a registered nurse and married architect William Sanger; the following year she gave birth to her first child. Later acknowledging that she had neglected her children (one of whom died of pneumonia at age four), Sanger declared that she was not a “fit person for love or home or children or anything which needs attention or consideration.”
In 1912 Sanger and her family settled in New York City. She became a member of both the Women’s Committee and the Marxist Committee of the New York Socialist Party. “Our living-room,” she would write in her 1938 autobiography, “became a gathering place where liberals, anarchists, Socialists and I.W.W.’s [Industrial Workers of the World members] could meet.”
Also in 1912, Sanger began writing a women’s-rights column for the New York Call entitled, “What Every Girl Should Know.” In addition, she wrote and distributed a pamphlet titled Family Limitation, which provided details about contraception methods and devices. By publishing this pamphlet, Sanger ran afoul of the Comstock Law of 1873, which classified such material as obscene and barred its dissemination via the U.S. mail.
After separating from her husband in 1913, Sanger began writing an eight-page monthly feminist-socialist newsletter called The Woman Rebel, which often promoted contraceptive use and sex education. Using the slogan “No Gods and No Masters,” The Woman Rebel was distributed through the mail, and once again Sanger came under fire for violation of the Comstock Law. In 1914 she was indicted on criminal charges but promptly fled to England.
Sanger returned to the U.S. in October 1915, and the following year she opened a women’s “birth-control” (a phrase she coined) clinic in Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. The government deemed the clinic illegal, however, and shut it down nine days later; Sanger spent a month in jail for her transgression.
In 1917 Sanger founded the Birth Control Review, a publication favoring contraception as a means of limiting society’s birth rate.
In 1921 she created the American Birth Control League, which eventually would evolve into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the largest abortion provider in the United States.
Also in 1921, Sanger established both the Clinical Research Bureau (which was the first legal birth-control clinic in the U.S.) and the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control.
In 1930 Sanger was elected President of the Birth Control International Information Center; from 1939 to 1942 she was an honorary delegate of the Birth Control Federation of America; and from 1952 to 1959 she served as President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Sanger’s reasons for advocating birth control stemmed, in part, from her views on race and heredity. She was a devoted eugenicist who advocated forced sterilization — of the poor and the mentally deficient, in particular, who she believed were likely to produce “subnormal” offspring — for the purpose of improving society’s overall gene pool. Examples of her ideas on selective breeding are found throughout her columns and newsletters. For instance, she wrote:
“It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things. Stop bringing to birth children whose inheritance cannot be one of health or intelligence. Stop bringing into the world children whose parents cannot provide for them. Herein lies the key of civilization. For upon the foundation of an enlightened and voluntary motherhood shall a future civilization emerge.”
“The undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind,” Sanger elaborated.
The eugenic theme figured prominently in Sanger’s Birth Control Review, wherein she published such articles as “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics” (June 1920); “The Eugenic Conscience” (February 1921); “The Purpose of Eugenics” (December 1924); “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics” (July 1925); “Birth Control: The True Eugenics” (August 1928); and many others.
At a March 1925 international birth-control event in New York City, Sanger advocated — for the “salvation of American civilization” — the sterilization of those “unfit” to procreate. In addition, she condemned the “irresponsible and reckless” rates of procreation among those “whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers.” She was referring specifically to Catholics who rejected the use of contraception. “There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people,” she added, “that the procreation of this group should be stopped.”
In her quest to engineer a civilization devoid of “subnormal children,” Sanger often worked jointly with groups and individuals whose goals vis a vis eugenics overlapped with her own, even if their larger agendas differed from hers. In 1926, for instance, she presented a lecture on birth control to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. In September 1930 she invited Nazi anthropologist Eugen Fischer (whose ideas were cited by the Nazis to legitimize the extermination of Jews) to meet with her at her home.
Sanger’s commitment to eugenic “sexual science” dovetailed seamlessly with her Marxist vision. While she had been heartened by the success of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, she doubted that a revolution for a new communist order in the U.S. could be carried out by a proletariat class of limited intellectual capacity. Thus she sought to elevate the quality of the overall gene pool by means of eugenics. “In pointing out the limitations and fallacies of the orthodox Marxian opinion,” Sanger wrote in The Pivot of Civilization, “my purpose is not to depreciate the efforts of Socialists aiming to create a new society, but rather to emphasize what seems to me to be the greatest and most neglected truth of our day: unless sexual science is incorporated … and the pivotal importance of birth control is recognized in any program of reconstruction, all efforts to create a new world and a new civilization are foredoomed to failure.”
In January 1939 two of Sanger’s organizations, the Clinical Research Bureau and the American Birth Control League (ABCL), merged to form the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA).
At this point, Sanger turned her attention specifically to the reproductive practices of black Americans. She selected former ABCL director Clarence J. Gamble (of the Procter and Gamble company) to become BCFA’s southern regional director. That November, Gamble drew up a memorandum titled “Suggestion for Negro Project,” whose ultimate aim was to decrease the black birth rate significantly. Anticipating that black leaders would be suspicious of anyone exhorting African Americans to have fewer children, Gamble suggested that BCFA place black leaders in high positions within the organization, so as to give the appearance that they were in charge of the group’s agendas. BCFA presented birth control as a vehicle for the upward economic mobility of blacks.
Sanger authored several books during her lifetime, including: What Every Mother Should Know (1917); Woman and the New Race (1920); Happiness in Marriage (1926); Motherhood in Bondage (1928); My Fight For Birth Control (1931); and Autobiography (1938). Another book, The Pivot of Civilization, was published posthumously in 2006.
Sanger today is considered an icon of the feminist Left. Former Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt once said, “I stand by Margaret Sanger’s side,” leading “the organization that carries on Sanger’s legacy.” Planned Parenthood’s first African American President, Faye Wattleton, stated that she too was “proud” to be “walking in the footsteps of Margaret Sanger.”
Planned Parenthood actively celebrates Sanger’s legacy each year by presenting its “highest honor,” the “argaret Sanger Award, to an individual who best promotes the organization’s values and ideals. Past recipients of this award include: actress Kathleen Turner; Robin Chandler Duke, former President of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (and President Bill Clinton‘s ambassador to Norway); Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion; and Hillary Clinton (who won the award in 2009).
Sanger died in 1966 in Tucson, Arizona of arteriosclerosis. According to her New York Times obituary, she sought to encourage birth control and/or abortion among “subnormal children.”
Read more: “The Negro Project- Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Plan for Black Americans
They were letters to God, written by schoolchildren more than a century ago.
As the south tower was removed last August some long time parishioners mentioned an old urban legend that stated the school children, here at Corpus Christ, wrote letters, which were then encased in the cross on top of the church. It was true!! Well, the letters are now back on Terra Firma. Unfortunately, all those decades of being heaven bound, have exposed them to the elements. Their condition is very, very poor and the prospect of reconstruction is non-existent. Also accompanying the letters on their long wait for retrieval were trinkets and small Holy Images. Those too are in poor condition.
The weather wore away the copper and small fissures allowed water to seep onto those precious articles, then heat, cold and time took their toll. They arrived like a wet sponge. (And almost looked like that.) These items will be available for viewing at a later time. First they have to dry, and a protective cover has to be made so they can be moved safely.
Now, please say a prayer for the good Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph, and the individuals who wrote those letters. They were the founders of this parish and their hard work and dedication should never be forgotten.
Church Triumphant, Church Militant, Church Suffering
For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. ROM. xii. 4, 5
Few other tenets of Catholic belief and practice have been combated by the religious revolutionists of the sixteenth century with such persistent violence as that Of “The Communion of the Saints “ yet few other tenets of Catholic belief and practice are so solidly grounded in Scripture and Tradition, or afford to the Christian soul so much sweetness of thought, so much hopefulness of life and action.
For ages the Apostles Creed reechoed through Christendom “ I believe in the “Communion of the Saints” and to this article of the Creed solemn significance was given in universal ritualistic observance. Suddenly all was changed. ”Justification by faith alone“; the vital, though most erroneous principle of the new religion, was the argument for the exclusion of all secondary or mediate intercession. The Saints, those on earth or those in Heaven, it was said, must be silenced. Intervention on their part is needless. It is injurious to the Saviour of Calvary. It indicates either in the Saviour insufficiency of power and merit, or in the believer insufficiency of personal appropriation of the fullness of salvation proffered by Him to mankind. Henceforward, the article in the Creed “I believe in the Communion of the Saints” “was to be a mere verbal expression, void of substantial meaning or living reality.
Much more that the Saints be once forever ejected from prerogatives and privileges heretofore accorded to them, war was waged against their names and memories, against things whatsoever that might recall them to the Christian mind, or suggest recognition of their deeds of holiness. The doctrine of “ The Communion of the Saints“ as interpreted and reduced to practice by the Catholic Church, before and after the so-called “Reformation” was distorted and calumniated to the end that seen only under a vile and blackened image, it be abominated the more cordially and buried the more deeply in abiding oblivion. The recognition of the Saints, as known in the Catholic Church, it was said, is rank superstition, degraded idolatry: to invoke their intercession, to venerate their virtues, to picture them in stone or on canvas, is the revival of olden paganism. Thus inaugurated, opposition to the Saints traveled down the centuries, though here and there somewhat shorn of its asperity as justice and common sense were allowed a hearing. The opposition lives to-day. Even to-day the Saints need to be defended. Misrepresentation must be denied, and truth set forth in its full armor of defense.
What is “The Communion of the Saints” It is the fellowship of mutual love and help among the sons of Christ, members of His mystic body, the Church, whether still battling for salvation on earth, or reigning in bliss in Heaven, or enduring for a time the cleansing fires of Purgatory. “There is no other name under Heaven given to man, whereby he must be saved “no other name than that of Jesus, Redeemer and Saviour. Jesus is sole Redeemer, sole Mediator, the sole One, capable of bringing God to man, and man to God this, certainly, the indubitable and uncontestable teaching of the Christian dispensation. None may doubt this teaching: none may set up, in doctrine or practice, aught to impair, in slightest iota, its over-mastering integrity. The supremacy of Jesus, as Redeemer and Saviour, was at all times the solemn asseveration of the Christian religion: it is to-day the solemn asseveration of the Catholic Church.
Whence, then, the intercessory function attributed to the Saints by the Catholic Church, clearly implied, the Church teaches, in the article of the Apostles Creed “I believe in the Communion of the Saints “? We answer: From the free-willed ordering of the Redeemer and Saviour Himself, due altogether to His love and merciful condescension.
In the Christian dispensation love is supreme. The whole dispensation had its birth in God s eternal love for mankind: its whole course through time was to be the outward effusion of this love. As one of the effects of this love, the Incarnate Word willed that men be united to Him in closest, most intimate bond, even to become, as it were, members of His own body : “Now” writes St. Paul, “you are the body of Christ, and members of member.” And, then, as the consequence of their union with Himself, He willed that they be united with one another, even to become members of one another: “So we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of an Other” And, further, in result of their mutual love, He ordered that they help one another: “That there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another”. Thence the privilege of the members to intercede one for an other. As a token of His love for His members, as an encouragement to them to love one another, He, the Head, authorizes the members to take, through petition, one for another graces from the divine treasury, and in this manner, in a degree otherwise impossible, to be mutually “careful one for another” “The Communion of the Saints” in its intercessory function, is one of the many beauteous blossomings of that mysterious love for mankind which bade the eternal Word from Heaven to Bethlehem, from Bethlehem to Calvary.
In the prerogative of intercession given to the members of the body of Christ no shadow is there of infringement upon the mediatorship of the one Saviour: no shadow of substitution of human for divine merit. The Saints offer prayers that through His love and mercy the merits of the Saviour be applied to fellow members of the same mystic body. When we address the Saints, we ask for their intercession. We say to them: “Pray for us”. Never to the Saints do we say: Grant us grace, grant us salvation. To grant grace and salvation is the privilege solely of Him who merited grace, who alone is entitled to dispose of it. Before Him the Saints are as having nothing: outside of Him the Saints, however high in favor, are power less of will and void of hand to help us.
But why in any manner bring the Saints into action? Why not at once mount to the Source of grace, and there without aid from other creatures take immediate draught from its all-copious flow? No absolute need, indeed, is there of the company of the Saints, when we present ourselves before the Great Mediator: to Him the road is always open: alone we may travel it: alone we often do travel it. Yet, there is a signal advantage in approaching Him hand in hand with fellow members of His mystic body. The Great Mediator is pleased when His members put into practice His man date that they love one another, that they be mutually “careful one of the other” And, then, our prayers for love and mercy reach the Throne of Grace, worthier and more compelling when mingled with the prayers of others, nearer and dearer to Jesus. Slight our personal value: poor and weak our claims upon the divine treasury. The prayers of the Saints united with our prayers, the deeds of the Saints are made ours. Not we, unworthy ones, who then pray, but those more beloved of God, whose titles to a hearing He more readily acknowledges.
Church Triumphant, Church Militant, Church Suffering
What, again, “The Communion of the Saints” It is the veneration of the Saints the gift of honor to the celestial beauty resplendent in them, to the graces by which they are enriched in reward of sublime virtues put into practice, of noble deeds done in the service of the Sovereign Master.Again, misrepresentation and calumny. The veneration of the Saints, it was asserted, is a derogation in favor of the creature from the supreme worship due to the Creator a sacrilegious reaction from the monotheism of true religion to the polytheism of pre-Christian paganism.
God alone is Creator and Sovereign Master: to Him alone is given such adoration and worship, as would imply in its object supreme sovereignty. So far as the terms, adoration and worship, have come to mean the recognition of supreme sovereignty, adoration and worship ascend only to God. To think or to act other wise, were, indeed, idolatry, the reaction from Christian truth to pagan polytheism. But how far from this perverseness must we not account the veneration of the Saints, as it is believed and acted upon in the Catholic Church? In the Catholic Church the veneration of the Saints is nought else than the recognition of the sparklings of divine truth and goodness that constitute sainthood sparklings from the eternal Fount of all truth and all goodness, the eternal and Almighty God sparklings to be admired and revered as proceeding from God and imaging in the Saints God s own infinite essence. In its immediate object honor paid to the Saints is partial and secondary: in ultimate analysis its object is God Himself whom we honor, when, for His sake, we honor His servants and beneficiaries. The most exalted of the Saints, the Virgin Mary, receives veneration only because of the choice made of her to be the Mother of the Incarnate, and of the copious graces following upon this choice : “ For behold all generations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name” By the veneration of the Saints, nothing, assuredly, is taken from the supreme worship due to the Almighty God: rather, it is an ungracious and unwarranted shortening of that supreme worship, to refuse the honor of love and reverence to those whom God is delighted to honor, in whom glows resplendent the reflex of His power and mercy.
By Protestantism the Saints were bidden to depart from the life of Christendom. Their shrines were pillaged; their relics cast to the winds; their images forbidden in homes and public places; their names condemned to oblivion. Poor at once was the world of Protestantism in solaces and comforts of the supernatural life. To those who comprehend the teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to “The Communion of the Saints” and in mind and heart conform with it, there come sweetest joyousness and most precious inspiration.
We are made to live in society to be mutually helpful to one another in giving and in receiving. Solitariness is unbearable. It is written: “Woe to him that is alone; for when he falleth, he hath none to pick him up. “ In the natural order God created us one for the other; we are one to the other intermediaries of His gifts. Why were it different in the supernatural order? Why, there, where lie our dearest interests, where the best of our being finds its highest complement, should separateness be decreed, intercommunion of love and service forbidden?
Happily the truth remains: denials of men are powerless against the teachings of the Church of Christ. “The Communion of the Saints “remains. Death snatches from us our loved ones. Affrighted, we cry out: shall we not again know them, not again be known by them? Across the grave that hides their mortal remains, arises the voice of Christian faith: Death has not ravished them from you: only from bodily vision have they gone: their closeness, now the exclusive closeness of soul to soul, is intimate as never before. Through God s gracious love, souls on earth live amid souls in Heaven, amid souls in Purgatory; souls in Heaven help us by their prayers; souls in Purgatory are helped by ours. The gloom of the grave vanishes: “Death is swallowed up in victory: O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy Sting?”
The eyes of faith bear us through the portals of Paradise. There pass in glorious review the hosts of God s elect, men and women of every family of mankind, of every condition of human life, who, once, in all forms of circumstances, amid trials and temptations, held themselves pure and holy, and now, in reward of loyalty to the laws of the Sovereign Master, live in ever-ending bliss. What we are, they were: what they are, we are called to be, on the condition that to-day we be what yesterday they were. The Saints of Heaven are exemplars to be copied into our Lives; over and above this, they are helpers, ceaselessly invoking upon us divine blessings, ceaselessly offering to the Great Dispenser of grace their well-earned rewards in substitution for our coldness of heart and weakness of effort. This the joyousness of “The Communion of the Saints “this the stimulus from it so to live, so to battle and triumph, that we be to-day saints on earth, saints to-morrow in Heaven.
We are sons of our ideals. Tell me whom you admire, whom you love and speak of, and I will tell what you are. The nation portrays in statue and painting its great men, noted for prowess and unselfish civism: it seeks to create a posterity that will rival them in deeds of service. In like manner and for like reason the Church, intent on the sanctification of souls, on the upbuilding of God s Kingdom on earth, the mirror of God s Kingdom in Heaven, makes effort to enliven in the souls of its members the remembrance of its saints and heroes. Its loyalty to its saints and heroes proves it to earth and to Heaven: the doctrine of “The Communion of the Saints “responds to the deepest and truest instincts of human nature: it responds to the clearest teachings and traditions of divinely-given revelation.
As it is to-day in the Catholic Church with regard To “The Communion of the Saints” so it was through out all Christian ages. As it is to-day in Catholic temples, so it was in the Catacombs, the home of Christ s earliest martyrs and confessors. What the adornment of the rude tufa walls of the Catacombs? The Cross of Calvary, the Maid of Bethlehem and her divine infant, the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, the Apostles of the New. What the voice emerging from the brick or marble, closing the tombs of martyrs and confessors? The voice of prayer that the departed be in peace with God, that in Heaven they intercede for friends on earth. What see we in the Catholic temples of to-day? The Cross; statues and paintings of the Virgin Mother; statues and paintings of the Saints of one or of the other of the nineteen centuries of Christ s reign on earth. And what there hear we? First, chants of supreme adoration to Him, to whom alone supreme adoration is due, solemn intonations of sacrificial worship in honor of Him to whom alone sacrifice may be offered and, then, converse of love and reverence with the Saints of Heaven, humble supplication for solace to God s servants in Purgatory. Where in Christendom to-day would the martyrs and the confessors of the Catacombs be at home, were they now to revisit the earth? Assuredly, in the temples of the Catholic Church there and there only. The Catholic Church makes no alteration in its doctrines and practices no alteration in its doctrine and practices with regard to “The Communion of the Saints”
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Rev. Charles F. McGinnis