Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost - 9 September AD 2012

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”

    Among Catholics there is no prayer more frequently recited than the “Hail Mary,” based, as it is, on the angelic salutation of the Blessed Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel.[1]  The second part, which I just read, was composed by the Church—probably in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, and is mentioned in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, published at the order of the Great Pope Saint Pius V in 1566.[2]  This second part recognizes the willingness of our Blessed Mother to help us with all our necessities—throughout our life, but even more importantly at the inevitable moment of our death.

    Absolutely nothing is more important to us than our own personal salvation.  But we must not be misled by our prayer to think that salvation is a concern for us only at the very end of our lives—the “now” in our prayer indicates the time in which we must prepare for a holy death.  It would be the height of presumption to assume that if we live an unholy life, our Lady will step in and make things right at its end.  Yes, our Lord did step in and resurrect the young man in today’s Gospel, but the number of such resurrections described in the Bible can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    Yes, it is possible that you will be conscious at the end.  But there is no guarantee of that.  Modern medicine, particularly if it is administered by government at the end of life tends to be palliative—that is to say that the emphasis is on suppressing the patient’s pain with drugs that may well fog his mind rather than elicit thoughts of penitence and contrition.  You and your family may have very little control over the care and medication you receive in your final days and hours.

    Yes, it is possible that you will have a priest at your side at the end.  But there is no guarantee of that either.  Modernism has seen to that.  The number of priestly vocations has plummeted in the past forty years.  And many of the new priests would rather send the deacon or the Eucharistic minister to make the hospital rounds—neither of whom can hear Confessions, anoint the sick, or give the Apostolic Blessing.  Modernism has convinced many of them that “no one really goes to hell”—that Christ’s death on the Cross brought about not only the redemption of mankind, but also for the forgiveness of the sins of all men and women.[3]  (That’s why the consecration of the wine was mistranslated in nearly every modern language, and why it took forty‑odd years for a Pope to fix it—God bless Pope Benedict.)[4]  The Modernist thinking seems to be if “no one really goes to hell” it is not all that important whether or not one believes the truths of the Catholic Faith, not all that important whether or not one keeps the Commandments, not all that important whether or not one loves God and his neighbor, and certainly not all that important to make sick calls when it is too hot, too cold, or otherwise inconvenient.

    So, if there is no guarantee that we will be able to reform an unholy life at the very last minute, what is it that we must be doing in the here and now?  What are we asking for when we ask our Lady to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”?

    First of all, we must know, believe, and defend the Catholic Faith.  This means learning the Catechism for younger people, and for older people something suitable to their education and intellectual abilities.  Remember that a lot of nonsense has been written in recent years, so stick with older titles until your knowledge is developed.  At every age, the Church encourages us to read Sacred Scripture—the Bible itself for adults, and one of those Bible history books for children.[5]  This is the Faith by Canon Francis Ripey is a pretty good “catechism” for adults.[6]  Monsignor Ronald A. Knox’ The Belief of Catholics adds to it an understanding of why we are Catholics and not something else.[7]

    But knowing the Faith is not enough.  It is necessary to live the Faith.  One has to develop a spiritual relationship with God, and a charitable relationship with the people around us.  The spiritual life is developed through prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments.  I believe that everyone can benefit from a daily Rosary—start out with a decade a day, and build on that—be sure to actually meditate on the mysteries.  The more intellectual soul might benefit from reading the Divine Office, or at least one of the Little Offices.[8]  Do attend Mass as often as you can.

    Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ is a valuable tool for the shaping of your spiritual life—he places great emphasis on humility, which is the natural soil in which the soul must grow.  It is available in many translations—choose the one with which you are most comfortable.[9]  Sometimes à Kempis seems anti-intellectual—he is not, but he does insist on humility among would-be scholars.

    A minute ago I referred to “a charitable relationship with the people around us.”  That doesn’t necessarily require handing out money—although sometimes we must.  Today’s Epistle describes this charitable relationship: a society in which people are humble, not envious nor provoking one another, in which people share their knowledge and are grateful for receiving it, in which everyone bears his own burden but is willing to bear the burdens of those who cannot.  A society in which spirituality is esteemed over the works of the world; and the works of the flesh are avoided.  A society in which fraternal correction is gratefully received, and all the spiritual works of mercy abound.  A society in which people, motivated by the Catholic Faith, love one another as God loves them.

    And, yes, sometimes we are bound to the corporal works of mercy.  In Matthew 25, our Lord reminds us that when we do something for the “least of His brethren” we do it for Him, and that if we refuse them we refuse Him.  In the same chapter He gives us a vivid picture of those who fail the final judgment: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.”[10]  Hell is real, no matter what the Modernists would like to believe or have others believe.

    You may have noticed that I have yet to mention keeping the Commandments as part of our salvation.  Certainly they are integral, and we should make a regular examination of conscience to evaluate how well we are keeping them.  But I would suggest to you that if you know the Faith, and develop a life of spirituality and charity, you are well on your way toward keeping the Commandments.  You will not want to offend God or His Blessed Mother.  Saint Augustine is reputed to have said:  “Love God and do as you please.”  That seems a bit too permissive for Augustine.  I believe he meant “Love God, and then what pleases Him will also please you.”

    The widow of Naim in today’s Gospel is a figure of the Blessed Mother, who would have to watch her only Son die.  The widow and her son should remind us of God’s desire for our salvation, and of His Mother’s joy in helping us to secure it.  And remember that we should be working to secure that salvation both “now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”


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