Christian Self-Love


SELF-LOVE & On the Necessity of Holy Fear and Avoiding Sloth

by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I have become as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. ... If I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."--1. Cor. xiii. 1,2,3.

We see from these texts that charity is indispensable. We must have it or we shall never see the face of God in heaven. Nothing whatever can take the place of it. And what is this charity? Charity is another name for love. The charity of God is, then, the same as the love of God. We must love God, or we shall not be united to Him for all eternity. This is what our Blessed Saviour said: "This is the first and greatest commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy strength."

But what does this love of God consist in? It consists chiefly in keeping faithfully God's commandments. When the young man asked our Lord, "What shall I do to enter into life?" the answer was, "Keep the commandments"; and St. John, inspired by the Holy Ghost, says: "This is the charity (or love) of God, that we keep the commandments."

This being so, I can express the meaning of my text by saying: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and do not keep the commandments of God, I am become as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." Yes, we may talk as eloquently as possible about the faith and our holy religion, and profess to love it, but if we at the same time violate the commandments, or any one of them wilfully, then we are hypocrites, the true love of God is not in us; it is all empty noise. The love of God is not in high-wrought feelings or in high-sounding phrases, but in the true disposition of obedience. When we begin to understand in the least what God is, then we should desire to possess Him, which is the same as possessing the Infinite good, and to obey Him in all things, that is, keep His commandments as well as we can. This is the true love of God, although we may be destitute of the feeling of love which we have naturally to our fellow-men whom we like.

If we faithfully keep God's commandments we pay Him true homage and worship--such as is acceptable to Him and worthy of Him. It is not the one who says, "Lord, Lord, that shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven." Brethren, let us not deceive ourselves. "Be not deceived, for God is not mocked." Many seem to deceive themselves, thinking they can put something else in the place of keeping God's commandments. One says to himself: I will go to Mass. I will repeat prayers while I am there. I will feel devout, but I will continue to drink. I shall get intoxicated from time to time without doubt, but God, seeing my devotion, will not be so hard on me. He will forgive this failing. Another says: I am tempted to impurity and to indulgence in lust. I cannot give this up; it is too much to ask of me; I will sin from time to time, but I will pray. I will go to Confession and Communion occasionally. God will overlook it. You deceive yourself. You have not charity, and without charity all the prayers, all the Masses, all the Confessions, and all the Communions in the world will profit you nothing.

Another says: I will fast; I will give alms; I will help to build churches and schools; I will feed the poor, but I cannot give up that sin that I am addicted to. The Apostle warns you that God will not make any such bargain with you. You must put away that sin; you must cease absolutely from every mortal sin, and not for a day or a week, but for your whole life. Let all your prayers, all your fasting, all your self-denial, all your thoughts, all your desires, during this holy season of Lent, be directed to this one end and object, to get this true charity of God, which will bring you without fail to your true home in heaven, where you shall be united by love to God and happy beyond all expression for the endless ages of eternity.


Litany of Charity
by Pope Pius VI.

Lord, have mercy on me.
Christ, have mercy on me.
Lord, have mercy on me.
Christ, hear me.
Christ, graciously hear me.

Heavenly Father, true God,
have mercy on me.

Son, Redeemer of the world, true God,
have mercy on me.

Holy Ghost, true God;
have mercy on me.

Holy Trinity, one only God,
have mercy on me.

Thou who art inifinite love, *

Thou who hast anticipated me by Thy love, *

Thou, who commandest me to love Thee, *

Thou, who for love of me, hast given Thy only Son, *

With all my heart,
I love Thee, O my God, **

With all my soul, with all my mind, with all my strength, **

Above all goods and honors, above all joys and pleasure, **

More than myself and all that is mine, more than kindred and friends, more than all men and angels, **

Above all created things in heaven and on earth, solely for Thyself; because Thou art the sovereign good; because Thou art infinitly worthy to be loved because Thou art infinitely perfect, **

Even hadst Thou not promised me heaven, **

Even hadst Thou not threatened me with hell, **

Even shouldst Thou try me by miseries and adversity, **

In plenty and want, in prosperity and adversity, in honor and dishonor, in pleasure and suffering, **

In health and in sickness, in life and in death, in time and eternity, **

In union with that love, with which all the Saints and angels love Thee in heaven; in union with that love with which the Blessed Virgin loved Thee; in union with that infinite love with which Thou lovest Thyself and wilt love Thyself eternally, **

Our Father, &c.

Let us pray:

O God! who possessest in incomprehensible abundance all that can ever be perfect and worthy of love, extinguish in me all culpable, sensual and disorderly love for creatures, and enkindle in my heart the most pure fire of Thy sincere, powerful and continual love, in order that I may love nothing but Thee alone, or for Thee, until consumed by Thy most holy love I may begin to live where I shall perfectly possess Thee, with all Thy elect, and love Thee without end. Amen.


On the Necessity of Holy Fear and Avoiding Sloth
by Fr. Paolo Segneri, 1892

A wise man will fear in everything, and in the days of sin will beware of sloth (Ecclus. xviii. 27)

Consider first, how natural it is for a wise man to fear, for the wiser a man is, the more clearly he sees the dangers which beset the way of the Lord, from which no one is safe until death, that is, until he has reached the end of that way. But it is not said, "He shall be afraid of everything," but, "He shall fear in everything." Since as to thy past life, when thou hast used due diligence, without excessive anxiety, in confessing candidly all thy sins, and hast tried to excite thyself to true contrition and a real resolution of amendment, though thou mayest have some reason to fear, thou hast much more reason to hope. It is said therefore: "Be not devoid of fear for sin propitiated." The words are not, "Be fearful," but a milder phrase is used, "Be not devoid of fear." Some fear should be ever present to thee, but not very great fear. Very great fear thou shouldst have regarding the works thou hast now to do to ensure thy doing them well. Yet it ought not to be a servile fear, like that of the slaves who bend to the oar from fear of the lash. It should be a generous fear, such as a son feels who dreads separation from his father as the greatest evil that can befall him.

Consider secondly, what is the effect which should be produced in thee by this fear, "the holy fear of the Lord." The effect should be "to keep thee from sloth," especially "in the days of sin." This fear ought not to make thee scrupulous, in other words, to raise alarms without cause; but to make thee cautious, circumspect, watchful over thyself, abstaining not only from sin, but likewise from sloth. This is most important. Thou art on thy guard against sin, but not against idleness, tepidity, weariness, sloth, which make thee so feeble in doing good. If thou cease to do good, rest assured that thou wilt soon go on to do evil. This is the worst tendency of our fallen nature. If great violence be not employed to rein it in, it dashes like a wild horse over the precipice.

Consider thirdly, that this watchfulness is more especially called for "in the days of sin," because thou art then more easily carried along by the current. But what are these "days of sin," if they are not precisely those which are now upon us, the days of the Carnival? during which it appears to be lawful to think only of self-indulgence, idle conversation, much eating, frantic dancing, love-making, shameless effrontery, and the revival in Christendom of the follies of the heathen world. Now, therefore, is the time to "guard against sloth," against slackness in good deeds, neglect of pious practices, examinations of conscience, general and particular, and the reading of devout books, since it is very easy for thee to run with the rest to the precipice. "A wise man will fear in all things, and in the days of sin," that is in "days," according to another reading, "dedicated to sin"--an exact description of these days of Carnival--" will keep himself from sloth."

Consider fourthly, furthermore, that "days of sin " are days when reigning princes either favour vice, or do not punish it: "the days of sin" are days in which schism, rebellion, violence, civil war, oppress the people: "the days of sin" are days in which relaxation of discipline has crept into the community to which thou dost belong, and Superiors have not power to reinstate a fervent life. But above all, know well that in thy case "the days of sin" are days in which all thy affairs go prosperously, in the enjoyment of good health, riches, popularity, applause, or any other accidental gift which affords matter for complacency. Then shalt thou most readily forget the Lord, since thou hast then apparently less need of Him; then, therefore, it behoves thee ever to "beware of sloth," and to give thyself to good works, both for fear of exciting the anger of God by thy ingratitude, and because thou art then in unusual peril: for on the voyage of this mortal life it is not as in other kinds of navigation. In any other voyage the ship goes safely with the wind astern; but in the voyage of life, when the wind blows fair the ship is in the greatest danger, and at such a time thou must more than ever "fear in everything," commending thyself incessantly to God as men do if shipwreck is imminent.





by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

"Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth from the mouth of God."
--St. Matt, iv. 4.

In placing these words before us, brethren, the Church bids us mark the difference between the food of the body and that of the soul. Both are good; but one is good for this life alone, and the other is good for both this life and life everlasting.

One feeds what must itself finally feed worms, in the grave, and the other feeds the undying spirit unto celestial life. It is good for us to make this contrast at the beginning of Lent, because, during this holy season, abstaining from bodily food we are at the same time more plentifully fed with spiritual food. The mind is strengthened by hearing the truths of religion, while the body is chastened by abstinence from corporal nourishment. This is the triumph of reason over appetite. It is an open profession of our preference of the eternal over the temporal.

The sermons and instructions heard in church during Lent, both at Mass and at the week-day services, are extremely important to all Christians. You may think that you know your religion well enough, but that may never be truly said of God's truth. Religion has new beauties for every succeeding day; and what is often forgotten--life has new needs ever arising, requiring anew the use of the aids of religion, among the most powerful of which is hearing the word of God. Are you a good Christian? Then you need to thank God for it; you need to grow in virtue; you need to be reminded that he who stands should take heed lest he fall; you need to set a good example to others; you need to pray for the conversion of sinners; you need to enjoy more heartily and intelligently the privileges of the Christian state; all of which is helped by attending the Lenten services.

Are you a sinner? Then, in God's name, you must turn your face away from your sins and study the lessons of your hereafter as they are taught in the church between now and Easter. You have too long forgotten that there is a place which the breath of the Lord has kindled, as with a torrent of fire, set apart for such as you. There is a day of wrath, when even the just man shall hardly be saved. What, then, shall become of you? I can see you tossing on a bed of pain, racked with fever, delirious, or, if conscious, screaming with horror at the thought that He whom you have so many times insulted will shortly enter your room and say, "Depart, accursed wretch, into everlasting flames." There is a place of unspeakable joy, filled with angels and saints, towards which you, writhing in the dark abyss, shall reach out your hands in vain. Such are some of the lessons of Eternity taught in the church during Lent. Do you imagine that you can afford to pass them by?

But the great lesson of these sad works of Lent is the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. What can prove love better than suffering? Who has suffered like Jesus Christ? "More than this can no man do, that a man should give up his life for his friend." Our Lord did that for His enemies, you among the rest. By hearing the sermons you will learn to sympathize with Him. That means deep sorrow for sin; calm, deliberate, reasonable, but deep and true sorrow. That, again, means a sorrowful confession of sin, an iron purpose of amendment, avoiding all dangerous occasions, such as bar-rooms, bad plays, foul reading, bad company. And, finally, when you kneel at the Table of the Angels and receive the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord will give you to understand how sweet is His love, how strong is His affection for you.

Let each one, therefore, make up his mind to feast plentifully on the word of God, the Bread of Life, during this Lent, by attending faithfully at all the public services in the church, by assiduous prayer, and by a devout reception of the Sacraments.

How to be Victorious in our Earthly Fight
by Fr. Paolo Segneri, 1892

Laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: looking on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith,: Who, having joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame (Hebrews xii. I, 2).

Consider first, what this fight which is here proposed to thee is. It is the fight in which thou shouldst engage against those three notorious enemies who would rob thee of eternal goods: the inordinate love of wealth, of pleasures, of honours. This is that fight common to all alike on earth. Even the devils, when they tempt thee, can only rouse one of these enemies to assail thee. We must then animate ourselves for this great fight, not merely going forth, but running to it: this we do when we not only accept poverty, suffering, and contempt, our three-fold daily tribulation, but go forth to meet them "by patience," that is, by an invincible spirit of suffering. "Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us."

Consider secondly, that in order to accomplish this it is necessary to put aside all impediments. Of these there are two, "weight, and sin which surrounds us." Weight is sin already committed, which weighs thee down and draws thee on to further sin. "The sin which surrounds" is the occasion leading to new sins, and perhaps close round thee. It is necessary, therefore, to lay down the weight if we would run to the fight; since to run, that is, to encounter suffering, requires great virtue. But how can we hope for this whilst all the forces of our soul are weighed down by sin? It is necessary to cast aside also the occasions of sin if we would fight valiantly. For when thou hast merely put thy sin away, how canst thou hope to be able to refrain with ease from yielding to impurity, to practise austerity and self-denial, to look with contempt upon unlawful gains, to be indifferent to greatness and to glory, whilst thou remainest all the time surrounded by the fascinations which allure thee. This is, without question, simple folly. Consider, then, thy present state, and whether thou art prepared for running to the fight.

Consider thirdly, that when thou hast cast aside all impediments, the next thing is to animate thy valour by the example of Christ, Who willed to suffer so much for thy sake. By this means thou shalt attain that patience, that invincible spirit of suffering, of which mention has been made. Who, then, is this Lord Who has suffered so much for thee? Jesus Himself, a Lord so free from blame, so sensitive to suffering. At the very sight of Him does not thy courage revive? If thou canst not meditate on His Passion in a more exalted manner, take in thy hand thy crucifix, and there, "looking on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith," contemplate that face for thee so pale, those failing eyes, those fleshless bones, those limbs so cruelly racked and torn, and wet with fresh-flowing Blood, and hesitate no longer: one such glance, one only, should be quite enough to move thee to compunction and to give thee strength. Here thou beholdest the brazen serpent, which, if thou fix thy gaze upon it, has power to cure thy weakness. Observe that the words are not, "Looking at the Author," but, "Looking into the Author," in auctorem; hence thou must not look only at His mangled frame to see how much He suffered for thy sake, but through those wide-open wounds thou must penetrate to the interior man, and consider Who has undergone such suffering--God made Man.

Consider fourthly, that for thy greater encouragement this is the same Jesus Who is called the Author and the Finisher of faith, inasmuch as He Who on earth is now the Author of thy faith, by teaching it to the mind, stamping it on the will, confirming it by so many wonders, will hereafter be its Finisher in Heaven, by rewarding it with the clear vision of God, into which faith will melt and be dissolved, and giving place to intuitive knowledge, shall in reality be finished. Jesus, then, both as Author and as Finisher of faith, gives thee encouragement: as Author, by what He promises thee now; as Finisher, by what He will give thee hereafter.

Consider fifthly, that in proposing to thee this great fight, He proposes what He knows by His own experience. Jesus was not obliged to suffer, as thou art, to whom the corruption of thy nature makes it necessary. Joy of every kind was set before Him to take, if He would; and yet, in order to set thee an example, "joy being proposed to Him," He refused to have it; instead of the riches which He could have had in such abundance, He chose poverty; in place of pleasure He chose pain; in place of honour He chose contempt: thus it was He "bore the Cross." Represent to thy mind that the whole life of thy Redeemer was one continued cross, to which He was bound by these three cruel executioners--poverty, pain, contempt. These three He had with Him at the instant of His Birth; they were with Him through life; they were with Him in death. And wilt thou, on the contrary, shrink proudly from them? It is for thee to do as Christ did, and to go forth with high courage to encounter them, when it is in thy power to keep away from them--it is for thee "to run to the fight."

Consider sixthly, that it is not said that Christ overcame shame; it is said that He contemned it, because it is most easily overcome by contempt. It is thy inordinate regard for the opinions of men which makes thee dread the slightest shame. What matters it to thee what people say of thee? Thy true reputation is that which thou enjoyest in Paradise, among the angels and archangels, before the awful throne of the Three Divine Persons. That is the reputation of which thou shouldst take thought. The esteem of men is empty, changeable, unjust, deceitful, fleeting. Let it pass, be it what it may. In short, the one thing needed to conquer shame is to despise it, to contemn contempt.




by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893


"Christ being come a high-priest of good things to come, by His own blood
entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption."--Heb. ix. 11, 12.

Today, dear brethren, is Passion Sunday. Its very name teaches us that we are drawing near to the time which is set apart by the Church, for the purpose of keeping alive in our memories the most marvellous events which the world has ever known. The time thus set apart is called Holy Week. It does not begin until next Sunday, but it will be well for us to turn our thoughts in advance to this most sacred time, and to consider in what way we can best spend it for the good of our souls.

The first day of Holy Week is Palm Sunday. On this day our Lord entered into the Holy City of Jerusalem, and was greeted with the Hosannas of the very same people who a few days afterwards cried '' Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'' From the entry into Jerusalem the Church calls upon us to follow our Lord step by step, until He reaches the Hill of Calvary; and wishes us to place ourselves in spirit at the foot of the cross to gaze on that blessed and awful sight. She says to us: Go and behold your Lord and your God bleeding with the strokes of the cruel scourge, torn with the thorns which were put upon His sacred head.

Behold Him mocked and jeered at by cruel men; betrayed by one of His Apostles, deserted by the rest. See Him nailed to the accursed tree, raised high in the air like the brazen serpent in the wilderness; behold Him worn out with His awful weight of suffering, bowing His head and giving up the ghost. Listen to His sacred voice praying for His murderers: "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Listen to the words of fearful woe, when He seemed abandoned by His Father: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'' Try during this week to make the sufferings of our Lord real to you, to bring them home to your hearts, to enter into them so as really to feel with and for your suffering Lord! No better way of doing this can be found than the reading in the Holy Gospels the accounts there given of His Passion and Death, provided you read these accounts with attention and devotion.

These are the events of all others which have ever taken place in which we have the deepest possible interest. Our sins are the burden of our lives, they weigh us down and bring us to the ground, they cut us off from the source of light and joy and peace; they fill us with a fearful anxiety as to what awaits us hereafter. How are we to get rid of this burden? How are we to obtain pardon and forgiveness? What grounds of hope and confidence can we find? Were we to look to ourselves and to our efforts alone we might well despair. The sanctity and awful holiness of God might well fill us with fear and trembling.

It is only in the love of God manifested in the death and sufferings of Christ that we can attain the full conviction that we shall be forgiven if we return to Him. ''Surely He hath carried our sorrows: He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His bruises we are healed." This it is which gives to the events of this week an interest greater for each one of us than any other event which has ever taken place. All that took place was caused by us: all that took place was done for us. Therefore, as we dwell devoutly upon these various events, and witness the scenes which took place, the thought which we must ever keep in our minds is: "All this was done for me: our Lord suffered in order to obtain forgiveness for me, in order to wean me from my fondness for sin; in order to bring me to confess my sins with sorrow and true repentance; in order to open to me the gates of heaven."

Many persons are unwilling to give up their sins: some who are willing find it hard to confess their sins. But however much repentance and confession may cost you, did not the grace which is to lead you to repentance and confession cost our Lord a great deal more? Try to spend this holy season so that you may have a keen and lively sense of the bitter and cruel sufferings of Christ: then the time will not have gone by unprofitably, but will have produced fruit both for this life and the next.



Five_Minute_Sermons_Two Masters.jpg

"You cannot serve God and Mammon."--St. Matt. vi. 25.

On Serving Two Masters

by the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

Notwithstanding these clear words of the Gospel there are many who wish to be the friends of Mammon without becoming enemies of God. They dally with the world, they try to serve it and God, if not at one and the same time, at least alternately. They do not appreciate the enormity of sin; in fact, they begin to doubt if God will, after all, condemn a soul to eternal pains for one mortal sin. Their confessions are mechanical affairs, without any serious conversion from their life of sin. These are the souls to whom the Holy Ghost addresses those awful words: "I would thou wert cold or hot; but because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." These, therefore, who are trying to serve God and Mammon have already begun to serve Mammon. Christ will have nothing of those who will not serve Him with their whole hearts.

How foolish to suppose that we can save our souls by a divided love! "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And if for the sake of the world and the things of the world we forsake Christ in anything, we show where our treasure is and in what service we are.

If our easy-going Christian were to appreciate the enormity of the least sin, he would but admire God's justice in condemning a soul for a single mortal sin. It is not so much the single act which we call a mortal sin for which the soul is condemned, as for the moral leprosy which made the sinner capable of so monstrous a crime. No words can adequately describe the awful leprosy which covers that soul which is in a state of mortal sin. When it becomes conscious of its state, after death, it would be a greater hell for it to stand in presence of its outraged Creator than to suffer the miseries of that outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. When it will be brought before the judgment seat of God, before whose majesty the angels veil their faces with their wings, it will cry out to the mountains to cover it and the hills to hide it from the sight of God.

Let not our easy-going friends think, therefore, that sin is a matter of small consequence. They are mistaken if they think that the sacrament of penance will do their work for them. If any man goes to confession without doing his share, by honestly repenting of the past, and sincerely purposing to walk in the way of the commandments for the future, the last state of that man is worse than the first. By no trickery can we get into heaven; God requires an honest service and a whole-souled fidelity.

But he caps the climax of folly who thinks to put off his conversion until his old age. Today's Gospel asks: "What man, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature?'' Who can count upon a day, much less a year? But even if we could count upon an old age, who tells us that we shall become truly converted, when it is apparent that the only reason for our conversion is the impossibility of sinning any more? Confession is not the magical charm our easy-going friends would have it to be; it cannot make a foul sinner into a saint by sleight of hand. God might save the worst sinner in a moment, as he did the penitent thief. But who is certain that He has done so in a single other case? Let us not try to cheat God. He cannot be mocked. He has told us clearly that we must serve him with all our hearts, or we are none of His. We must choose between Him and Mammon. It is impossible not to choose. Which shall it be--God or Mammon?