Talks on the Sacramentals

Author: Arthur Tonne



Copyright 1950 DIDDE PRINTING COMPANY Emporia, Kansas

Nihil obstat: Rev. Lambert Brockman, O.F.M.

Imprimi potest: Very Rev. Romuald Mollaun, O.F.M., S.T.D.

Nihil obstat: Rev. Louis S. Hauber, S.T.D.

Imprimatur: Most Rev. George J. Donnelly, S.T.D. Bishop of Kansas City in Kansas

February 20, 1950


Most Catholics, and non-Catholics, too, want to know about the SACRAMENTALS. This book aims to give a simple, interesting explanation of them.

It is gratifying to learn that many priests are finding homiletic help in the author's previous works, listed on the title page. As always, your suggestions, hints, and criticisms are welcome and deeply appreciated.

It is high time that gratitude be offered to the official censors, the Rev. Lambert Brockman, O.F.M., representing the Province of St. John the Baptist, and to the Rev. Louis S. Hauber, representing the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas, and to an unofficial censor, the Rev. J. Forest McGee, O.F.M., former editor of St. Anthony Messenger, for their many searching suggestions.

Enclosed you will find a list of proposed publications. Your choice in this matter will be seriously considered. With God's grace and blessing, the next volume will be TALKS ON THE MASS.

A prayerful remembrance will be appreciated by

The Author.

Feast of St. Scholastica. February 10, 1950.


1. Sacramentals In General 2. Agnus Dei 3. Agriculture, Sacramentals Of 4. Angelus 5. Ashes 6. Asperges 7. Baptism, Ceremonies Of 8. Bells 9. Benediction 10. Breviary 11. Candles 12. Cemetery 13. Churching Of Women 14. Confession, Ceremonies Of 15. Confirmation, Ceremonies Of 16. Cords, Blessed 17. Crib 18. Cross, Sign Of 19. Crucifix 20. Devotions 21. Eucharist, Ceremonies Of 22. Extreme Unction, Ceremonies Of 23. Forty Hours 24. Funeral Service 25. Habit, Religious 26. Holy Oils 27. Holy Water 28. Home Sacramentals 29. Incense 30. Industry, Sacramentals Of 31. Lilies 32. Litanies 33. Marriage, Ceremonies Of 34. Meal Prayer 35. Medals 36. Missal 37. Palms 38. Paschal Candle 39. Persons, Blessing Of 40. Pictures 41. Pilgrimages 42. Pope's Blessing 43. Prayerbooks 44. Priesthood, Ceremonies Of 45. Relics 46. Rings 47. Ritual 48. Rosary 49. St. Christopher 50. Salt 51. Sanctuary Lamp 52. Scapulars 53. Stations 54. Statues 55. Tabernacle 56. Things, Blessing Of 57. Three Kings' Blessing 58. Vessels 59. Vestments 60. Vigil Lights

Topical Index


"Waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness. And that which was dry land shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water." Isaias, 35:6.

Some years ago two women were touring a desert region of our southwest. They wandered off from their party and were lost. For two full days they tramped and tramped in search of a road or dwelling. They found none. Completely exhausted, aching with thirst and hunger, they could not walk another step. One of them, in true womanly fashion, took out her compact to repair the damage done by sun and dust. The sun flashed off the mirror. She got an idea. Someone might see the reflected light. They flashed the mirror in all directions. Rescuers saw the flashes, hurried to the source, and saved the two ladies.

Who would have thought that such a simple thing as a mirror could save human lives? This essential piece of female equipment did not directly save their lives, but it was the means, the instrument for attracting attention and bringing help.

The sacramentals are something like that. Of themselves they do not save souls, but they are the means for securing heavenly help for those who use them properly. A sacramental is a sacred object or religious action which the Catholic Church, in imitation of the sacraments, uses for the purpose of obtaining spiritual favors especially through her prayer. A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to help devotion, and thus secure grace and take away venial sin or the temporal punishment due to sin.

Let us compare and contrast the sacraments and the sacramentals:

1. The sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself; the sacramentals were founded by Christ's Church.

2. The sacraments are limited to the seven instituted by Christ, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and Matrimony; the sacramentals are numerous and varied, according to the directions of Mother Church.

3. The sacraments produce grace directly in the soul, if there is no obstacle on the part of the recipient; the sacramentals do not produce grace directly and of themselves--they produce grace indirectly by disposing and preparing the soul for this divine gift.

4. The words used in the sacraments, except in Extreme Unction, positively declare that God is producing certain effects in the soul; the prayers used in the sacramentals merely ask God to produce certain effects and to grant certain graces.

5. The sacraments give or increase sanctifying grace; and the sacramentals are the means to actual graces.

We might divide the sacramentals into prayers, pious objects, sacred signs, and religious ceremonies. Some sacramentals are a combination--they fall into two or more classes. The Rosary, for example, is a pious object and a prayer. The sign of the cross is a prayer and a sign. The crucifix, pictures and statues are pious objects. The ceremonies performed in the various sacraments are also sacramentals, like the extending of the hands in Confirmation.

How can mere material things help us on the way to heaven? How can water, metal, or a piece of cloth help save our souls? You must ever remember that these objects in themselves have no power to save or help us. It would be superstitious to say they had any such power. But things like a crucifix, a holy picture, a statue, a candle, do excite spiritual thoughts and feelings in those who use them correctly. They excite the fear and love of God; they arouse trust and hope in His mercy; they awaken sorrow and joy in the Lord. Their value lies in the fact that they have been set aside by the Church for sacred purposes, by the power of the Church's official prayer, and by the merits of Christ, preserved and distributed by His Church.

That Church not only sets things aside for a sacred use, she also attaches definite benefits and blessings to certain objects and good works. Many sacramentals have indulgences attached. An indulgence is the taking away, outside of confession, in whole or in part, of the temporal punishment due to sin which is already forgiven.

The sacramentals also try to express the supreme beauty and goodness of Almighty God. The words and language of the blessings are beautiful; the form and art of statues and pictures is of the best very often; the ceremonies of the sacraments are adapted to express the graces given.

Do we have to use sacramentals? Does a Catholic have to wear a scapular, or use holy water, or pray the Rosary? Strictly speaking, no. The sacraments are necessary for salvation; the sacramentals are not necessary. Nevertheless, the prayers, pious objects, sacred signs and ceremonies of Mother Church are means to salvation.

If you were lost in a desert, as were the two women of our story, you don't have to have a mirror to be saved. But that lifeless, senseless object was the means of saving their lives.

In a similar way the sacramentals, lifeless, helpless in themselves, are helps to winning life-giving graces. They must never take the place of the sacraments. You will find Catholics who place more confidence and trust in these material objects than they do in the reality of the sacraments.

For example, you may see a Catholic enter Church and go directly to the vigil light stand without seeming to pay any attention to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That Catholic does not appreciate the difference between a sacrament and a sacramental.

It is with a desire and holy ambition to make you appreciate these aids to spiritual life, the sacramentals, that we propose to explain some of them on succeeding Sundays.

In the desert of daily life they are mirrors that will lead us to the fountains of spiritual help and spiritual life. Amen.


"Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." St. John, 1:29.

Elizabeth reigned as queen of England from 1558 until 1603. In the fifteenth year of her reign Bloody Bess had the parliament pass a law that "if any person shall bring into the realm of England any token or tokens, thing or things called or named by the name of Agnus Dei (which said Agnus Dei is used to be specially hallowed and consecrated, as it is termed, by the Bishop of Rome in his own person), and shall deliver the same to any subject, he shall incur the penalty of Praemunire."

This was a very severe punishment placing the offender out of the king's protection, and his lands and tenements, goods and chattles forfeit to the king: and his body shall remain in prison at the king's pleasure.

After passing such a senseless law aimed at the Apostolic See one would hardly expect the quick-tempered queen to give in to silly superstition. Yet, an historian tells us that is exactly what she did. One of her close counsellors presented her with a piece of gold, marked with small characters, which an old woman in Wales bequeathed to the queen. The Welsh woman maintained that this gold coin had kept her alive for over one hundred years, that the queen could not die as long as she wore it upon her body. What did the queen do but accept the piece of gold and wear it upon the ruff or collar of her dress. As we know, the queen died just the same.

What was this Agnus Dei, which Queen Elizabeth forbade to be brought into her country, and which she forbade to be worn by any Englishman? Agnus Dei means Lamb of God. The Agnus Dei is a sacramental. It is a small piece of wax, impressed with the figure of a lamb bearing a banner, blessed by the Pope. It is a symbol and reminder of our blessed Lord, "The Lamb of God."

The wax typifies the Body of Christ. The lamb is a symbol or figure of the Victim of Calvary. The banner reminds us of the victory of our Lord over sin and death.

The Agnus Dei is blessed only by the Pope. It may be round, oval, or oblong, and may vary in size from one inch to six inches in diameter. The name and coat-of-arms of the Holy Father, or some emblem like a cross or flag may be stamped upon it. It is usually enclosed in a leathern or silken cover, and is intended to be hung about the neck, or displayed with respect in the home.

The use of Agnus Dei or Lamb of God sacramentals probably goes back to the fifth century or earlier. The Empress Maria Augusta, wife of the Emperor Honorius, died in the fourth century. In her tomb a waxen amulet was found resembling the Agnus Dei. It was customary in her day for the people to secure fragments of the paschal candle and to keep them as safeguards against tempest and epidemic. The use of the Agnus Dei may have begun from this practice. About the ninth century the Popes began to bless them and send them to various parts of the world.

They are now blessed in the first year of the Pope's reign and every seventh year thereafter, on the Wednesday of Easter week. On the following Saturday, the Vigil of Low Sunday, they are solemnly distributed to the cardinals and others. After the Agnus Dei of the Mass the Pope puts a packet of these Agnus Dei into the inverted miter of each cardinal and bishop who comes up to receive them.

The prayers used in this blessing show that the Agnus Dei is intended as a protection against the spirits of evil, against sickness, tempests, temptations, and sudden death. They are also intended to help women expecting motherhood.

The Agnus Dei may be worn suspended from the neck or carried in any other way. There are no indulgences attached to it. Nor is there any obligation to use it. The manufacture of counterfeits, and even the painting and ornamentation of genuine Agnus Dei, has been strictly prohibited by various papal bulls.

The meaning of the Agnus Dei is best gathered from the prayers used in blessing them. It has two particular meanings:

1. Agnus Dei means Lamb of God. Christ is the Lamb of God. Often in the Old and the New Testaments the lamb is a figure of Christ. His meekness is frequently compared to that of the lamb. Like a lamb, Christ was sacrificed for all of us.

These discs of wax typify the virgin flesh of Christ; the cross with the lamb suggests the Victim in the sacrifice; and, as of old the blood of the paschal lamb protected each household from the destroying angel, so these consecrated medallions protect those who wear them from many evil influences.

2. The second purpose of the Agnus Dei refers to the newly baptized. These have put on Christ, as St. Paul tells us. They have been taken into His Mystical Body; they have become new lambs of His flock. As such they are bound to imitate His virtues, especially meekness and humility, as Christ Himself said:

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." St. Matthew, 11:29.

Meekness and humility are characteristic of the lamb. In his triumph over the powers of darkness our Lord is indeed the Lion of the tribe of Juda, but among His followers He is the Lamb, model of meekness and humility, model of purity like the spotless whiteness of the wax, model of sacrifice and penance like the lamb slain for the sins of men.

St. John pointed to Jesus and declared:

"Behold the Lamb of God."

Many do not understand. Many make fun of such material helps to remind us of the Lamb of God. Many, like Queen Elizabeth, go to other extremes in the way of superstition.

May you and I behold the Lamb of God constantly. May we keep Him ever in our thoughts and in our living. As with many other of the sacramentals, that is the principal purpose of the Agnus Dei. May the thought of the Agnus Dei help us ever to keep the Lamb of God in mind. Amen.


"I have planted, Appollo watered, but God has given the growth." I Cor., 3:6.

St. Isidore, who was born near Madrid, Spain, about the year 1070, and who died May 15, 1130, is the patron saint of farmers. All his life he worked for a certain Juan de Vargas on a farm near Madrid.

Every morning before going to work he would hear Mass in the nearby city. His fellow workers were jealous of the esteem which their employer had for Isidore. They complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. The owner decided to find out for himself. He hid in the hollow of a tree to watch. Sure enough, Isidore actually started working much later than the others. The employer was walking toward the late-comer to rebuke him and tell him to come on time, when he was surprised to see a second team of oxen, snow-white and led by unknown individuals, plowing beside Isidore. Even as he stood watching the team and drivers disappeared, proving that supernatural help had supplied all that was lacking. Others reported they saw angels assisting Isidore in the field. By attending daily Mass he had won God's special blessing.

Who, more than the farmer, needs the blessing of God on his work? So much depends on favorable weather--on the rain and sunshine and the miracle of growth, that the man who tills the soil needs constantly the help of the Almighty.

Christ chose many of His parables and illustrations from the field and the farm. Until recent times, tilling the soil was the principal occupation of men everywhere. Even today it occupies millions of people. For these reasons Mother Church gives special attention to the farmer's needs and offers a blessing for lands, seeds, harvests and animals. The Sacramentals of Agriculture are among the most numerous and necessary in the ceremonies of the Church. We do well to think about them.

1. Four times a year Mother Church asks us to observe Ember Week. In December, in Lent, after Pentecost, and in September the Church sets aside a week, asking us to fast and abstain on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, principally for abundant and successful crops.

2. She sets aside the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday as Rogation Days, to beg, which is the meaning of Rogation, God's protection over people and crops.

3. In the Litany said on these days we offer this fitting prayer: "We beg of Thy goodness, O Almighty God, that the fruits of the earth...may be penetrated by the dew of Thy blessings; grant to this people always to thank Thee for Thy gifts; that the fertility of the earth may enrich the hungry.. and that the poor and the needy may celebrate Thy glory.... May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend in plenty on the fields and on all these good things, and remain there forever."

4. Mother Church also blesses grain from the moment of planting to the day of harvest. She prays: "We beg of Thee, O Lord, deign to bless these seeds, to foster them with the mild breath of a serene heaven, to render them fertile by dew from above, and to bring them unharmed to fullest maturity for the use of souls and bodies."

She blesses the growing grain; she blesses the crops; she offers the first fruits to God; she blesses the granary, the mill and their contents; she asks God to appoint an angel to watch over the crops and their owners.

5. Farm animals, their barns and their food have a blessing. In blessing a stable Mother Church recalls the ox and ass at Bethlehem. She blesses hay and salt and pasture lands.

True and tender Mother that she is, the Church blesses animal pets like dogs and cats, canaries, parrots and monkeys. At Rome she blesses the horses of the cabmen, and in 1939 along with the horses she blessed two circus elephants.

6. Especially interesting are the blessings of bees and silkworms. The prayer for bees refers to the beeswax candles used in divine worship. It asks God to bless "these bees and this that their fruits may be dispensed unto Thy glory, and that of Thy Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

The Church asks God "to bless these silkworms, to foster and multiply them by kindness," so that the silk may be used to adorn the altar and glorify God.

7. There are numerous blessings for products of the earth and farm--for bread, fruits, eggs, oil, butter, cheese, lard, for beer and wine. Each blessing asks health for soul and body of those who eat the food.

Here is part of the blessing for bread: "O Lord Jesus Christ...Thou living Bread of eternal life, deign to bless this bread...that all who partake thereof may obtain the desired health of body and soul."

There is even a special benediction for colored Easter eggs, as symbols of creation and resurrection.

These and many other blessings for things on the farm are what we call the Sacramentals of Agriculture, the Sacramentals of the Farm. These sacramentals set aside the things which God has created, the things which God has caused to grow, that we may use them for the glory of God, that we may use them for our own health of soul and body.

Every man who tills the soil, and every thinking person who to any extent has an understanding of the life of the farmer, will see at once the value, the need, the beauty, and the inspiration of these farm blessings.

Just as St. Isidore prayed for the blessing of God every day at Mass, and visibly had the help of God's angels in his work, so every tiller of the soil should ask God's blessing, the blessing of God's Church on his work and the fruits of his work. Amen.


"The Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God." St. Luke, 1:35.

Around 1870 there lived in the hamlet of Goellheim, Germany, a fine Jewish family by the name of Moser. Their youngest son, Maurice, was a buddy of a Catholic lad by the name of Christian Behlen. Christian's father was chief trustee of the village and entrusted his boy with ringing the Angelus three times a day.

Naturally the eleven-year old Jewish lad envied his pal's privilege of ringing that bell which could be heard for miles around. He watched wistfully as Christian proudly and piously counted out three strokes, paused, three more strokes, again paused, and finally after another three strokes and a slight pause, rang the bells joyfully for a minute or two.

Maurice lent a hand with the rope, knelt down beside his friend, and later joined in the prayers when Christian said them aloud. The Jewish lad began to slip into church at other times, as he had seen Christian doing, especially to kneel before the statue of the Immaculate Mother. One day Christian found him there in tears. Maurice told him that he was asking Mary to be his Mother too, that he had pledged her eternal love and loyalty. When Christian made his First Communion at the age of 13 and Maurice did not, the latter was deeply disappointed.

"I know," he said, "that the dear Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament."

Years passed. Their paths separated. Maurice was sent to a school for rabbis, but the young man turned to business instead. He worked for a time in South America and finally settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

One Sunday, attracted again by the church bells, he went to High Mass at St. Anthony Church there. The sermon seemed aimed at him. He called on Father Becker, the pastor. In due time he took instructions and became a Catholic, June, 1886, at the age of 22, taking the name of Valentine.

Many of his fellow Jews, learning of his conversion, made life miserable for him. His own sister led the persecution. But he persevered. He married a splendid Catholic woman, who helped him rear a large family. All of them are now happily married.

The greatest delight of the grandfather is to teach his grandchildren the Angelus, and to take them to Mass which he attends daily. He is an active, zealous Catholic.

What happened to Christian, the Catholic boy? He became Brother Christian Behlen, of the Society of Mary. Often the boyhood friends exchanged letters filled with admiration of the wonderful ways of God and filled with devotion to Mary and the Angelus.

The Angelus is a devotion in honor of the Incarnation of our Lord, recited morning, noon and evening, to the sound of a bell. It consists of three little verses each followed by a Hail Mary. After the third Hail Mary there is a response and a prayer.

The Angelus takes its name from the first word of the Latin form of the prayer: "Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae," which means, "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary." That angel announced the most important news ever brought to earth. That angel spoke of the greatest fact in all history, the fact that the Son of God became man, was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Mother Church wants us never to forget that fact. She wants us to think of it at least three times every day. From Catholic steeples throughout the land she calls to her children to remember prayerfully this Greatest event of all time.

The Angelus devotion developed gradually. Most likely it began to form in the ancient monastic custom of reciting the "Little Office of the Blessed Virgin." In that office they often repeated the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. The people began to use these words as a daily prayer.

St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, in the general chapter of the Franciscan Order in Paris in 1226, and later at Assisi, ordered the triple salutation of the Blessed Virgin, called the Angelus, to be recited every evening at 6 o'clock in honor of the incarnation.

Finally, after several changes, the Angelus took the form which it has today. If you want the biblical background of this devotion and the words of this prayer, read the Gospel story as found in the first chapter of St. Luke from verse 26 to 42. From this passage the first half of the Hail Mary and the first and second versicles and their responses are taken, while the third versicle and response are from the Gospel according to St. John, 1:14.

The Angelus brings an indulgence of 10 years for each recitation, and a plenary indulgence once a month for those who say it three times every day. It may be said standing or kneeling. The whole Angelus, as commonly printed, has to be recited. Those who do not know the prayers by heart, or who are unable to read them, may say five Hail Marys in their place.

Calling to mind the presence of God is one of the best means to perfection. The Angelus helps us to remember that God is near, by raising our thoughts to Him morning, noon and night. It revives our remembrance of the principal mysteries of our religion. In particular, it helps us recall the thrilling fact that the Son of God became man, and it helps us remember the virginal motherhood of Mary, His Mother.

The Angelus keeps us in contact with Jesus and Mary. It revives our remembrance of the basic truths of our faith. It enlivens hope. It enkindles love. It awakens gratitude.

Say the Angelus every time you hear the church bells, no matter where you are or what you are doing. It was a means of bringing a Jew into the Church. It can be a means of growing in the love of God and His Mother for you. Amen.


"And the men of Nivive believed in God: and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least." Jonas, 3:4.

A certain French nobleman who had led a wicked life was moved by grace to change his ways. As he was too well known in France, he went to Rome to make his confession to the Holy Father himself. Pope Pius VI, who reigned from 1775 to 1799, received him kindly, and heard his confession. But when it came to imposing a penance, nothing seemed to suit the sinner's tastes or strength. He was too weak to fast. He was too busy to read or pray much. He could not make a pilgrimage. He was too tired to keep prayerful watch. No penance seemed suitable.

Wise guide that he was, Pope Pius finally gave the penitent a gold ring on which were engraved the words, Memento mori, which mean, Remember thou shalt die. His penance was to wear this ring and read the words on it at least once a day.

At first this was easy, but as he read those terrifying and prophetic words day after day, the nobleman gradually realized that death would one day come to him. He reasoned:

"If I have to die, what else can I do better on this earth than prepare for death? Why pamper this body which will one day rot in the ground?"

He began to carry out not only one or two but all of the penances which the Holy Father suggested. He lead a virtuous life and died a happy death.

On Ash Wednesday of every year Mother Church gives to each one of us not a gold ring but a few ashes. The purpose of the ashes is the same as the purpose of the ring which Pope Pius VI gave to his penitent, namely, to remind us of death. The ashes tell us what the ring told the nobleman: Remember thou shalt die.

The blessing of the ashes begins with an antiphon and a verse of a psalm imploring the mercy and grace of God. Then come four prayers which express the meaning of the ashes:

1. To be a spiritual help for all who contritely confess their sins.

2. To secure for those who receive the ashes, the pardon of all their sins.

3. To fill everyone with the spirit of sorrow for sin.

4. To give us courage and strength to do penance bravely.

After the priest sprinkles the ashes with holy water and incenses them, he puts some on his own head and on the heads of those present. He says another prayer for protection in the coming combat. Ashes, a sacramental, are a symbol of penance:

1. Their color is gray, the color of penance. Ashes have a gritty, cleansing value; penance cleanses our hearts and removes the stains of sin. Ashes are a good fertilizer; penance helps us grow in virtue and bring forth fruits of justice.

2. In the Old Law ashes were a figure of penance:

a. When Jonas proclaimed to the Ninevites the destruction of their city, "they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth." Jonas, 3:4.

b. King David put ashes on his bread that even at meals he might remember his sins and the need of penance.

3. Ashes are a figure of penance in the New Law also:

a. In the early ages of the Church ashes were put on the heads of public sinners. At the beginning of Lent they came before the bishop, barefoot and in mourning garments to have the Penitential Psalms and the Litany of the Saints recited over them. All during Lent they performed the most rigorous penances.

b. Public penance is no longer practiced, but the practice of putting ashes on the head has been retained. Since 1091, the date of the Council of Beneventum, ashes are distributed to all, to sinner and saint alike, throughout the Church. All are sinners in some way or other. In some way or other all need penance.

Ashes spur us on to religious sacrifice:

1. Where do we get the ashes? They are secured by burning the palms blessed the Palm Sunday of the previous Lent.

a. The ashes of palms are used because the palm is an emblem of peace, which comes after combat and victory. The palms were carried as Christ entered Jerusalem, to show his claim to leadership and to victory. The burnt palms call upon us to win a victory over sin.

b. The ashes also remind us of Christ whom we must keep in mind all during Lent.

2. What are the ashes? They are the remains of burnt things--a picture of the emptiness and nothingness of temporal goods and pleasures.

3. When are the ashes distributed? At the beginning of Lent, a season of sorrow and suffering for sin, a season of preparation for the passion and death of Christ.

4. How are they distributed?

a. They are put on the head, which is the seat of pride. Mother Church thus points out to us that we have no reason to be proud, since we are nothing but dust and ashes.

b. They are put on in the form of a cross to remind us that Jesus died on a cross for us, and that we must take up the cross and follow Him.

5. Finally, while placing the ashes the priest says: "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return."

The ashes may disappear from our foreheads, but their meaning and lesson must penetrate and grow in our hearts. As the ring reminded the nobleman of death, of the emptiness of material things and the value of spiritual things, so the ashes, eloquent sacramental of penance, must remind us of the nothingness of the things of this world and the value of things eternal. Amen.


"And a man that is clean shall dip hyssop in them (the living waters), and shall sprinkle therewith all the tent, and all the furniture, and the men that are defiled with touching any such thing." Numbers, 19:18.

One day a small boy wandered down to the brink of a gurgling brook. He watched the dancing waters and tried to talk to the jumping waves. But nobody wanted to stop and talk. He asked them where they came from, but there was no answer.

At last a tiny water-drop, splashed upon a near-by rock, looked up and smiled at the little fellow, who immediately asked:

"Say, where did you come from?"

"A long time ago," answered the water-drop, "I lived with countless sisters and brothers in the wide, deep ocean. We had lots of fun. We went high up on mighty waves and then tumbled down into deep, dark troughs. We splashed on boats and played with the fish.

"But one day I decided to see what there was in the world beside the ocean. I grasped a sunbeam and clung fast to him as he carried me up, up, way up above the clouds. There he shook me off and I began falling, right into a big, black cloud which floated over a mountain peak, settled down, and spread itself on the mountain side in a million drops of rain. I was one of them. I slipped on a rock and tumbled from pebble to rock, from rock to pebble, until I rolled into a tiny spring trickling into a valley. There I joined this little brook, which leads, I hope, back to the great ocean where I can play again with my brothers and sisters."

Just as the water-drop said this, a for-get-me-not reached out its root and drew in the water-drop to make it part of a beautiful flower.

Like the water-drops drawn up from the ocean by the rays of the sun and carried up to form clouds, so the water-drops blessed by the priest before Mass have, as it were, been carried up on the beams of God's love to His heavenly home there to receive a special power of helping the soul and body of those who use respectfully and receive with devotion the drops sprinkled over them in church.

If a simple flower can take a drop of water and turn it to its own uses, if all of nature can turn drops of water into a million uses, then surely the Almighty Creator of all flowers and all rain can turn drops of water to His supernatural uses.

Of Holy Water in general and of its blessing we will speak on another Sunday. Today we would like to speak of one of the uses of Holy Water, namely, the Asperges. The sprinkling of the congregation with Holy Water before the principal service on Sunday is called the Asperges, a Latin word meaning "sprinkle," because the prayer in that sacramental begins with the word "Asperges."

That prayer reads in English:

"Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow."

Usually just before the High Mass the priest blesses water. Vested in alb, cincture, stole and cope, he enters the sanctuary, and intones the words:

"Thou shalt sprinkle me..."

He sprinkles himself, the front of the altar and the altar platform. He genuflects and proceeds down the main aisle to the door sprinkling the people on either side. Meanwhile the choir sings the Asperges, adding:

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy."

After the "Glory be" the first part is repeated. At the altar the priest sings:

"Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy."

The choir answers:

"And grant us Thy salvation."

Priest: "O Lord, hear my prayer."

Choir: "And let my cry come unto Thee."

Priest: "The Lord be with you."

Choir: "And with thy spirit."

"Let us pray: Hear us, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, everlasting God; and vouchsafe to send Thy holy angel from heaven, to guard, cherish, protect, visit, and defend all those who are assembled together in this house. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

This striking ceremony has many meanings and purposes:

1. The altar is a symbol of Christ. The union between Christ and the people is brought out by the priest going among the people.

2. As the place of sacrifice, the altar brings many blessings. This ocean of grace is expressed by the drops of water sprinkled over the people.

3. Priest, altar, and faithful must come to the sacrifice as pure and clean as possible. The Holy water shows this.

4. The Asperges reminds us to renew every Sunday the remembrance of our baptism.

5. Still another purpose of this ceremony is to drive away all evil thoughts and distractions, all evil influences and hindrances. The evil spirits flee before the flood of water laden with God's grace.

You should bless yourself and genuflect on one knee as the priest walks by you down the aisle. It is not necessary that everyone be touched by one of the drops, because you all belong to the body of the congregation.

As you see the droplets fall over you of a Sunday morning, as you feel them gently touch you, remember that they have been blessed by God's representative, the priest, and that by the merits of Christ they have the power to help you if you receive this sacramental with proper devotion and thought.

Take these drops of grace into your heart as the for-get-me-not of our story reached out with its root and took the tiny drop of water from the brook. It is a means of God's grace and help for you. Amen.


"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." St. Matthew, 28:19.

A distinguished looking elderly gentleman walked into a florist shop one day.

"I want a beautiful corsage," he said, "not too large, but just about the prettiest one you can make."

He smiled proudly and added:

"It's for my granddaughter; she's having her first date tomorrow."

The florist was interested and cooperative.

"What color are her eyes?" he asked.

"Blue," answered the old gentleman.

"And what kind of dress will she be wearing, do you know?"

"I think it will be a pink one," replied the grandfather.

"How old is the young lady?" asked the florist, as a matter of course.

"Two weeks," replied the grandfather.

"Two weeks?" echoed the dumbfounded florist. "Did I understand you right? A date--a corsage--and only two weeks old?"

"Exactly," smiled the old gentleman. "And I want a corsage that is exactly right. She will never have a more important date than she has tomorrow. My little granddaughter is going to be baptized."

Baptism is indeed the most important date any person will ever have. It is interesting and inspiring to know what takes place on that date and why. The ceremonies of Baptism are some of the most expressive and impressive sacramentals in the Church.

1. After meeting the child at the door of church to show that the doors of heaven are still closed against him, the priest asks: "John, what dost thou ask of the Church of God?" The sponsors answer: "Faith." "What doth faith bring thee to?" continues the priest. The sponsors answer: "Life everlasting." The priest says: "If, therefore, thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself."

2. Three times the priest breathes on the face of the infant, to show that the Holy Spirit is giving the child the power to breathe the supernatural life. It is done three times to show that Baptism is given in the name of the Holy Trinity.

3. With his right thumb the priest makes the sign of the cross on the forehead to show that the child ought never to be ashamed of Jesus Christ; and on the breast to show that he must love Christ crucified.

4. The priest lays his hand on the infant's head and prays that God bend over the child with His protection, that the blessings of heaven descend upon him, and that Satan be driven out.

5. The priest puts a little salt on the tongue of the child. Salt preserves, gives taste to things, and represents wisdom. Here it means that the child is to be preserved from sin, is to have a taste for spiritual things, and is to be fed with divine wisdom.

6. God's minister recites several prayers driving out the devil, making the sign of the cross a number of times to deliver the child from the power of the evil one.

7. Again the priestly hand is laid on the head of the infant, asking God to enlighten the child with His wisdom and cleanse him by divine grace.

8. The stole is placed on the child to admit the little one to the baptismal font. Priest and sponsors recite the Apostles' Creed to show that the child professes the faith of Christ, and the Our Father, to show that only by Baptism does one have the right to call God Father. It is also a reminder to say these prayers often.

9. The priest wets his thumb with spittle and touches the ears and nose of the infant, reminding us of the cure worked by Christ on the deaf and dumb man. (St. Mark, 7:32) For a just cause this ceremony may be omitted.

10. After asking the child to give up Satan, his works and his pomps or boastings, the priest dips his thumb in the oil of catechumens and with it makes a small sign of the cross on the breast and between the shoulders, that the child may love Christ and carry His cross. Oil is a symbol of strength and suppleness.

11. Through its sponsors the child professes his belief in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Catholic Church and everything the Church teaches. In answer to the question: "Wilt thou be baptized?" the child answers: "I will."

12. The priest takes baptismal water, pours it three times on the infant's head in the form of a cross, and says: "John, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." The sponsors must hold or touch the child meanwhile.

13. The priest dips his thumb in holy chrism and anoints the crown of the child's head, the most excellent part of its body, consecrating the little one as a child of God.

14. He lays on the infant a small dress or white linen cloth, which represents the glory of the resurrection, the beauty of a soul cleansed of all sin, and especially the innocence and purity which the baptized should preserve throughout life.

15. He also offers a lighted candle to be held by child or sponsor, reminding the newly baptized that the burning faith which he received in Baptism should be kept and increased. The concluding words of the priest to the child are:

"John, go in peace and the Lord be with thee."

The great majority of you were made children of God with these significant ceremonies. You remember nothing of that first and most important date of your life, that meeting between you and Almighty God, when He took you, adopted you as His own child. That is why at First Communion, on missions and retreats, and other outstanding spiritual occasions, we renew our baptismal vows or promises. That is why I advise you this morning to recall these ceremonies and their rich, religious meaning. Realize their importance, their beauty, their inspiration. Resolve again this morning to live up to your Baptism. Amen.


"The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence." Psalm, 28:4

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the great English writer, was received into the Catholic Church on July 30, 1922. From then on he was an outstanding apologist for the Church he had come to love. On June 14, 1936, he passed away--rather suddenly. He was buried in the graveyard of Beaconsfield Catholic Church, toward the construction of which Chesterton and his wife, also a convert, had been generous contributors. A few years after his death the Republic of Ireland gave a great bell for the Chesterton Memorial Church. On the bell is this inscription:

"Presented to the parish of Beaconsfield by friends and admirers of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, to ring the call to faith, which he so chivalrously answered in song, in word, and in example, to the glory of God and of England."

A similar inscription might be carved on every bell in every Catholic steeple throughout the world, for those bells are ever calling to faith and worship. And all true Catholics, like Chesterton, answer that call every time they hear it.

Bells have been used for religious purposes from very ancient times especially in Egypt and among the Jews. All these bells were of small size. It is said that Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in Italy, introduced bells into Christian Churches. Bells grew to their present large size, great variety, and beautiful tone solely under the inspiration of the Catholic Church. The churchmen and saints of the faith founded by Christ made laws for their use, drew up a beautiful ceremony for their blessing, gave them a Christian meaning and name and provided shelter and honor for them in glorious towers, steeples and belfries. Bells are beautiful sacramentals.

As such, Mother Church blesses them, christens them, in a ceremony that is unusually impressive and solemn. The bishop and clergy assemble around the bell placed in the middle of the church. The group recites psalms asking God for His mercy and help and promising to adore and serve Him faithfully. Holy water is blessed in the usual manner, with the addition of a particular prayer for the purpose intended. With this holy water the bishop and priests wash the inside and outside of the bell as psalms of praise and thanksgiving are recited. "Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let His praise be in the church of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him: and the children of Sion be joyful in their king." Psalm 149.

"Praise ye the Lord in His holy places: praise ye Him in the firmament of His power. Praise ye Him for His mighty acts: praise ye Him according to the multitude of His greatness. Praise Him with sound of trumpet: praise Him with psaltery and harp. Praise Him with timbrel and choir: praise Him with strings and organs. Praise Him on high sounding cymbals: praise Him on cymbals of joy: let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia." Psalm 110.

Then the bishop asks God that when the bell sounds it may kindle in the hearts of the faithful true love and devotion for His blessed service. He asks that disturbances in the weather may be calmed and that the air be free of all diseases and evil spirits. After this comes a psalm inviting all to praise and glorify Almighty God and remember His mighty works. (Psalm 28)

The bishop anoints the bell with oil of the sick making the sign of the cross with it seven times on the exterior and four times on the interior praying that God may consecrate and sanctify it within and without, and make the sound of it fruitful in grace, blessing and protection for all the faithful.

Then is read the Gospel of our Lord's visit with Martha and Mary. You remember how Martha complained that Mary did not help her with serving, and how our Lord exclaimed:

"Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things; and yet only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the best part, and it will not be taken away from her." St. Luke, 10:41, 42.

The thought is that everyone who listens to the Lord's voice is pleasing to the Lord. The church bell is in many ways the voice of the Lord. It calls us to rejoice and it calls us to mourn. It calls us to seek and find consolation in distress, and direction in danger. It calls us to adore and worship the Creator and Redeemer.

Who can describe our feelings as we hear the bells on Christmas night and Easter morning? Who can picture our sorrow as we hear those bells sad and solemn, telling us of the passing of a dear one, and reminding us that they will toll for us? Like the voice of the Lord, the bell calls us to holy Mass and evening services.

Three times a day the bell's peaceful, soothing, measured tones remind us of the great mystery of the incarnation, and invite us to bow our hearts and heads to adore the Word made flesh and to ask the protection and assistance of our Lord and His sweet Mother. That is the Angelus bell.

And when on Holy Thursday the bells tumble joyfully in their sturdy cradles we remember the great gift of the Eucharist, and we are warned to prepare for the terrible hours to come, the hours of our Lord's passion and death, when the bells are sadly silent.

Holy Saturday morning they burst forth again, it seems just a little ahead of time, but they cannot keep silent when there is such glorious news as that of the Resurrection to be announced. Truly the church bell is the voice of God.

The smaller bells used in the church need not be blessed. They are generally used to remind us of the principal parts of the Mass, and the solemn moment of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Listen to your church bells. Heed their call. Obey their commands. Answer their call as did that valiant Catholic convert, Chesterton, as did all the great followers of Christ. May the church bell be a helpful sacramental to you--to the glory of God and the good of your soul. Amen.


"Sir, we wish to see Jesus." St. John, 12:21.

In the June, 1942, issue of the Victorian Magazine, Josephine Quirk tells the following incident in an article entitled: "Peace Must Be Earned." One Sunday afternoon she went to a reception at the home of a friend in Paris. Among the guests were the select of the social, artistic and political world in France. All were prominent, brilliant and wealthy, but a little soft in their ethics and morals.

At 5 o'clock Miss Quirk told her hostess that she was leaving--to attend services at Notre Dame Cathedral. When the hostess announced this to the guests, laughs and jeers and wisecracks followed:

"Don't tell me you'd leave a grand party to go to church!"

"How delightfully old-fashioned!"

"I thought nobody went to Notre Dame but tourists!"

The good-bye of her hostess included this remark:

"Going to Benediction at Notre Dame! How quaint!"

When Paris fell in World War Two Miss Quirk remembered that day and those people. She wondered, too, if its fall had not been God's way of bringing those moral softies to their senses. In 1941 she received a letter from her hostess friend, who was still in Paris, practically a prisoner of the Nazis, who had stripped her of everything she held dear. After telling of the difficulties of getting bread, the once wealthy friend wrote:

"I spend hours every day in Notre Dame Cathedral. I find peace there and it helps me to bear all this. When I'm kneeling before the altar, the hunger passes and I feel that I can go on and take whatever they force on us. Something gives me strength that I do not get--even from food."

That Parisian woman had learned the hard way the meaning and value of the Eucharist and especially of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I hope it will not take a war to make you realize the value of this simple yet sublime, this short but thrilling ceremony of Benediction. The actions performed are beautiful and expressive sacramentals. Some of these, like incense and candles, will be explained more fully in particular talks during this series. Today we would like to explain some of the ceremonies of this simple but significant service.

The altar is adorned with lights and flowers. The flowers are beautiful fragrant and pleasant to the senses. They represent the virtues we should bring to the worship of the Lord, virtues which are pleasing to Him. Flowers are an attractive part of creation and should pay their tribute of adoration to their Creator.

The lighted candles are made of beeswax a symbol of the pure body of Christ. The light is a sign of Christ, the Light of the world. The flames show our faith and our love spending themselves for Him.

The priest puts on surplice, stole and cope. The surplice is an abbreviated form of the alb. the long, white linen garment worn by the priest at Mass, and covering the entire body. It was part of the ordinary dress in the time of the apostles, and is worn today to remind us how old are devotions to the Eucharist.

The stole is a long narrow band of silk worn over the neck and adorned with three crosses, one at each end and one in the center. The priest kisses the latter cross as he prepares to place it over his shoulders. The stole is worn whenever he administers the sacraments.

The stole is symbolic of the cords with which Christ was tied; of the cross on which Christ died; and of the yoke which Christ makes sweet. The priest's burden is heavy and responsible; Christ makes it light and sweet.

The stole is also a badge and symbol of priestly authority. At one time it was part of priestly dress not only at the altar, but also on the street, much as the Roman collar is today.

The cope, from the Latin "casa," which means a little house, is a mantlelike cloak reaching to the ankles and fastened at the neck with a clasp. It was originally the Roman overcoat with a hood that could be drawn up over the head in cold or rainy weather.

Clothed in these vestments, the priest enters the sanctuary, genuflects, and kneels on the lowest step for a moment of adoration. He ascends the altar, unfolds the corporal, a square linen cloth, and places it upon the altar table. He places a similar cloth on the place where the monstrance is to rest.

He unlocks the tabernacle, takes out the Sacred Host, inserts it in the monstrance, which is set in a conspicuous place above the altar or tabernacle so that all can see it.

As the choir and people sing the "O Salutaris," or similar hymn, the priest puts incense on the burning coals carried in a censer by the servers, and offers fragrant clouds to the King of heaven and earth. Incense is a symbol of respect and loyalty and adoration. Formerly burned before kings and rulers, it is here a sign of prayer and love rising in tribute to the King of kings.

When the choir has sung the "Tantum Ergo," the priest sings a prayer beseeching God that we might ever venerate Him here in order to feel forever the fruits of His redemption. Then he takes the monstrance containing our Lord, turns to the people and, in the form of a cross, gives the blessing of Christ Himself.

The priest covers his hands with a shoulder veil to show that this is not his own priestly blessing, but the blessing of Christ Himself.

Here is the answer to the ache in the heart of the world--to see Jesus, to adore Him, to honor Him, the ache expressed by the Gentiles, the strangers, to the Apostle Philip when they exclaimed:

"Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

Don't you wish to see Jesus? Don't you wish to adore Him in person? Don't you wish to honor Him on our altar? Above all, don't you wish to receive His very own blessing? Then attend Benediction as often as possible, as lovingly as possible.

You will experience, as did our Parisian woman, a peace and a help and a strength that you get nowhere else and from nothing else. You are seeing the Lord and receiving His blessing. Amen.


"Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee." Psalm 118:164.

The story is told of a priest who was visiting New York. He took a ride in a sight-seeing bus, finding a cool, pleasant seat on the open upper deck. As the bus whirled along he decided to say some of his Breviary or daily Office. He took out the book and began to pray.

But not for long. Some loud-mouthed bigot among the passengers noticed the padre praying, and he shouted for everyone to hear:

"When I pray I do what the Bible says, I go into my room and close the door and pray in secret."

The priest could not help hearing. Reverently and slowly he closed his Breviary, turned around to face the loud-mouth, and in a voice everyone could hear said slowly:

"And then you get up on the top of a bus and tell the whole world about it."

Not only are bigots ignorant about the Breviary, its contents and its meaning, but many Catholics also look upon it as a mysterious book. They know little or nothing about it. Yet, that little black book which you see so often in the hands of your priest is of immense concern and benefit to you.

Breviary means that it is an abridgement or shortening of much longer prayers. It is also called divine Office, because office means a duty or service. The Office is a priest's daily duty and service to God.

The Breviary is the priest's official prayer-book. When he is ordained sub-deacon, he receives the obligation of saying these prayers every day.

The Breviary comes in four volumes, one for each season of the year. A large part of it is made up of the 150 psalms, most of which the priest prays in the course of each week.

The daily Office is composed of the following parts: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. Matins really means morning prayers, but it can be said the night or even the afternoon previous. It consists of three parts called nocturns. The first nocturn has three psalms and three readings from the Old and the New Testaments. The second nocturn likewise has three psalms with three readings usually from the lives of the saints. The third nocturn has three psalms and three explanations of the Gospel or some other devotional treatise.

Lauds or The Praises has five psalms, a short reading, the Canticle or Song of Zachary, and the proper prayer for the day.

The little hours are short in comparison. They are made up of a hymn of three or four verses, three psalms, a very short reading, and again the proper prayer of the day, which is the same as that said at Mass.

Vespers is like Lauds, and Compline, the night prayer of Mother Church, is like one of the little hours of the morning in structure. Sprinkled throughout and between all these psalms and readings are various introductory and concluding verses.

In monasteries and religious houses where the Office is said in common, definite parts are recited at more or less definite hours. The individual priest, however, has great leeway as to the time for saying his Breviary. He may say it at one sitting or break it up through the day. Only a very grave reason can excuse him from this daily spiritual task.

There are two points which I would like to impress upon you good people: first, the excellence of this prayer which the priest says every day; and second, the benefits which you lay people receive from the priest's Office. In regard to its excellence I would point out:

1. The greater part of the priest's daily prayer is made up of the inspired Word of God, the Bible. There are parts from the Old and the New Testament. The psalms, as I mentioned, are said every week at least.

2. Short lives of the saints are read throughout the year, with their inspiration and their consolation.

3. There are hymns of high poetic value as well as deep, religious thought.

4. There are prayers which cannot be excelled in their brevity, their comprehensiveness and their tenderness.

5. The Breviary is excellent because it is recited by the ministers of God, His priests and His religious. These have been chosen, trained, ordained or professed for the greatest work of man--the worship of God.

6. The Office is recited in the name and by the authority of the Church. No other prayer has the same value. It is official; it is universal; it is unending. It is the official public prayer of the Church, just as the Mass is the official sacrifice of the Church.

What is a public prayer? Not necessarily one said on the top of a bus with dozens of people looking on or even taking part. If the priest of our story had been saying his prayer alone in his room, it would be a public prayer, because it was the official prayer of the Church. On the other hand, were he to say the Rosary before five thousand people it would not be a public prayer.

And how do you good people share in this world-wide prayer? In many ways:

1. The priest prays for you and in your name. Every priest has two important duties: he must first praise and glorify God himself, and then he must beg the mercy of God upon all Christian people, and even on those who are not Christian or Catholic.

2. This prayer for you goes on night and day. The Church divides the priest's office into seven portions as King David sang the praises of God seven times a day, so that at every moment in darkness and light, on land and sea, individually and in groups, priests are praying for you.

3. Priests are not ordained for themselves. They are ordained for the people: to serve them, to help them, to lead them, to correct them, to encourage them, and above all to pray for them.

The next time you see your priest or any priest with that little black book, know that he is busy praying for you.

Surely, that does not free you from the duty of praying. Rather, knowing that your priest is daily praying for you about one full hour, you should return the favor and pray for him. Amen.


"It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world."

St. John, 1:9.

The story of Erna Bilkau and her so-called Mystic Candles is a tragic yet triumphant one. Born in Russia, she moved to Germany, where she married a German boy. They honeymooned in America, learning to love the land of hope and freedom. Back in Germany she was separated a few years later from her husband by the war. With her two-year-old son she fled to America. She was making a modest living for herself and her son when he suddenly became seriously ill and passed away at the age of thirteen.

The shock almost drove the mother insane. For months she walked the streets every night, peeking with aching agony into homes where there were children. Friends tried to console her. To no avail.

At last she took refuge with God. She knelt by her bed, and with folded hands asked the Almighty to assist her. Peace and courage came with her prayer. She put up a crudely constructed altar to the memory of her dead boy, and put upon it two lighted candles. They seemed to give her new hope.

The candles, however, burned down too quickly. She recalled some secrets of candle-making learned from her father. She experimented until she developed a candle that would burn down the center and not burn the outer shell. It gave off a strange mystical glow. She called them her Mystic Candles.

A young couple across the street accepted a few of the candles and found in them the courage to make up the differences that were slowly driving them to divorce. Others wanted candles like them. Others found peace and quiet and courage in having those candles in their homes. She was swamped with orders. A thriving business developed. In this work she found a release from her overwhelming grief. Today thousands find inspiration and help in the Mystic Candles of Erna Bilkau, the mother who lost a son.

Inspiring as this story may be, it pales before the ageless, world- wide story of the Catholic candle, which you see glowing upon our altars, which you see in every sacrament except Confession.

Allow me to point out that the candle is one of the oldest and most widely used sacramentals in the Church. It is one of the richest religious symbols or instruments used to express spiritual ideas. What does the candle mean? Why do we use them?

The wax, produced by virgin worker bees, is a beautiful figure of the pure body of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary. The wick represents the soul of Christ; the flame represents His divinity, the fact that He was God. The lighted candle reminds us of Christ's gospel, the Holy Bible, which dispels the darkness of sin and ignorance; the lighted candle also stands for the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. For the individual Christian the candle's flame means the faith that makes us "children of the light"; its warmth and heat show us the fiery tongues of Pentecost, "which does not consume but enlightens." When given to the Church, candles signify Christian self-sacrifice. As the burning taper consumes itself, so the Christian should burn up his energies in serving God.

Light is one of the most fitting and appropriate symbols of God, who is absolutely pure light. Light is pure in itself; light penetrates long distances and into farthest corners; light moves with unbelievable speed; light awakens and nourishes life in the organic kingdom; light brightens with its brilliance all that comes within its influence.

1. Holy Scripture makes frequent use of this symbolic meaning:

a. The wisdom of the Son is spoken of as "the brightness of his glory." Hebrews 1:3.

b. And the psalmist exclaims: "Thou art clothed with light as with a garment." Psalm 103:2.

2. Light also represents the mission of our divine Lord upon earth. The prophet Isaias (9:2) calls Christ a great light and foretells that "to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death light is risen." The saintly Simeon declared that He is "a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." To this St. John added that Christ "was the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world." St. John, 1:9. And Christ says of Himself, "I am the light of the world." St. John, 8:12.

3. Lights are also symbols of respect. They are used on occasions when we wish to show more than ordinary deference to distinguished personages or to holy things. Even the pagans used lights to show honor to their gods and to prominent personages.

The Catholic Church uses blessed beeswax candles at the administration of all the sacraments that are given publicly, except Confession and in private Baptism, when only water is available. She uses them at Mass and Benediction and in other church services like blessings and processions. She gives a lighted candle to the newly baptized with these solemn words:

"Receive this burning light so as to keep thy Baptism without blame. Keep the commandments of God, so that when our Lord shall come to His nuptials thou mayest meet Him together with all the saints...."

And when that Christian is dying we place a candle in his hand. It is not that we need their light, although in the early centuries that was their practical use, in the catacombs, in the caves and underground passages where the first Catholics had to conduct their services.

Mother Church has a higher and a deeper reason than that. She uses every possible means for raising our minds to heaven. Among the sacramentals the candle is outstanding. We love to look at a candle and see in its soft white wax the pure flesh of our Infant Savior. We see the wick penetrating the wax, and representing the soul of Christ.

Let our candles be true spiritual inspirations to us, even more than the candles of Erna Bilkau were to her friends. Have them in your home. Use them in times peaceful and times perturbed. They represent the true light of the world. Amen.


"The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but they who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment." St. John, 5:28, 29.

In August of 1949 the Associated Press reported that all was well in the Gibson Tomb at Sutton, England. Every August 12 since 1793 an official of the village makes an authorized inspection of this tomb to see that the bodies are undisturbed.

It all started 156 years ago in the day of grave robbers, so-called resurrection men, who dug up corpses without permission and sold the bodies to medical schools for students to dissect. When a certain James Gibson wealthy London merchant, passed away, his daughter Elizabeth feared this might happen. She had heavy railing set up around the tomb and sealed the entrance with a thick door and two massive locks.

When she died in 1793 she left a trust fund to pay for an inspection of the tomb "every August 12 forever." On that day in 1949 the vicar of Sutton unlocked the door, walked in, inspected the seven coffins, and found everything in order. It is generally believed that the Gibson family died out long ago.

The concern of Elizabeth Gibson for the body of her father is in line with the reverence of all civilized mankind for the remains of loved ones. It is very much in line with the spirit of the Church Christ founded. Mother Church even blesses the ground where they are buried.

On the eve of the dedication five crosses are planted on the place to be blessed, so arranged that they form a cross. The one in the center is taller than the other four. Before each cross is a stake with three candles.

1. These crosses, symbols of Christianity, indicate that in this new cemetery only Catholics are to rest. The Church forbids the burial there of Jews, pagans, and all who are not Catholic. The reason is that those who do not belong to the Church during life cannot be recognized by her after death.

The cross also indicates that those whose bodies rest there expect their salvation from Christ who died on the cross. They trust in His merits, and in the shadow of His cross they await the day of resurrection.

The cross in the center signifies Christ crucified, the center of life and death. This large, central cross must be mounted accordingly near the middle point of the burial ground. The other four crosses at the sides remind us of the consoling fact that the doctrine of Christ's death and resurrection has been spread to the four corners of the world.

2. The candles, lighted on the day of dedication, remind us that we owe the light of the Gospel, and especially the glad tidings of the first Easter, to our divine Savior, the Light of the World. They remind us of that light eternal which we beg for the departed:

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them."

On the day of dedication the bishop, vested in pontifical robes, goes to the principal cross, says a prayer and the Litany of the Saints. He asks God to bless, sanctify, and dedicate the cemetery that the human bodies resting there may merit, together with their souls, the joys of life everlasting. These prayers are said before the principal cross which represents Christ, through whom we expect the granting of our prayers.

The bishop blesses water, intones the Asperges, and goes from cross to cross sprinkling the ground with holy water. Meanwhile the choir chants psalms for the dead. At each cross he offers a prayer, incenses the cross, takes the three candles from the stakes, and puts them on the cross, one on the top, the other two on the arms. After a solemn preface he concludes the dedication with the following prayer:

"Holy Lord, Almighty Father, Eternal God, Sanctifier and Restorer of all places, from whom and through whom all benediction descends from heaven upon earth, bless this place that it may be a place of peace, a sweet refreshment and a place of rest for the dead, whose souls, whilst their bodies are buried here, or are to be buried here, may enjoy the sweetness of Thy love and joy and exultation, and remain in the heavenly Jerusalem until, on the great Day of Judgment, they receive again their bodies out of the graves, and thus hasten with the fruit of good works to meet the Lord, coming to judgment. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Then he gives his blessing to all present and returns to the church, where either he or another celebrates Mass. These ceremonies are full of instruction and meaning. They are inspiring to recall especially during the month of the holy souls.

The holy water reminds us of the penance we must do if we wish to die happily. It also reminds us to help the departed souls. As ordinary water refreshes the thirsty, so holy water reminds us to refresh the Poor Souls with Mass, prayer, penance and works of charity.

The lighted candles represent eternal truths and especially Truth Himself, the Light of the world. They are attached to the cross because Christ, whom they represent, was nailed to the cross.

The incense reminds us that our prayers should be rising up to God for the souls of those dwelling in our place of peace.

Not all cemeteries are consecrated. In some communities part of the burial ground is consecrated; another part is not. In such cases the individual grave is blessed just before the burial.

Your cemetery is a place of honor. It is God's acre, it is a place of rest, a place of peace, a place of sleep. It is the blessed bed-room of our beloved. The Gibson grave was inspected once a year. But, you must go to the grave of your beloved every day, at least in prayerful thought. Also try to keep it neat and clean. The blessing of a cemetery is an inspiring sacramental. May it be inspiring to us. Amen.


"I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children." Genesis. 3:16.

Queen Victoria of England was one day visiting some soldiers who had been wounded in South Africa. One young man, broken by shot and shell, deeply distressed her.

"Is there anything, son, that I can do for you?" she asked in her motherly way.

"Nothing, Your Majesty," answered the soldier, "unless you would thank my nurse for her kindness to me."

The queen turned to the nurse and with tears in her eyes said warmly:

"With all my heart I do want to thank you for your kindness to this poor, wounded son of mine."

What a delicate and beautiful sense of gratitude on the part of that young man! He forgot himself. He thought only of giving pleasure and praise to the woman who was waiting on him so faithfully.

It is with an even more delicate and charming sense of gratitude and self-forgetfulness that a Catholic mother comes to church after the birth of her child to ask the blessing of the priest and to thank God for her safe delivery. Every mother is a soldier. Like a soldier she endures heroically the discomforts of child-bearing. Like a soldier she sacrifices the unimportant for the great task that is hers. Like a soldier she goes down into the valley of suffering, even into the valley of death, ready and willing to give life itself to perform her duty.

One would think that all the gratitude should be given her. Yet, though we honor mothers for what they have done and endured, it is mother herself who realizes her debt of gratitude to Almighty God for the high honor which He has given her.

All the peoples of the world kept a memory of the sentence of suffering which God pronounced on the first mother and all mothers:

"I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children."

Among the Jews it was ceremonial law that a woman was considered unclean after childbirth, because woman had been the first to transgress the law of God. Sin came through a woman, Eve; redemption came through a woman, Mary.

Churching is an outgrowth and perfection of the Mosaic rite. However, there are essential differences. The Jewish rite presumed legal defilement; the Catholic ceremony presumes honorable motherhood. The Jewish rite was necessary before a mother could assist at religious services; the Christian rite is an act of thanksgiving. The Jewish rite was of obligation; the Catholic ceremony does not bind even under pain of venial sin.

In a spirit of humility, and because Mary did it, Christian women of the early centuries began to ask the blessing of the priest, began to make their first visit to the altar one of thanksgiving for a safe delivery.

This blessing may be given only to those whose children were born in lawful wedlock. The Church urges, but does not oblige, mothers to receive it. The mother need not bring her child with her; many do. The blessing may be given to those whose baby died, even without Baptism.

Ordinarily the pastor or his representative has the right to give this blessing. Churching may take place wherever Mass can be celebrated.

The woman shall kneel at the door of church, holding a lighted candle. In surplice and white stole the priest sprinkles her with holy water, and recites the twenty-third psalm. He presents her the end of his stole which hangs from his left shoulder, which she takes with her right hand. They march up to the altar, as the priest prays:

"Enter into the temple of God, adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has given thee fruitfulness of offspring."

After certain verses and responses, and the Our Father, the priest offers this prayer:

"Almighty, everlasting God, who through the delivery of the Blessed Virgin Mary hast changed the pains of childbirth into joy, look mercifully on this Thy handmaid, who comes in gladness to Thy temple to offer thanksgiving; and grant that, after this life, through the merits and intercession of the same Blessed Mary, she may be found worthy to attain, together with her offspring, to the joys of everlasting happiness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

In the United States the priest does not generally meet the woman at the church door, but at the altar rail. He stands at the inner side of the railing to perform the ceremony. Often more than one woman is blessed at the same time.

The churching of women is done in imitation of the Blessed Virgin who presented herself in the temple for purification. Mary made an offering at that time. It is customary, though not necessary, to make one at the time of churching. Many priests turn the money back to the mother with the words:

"Get something for the baby."

Our Blessed Mother is interested in all mothers. You mothers want to be as much like Mary as possible. Like her go to God's temple and receive the blessing of Mother Church on yourself and your child.

What a contrast between the woman who shuns childbirth, the woman who shuns by sinful means her sublime dignity of motherhood, what a contrast between her and the woman who has her baby and then asks God to bless her joy and her privilege. What a contrast between the woman who complains against God when He asks her to share in His powers of creation, and the woman who comes to thank God for that high honor.

You guess which of the two will be more favored of God in this life, and especially which of the two will be more favored of God in the life to come. Amen.


"There is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that bringeth glory and grace." Ecclus., 4:25.

Under Louis XIV France was at war with Holland. A young officer of the French army called upon Fenelon, the saintly archbishop of Cambrai.

"Your Lordship," said the soldier, "I am ordered to the front to engage in a battle that will soon take place. I feel urged to make a confession of my sins. Before doing so, however, I would like you to prove to me the divine institution of the Sacrament of Penance."

"I am at your service," His Grace replied, "and since the shortest way is the best way, I advise you to go to confession first of all."

The officer objected that it would be just like trying a thing in order to understand it. How could he learn that God established confession by trying it?

"My son," explained the archbishop, "theoretically that is true, but let me assure you with all the weight of experience that this is nevertheless the surest and shortest way."

The fellow, persuaded by the tone of authority, made a confession. When it was over the churchman offered to instruct him further.

"It is not necessary, Your Grace," smiled the soldier, "I am not only convinced of the necessity of confession, I feel it."

That is the experience of everyone who has ever made a sincere confession. The reason is two-fold: first, the penitent knows positively that his sins are forgiven; secondly, he finds in the ceremonies of confession spiritual helps and inspiration. Those simple ceremonies, consoling sacramentals that they are, bring many graces. Let us consider their meaning and keep them in mind:

1. As you enter church you genuflect to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. You kneel before the same Jesus who forgave sins Himself, and who gave the power of forgiving sins to the leaders of His Church. Give Him a thought.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make a good confession. When Jesus gave the power of forgiving sins He said:

"Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." St. John, 20:23.

The priest needs the help of the Holy Spirit to guide you and absolve you; you need the help of the Holy Spirit to make a good confession. It is enough to say:

"Holy Spirit, help me make a good confession."

3. You may examine your conscience or think of your sins in several ways:

a. Think of all Ten Commandments of God and the Church Laws.

b. Think back to your last good confession and your serious sins will stand out.

c. Examine yourself on those commandments which you generally violate. You must confess all mortal sins, their number and their kind. You are advised to confess also your venial sins.

4. Next comes the most important part of your confession, namely, contrition or sorrow for sin. Kneeling before Jesus who died for your sins, you should be able to excite true sorrow for your disobedience.

5. It is also necessary to tell God that you will try to avoid that sin or those sins in the future. This firm purpose of amendment is another essential.

6. While preparing and waiting for confession stay at a distance to avoid hearing anything from the confessional. Should you hear anything, you are bound to absolute secrecy.

7. In the confessional kneel down. That is a ceremony of humility. You are kneeling before God's representative. As you enter the priest blesses you:

"May the Lord be in thy heart and on thy lips, that thou mayest make a sincere and entire confession of all thy sins. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Making the sign of the cross, remember that through the death of Christ on the cross your sins are forgiven.

8. Begin your confession with some simple, clear sentence like this:

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...." Or, "I confess to Almighty God, and to you, father, that I have last confession was two weeks ago." Then mention your sins.

9. It is not necessary to say that you received absolution, said your penance, and received Holy Communion. If you did not receive absolution or did not say your penance, mention that and tell the priest why. If you did not receive Holy Communion mention the reason.

10. Tell your sins simply, clearly, briefly. You must tell all your mortal sins--the kind of mortal sins and the number of times, at least about how often. You are advised to confess also your venial sins. When you are finished let the priest know by saying something like this:

"For these and all my sins I am heartily sorry."

In general don't drag out your confession with useless details. On the other hand, there is no need for rushing or hurrying. If you want advice, ask for it. If you want or need help, ask for it.

11. Listen attentively to the advice of the priest, and answer simply and clearly any questions he may ask. He is guided by the Holy Spirit.

12. The priest recites four short prayers as he gives you absolution. During the third prayer, he makes the sign of the cross over you as he says the words:

"I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

13. On leaving the confessional say your penance immediately. Any time before your next confession is permitted, but say your penance at once, lest you forget it.

14. Again direct your gaze and your heart to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and thank Him for this great gift of grace and mercy.

Like that French officer, anyone who has ever made a good confession knows from experience that it is something divine, something out of this world. Some of these ceremonies are sacramentals; others are customs. They help to put us into the proper spiritual disposition for this great boon of forgiveness. Amen.


"Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost." Acts of the Apostles, 8:18.

Before being elected head of the Catholic Church, Pope Pius IX was the bishop of Imola. One day he was in a great hurry to begin a long journey on some urgent business. As he was about to step into his carriage, a poorly dressed and weeping woman stopped him.

"Come quickly, Your Lordship," she cried. "My little boy is dying, and he has not yet been confirmed."

When the bishop learned that the lad had already gone to confession, had received Viaticum and Extreme Unction, he answered:

"I am sorry, little mother. I must make this journey at once. Don't worry. Your boy will go to heaven even if he has not been confirmed."

Clinging to the bishop's cloak, the woman persisted: "I know all that, my Lord. But for all eternity his soul will lack the beauty which Confirmation would give it. For all eternity he will go unadorned by the sign that marks the soldier of Christ."

The saintly bishop was convinced. He called for the holy chrism. His business, however urgent, must wait. Here was business for eternity.

That mother knew her religion. She knew the value and benefits of Confirmation. She knew that this sacrament gave a special mark and strength and beauty to the soul. All these she wanted for her son--here and hereafter.

The ceremonies of this wonderful sacrament are true sacramentals. They go back to the very time of Christ and the Apostles. We read of them in the Bible. We read of them in early Christian times. They are some of the most expressive in all liturgy.

1. The person to be confirmed must have already received Baptism, because Confirmation is to Baptism what growth is to birth. Just as one must be born before he can attain full growth, so one must have spiritual life before he can be strengthened and grow in that life.

2. There are two other important dispositions for the recipient of this sacrament:

a. He must be instructed in the principal truths of religion, especially on the nature of Confirmation.

b. He must be in the state of grace, because Confirmation is a sacrament of the living.

3. There are several important conditions for the sponsor, but time will not permit our mentioning them.

4. After the singing of the "Veni Creator," the bishop vests, and with his hands joined begins:

"May the Holy Ghost come upon you, and the power of the Most High keep you from sins. Amen."

5. He extends his hands over the candidates and prays: 30

"Almighty and eternal God, who has vouchsafed to regenerate these Thy servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given them forgiveness of all their sins: send forth from heaven upon them Thy sevenfold Spirit, the Holy Comforter . . .The Spirit of wisdom and understanding . . . The Spirit of counsel and fortitude . . . The Spirit of knowledge and piety . . . Fill them with the Spirit of Thy fear, and sign them with the sign of the cross of Christ, in Thy mercy, unto life eternal. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, etc."

6. Seated at the altar, or moving along the rail, the bishop dips his right thumb in the holy chrism, places the outstretched fingers of his right hand on the head, and with the oil makes the sign of the cross on the forehead, saying:

"John (or whatever name the person has chosen) I sign thee with the sign of the cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

He anoints the forehead because:

a. It is the most conspicuous part of the body. It is open and visible to the world.

b. It is on the forehead that false shame, as well as true modesty and conviction of principles, show themselves. The Christian must glory in his title, wear it, as it were, upon his forehead.

7. The sign of the cross shows that Confirmation, like all the other sacraments draws its power from the cross, the standard, the banner of the one confirmed, the new soldier of Christ.

8. The extending of the hands over the candidates, and the stretching out of the fingers over each candidate's head, show that the Holy Ghost is covering with His graces the souls of those being confirmed. The Holy Spirit is taking possession, taking control and command.

9 The bishop gives the one confirmed a slight blow on the cheek to teach him:

a. That this sacrament gives him courage and strength to suffer insult and injury for the sake of Jesus Christ.

b. That patience in trials brings peace to the soul.

10. The bishop concludes the ceremony by turning to the altar and praying:

"O God, who didst give to Thine Apostles the Holy Ghost, and didst ordain that by them and their successors He should be given to the rest of the faithful; look mercifully upon our unworthy service; and grant that the hearts of those whose foreheads we have anointed with holy chrism and signed with the sign of the holy cross, may by the same Holy Spirit coming down upon them and graciously abiding with them, be made the temple of His glory."

In these ceremonies the Christian becomes a soldier of Christ. He receives strength to know and profess his faith. He receives the grace and help to work for God and the things of God. He receives the heavenly help we all need to walk in the footsteps of Christ. He receives a new indelible character, a new spiritual beauty, which the mother in our story appreciated very deeply, a beauty the confirmed will treasure in this life, a beauty you must treasure now, a beauty that will brighten the soul of the confirmed through all eternity. Amen.


"They drew up Jeremias with the cords, and brought him forth out of the dungeon." Jeremias. 38:13.

Jeremias was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. God had made known to him many of the misfortunes that were to come upon the Jewish people. The prophet was pathetic in his appeal to the chosen people to be true to their God. He saw the holy city of Jerusalem overrun with vice which he knew would ruin his country. Again and again he warned his fellow citizens of the calamities that would come upon them. His zeal displeased the wicked and angered those in power. He saw the gathering storm of persecution. But, undaunted, he continued to preach in even more animated and vigorous terms.

The wicked princes could stand him no longer. They asked King Sedecias for permission to throw the prophet into a cistern of deep mud. Though he admired Jeremias, the king weakly yielded. The preacher was thrown into a cistern where he surely would have stifled to death in a short time, had not an officer of the king by the name of Abdemelech begged the king to free the prophet. How they drew him out is interesting. Let Scripture tell it:

"So Abdemelech taking the men with him, went into the king's house that was under the storehouse: and he took from thence old rags, and old rotten things, and he let them down by cords to Jeremias into the dungeon.

"And Abdemelech said to Jeremias: Put these old rags and these rent and rotten things under thy arms, and upon the cords: and Jeremias did so.

"And they drew up Jeremias with the cords, and brought him forth out of the dungeon." Jeremias, 38:11-13.

Who would have thought that old rags and rotten things and cords could be the means of saving the life of a great man of God? Yet, by means of those material things the prophet was drawn forth from the dungeon of death.

In a similar but more spiritual way the Church uses cords to help save the souls of her children. A cord may seem a trifling, insignificant thing, but if it can save a prophet of God from physical death, it can also save a child of God from spiritual death. Blessed cords are sacramentals. They are cinctures or ropes worn by the members of certain pious associations in honor of some saint, to keep in mind some special grace or favor which they hope to obtain through that saint's intercession. Four such cinctures have been approved and indulgenced by Mother Church.

1. One is the black leathern belt of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Consolation, or of the Black Belt of St. Monica, St. Augustine, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino. According to tradition St. Monica in a vision received a black leathern belt from the Blessed Virgin, who assured the holy widow that she would take under her special protection all those who wore it in her honor. St. Ambrose girded St. Augustine with it at the latter's Baptism. After the canonization of St. Nicholas it came into general use among the faithful. All confraternities of the black leather belt must be affiliated with the archconfraternity at Bologna in order to share its privileges and indulgences. The members are obliged to wear this black leather belt, to recite daily thirteen Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and the Salve Regina. They must fast on the vigil of the feast of St. Augustine, August 2. The general of the Augustinians has the faculties for this archconfraternity.

2. The Archconfraternity of the Cord of St. Francis of Assisi is perhaps the most wide-spread and well-known. After his conversion the Little Poor Man of Assisi girded himself with a rough cord over a rough habit in memory of the cords with which Christ had been bound during His passion. Later a white cord with three knots came to form a part of the Franciscan habit. As such, it is worn by more than four million members of the three orders of St. Francis.

Besides the ordinary requirements for the gaining of all plenary and partial indulgences, the wearing of the cord and enrollment in the archconfraternity are the only conditions imposed on members. Membership in one does not require membership in the Third Order.

3. Regarding the Archconfraternity of the Cord of St. Joseph we recall the miraculous cure of an Augustinian nun at Antwerp in 1657 through the wearing of a cord in honor of St. Joseph. This gave rise to the pious practice of wearing it to obtain the grace of purity through his intercession. Members must wear a cord with seven knots, and are urged to recite seven times daily the Glory Be. They must be affiliated with the church of San Rocco at Rome.

4. The Confraternity of the Cord of St. Thomas took its start from the incident in his life when the Angelic Doctor resisted a temptation to impurity. As a reward angels girded him with a cord that protected him against all such temptations in the future. To obtain a similar grace of purity many wear the cord of St. Thomas. Members must have their names enrolled, must wear a cord with fifteen knots and recite daily fifteen Hail Marys in honor of St. Thomas.

When any of these four types of religious cords is blessed it becomes a helpful sacramental, helping the wearer to rise from the dungeon of despair and doubt and indifference to new graces and spiritual blessings.

A cord was the means of saving the prophet Jeremias. Every day cords and ropes are used to save people who are drowning, people in burning buildings, people in dangerous situations.

Likewise, religious cords are the means of helping millions to remember the thrilling example of the saint they honor. By that remembrance they are helped spiritually.

One might say, for example, that the Franciscan cord encircles the globe, in the sense that the members of the three orders and the works and missions of all three orders encircle the world. May that cord help pull the world up closer to God. Amen.


"You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." St. Luke, 2:12.

It is Christmas midnight at the church of St. Mary Major in Rome. The tremendous basilica is bulging with eager pilgrims and knowing natives. As a procession crawls snail-pace toward the sanctuary the congregation is all eyes. The clergy are carrying the relics of the crib in which our Lord rested at Bethlehem, carrying it to the main altar where it will remain during the midnight Mass.

Is it really the crib of Christ? Yes, it is at least a part of the crib. Some call it "the relics of the crib"; others call it "the remains of the crib." Actually there are five pieces of board identified as coming from a species of sycamore tree common in the Holy Land. Of the five pieces at St. Mary Major two originally stood upright in the shape of an X. The other three pieces rested upon these two and were supported by the sixth piece, which is now missing. These were the supports of the manger in which Christ lay at Bethlehem.

St. Helena, discoverer of the true cross, also found the true crib. With womanly care she covered it with silver plates and surrounded the sacred cave with slabs of precious marble. There it was venerated until the year 624 when the Mohammedans invaded Palestine and endangered all such holy relics. The crib was brought to Rome and placed in the church of St. Mary Major, which since has been called St. Mary at the Crib.

Knowing this, the stranger and the native experience an understandable thrill when at Christmas midnight those precious relics of the manger are carried affectionately to the high altar, where they remain during the midnight Mass.

Mother Church wants similar sentiments in the hearts of all the rest of us who do not have the privilege of visiting the grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem or the church of St. Mary at the Crib. The Catholic Church, with a growing number of non-Catholics imitating her, has the beautiful custom of reproducing the scene at the birth of Christ. We call it simply the crib. When blessed it is one of our most attractive sacramentals.

In general there are two types of Christmas crib. One is a simple form consisting of a shed under which are grouped statues of the principal characters of that first Holy Night. The other, more complete, represents not only the stable and the people who were in it, but also the surrounding--the sky, the star, the angels, the shepherds, the animals, the sleeping city.

This more complete type of crib was developed and made popular by St. Francis of Assisi in the first quarter of the thirteenth century. He did not originate the custom, but with his life-like stable at Greccio and by the zeal of his Franciscan followers, he has done more to spread this beautiful Christmas practice than any other single person or group.

The manger must be in our Christmas planning. More than trees or holly or Santa Claus himself, a crib expresses the meaning and spirit of Christmas. Set one up in your home by all means. At least visit the crib in your parish church, kneel before it, and listen to what the crib will tell you.

It tells you that the Lord of heaven and earth chose to be born not to a life of silver and silk, not in the palaces of the powerful, nor in the mansions of the mighty, but in the poorest of poor places-- a stable. He entered this world in that way as a rebuke to the pride and greed and craving for comfort that make men forget God.

Christ was born in a barn at Bethlehem

--to teach us humility. Those who know not and follow not Christ are continually seeking honors and fame and publicity. Here at the crib is the cure for that empty and worm-eaten yearning.

--to teach us poverty of spirit. Not that we are to seek poverty as a good or end in itself, but as the means to a higher good. The poor in spirit are not attached to bank-books and bill-folds. They give their attachments to the Creator of all these things. Ask the Infant Christ for a true spirit of poverty.

--to show us how to deny ourselves for the sake of God and for the sake of our soul. It was cold and uncomfortable in that stable. It was smelly and cramped. What a correction for our constant quest of creature comforts I

But the most important reason Christ chose to be born as a helpless Babe is to draw us to Himself, to win our love. What is more lovable than a child? What human being creates more confidence than a baby? What calls out our affection and the best in us more than a helpless infant? God wants our love. He wants our attention and our affection. He knew He would get it as a little child. He knew that was the best way to draw us closer to the source of all true joy and peace--Himself.

The crib of Christ has been set up in every corner of the earth, in every city and hamlet. Those who kneel before it may be of different color and tongue, but they all know that the crib has but one purpose--to teach the real meaning of Christmas, to teach us in a way we can see and understand, that the Son of God became a tiny Child to win our love.

We need not travel to St. Mary Major in Rome to hear the lessons of the crib. Hear them in the scene beneath your Christmas tree, and in your parish church. See there a little Infant with arms outstretched, outstretched with longing for your heart and your devotion. Give Him your love this Christmas. It is the gift He wants.

And His gifts? Oh, I cannot tell you about them. You must receive them yourself. You must experience them. Kneel before the crib and you will receive those gifts. Amen.


"God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians, 6:14

In April of 1945 American artillery in the town of Siegburg, Germany, was shelling a nearby village, in which there were about 20 German soldiers. The natives were in constant danger of being hit by bullets from either side. Toward evening of April 12 the people persuaded the German soldiers to cease fire.

Next morning the village priest carried a white flag to the American outpost to inform the commander that the German soldiers had gone and the civilian population had no desire to resist further. Instructions were given to fly white flags from all the houses.

The question uppermost in the minds of the towns-people was: How will the Americans treat us? They had heard terrible tales of cruelty on the part of the Russians. How would these conquerors act?

The Americans began a thorough search for weapons and German soldiers. Two soldiers armed with pistols came to a certain three- room home. They stopped short in the living room before a hand- carved family altar. Into the bedroom they went, to find there a beautiful crucifix.

The soldiers noticed the cross. They stopped, took off their steel helmets, changed their automatics from right hand to left, and respectfully made the sign of the cross. As a member of the family related, the members of that household feared no longer.

Yes, the sign of the cross is the salute of the true follower of Christ whether he is conqueror or conquered, whether he is German, Chinese, American or Australian. It is the countersign of the Christian. In particular, it is the special salute of the Catholic.

The sign of the cross is one of the most important and one of the most frequently used of the sacramentals. It is the sacred sign first taught to the feeble fingers of the child at its mother's knee; it is the sacred sign traced by the faltering fingers of the dying Catholic. From birth to death it is the holy sign, the holy ceremony that continually reminds the Catholic of the source from which all spiritual blessings come--the cross.

The two most common forms of this sacramental are the large sign of the cross made by touching the forehead, the breast, and the left and right shoulders. The cross thus covers the body--at least the most important members--the head and heart. The smaller sign of the cross is traced upon the forehead, lips, and breast.

1 Why do we make the sign of the cross?

a. To remind us of the Blessed Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We repeat their names.

b. To remind us that the Son of God died on a cross for all men. Before Calvary it was a sign of disgrace. Christ made it a thing of glory and power.

c. To stir up our faith. It recalls that God is one and God is three; it recalls that the Second Person of the Trinity died for all men; it professes our faith; it identifies the Catholic. That is why the family of our story felt so secure, so much safer, as soon as they saw those American soldiers make the sacred sign.

d. To strengthen our hope. By making this sacred sign we express the hope that through the cross all blessings will come to us.

e. To kindle and feed our charity. Making this sign recalls the limitless love of Him who died upon the cross. We determine to return love for love.

2. The uses of this sacred sign in the Catholic Church are practically without limit:

a. According to many our Lord and the Apostles used it. Many affirm that our Lord blessed the Apostles with the sign of the cross on the day of His Ascension. Certainly the early Christians used it constantly.

b. It is used in all the public worship of our Church:

i. The sign of the cross in some form or other is made about 54 times during Holy Mass.

ii. It is used frequently in the Divine Office or daily prayer of the priest.

iii. It is used in all blessings bestowed by bishop and priest. iv. It is used in all the sacraments: 14 times in Baptism; 17 times in Extreme Unction. Yes, even in the semi-darkness of the confessional the priest makes the sign of the cross over you.

v. It is used in everything blessed for the service of God--altars, linens, holy water, etc.

c. It is used frequently in personal devotions:

i. In the morning and evening to seek God's help.

ii. Before and after prayer, against distractions.

iii. Before and after meals, asking God's blessing.

iv. In dangers of soul, like temptation and occasions of sin.

v. In dangers of body like storms, sickness, travel.

vi. Before our chief actions and undertakings, to make them pleasing to God and to obtain God's help in performing them properly.

Let me quote the instructive words of St. Gaudentius:

"Let the sign of the cross be continually made on the heart, on the mouth, on the forehead, at table, at the bath, in bed, coming in and going out, in joy and sadness, sitting, standing, speaking, walking--in short, in all our actions. Let us make it on our breasts and all our members, that we may be entirely covered with this invincible armor of Christians."

An indulgence of 100 days is granted for making the sign of the cross and saying the words. An indulgence of 300 days for making the sign of the cross, with holy water.

A love and devotion toward this sacred sign is the mark of a true follower of Christ. Just as it identified those two American soldiers as genuine Catholics, so the sign of the cross will identify you. Use it frequently, use it thoughtfully, use it lovingly. It will bring you countless blessings. Amen.


"Truly he was the Son of God." St. Matthew, 27:54.

Mrs. Clare Sheridan, the famous sculptress, is a cousin of Winston Churchill. Her renown is international. Recently she staged her first exhibition in Ireland. It featured a crucifix carved from a three-branched cherry tree. This crucifix was instrumental in bringing her into the Church two years before.

When the idea of carving a crucifix came to her, she asked her brother a soldier on furlough, to serve as the model. Clad in a loincloth, he hung for a few painful minutes at a time with his hands thrust through ropes fixed to the cross-bar. She hastily made a small clay model. With this model before her she labored for months on her crucifix. Later she related:

"It almost seemed as if He breathed. I found myself asking: 'Is it true? Did it really happen?'"

The sculptress declared that she learned more through carving that figure than in all the years of her life. It was then she decided to become a Catholic. She was received at Assisi, Italy. She later chose to locate in Galway, Ireland, at the encouragement of Bishop Browne, who wished to place her famous crucifix in his future cathedral.

Everyone who thoughtfully looks at a crucifix will find himself asking the same questions:

"Is it true? Did it really happen?"

The representation of our Lord upon the cross is one of the oldest and most widespread of the sacramentals. In every type of material, in every form and color sculptors and painters have represented the death of the God-man. In every size and shape Catholics carry a crucifix, place it in their homes and schools and institutions. Never do we want to forget that Jesus died for all of us. Never do we want to forget that He went to the lengths of love by dying for us. The crucifix tells us three things:

1. Who suffered for us?

2. What He suffered for us?

3. Why He suffered for us.

1. Who is it hanging upon this cross?

a. It is the all-good Son of God who became Man for our redemption. It is the Creator of all things suffering for the creature. It is Holiness Himself hanging there. It is Love Himself hanging there.

b. That He was "truly the Son of God" is proven from the wonders that accompanied His death:

i. Darkness covered the earth from the sixth to the ninth hour. It was not an ordinary eclipse of the sun, because the moon was then at the full, because such an eclipse can last eight minutes at the most, and because there is no record in astronomy of an eclipse that year.

ii. The veil of the temple was rent in two. (St. Matthew, 27:51.)

iii. The earth quaked, rocks were rent, graves were opened. (Same passage)

All these terrible happenings make us exclaim with the centurion:

"Truly he was the Son of God."

2. What did Christ suffer?

a. His torments were so severe that the mere anticipation of them caused a sweat of blood.

b. Our Lord suffered torture in every part of His body:

i. He was scourged unmercifully.

ii. He was crowned with thorns.

iii. He was forced to carry His cross over a stony street.

iv. He was nailed through hands and feet.

v. He suffered agonizing thirst.

c. His mental sufferings also were extreme:

i. There was the sense of love unreturned.

ii. There was ingratitude for His many favors and miracles.

iii. There was aching sympathy for His bereaved mother.

3. Why did Christ suffer?

a. He suffered in order to deliver us from our sins, from our deep debt of punishment.

b. He suffered to reconcile us to God and to reopen the gates of heaven.

c. He suffered to make for us a satisfaction full and complete and most acceptable to God.

d. He suffered to leave us an example of every virtue.

e. To save man from the state of sin it was not absolutely necessary that God should demand such suffering. Christ could have saved us by a mere act of His all-powerful will. But He endured those terrible tortures to show us how precious we were to Him, and to give us a divine example which we could imitate.

4. All these thoughts we read in every crucifix. No wonder we treasure the Figure on the cross. No wonder we place it everywhere to remind us continually of the things it teaches:

a. We place it above our altar to remind us that the holy sacrifice of the cross is repeated thereon.

b. We place it in our homes and bedrooms to remind us to live continually in the light of its lessons.

c. We hang the crucifix in our classrooms and buildings of mercy to show that all we undertake is done in and for Him who died on it.

d. We place it in our sickrooms and in the hands of our dying to remind us of the patience and forbearance of Christ crucified.

e. We carry it on our persons that we may carry out what it signifies.

f. We hang it on our Rosaries, we etch it on our books and doorways, we reach up and place it on the steeples of our churches, we place life-giving lessons.

Make the most of this sacramental. Ask yourself, as did Mrs. Sheridan while carving her crucifix:

"Is it true? Did it really happen?"

Then also ask yourself:

"What does it mean?"

"Who is that hanging there?"

"Why did He suffer so?"

Your crucifix will answer those questions for you, and bring you with the answers a more abundant spiritual life. Amen.


"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change or shadow of alteration." St. James, 1:17.

Back in May of 1891 a crew of men began drilling for gas on the property of an orphan home at Lackawanna, New York, the site of the famous institutions of mercy under the protection of Our Lady of Victory.

"Father Baker must be mad."

"This is folly, sheer folly."

Many remarks like these were made, because no one expected to find gas in that region, no one except good Father Baker, the saintly founder of these institutions. His fuel bill had mounted beyond his financial abilities. He decided to drill for gas.

Weeks ran into months. They were down 600 feet, and still no gas. Father Baker and his charges made one novena after another. They were attending Benediction on the eighth day of the novena before the Assumption of our Blessed Mother. A boy suddenly burst into the chapel, tiptoed up to the kneeling priest, and whispered something into his ear.

There was a thrill in father's announcement that gas had been discovered at a depth of 1,145 feet. The flow was so plentiful that it supplied not only the buildings and needs of Father Baker, but also those of many neighbors.

Instances like this, of answer to prayer in the form of novenas and other religious practices could be multiplied by the thousands. Such a novena to our Blessed Mother is one of many popular devotions in the Church. Each of these devotions taps the well of God's blessings in a material and a spiritual way. Such devotions are sacramentals; they are religious practices approved by Mother Church and calculated to nourish piety. They are so varied and numerous that it would be impossible to mention all of them in one talk. We will, therefore, give some general divisions, with emphasis upon those which are more popular and appealing. We might divide all devotions into three classes according as they refer to our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, or to the Saints.

1. Among the principal devotions to our Savior we mention:

a. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament:

i. Frequent Communion aims to give the Eucharistic Christ love for love by cooperating with His burning desire to give Himself to us.

ii. Communion of Reparation attempts to make amends to Him for the indifference, ingratitude, and insults offered to the Eucharist.

iii. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament offer Him adoration, thanks, petitions and reparation.

iv. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament brings us the blessing of our Lord Himself.

v. Perpetual Adoration is an effort to have someone continually before the Blessed Sacrament.

vi. Forty Hours tries to do the same thing throughout a diocese.

vii. The Holy Hour is a time spent with others before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

b. Devotion to the Holy Childhood refers to the Child Jesus in His birth, circumcision, Epiphany, Presentation, and among the doctors of the temple.

c. Devotion to the Passion of Christ takes the form of:

i. Honoring the mysteries and phases of his passion and death.

ii. Recalling His passion every Friday, the day on which He died for us.

iii. Honoring His Precious Blood.

iv. Venerating the cross.

v. Making the Way of the Cross or the Stations.

d. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, especially by making the Nine First Fridays.

2. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin expresses itself in:

a. Celebrating her feasts and privileges.

b. Consecrating every Saturday to her.

c. Keeping the month of May and October.

d. Reciting her Rosary or her Little Office.

e. Saying the Angelus.

f. Wearing the scapular and the miraculous medal.

g. Belonging to some confraternity or congregation in her honor, like the Sodality.

h. Honoring her sorrows.

i. Honoring her joys. This is a Franciscan devotion which we followers of St. Francis keep by honoring the seven principal joys of Mary in the Franciscan Crown or Rosary of seven decades.

3. Devotion to the saints:

a. St. Joseph is honored as the foster-father of the Son of God, spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and universal patron of the Church.

b. The Apostles Peter and Paul as co-founders of the Church.

c. St. Francis of Assisi as the closest follower of Christ.

d. St. Anthony of Padua as the Wonder-worker.

e. Each religious order or group has its favorite devotion to its favorite saint.

f. Devotion to one's patron saint or the patron of one's church.

g. Devotion to the Guardian Angels.

h. Remembrance of the Poor Souls.

4. These devotional practices take the form of wearing emblems, attending novenas, saying special prayers, keeping certain feasts, joining associations, making pilgrimages, etc. Such practices feed and develop devotion, when they are approved and encouraged by Mother Church.

Yes, they bring the good and perfect gifts from above, from the Father of all. They open up the well of God's goodness, just as the novena of Father Baker opened up an actual gas well on his property.

Do not attempt to adopt all these practices. Choose one or the other and be faithful to it. It will nourish your piety. It will nourish your love of God, His mother and the saints. Amen.


"He had opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down Manna upon them to eat, and had given them the Bread of Heaven." Psalm 77:24.

In the early eighteenth century there were only three families in the mission station of Inverness-Shire, Scotland. Persecution, the murder and outlawing of priests, constant war and discord had forced the once Catholic community to take to other parts. Those who remained were indifferent to religion.

A zealous priest, Father John MacDonald, tried to bring them back to the faith. His efforts seemed in vain. They would neither listen nor follow. He decided to go to another field.

The very day chosen for his departure he was called to a sick person in a mountain village. When he arrived at the house he was not a little angered to find the patient seemingly not sick at all, for she was sitting in a chair dressed in her finest clothes. The priest expressed his impatience for making such a tedious journey apparently with no purpose. His surprise, however, turned to admiration, when the patient explained:

"Is it anything but right that I who so often tried to please the world in dress should do my best in ornament and attire to honor and welcome my Savior, the living God, when He comes to visit me? Please hurry, Father, hear my confession and give me the sacraments. My last hour is near."

Still unconvinced, the priest gave her the last sacraments. A few minutes later she died. Father MacDonald took this incident as a sign from God that he was to remain there. God blessed his forty years of effort. The mission became one of the most flourishing in Scotland.

This story offers several inspiring lessons. The one I would like to emphasize is the spirit which prompted that dying woman to show honor and respect to our Lord when He was brought to her sick room. That same spirit of reverence is the reason behind all the ceremonies of the Eucharist. We want to give our Eucharistic Lord the best we have, the best we can afford. According to our means we purchase the best altar linens, vestments, monstrance, chalice and ciborium. We want to worship our Lord in the Eucharist in the most fitting way by surrounding every ceremony with the most beautiful, the most precious, the most becoming adornment possible. In another series, TALKS ON THE MASS, we will speak of the ceremonies and articles used at Mass. Today we would like to explain some of the other ceremonies which honor Christ in the Eucharist:

1. At Benediction, as the priest and servers enter the sanctuary, we should stand in reverence to God's minister. Kneel when the priest kneels. Look up to the Sacred Host when It is enthroned. Bow your head with the priest when the choir sings, "Down in adoration falling." When the priest makes the sign of the cross with the monstrance, make the sign of the cross over yourself--it is our Lord's own blessing. Some strike the breast out of humility and in adoration. But do look up at the Host for a moment. An indulgence of 7 years is granted for looking at the Sacred Host at Benediction and saying, "My Lord and my God." That is why It is held up to your gaze. Join in the singing and in repeating the divine praises.

2. At the Communion of the Mass, after you have made as worthy a preparation as possible, look up and receive the blessing of the priest. When he holds up the Sacred Host, look up, because he is saying:

"Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world."

Pray with the priest the words:

"O Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter into my heart, say but the word and my soul shall be healed."

When your turn comes to receive, raise your head, put out your tongue on your lower lip, as flat as possible. Don't reach for the Host. Remain steady and calm. The priest will place the Host on your tongue as he says:

"May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul unto life everlasting."

Don't be a snapper and pull your tongue back quickly. Slowness helps reverence. Follow the custom of your parish. And do keep your eyes closed while receiving. In some places the communicants genuflect before leaving the rail. The more common practice is to rise, walk down the steps, and return to your pew. Going and coming do keep your hands folded and eyes cast down.

In your pew cover your face with your hands, or close your eyes, bow your head, and with folded hands talk to our Lord and listen as He talks to you.

3. Holy Communion is brought to the home as a Communion of devotion or as Viaticum. When you call the priest to the dying, let the priest know whether the patient is able to receive Holy Communion or not. When the priest brings Communion, meet him at the door with a lighted candle and greet him with the words:

"Praised be Jesus Christ."

Near the sick person prepare a table with a clean, white cloth spread upon it, two lighted, blessed candles, holy water, and a glass filled almost to the brim with hydrant water, and a spoon and a towel. The priest purifies the fingers which have touched the Host in a spoonful of water and gives it to the patient. The patient should have a white cloth under his chin to catch the Host in case it falls. Members of the household should kneel nearby. You may place flowers or other suitable decorations upon the table. As much as possible avoid unnecessary talk with the priest as he enters or leaves, and with the sick person immediately after Communion. Often the priest is taking Communion to others and is carrying our Lord with him as he leaves.

Holy Communion is truly Bread from heaven. And when the priest brings Holy Communion to you, whether at the Communion rail or to your sick bed, the gates of heaven are truly opened and the Lord comes to you.

Surround that glorious coming with all the cleanliness of soul and body, all the reverence, all the thoughtfulness possible.

These little ceremonies are sacramentals. They help us to keep our thoughts upon the great Sacrament--our Lord Himself. Amen.


"Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." St. James, 5:14.

In his young life as a soldier he had many narrow escapes from dangerous accidents. Brushes with death he called them. His plane had been riddled with flak. He had thrown himself into a ditch to escape a rain of machine gun bullets. Another time a bullet had whistled through his helmet But his most terrifying experience happened in an army hospital.

He was lying in a coma after his plane had cracked up. He was paralyzed. He could not move his lips or his eyes or a single muscle. He heard the doctors tell the nurse:

"He's finished. There's nothing more to do."

He heard them pronounce him dead. Yet, he was not dead. Fortunately, someone had summoned the chaplain. The priest took a last chance. He pronounced conditional absolution and quickly administered the sacrament of Extreme Unction. There might be a spark of life in this man.

And there was. Hardly had the priest completed the rite when the apparently dead man twitched a muscle. He revived. He recovered. It was just another of the countless proofs of the life- giving, strength-giving powers of the sacrament of the dying. Too numerous to question are the cases where a patient has been in a coma or unconscious only to revive upon the administration of Extreme Unction.

St. James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has promised this:

"Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." St. James, 5:14, 15.

The ceremonies connected with such a marvelous sacrament are interesting sacramentals. They help to put the patient and the people present in the proper disposition for the graces which the sacrament offers. These actions console, strengthen and uplift.

1. By the Last Sacraments we mean Confession, Communion and Extreme Unction. Should a Catholic suddenly take seriously ill, the priest is called. If possible, the patient makes a confession, receives Viaticum, and then the sacrament of the dying. On the table covered with a white linen cloth there should be a crucifix. holy water, two lighted candles, a glass of water, a spoon and a dish with a few snatches of bread, and a slice of lemon, and a dish of water and a towel. These are to cleanse the oil from the fingers of the priest. There should also be at least six small pieces of cotton on a dish.

2. As the priest enters the sick room, he prays:

"Peace be to this house....

"And to all who dwell therein."

He places the oil of the sick on the table. After confession and Viaticum he offers the sick person a crucifix to kiss, and sprinkles the patient and those in the room with holy water in the form of a cross.

3. After several beautiful prayers in which our Lord is begged to grant peace and health to the household and to defend everyone from evil, the priest proceeds to anoint the five senses.

4. He dips his thumb in the Oil of the Sick and traces the sign of the cross on the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the closed lips, the open hands, and the feet. As he anoints each sense he says a prayer like this:

"Through this holy unction and of His most tender mercy, may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins thou hast committed by sight. Amen."

5. Immediately after each anointing the priest wipes off the oil, taking a fresh piece of cotton for each sense. It is proper for someone to hold the clean pieces of cotton on a plate and to receive on a plate the used pieces, so that later the cotton, together with the lemon, bread and water used in washing may be thrown into a fire. The priest will dispose of it, if you wish.

6. There follow several beautiful prayers, each one beseeching God to grant good health to this sick child of His.

7. In cases of emergency the priest may use a much shorter form for anointing. He simply anoints the forehead of the dying person. This is done when the circumstances prohibit the carrying out of the full rite.

8. Following this are a number of touching prayers for a dying person which the priest says when there is time for it.

9. At the hour of death the priest imparts the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence.

Again I urge that you call the priest in plenty of time to administer this consoling and strengthening sacrament while the dying person is still conscious. Don't wait until the patient in unconscious or scarcely able to know what is going on.

Should you be sick, have your relatives and friends, your doctor and nurse instructed to call a priest in ample time. You want to be fully conscious when these beautiful ceremonies and prayers are performed over and for you. You want to share fully in their power to lift your heart to heavenly things, their power to strengthen your soul, their unquestioned power to help you physically when God sees fit.

Think about this sacrament during today's Mass. The time for you to receive it may be a short or a long way off. Try to realize in your days of health the meaning and beauty and helpfulness of the sacrament you will receive before or on the day of your death. Amen.


"I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth." Psalm 25:8.

Pope Pius XI called St. John Vianney "the little and humble, the poor and simple, but wholly glorious parish priest of Ars."

His outstanding devotion was to our Lord in the Eucharist. St. John Vianney loved our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament so intensely and so generously that he made amends for the many insults offered to Jesus on the altar. One day he met some server boys who were practicing for a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. They were throwing flowers along the aisle where our Lord was to be carried. You have noticed that done in some churches. With a saintly smile the Cure of Ars said to the youngsters:

"When you throw flowers before the Blessed Sacrament, my boys, hide your hearts in your baskets, and send them to Jesus Christ among the roses."

In that same spirit of love for our Lord in the Eucharist we are going to put our hearts into every act, every prayer, every ceremony of the Forty Hours Devotion which begins in our church next Friday.

Are you a good Catholic? The way you make the Forty Hours is a true measure of your Catholic faith. The spiritual condition of our parish, and of you individually will be gauged by our devotion during those Eucharistic days. Put your heart into the Forty Hours.

The ceremonies are impressive and rich in meaning. Why just forty hours? The devotion recalls the forty hours that our Lord rested in the tomb. It grew out of the Eucharist procession of the middle ages. The custom of continuous adoration began in Milan, Italy, in May, 1537. This round of prayers by all the faithful by day and by night was established to appease the anger of God provoked by the sins of Christians, and especially to drive back the Turks who were bent on the destruction of Christianity. Today you can put the Communists in place of the Turks.

1. In preparation for Forty Hours every opportunity is given for Confession, so that everyone can receive Holy Communion. The servers and school children are trained for their part in the Mass and procession. The choir practices the songs required. The altar is decorated as beautifully as possible.

2. On the morning of the first day we celebrate the Mass of Exposition, the formal opening of these days of grace. Read in your missals the votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament. Those prayers will thrill you and enlighten you. They will tell you much of what the Bible says about the Blessed Sacrament. They will give you the grounds for our faith in the Eucharist.

3. At Communion time the celebrant places the sacred Host in the monstrance that It may be exposed to the gaze of all.

4. After Mass the celebrant takes off the chasuble, puts on the cope, and incenses the Blessed Sacrament. The clouds of incense show our prayers rising to our Redeemer.

5. Over his shoulders the priest receives the veil and with it takes the monstrance, covering his hands to show that it is our Lord Himself he is carrying. He bids the procession begin by singing the 'Pange Lingua':

"Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory, "Of His flesh the mystery sing."

6. As the procession files through the church everyone should kneel. When our Lord walks past you, look at Him a moment and then bow your head in adoration. In many places the children or servers strew little flowers as a fragrant path for our Lord to trod. It was this little ceremony to which St. John Vianney referred when he told those boys to put their hearts in their flowers as they threw them before our Savior. We will do the same thing, especially during the procession.

7. Back at the altar the priest places the monstrance on the throne. While the choir sings Tantum Ergo, he incenses the Blessed Sacrament.

8. He then chants the Litany of All Saints, calling upon the angels and saints, the blessed of all time, to join with us in adoring the Creator of heaven and earth. We beg for protection from all evils...through the merits of Jesus Christ. We beseech blessing upon every group in the Church and outside the Church. Pray this Litany with us.

9. On the second day of Forty Hours we celebrate the solemn Mass for peace, peace of heart and peace in the world. Attend that Mass with meaning and affection.

10. On the third day the Mass of Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament is again offered. In the afternoon or evening the Forty Hours close with the singing of the Litany, procession, Tantum Ergo, chanting of the orations, and Benediction, the blessing of our Lord Himself, and Holy God.

11. On entering and leaving church during Forty Hours genuflect on both knees as special adoration to our Lord visible on the altar. Try to spend as much time as possible with Him. Come alone and come with your friends, and your family, especially bringing the children. Be sure to join your particular parish group. See that your children and your boys who serve are here for their appointed hours. They are the official guards of honor to our Lord. Use your prayerbook and your Rosary, but be sure also to speak to our Lord in your own words, and then listen as He speaks to you.

Enter into the spirit of these days of blessing, peace and love. Put your heart into every moment, as St. John Vianney told those boys to put their hearts into every flower they threw before our Lord's path. Make these days with faith and affection and you will receive graces and joys no man can tell you. Amen.


"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so with him God win bring those also who have fallen asleep through Jesus." I Thess. 4:14.

The Boxer Rebellion in China was a time of terror and dread. Many Christians lost all their property; many were killed. Among those who escaped few had a more thrilling experience than a missionary priest by the name Father Stephen Stette of Hing Shu station.

He attributes his escape to the reverence of the Chinese for the dead. When word came that his station was in danger, his Chinese friends hid him in a box that looked like a coffin. They shouldered the box and carried it over 300 miles to Lien Chen.

During the seven-day trip the Boxers permitted the carriers to go their way, thinking the box contained a corpse. At last they reached a port, where they had to pay the boatman $50 to take the "coffin" aboard. Later more money was demanded at the threat that the box would be thrown overboard. The Christians had to make known their trick. They paid another 300 pieces of silver before the sailors consented to take the priest to another port where he could embark for America. He arrived home August 31, 1900.

The inborn reverence of the Chinese for the body of a dead man helped save that priest. Every civilized people, and even many uncivilized, have a deep respect for the remains of the deceased. But the Catholic raises that reverence still higher, making it something spiritual and religious.

From birth to life Mother Church takes care of her children. And when the soul has departed she continues to show attention and respect to the lifeless clay, remembering that during life it was the temple of the Holy Spirit and the living tabernacle of Christ in Communion. She knows that this body is destined to rise again to be united to its spiritual companion, the soul.

Accordingly the Church directs that the body shall be decently prepared for burial, and that every respect be shown it. She wants candles burning beside the casket. She wants holy water handy to be used prayerfully for the departed. She permits flowers at the funeral home, as a reminder of the resurrection, but asks that there be none on the coffin in church, so that all attention may be directed to the prayers for the deceased. The ceremonies of a Catholic funeral service are simple yet sublime. As sacramentals they remind us of great truths, they spur us to pray for the deceased.

1. Strictly the burial service should begin at the home. In this country, however, the priest meets the coffin at the door of church, sprinkles it with holy water, and recites Psalm 129, which begins with the appropriate and appealing words:

"Out of the depths have I cried to thee, O Lord."

"Lord, hear my prayer."

2. After this prayer, the priest, preceded by servers with cross and candles, leads the corpse to the gates of the sanctuary, reciting Psalm 50, which begins:

"Have mercy upon me, O Lord, according to thy great mercy."

3. The corpse is placed with the feet toward the sanctuary. A priest or bishop is placed with head toward the altar, to show that they were shepherds facing the flock in their spiritual work. On each side of the casket are three lighted candles, emblems of the faith that tells us there is a resurrection.

4. Holy Mass is then offered for the deceased whose given name is repeated several times as the priest prays to Almighty God. The Mass is the most important part of the funeral service, doing the deceased more good than all the flowers, tears and other trappings of mourning. Christ dies again upon the altar for that soul, dies that our loved one may live.

5. Immediately after Mass the priest stands at the opened sanctuary entrance in black cope and offers a prayer with this beseeching beginning:

"Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord."

6. Then the celebrant recites and the choir sings the Libera, soulful and solemn, yet uplifting, as its opening words indicate:

"Deliver me, O Lord, from everlasting death in that dread day, when heaven and earth shall quake; when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire."

7. The priest then sings: "Have mercy on us," and intones the Our Father, saying it silently as he sprinkles the corpse three times on each side with holy water and then incenses it in the same way. Several beautiful prayers follow.

8. As the body is carried out of church the choir sings:

"May the angels lead thee into paradise."

9. If the cemetery has not been blessed, the priest blesses the grave with incense and holy water.

10. After the body is laid in the grave he prays:

"I am the resurrection and the life," and intones the song of Zachary with the words:

"Blessed be the God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people."

11. Again the corpse is sprinkled with holy water and incensed, as brief petitions and a few longer, loving prayers are offered.

12. Often the priest adds several prayers in English, particularly the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Eternal Rest.

Mother Church has laid her child to rest. She has reverently and solemnly put the body to bed to sleep until the dawn of resurrection day. She respects that body. Her respect helps that departed soul by the prayers she offers. Like a true mother she continues to watch over her sleeping child. She continues to beg God's mercy and forgiveness. She continues to help the departed. Amen.


"Put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth." Ephesians, 4:24.

St. Elizabeth, princess of Thuringia, was the first in Germany to wear the Third Order habit. Although she lived during the time of St. Francis himself, the two never met in this world. However, the saint of Assisi was so delighted with reports of her holiness and heroic devotion to the Crucified One that he wished to give her some special mark of fatherly favor.

Before he died St. Francis requested the brethren to send his very own mantle to her after his death, as a token of esteem and affection. The friars carried out the Poverello's wish.

Picture the joy of this saintly woman when she received the mantle that had been worn by one who was known as the closest follower of Jesus Christ, the mantle reddened with blood from the stigmata, the mantle that meant so much to the many who followed the Little Poor Man.

In a similar sense everyone who puts on the habit of St. Francis, whether in the First, Second, or Third Order, is really receiving the garb from the saint himself. It is his very own uniform. It is the dress of those who follow him in following Christ.

The same can be said of every religious habit, whether it is that of the followers of St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. Francis or any of the many religious founders. It holds for the sisterhoods and brotherhoods too. To don the habit means to put on the garment that identifies some great spiritual leader.

Religious habits are sacramentals. They help the wearer and they help the beholder to remember the heroic life of some saintly founder, to remember the spirit of his or her religious family, and to remember the work and program of those who profess that particular rule of life.

The religious habit is the distinctive uniform of some group who devote themselves to the work of God in this world. It is like the uniform of a nurse, a policeman, a soldier, a chief justice, or even a king. When you see someone dressed in the uniform of the United States Army you know he is a soldier sworn to defend the United States, one who is following to the best of his ability a certain set of regulations which govern the life of a soldier. To the uninformed a particular religious habit may seem fantastic and meaningless. Yet, it has a fascination and a meaning.

We might briefly explain some of the more common parts of religious garments, especially of women. The veil is worn to cover the head and often part of the face. A woman's hair is her adornment, a source of pride and vanity. Sisters cut their hair to remove this possible cause of pride.

Cutting the hair is also a means to cleanliness and comfort. The prayer said in putting on the veil helps us to understand:

"I have despised the riches and adornments of this world for the love of my Savior Jesus Christ, the sole object of my faith, my hope, and my love. Guard Thou, O Lord, my eyes that they may not give way to vanity."

Some groups wear headbands and some do not. In putting it on the nun prays:

"My Bridegroom has placed a mark upon my forehead, which will not permit me to regard a friendship other than His own.

The scapulars or panels and the cowl are a carryover from the church gowns of the doctors of the church, just as the cap and gown are for the graduates of today. Placing it on the shoulders, the religious prays:

"My yoke is sweet and my burden is light. Grant that I may so carry it, as to obtain Thy holy grace."

As the religious puts on the holy cord this prayer is said:

"Gird me, O Lord, with the girdle of virginity and purity so that with the wise virgins I may have access to Thee, my heavenly Bridegroom."

The three knots represent the three vows--poverty, chastity, and obedience. The five turns in each knot remind us of the five wounds of our Lord.

Most religious ensembles include the Rosary, either the five or fifteen decade, or the seven decade Franciscan Rosary or crown, honoring the seven principal joys of our Blessed Mother.

The habit proper is the principal garment. Putting it on, the religious prays:

"Clothe me, O Lord, with the robe of salvation, and adorn me with the garment of righteousness."

Generally it is simple in color and design, reminding everyone of the poverty of Christ and the poverty of His followers.

To the religious every part of his habit is soaked with inspiration. It sings the spirit of his founder. It recalls the rule he has professed to follow. It brings to memory the many thousands, nay, millions who have worn that habit with honor and glory.

To those who behold the habit comes the thought that there is one who follows St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Benedict, or some other holy founder. The habit represents a rule of life that requires every grace and help, including the inspiration of a special garb. The religious uniform is more of a help than a handicap. It sets the religious apart. It points him out as one devoted to a special work, a special way of life.

One mark of the genuine Catholic is reverence for the religious habit whether worn by priest, sister or brother. It is not easy to wear that habit and live up to what it means. But the great majority are trying their best to do that very thing. The respect of lay people is an encouragement to us.

One, for example, who has the glory of wearing the garb of St. Francis can feel just pride and deep humility at remembrance of the long line of kings and queens, saints and scholars, preachers and penitents, missionaries and martyrs, who have honored that uniform through the centuries. That is the case with every religious.

Like St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, we say that it was given to us by our founder himself. Amen.


"But I, as a fruitful olive tree in the house of God, have hoped in the mercy of God forever, yea for ever and ever." Psalm 51:10.

The best news picture of 1948 had the title, "Comfort For The Afflicted." It showed a young woman lying on a Brooklyn street, spattered with blood, agony on her face. She had been struck down by an automobile. Kneeling on one knee beside her is a priest, the Rev. James Scott, assistant pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church, Brooklyn. He is administering Extreme Unction to the victim, Miss Jenny Dalpiaz.

Just as the padre was anointing the left hand with holy oil a newspaper photographer, Jesse Strait, snapped the picture and won with it the coveted award. "The Best Picture of the Year." The judges described his photo as "a study of solace reaching out, gently, to give hand to agony."

To Catholics such ministrations of the priest have an even deeper significance. They are spiritual helps as well as physical. Incidentally, the young lady so critically injured recovered.

Anointing with oil the seriously sick and the critically injured is just one of the many uses of holy oils in the Catholic Church. Oils are sacramentals spoken of in Sacred Scripture. They consist mainly of olive oil, blessed by the bishop. They are used in the administration of certain sacraments, and in various consecrations and blessings of persons and things.

1. There are three kinds of oil:

a. The oil of catechumens is also simply called holy oil. It is used in Baptism, in blessing the baptismal water on Holy Saturday, in the consecration of churches, in the blessing of altars, in the ordination of priests, and in crowning Catholic kings and queens.

A catechumen means an instructed convert who is about to receive Baptism. In this sacrament of Baptism the sign of the cross is made with oil on the breast and between the shoulders to show that the catechumen must henceforth profess his faith before all men and carry on his shoulders the cross and yoke of Christ.

b. The holy chrism is olive oil mixed with a small portion of balm or balsam. It is used in Confirmation.

Holy chrism is also used in Baptism when the priest makes a small sign of the cross with it on the crown of the head. It is used in the consecration of a bishop and of a church and in the blessing of chalices, patens, baptismal water and church bells.

c. The oil of the sick is used in Extreme Unction and also in the blessing of bells.

2. The blessing of the holy oils for each diocese takes place on Holy Thursday in the cathedral. Only the bishop can confer this blessing, which is surrounded with elaborate ceremony. Assisting him are twelve priests wearing priests' vestments. seven others vested as deacons, and seven others again vested as sub-deacons. Acolytes and chanters help in the solemnity.

3. The greatest care is prescribed in keeping the oils. They are kept in metallic or glass bottles which are placed in an ambry or locked box fixed to the wall of the sanctuary. You can see our ambry right there beside the high altar. On the door are the words Olea Sancta, which mean, holy oils. A small quantity of the oil of catechumens and of holy chrism is kept at the baptismal font for Baptism. Each priest also has what is known as an oilstock. This has a section for each of the three holy oils. After each Holy Thursday the oils of the previous year are burned. Lay people are not to handle the holy oils, or even to carry them, except in extreme necessity.

4. The spiritual meaning of oil is deep and rich. Through the centuries oil has provided food, medicine, heat and light for man. This is particularly true in the East, where great use is still made of the juice of olives.

a. Olive oil entered into the preparation of most foods. Just as it is a source of physical nourishment, so its spiritual use is a source of spiritual nourishment.

b. It was used as medicine both internally and externally. Oil, for example, was rubbed on the limbs of athletes to make their muscles supple and their bodies more slippery and hard to hold. Spiritually oil helps the Christian to resist the enemies and opponents of his soul.

c. Oil gives heat, a symbol of God's love which is fed through the sacraments and sacramentals.

d. Oil is used for light, showing forth the light of God's truth and God's grace brought to us through the saving sacraments of His Church.

e. The balsam mixed in holy chrism is sweet-smelling. Formerly it was used as a medicine and preservative, especially for embalming the dead. Fittingly Mother Church uses it to preserve the soul from corruption and decay. The sweet odor of balsam also represents the fragrance of a virtuous life.

No wonder Mother Church makes such a devoted use of oil in her ceremonies and sacraments. Among the sacramentals few receive the honor and care given to the three sacred oils--the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and of holy chrism.

No wonder the psalmist sang of himself as a fruitful olive tree in the house of God, as the source of many hopes and blessings. May the best picture of 1948 impress itself upon your mind, so that you may always understand the deep meaning of the holy oils, that you may always reverence and respect them as means, a material means, it is true, but a significant and symbolic means of many graces and blessings. Amen.


"Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow." Psalm 50:9.

In ancient days those who were to receive Holy Communion did not receive the Host upon the tongue, as now, but in their hands. The communicant stood with his right hand extended, supported by his left. Into the right hand the priest placed the Sacred Host, which the communicant himself placed in his mouth.

If the one receiving was a woman, she covered her right hand with a linen cloth, out of special respect. After the ninth century this custom of giving Holy Communion to oneself was discontinued. But we have a reminder of it today.

In those early days people who were to receive Holy Communion would stop and wash their right hand in a large font in the church vestibule. It was ordinary water, and the washing was merely a matter of cleanliness and respect for the Host. Often these fonts had texts inscribed upon them reminding the user that more important than physical cleanliness was a pure soul. Washing the right hand was to make them as worthy as possible of the great act of Communion.

All this gave rise to the custom of blessing this water. It thus became a sacramental, giving the user grace according to his dispositions. The need for washing the right hand has ceased, but Catholics still take holy water and bless themselves with it.

This bit of history will help us appreciate the sacramental, holy water. Even in the Old Testament the Jews used blessed water. It has been a practice in all Christian times.

1. Holy water is water blessed by a priest with solemn prayer, to beg God's blessing on those who use it, and protection from the powers of darkness. In itself it is just ordinary water. Its nature is not changed by the blessing of the Church. But the Church does have and does use the power to give ordinary water certain spiritual benefits.

2. There are four kinds of holy water, each with its own blessing:

a. Baptismal water is blessed on Holy Saturday, and on the eve of Pentecost. In this latter blessing the oil of catechumens and holy chrism are mingled in the water which is used only for Baptism.

b. Water of consecration or Gregorian water is so called because its use was ordered by Pope Gregory IX. It is used in the consecration of churches, altars, and altar stones. During its blessing wine, ashes and salt are mingled with it.

c. Easter water receives its name from the fact that it is distributed to the faithful on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. Part of this water is used to fill the baptismal font and is to be blessed as baptismal water. The remainder is dispensed to the faithful. In some countries priests use this water for the solemn blessing of homes on Holy Saturday.

d. Ordinary holy water is blessed by the priest to sprinkle the people before Mass and for use at the door of church. It is also used to bless persons and things in the church and at home. Salt is mingled with it.

Holy water and Easter water are the two kinds which concern the faithful. They have different blessings, but their value and use are much the same.

3. When is holy water used? It is used in nearly all the blessings, in all ceremonies, in the sacraments of Marriage and Extreme Unction, in bringing Holy Communion to the sick, and in services for the dead.

Most frequent and striking use of holy water is the Asperges, or sprinkling of the people before the principal Mass on Sunday in a parish.

The holy water fonts at the door of church are very ancient, as we pointed out. The Jews had a ceremony of purification before entering the temple. In the Middle Ages it was customary to use holy water only on entering church, and not when leaving--to show that purification was necessary on entering. Today holy water is used both entering and leaving, especially since an indulgence of 300 days is granted for making the sign of the cross with blessed water. It still has the symbolic thought of washing away distractions and imperfections.

4. Holy water is usually blessed before the principal Mass on Sunday, but it may be blessed at any time. The priest reads several expressive prayers, begging God to free persons and things from the influence of the evil one. Blessed salt is mingled with the water in the form of a cross.

5. Why is water set aside for a sacred use? Water cleans and puts out fires. Salt keeps things from decay. The two combined express washing away sin, putting out the fires of passion, and keeping our souls from the decay of sin.

6. An indulgence of 300 days may be gained thus:

a. The sign of the cross must be made with holy water.

b. We must say the words: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

c. We must have contrition for our sins.

d. We must be in the state of grace.

Try to realize the helpfulness of this sacramental. Determine to use holy water more frequently, more reverently. Begin as you leave church. Dip your finger in the font and then thoughtfully make the sign of the cross. Always make that holy sign reverently.

Have some holy water in your home. A holy water font is part of the equipment of a complete Catholic home. Use this powerful help to remind you of your determination to keep clear of sin, your desire to serve God in the name of the holy sign of the cross. Amen.


"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that built it." Psalm 126:1.

Van Meter is just a small town in Iowa, but it boasts one of the finest rural homes in the entire state. It is the home built in 1940 by Bob Feller, pitching ace of the Cleveland Indians. Although Fire-ball Feller was only 22 years old at the time, he already had made enough money to put up a $25,000 home for his father, mother and younger sister.

The building boasts every modern convenience--electrical equipment of all kinds, ventilating and heating systems, venetian blinds, casement windows, plenty of cupboards and drawers, ceiling-high bookcases, and especially an all-metal, all-electric kitchen.

There are gadgets galore, like a floor switch to call the maid, musical chimes, and an electric eye which automatically opens the garage door when a car comes up the driveway.

All these conveniences are for the physical comfort of those who live there. They make house-keeping easier. They save time and energy. Desirable and helpful as such gadgets are, we cannot help thinking that homes would be much more precious if the same effort were taken to provide spiritual helps and spiritual equipment.

From the material standpoint the home of Bob Feller is ideal. What is needed to make a home ideal from the spiritual standpoint? The sacramentals of the home are varied and numerous. They help make home a holy place. They are not essential, but they contribute to spiritual health and vigor. Some of these sacramentals will receive a more complete treatment on other Sundays. How make our homes holy?

1. There are several blessings for a home. One is given on the Epiphany, one on Holy Saturday. There is a common blessing that can be given a home at any time, and another special blessing for a new home. The common blessing includes sprinkling the rooms with holy water, offering several short Bible verses, and reciting an appropriate prayer.

The blessing for a new house begs God to grant to those who live therein "the abundance of the dew of heaven, and food of the fatness of the earth, and let their desires and their prayers find fulfillment in Thy mercy."

2. Of the numerous blessings of individuals we will speak on other Sundays. Let me merely mention them:

a. The Church blesses an expectant mother.

b. She blesses the mother after childbirth.

c. She blesses small children.

d. She has a blessing for an older child.

e. And still another for sick children.

3. Prayers in the home are important sacramentals:

a. Family prayer is the most helpful religious practice in the home. At some time each day parents and children should pray together. Some do this right after the evening meal, right at the table or kneeling beside it.

b. Individual morning and evening prayer should be an everyday practice. Let father and mother give the example and the reminder to their children.

c. Meal prayer should never be omitted. In addition to thanking God for the food and asking His blessing upon it, the meal prayer serves as a point of pause and spiritual refreshment in a busy day. It is good for the body as well as the soul.

4. Let me mention some other family devotions:

a. The Rosary does not take too long. Try it and discover the peace and powerful helps it will bring your family.

b. There are devotions for different seasons of the year; a crib at Christmas; a May altar; Sacred Heart prayers during June.

c. Remembering the feasts of patron saints of the different members of the family in some way, however small, is an inspiring practice.

d. Some little family celebration at spiritual milestones like First Communion, Confirmation, graduation from a Catholic school, is inspiring.

5. Each member of the family should have a prayer-book and a Rosary. Best of all is a missal. Keep these in a respectable place. Both children and adults should have medals, scapulars, Sacred Heart badges, and whatever helps spiritual life at home.

6. A Catholic home is marked with religious furnishings and adornment.

a. There should be a crucifix in every bedroom at least.

b. Somewhere in every home there should be at least one picture of our Lord and of our Blessed Mother.

c. There should be holy water, and, if possible, a holy water fount which is kept clean and filled, and honored with regular, reverent use.

d. There should be blessed candles.

e. There should be all the necessary equipment if a priest is called to bring Holy Communion or to assist the dying.

f. Many homes have a little altar, which serves as the center of family prayer, the meeting place for spiritual practices like the Rosary, May devotions, and Sacred Heart devotions.

Bob Feller's home for his parents and sister may be ideal from the physical and material standpoint. Many a home is ideal from that viewpoint. But all too many homes are poorly equipped, miserably arranged from the spiritual standpoint.

The sacramentals will help to bring the thought of God into your little kingdom of love--your home. Do make yours an ideal home by using the sacramentals of Mother Church. Amen.


"Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight." Psalm 140:2.

Read the Bible, especially the second book called Exodus, and you will find directions from God as to how He wants to be worshipped. In Exodus, Chapter 30, we read, for example, that God commanded the use of incense. The first verse reads:

"Thou shalt make also an altar to burn incense...."

The chapter concludes with these verses:

"And the Lord said to Moses: Take unto thee spices, stacte, and onycha, galbanum of sweet savour, and the clearest frankincense, all shall be of equal weight.

"And thou shalt make incense compounded by the work of the perfumer, well tempered together, and pure, and most worthy of sanctification.

"And when thou hast beaten all into very small powder, thou shalt set of it before the tabernacle of the testimony, in the place where I will appear to thee. Most holy shall this incense be unto you.

"You shall not make such a composition for your own use, because it is holy to the Lord." Exodus, 30:34-37.

Surely what God commanded for divine worship in the Old Law must be pleasing to Him in the New Law. Incense is a material used to produce a fragrance when burned. It is a mixture of spices and gums burned during religious rites to produce a fragrant smoke. These grains of spices are obtained from trees in Eastern and tropical countries. When blessed, incense becomes a sacramental.

The priest sprinkles a few spoonfuls of incense on the burning coals in the censer, the covered metal vessel hanging from chains, which the server swings to and fro. The incense is kept in a boat-shaped vessel, from which it is transferred to the censer with a little spoon. Incense is from the Latin word, 'incensum' which means burnt. Its beautiful meaning is seen in its uses:

1. Incense used at Mass and Benediction represents:

a. Adoration or the worship paid to God alone, present in the Eucharist. The burning of the fragrant spices shows the unimportance of all creatures before their Creator.

b. Prayer, which rises to God like smoke, as the Psalmist sang: "Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight." Psalm 140:2.

c. Grace, which God pours into our souls as incense pours fragrance throughout the church.

2. Mother Church incenses relics, statues and images of the saints:

a. To honor God who crowned the saints in heaven, who worked wonders through them here on earth, who sanctified and glorified their bodies.

b. To show respect and devotion to the special friends and servants of the Almighty.

3. The Church incenses her ministers, her bishops and priests, in order to honor in their person Jesus Christ, whom they represent and with whose sacred character they are clothed.

4. The Church incenses the faithful in order to honor in them the likeness to Christ which was imprinted upon them in Baptism.

5. Mother Church incenses the bodies of the departed:

a. To honor the bodies which were sanctified and made holy by Baptism.

b. To beg God to receive the prayers and petitions we offer for the deceased.

6. The Church directs that five grains of incense, each enclosed in a piece of wax shaped like a nail, be inserted in the Paschal Candle on Holy Saturday in the form of a cross, to represent the five wounds of our Lord.

7. When an altar or an altar-stone is consecrated, grains of incense are burned upon it, and other grains are put into the so- called 'sepulchre' or cavity within the stone where the relics of the saints are preserved.

8. After the very beginning of Mass the altar and priest are incensed. First the celebrant offers the fragrant smoke to the cross, or to the Blessed Sacrament if It is enthroned. He incenses the relics of the saints, and then the entire altar. Lastly the priest himself is incensed by the deacon.

The altar represents the God-man whose divinity was hidden as the altar is hidden by the perfumed clouds. These clouds are today, as they were on Sinai and in the desert, a figure of the glory of the Lord. At the altar the priest is another Christ; his heart should be like a fire burning with love of God. All this is represented by the incensing.

At the Offertory the priest swings the censer over the bread and wine, the things to be sacrificed to Almighty God.

Incense shows forth several things:

1. Its burning represents zeal in the service of the Lord. Think of that as you see the sacred smoke rising in the sanctuary. Recall that you are to give of your time and talent, your service and means to the worship of God. Are you going to let a mere material creature like incense outdo you in divine service? The incense is burnt for the glory of God. How about you?

2. Its fragrance represents virtue, pleasing to God as it always is. How pleasing is your life and your service? Can you feel that your devotion in church, your thoughtfulness of God, your keeping of His law, is of a kind that will please Him?

3. The rising smoke represents prayer:

a. The smoke rising shows that your prayers are rising.

b. The smoke rising reminds you to pray, if you are not praying.

c. The fragrance of the smoke shows that our prayer and service are pleasing to God.

God commanded Moses and His chosen people to use incense. Mother Church uses it in her service. Think of what this sacramental means, and it will be a source of grace and spiritual strength to you. Amen.


"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."

A German prince, so the story goes, was showing a foreign ambassador through his palace. The owner was particularly proud of its sturdy walls. its firm foundation, its classic architecture, and tasty decorations. With pride he pointed these out to his distinguished visitor.

In that day it was the custom for the court fool to accompany his master everywhere. This official jester was allowed perfect freedom of speech even to the point of correcting and criticizing his master. This particular court fool was far from being a fool.

"Your Highness," he remarked quietly, "please do not boast too much about your palace. It may stand sturdy and strong. Its foundations may be firmly fixed. Its lines of beauty may stir our admiration. But--take a look at the heavens. The Lord needs neither stones nor timbers to hold up the limitless dome He has erected. He holds it up by His almighty power alone. One has to respect such power."

Truly, the most magnificent works of man are weak and unsteady compared to the works of God. The most excellent edifice in the world pales before the edifice of the universe. And the best built structure on earth is erected in vain unless the Lord be one of the builders, nay, the Chief Builder.

This is one reason Mother Church has a blessing for almost every modern invention, especially for those used in industry. She wants these creations to be used for the glory of God. She wants these things built with human hands and brains to have God as their Chief Engineer and Chief Mechanic. She calls down God's favor upon machinery of all kinds. She blesses typewriters, libraries, fishing-boats, railroads, automobiles, airplanes, bridges, fire engines, seismographs, dynamos, printing presses, and blast furnaces, to mention merely a few of her sacramentals of industry. We might describe some of these blessings:

1. The printing press is one of the greatest forces for good and evil. In the blessing of Mother Church Christ is asked "to fill the writers, managers, and workmen with the spirit of knowledge, counsel and fortitude, and imbue them with the spirit of Thy fear, so that . . . they may properly serve Thee . . . Bless this place and grant that all dwelling therein may happily arrive at the imperishable crown of glory."

2. In her prayer for libraries Mother Church asks God to protect them from fire and other dangers and to increase their stock of books "that all who gather here . . . may grow in the knowledge of both human and divine things and by the same measure in Thy love."

3. In blessing a telegraph instrument we pray:

"O God, who walkest upon the wings of the wind . . . grant that, when by the power given to this metal in the flash of an eye Thou dost transmit most swiftly things absent to this place and things present to another place, we, instructed by new inventions, may by the help of Thy grace more promptly and easily come to Thee."

4. The Church blesses the seismograph, an instrument for recording earthquakes:

"Almighty, eternal God, who regardest the earth and makest it to tremble, flood this seismograph with Thy blessing: and grant that the signs of the trembling earth be properly registered in it and correctly understood for the benefit of Thy people and for the greater glory of Thy name."

5. The blessing for an automobile is beautiful and expressive:

"O God, vouchsafe to hear our prayers and bless this car with Thy right hand; bid Thy angels to stand by it; save and protect from all danger those who travel in it. Just as, through Thy levite, Philip, Thou didst grant faith and grace to the Ethiopian who was sitting in his chariot and reading Thy sacred words, show likewise to Thy servants the way of salvation, that, helped by Thy grace and ever striving to do good, they may, after all the changes of fortune in their life and journey here below, rejoice forever."

6. In blessing a railroad we ask God to help us also travel speedily and happily in the way of His law.

7. The ocean liner is compared to Noah's ark in its blessing. God is asked to protect it.

8. Airplanes are blessed by asking God to remove injury and danger, and to foster heavenly desires in those using this machine.

9. The dynamo reminds us of the light eternal.

I have given you only a few of the Church's blessings of machines and instruments. We call them the sacramentals of industry, because they raise our minds to the true purpose of every new discovery in God's wonderful world. They make us remember that the power of these machines comes first and also finally from God.

In our day of industrial progress, our day when men are inclined to forget the One who put the power into the machines we use, it is well to recall these sacramentals, to understand the spirit behind them, and whenever possible to use them.

We don't want to build a house without God, however sturdy and splendid. We don't want to print books or send messages or travel on planes and trains or embark on a boat or travel in an automobile without the protecting and strengthening hand of God guiding and leading us. Amen.


"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." Psalm 126:1.

A German prince, so the story goes, was showing a foreign ambassador through his palace. The owner was particularly proud of its sturdy walls. its firm foundation, its classic architecture, and tasty decorations. With pride he pointed these out to his distinguished visitor.

In that day it was the custom for the court fool to accompany his master everywhere. This official jester was allowed perfect freedom of speech even to the point of correcting and criticizing his master. This particular court fool was far from being a fool.

"Your Highness," he remarked quietly, "please do not boast too much about your palace. It may stand sturdy and strong. Its foundations may be firmly fixed. Its lines of beauty may stir our admiration. But--take a look at the heavens. The Lord needs neither stones nor timbers to hold up the limitless dome He has erected. He holds it up by His almighty power alone. One has to respect such power."

Truly, the most magnificent works of man are weak and unsteady compared to the works of God. The most excellent edifice in the world pales before the edifice of the universe. And the best built structure on earth is erected in vain unless the Lord be one of the builders, nay, the Chief Builder.

This is one reason Mother Church has a blessing for almost every modern invention, especially for those used in industry. She wants these creations to be used for the glory of God. She wants these things built with human hands and brains to have God as their Chief Engineer and Chief Mechanic. She calls down God's favor upon machinery of all kinds. She blesses typewriters, libraries, fishing-boats, railroads, automobiles, airplanes, bridges, fire engines, seismographs, dynamos, printing presses, and blast furnaces, to mention merely a few of her sacramentals of industry. We might describe some of these blessings:

1. The printing press is one of the greatest forces for good and evil. In the blessing of Mother Church Christ is asked "to fill the writers, managers, and workmen with the spirit of knowledge, counsel and fortitude, and imbue them with the spirit of Thy fear, so that . . . they may properly serve Thee . . . Bless this place and grant that all dwelling therein may happily arrive at the imperishable crown of glory."

2. In her prayer for libraries Mother Church asks God to protect them from fire and other dangers and to increase their stock of books "that all who gather here . . . may grow in the knowledge of both human and divine things and by the same measure in Thy love."

3. In blessing a telegraph instrument we pray:

"O God, who walkest upon the wings of the wind...grant that, when by the power given to this metal in the flash of an eye Thou dost transmit most swiftly things absent to this place and things present to another place, we, instructed by new inventions, may by the help of Thy grace more promptly and easily come to Thee."

4. The Church blesses the seismograph, an instrument for recording earthquakes:

"Almighty, eternal God, who regardest the earth and makest it to tremble, flood this seismograph with Thy blessing: and grant that the signs of the trembling earth be properly registered in it and correctly understood for the benefit of Thy people and for the greater glory of Thy name."

5. The blessing for an automobile is beautiful and expressive:

"O God, vouchsafe to hear our prayers and bless this car with Thy right hand; bid Thy angels to stand by it; save and protect from all danger those who travel in it. Just as, through Thy levite, Philip, Thou didst grant faith and grace to the Ethiopian who was sitting in his chariot and reading Thy sacred words, show likewise to Thy servants the way of salvation, that, helped by Thy grace and ever striving to do good, they may, after all the changes of fortune in their life and journey here below, rejoice forever."

6. In blessing a railroad we ask God to help us also travel speedily and happily in the way of His law.

7. The ocean liner is compared to Noah's ark in its blessing. God is asked to protect it.

8. Airplanes are blessed by asking God to remove injury and danger, and to foster heavenly desires in those using this machine.

9. The dynamo reminds us of the light eternal.

I have given you only a few of the Church's blessings of machines and instruments. We call them the sacramentals of industry, because they raise our minds to the true purpose of every new discovery in God's wonderful world. They make us remember that the power of these machines comes first and also finally from God.

In our day of industrial progress, our day when men are inclined to forget the One who put the power into the machines we use, it is well to recall these sacramentals, to understand the spirit behind them, and whenever possible to use them.

We don't want to build a house without God, however sturdy and splendid. We don't want to print books or send messages or travel on planes and trains or embark on a boat or travel in an automobile without the protecting and strengthening hand of God guiding and leading us. Amen.


"See how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these." St. Matthew, 6:28.

Some years ago a young lady from Montreal, Canada, joined the Franciscan Sisters at Assisi, Italy. After some time in the convent there she was sent to America. On arriving at New York she felt a severe pain in her tongue. The pain grew until she had to call a doctor. Examination revealed that the poor nun had cancer of the tongue. A specialist said an operation was necessary. The day was set.

The good sister was frightened about the ordeal. She prayed that she might find relief some other way. She prayed in particular to St. Anthony. While praying she suddenly recalled that she still had a leaf of a lily blessed on the feast of St. Anthony. The night before the operation she knelt for a long time in prayer, and then laid the leaf of the lily on that part of the tongue where she felt the pain.

Next morning her tongue gave no pain. The surgeon, a non- Catholic, said there was no sign of cancer. When the sister told him she was cured through prayer to St. Anthony, the doctor declared:

"You are completely cured; such a cure could be worked only by a miracle."

The blessed lily is a very attractive and appealing sacramental. On account of its spotless whiteness the lily stands for purity. We find it in pictures of the Annunciation to show the purity of our Blessed Mother. Generally St. Joseph is pictured with a lily because legend says his staff blossomed with lilies. Other saints like Aloysius and Anthony are represented holding a lily because of their purity.

St. Anthony lilies are well known. They are blessed in numerous places throughout the world and in the United States, notably in St. Anthony Shrine, Cincinnati, Ohio, the novitiate of the Cincinnati Franciscans. By a special privilege the followers of St. Francis bless lilies--white ones--on the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, June 13, as a tribute to his spotless purity.

Before solemn Mass on his feast the sacred ministers stand at the Epistle side, as the celebrant blesses the lilies placed on a nearby table. The deacon of the Mass sings the Gospel of the birds and lilies, as it is called, in which we read the well-known words:

"See how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these." St. Matthew, 6:28.

The priest recites this expressive prayer: "O God, who art the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, the Lover of spotless purity, the Giver of all grace and of everlasting life, sanctify by Thy holy benediction these lilies, which in thanksgiving, and in honor of St. Anthony, Thy Confessor, we humbly present to receive Thy blessing. Pour down upon them by the sacred sign of the Holy Cross, Thy heavenly dew, Thou, who didst so kindly create them for man's use, to spread around the fragrance of their odor, and to drive away all sickness; enrich them with such power, that to whatsoever disease they may be applied, or, in whatsoever home they may be kept, or, on whatsoever person they may be borne with devotion, through the intercession of Thy servant Anthony, they may put to flight the evil one, preserve holy chastity, cure all sickness, and bring peace and grace to all who serve Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Several times the celebrant makes the sign of the cross over the lilies and then distributes them to the religious who march in procession through the church. Upon returning to the high altar, another brief prayer is said, and the solemn Mass begins.

There is a shorter form for the private blessing of lilies to be found in the Franciscan Ritual.

The purpose and use of these lilies is clearly expressed in the prayer I just gave you. We want to honor God and His servant St. Anthony. We ask the Lord that these lilies may cure disease, protect homes and individuals, and help those who carry them to live in purity, peace and God's grace.

Some people carry portions of blessed lilies sewn in a small bag, to recover from sickness and to preserve holy purity. Others keep these sweet-smelling sacramentals in some place of honor at home. Others press them in their Bible or prayer-book.

You are free to use the blessed lily in any reverent way that faith and piety might prompt. Many cures, like that of the nun with cancer of the tongue, are reported every year.

Some prayer should accompany every use of the blessed lily. The Responsory of St. Anthony, beginning with the words, "If miracles thou fain wouldst see," is an ideal prayer.

The blessed lily, remember, is not a charm or sure remedy for every ill and evil. It is a sacramental. The nature of the lily is not changed by the blessing. It is set apart to remind us of the virtues and the wonder-working influence of St. Anthony at the throne of God.

Christ Himself told us to look at the lilies of the field, that we might learn from them. May blessed lilies help us to think of God who made them. May they help us to practice the virtue of purity which they represent. May they help us to overcome evils of body and soul. May they remind us to ask for things which are in line with the holy will of God.

We might repeat the words of the poet Longfellow:

"Bear a lily in thy hand; Gates of brass cannot withstand One touch of that magic wand." Amen.


"I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." Philippians, 4:13.

A father and his eight-year-old son were working together in their garden, preparing it for spring planting. In addition to a lot of spading and raking and leveling of ground, they had to remove quite a few stones. As the father found them in his digging, he threw them upon a pile, and asked his son to carry them over to a little ditch. The boy worked like a little man for some time, but suddenly he cried out:

"Daddy, here's one stone I can't lift. I've tried with all my might but I can't lift it."

"No, my boy," answered the father, "you have not tried with all your might, for I am here as part of your might, and you didn't ask me to help you."

The person who never prays or who prays but seldom and feebly, is like that little boy trying to move a heavy rock without the help of his father, who is nearby waiting to be asked to help. The prayers of Mother Church are composed in that spirit, in the spirit of St. Paul who wrote to the Philippians:

"I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

Among the official prayers of the Church litanies are very popular and very powerful. They call upon God in every possible way to come to our assistance. They fit every possible need. We appeal to God in terms that are pleasing to Him. We also call upon His Blessed Mother under a variety of attractive titles to pray for us to God. We ask the saints, the special friends of God, to do the same thing. In every way we can think of we ask God and His saints to assist us.

A litany is a prayer in which greetings and petitions are repeated again and again in varying forms. They are powerful sacramentals. From early Christian times the Church has used them. In fact, prayers that resemble our litanies were used in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 135, which was chanted in the public worship of the Jewish temple, has twenty-seven verses, each ending with the words: "for his mercy endureth forever."

The song of the three youths in the fiery furnace, found in Daniel 3, ends each verse with the words: "praise and exalt Him above all forever."

In the public services of the Church today there are five approved litanies: The Litany of the Saints, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Litany of the Sacred Heart, the Litany of St. Joseph, and the Litany for the Dying.

1. The Litany of the Saints is made up of petitions to saints of different classes--to the Blessed Virgin, to the apostles, the martyrs, virgins, and confessors. There are three forms of this litany:

a. The most common form is used for private devotion. It is prayed at the laying of a corner-stone of a church, the blessing of a church or cemetery, at Forty Hours, on the feast of St. Mark, April 25, and on the Rogation days, the three days before the Ascension.

b. The second form of this litany, somewhat shorter, is used on Holy Saturday and the vigil of Pentecost.

c. The third form, known as the Litany of the Dying, is used in the prayers for the dying.

2. The Litany of the Blessed Virgin consists of a number of her favorite titles, some from the Old Testament, some from the New. After each we ask her to pray for us. It is also called the Litany of Loreto because it was used for many years at the Italian shrine of that name. At different times new titles and new petitions have been added.

3. The Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus is composed of salutations addressed to our Savior under titles and attributes expressing His mercy in redeeming us. It is believed that St. Bernardin of Siena and St. John Capistran, those great Franciscan missionaries, those zealous originators and promoters of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, began this particular prayer.

4. The Litany of the Sacred Heart gives special honor to the loving Heart of Christ. Its thirty-three petitions remind us of the thirty- three years Jesus lived and labored on this earth. It is one of the most popular of the litanies, especially for the Holy Hour, for Benediction, and for First Friday devotions.

5. The Litany of St. Joseph has twenty-five prayerful greetings to the foster-father of the Son of God, the spouse of the Blessed Mother, the patron of the universal Church. It breathes the atmosphere of the tiny home at Nazareth, the humble, hard- working spirit of the man closest to Christ, the spirit of a really holy head of a household.

The variety, the expressiveness, the simplicity and depth of the greetings in our litanies are a continual source of sweetness and strength in our devotions both public and private. They offer an effective and appealing means of obtaining special spiritual strength, and physical assistance too.

Like that little boy we have not tapped all the power available until we have asked the heavenly Father and His special friends to come to our assistance.

May I suggest that you find one of these litanies in your prayer- book and pray it devoutly, thoughtfully. Another time pray another of those litanies. Vary them in your devotions from time to time, especially in your morning, evening and family prayers. You will realize and receive new spiritual strength. Amen.


"Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, distributed them to those reclining" St. John, 6:11.

A Catholic Army chaplain of World War Two was relating some of his experiences. Speaking of starvation in war-torn Europe, he described what he saw in an American Army camp in France. Every day a group of boys and girls of all sizes and ages, but with one common longing for food, would search among the empty food cans thrown out from the Army kitchen. With painstaking perseverance the children would scrape every speck of food from the cans. After they had gathered whatever they could find, each child placed his precious findings on the ground, knelt down, made the sign of the cross, and said a prayer before his miserable meal. Many of the soldiers were touched to tears.

Millions of people are starving to death in the world today. Millions do not know where their next meal is coming from. Millions cannot remember when they had their last fully satisfying dinner. Yes, millions are like those famished French children--they pick up every scrap and speck of food, no matter where or when they find it. And many of them are grateful to the point of thanking God for these miserable scraps.

In the midst of all this starvation you and I have plenty to eat. Once in a while we may go hungry, but we always know that in time we will have something to eat. The Lord has been boundlessly good to us Americans. He has spared us the sufferings of starvation. He has made our fields and gardens yield bounteously. How many of us thank Almighty God for every meal? How many of us remember to repeat a meal prayer three times a day? How many of us show appreciation to the Lord who provides for us?

Strictly speaking, it is not a sin to omit your meal prayer. However, it is sinful never to say a prayer at meals. It is thoughtlessness and ingratitude of the rankest kind.

The Old and the New Testaments are full of examples of God's people praying for God's blessing on what they were about to eat, thanking God for the food which He made to grow. We read that even the pagans would pause to think of their gods before they sat down to eat. But the best example is that of our Lord, who gave thanks when He multiplied food to feed the crowd in the desert. The early Christian centuries are filled with reports of this pious practice.

"Prayer," writes Tertullian, "begins and ends the meal."

"When we sit down to the table," St. Anthanasius tells us, "and take the bread to break it, we make the sign of the cross over it three times, and return thanks. After the repast we renew our thanksgiving by saying thrice: 'The good and merciful Lord has given food to them that fear Him. Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.'"

Why should we pray at all our meals?

1. It is the intelligent and thoughtful thing to do. It shows that we realize where food comes from. It shows that we think of Him who has made this meal possible. It distinguishes us from the mere animal. The story is told of a seven-year-old boy who was invited to lunch at the home of a playmate. As soon as everyone was seated, and the food was served, the family began to eat-- without a prayer.

"Don't you pray before you eat?" asked the guest.

"We just don't take time for it," admitted the mother as she flushed a deep purple.

The visitor thought a moment and then blurted out:

"You're just like my dog--he starts right in."

2. Saying grace at meals is common courtesy. What would you think of a person to whom you gave a meal, who would not take time to thank you for it? After all, every meal we eat is a gift of God.

3. Saying a meal prayer is good hygiene; it is good for the health. The benefit of a meal depends almost entirely upon the condition of your stomach, a very sensitive organ. If you are angry, over- excited, hurried or worried, the stomach becomes tense. Its glands do not function properly. It cannot digest food properly. Blessing yourself and your food, however briefly, has a calming effect upon the entire system, especially upon the stomach. It soothes the nerves and the digestive organs. And that is good for the health.

4. Praying at meals is often the only chance and the only time we have in the busy day to direct our thoughts to God. We are supposed to "pray always." Since we cannot and do not at all times think of God during the work-a-day hours, we should be all the more thoughtful about remembering the Lord at definite times. Meal times are particularly precious.

5. Offering thanks at meals is the best way to incline God to grant further blessings of soul and body. We are eager to do another favor for the person who expresses his thanks. We are hesitant to go out of our way for one who never shows gratitude. So with God. He will continue to bless those who express their thanks for the blessing of food. He will withdraw His favors from those who never thank Him.

Meal prayers are a daily sacramental, a means of grace and heavenly help, an assistance to health of soul and body, a source of blessing throughout the day.

Picture yourself scraping your meal bit by bit from cans on a garbage pile. Picture yourself, picture your children searching among the leavings and garbage of other people for a bite or handful to eat.

Then remember that God has spared us this suffering, this disgust. He has been bounteously good. Be sure to bless Him, be sure to thank Him, be sure to pray to Him every time you sit down to that thrice-daily blessing--a meal. Amen.


"For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected that is accepted with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." I Timothy, 4:4.

The magazine, Ave Maria, of May 2, 1942, reported a human interest story sent in by a war correspondent. It concerned a certain Second Lieut. Clarence Sanford, a pursuit pilot, whose life was saved by the medal he wore. When he became separated from five other American fighter planes, he lost his way in the South Pacific. His fuel ran low, and he was forced down into the gulf of Carpentaria which indents Australia on the north. He was over two miles from the closest island. He stripped off his clothes and began to swim. He made the beach but fell exhausted in a sound slumber. He awoke to see two natives leaning over him with the points of their spears aimed at his chest. Suddenly their expressions changed; they noticed the medal about Sanford's neck. In difficult English one of them declared:

"All right, Jesus No. 1 Man."

The natives helped the exhausted flyer to a mission nearby, the only civilized spot within 500 miles. From there he finally made his way back to his squadron.

A medal saved that soldier's life. Similar instances of physical protection secured through the wearing of a religious medal are so numerous that one cannot question the heavenly aid which they secure for the body of man.

Much more important, however, is the spiritual aid which they give to those who wear them devoutly and thoughtfully. That is the principal reason Mother Church approves and fosters the wearing of them. It is putting another creature--metal from the earth--to a sacred use.

Religious medals are pieces of metal resembling coins of various sizes and shapes. They are designed to increase devotion, to commemorate some religious event, to protect the soul and body of the wearer, and to serve as a badge of membership in some society, sodality, or other spiritual group. When they are blessed, they become sacramentals. Some blessed medals also bring indulgences to the one who uses them.

Religious medals have been used from the dawn of Christianity. Many have been found in the catacombs, with the name of Christ and figures of the saints upon them. In the Middle Ages certain souvenirs in the form of medals were brought home as keepsakes by pilgrims to famous shrines and places of devotion. In 1950 many who visit Rome will bring home some such reminder of their pilgrimage.

The variety of medals is almost without limit as to size, shape, color, weight, type of material, and especially purpose. We might divide them into three principal groups:

1. Those in honor of our Lord, like the medal of the Sacred Heart, the Savior of the World, the Holy Childhood, the Infant of Prague, and the Ecce Homo or Behold the Man medal. We even have a medal representing the Holy Spirit as a dove.

2. Those in honor of the Blessed Virgin are numerous: The Sorrowful Mother, Our Lady of Victory, Mount Carmel, Good Counsel, Perpetual Help, Lourdes, Guadalupe and Fatima.

The Miraculous Medal is perhaps the best known and most widely worn. In 1830 our Immaculate Mother appeared several times to a young French nun, Sister Catherine Laboure. She appeared as if in an oval picture, standing on a globe, half of which was visible. Mary was clothed in a white robe and a mantle of shining blue. Her hands seemed covered with diamonds. Rays shone from these diamonds upon the earth. A voice explained:

"These rays are symbolic of the graces Mary obtains for men, and the point upon which they fall most abundantly is France."

Around the picture in golden letters were these words: "O Mary! conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

On the reverse is the letter "M" surmounted by a cross, having a bar at its base. Beneath the "M" are the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Mary asked that medals be struck from this model. These miraculous medals are highly treasured.

3. We also wear medals in honor of the saints--St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Anthony, St. Aloysius, St. Agnes, St. Ann, St. Christopher, the Little Flower, St. Benedict and many others.

4. Another group includes those in honor of religious events like First Communion, Confirmation, jubilees, Eucharistic Congresses, and the Holy Year.

These coin-like sacramentals have three meanings: for the person who wears them; for the person who sees them; with regard to Christ, Mary and the saints represented.

1. For the wearer--

a. A medal is a means of power. It helps the wearer to share in the rich treasures of prayer and good works of the Church. Definitely there is no superstition in this. We do not expect that piece of metal to save us, but we do expect, and rightly, that when we honor those represented, we will share in their good works.

b. It is a reminder that the wearer must be worthy to carry the representation of such holy people.

c. It prompts the one using this sacramental to perform every act in way worthy of it.

2. For those who see it--

a. If Catholics, they recognize the wearer as one of their faith, just as the natives with their menacing spears recognized the pilot of our story.

b. If non-Catholics, they know this Catholic is not ashamed of his faith.

3. For those whose image it bears, the medal--

a. Is a source of honor and veneration.

b. A reminder of the virtues and influence of that individual.

Again we emphasize that you don't have to wear a medal or medals to be a Catholic, no more than you had to wear a dog-tag or identification disc as a soldier during the war. But--the medal identifies you. It wins for you the heavenly help of the one pictured upon it. It tells others about your faith. It reminds you constantly that you must be worthy to wear it.

Make the most of this sacramental. Amen.


"Through him, therefore, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise always to God, that is, fruit of lips praising his name." Hebrews, 13:15.

Have you ever wondered what is in this big book here on the altar? A certain Protestant writer traveling in Europe happened to drop in for services at a Catholic cathedral. He, too, wanted to know what was in that big book. Somewhat of a student, he searched the book stores for a copy. Finally he found a large Missal. It was expensive, but his curiosity was aroused. He took the big book to his room and poured over it for hours and days. He knew enough Latin to figure out the various parts and divisions. He found it entrancing and enlightening. He asked Catholic friends and priests one question after another about the Mass book, until the grace of God told him to go all the way. He entered the Catholic Church.

Just what did he find in that big book? Perhaps I can give you some idea of what is in it. Our Franciscan Missal has this official title: ROMAN-SERAPHIC MISSAL, which means ROMAN- FRANCISCAN MISSAL.

1. On the first few pages are five letters from the Popes on the importance of true church worship.

2. After the papal letters is a calendar of movable and immovable feasts entitled CONCERNING THE YEAR AND ITS PARTS.

3. Next come the rubrics or rules guiding the priest in offering the adorable Sacrifice. There are other rules sprinkled among the prayers of the Mass and written in red. "Ruber," in Latin, means "red"; hence the word rubric."

4. There follows a minute and painstaking chapter on the rite to be observed in the celebration of Mass.

5. After that comes a section on accidents and defects that might occur during Mass.

6. This is followed by a chapter on the priest's preparation for Mass, and his thanksgiving afterwards.

7. You will then find several pages of illustrated directions on how the priest is to incense the altar.

8. Following this are 208 pages of Sunday Masses, taking us from the first Sunday of Advent to Holy Saturday.

9. Next comes the Ordinary of the Mass, that part of the prayers which is ordinarily the same, down to the section of Prefaces.

10. There are sixteen different Prefaces, each with its own musical setting.

11. On page 295 begins the Canon or unchanging part of the Sacrifice, printed in larger type, with tabs on the edges for convenience in turning the pages.

12. On page 313 the Missal again takes up the Sunday Masses, extending from Easter to the twenty-fourth or last Sunday after Pentecost.

13. The next few pages contain prayers for special intentions, prayers, for example, in honor of the Holy Spirit, our Blessed Mother, and for the Pope.

14. Pages 413 to 808 are devoted to proper Masses for the saints, from November 27 to November 26 of the next year.

15. Then you find Masses for each class of saints. These are called the Commons of the saints.

16. There are 40 pages of Votive Masses. Votum, in Latin, means free choice. Votive Masses are left more or less to the free choice of the celebrant. In this section we find among others the Votive Mass for a groom and bride, the Mass for a wedding.

17. From page 93 to 103 of this Appendix you will find 35 prayers for particular intentions reaching from the Pope down through every grade of the Church to kings, emperors, and prelates. You will find a prayer against persecutors, against famine, against earthquakes, and for rain. There is a prayer to be said in trials and troubles, and against evil thoughts, a prayer for friends and a prayer for enemies, a prayer for prisoners and one for sailors, a prayer for the health of the living and a prayer for the living and deceased.

18. Masses for the dead start on page 104 of the Appendix and include several pages of prayers for the Poor Souls; for a dead Pope, for a dead bishop, for a dead priest, for deceased parents, for everyone who rests in a particular cemetery.

19. On page 127 you will find the prayers for the blessing of Holy Water, which takes place every Sunday before the High Mass, and on page 130 several blessings frequently used.

20. The consecration of the paten and chalice are found on page 134 of the Appendix.

At the end of the book there is a complete alphabetical index of Masses in honor of our Lord, our Blessed Mother, and of the saints. The large colored ribbons are used to mark the Proper Mass for the day, the Preface, the commemorations, and so forth.

This brief summary merely hints at the almost inexhaustible treasures of the Missal. A deeper study of it will repay you richly.

Many of you have a shortened form of this large Missal. You have the Sunday Missal, which gives you the Masses for the Sundays of the year and a few other parts of the large Missal. Some of you may even have a daily Missal in English. That gives you in English the proper parts peculiar to each day, each feast and each saint.

The Missal is one of the greatest works of literature in all history. It is a mine of pointed and prayerful thought. It is, above all, the official prayer of Mother Church offered up by millions throughout the world every moment of every day and night.

Learn to use the Missal. Have one of your own. Look up, before you start to Mass, or as soon as you arrive in Church before the Mass begins-look up the Mass for that day and then follow the priest at the altar.

That is the modern, up-to-date, intelligent way of attending Mass. May the Missal lead you closer to God as it led that Protestant writer to the very bosom of God's Church. Amen.


"And most of the crowd spread their cloaks upon the road, while others were cutting branches from the trees, and strewing them on the road." St. Matthew, 21:8.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there lived in Vienna an able artist named Philip Veit. He was a convert from the Jewish to the Catholic Church. Among his many pictures is one inspired by his new-found faith. He calls it Christianity. He has painted a beautiful lady sitting calm and serene amid the ruins of the Colosseum at Rome, the scene of so many martyrdoms in the early centuries. In her left hand she holds a cross; in her right, the palm of victory. At her feet lie instruments of torture together with blooming flowers. At her side is a covered vessel that looks like a chalice.

The outstanding impression of this picture is the absolute air of undisturbable calmness of the woman who represents Christianity. The cross and the palm explain that expression. She knows for sure that the cross will ever be hers. And with equal certainty she knows that the palm is proof that she will ever win out. Christianity will always win, always did.

That is why it was most appropriate to represent Christianity, the religion of Christ, which means the Catholic Church, sitting calmly confident in the ruins of the Colosseum. In this day of football bowls--Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl--it is well to remember the Martyrs' Bowl, the ancient ampitheatre or outdoor showplace where thousands of Christians won a victory by dying for Christ. The palm is an emblem, a symbol of that victory.

The palm is a treasured sacramental of Mother Church. It is distributed to the faithful on Palm Sunday. Its principal purpose is to remind us of the triumphal entry of our Savior into Jerusalem when a great crowd met Him, cutting down palm branches to strew on the street before Him.

Carrying palms in procession goes way back into the Old Testament. It was not only approved but even commanded by Almighty God at the very foundation of the Jewish religion. In the fall of the year, after the harvest, when the people gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles God said:

"You shall take to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God." Leviticus, 23:40.

Again we read of palms in the Second Book of Machabees, 10:7. In the Apocalypse, Chapter 7, the martyrs are represented carrying palms.

Nor was bearing palms limited to religious victory. Philo tells us that Agrippa carried palms and flowers on his entry into Jerusalem; Josephus relates the same of Alexander the Great.

The palm is an expressive symbol. It is one of the most useful of Oriental trees; that shows the overshadowing protection of Divine Providence. Its foliage offers a delightful shade, symbol of supernatural grace. It supplies dates, delicious and useful fruit, and oozes a kind of wine from its bark. This symbolizes the nourishment which our Lord gives us in the Holy Eucharist.

The palms are blessed before the High Mass on Palm Sunday. Vested in purple cope and standing at the Epistle corner of the altar, the celebrant recites a short prayer, and then reads a lesson from the book of Exodus which tells of the children of Israel coming to Elim on their way to the Promised Land, where there was a fountain and seventy palm trees. Here they murmured against Moses, their leader; and here God promised and gave them food from heaven--manna.

After a few verses from the New Testament, the priest reads the story of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem the Sunday before His death--how the people were aroused to a high pitch of enthusiasm, how they cut down branches and strewed them, with their garments, along the way, and how they sang joyous hosannas.

There follows a prayer begging God that we may in the end go forth to meet Christ, bearing the palm of victory and laden with good works, that we may enter with Him into the eternal Jerusalem. The preface that follows is especially beautiful, as are the five succeeding prayers, all of which ask God to bless the palms, that they may be sanctified and may be a means of grace and divine protection to the soul and body of those who carry them and treasure them with faith and devotion. One prayer refers to the olivebranch brought by the dove to the ark of Noe after the flood had subsided, as a mark of peace between heaven and earth.

The palms should be distributed to the people at the Communion rail, but the custom is more common to have altar boys or ushers give them to the congregation in their pews. Certain verses of Scripture are then read, together with a prayer. There is a procession of clergy and servers through the church.

During the Mass the palms are to be held in the hand at the singing or reading of the Passion and the Gospel. Treat with respect the piece of palm you receive. Place it in a prominent place in your home, hanging over a crucifix or a holy picture.

Let it be a continual reminder of the victory which was won by our Redeemer, a victory won only by His humbling Himself to death, the death of the cross. Remembering that, we will also remember that all true victories, especially those in our spiritual life, will be won by triumphing over ourselves, our wayward passions and evil inclinations.

The fact that the palms of one year are burned to secure the ashes for the next Ash-Wednesday brings out this connection between suffering and victory.

May your life be a duplicate of that picture by that great convert Jewish artist, another picture of one with a cross in the left hand and a palm in the night. May you be faithful to the cross and to Him who hung upon it. Then you can be sure that the palm some day will be placed in your hand also, the palm of eternal victory. Amen.


"I am the light of the world. He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light." St. John, 8:12.

About forty miles west and a little south of Denver, Colorado, is the famous Gray's Peak. It is over 14,000 feet high and is part of the Rocky Mountain Range. A traveler at the turn of the century described his experience in climbing that mountain. He and his party started out early in the morning before the sun was up. He had heard so much of the glorious gorges, the snow-capped summits, the sparkling streams, the limpid waters of Green Lake, fringed with flowers of every hue and fragrance. On they climbed, higher and higher, but the beauties he had hoped to behold, could not be seen. Heavy clouds, hanging low over the slopes, threw blankets of mist over the valleys below. He was disappointed, weary and chilled to the bone.

Suddenly he saw a golden shaft of light pierce the clouds. Soon the sun scattered the clouds entirely, uncovering crag and chasm, unveiling lake and stream, bathing the entire valley with a golden glow. As if by magic, darkness turned to light, cold to warmth, night to day.

The life of man is something like climbing a mountain. Especially is the life of a Catholic during Lent like climbing a misty mountain. It is desolate, chilling and wearying. But when the first light of the Easter Candle casts its Holy Saturday light into the darkness of Holy Week, we begin to see the beauties of our faith, we begin to see what Christ meant when He declared:

"I am the light of the world."

The Paschal Candle represents Christ, the Light of the world. Its wax is a "mysterious virginal production" of "the cleanly bees." It represents the virginal flesh of Christ, formed in the virginal womb of His Mother Mary. The wick symbolizes His human soul; the flame shows forth His divine nature. In the body of the candle you will notice five grains of incense--the five wounds of our Lord, arranged in the form of a cross. The grains of incense recall the spices used to prepare His sacred body for burial.

The blessing of the Paschal Candle on Holy Saturday morning is a strikingly beautiful ceremony. After the blessing of the new fire and the procession up the aisle to the sanctuary, during which the triple candle is lighted with the triple announcement to the world:

"Lumen Christi"--"The Light of Christ," the celebrant goes to the Epistle side of the altar. The deacon takes the book, asks and receives a blessing, and then sings the glorious "Exultet" whose opening words give the theme and spirit of its message:

"Let the angelic choirs of heaven rejoice."

Toward the end of the Preface which follows, the deacon fixes the five blessed grains of incense in the Candle in the form of a cross.

After asking the heavenly Father to accept the sacrifice of this incense, the deacon lights the Paschal Candle with one of the triple candles which had been lighted from the new fire using a taper to transfer the light. Then the lamps and candles on the altar are lighted. The deacon sings on. Here is part of his song:

"We beseech Thee, therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated in honor of Thy name, may continue to burn to dissipate the darkness of this night. And being accepted as a sweet savor, may it be mixed with the lights of heaven. May the morning star find its flame alive; that star, which knows no setting, that star which returning from hell or limbo, shone serenely upon mankind."

The column of wax has become an inspiring sacramental. Standing at the Gospel side of the altar, it puts us in mind of Christ, the Light of the world. Lighted first during the early morning darkness of Holy Saturday, it represents our divine Redeemer Himself, who was dead, but is now risen to a new life, never to die again. The forty days during which we see the Paschal Candle in the sanctuary represent the forty days our Lord remained upon this earth after His resurrection, to further instruct and inspire His apostles and followers.

It is lighted at the solemn Mass and Vespers of Easter Sunday, and on all the Sundays to the Ascension. It is not to be lighted on other days or feasts within the Easter time, unless in churches where such a custom exists. The custom most generally followed in the United States, though by no means universal, is to have the Paschal Candle burn on Sundays during Easter time at all the Masses and at Vespers.

With the coming of Ascension Thursday we behold a simple, stirring ceremony after the Gospel of the Mass, when the server extinguishes the Paschal Candle. Christ, whom it represents, has ascended into heaven.

Seldom is this waxen pillar entirely consumed before Ascension. In the early centuries the faithful secured small portions to keep in their homes as protection against evils of soul and body. From this pious practice the Agnus Dei took its origin.

Try to be present for the blessing of the Paschal Candle on Holy Saturday morning. Follow in your missal the beautiful ceremonies with which this emblem of Christ is set up in the sanctuary. Let the Paschal Candle keep continually before your mind that Christ is the Light of the world, Christ is the Light of your life.

There is so much darkness in the world. There is so much darkness in the minds and hearts of men. There is so much darkness in our lives--darkness of ignorance, darkness of unkindness, darkness of sin. Only Christ, the true Light, can dispel that darkness.

Climbing up to God is like climbing up a difficult mountain, like climbing up Gray's Peak. Mists of misunderstanding and doubt and sadness oppress us. In such times of darkness turn to Christ, the true Light. Amen.


"The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we have blessed you in the name of the Lord." Psalm 128:8.

During a mission I was giving in Sacred Heart Church, Webb City, Missouri, from January 5 to 12, 1947, Father Bray the pastor, and I were invited to dine at the home of Larry (Moon) Mullins, All- American fullback of Notre Dame during the late twenties. The six Mullins children, ranging at the time from 13 to 5, were some of the best-behaved youngsters I have ever met. Not one argument or quarrel or correction during our two-hour stay.

After the meal each child took turns singing for us--capably and naturally, even happily. As we prepared to leave, Mary, Larry's splendid wife, asked me to bless the children. They flopped on their knees about me as I blessed them:

"May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, descend upon you and remain with you forever."

They made the sign of the cross over themselves and thanked me heartily. They seemed to have a sincere appreciation of a priest's blessing.

Mother Church provides a number of such blessings of persons. They are so numerous and varied that we cannot even mention all of them. A blessing given by the Church or in the name of the Church is a sacramental. It has a special power, not of itself, but from the prayers of God's Church. In the Old Testament the word "to bless" had many meanings, but chiefly two:

1. When God blessed someone or something He showered His benefits upon that person or thing. Thus God blessed Noe and his sons after the flood; He blessed lifeless objects like bread, water, houses and lands.

2. When man blessed something it meant that the blessing drew down the favor of God. Usually an external sign accompanies a blessing given by man. Thus we read that Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph by placing his hands upon their heads. (Gen. 48:13). The usual manner of blessing is by placing the hands over or on someone, but sometimes it is given by mere word, or with water, oil, or salt.

Accordingly, a blessing is a church ceremony which calls upon God to give a certain person, either for a time, or for all the future, a religious right to divine protection or to the exercise of worship. We can merely refer to a few general divisions of such blessings:

1. a. Blessings of invocation mean calling down God's protection upon some person, asking God to deliver or preserve someone from certain evils, or to obtain spiritual or material benefits for him.

b. A constituting blessing raises a person from the profane to the sacred state.

2. Blessings can be simple or solemn:

a. Simple blessings are given without any solemnity, as the blessing at meals.

b. Solemn blessings have certain ceremonies, like the blessing of candles on candlemas day.

3. Still another division is based on the person giving the blessing: certain are reserved to the Pope; others to bishops, to priests, to religious superiors. Even lay people may bless. We might explain such a lay blessing first:

a. A parental blessing may be given by a father or mother to their children. This was common in the Old Testament and in early Christian times. The lives of the saints offer many examples.

The simplest method is to make the sign of the cross over all the children or over each one singly, often with holy water. In the more solemn blessing the parent places his hand on the head of the kneeling child and prays:

"God bless you," or "I bless you my boy (my girl.)"

Often he makes the sign of the cross with holy water on the child's head, praying:

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Sometimes parents bless their children at a distance, by adding a blessing to their letters. The occasions at home when parents might bless their boys and girls are without number. It should be done every evening and on the occasion of important events, like First Confession, First Communion, marriage, and going on a journey.

b. In the beautiful blessing of an expectant mother the priest prays:

"O Lord God...accept the sacrifice of a contrite heart and the fervent desire of Thy handmaid (here he mentions her name) who beseeches Thee for the preservation of the offspring which Thou hast granted her to conceive; take care of her and guard her against all stratagem and injury from the wicked enemy; so that, by the assisting hand of Thy mercy, her offspring may come prosperously to the light of day, and may be preserved for holy regeneration (Baptism) that it may serve Thee in all things and merit everlasting life." The other prayers are equally expressive.

c. The nuptial blessing of a bride is particularly complete and helpful.

d. Among the prayers for a sick child the priest asks:

"O God, on whom we all depend for strength, both in youth and maturity, extend Thy right hand upon this Thy servant, who at this tender age, is ill, that, being restored to health and vigor, he (she) may come to the fullness of all his allotted years, and all the days of his life ever thank Thee and serve Thee faithfully."

e. There is a blessing for infants and for those at death's door, for mothers after childbirth. In short, there is a blessing for every type of person and for every kind of need and desire.

The simple blessing of the priest is one highly treasured by the faithful. It is proper to ask for it frequently, particularly in your home and in the hospital.

To appreciate blessings as did the children of All-American Larry Mullins, is to appreciate one of the most commonly used and most highly helpful sacramentals of Mother Church. The blessing at the end of this sermon is a sacramental. Accept it devoutly and treasure it lovingly. Amen.


"Whose are this image and the inscription?" St. Matthew, 22:20.

One of our American missionaries to China was telling some years ago of the difficulties in keeping convert Catholics faithful to the Church, and how laborious a task it was to keep some in the fold and bring others back in. He told this incident.

One of their best catechists was traveling to a village in the interior. A catechist is a layman trained to teach the fundamentals of the faith. This lay teacher called on a friend named Peter, who was mayor of his little village. Peter was a practical Christian. One proof of this was found in the many beautiful religious pictures which he had hanging in his home. As the two friends talked, a third friend from a neighboring town dropped in to discuss some business with Peter. As he entered the house he caught sight of a striking picture of our Savior on the far wall. He dropped to his knees bowed his head, struck his breast, and repeated the Act of Contrition in a clear, ringing voice. His sincerity and devotion impressed the two men who had never suspected that this fellow was a Catholic.

Later they learned that he had joined the Church over thirty years before, but had drifted away, mainly because he was too far from a Catholic church. A few weeks after this incident he made his confession, received Holy Communion, and expressed his determination to live a full Catholic life from then on.

A picture of our Savior was the means, under God, of bringing a soul back into the fold. It is also the means of keeping many in the fold and of winning many to it. Religious pictures are sacramentals, in use since the dawn of Christianity. They are prints or paintings representing some Christian character or truth:

1. Pictures of our Lord are of almost limitless variety. He is pictured in every condition and situation: in the crib; on the cross; in the garden; on the mountain; in the tomb; at work; at prayer; preaching and working miracles; laboring at the carpenter's bench and teaching in the temple. What an inspiration are these paint and canvas portraits of our Redeemer!

2. And who could ever know even one part of all the Madonnas, paintings of our Blessed Mother under every possible title, and in every phase of her sweet and selfless life!

3. We also represent the saints and martyrs, who were of every age, of every trade, profession and walk of life.

4. Religious pictures also represent certain religious truths. In the December, 1949, issue of "Life Magazine" we find several full- and double-paged reproductions in color of many masterpieces of Michelangelo, especially his murals in the Sistine Chapel. There we see, for example, the creation of the world, the judgment, and similar truths graphically told with the artist's brush.

5. Religious art also expresses spiritual symbols, common things used to express spiritual truths.

All such pictures of our Savior, His Mother, His saints, and His teachings, are not contrary to Sacred Scripture or the express law of God. Rather, they have been commanded by God and fostered by God's Church.

Even the most poorly instructed Catholic will tell you that in honoring a picture we do not believe that any divine power is in the picture itself. Every Catholic knows that we do not pray to these pictures, or worship them, as though they had power in themselves. Why, then, do we make so much of religious pictures?

1. They remind us of our Lord and of the many inspiring incidents in His holy life. A picture will often bring out ideas, instill devotion, stir the soul, when words would fail.

2. A picture will fix our attention and keep away distraction. With a representation of our Lord before you, your prayer is more likely to continue its direction toward the Lord to whom you are praying.

3. Kneeling before a painting of our Blessed Mother or of the saints, we indirectly honor the person represented. Who would foolishly maintain that the little flower placed before the picture a man might keep of his mother, is offered to the paper and cardboard of the picture?

4. Pictures are blessed by Mother Church. They are sacramentals; that is, of themselves they are powerless, but they serve to stir up spiritual thought and determination, they serve to concentrate our attention, they serve to inspire our better selves. Sometimes God makes the occasion of their use the means or instrument of bestowing great blessings.

Look at a fine picture every day, look at a portrait of the best people who ever lived every day, and by degrees, definite degrees, it will become a part of you. The life of that person will weave itself into your life. His virtues, his good deeds, will be models for you.

It was Hazlitt, the great English writer, I believe, who wrote that if a man were contemplating some wicked or disgraceful deed, and stopped for a moment to look at some fine picture which had inspired him before, he would be turned from his crime. Proof of that is an everyday happening in the Catholic Church and the Catholic home. That was what a picture did for the Chinese convert of our story.

Again we repeat that religious pictures are not essential to Catholic life, but they are extremely helpful. Accordingly I want to make a few suggestions:

1. Have a number of carefully selected pious pictures in your home, in your prayer-book and other books.

2. Get into the practice of looking at these pictures regularly and whispering a prayer to the person represented.

3. Teach your children from youngest years to look upon these pictures of our Lord, His Mother, and His saints with respect and devotion.

4. Take notice of the pictures in our church and in other places you visit. Let them keep you in touch with Christ and His own. Religious pictures will be powerful helps in following Christ. Amen.


"And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast." St. Luke. 2:42.

During the seventeenth century there lived in Bavaria a certain Raimondo Giuliano. He made an exceptionally difficult pilgrimage to Rome during the Holy Year. On April 1, 1650--that was three hundred years ago--he started out from his Bavarian home carrying a wooden cross that weighed 160 pounds. Day after day, week after week, month after month, he dragged that heavy cross over rocky roads, through rivers, and over the Alps. At last on August 31--five months later--he carried the cross into the Eternal City. He wanted to share in the graces and blessings of a pilgrimage to the Holy City during the Holy Year.

Through the centuries hundreds of thousands like him have made the journey from all parts of the world to the center of Christianity, the headquarters of Catholicity, with the fervent desire of gaining the blessed benefits of such a journey. Today, with our swift planes, our speedy trains, and our luxurious ocean liners, a trip to Rome is a comparatively easy task. But the spirit behind it, the motives and reasons are the same.

In this Holy Year of 1950 it might be well for us to think about pilgrimages--their value and purpose and the proper method of making them. A pilgrimage is a sacramental, unusual, to be sure, but a definite means of winning definite graces. As with the other sacramentals, Mother Church does not command them, but she does declare them good and helpful spiritually.

1. Deeply rooted in the heart of everyone is the desire to visit places where a famous person lived, or where some important event happened. Proof of this is found in the crowds one meets at Mount Vernon, the home of Washington, and at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Our newspapers during the Christmas season of 1949 told us that hundreds of automobiles with out-of-state licenses drove by the home of President Truman during his brief visit at Independence, Missouri.

With nobler and deeper sentiments the intelligent Catholic longs to visit the outstanding centers and monuments of his faith. Where is the Catholic who does not long to live for a day or two at least in that land made holy by our loving Redeemer? Where is the Catholic who does not wish to visit Rome and the Vatican and see the Pope in person? Where is the Catholic who does not wish to travel to the spots where our Blessed Mother appeared to men and children?

2. Pilgrimages are the answer to that desire. They are journeys made to shrines, holy places, and centers of religious interest for the purpose of practicing penance, of performing certain devotions, and of gaining certain spiritual helps. Even the ancient pagans had their so-called holy places. The Jews traveled to Mount Moriah and to the temple at Jerusalem. Yes, we read that the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph made a long and taxing trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Pasch. It was a distance of seventy-five miles, over mountainous country and miserable roads. Their poverty limited them to a few conveniences and necessities. Christ was only twelve years old, hardly strong enough for such a taxing trip, which must have taken at least five or six days. Yet, the Holy Family most probably made that pilgrimage not only once, but every year as long as they lived in Nazareth. They teach us that making a pilgrimage is a praiseworthy exercise.

3. Pilgrimages are not only praiseworthy and commendable, they are also very helpful spiritually and physically:

a. It is good for a man to get away for a while from his worldly cares and worries, and to think of God and the things of God. Pilgrims do that. A pilgrimage is to the soul what a vacation is to the body; it renews, refreshes, and recreates the spirit.

b. Every pilgrimage has some disagreeable features, although not all are as toilsome as that of the young man of our story who carried a heavy cross all the way from Germany to Rome. Bearing these difficulties can be a precious penance.

c. Making a journey to a holy place tends to promote prayer and devotion and pious thoughts.

d. Ordinarily Confession and Communion are conditions of such a visit. They are received with renewed fervor and thoughtfulness.

4. Blessings of soul and body are often obtained. The conversion of a friend or relative, graces for every day living, great spiritual favors, often result. Likewise, countless physical cures and wonders are worked. Medical science admits this. Experience proves it.

5. One must have a good intention to gain the benefits. Such would be the desire to honor God in some special way, to honor God's Mother, or His special friends, the saints. One may have some special favor to ask for, but the final purpose, aim and intention should be to honor God, to obtain His pardon, or to thank Him for past favors.

6. The Church does not command pilgrimages. They are not essential. Accordingly, one should go only at the proper time, and only when one is able to do so without neglecting more serious and urgent duties. No doubt millions would love to travel to Rome during the Holy Year, but their work, their family responsibilities, their finances make it impossible. The Church has made it possible to gain these blessings in our own diocese.

We might suggest that your annual vacation be made sometime to one of the shrines in or near our country, to some place of special piety and devotion, to some center of spiritual life where your soul will be renewed and strengthened.

At least we will henceforth appreciate the benefit, the value, the reasonableness of such journeys to spots of spiritual interest and help. Amen.


"But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren." St. Luke, 22:32.

Some years ago the papers reported an unusual audience and an unusual blessing granted by Pope Pius XII. One of the principals was Vivian Blaine, the lovely screen star and singer, who is a devout Catholic. She has a sister who is a nun. All her life Vivian had the ambition to be received by the Pope.

At last the opportunity came, when she took a trip to Europe with her husband, Manny Franks, who is a Jew. When they arrived in Rome the audience was arranged. Her husband went along.

Someone had told His Holiness that Vivian's sister was a religious. The Holy Father conversed about her family and her work in Hollywood, and then graciously gave her his blessing in Latin.

"And your husband?" the Pope gently asked.

"My husband is of the Jewish faith," explained Vivian.

The Pope smiled and, turning to her husband, the Holy Father gave his Jewish visitor his fatherly blessing--in perfect Hebrew.

There are many truths and lessons in this little incident: the desire of all Catholics, and of others too, to visit the Holy Father and receive his blessing; the scholarly knowledge which His Holiness has of languages. But the point I would like to emphasize is the fatherly interest of the head of the Catholic Church in the members of all religions, and his eagerness to extend his blessing and the blessings of Mother Church to everyone--Catholic, Protestant, Jew and pagan.

That is why the Holy See has granted to missionaries and to retreatmasters, and to bishops on certain occasions, the power to bestow the blessing of the Holy Father. The Pope's Blessing, best known as being given at the end of retreats and missions, is a sacramental that stirs our interest and our affection.

It is usually given at the closing service. The priest kneels before the altar in surplice and stole, as he offers the following prayers:

P. Our help is in the name of the Lord. R. Who made heaven and earth. P. O Lord, save Thy people. R. And bless Thy inheritance. P. O Lord, hear my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto Thee. P. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.

The priest rises and continues:

Let us pray:

Almighty and merciful God, give us help from Thy holy place, and graciously hear the pleadings of Thy people who with contrite hearts beg forgiveness for their sins, and who eagerly await Thy blessing and Thy favor. Kindly raise Thy right hand over them, and pour upon them the fulness of Thy divine blessing, so that, filled with all good things, they may reach everlasting happiness and life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Then, standing on the Epistle side of the altar, the priest makes over the people the sign of the cross with the crucifix in his right hand, saying solemnly:

"May Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost bless you. Amen."

A few prayers are then said for the intention of the Holy Father. There is a variation of the words used in the actual blessing:

"May the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, descend upon you, and remain with you forever. Amen."

There is a special thrill in receiving the blessing of the Holy Father from him personally in Rome. But next to that is the spiritual thrill of receiving the Pope's blessing from one who has been given the power to grant it in the name of the Pope.

As we all know, Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church and continues to be its Head. Even after He ascended into heaven, Christ continues to rule, govern, and preserve His Church:

"Behold I am with you all days even unto the consummation of the world." St. Matthew, 28:20.

However, Christ chose one of His Apostles, St. Peter, to be the visible head of His Church. Succeeding St. Peter in a line unbroken for twenty centuries is the present Pope, Pius XII. He is the bishop of Rome; he is the Vicar of Christ; he is the successor of St. Peter; he is the servant of the servants of God. He is the head of our Church.

The word Pope is from the Italian, "papa," which means father. A true spiritual father the Pope has always been. In his world-wide plans and efforts for a permanent and just peace, as well as in every-day incidents like that of blessing Vivian Blaine and her Jewish husband, His Holiness has proven himself a Holy Father in every sense of the term.

In his call to the world to celebrate and keep the Holy Year he has told us some of the intentions which are close to his heart, intentions which are close to the Heart of Christ, whose place he takes on earth. The Pope is interested in peace, in feeding and clothing and housing the world, in converting all to the true faith, in winning Russia and others to the side of Christ, and in establishing economic justice for all. For these intentions we pray after we have received his blessing, saying one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be.

We should and do treasure that blessing, whether given personally or through his representative the bishop, the missionary, or the retreat-master. We appreciate the graces granted with it. We will make this blessing the occasion to renew our devotion to the head of our Church, the occasion to thank God for such a splendid spiritual leader in these troubled times. Amen.


"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." St. Matthew, 7:7.

A sailor had died at sea. His burial was unusual in a way. The chief cook of the S.S. Green Wave, on which the sailor died, wrote of the funeral in the Catholic Maritime News, a publication of the National Conference of the Apostleship of the Sea:

"We did all we could," he related, "The mate was looking all through the Bible for the part that is read at a Requiem Mass. Luckily I had a Missal. I read the Mass for the Dead. One of the crew put a rosary in his hands and another seaman put a scapular on him. The captain said a few words and I also spoke."

Then the chief cook added:

"Whenever you put any books or magazines on a ship, throw in a few prayer books."

The incident highlighted one of the most valuable and necessary of the sacramentals--a prayer book. Books of prayer are almost without limit as to size, color, shape, contents and also price. We are not speaking today of the official books of the Church--the Missal, Breviary, and Ritual particularly. We are speaking of those books of devotions, those collections of prayers and spiritual readings, which every Catholic from the Pope on down to the most recent convert, will use to help him talk to God and think about God. Again let us emphasize that it is not absolutely necessary for a Catholic to have a prayer book. But with even greater emphasis let me point out to you that a prayer book is of immense help in our spiritual life.

The story of our sailor and his burial at sea bears that out. His fellow sailors were looking for words, preferably the inspired words of Sacred Scripture and the divinely approved words of Mother Church, words that might express their appeals for the soul of their deceased comrade. They wanted to hear at that hour the words of Him who said:

"I am the resurrection and the life."

A prayer book with these specific words was their greatest need. It is a need we all experience from time to time. To meet that need Mother Church approves, promotes, and blesses books of devotion. In general we might divide these books into three groups: those with prayers to our Lord; those with devotions to our Blessed Mother; and a third group in veneration of the saints.

1. Every good prayer book will naturally contain prayers to the Holy Trinity--to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. But because the second Person of the Blessed Trinity became the God-man, we have many particular forms of devotion to Him:

a. There are numerous collections in honor of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, with prayers for Mass, Holy Hour, Benediction and Forty Hours.

b. The sufferings of our Savior, His passion and death, are the topics of many prayer books.

c. Other volumes emphasize Christmas, Easter, the Sacred Heart, and Christ as Teacher, Preacher, and Worker.

d. There are booklets of prayers for every phase of our Lord's life.

e. There also are manuals of devotions to the Holy Spirit, whom we neglect too much.

Since Christ wants us to honor His Blessed Mother, we have a limitless list of collections of prayers to her:

a. Here are entreaties to her as the Mother of God, as the Mother of men, as the Queen of heaven, as the Virgin of virgins.

b. We find forms of petition with emphasis on her principal joys and on her principal sorrows.

c. There are May devotions, October devotions, novenas of all kinds, like the one before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

d. Still other volumes are devoted to the titles with which we address her in the Litany of Loretto.

3. As for the saints, we have entire books of prayers to individual heroes and heroines of God. Different nationalities, localities, classes and races have their favorite saints and their favorite forms of devotion to them.

We might also divide prayer books according to the person for whom they are written and published:

1. Prayer books for priests and religious, as you might expect, are adapted to every phase of priestly and religious life.

2. Some sets of devotion are compiled with parents in mind; others with children or young people as their readers.

3. We have books for children making their First Communion; others for their first Confession.

4. There are marriage and funeral prayer books, and books for soldiers and sailors.

We should say a special word about the Missal. Though it is the official prayer book of the Mass, it is coming more and more to be used also as the principal book of private prayer by many Catholics. It often includes the common devotions a Catholic will use regularly.

May I urge everyone of you to have a prayer book, or even several prayer books. Try various ones from time to time until you find the book which suits your spiritual life the best. Use your prayer book to vary your daily devotions. Don't say the same prayers every morning and evening, or even the same prayers every time you go to Mass or to Confession or to the Holy Hour. Naturally certain prayers will appeal to us and we will love to repeat them, but variety is healthy in this matter. Different prayers may fit different needs.

Be an intelligent Catholic. Be a wide-awake Catholic. Have your prayer book with you and use it.

Browse through the prayer books of others occasionally. Learn and realize that there is some way of approaching God in every need and emergency, in every trial and victory, in every sorrow and joy. Amen.


"Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech." Psalm 109:4.

This happened at a dinner way back in the fourth century. At the table were several famous people, notably the holy bishop, St. Martin, who later died in the year 400, and the Emperor Maximus. With the bishop was his secretary, a priest. In the course of the meal, as was the custom in those days, the royal goblet or chalice was brought in to the emperor. His Majesty, out of respect to his holy guest, passed the goblet untasted to St. Martin. The holy bishop drank to the honor of the emperor, but then, instead of returning the goblet to the ruler, the bishop handed it to his priest secretary, as being the next in order of honor and precedence, even before the emperor himself.

We can almost picture the saintly bishop explaining to his royal host that the priest, because of his ordination, was higher in dignity than the ruler.

One expressive part of the ceremony of ordination, namely, the handing over by the bishop of a chalice with wine and water in it, to the one ordained was perhaps also intended to be recalled by St. Martin. The ceremonies of Holy Orders are expressive sacramentals, as are the ceremonies of all the sacraments. What is done in that rite raises our thoughts and inspires our hearts. By that sacrament of Holy Orders a character or mark is imprinted on the soul forever. By that sacrament five powers are conferred:

1. The power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

2. The power to bless any person or thing.

3. The power to rule a portion of Christ's flock.

4. The power to preach the word of God.

5. The power to administer the sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Holy Eucharist, and Extreme Unction, and to unite in Marriage. Two of the sacraments are reserved to the bishop, namely, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

We hope that a consideration of the ceremonies of Holy Orders, however brief it may have to be, will help everyone of you to appreciate more deeply the dignity and honor of the priesthood, a dignity greater than that of any emperor, king, or president. We also hope that this explanation will awaken in the hearts of some of our boys and young men the ambition, the holy ambition, to aspire to that high honor.

1. The ceremonies of ordination to the priesthood begin just before the Gospel of the Mass. The candidates are presented to the bishop by the archdeacon or religious superior, who gives his word that they are worthy. The bishop addresses the candidates, comparing them to the seventy priests of the Old Law, and to the seventy-two disciples whom Christ sent to preach His word. He reminds them that they are an important part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. He urges them to be chaste and holy, and to preach both by word and example. The candidates prostrate themselves in the sanctuary.

2. Then the bishop imposes both of his hands on the head of each candidate. All the priests present do the same. The imposing of hands represents the giving of grace. This, with its prayer, is the essential part of the sacrament. The bishop chants a long preface, thanking God for the priesthood and begging God's blessing on those about to receive it.

3. He then moves the stole from the candidate's left shoulder to his neck, saying:

"Receive the yoke of Christ, for His yoke is sweet and His burden light."

The chasuble is placed on the shoulders, but folded at the rear. It means protection from evil--a sort of spiritual suit of armor.

After a hymn to the Holy Ghost, the palms of the hands of each candidate are anointed with the oil of catechumens on the palms, which become especially consecrated. The hands are tied with a strip of white linen, and remain bound until the Offertory of the Mass.

4. A chalice with wine and water and a paten with an unconsecrated host are placed in the hands of the candidate for the priesthood with the words:

"Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Masses, for both the living and the dead, in the name of the Lord. Amen."

During the remainder of the Mass the newly ordained priests speak every word of the Mass along with the bishop. They celebrate with him. This is called concelebration or co- celebration.

At Communion they receive the Sacred Host but they do not receive the Precious Blood from the chalice.

5. After Communion the bishop places his hands on the head of each, repeating the words of Christ to His Apostles:

"Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained."

At this point the bishop unfolds the chasuble, saying:

"May the Lord clothe thee with the mantle of innocence."

Each newly-ordained priest places his hands in those of the bishop and takes an oath of obedience. The bishop again admonishes and blesses the group and imposes a penance. The ordained are obliged to say three Masses for his intention. When religious are ordained they do not take the oath of obedience to the bishop.

You realize that this is a brief and sketchy picture of the glorious and thrilling rite which changes a human being into a Roman Catholic priest, another Christ, a spiritual servant of God. The preparation was long and exacting. The honor and dignity of the priesthood demand that.

If you ever have a chance be sure to attend an ordination. Meanwhile pray for more priests, pray that more young men may prepare for and receive this sacrament which makes a man another Christ.

All other ordinations to the ministry are of no avail; they are worthless. Only in the Catholic Church does the true power come down through lawful succession from the very time of Christ. Thank God this morning for the priesthood and beg God to bless your priests. Amen.


"And God worked more than the usual miracles by the hand of Paul; so that even handkerchiefs and aprons were carried from his body to the sick and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out." Acts, 19:12.

Copernicus, the discoverer of the solar system, lived from 1473 to 1543 He was a member of the bishop's council in the Cathedral of Frauenberg in East Prussia. As in most cathedrals, many relics are preserved there. One day an official of the bishop was showing some tourists through the building. He stopped before one altar to mention the relics that were preserved and honored there.

In the group was a man who began to object. He wanted to know how one could be sure that these were the relics that were preserved and honored there.

"We have the Church's assurance," replied the guide, "and that excludes all doubt."

The skeptic was not satisfied, but he continued with the group as they visited the sacristy. There the guide threw open a cupboard that contained a lot of odds and ends. He took out a long tin tube, and said solemnly:

"Ladies and gentlemen, here is something of intense interest. This is the tube of the telescope used by Copernicus."

With evident veneration the tube was passed from one to another. At last it came to the same fellow who had doubted about the relics. He blurted out:

"How is it possible that so important an object of historic value can be left lying here so carelessly?"

"My good sir," laughed the guide, "the telescope was not invented until sixty years after the death of Copernicus. This tube is used to make tapers for lighting the candles. You believed without question my joking statement that it was part of Copernicus' telescope. Yet you called in question the trustworthiness of the Church's testimony regarding the relics kept on the altar. Please, ladies and gentlemen, excuse me for playing a joke to bring out this fact."

The doubter disappeared in a short time. He realized his unreasonable position. Like many another he was ready and willing to believe in any souvenir or antique outside the realm of religion, while he called in doubt the treasured keepsakes of Mother Church.

We Catholics honor and respect religious relics. They are sacramentals. The fact that they were related to Christ, and His saints raises our thoughts to these holy people, and helps us to imitate and follow them.

1. A relic means the body or any part of the body of some holy person. It may mean something that belonged to or was used by a saint: a book, rosary, article of clothing, or piece of furniture. It may also mean something that has merely touched the body of a saint. Our text from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of the handkerchiefs and aprons which were touched to the body of St. Paul, and then carried to the sick, resulting in many cures from all forms of disease. There are various classes of relics.

The instruments of torture or martyrdom are also relics, like the Crown of Thorns, the chains of St. Peter, the gridiron of St. Lawrence, and other objects of penance and sacrifice.

2. It is perfectly in line with the law and wish of God for us to venerate such objects. This was done in the Old Testament. Read about the rod of Aaron (Numbers 17); the mantle of Elias (4 Kings 2); and the bones of Eliseus (4 Kings 13:12).

Reason assures us that it is lawful to honor these religious souvenirs. Whatever is holy deserves veneration. For this reason we honor a church, a Bible, and the ministers of God.

Furthermore, it is a universal instinct and practice to honor the personal belongings of great men--the sword of the soldier, the pen of the writer, the books of the scholar, the tools of the inventor. What son or daughter does not treasure some lock of hair from mother, some ring or watch she wore or used?

The bodies of the saints were the temples of God, destined one day to share in the eternal glory of their souls. Their bodies shared in the holiness of their hearts. Those bodies are to share in their glory, yes, even in this life. God has made relics the means of arousing pious thoughts, desires and determinations. God has even worked many miracles through devotion to the keepsakes of His saints.

3. The methods of honoring relics are numerous and varied:

a. We burn lamps and candles before them.

b. We build shrines and reliquaries to show them honor.

c. We carry relics in solemn procession.

d. We make pilgrimages to their shrines.

e. We make offerings before them either by way of begging God for favors or by way of thanking Him for favors granted.

f. We apply them to the sick and to the well, to the tempted and to the troubled.

Always remember that we do not pray to relics. They are mere material things. They cannot see or hear or even move themselves, much less can they, of themselves, do anything for us in either a spiritual or material way. Nevertheless, we often pray before a relic, privately or publicly, begging the saint whose relic it is to obtain from God the favor we ask, begging that saint to secure the help we need to practice the virtues he practiced.

Again I insist, possessing a relic or venerating one is not essential to Catholic life. But it is a big help and inspiration. Make the most of these material means to following the saints in their service of God.

Should anyone make fun of our practice, tell him the story of Copernicus and the doubter. Tell him what a relic is and why we venerate these keepsakes of the saints.

Above all, show veneration to the relic of some saint, like St. Anthony. It will help you to grow in the virtues he possessed. Amen.


"And Pharao said to Joseph: 'Behold, I have appointed thee over the whole land of Egypt.' "And he took his ring from his own hand, and gave it into his hand." Genesis, 41:41, 42.

The ring which the Pope wears is called "the ring of the Fisherman." On it is engraved the name of the Pope and the figure of St. Peter pulling a fishing net up into his boat. Hence the name. At the death of each Pope his ring is destroyed and another is made for his successor. This often requires a few months of tedious work.

When Pope Pius VII was elected in 1800 it took a year and a half for the Vatican ring-maker to engrave "the ring of the Fisherman." It was one of the most beautiful ever produced.

Two months later, Angelo Tarintino, the engraver, lost his sight. When the Pope heard of it, he ordered another ring made exactly like his own, and presented it to the Tarintino family.

In World War Two an American chaplain was called to assist a dying Italian civilian. In his last moments the man gave the chaplain a ring, which today can be seen in the chapel of an American cemetery in Italy. Beneath it is the sign:

"A duplicate of the papal ring of Pope Pius VII, presented to the American forces by Donus Tarintino."

For over one hundred years that family had treasured the duplicate of a ring worn by a Pope. With similar respect we look upon "the ring of the Fisherman," no matter what Pope is wearing it. For that ring represents the authority which the Supreme Pontiff has over the flock of Christ.

There are various kinds of religious rings, each with its particular meaning and purpose. Blessed by the Church, they are sacramentals, means of reminding us of certain powers and promises. In every case a ring is regarded as an emblem of faithfulness. It has other rich meanings:

1. The Pope's ring is made of gold. Engraved on it are his name and the picture of St. Peter pulling up a net. The meaning is clear. To the Popes from Peter to Pius is given the care of the entire flock of Christ. As Pharao said to Joseph:

"I have appointed thee over the whole land of Egypt," and as the Egyptian king gave his own ring to Joseph as a pledge of that appointment, so God's Church presents the Fisherman's ring to the one with supreme authority.

The papal rings also had a practical purpose, to stamp and seal important documents. Even today many papal papers still conclude with the phrase "given under the ring of the Fisherman."

2. At his consecration a bishop receives a ring, which has the symbolism of a wedding ring. The bishop is wedded to his diocese. He takes the place of Christ as the bridegroom of His Church. This meaning is brought out in the words of the consecrating prelate as he places the ring on the finger of the newly consecrated bishop:

"Receive the ring, which is the seal of faith, in order that, adorned with spotless faith, thou mayest keep inviolately the spouse of God, namely His Holy Church."

The bishop expresses this symbolism in the prayer he says as he puts on his ring:

"Cover the fingers of my heart and my body, O Lord, with the beauty of virtue and with the sanctity of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. '

3. Nuns at their profession and some male religious also, receive a plain gold ring. Why? The ring is endless. It symbolizes the promise until death to serve God in poverty, chastity, and obedience. For religious it is also a symbol of their wedding to Christ.

4. Most of you are no doubt interested especially in the wedding ring. It also becomes an important sacramental when blessed by the Church, as it is during the marriage service. That blessing is as follows:

P. Our help is in the name of the Lord. R. Who made heaven and earth. P. O Lord, hear my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto Thee. P. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray:

"Bless, O Lord, this ring, which we bless in Thy name, that she who shall wear it, keeping true faith unto her husband, may abide in Thy peace and according to Thy will, and ever live in love given and taken. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

The priest sprinkles the ring or rings with holy water in the sign of the cross. As the groom places the ring on the finger of his bride, he repeats these words: "With this ring I thee wed and I plight unto thee my troth."

If it is a double-ring ceremony the bride says the same words as she places the ring on the finger of the groom.

These words differ in other lands and languages, but the meaning and symbolism is the same. May that wedding ring be a constant reminder of the promise made at the altar of God. May that ring represent, as it should constant endless faithfulness of husband and wife. May that ring bring to both the round, endless fullness of wedded joys.

5. There are miraculous medal rings, St. Christopher rings, rings for men, women, for young ladies, rings with a crucifix and other insignia upon them.

There is a special indulgence granted to those who kiss the ring of the Holy Father and the ring of the bishop. Yes, and there is special spiritual help and inspiration for all who wear a blessed ring and for all who regard such rings with reverence and devotion. Amen.


"Hitherto you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full." St. John, 16:24.

In the first months of his administration as president of the United States George Washington was much disturbed by questions of ceremony. How should he appear in public? How often? What kind of entertainment and parties should he give? What title should he take? How should he be introduced? On the one hand he did not want to act like a king, surrounded with peers and courtiers; on the other hand he did not want to degrade his high office by a total lack of ceremony that might render the person of the president ridiculous and the office of president contemptible.

Washington sought the advice of Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and others. Adams thought there should be much ceremony. Jefferson said there should be none at all. Hamilton favored a simple and moderate formality. This suggestion Washington adopted.

Today there is a great deal of ceremony connected with the presidency of the United States. His inauguration is an elaborate affair. His appearance before congress, his meeting of individuals and delegations, his travels, social and state engagements are surrounded with ceremony. We expect that.

How much more necessary is it that there be some ceremony in our relations and dealings with God? In the Old Testament God personally gave definite directions about divine worship and everything connected with it. In the New Testament Christ has left this up to His Church, although He himself used ceremonies at times. As a result, the Catholic Church has several official liturgical books. Chief among them are the Missal, which contains the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass; the Breviary or divine office which all in sacred orders are obliged to say every day; the Pontifical which describes the functions reserved to bishops, such as the blessing of holy oils, the consecration of churches, altars and so forth, and the administration of Confirmation and Holy Orders; the Ceremonial of Bishops, which sets forth the ceremonies to be observed in cathedrals, collegiate churches, and to a certain extent in other churches; the Martyrology which contains a catalogue of the saints of each day with a short summary of their virtues; and the Ritual which gives the sacred rites to be observed in the sacraments and other church functions.

Of this Ritual I would like to speak today. It is the priest's Book of Rites. It gives the words and ceremonies of those sacraments that can be given by a priest, and the blessings which the Church authorizes him to bestow on persons and things.

Emily Post tells us the proper thing to do and say on social occasions. Mother Church, in her Ritual, tells her priests what to do, tells them what is proper and prescribed in their work as mediators between God and man. The Ritual contains the rites of the sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Extreme Unction, Matrimony, and of Holy Communion outside of Mass; it has prayers for the visitation of the sick; it contains about 140 forms of blessing--for persons, religious articles, animals, food, machinery--for almost everything man needs and uses.

You generally see the smaller edition of the Ritual, which contains those portions most frequently used by the priest. This smaller book can be more conveniently carried on frequent and distant sick calls, and on other occasions when the complete volume would be unwieldy. I would like to give you some idea of the divisions and contents of the complete Ritual:

1. It begins with certain decrees of the Popes and a short chapter of general remarks on the administration of the sacraments. How to give the sacraments is then explained, with the prayers and ceremonies for each. There is a chapter on the visitation of the sick, with appropriate prayers and selections from the Gospels. The last blessing and the funeral service are then given. This first section closes with the sacrament of marriage and the churching of women.

2. Next come the blessings, some by the bishop only, others by the priest also. Following these are ceremonies, prayers, psalms and hymns for various feasts and processions, held for some particular need. There is an exorcism or ceremony for driving the devil out of those possessed. Then come directions for recording marriages, confirmations, baptisms, in the proper parish books.

3. To this Ritual proper are added two appendices and a supplement. First is a short form for blessing baptismal water; the ceremony when a priest is permitted to confirm, and to celebrate more than one Mass on the same day; a number of Litanies and blessings.

4. The second appendix comprises additional blessings, and a short supplement for priests in this country.

Although we have described on other Sundays many of the blessings bestowed by the Church, we would like to point out the variety and suitableness of the Ritual prayers. So numerous are these blessings that we must make a general classification:

a. The blessings of persons includes, for example, the blessings of pilgrims, of throats, of sick adults, of expectant women, and of happy young mothers. There are blessings of children of all ages and conditions.

b. Several of the blessings refer to religious articles: for a cross, a church, an organ, for bells, cords, pictures, statues and rosaries.

c. Another class of blessings is given to buildings: churches, schools, libraries, printing presses, homes--old and new.

d. There are prayers for bread, birds, beer, and almost every article found on the table.

e. We find blessings against tiny mice and tornadoes, for automobiles and typewriters. And then, to be sure that nothing is overlooked, Mother Church provides a blessing for all things, which can be used for anything not listed in her official books.

Try to understand and respect these official prayers of Mother Church. Amen.


"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." St. Luke, 1:28.

Dr. Recamier was a celebrated surgeon and society leader, who died in 1849. One day he called upon the Count Malet, a cavalry officer who had become a priest. The Abbe Malet was slightly ill and the doctor prescribed for him. As Recamier was about to leave he suddenly replaced his hat and cane on the table and exclaimed:

"I almost forgot something important."

"What is that?" asked the priest.

"I met with a misfortune," answered the doctor, "a misfortune that you can remedy."

"Well, let us hear it," said the sick priest.

"It is a fracture," exclaimed Recamier, "that you will know perfectly how to mend--a slight operation I beg you to perform."

With that the illustrious physician drew from his pocket a Rosary. A young medical student present at the time could not conceal his consternation at this proof of Recamier's piety. Recamier--the trusted physician of kings and princes, Recamier--whose reputation reached every corner of Europe--did he say the Rosary?

The doctor noticed the youth's amazement. He turned to the young man, smiled, and explained:

"Why, of course I say the Rosary. The Pope recites it. When I am uneasy about one of my cases, when I find that drugs are powerless, I address myself to Him who can cure anything and everything. Only I have recourse to diplomacy. The number of my occupations leaves me no time to pray as I should, so I take the Blessed Virgin for my intercessor. On my way to my patients I say a decade or two of the beads. There's nothing more easy, you see. I'm seated quietly in my carriage, I slip my hand into my pocket and I begin a conversation. The beads are my interpreter. Now, as I employ this interpreter somewhat often, he is weak and worn; so I have requested the Abbe Malet here to examine him, to diagnose his case, to perform an operation--in a word to cure him for me."

The priest laughed and took charge of the broken beads.

The practice of counting prayers on beads is as old as Christianity. St. Paul, the first hermit, who lived in the fourth century, recited three hundred "Our Fathers" daily, using little pebbles to count them. In time these counters were strung on a cord for convenience, and were called Pater Nosters.

The Rosary is also called the beads. The word "bead" is from the Anglo-Saxon word "bead" which means prayer. Beads are of different color, material, shape and size. The variety of Rosaries is almost without limit. Can we not see in this a spiritual significance? Just as the graces and blessings won through devotion to this powerful and popular sacramental are practically unlimited, so the form of the Rosary is greatly varied.

May we tell you again how to say this prayer. Strictly speaking, all that is essential is to say an Our Father and ten Hail Marys for each decade. In the full Rosary that would mean fifteen decades; in the five-decade, which is more common, the Our Father and ten Hail Marys are to be said five times.

In our country the more common method is to make the sign of the cross over oneself with the crucifix of the Rosary. After the Apostles' Creed, one recites an Our Father and three Hail Marys, usually announcing: "For an increase of faith, hope and charity."

These preliminaries are not essential. And now for the essentials and a word about various methods:

1. After the first mystery is announced, pray one Our Father and ten Hail Marys, thinking about that scene from the life of our Blessed Mother. Often 'Glory be to the Father, etc.' is added; it is not essential.

2. Instead of the mere names of the mysteries, many use books with prayers before and after each mystery. This little meditation at the announcement of each mystery is helpful to those who have difficulty in getting a clear picture of the scene from Scripture, or in keeping it in mind.

3. In some countries, especially among the Germans, there is the custom of adding a few words to explain the mystery after the Holy Name of Jesus in the Hail Mary. Thus they will add after the word Jesus in each Hail Mary: "Whom thou, O Virgin, didst conceive of the Holy Ghost." "Who didst rise from the dead."

To gain the Rosary indulgences the prayers must be said on a blessed set of beads, held in the hand, in the usual way. When said by a group, with some saying one part of each prayer and others answering, it is sufficient if one person, the leader, hold a Rosary. Those saying the Rosary together may perform light handwork in the meantime. Religious often do this.

I recall one woman asking whether she could say the Rosary while milking cows. We know it is impossible to hold the beads while milking. Rome answered that problem by declaring:

"If on account of manual labor or any other reasonable cause the faithful are hindered from holding the Rosary in their hand according to the prescribed form, they can gain the indulgences attached to it provided that when saying the prescribed prayer they carry the Rosary in any manner on their person."

Accordingly, you can say your Rosary while driving or washing the dishes or cleaning house. In fact, you can and should say the beads anywhere and everywhere.

This rich sacramental of Mother Church, this favorite devotion to our Blessed Mother, is the source of many spiritual favors. Mary has promised that the Rosary will save the world. Pray it alone; pray it in groups; pray it as a family. Wear out your beads by frequent use of them, as did the famous Dr. Recamier. Amen.

ST. CHRISTOPHER "The steps of man are guided by the Lord." Proverbs, 20:24.

You would hardly expect a salty sea captain, especially a non- Catholic skipper, to gush over a saint. Yet, the master of the giant liner, Queen Mary, gave St. Christopher the lion's share of credit for docking the huge steamship at New York in October of 1938, without the help of tugs.

With no tug available, because of a strike, Commodore Robert Irving, master of the Queen Mary, brought the mammoth ship to dock in a thrilling display of what the newspapers called "judgment, seamanship and nerve."

Non-Catholic Irving explains it:

"The weather conditions were ideal. It was high water and there was no wind. Even then I did not feel so certain about it, when I was swinging the Queen Mary toward the pier from the middle of the river. Then I took out my little gold medal of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, which I always carry in my pocket on a small chain. I looked at his kindly face and asked:

'Shall I do it?'

"And it seemed the saint smiled at me and replied:

'Carry on, old man, and you'll do it.'

"And I did."

New York papers praised the prowess of the daring captain, but he himself gave the credit to St. Christopher, a little statue of whom he has in his cabin, whose medal he carries with him always.

This is just one of so many notable instances of heavenly help obtained through the influence of this third-century saint, that we cannot question his power to help those who travel. According to tradition Christopher longed to serve "the greatest prince that was in the world." His search led him to an old hermit who assured the big-bodied and big-souled youth that the greatest prince was Jesus Christ, and that an ideal service would be to carry people over a dangerous river that had taken the lives of many.

Among those he carried across was Jesus Himself, who appeared to our saint in the form of a little child, a Child who became heavier and heavier as He was carried through the waves. When the stalwart saint told the little One how terribly heavy He was, Jesus answered:

"Christopher, marvel not; for thou has not only borne all the world upon thee, but thou hast borne Him who created and made all the world, upon thy shoulders. I am Jesus Christ, the King whom thou servest in this work."

In these legendary words of Christ we see the reason for devotion to St. Christopher as the Patron of Travelers the heavenly protector of those who must journey from place to place. This story explains why he is pictured carrying a Child on his shoulders. All the assistance which the saints secure for us is merely part of their service of the Sovereign of heaven and earth.

Just as the wonders which St. Anthony performed on earth, continue from heaven, so the work of this faithful ferryman continue from heaven.

He is the special helper of those who ride in automobiles. With millions more cars on the highways, with millions more drivers, and millions more chances of crippling and killing crashes, we need some sort of celestial safety director to keep us from harm. With the mounting toll of accident and death on our highways, heaven has to take a hand.

We recommend St. Christopher for the role. In his own right this third-century martyr has no power to help us, but as a special friend of God he receives from the Almighty the duty and privilege of guiding motorists. He who served Christ on this earth by transporting travelers across a turbulent torrent, continues to serve Christ by protecting those who place their trust in Christ and this Christ-bearer.

But do not indulge the too-common presumption that once we have pinned or sewed a medal or badge of St. Christopher in our car, or about our necks, or on our watch chain, we can flaunt the rules of safety and defy the dictates of motoring reason. Someone has said: "As soon as you speed more than sixty miles an hour, St. Christopher gets out of the car."

He will not be responsible for needless speeding. Neither will he be concerned about reckless drivers and road hogs. Sitting beside you in your car, St. Christopher tells you:

"Observe the traffic rules. Watch the 'Stop' and 'Slow' signs. Be careful on curves. Watch what you are doing. Know the rules of the road and keep them. As for the rest, I'll keep you from harm."

Do accidents ever happen to those who carry a St. Christopher medal? They do. At the same time we know positively of many miraculous escapes from injury and death, escapes which can be explained only by some supernatural protection. World War Two witnessed many such marvelous examples of his protection, given not only to Catholics, but to Protestants and Jews also.

To those of you who travel, especially by car, I recommend devotion to this helper on the highway. Place his medal in a secure place where you can see it--in your machine, about your neck, on your key or watch chain. Give him a thought and a prayer as you start on your journey. Pray his protection. Heed his directions.

Let me give you a snatch from the prayer for blessing an automobile.

"O God . . . hear our prayers, and bless this car with Thy right hand; bid Thy angels stand by it, to save and protect from every danger all those who travel in it."

If you travel much you will do well to honor St. Christopher. His medal is a sacramental. On that medal is Christ being carried on St. Christopher's shoulders. Show love and devotion to Christ and this sturdy saint will be concerned about you. Amen.


"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its strength, what shall it be salted with? St. Matthew, 5:13.

The Bible records many wonders performed by the Prophet Eliseus. Among them is one worked in the city of Jericho. There the prophet healed the waters of a well with salt. Let the sacred writer tell it:

"And the men of the city said to Eliseus: 'Behold the situation of this city is very good, as thou, my lord, seest; but the waters are very bad, and the ground barren.'

"And he said: 'Bring me a vessel, and put salt into it.'

"And when they had brought it, He went out to the spring of the waters and cast the salt into it, and said: 'Thus saith the Lord: I have healed these waters, and there shall be no more in them death and barrenness.'

"And the waters were healed unto this day, according to the word of Eliseus which he spoke." 4 Kings, 2:19-22.

The people of the Orient also used salt to clean and toughen the skin of a new-born child, as we read in Ezechiel, 16:4. Strewing salt upon land meant that it was being dedicated to the gods. The Jewish law prescribed salt for the sacrifices and for the loaves of proposition, according to Leviticus, 2:13. In the New Testament salt symbolizes wisdom, as we read in St. Matthew, S:[13].

Blessed salt is a sacramental of the Church, one rich in meaning and symbolism. There are two kinds of blessed salt--baptismal salt and the blessed salt. We might mention five uses of salt in the ceremonies of the Church:

1. In Baptism the priest blesses some salt and puts a small amount into the mouth of the child with these words: "Receive the salt of wisdom; let it be to thee a token of mercy unto life everlasting."

There follows a prayer in which we ask God graciously to look upon the person to be baptized--"who tastes this first nutriment of salt, suffer him no longer to hunger for want of being filled with heavenly meat."

2. Another salt is exorcised and blessed in the preparation of holy water for the Asperges that precedes the High Mass on Sunday, and for use in homes, at weddings and funerals, in blessing religious articles, and in other ways. Baptismal salt and blessed salt may both be used repeatedly without a new blessing.

3. The appendix of the Roman Ritual gives a blessing of salt for the use of animals.

4. Salt is also blessed and mixed in the water, together with ashes and wine, used in the consecration of a church.

5 Salt may also be used, although it need not be blessed, for cleansing holy oil from the fingers.

From a material standpoint salt is practically a necessity. The Roman army allowed each soldier a portion of salt. Later he received an allowance of money to buy salt. From this comes our English word 'salary.' In certain parts of Africa and Tibet cakes of salt have been used as money. In by-gone days salt was offered to a guest before all other foods; it was a symbol of friendship. That may be the origin of the superstition that spilling salt is a bad sign.

Such an important element will also have deep spiritual symbolism. We will first note its meaning in the baptismal ceremony:

1. Salt is pungent and biting: this reminds the person being baptized that as a Christian he must be prepared for sufferings and trials.

2. Salt dissolves quickly in the mouth: these sufferings will be of short duration.

3. Salt gives a pleasant taste to food: the one being baptized must relish, must have a taste for spiritual things.

4. Salt preserves things from decay and corruption: the corruption of the soul is sin, which is taken away completely by Baptism.

5. Salt is also a symbol of wisdom: that is what Christ meant when He said to His apostles:

"You are the salt of the earth." St. Matthew, 5:13.

That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote:

"Let your speech, while always attractive, be seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." Col. 4:6.

6. Since it cannot corrupt and even keeps from corruption, salt is a sign of everlasting life. One can understand how the devil hates salt, since it is an emblem of eternity and immortality. This thought is brought out in the blessing of salt for holy water. It speaks of "salt from which the evil spirit has been cast out for the health of the faithful, and that there may be banished from the place in which thou hast been sprinkled, every kind of hallucination and wickedness, or craft of devilish deceit, and every unclean spirit."

How fittingly that holy water is used to drive out, by the power of God, all the evil spirits. That is why you take holy water upon entering church and make with it the holy sign of the cross upon yourself. You are washing away, driving away all evil thoughts, all influence of the evil one, especially while you are adoring the Holy One in His temple.

Just as that faithful man of God, Eliseus, purified the waters of the well at Jericho by putting salt into it, so your man of God. your priest, by blessing holy water with salt and by sprinkling it on the people as he marches down the aisle of church, drives away the devil.

This humble yet helpful sacramental of salt must make us realize anew that Mother Church, guided by God, makes use of the simplest of God's creatures to be the instruments of God's graces and helps. Amen.


"Command the children of Israel that they bring thee the purest oil of the olives . . . that a lamp may burn always, in the tabernacle of the testimony." Exodus, 27:20.

In one of the wild wastelands of Arizona some years ago there stood a tiny cabin. In it lived a man who was a friend of man. His well contained the only drinkable water for miles around. Every night this friendly fellow would light a lantern and hang it high on a post before this door, just in case someone needed water.

"Why such waste of time and oil and energy?" people wondered as they journeyed by.

One sizzling summer night, however, there was a feeble knock at the cabin door. The owner opened to find a traveler near exhaustion for want of water. From far away the man had caught sight of the lantern. With what strength remained he had struggled toward the light and to the life-giving liquid that let him live.

Nineteen hundred years ago at a certain Last Supper in a second- story room the greatest Friend man ever had lighted a lamp whose flame has been caught up and carried around the world. That lamp was to lead men to an exhaustless well of spiritual help and blessing--the Holy Eucharist. Wandering through the wastelands of the world, men, seeing that light, the light of the sanctuary lamp, know that there they will find strength and refreshment for the journey. There the Giver and the Gift are one.

For almost twenty centuries that light has been burning. Mother Church did not always require a light before the altar where Christ was tabernacled, but always the symbolism and deep religious meaning of the light was evident--it stood for Christ. Where was Christ? In the tabernacle. What could be more significant of that Presence than the sanctuary lamp?

Here is a sacramental of the Church which has inspired glorious prose and uplifting poetry. Here is a sacramental that has led many a soul-thirsty wayfarer to the richest source of spiritual help. Here is a sacramental that has consoled the sad, spurred the discouraged, lifted the sinful, and encouraged the virtuous. Here is a sacramental that deserves particular attention because it stands sentinel beside the dwelling of the Divine Guest in our parish church. Here is a sacramental that should be especially attractive to one who loves his parish church, and loves the One who makes His home there. That sanctuary lamp represents Christ, the Light of the world, who has told us:

"I am the light of the world. He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life." St. John, 8:12.

Mother Church demands that a lamp burn perpetually before the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is preserved. Never, neither day nor night, may that light remain extinguished. It is kept there in imitation of the perpetual fire which God ordered to burn always upon the altar. (Lev. 6:13). It is a perpetuation, with richer meaning, of the lamp which God commanded to be kept burning at all times. (Exod. 27:21). It is not only an ornament; it is a means of worship. It is a mark of honor, a reminder, living, loving and inspiring, of the presence of Christ. This sanctuary lamp is so important that Mother Church has very definite rules regarding it.

One rule is that, if the income of the church permits, more than one light should burn before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, but always in uneven numbers, like three, five, seven or more. In most churches there is only one. Usually the lamp is suspended from the ceiling by a chain or rope, or it is hung from a bracket or placed in a bracket beside the altar. Any kind of durable material may be used for the lamp.

Because of its rich meaning olive oil is prescribed for this altar light. Olive oil is a symbol of purity, peace, and godliness. Where, more than in the presence of Christ, do we find the strength for purity, the breath of peace, the means to godliness? Conditions of climate in our country often make it impractical to use pure olive oil. Accordingly it is permitted to use a mixture containing between 60 and 65 per cent of pure oil. For good reasons the bishop may permit the use of some other vegetable oil or even petroleum. Gas and electric lights are not permitted as substitutes.

It would be a grave sin for the priest or one responsible for keeping the light, to leave the lamp unlighted for any considerable time, say a day or several nights. Should you notice that the lamp is not burning, tell the pastor or the sisters, or those in charge. But first be positive that it is not burning.

Much more important is it that you keep the sanctuary lamp burning in your heart, that you feed and fan the flame that leads you to the altar, the flame that reminds you of the blessed Presence.

With St. Augustine we will see in the sanctuary lamp an image of the three Christian virtues:

1. The clearness of that light is the clearness of faith, which enlightens our minds, clears up our doubts, and answers all the questions of concern to man.

2. The dancing flame, reaching ever upward, is an image of Christian hope, stretching up toward God, aspiring toward heaven.

3. The warmth of that flame is an image of love, love for the God- man present on the altar, love toward our fellow human beings, for love of whom He died, for love of whom He arranged to stay in all the tabernacles of the world.

Next time you enter your church look long at the lamp in the sanctuary. Look back to the night when it was lighted. Look lovingly to the tabernacle whose beacon it is. Look at our Lord. It is the light in His house. Amen.


"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation." Isaias, 61:10.

On July 21, 1906, Bill Reilly, an eighteen-year old Catholic soldier, was decorated by the President of the United States. He owes his decoration to the scapular which he wore constantly. On the night of April 10 of the previous spring the two regiments of General Wood were resting after routing a band of Filipinos. After this short rest they were to resume the march. They were already folding their tents, when a wounded horse galloped into the camp. They examined the animal and found under the saddle a message:

"Don't depart before daybreak; the Filipinos are lying in ambush."

General Wood took the advice. In the morning his men found fourteen of his messengers horribly mutilated. Among them was Bill Reilly. He was still living, though unconscious. His life had been spared by the Filipinos. Why?

About his neck Reilly wore his scapular. The Catholic Filipinos out of respect for the scapular spared his life. Reilly was thus enabled to get the message through that saved the entire regiment of 2,500 Americans.

The scapular is much more important as a means of saving souls. It is a popular and powerful sacramental. The scapular is a badge of religious membership. It consists of two pieces of cloth, one of which is worn on the breast and the other on the back. The two pieces are joined by bands or strings passing over the shoulders. The word is derived from the Latin "scapula" which means shoulder-blade.

A scapular gives its wearer a share in the merits, prayers and spiritual benefits of the group whose badge it is. In some cases it makes the wearer a sort of lay member of some great religious order.

In some religious orders like the Benedictines and Carmelites an outer or additional garment is worn. It is called a scapular. It is a long, wide piece of cloth hanging from the shoulders before and behind to the shoetops. In the Middle Ages devout lay people were allowed to become oblates of these orders. That meant they remained in the world but assisted in many of the monastic services and shared in the benefits of the order. As a pledge of this privilege they were permitted to wear the scapular. With time, and for convenience, this was made smaller.

Today we have the large and small scapular. The former is about 5 by 2-1/2 inches and is worn, for example, by the world-wide Third Order of St. Francis. The small scapular is about 2 by 2-1/2 inches. The scapular of Mount Carmel is about that size.

There are many general regulations with regard to the wearing of this spiritual garment:

1. The scapular may be given to any Catholic, even to a baby.

2. It may be given in any place, even in a sick room.

3. It must be worn in such a way that one part hangs on the breast, the other part on the back. Over the shoulders must be bands connecting the two pieces of cloth. If worn or carried in any other way, the indulgences are not gained. It may be worn under or over all the clothing, or between the under and outer clothing.

4. When a person has been invested, it is not necessary to bless a new scapular in case the old one is worn out or lost. The wearer simply secures a new one and puts it on. However, one usually has it blessed.

5. The scapular must be worn constantly to share in certain spiritual benefits. Putting it aside for a short time, like an hour or a day, will not deprive of the blessings. If put off for a longer time, one loses all the benefits during that time. The scapular medal has the same indulgences.

There are about sixteen approved scapulars. The more common are the white, representing the Most Holy Trinity; the red, emblematic of the Passion of our Lord; the brown or Mount Carmel scapular in honor of our Blessed Mother; the black, in honor of the Seven Sorrows of Mary; the blue of the Immaculate Conception; the brown of the Franciscan Third Order.

Aptly has the scapular been called "The Queen's Uniform." If earthly kings and queens honor their deserving subjects by investing them in special orders and companies, if membership in these orders carries with it special privileges and the right to wear the distinctive badge of that group, and if that badge or uniform is respected by all the king's men and all the queen's women, surely it is most proper and reasonable that the glorious Queen of heaven and earth, our Blessed Mother, should have special groups of her faithful children on earth who become members officially and thus obtain the right to many spiritual privileges and the right to wear some distinctive garb.

Some idea of the favors possible can be gathered from the prayer as the priest invests with the scapular of Mount Carmel:

"Receive this blessed habit; praying the most holy Virgin that by her merits thou mayest wear it without stain; and that she may guard thee from all evil, and bring thee to life everlasting.... By the power granted me, I admit thee to the participation of all the spiritual good works, which through the gracious help of Jesus Christ are performed by the Religious of Mount Carmel.... May the Creator of heaven and earth. Almighty God, bless (cross) thee; who hath deigned to unite thee to the confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. We beseech her, in the hour of thy death, to crush the head of the old serpent; so that thou mayest in the end win the everlasting palm and crown of the heavenly inheritance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

May many of you be like Bill Reilly. May you wear the Queen's uniform--the scapular--faithfully and thoughtfully. May it be a means of many graces, the means also of the greatest grace everlasting life. Amen.


"And bearing the cross for himself, he went forth to the place called the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him." St. Mark. 19:17

The French call it "The Holy Road." Not very long, it runs from the tiny town of Bar de Duc to the mighty fortress of Verdun, Verdun- -which the German army in World War One wanted to capture at any cost, Verdun--which the French were determined to hold at any cost.

When the battle began the railroads were wrecked, and supplies for the French had to be hauled over the road from Bar de Duc to Verdun. Day and night for three cruel months 12,000 trucks rumbled up to Verdun, loaded with soldiers, food, guns and ammunition. And daily 12,000 trucks rumbled back, loaded with wounded and weary Poilus. It is said that over this highway, more soldiers traveled never to return, than over any other road in the world. It was a road to death; it was a road to sacrifice; but it was a road to victory. France calls it "The Holy Road."

Christianity also has its holy road, the path over which Christ carried His cross to Calvary. It is a road to sacrifice, a road to death, but decidedly a road to victory. At the end of that road Christ won a complete victory over the enemies of our souls. He saved us. We Catholics like to think about the holy way that Jesus walked. The Way of the Cross is our holy road.

Just as the French recall the sacrifices of their heroes whenever they think about "The Holy Road," whenever they walk along it, so we think of the sacrifices of our Hero when we stop to think and pray before the fourteen scenes which mark the principal points along the path where Christ carried His cross. This devotion is also called The Stations of the Cross from the stations or crosses before which it was made. These are usually attached to the inside walls of every Catholic church. These wooden crosses are the essential part of the Stations; they must be blessed before one can gain the indulgence.

The story of the Way of the Cross goes back to the first Good Friday, when Christ's followers began to tread the very steps He trod for them. In the early centuries Christians from all over the world traveled to the Holy Land to visit the spots hallowed by the footsteps of our Lord, Particularly they wanted to walk along the holy road where Jesus walked. But when Jerusalem fell into the fanatical hands of the Moslems, this devotion became dangerous, difficult, and often impossible. Mother Church decided that the same devotion could be performed in one's own parish church.

From the very beginning the Franciscans promoted this practice. It was soon indulgenced by the Holy See, at first only for Franciscans and groups attached to our Order. In 1726 Pope Benedict XIII extended the indulgences to all the faithful.

Because for the past seven centuries the followers of St. Francis have been the official guardians of the holy places, they alone were permitted for several hundred years to erect the Stations officially. Today all bishops have this power. With a very special permission bishops may delegate it to their priests. However, it is still customary to ask a Franciscan to bless each newly erected Way of the Cross. There are two reasons for this: the burning love of St. Francis for the passion of Christ, and the seven centuries of labor, service, suffering and martyrdom render by the followers of the Little Poor Man as official keepers of the sacred spots in Palestine.

Although the number varied through the years, today there are fourteen stations Most of these are described in the Gospels. A few are not, like our Savior's falls, His meeting with His Blessed Mother, and the story of Veronica. These incidents have been handed down by tradition, a sound source of history.

The Stations may begin on either side of the church. If the figure of Christ faces the right, the Stations move toward the right. If Christ faces the left, they start to the left. Sometimes Stations are erected in the open air.

The indulgences of the Way of the Cross are some of the richest in the gift of Mother Church. Every time you make the Stations you may gain a plenary indulgence. A further plenary indulgence may be gained if the Stations are made on the same day one receives Holy Communion. Or this plenary indulgence is gained if the Stations are said ten times in a month, with Holy Communion received once after completing the ten times.

To gain these graces one is not bound to read a meditation or prayer at each Station. The following is necessary:

1. One must move from station to station.

2. One must stop at each Station and think for a brief time about the passion of our Lord in general, or about the scene pictured or represented.

3. If, on account of the crowd or physical inability, one cannot move about, it suffices to turn toward each Station slightly. In our country it is customary for the priest to go around the stations while the people remain in their pews.

So eager is Mother Church that everyone think of the Way of the Cross and gain its blessings, that she permits certain priests to attach the Station Indulgence to a crucifix of solid material. With such an indulgenced crucifix in hand, when for any reason one cannot make the Stations in church, the faithful may gain the indulgences by saying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be twenty times--fourteen for the Stations, five in honor of the five wounds of our Lord, and one for the intention of the Holy Father. Printed pictures in a prayer book or on a chart cannot be used for the Way of the Cross.

This Holy Road is a holy sacramental. It gives the spiritually thrilling experience of walking with our Lord along the road to Calvary. It helps you think of what He went through for you. It helps you realize some of the love He showed in dying for you. It helps you return some of that love. Amen.


"Render to all whatever is their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; taxes to whom taxes are due; fear to whom fear is due; honor to whom honor is due." Romans, 13:7.

A pastor in the Middle West recently bought a two-foot statue of St. Joseph for the sisters' convent. When the statue was delivered he placed it on top of the ice-box temporarily, until he would have a chance to present it to the good sisters.

The colored housekeeper at the rectory, who is not a Catholic, was entranced with the beauty of the statue. The assistant pastor took it upon himself to explain who was represented.

"That is a statue of St. Joseph," he told her. "It is for the sisters' home. They are especially devoted to St. Joseph, who was the protector and guardian of the Blessed Mother, the model of all women religious."

"And is that Jesus he is holding?" asked the housekeeper.

"Yes, that is the Christ-Child," the priest explained.

"St. Joseph was his foster-father. Notice the kindly but strong features of the saint. Everybody likes St. Joseph."

And then with sincerity she exclaimed:

"I like him, too, even though I just met him."

That image of the head of the Holy Family was serving one of its principal purposes--to teach, to help instruct. Images have many other purposes, which we will point out after we have shown the foundation or reason for having statues at all. They are sacramentals blessed by Mother Church We have statues of our Lord, our Blessed Mother and of the saints. These figures in stone and bronze and marble and even plastic remind us of the holy people they represent. St. Paul told the Romans to render honor to whom honor was due. Honor certainly is due to Christ. In a different and lower degree honor is also due to those heroic men and women who tried to follow Christ. That is the basis, the principle for our veneration of the sculptured likenesses. Let me explain some of the purposes of this practice:

1. With statues we adorn our churches and homes. Go from any Catholic to any non-Catholic church building, or vice versa, and immediately you notice the difference. Beauty, a feeling of companionship and company, are experienced in the Catholic house of worship. This homelike feeling is due principally to the Presence of Christ, but the warm life-like statues add to that considerably.

Even your non-Catholic and your pagan ornaments his dwellings with products of the chisel. Yes, we even find statues of Catholics embellishing some Protestant Churches. In the church of St. John the Divine in New York stands a statue of our own St. Francis of Assisi.

2. Then we use these sculptorings to instruct. The state and the city erect statues of Washington and Lincoln to teach patriotism and loyalty. The Church erects statues of Christ, His Mother and the saints to teach her citizens loyalty to God.

During the many ages before the invention of printing, from what did the Catholic study but from the figures of the saints and holy scenes? My little story of the non-Catholic housekeeper who learned in a few minutes to appreciate and even to be attracted to St. Joseph by means of an expressive statue of him, is an example of the instructiveness of such images.

3. Furthermore, statues spur us on to put in to practice what we have learned about the people represented. Don't you want to be more big-souled, more honest, more unselfish, every time you look at a statue of Lincoln or Washington? Don't you feel a surge of loyalty to and pride in your glorious United States? Just so, don't you want to be more modest and pureminded, more thoughtful of God and of others, every time you see a carving of Christ and His saints? Who can gaze upon a marble reproduction of the crucifixion without experiencing the same feeling as the penitent thief hanging by the dying God-Man? Who ever cast his eyes upon the sweet face of a Madonna, chiselled in immaculate marble, and did not wish to share the priceless purity that beams from her motherly countenance?

Were it not so often repeated we would feel it useless to answer the charge that the veneration of statues is idolatry. The simplest Catholic will tell you that he does not worship or adore or in any way honor the actual marble or stone of that figure. He honors the one represented. Let Mother Church explain her stand officially. We quote from the Council of Trent:

"The images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and the other saints, are to be kept especially in churches. Due honor and veneration is to be paid to them, not that we believe there is any divinity or power in them, not that anything is to be asked of them, not that any trust is to be placed in them, as the heathens of old trusted in their idols...on the contrary, the honor we pay to images is referred to the originals whom they represent; so that by means of images which we kiss and before which we bow, we adore Jesus Christ and we venerate His saints."

Mother Church stresses the importance of religious atmosphere and environment, not only in the house of God, but also in the homes of the children of God. Yet, how many Catholic homes are barren, totally barren of religious images of any kind. What is the cause?

It is not ignorance, for you know full well that a little Catholic air in your home is good for your spiritual health. Catholic atmosphere makes the home peaceful and happy. The cause is indifference and thoughtlessness.

Perhaps these few remarks on the usefulness and reasonableness of statues will induce you to put one or the other in your home, will lead you to appreciate the beautiful statues we have here in church, will prompt you to remember more often and more devoutly the holy people they represent. Amen.


"How terrible is this place! This is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven." Genesis, 28:17.

In the history of the Catholic Church in Australia we read this inspiring story. The first priest to have full ecclesiastical faculties there was the Very Rev. Father O'Flynn. Bigotry, promoted by British dislike of the Church, lead to his expulsion. On the morning he had to leave he gathered all the Catholics in the home of William Davis at Sidney to offer Mass for the last time. He was forced to hurry his departure, and as a result left the Blessed Sacrament behind in a cedar tabernacle.

Day after day for two years the Catholics came to that house to visit and adore their Eucharistic God. The little house was cared for like a sanctuary. There was no priest within 6,000 miles, no priest to give them Communion, no priest to absolve them from their sins. Daily they prayed for a priest.

After two years their prayer was heard. Two priests finally were able to come. They found the Sacred Species still in that house-- incorrupt. Today on the site of the Davis home stands the imposing St. Patrick's Cathedral. In 1928 this edifice was the center of the World's Eucharistic Congress.

The tabernacle is the center of all Catholic life and worship. No matter where it is set up, whether in the lowly mission chapel or in the lofty cathedral, it is the house of our Lord and we honor it. The Catholics of Sidney loved their Lord in the simple cedar tabernacle as much as in the costly cathedral.

The tabernacle is the receptacle, the case or cupboard-like box in which the Blessed Sacrament is kept on the altar. It is made of wood or steel, with a door or doors opening toward the people. Its inside is lined with silk, with gold or silverplate, or at least gilded.

On the outside the tabernacle must be completely covered, if possible, with a canopy or veil, or at least with a veil hung before the door. This covering veil gives the appearance of a tent. Tabernaculum means tent.

1. That meaning goes back into the Old Testament. There the tabernacle meant the movable tent-like sanctuary of the Hebrews before the building of Solomon's temple. It is sometimes spoken of as 'the tent of meeting,' 'the tent of testimony,' 'the dwelling,' 'the house of God,' and 'the sanctuary.'

We must distinguish the tabernacle proper from the tent in which it was enclosed. The larger enclosure was about 170 feet long and 85 feet wide. In it was the tabernacle proper which was about 50 feet long and about 17 feet wide. These are approximate figures to give some idea of the proportion. Both the larger and smaller enclosures were hung with curtains. The tabernacle proper contained two sections: the western section, called the "Holy Place," contained the altar of incense, the golden candlestick, and the table of shewbreads. The eastern section, called the "Holy of Holies," contained the Ark of the Covenant with the propitiatory and the cherubim.

The original tabernacle, built by skilled workmen selected by God, was dedicated on the first day of the second year after the flight from Egypt. Henceforth, under the special care of the Levites, it accompanied the Israelites through their wanderings in the desert. It disappeared about 600 years before Christ.

2. Its place was taken by the much more precious Christian tabernacle. As late as the Middle Ages there was no universal custom as to where the Blessed Sacrament was kept. Two things were always demanded: that the Sacred Host be kept in a secure place, that it be a clean place. The Sacred Host was kept either in the sacristy; in a wall cupboard of the choir; in a dove-like pyx hanging over the altar by a chain; or in a cupboard-like box placed above the altar.

From the sixteenth century it became more general to keep the Blessed Sacrament in a receptacle that rose above the altar table. Today our tabernacles vary in size, shape, color, material and design. More and more bishops are requiring a solid, burglar- proof, safe-like box. The key to the tabernacle is the special charge and care of the priest, who is personally responsible for its safe-keeping. He is also responsible for the regulations regarding the decoration and adornment of the tabernacle.

But all tabernacles, no matter how they vary in size and value, are precious in this that they contain the Lord of heaven and earth. Here lives the God-Man, body and blood, soul and divinity, waiting to pour out His blessings upon those who approach Him. Here is the same Jesus who lived, labored, suffered and died for all of us. Here is the same Jesus who said the night before He died:

"This is my body--this is my blood."

Here is the same Jesus who said He would give us Himself as our food, the same Jesus who said He would be with us to the end of time.

He has chosen to stay with us in that narrow home. It is a holy place, It is the most sacred place on earth. It is precious to us in every way. We can prove our appreciation in two ways particularly:

1. By visiting our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible. Just as the tabernacle is the architectural center of our church structure, just as the tabernacle is the center and focus of all our ceremonies, so it should be the center of our lives. A life centered about the Eucharist is a godly life.

2. We can show our appreciation of Him who lives here by deeming it a privilege to contribute to the maintenance of His church, to the decoration and adornment of His altar home.

May the tabernacle be the center of our thoughts, the center of our attention while we are in church, especially during Mass, yes, the very center of our life as Catholics. Amen.


"And I will make them a blessing round about my hill: and I will send down the rain in its season, there shall be showers of blessings." Ezechiel, 34:26.

One of the most impressive and picturesque pageants of the South is the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet, held each year at the beginning of the shrimp-seining season. The ceremony is held in late July or early August. Hundreds of shrimpers and oystermen who live and labor along the beautiful bayous and bays of Louisiana bring their ships to some central point for the blessing of Mother Church.

The quaint custom goes back to the banks of old Brittany where the women and children would gather on the shore to pray for their men-folk as they launched out to sea on their hazardous tasks. The dangers in Louisiana are less than those of Brittany, but the custom remains.

On the morning of the big day, as I recall it, the flagship "Jitterbug" was transformed into an altar of God. On the decks of their own boats clustered around, hundreds of fishermen and their families knelt devoutly during the entire Mass celebrated by Father Ambrose Kroger, a Franciscan priest, superior at the time of the many missions of the Franciscan Fathers along the levee from New Orleans to the gulf. From the deck of the "Jitterbug" Father gave his blessing to all the ships, between 200 and 300 of them. This same custom is carried out in many other fishing communities of the French South.

The blessing of ships is just one of many blessings of things provided by Mother Church. We might tell you something about this particular ceremony which is a rather elaborate and lengthy one. The Ritual has a blessing for a ship of any kind and then a special blessing for a fishing-boat. After reciting Psalm 8, the priest says this prayer:

"Graciously hearken to our prayers, O Lord, and with Thy holy hand bless this boat and all who sail hereon, as Thou didst deign to bless Noah's ark in its course during the deluge. Stretch forth to them, O Lord, Thy right hand, as Thou didst reach out to Peter when he walked upon the sea. Send Thy holy angel from heaven to guard this boat and ever keep it safe from every peril, together with all on board. And when threatened dangers have been removed, comfort Thy servants with a calm voyage and the desired harbor. And having successfully transacted their business, recall them again when the time comes to the happiness of country and home. Thou who livest and reignest forevermore. Amen."

The priest then reads a lengthy excerpt from the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 21, verses 1 to 24. The ceremony concludes with another short appropriate prayer.

This solemn blessing of a fishing-boat will give you some idea of the pointed beauty of the Church's blessing of things, of irrational things, if you will, but the things which God has created, the material things which we are to use in working out our salvation.

There is a blessing for animals in general, and two blessings for sick animals; a blessing for bees, for silkworms, and another for the salt and the oats for animals. Mother Church even calls down God's favor upon the stable, reminding us that the Son of God was born in a stable.

Are you interested in the sick? We have a blessing for the linens they use, for a stretcher, an ambulance, a wheelchair, another for wine that the sick may need, and still another for medicine.

Are you concerned about the gifts of the table? Mother Church blesses bread and cakes; she blesses beer and ale; she blesses cheese and butter and lard. She blesses grapes and meat.

Are you a farmer? You will recall that we spoke about the Sacramentals of Agriculture. The Ritual calls down a benediction upon seed, upon fire, upon young crops and vineyards, upon fields and pastures, upon the granary and the harvest, upon the mill, the well and the fountain.

You may be interested in industrial things. The Church provides a prayer for a bell that is not destined for the church or sanctuary, for a bridge, for a lime-kiln and a blast-furnace, for a railway and even a special blessing for railway cars.

We have a beautiful blessing for an airplane, for an automobile, for a fire-engine and for a dynamo. Mother Church goes into the library and blesses it; she goes into the print shop and blesses the presses, the typewriters, and the tools we use. The blessing for telegraph instruments is a lengthy one.

And then, lest she may have overlooked something which her children use, some object that is unimportant to some, but valuable and necessary in the eyes of her sons and daughters, Mother Church provides a blessing for all things, a blessing which may be used by any priest for the blessing of anything which has no special prayer in the Ritual. That blessing of all things is as follows:

"Our help is in the name of the Lord."

"Who made heaven and earth."

"The Lord be with you."

"And with thy spirit."

"Let us pray--

O God, by whose word all things are made holy, pour out Thy blessing on this creature. And grant that whoever uses it in accordance with Thy will and Thy law, and with a spirit of thanksgiving, may experience by Thy power health of body and protection of soul, as he invokes Thy most holy name. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

The priest makes the sign of the cross during this prayer, as he does in the blessings of the Church, and then sprinkles the article or articles with holy water.

What thoughtfulness on the part of Mother Church to set aside these unthinking things, these irrational things, for the sole service of God! Learn to appreciate and to use intelligently and lovingly these bountiful blessings of the Church. Amen.


"All kings of the earth shall adore Him: all nations shall serve Him." Psalm 71:11.

Boy kings you might call them. They take part in an expressive ceremony in the city of Cologne, Germany, on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. You will recall that the relics of the Three Kings who came to worship our Lord are preserved in the Cathedral of Cologne. Their venerated remains are carried in solemn procession through the aisles.

After this devotional service, directed to honor the royal three who honored our Infant Savior, three little boys are dressed in the traditional garb of the Magi, in all the colors and trappings of the East. Staff in hand, the trio trudge from home to home, serenading each with sacred hymns, reminding those within that thousands of years ago three wise men journeyed over land and sea to visit and adore the Infant Christ. In return the people load these little fellows with gifts of sweets and good things of all kinds. The gifts are in reverse, as it were, but they serve to recall the precious gifts offered to the Infant Son of God by these men from afar.

This is a childlike custom. Mother Church also has her official way of recalling the coming of the wise men. In addition to her solemn office and Mass of the day, she has provided what is called the Three Kings' Blessing, also known as the Blessing of Homes on Epiphany.

This blessing is a significant sacramental, source and means of many graces and spiritual helps. In certain communities and among certain nationalities the priest blesses each home. In most religious houses he blesses each room. At the top of the door in places thus blessed the celebrant or an assistant writes the following legend:


This testifies that on the Feast of the Three Kings who traditionally are known as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, this house, this room was blessed. Here is the ceremony:

The priest first blesses the chalk:

"Our help is in the name of The Lord."

"Who made heaven and earth."

"The Lord be with you."

"And with thy spirit."

"Let us pray--

Bless, O Lord God, this creature of chalk, that it may be helpful to mankind; and grant that through the invocation of Thy holy name those who use it or who write with it over the doors of their homes the holy names of Caspar. Melchior, and Balthasar, may obtain health of body and safety of soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

As the priest enters the home, he says:

"Peace be to this house."

"And to all who dwell therein."

He continues with this antiphon:

"Wise men came from the East to Bethlehem, to adore the Lord: and opening their treasures they offered Him precious gifts, gold for the great king, incense for the true God, and myrrh for His burial, Alleluia."

Sprinkling the room with holy water and incensing it, the priest recites the Magnificat--"My soul doth magnify the Lord." After the Magnificat the priest repeats the Antiphon above. He then prays aloud the first two words of the Our Father, continuing quietly until the petition:

"And lead us not into temptation."

"But deliver us from evil."

"All they from Saba shall come,

"Bringing gold and frankincense."

"O Lord, hear my prayer;

"And let my cry come unto Thee."

"The Lord be with you;

"And with thy spirit."

"Let us pray--

O God, who on this day by the leading of a star didst manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith, may be brought to the contemplation of the beauty of Thy majesty. Through the same Lord Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen."

He recites this antiphon:

"Be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy Light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee, Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary."

There follow the liturgical response to the antiphon just recited:

"And the Gentiles shall walk in Thy light, and kings in the brightness of Thy rising;

"And the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee."

"Let us pray--

Bless, O Lord, Almighty God, this home, that in it there may be health, chastity, strength of victory, humility, goodness, and industry, a fulness of law and the action of graces through God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that this blessing may remain on this home and on those who frequent it. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Enter into the spirit of this blessing. Become companions of the holy kings. All of us would like to have been with them when they reached Bethlehem and adored our Lord. That joy, that privilege can be yours on Epiphany, can be yours every day.

The distance to your parish church is not long in miles, but it is long in excuses and obstacles--real or imagined. Journey there on January 6, journey there at every opportunity, and you will have the joy of adoring the same Christ the wise men worshipped. Be companions of those kings. Amen


"Thou shalt take the oil of unction and anoint the tabernacle with its vessels, that they may be sanctified." Exodus, 50:9.

Back in 1912 there were labor troubles in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The National Guard was called to control the situation. Chaplain of the Guard was Monsignor Dunigan, who said Mass daily for the Catholic soldiers.

One morning he noticed two elderly Indians in the back row close to the wall. Next morning they took seats a little closer to the altar. Next morning they were still closer. They never took their eyes off the priest. Finally they came to the sacristy after Mass and asked Monsignor Dunigan if he was the same kind of priest as the fathers who had come to the Indians long ago. Was his Church the same Church as theirs? When he assured them that he was the same kind of priest, they asked him to go with them alone into the woods. They had a treasure which they wanted to turn over to him.

They stopped under a large tree, as one Indian explained that many years before Father Marquette had to leave them to go to an unfriendly group of Indians. Before leaving he called the elders of the tribe and entrusted to them his chalice, which was in a case of cypress wood. If he returned, well and good. If not, they were to guard it with their lives until they could hand it over to some father of his Church.

The heroic missionary did not return. That was in 1675. For the next 237 years those Indians kept their treasure. The chief would appoint three trustworthy men who alone would know where the chalice was buried. When one died, the chief appointed another three, who would hide it anew. Thus the chalice was kept for over two centuries. Monsignor Dunigan gladly took charge of the precious treasure.

The faithful respect of those Indians for the chalice which the saintly and courageous Father Marquette had used, is a model for the respect which you and I must have for the chalice and all the other sacred vessels in which we keep the Blessed Sacrament. Those vessels, whether consecrated or blessed, are sacramentals. The principal containers for the Eucharist are six: the chalice, the ciborium, the paten, the monstrance, the lunula, and the pyx. We would like to say a word about them:

1. The most sacred and important of all is the chalice, the cup in which the Precious Blood is consecrated during Mass. The priest uses a chalice because our Lord used one at the Last Supper. In the early days of Christianity chalices were often made of glass, crystal, or some precious stone. A chalice is usually from eight to eleven inches high. It consists of a wide base, a stem with a knob at the middle, and a cup. The whole may be of gold or silver, or the cup only. If the church is poor, the cup may be of inferior metal. In every case, however, at least the interior of the cup must be gold-plated. It must be consecrated by the bishop.

2. The paten is a round, saucer-like dish of the same material as the chalice. It is used to hold the bread at the Offertory, and later to hold the Sacred Host. At least its upper surface must be gold- plated. It also must be consecrated by the bishop.

A Communion paten is held under the chin of the communicant, in case some pieces might fall. It does not require a blessing.

3. The ciborium is a vessel which contains the small Hosts used for the Communion of the people. The word 'ciborium' is from the Latin word 'cibus' which means food. The ciborium contains the Food of life. It is shaped like a chalice, but usually larger. The interior is gold-plated. It must be blessed.

4. The monstrance is used to hold the Host during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and in processions. The main part is made up of rays in a circle, coming forth from the center where the Sacred Host is encased. The rays represent beautifully the shafts of love coming from our Lord in the Eucharist to the whole, round world. They also represent the limitless graces that come to us from the Eucharist.

The word monstrance is from the Latin 'monstrare' which means to show. It is sometimes called the ostensorium, from the Latin word which also means to show. The idea is that this vessel shows the Lord to those who are present.

5. In the center of the monstrance is a receptacle called the luna or lunula. Luna is the Latin for moon. Lunula means little moon. This round receptacle is designed to hold the large Host. It is often glass-encased, or it may be a gold clip which holds the Host within the permanent glass case in the center of the monstrance. This is inserted at the beginning and removed at the close of Benediction.

6. The pyx is a small vessel used in carrying Communion to the sick. It is really a small ciborium, shaped like a watch case. The word pyx is from the Latin 'pyxis' which means a box. This pyx, which can hold several Hosts, is kept in a silk-lined case called a burse, with a corporal and purificator.

The ciborium, pyx and lunula are blessed. In our country this may be done by a priest.

In general any and all of these sacred vessels must not be touched by anyone but a priest or a deacon, except in serious necessity. If the vessel is empty it may be handled by clerics even though not in sacred orders, and by those who have obtained permission, such as those who repair and plate these articles. All others should use a cloth to prevent direct contact.

From all this we can see the reverent regard we have for these sacred vessels. As the Indians treasured the chalice of Father Marquette for two hundred years, so must we treasure the vessels of the altar all the days of our life. Church support is one means of showing your respect for the vessels you help to procure.

Above all, you are a vessel, a sacred vessel, when you receive Holy Communion. Regard your body as something sacred. It will contain our Lord. Amen.


"There they shall lay their vestments wherein they minister, for they are holy, and they shall put on other garments, and so shall they go forth to the people." Ezechiel, 42:14.

Among the islands of the southern Philippines is one called Mindanao. In one of the villages on that island during the late war there was a Columban missionary by the name of Father J. Noone. One day Father Noone found an American flyer who had been shot down over Mindanao, and had parachuted safely into a swamp. Father brought him to the village and took care of him. The American airman, a young man from Philadelphia by the name of Lieutenant Kenneth Dries presented his parachute to the padre in gratitude for his kindness and hospitality.

From the silk of that parachute some Filipino women in Father's parish made him a complete set of white vestments for Mass, together with a cope and humeral veil. These are Father's prize war souvenirs. Of them he says: "Just the thing for this Philippine weather."

The sacrifice of that soldier made those vestments particularly significant, for the garments which the priest wears at Mass carry us back to the Last Supper and the supreme sacrifice of Calvary. The vestments are sacramentals. Mother Church prescribes their color and design, the manner in which the priest puts them on, and the prayers he must say while doing so. All the vestments for Mass--the amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole and chasuble--must be blessed before they may be used.

1. In preparing for Holy Mass the priest first puts on the amice, a rectangular piece of white linen with strings attached to hold it in place. In the middle is a cross which he kisses as he dons and doffs the amice. The amice reminds us of the veiling of the eyes and face of Jesus by the Jews when they struck Him and cried:

"Prophesy to us, O Christ! Who is it that struck Thee?"

Another meaning is seen in the words of the priest as he puts it on:

"Place, O Lord, on my head the helmet of salvation, so that I may resist the assaults of the devil."

Historically the amice was a covering for the head and neck, worn like a hood. Indoors it was lowered and thrown over the shoulders. For the priest it is a sort of spiritual helmet.

2. The alb is a white and wide linen robe reaching from the shoulders to the feet and covering the entire body. Putting it on the priest prays:

"Make me clean, O Lord, and purify my heart; that being made white in the blood of the Lamb, I may deserve an eternal reward."

The alb or tunic was worn in ancient times by all who enjoyed any dignity. Symbolically it reminds us of the white garment with which Herod clothed our Lord. It also signifies purity of conscience demanded for God's priest.

3. The cincture is the cord of linen tied about the waist to hold the alb in place. The priest prays:

"Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fires of concupiscence, that the virtue of chastity and continence may abide in me.'

This cincture had a practical purpose in the days when long flowing garments were worn--to tuck it up for working, walking and running. It also symbolizes the cord that bound our Lord to the pillar, and the modesty and readiness the priest must ever show for the service of the Lord.

4. The maniple is a strip of silken cloth worn on the left arm. In former times it was used to wipe perspiration from the face and brow. It reminds us of the rope whereby our Lord was led, and the chains that bound His sacred Hands. It is an emblem of the tears of penance, and of the beads of perspiration resulting from the work of the priest and their joyful reward in heaven. This is the prayer for the maniple:

"May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors."

5. The stole is a strip of silken material about eighty inches long. It is three inches wide at the neck and widens toward the ends. It is worn round the neck and crossed on the breast. Taking it up, the priest prays:

"Restore to me, O Lord, the state of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach Thy sacred mysteries, may I deserve nevertheless to possess eternal joy."

It was formerly a neck-piece or kerchief, a part of the dress of the upper classes. Gradually it became the mark of authority for higher clerics. It represents the cords with which Jesus was tied, and the cross that was laid on His shoulders. It is the yoke which Christ said we must take up, the priest's burden of heavy responsibility. Our Lord promised to make it sweet. The priest wears it at most official functions.

6. The chasuble is the outer vestment of the celebrant. Originally it was a cloak completely covering the priest. It was shortened for freedom of movement, by cutting away the sides. The prayer for putting it on:

"O Lord, who hast said, 'My yoke is sweet and My burden light,' grant that I may carry it so as to merit Thy grace."

It is an emblem of the purple cloak worn by our Lord before Pilate, an emblem of love, which must encircle us completely.

In general Mother Church has retained the form and design of these garments of the past to remind us continually of the antiquity of the Mass. It goes back to the time of Christ.

The vestments of Father Noone on Mindanao, made from the parachute that saved an airman's life, are a continual reminder of his sacrifice. The vestments of the priest, carrying us back through twenty centuries, remind us continually of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. How fittingly the priest wears them as he celebrates the continuation of that sacrifice upon the altar! Amen


"Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the son of Man." St. Luke, 21:36.

At the end of this Mass you will notice the server come from the sacristy and put out the candles on the altar. Puff, and out goes the light. But do you know that the light of a candle never goes out? What do I mean? I mean that when you snuff out a candle the flame disappears, you cannot see it anymore.

But the light of that flame is not out. The light of that candle is still going on and on and on into space. That is hard to believe, isn't it? Nevertheless, that is what science tells us.

Let me quote to you the words of an eminent American scientist, one of the very best in his field, Professor Arthur Compton. He uses some pretty big words, but we can get the general idea:

"Puff, and the flame is out! Is this the end? What is happening to the light? The flame was material, made up of atoms and molecules; but the light is a different kind of thing-- electromagnetic radiation, flying away at tremendous speed. We know that if the candle was out under the open sky, its light was streaming into interstellar space, where it will keep going forever."

Mark those words of this man of science--the light of that candle will keep going forever. It goes up to join the stars in space. It never dies.

All the more, if the light of that candle and of every candle will never die, so the love that lit that candle will never die. There is one reason for the Catholic practice of using Vigil Lights. You will notice some of them before the altar of our Blessed Mother, and a few before the statue of St. Anthony. So often we are asked:

"What are those little red lights burning for?"

Vigil means watch or watching or guarding. A Vigil Light is a watching light, a light that keeps watching for us while we are away. A Vigil Light symbolizes the continuance of the prayers made before the Blessed Sacrament, or before the statue or shrine of some saint, after the worshipper has been called away by the demands of daily life.

For example, suppose your mother is sick. Before school or work in the morning you come here to church to pray for her. You stay for some time begging our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to make your mother well. Then you must hurry off to your books or to your office. Before leaving you light one of those little Vigil Lights, after paying for it, of course. Your nickel or dime helps us keep a supply of these candles. Some burn for 12 or 14 hours. Those large ones before the altar of Mary will burn for 7 or 8 days. That burning light, that watching light expresses the idea that you would like to stay and keep on praying God to help your mother. You can't stay. The Vigil Light stays in your place. It represents you and your petition. It keeps jumping up and down and stretching toward God, just as your heart did while making your prayer.

1. Most of those Vigil Lights are red--red like the warm blood that is coursing through your veins and heart, red like roses that you have presented and left with a friend, red like the praying lips of an innocent child. That light is red like your heart, for it represents your heart, your heart that throbs with love for Christ in the Eucharist your heart this is wrung with sorrow or aching with anxiety or sick with sin.

2. Those Vigil Lights burn continuously. They keep on burning just as the desire and prayer of our hearts keep on burning. They burn when the church is crowded with people and they burn when there is no one present to love our Lord on the Altar. They burn during the day as the sun streams in through the windows, and they burn when the lights of the city have been almost entirely extinguished. Through the long hours of the night they keep our Lord company. They are a partial fulfillment of our Lord's command:

"Watch, then, praying at all times." St. Luke, 21:36.

3. Those lights are eloquent. They tell our Lord that the one who lit them really loves Him. They tell our Blessed Mother that you want her to watch over you and over your loved ones as constantly and as lovingly as your little light burns before her. They tell the saints that we are thinking of them hour after hour.

Those flickering flames are the voices and the lips of the adoring, the thanking, the begging and the sinful.

4. Vigil Lights are symbols of faith, the faith which tells us that Christ lives here, the faith which assures us that His Mother and His saints will intercede for us.

5. Were Vigil Lights able to talk to us they would tell us tales like these: A sorrowing widow placed me here, when she hurried off to work in a restaurant to support herself and children. An anxious mother placed me here to plead God to protect her teen- age daughter. A sinner put me here to beg God's grace and strength for a comeback. An expectant mother set me here to ask God's blessing on herself and her child.

You will find every need of body and soul, every worthwhile desire of the human heart represented here. Those Vigil Lights grouped near the sanctuary of Christ remind me powerfully of the varied crowds that elbowed their way close to Christ when He walked this earth, each with some request, each with some need, each with some prayer.

Yes, their light never goes out. Even though the little flame will die down and disappear, it goes on. Every light in the Catholic Church is a symbol of Christ, the Light of the World. When He died on the cross His light did not disappear. It kept going. Father Faber has put some of these thoughts into poetry:

"O happy lights! O happy lights! Watching my Jesus livelong nights; How close you cluster round His throne, Dying so meekly one by one, As each its faithful watch has done. Could I with you but take my turn, And burn with love of Him and burn Till love had wasted me like you, Sweet lights! What better could I do?" Amen.

TOPICAL INDEX (Sacramentals)

Agnus Dei Agriculture, Sacramentals of Altar of Incense, story Angelus Angelus Bell Apostles' Creed Apostolic Blessing Arthur Compton, story, Vigil Lights Ascension and Paschal Candle Ashes Asperges Automobile, blessing

Baptism, Ceremonies of Baptismal Water Bells Benediction Bill Reilly, story, Scapulars Bishop Paulinus and Bells Bishop's Ring Blessed Sacrament Blessed Virgin Blessing Shrimp Fleet, story Blessings for Home Bob Feller, story, Home Sacramentals Boxer Rebellion, story, Funeral Services Breviary

Candles Cemetery Blessing Chesterton, story, Bells Christ, Passion of Churching of Women Cologne, story, Three Kings' Blessing Colosseum, story, Palms Commodore Irving, story, Medals Communion Confession, Ceremonies of Confirmation Copernicus' Telescope, story, and Relics Cords, Blessed Corsage, story, Baptism Crib Cross, Sign of Crucifix

Death Devotions Devotions, Family

Easter Water Empress Augusta, story, Agnus Dei Eucharist, Ceremonies of Expectant Mother, Blessing of Extreme Unction, Ceremonies of

Farm Sacramentals Father Baker, story, devotions Father Faber, poem, Vigil Lights Father McDonald, story, Eucharist Father Marquette's Chalice, story, Vessels Father Noone, story, Vestments Father O'Flynn, story, Tabernacle Font in Church, story, Holy Water Forty Hours Franciscans and Way of Cross French Children, story, Meal Prayer Funeral Service

German Prince, story, Industry Gibson Tomb, story, Cemetery Gray's Peak, story, Paschal Candle Gregorian Water

Habit, Religious Hazlitt and Fine Pictures Holy Childhood Holy Family and Pilgrimages Holy Bible Home Sacramentals Holy Road, story, Stations Holy Saturday and Bells Holy Thursday and Bells Holy Water Holy Year, Pilgrimage

Incense Industry, Sacramentals Ireland, story, Bells

Jeremias, story, Blessed Cords Jewish boy, story, Angelus Josephine Quirk, story, Benediction

Last Supper and Sanctuary Lamp Libraries, blessing Life Magazine and Pictures Lilies Litanies

Madonna Marriage Ceremonies Mary and Churching of Women Medals Missal Mission, Pope's Blessing Moon Mullins, story, Priest's Blessing Mount Carmel Scapular Mystic Candles, story, Candles

Oil of Catechumens Our Father Our Lady of Consolation

Palms Parental blessing Paschal Candle Peace, Mass for Penance Persons, Blessing of Peter, story, Pictures Philip Veit, story, Palms Picture of Year, story, Oils Pictures Pilgrimages Pope's Blessing Pope Pius VI, story, Ashes Pope Pius VII, story, Papal ring Pope Pius IX, story, Confirmation Pope Pius XII, story, Blessing Prayer, Meal Prayerbooks Priesthood, Ceremonies of Priest on bus, story, Breviary Priest's Blessing Printing Press, Blessing Profession, Ring Prophet Eliseus, story, Salt Protestant writer, story, Missal Pursuit pilot, story, Medals

Queen Elizabeth, story, Agnus Dei Queen Victoria, story, Churching

Raimondo, story, Pilgrimage Recamier, story, Rosary Relics Retreat, Pope's Blessing Rings Ritual Rogation Days Rosary

St. Anthony Lilies St. Anthony of Padua St. Athanasius and Meal Prayer St. Augustine and Sanctuary Lamp St. Bonaventure and Angelus St. Christopher St. Elizabeth Thuringia, story, habit St. Francis Assisi St. Francis and Crib St. Francis and Religious Habit St. Francis' Statue in Prot. Church St. Helena and Crib St. John Vianney, story, Forty Hours St. Joseph 41; Cord, 33; statue St. Martin, story, Priesthood St. Mary Major, story, Crib St. Thomas, Cord of

Sacramentals, Kinds Sacramentals and Sacraments Sacraments, Last Sailor, story, Prayerbook Salt Sanctuary Lamp Scapulars Seismograph, Blessing Seven-year-old, story, Meal Prayer Sheridan, Mrs., story, Crucifix Sick, Blessing of Soldier, story, Extreme Unction Soldiers, story, Sign of Cross Stations Statues Superstition, story

Tabernacle Telegraph, Blessing Tertullian and Meal Prayer Things, Blessing of all Third Order Scapular Three Kings' Blessing

Valentine, story, Marriage Vessels Vestments Vigil Lights Vivian Blaine, story, Pope's Blessing

Washington, story, Ritual Water-drop, story, Asperges Way of Cross Wedding Ring Well, story, Sanctuary Lamp Women, story, Sacramentals

Young boy, story, Litanies Young nun, story, lilies Young officer, story, Confession