SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
As in corporal distempers a total loss of appetite, which no medicine can store, forbodes certain decay and death; so in the spiritual life of the soul, a neglect or disrelish of pious readings and instruction is a most fatal symptom. What hopes can we entertain of a person to whom the science of virtue and eternal salvation doth, not seem interesting or worth his application ?
By pious reading the mind is instructed and enlightened, and the affections of the heart are purified and inflamed. Reading religious books is commended by St. Paul as the summary of spiritual advice. (2 Tim. 14, 13.)
Devout persons never want a spur to assiduous reading, or meditation; they are insatiable in this exercise, and according to the golden motto of Thomas a Kempis, they find their chief delight in a closet with a good book. Worldly and tepid Christians stand certainly in the most need of this help to virtue. The world is a whirlpool of business, pleasure and sin. Its torrent is always beating upon their hearts, ready to break in and bury them under its flood, unless frequent pious reading oppose a strong fence to its waves. The more deeply a person is immersed in its tumultuous cares, so much the greater ought his solicitude to be to seek repose, after the fatigues and dissipations of business and company; to plunge his heart by secret prayer in the ocean of the divine immensity, and by pious reading to afford his soul some spiritual reflection; as the wearied husbandman, returning from his labor, recruits his spent vigor and exhausted strength by allowing his body necessary refreshment and repose.
Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, has declared that He was sent by His heavenly Father " to preach the Gospel to the poor." (Luke iv. 18.) " Let us go," said He to His Apostles," into the neighboring towns and cities, that I may preach there also, for to this purpose am I come." (Mark i. 38.) The mission of Jesus Christ was and is to be continued by his priests: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you." Immediately before ascending to heaven, He again laid and impressed upon all pastors of souls that the most important duty is that of preaching. His last solemn word to those whom He charged to continue His work is: "All power is given to me in heaven and on earth. The universe belongs to me by title of heritage. Already heaven is acquired by my labors and sufferings. The earth remains to be conquered, and I rely on you, my Apostles, my priests, to subdue it to the empire of my grace: Go, then, and teach all nations, and preach my Gospel to every creature."
In compliance with this obligation " the Apostles went forth and preached everywhere" (Mark xxvi. 20), in the face of all kinds of opposition. "They obeyed God rather then men." (Act v. 29.) St. Paul would not even allow any one to regard as a merit his zeal to announce the Gospel. To preach was for him, as he tells us, a necessity. He uttered against himself a kind of anathema if ever he neglected so sacred a duty: " Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel." What he most emphatically insisted on, in his Epistles to Timothy and Titus, was the duty of preaching the word of God. He adjures his two disciples and all pastors of souls, by all that is most holy and awful; he adjures them by the presence of God, and of Jesus Christ, by his future coming, by his eternal reign, to preach the word of God, to preach it in season and out of season—to use all persuasive means which the most ardent charity inspires: "I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming and his kingdom, preach the word; be instant in it in season and out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine." (2 Tim. iv. 1, 2.)
Hence the Church has never ceased to exhort her pastors to discharge most faithfully their duty of preaching the word of God. In one of her canons she ordains that, if a priest having charge of souls shall fail to give them the bread of the word of God, he shall be himself deprived of the Eucharistic Bread; and if he continue in his criminal silence, he shall be suspended. The preaching of the word of God has, indeed, always been the great object of the solicitude of the Church. The Council of Trent arms the bishops with her thunders, and charges them to inflict her censures upon those mute pastors whom the Holy Ghost has branded as "dumb dogs, not able to bark." (Isa. lvi. 10.) The all important duty of giving religious instruction was never more binding, and more necessary to be complied with, than it is in our age. What the Fathers of the Council of Trent say on this duty applies more emphatically to our age and country:
"As the preaching of the divine word," they say, "should never be interrupted in the Church of God, so in these days it becomes necessary to labor, with more than ordinary zeal and piety, to nurture and strengthen the faithful with sound and wholesome doctrine, as with the food of life: for false prophets have gone forth into the world, (1. John iv. 1), with various and strange doctrines (Heb. xiii. 9), to corrupt the minds of the faithful, of whom the Lord has said: I sent them not, and they ran; I spoke not to them, yet they prophesied. (Jer. xxiii. 21.)
"In this unholy work their impiety, versed as it is in all the arts of Satan, has been carried to such extremes, that it would seem almost impossible to confine it within bounds; and did we not rely on the splendid promises of the Saviour, who declared that He had built His Church on so solid a foundation that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it, (Matt. xvi. 18), we would be filled with most alarming apprehensions, lest, beset on every side by such a host of enemies, assailed by so many and such formidable engines, the Church of God should, in these days, fall beneath their combined efforts. Not to mention those illustrious states, which heretofore professed, in piety and holiness, the Catholic faith, transmitted to them by their ancestors, but are now going astray, wandering from the paths of truth, and openly declaring that their best claims of piety are founded on a total abandonment of the faith of their fathers,—there is no region however remote, no place however securely guarded, no corner of the Christian republic into which this pestilence has not sought secretly to insinuate itself. Those who proposed to themselves to corrupt the minds of the faithful, aware that they could not hold immediate personal intercourse with all, and thus pour into their ears their poisoned doctrines, by adopting a different plan, disseminated error and impiety more easily and extensively. Besides those voluminous works! by which are sought the subversion of the Catholic faith, they also composed innumerable smaller books, which veiling their errors under the semblance of piety, deceived with incredible facility the simple and the incautious." (Preface to the Catechism of the Council of Trent.) "It is, indeed, incumbent upon the ministers of the altar," says our Holy Father, Pius IX, in his address of 1877 to the Lenten preachers, "to lift up their voices as loudly as possible, to save society from the abyss." " Cry," says the Lord to the pastor, " cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their wicked doings." (Isa. Iviii. 1.) " If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I shall require hi^ blood at thy hand." (Ezek. xxxiii. 8.)
Now, if we see such perverse zeal in the ministers of Satan to spread, by all possible means, their doctrines, with what zeal should not Christians, and especially Christian Pastors, be moved to make known the Gospel truths, and repeat them in season and out of season, regardless of fastidious minds which are displeased when a priest repeats a thing and goes over old, but necessary ground again. " What," exclaims St. Francis de Sales,—" what, is it not necessary, in working iron, to heat it over and over again, and in painting to touch and retouch the canvas repeatedly ? How much more necessary is it to repeat the same thing again and again, in order to imprint eternal truths on hardened intellects, and on hearts confirmed in evil: St. John, the Baptist, and the Apostle St. Paul spoke from their prison walls; St. Peter spoke freely and forcibly before the ancients, saying that it is better to obey God than men; and the Apostle St. Andrew spoke from the wood of the cross."
When in Japan, St. Francis Xavier climbed mountains, and exposed himself to innumerable dangers, to seek out those wretched barbarians in the caverns where they dwelt like wild beasts, and to instruct them in the truths of salvation. St. Francis de Sales, in the hope of converting the heretics of the province of Chablais, risked his life by crossing a river every day for a year, on his hands and knees, upon a frozen beam, that he might reach and preach to those stubborn men. St. Fidelis, in order to bring the heretic of a certain place back to God, cheerfully offered up his life for their salvation.
The first part of this book, written by the Rev. Father Dodridge, D. D., embraces the Twelve Articles of the Creed, The Ten Commandments, The Seven Sacraments, Sin and its Effects on the Soul, Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven, The Lord's Prayer beautifully explained, The Hail Mary explained, The Ceremonies of the Church are clearly defined. It is very important that every Catholic should understand these subjects thoroughly, so as to have an enlightened knowledge of the real beauty of his religion. As children we learned our Catechism in the order of question and answer, so the author indulged the hope that by adopting a similar style of instruction he would awaken memories of our youth, and thereby induce us to perfect, as far as possible, the work began in childhood. If we see a builder lay the foundation stone of a house, and then throw aside his implements of labor, and leave the house unfinished, we characterize him as insane. How much more should we condemn the young man or woman, who will endeavor to persuade himself or herself, that having learned the Catechism that he or she is properly instructed in the faith. This is a delusion. The Catechism is the groundwork—the foundation stone; but we must finish the structure. We must enlighten the heart and soul by instructive reading. In this part of the book the author proves, defines and explains the sublime truths of our holy religion so that we can see them reflected as the mirror reflects our shadow.
The second part of this work, written by the distinguished Rev. Henry Edward Manning, D.D., in a profound and scholarly way, proves the Catholic Church alone to be infallible. This he makes clear from the promise of Christ to St. Peter, in the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew, where he says, " Thou art Peter, that is a rock, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," Matt. 16: 18. He shows how this Church has withstood persecution from the day of her establishment to the present time, and that although the powers of darkness will never cease to make war upon her, their efforts will always be as vain as the winds and the rain against a house that is built upon a rock, and as her faith has stood the shock both against the attack of Jews and Pagans, and the deceitful reasoning of Arians, Nestorians, Butychians, Donatists and Pelegians, so will it remain immovable to the world's end.
The third part of this book, written by the Rev. F. Lewis, points out the motives which should urge us to lead truly Christian lives. He shows us the deep love which our Divine Lord cherishes for each one of us, so that he became man, assumed our infirmities, and by his death on the cross satisfied his offended Father, and thus opened heaven and purchased man's redemption. Here he points out, like a guiding star, the way to follow in order to save our souls. He proves that this world is short, dangerous, blind and deceitful. That it is a barren soil, a wood full of thorns, a green meadow full of snakes, a garden luxuriant in flowers but no fruit, a river of tears, a fountain of cares, a sweet poison and a pleasing frenzy.
The fourth part of this work, written by the Rev. Stephen Keenan, is of priceless value. This profound scholar conducts the reader, step by step, through the sublime mysteries of our holy religion, from the morning of creation to the present day. The questions are asked, and the answers and proofs follow, so that the simplest child can understand his religion by making a study of it. This eminent divine, who spent his whole life in acquiring a thorough knowledge of our faith, gives us in this work the embodiment of his masterly knowledge in expounding our religion, so that the reader having made a study of this part stands prepared to answer all questions put him by non-Catholics. Here too we find this learned priest reviewing both the Old and New Testaments, explaining their sacred mysteries in the plainest manner, and as the Sacred Scriptures are written in mystery as laid down by St. Peter; this is an important part of the book—a guide and key to our religion.
The fifth part of this book is by the Rev. Father Vaughin, S. J. His subject is one of peculiar interest. In his own masterly way he reviews Protestantism from its birth to the present hour. This contribution I regard as of rare value.
The sixth part of this book is from the pen of Pope Leo XIII., on Americanism. The controversy which has been going on for some time, has been set at rest by the Holy Father.
The life of Father Hecker, the Paulist, recently translated into French, advocated the philosophy of making some concessions to Protestantism, to wean them over to the True Church of Christ, and on this point the Bishops of the Church in this country were somewhat divided and His Holiness seeing this, speaks with the power and authority of Christ, that he cannot yield up any portion of that divine treasure handed down to him, step by step, from Christ himself.
The last chapter of this work is taken up with priceless gems selected from the sermons of the immortal Father Thomas N. Burke, the Dominican. One of these sermons is worth more than the entire book costs, composed by him who electrified the Catholic world by the charm of his eloquence, and vanquished England's boasted historian, James Anthony Froude. I consider this book, u The One True Church," one of the most useful and instructive ever published in this country, and therefore I trust it will find its way into every Catholic family. This book strips schism of her mask, and stops the mouth of heresy. It points out with an evidence not to be impeached the day of separation; when Protestantism was born, and the hour of revolt and rebellion; when the heretic said, like Lucifer, in the pride of his heart, " I will not serve." If there ever was a work which rendered almost visible and tangible to men that promise of the Redeemer to this Church, "And the gates of hell shall not prevail against her," surely this work is "The One True Church." If infidelity, immorality and heresy have opened wide their mouths and are everywhere devouring their victims, is it not a blessing from God that the children of the Church should be preserved from them, and fed with the wholesome food of pious reading ? The reader will see that the Catholic Church has withstood the persecutions of 1900 years. The Catholic Church having triumphed over her enemies, stands to-day more proud, more vigorous than ever, having the laurel wreath of victory entwined around her virgin brow.
REV. M. A. WHITE, O. S. A.