The Church's Year
Originally published in German in 1880.
the Epistles and Gospels for Sundays and Holy Days, to which are
added instructions on Catholic Faith and Morals.
SHORT INSTRUCTIONS ON THE MANNER OF USING THIS
Catholic, before you commence to read these instructions:
||Place yourself in the presence of God.|
||Humble yourself before Him, sincerely imploring His
you may be enlightened, that you may love Him.
to the Blessed Virgin and to the saints.
Then, step by
step, read the instructions carefully. After each point reflect upon
the truth you have just read, asking yourself:
What must I believe? That which I have just
read. Then make an act of faith, saying: "O Lord! I will believe
this truth, help my faith, increase my faith!"
What must l now do? I must correct the
faults opposed to this truth.
What have I done heretofore? Unhappily, O
God, I have acted in contradiction to this truth; how differently,
O Jesus, from Thee and from Thy saints!
What shall l now do? Here make a firm
resolution to put these truths into immediate practice, to contend
against and overcome the faults opposed to them, and to acquire
Then finish the
reading with acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition; repeat
the same each time you read in this or in any book of devotion, and
you will soon perceive that great benefit for your soul is derived
from such exercises.
EXPLANATIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING THE CHURCH
What is understood by the Church Year?
By the Church
Year is understood the succession of those holy days and seasons,
reoccurring with each succeeding year, which the Church has
appointed to be celebrated, that the faithful may be reminded of the
divine graces and mysteries, may praise God, and occupy themselves,
at such times, with pious, devotional exercises in His honor, and
for their own sanctification.
When does the Church Year begin, and when
It begins with
the First Sunday of Advent and concludes with the last Sunday after
How is the Church Year divided?
weekdays, festivals, holy days, and fast days.
What is Sunday?
Sunday is the
first day of the week, sanctified in an especial manner by God
Himself; therefore, it should be devoted exclusively to His service.
The Apostles called it the "Lord's Day."
Why should Sunday be devoted exclusively to
Because it is
but proper that man, who is created for the service of God only,
should reserve at least one out of the seven days of the week for
that service, and for the salvation of his own soul; again, in the
beginning, God ordered that on the seventh day or Saturday, on which
He rested after finishing the work of creation (Ex. 20:11), man
should also rest (Ex. 20:8‑10), abstain from all worldly employment,
and attend only to the worship of God. This was the Sabbath, or day
of rest, of the Jews which they were required to keep holy (Lev.
Catholic Church, authorized 6y Christ, inspired by the Holy Ghost,
and directed by the Apostles, has made Sunday, the first day of the
week, the day of rest for Christians. The holy martyr Justin (+ 167
A.D.) makes mention of this fact. Sunday was designated as the day
of rest for the Christians partly to distinguish them from the Jews,
as well as for the following reasons: On this day God commenced the
creation of the world, so too on this day He crowned the glorious
work of our Redemption by Christ's Resurrection; on this day, as
Bellarmine says, Christ was born, was circumcised, and was baptized;
and on this day the Holy Ghost descended upon the
Why is this day called Sunday?
Because on this
day, as St. Ambrose says, Christ, the sun of justice, having driven
away the darkness of hell, shone forth, as the rising sun, in the
glory of the Resurrection (Mal. 4:2).
How should the Catholic keep Sunday holy, and how does he
Sunday is kept
holy by abstaining from all servile work performed for wages or
gain, or not commanded by necessity; by passing the day in works of
piety; in hearing Mass devoutly, listening to the word of God in
church and spending the day at home in a quiet manner pleasing to
God. If justly prevented from being present at church on Sundays and
holy days of obligation, we should unite, in spirit, with the priest
and the faithful assembled there, and pray fervently; during the
rest of the day we should read books of devotion, and endeavor to
perform some work of charity. Sunday is profaned by being spent
either in idleness, or in unnecessary servile work, or in that which
is still worse, debauchery, gambling, dancing, and other sinful
actions. It would be better, that is, less sinful, as St. Augustine
says, to till the field on such days, than to spend them in
frivolous, dangerous, and sinful pleasures. But it is not forbidden,
after having properly attended divine service, to participate on
Sundays and holy days in honorable, decorous entertainment of the
mind and heart.
What ought a Catholic to think of dances and fairs on
Sundays and holy days of obligation?
of dancing on such days cannot possibly be pleasing to God. Dancing
in general is an occasion of sin. The council of Baltimore protests
against round dances especially, because they are highly indecent.
Buying and selling without great necessity, as also holding fairs on
Sundays and holy days are likewise sinful. God never ordained His
days of rest for the gratification of avarice. What rewards are
offered for keeping Sunday sacred, and what punishment is incurred
by its desecration?
The Old Law
promised blessings, spiritual and temporal to those who kept holy
the Sabbath day (Lev. 26), and threatened all evils and misfortunes
to those who desecrated it. Thus, to show how much He condemned its
profanation, God caused a man to be stoned to death for gathering
wood upon that day (Num. 15:32). The Catholic Church from her very
beginning, and in several councils (Council. Elv. A.D. 313, Paris
829) has enjoined the keeping holy of Sundays and holy days, and
experience proves in our days especially, that, as the consequence
of the constantly increasing profanation of Sundays and holy days,
immorality and poverty are growing greater; a manifest sign that God
never blesses those who refuse to devote a few days of the year to
His honor and service.
PRAYER FOR ALL SUNDAYS
O God, who hast appointed Sunday, that we should serve
Thee and participate in Thy grace, grant that always on this day our
faith may be renewed, and our hearts incited to the praise and
adoration of Thy Majesty; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.
What are festivals?
days set apart by the Catholic Church, to celebrate with due
solemnity the mysteries of religion, or the memory of the saints.
Hence they are of two kinds, the festivals of our Lord, and the
festivals of the saints.
Has the Church the right to institute festivals and fast
To deny her
such right would be to place her below the Jewish Synagogue, which
in acknowledgment of benefits received, established many festivals,
such as the Feast of Lots (Esther 9:26); the festival in honor of
Judith's victory over Holofernes (Jud. 16:31); the feast of the
Dedication of the Temple (II Mac. 4:56), which our Lord Himself
celebrated with them (Jn. 10:22). Should not the Catholic Church,
therefore, celebrate with equal solemnity the far greater blessings
she has received from God? God Himself, through Moses, commanded the
Jews to celebrate and, as it were, to immortalize by the Pasch their
redemption from Egyptian captivity; the reception of the Ten
Commandments on Mount Sinai, by the festival of Pentecost; their
forty years journey through the desert, and their living in tents,
by the feast of the Tabernacles. How unjustly then would the Church
conduct herself, if she would not commemorate, as the Old Law did,
by the institution of certain festivals in honor of God and His
saints, those graces of which He has made her partaker, through
Christ and His saints, since our Lord gave to the Apostles and to
the bishops, their successors, the power to bind and to loose, that
is, to make ordinances and, as circumstances may require, changes
for the salvation of the people (Mt. 18:18)! These festivals are
instituted to assist the faithful in working out their salvation.
And from this very right of the Church to institute festivals,
follows her right to change or abolish them at her discretion,
whenever her object of directing them to the honor of God is no
longer reached, and the faithful in this case would be as much bound
to obey her, as when she established them, for: Who hears not the
Church, says Christ, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican
How are holy days and festivals to be
They are to be
observed like Sunday. Besides we should endeavor to understand well
the mysteries and blessings of God and the lives and labors of the
saints on whose account the festivals have been instituted. This we
can do by hearing Mass and attending catechetical instruction, or by
reading devotional books at home, in order to induce ourselves to
love and praise God and to imitate the saints, which is the object
the Church has in view in instituting festivals. But, unfortunately,
as this object of the Church is responded to by few, and as, on the
contrary, the holy days are spent very differently from what the
Church intended, she has done well in abolishing certain
festivals, or transferring them to Sunday, that they may be at least
better regarded, and no offence offered to God by their
What are fast days?
Fast days are
those days on which the Church commands us to mortify the body by
abstaining from flesh‑meat, or by taking but one full meal in the
day. Those days on which besides abstinence from meat, but one full
meal is allowed, are called Fast Days of Obligation; those days on
which it is only required to abstain from flesh‑meat, are called
Days of Abstinence.
Can the Church institute fast days?
because the Church of Christ, as mother of the faithful, has the
power to make all useful and necessary regulations for the salvation
of their souls. In doing so she only follows the example of our
Lord, her Head, for He fasted, and of the Apostles, who, even in
their day, ordered the Christians to abstain from blood and things
strangled (Acts. 15:29), in order not to prevent the conversion of
the Jews, who, on account of the Old Law, abhorred the blood and
meat of strangled animals. This prohibition was removed when this
danger no longer existed. "Fasting is no new invention, as many
imagine," writes the Father of the Church, Basil the Great, "it is a
precious treasure, which our forefathers preserved long before our
days, and have handed down to us."
Why has the Church instituted fast days, and for what
Church, from the very beginning, has looked upon external fasting
only as a means of penance. Her object in instituting fast days,
therefore, was and is that by fasting the faithful should mortify
their flesh and their evil desires, seek to pacify God, render
satisfaction for their sins, practice obedience to the Church, their
mother, and by practicing these virtues become more zealous and
fervent in the service of God. Innumerable texts of Scripture, as
well as experience prove that fasting aids to this end. The Fathers
of the Church praise very highly the usefulness of fasting, and our
Lord predicted that the Church, His spouse, would fast, when He, her
Bridegroom, should be taken from her (Mt. 9:15).
What are we to think of those heretics and Catholics who
contemn the command of the Church?
who contemn this command, contemn their mother, the Church, and
Christ her founder, her head, who fasted; they give scandal to the
faithful children of the Church, and do themselves great harm,
because they become slaves of the flesh, subjecting their souls to
the evil desires of the body and thus fall into many sins. They
prove moreover, that they have departed from the spirit of the early
Christians who fasted with great strictness; that they are too
cowardly to overcome themselves, and offer God the sacrifice of
obedience to His Church. The heretics have the Bible against them,
if they assert that the command of the Church to fast is useless and
unnecessary (Acts 13:2-3): that Bible which they so often quote, as
well as all Christian antiquity, experience and reason. One of the
Fathers of the Church, St. Basil, writes: "Honor ever the ancient
practice of fasting, for it is as old as the creation of man. We
must fast if we would return to paradise from which gluttony
expelled us." Every rational, reflecting person must acknowledge, as
experience teaches, that bodily health, and unimpaired mind are best
preserved and improved by temperance and abstinence, especially from
flesh‑meat. It was by continual fasting that many of the fathers of
the desert preserved vigorous health, often living beyond the usual
limit of man's age, sometimes for more than a century, even in
tropical countries, where a lifetime is generally shorter than in
colder climates. St. Paul, the first hermit, lived one hundred and
thirteen years; St. Anthony one hundred and five; St. Arsenius one
hundred and twenty; St. John, the silent, one hundred and four; St.
Theodesius, abbot, one hundred and five. The Catholic Church here
proves herself a good mother to us, for in this command she regards
not only the spiritual, but also the corporal welfare of her
children. The words of our Lord: "Not that which goeth into the
mouth, defileth a man: but that which cometh out of the mouth, this
defileth a man" (Mr. 15:11), was meant for the Pharisees who judged
certain kinds of food prohibited by law, or that had been touched by
unclean hands, to be unclean. Had He intended it to be understood in
the sense the contemners of fasting assert, He would have declared
intoxication by drinking, or even the taking of poison, to be
permitted; certainly, food being the gift of God and therefore good,
does not make man a sinner, but disobedience to the command and
gluttony make him such.
Which are the most important fast days, and days of
weekdays of Lent; the Fridays in Advent; the Ember days for the four
seasons of the year; and the Vigils of All-Saints, Christmas,
Whitsunday, and the Assumption. If the Feast, however, occurs on
Monday, the vigil is kept on the Saturday before; as Sunday is never
a fast day.'
The days of
abstinence are, all Fridays in the year, excepting Christmas day
when it falls on Friday; and all fast days of obligation, excepting
those on which the use of flesh-meat is expressly allowed by the
proper authorities. Soldiers and sailors in the service of the
United States of America, however, are exempted from the rule of
abstinence throughout the year; Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
Saturday in Holy Week, the Vigils of the Assumption and Christmas
A day of
abstinence is that on which it is not allowed to eat
What are the Ember days and why are they
The Ember days
are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each of the four
seasons of the year, set apart as fast days by the Catholic Church.
According to the testimony of Pope Leo, they originated in the time
of the Apostles, who were inspired by the Holy Ghost to dedicate
each season of the year to God by a few days of penance, or, as it
were, to pay three days interest, every three months, on the graces
received from God. The Church has also commanded us to fast at the
beginning of each of the four seasons of the year, because it is at
this time that she ordains the priests and other servants of the
Church, which even the Apostles did with much prayer and fasting.
Thus she desires that during the Ember days Christians should
fervently ask of God by prayer, by fasting and other good works,
worthy pastors and servants, on whom depends the welfare of the
whole Christian flock; she desires that in the spring Ember days we
should ask God's blessing for the fertility of the earth; in summer
for the preservation of the fruits of the field, in autumn when the
harvest is ripe, and in winter when it is sheltered, that we should
offer to God by fasting and prayer a sacrifice of thanks,
petitioning Him to assist us, that we may not use His gifts for our
soul's detriment, but that we refer all praise to Him, the fountain
of all good, and assist our neighbor according to our
What are vigils?
They are the
eves of certain festivals, which the Church has ordered to be
observed as fast days. The early Christians prepared themselves by
fasting, praying and watching, as signified by the Latin word
"Vigili," for the coming festival. Thus to this day in the
Vigil Mass the priest does not say: "Ite Missa est" - Go ye,
Mass is over," but, "Benedicamus Domino"; "Let us praise the
Lord," because in olden times when Mass was celebrated at night, the
Christians were exhorted to continue praising God in Church until
the dawn of the festival. This nightwatch the Church has now
abolished, partly on account of the declining zeal of the
Christians, and partly on account of the fear of its being abused;
the fast, however, has been retained to honor God and His saints, to
obtain their intercession, and to mortify the flesh according to
their example. "By fasting on the eves of festivals," says St.
Bernard, "We learn that we can enter heaven only through many
Why does the Church forbid the use of flesh-meat on
Fridays and Saturdays?
says Pope Innocent, "forbids the use of flesh-meat on Fridays
because our Lord died on that day, and on Saturdays because on that
day He rested in the sepulchre, and also that we may be better
prepared by this abstinence for Sunday." In many dioceses the use of
flesh-meat is allowed on Saturdays, and the permission is so marked
in the calendar, and every year announced to the people; for this
dispensation the faithful should perform another good work and fast
the more conscientiously on Fridays.
Who is bound to fast, and who not?
over seven years of age, unless for some reason excused, are
required under pain of mortal sin, to abstain from flesh‑meat on all
days of fasting and abstinence; all those who are over twenty‑one
years of age are allowed to take but one full meal a day. A severe
illness or a dispensation obtained for valid reasons, excuses from
abstinence on Fridays: those are dispensed from fasting on one meal,
who cannot fulfil the command without great inconvenience, such as:
those recovering from sickness, pregnant and nursing women, old and
infirm people, those who are engaged in hard labor, undertaking
severe journeys, and the poor who have no full meals; also, those
who are prevented by the fast from some better work, incumbent upon
their office, or dictated by Christian charity. These persons
mentioned are excused from fasting, in so far that they are
permitted to eat, whenever they need food, but must still abstain
from the use of flesh-meat unless dispensed from the
command of abstinence. They should, however, be sincerely grieved to
be unable to unite with the whole Church in such meritorious work,
and should endeavor to make amends by prayer, alms and other good
Who are those who sin against fasting?
who deliberately and without sufficient cause do not abstain from
the use of flesh-meat; secondly, those who without any of the
excuses mentioned, take more than one full meal a day; thirdly,
those who eat between the time of meals; fourthly, those who indulge
in long, extravagant and sumptuous dinners, and excessive drinking,
all of which are opposed to the spirit of penance and mortification.
Lastly, when on a fast day meat and fish are used at the same
Is it not allowed to eat anything in the evening, on fast
Christians were so rigorous in their penance that they contented
themselves with one temperate meal on fast days, and that was
generally of bread and water, taken only in the evening; but as, in
the course of time, the penitential zeal declined, the Church like
an indulgent mother permitted, besides the full meal at noon, a
small quantity of food to be taken in the evening, about as much as
would make the fourth part of a regular meal, or not to appear
scrupulous, as much as would not cause too great an aggravation, or
exhaust the strength necessary for the next day's labor; but "to
wish to feel no aggravation in fasting, is to wish not to fast at
With what intention should we fast?
First, with the
intention of doing penance and punishing the body for the sins which
we have committed by yielding to its evil desires; secondly, to
satisfy God and to unite ourselves with our Lord in his forty days
fast; thirdly, to obtain strength to lead a chaste, pure life;
fourthly, to give to the poor that which is saved by
NOTE. Whatever is necessary to be
understood further in regard to this subject, will be found in the
instructions on the forty days fast.
INSTRUCTIONS ON ADVENT
What is the meaning of Advent, and what do we understand
by the term?
The word Advent
signifies coming, and by it is understood the visible coming of the
Son of God into this world, at two different times.
It was when the
Son of God, conceived of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the
immaculate Virgin Mary, was born, according to the flesh, in the
fullness of time, and sanctified the world by His coming, for which
the patriarchs and prophets had so longed (Gen. 49:10; Is. G4:1; Lk.
Since Christ had not yet come, how could the Just of the
Old Law be saved?
after their sin, God revealed to our first parents that His
only-begotten Son would become man and redeem the world (Gen. 3:15).
In the hope of this Redeemer and through His merits, all in the old
covenant who participated in His merits by innocence or by penance,
and who died in the grace of God, were saved, although they were
excluded from heaven until the Ascension of Christ.
When will the second coming of Christ
At the end of
the world when Christ will come, with great power and majesty, to
judge both the living and the dead.
What is Advent, and why has the Church
Advent is that
solemn time, immediately preceding Christmas, instituted by the
Church in order that we should, in the first place, meditate on the
Incarnation of Christ, the love, patience and humility which He has
shown us, and prove our gratitude to Him, because He came from the
bosom of His heavenly Father into this valley of tears, to redeem
us; secondly, that we may prepare ourselves by sincere repentance,
fasting, prayer, alms-deeds, and other works pleasing to God, for
the coming of Christ and His birth in our hearts, and thus
participate in the graces which He has obtained for us; finally,
that He may be merciful to us, when He shall come again as judge of
the world. "Watch ye, for ye know not at what hour your Lord will
come" (Mt. 5:42). "Wherefore be you also ready; because at
what hour you know not, the Son of man will come" (Mt.
How was Advent formerly observed?
differently from now. It then commenced with the Feast of St.
Martin, and was observed by the faithful like the Forty Days' Fast,
with strict penance and devotional exercises, as even now most of
the religious communities do to the present day. The Church has
forbidden all turbulent amusements, weddings, dancing and concerts,
during Advent. Pope Sylverius ordered that those who seldom receive
Holy Communion should, at least, do so on every Sunday in
How should this solemn time be spent by
recall, during these four weeks, the four thousand years in which
the just under the Old Law expected and desired the promised
Redeemer, think of those days of darkness in which nearly all
nations were blinded by saran and drawn into the most horrible
crimes, then consider their own sins and evil deeds and purify their
souls from them by a worthy reception of the Sacraments, so that our
Lord may come with His grace to dwell in their hearts and be
merciful to them in life and in death. Further, to awaken in the
faithful the feelings of repentance so necessary for the reception
of the Savior in their hearts, the Church orders that besides the
observance of certain fast days, the altar shall be draped in
violet, that Mass shall be celebrated in violet vestments, that the
organ shall be silent and no Gloria sung. Unjust to themselves,
disobedient to the Church and ungrateful, indeed, to God are those
Christians who spend this solemn time of grace in sinful amusements
without performing any good works, with no longing for Christ's
Advent into their hearts.
What are Rorate High Masses, and why are they
They are the
solemn high Masses celebrated in some countries in commemoration of
the tidings brought to the Blessed Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel,
announcing to her that she was to become the Mother of God; they
derive their name from the words of the Introit in the Votive Mass,
Rorate coeli desuper. They are celebrated very early in the
morning because the Blessed Virgin preceded our Lord, as the aurora
precedes the rising sun.
|PRAYER IN ADVENT O God, who by
Thy gracious Advent hast brought joy into this world, grant
us, we beseech Thee, Thy grace to prepare ourselves by sincere
penance for its celebration and for the Last Judgment.
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
Sunday in Advent is the first day of the Church Year, and the
beginning of the holy season of Advent. The Church commences on this
day to contemplate the coming of the Redeemer, and with
long for Him; during the entire season of Advent she unites her
prayers with their sighs, in order to awaken in her children also
the desire for the grace of the Redeemer; above all to move them to
true penance for their sins, because these are the greatest
obstacles in the path of that gracious Advent; therefore she prays
at the Introit of the day's Mass:
INTROIT To Thee,
O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my
trust; let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at
me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded.
Show me, O Lord, Thy ways, and teach me Thy paths (Ps.
24). Glory be to the Father.
Raise up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come;
that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the
threatening dangers of our sins, and to be saved by Thy
deliverance. Through our Lord.
(Rom. 13:11‑14). Brethren, knowing the time, that
it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep: for now our
salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past,
and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of
darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly,
as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in
chambering and impurities, not in contention and strife; but
put ye on the Lord Jesus
What does St. Paul teach us in this
explaining the duties of a Christian life to the Romans who were converted
mainly by St. Peter, he exhorts them to hesitate no longer to fulfil these
duties, and he seeks to move their hearts by this time of grace,
presented them by the Christian dispensation, and by the shortness
of the time of grace.
What is here meant by sleep?
and blindness of the soul that, forgetting her God, is sunk in a
lukewarm, effeminate, slothful and lustful life, which, when it is
gone, leaves nothing more than a dream.
Why does St. Paul say, "salvation is
He wishes to
impress upon the Romans that they now have far greater hope of
salvation than when they first became Christians, and that they
should secure it by a pious life, because death, and the moment on
which depended their salvation, or eternal reward, was drawing near.
"What is our life," says St. Chrysostom, "other than a course, a
dangerous course to death, through death to immortality?"
What is the signification of day and night?
signifies the time before Christ, a night of darkness, of infidelity
and of injustice; the day represents the present time, in which by
the gospel Christ enlightens the whole world with the teachings of
the true faith.
What are "the works of darkness"?
All sins, and
especially those which are committed in the dark, to shun the eye of
God and man.
What is the "armor of light"?
virtue and grace, the spiritual armor, with which we battle against
our three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and in which
armor we should walk honestly before all men. A Christian who in
baptism has renounced the devil and all his pomps, must not live in
vice, but must put on Christ Jesus, that is, must by the imitation
of Christ's virtues adorn his soul, as it were, with a beautiful
garment. This text (verse 13) moved St. Augustine to fly from all
works of uncleanness in which he had been involved, and to lead a
pure life which he had before thought difficult.
ASPIRATION Grant, O
Lord, that we may rise by penance from the sleep of our sins,
may walk in the light of Thy grace by the performance of good
works, may put on Thee and adorn our souls with the imitation
of Thy virtues. Amen.
(Lk. 21:25‑33). At that time, Jesus said to his
disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon,
and in the stars: and upon the earth distress of nations, by
reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the
waves, men withering away for fear and expectation of what
shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven
shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of man coming
in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things
begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because
your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them a similitude:
See the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth
their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when
you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom
of God is at hand. Amen I say to you, this generation shall
not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth
shall pass away, but my words shall not pass
Why does the Church cause the gospel of the Last Judgment
to be read on this day?
To move us to
penance, and to induce us to prepare our souls for the coming of
Christ, by placing the Last Judgment before our minds. Should not
the thought of this terrible judgment, when all good and all evil
will be revealed, and accordingly be rewarded or punished in the
presence of the whole world‑should not this thought strengthen us in
What signs will precede the Last Judgment?
The sun will be
obscured, the stars will lose their light and disappear in the
firmament (Is. 13:10), lightning and flames will surround the earth,
and wither up every thing; the powers of heaven will be moved, the
elements brought to confusion; the roaring of the sea with the
howling of the winds and the beating of the storms will fill man
with terror and dread. Such evil and distress will come upon the
world, that man will wither away for fear, not knowing whither to
turn. Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, the
holy cross, the terror of the sinners who have scorned it, the
consolation of the just who have loved it (Mt. 24:30).
Why will all this come to pass?
Because as the
people love the creatures of God so inordinately, more than the
Creator, and use them only to His dishonor, He will destroy them in
this terrible manner, arming all creatures for vengeance against His
enemies (Wis. 5:8‑24, and showing by the manner of their destruction
the evils which will fall upon all sinners. The darkness of the sun
will indicate the darkness of hell; the blood-red moon, the anger
and wrath of God; the disappearance and falling of the stars, will
represent the fall of sinners into the abyss of hell and their
disappearance from earth; and the madness of the elements, will
exhibit the rage of the beasts of hell. Sinners will then vainly,
and too late, repent that they have attached their hearts to things
which will end so horribly, and that only increase their
Why does Christ nevertheless command: "Lift up your heads,
for your redemption is at hand"?
These words are
spoken to the just who as long as they live on earth are like
prisoners and exiles, but who at the Last Judgment will be taken
body and soul into their long desired fatherland, the kingdom of
heaven: into the freedom of the children of God. These will have
reason to raise their heads, now bowed in mourning, and to
How will the Last Judgment commence?
By the command
of God the angels will sound the trumpets, summoning all men from
the four parts of the earth to come to judgment (I Thess. 4:15).
Then the bodies of the dead will unite with their souls, and be
brought to the valley of Josaphat, and there placed, the just on the
right, the wicked on the left (Mt. 25:33). Then the devils as well
as the angels will appear; Christ Himself will be seen coming in a
cloud, in such power and majesty that the sinners will be filled
with terror. They will not dare to look at Him, and will cry to the
mountains to fall upon them, and to the hills to cover them (Lk.
How will the judgment be held?
The book of
conscience, upon which all men are to be judged, and which closed
with this life, will be opened. All good and evil thoughts, words,
deeds and motives, even the most secret, known only to God, will
then be as plainly revealed to the whole world as if they were
written on each one's forehead; by these each one will be judged,
and be eternally rewarded, or eternally punished.
O God! If we
must then give an account of every idle word (Mt. 12:36), how
can we stand in the face of so many sinful words and actions!
Why will God hold a universal public
immediately after death, a special private judgment of each soul
takes place, God has ordained a public and universal judgment for
the following reasons: First, that it may be clearly shown to all
how just has been His private judgment, and also that the body which
has been the instrument of sin or of virtue may share in the soul's
punishment or reward; secondly, that the justice which they could by
no means obtain in this life, may be rendered before the whole world
to the oppressed poor, and to persecuted innocence, and that the
wicked who have abused the righteous, and yet have been considered
honest and good, may be put to shame before all; thirdly, that the
graces and means of salvation bestowed upon each, may be made known;
fourthly, that the blessed providence of God which often permitted
the righteous to suffer evil while the wicked prospered, may be
vindicated, and it be shown on that day that His acts are acts of
the greatest wisdom; fifthly, that the wicked may learn the goodness
of God, not for their comfort or benefit, but for their greater
sorrow, that they may see how He rewards even the slightest work
performed for His love and honor; finally, that Christ may be
exalted before the wicked on earth as before the good in heaven, and
that the truth of His words may solemnly be made
|ASPIRATION Just art
Thou O God, and just are Thy judgments. Ah, penetrate my soul
with holy fear of them, that I may be kept always in awe, and
avoid sin. Would that I could say with the penitent St.
Jerome: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I seem
to hear the awful sound of the trumpet in my ears: `Arise ye
dead, and come to judgment."' |