“Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.” – St. Leonard of Port Maurice

Today in the Novus Ordo calendar is the feast of St. Leonard of Port Maurice (+1751).

In one place, St. Leonard expounds on the number of those who make it to heaven. He is not optimistic. And he gives reasons.

Christ died that all might be saved.  Not all will avail themselves of what Christ did for us.  It may be, as many of the greatest spiritual writers and doctors of the Church have taught, that few are saved. Over the centuries those few might amount to “many”, but many souls may be lost.  We can squander our membership in the Kingdom of God.

Here is a paragraph to whet the appetite for more of this rich fare HERE.

From a sermon on the number of those who will be saved.

I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, “Lord, is it only a few to be saved?” Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: “You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?” Here is My answer: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true.

Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have been reading him and others about hell for about two weeks and put his story about the monk dying on the same day as Bernard on your blog recently. Sadly, all these liturgical calendars have me muddled. Going to Benedictine Masses, Carmelite, Tridentine, plus having to follow the myriad Irish saints which have priority here, I have no idea who is on the NO. The long sermon of St. Leonard is at several places on the Net.
    To repeat the story, picked up by Vincent Ferrer, a monk was visited by another monk from the desert, who died on the same day as Bernard of Clairvaux. The monk said that 33,000 people had died that day…only he and Bernard went to heaven, three went to Purgatory, and all the rest to hell.

  2. acardnal says:

    St. Leonard of Port Maurice wrote a great book on the Holy Mass, too. It is still in print from TAN Books:

  3. Imrahil says:

    Whether we have to tremble is begging the question.

    May God judge favorably about whether I have faith in the heart; but I am optimistic about the number of those who, through the (it is true: arduous) route of Purgatory are still predestined in the end. “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him[…]” (Mt 12) That is the clear answer; and note that while a mortal sin (as a blasphemy against Father or Son certainly is), in and of itself, does have the quality to send us to Hell, still we have been told that if it is not accompanied by a blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the sinner factually will not have this fate. (I also guess that the story told by dear @Supertradmum has no quality to bind our faith…)

    About the said incidence when Our Lord was asked, first thing to see — and quite probably of importance in its own right — is that Our Lord refused to really answer the question.

  4. Bill Foley says:

    On the Fewness of the Saved

    “The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God.”
    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “The common opinion is that the greater part of adults is lost.”
    Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “The greater number of men still say to God: Lord we will not serve Thee; we would rather be slaves of the devil, and condemned to Hell, than be Thy servants. Alas! The greatest number, my Jesus – we may say nearly all – not only do not love Thee, but offend Thee and despise Thee.”
    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “In the Great Deluge in the days of Noah, nearly all mankind perished, eight persons alone being saved in the Ark. In our days a deluge, not of water but of sins, continually inundates the earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved.”
    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “Saint Teresa, as the Roman Rota attests, never fell into any mortal sin; but still Our Lord showed her the place prepared for her in Hell; not because she deserved Hell, but because, had she not risen from the state of lukewarmness in which she lived, she would in the end have lost the grace of God and been damned.”
    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “The saints are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are; yet among those few I wish to be!”
    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “All persons desire to be saved, but the greater part, because they will not adopt the means of being saved, fall into sin and are lost. […] In fact, the Elect are much fewer than the damned, for the reprobate are much more numerous than the Elect.”
    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “There are many who arrive at the faith, but few who are led into the heavenly kingdom. Behold how many are gathered here for today’s Feast-Day: we fill the church from wall to wall. Yet who knows how few they are who shall be numbered in that chosen company of the Elect?”
    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.”
    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a symbol of the Church, was wide below and narrow above; and, at the summit, measured only a single cubit. […] It was wide where the animals were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church is indeed wide in the number of those who are carnal-minded, narrow in the number of those who are spiritual.”
    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “They who are to be saved as Saints, and wish to be saved as imperfect souls, shall not be saved.”
    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “As a man lives, so shall he die.”
    -Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “It is certain that few are saved.”
    -Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The Lord called the world a ‘field’ and all the faithful who draw near to him ‘wheat.’ All through the field, and around the threshing-floor, there is both wheat and chaff. But the greater part is chaff; the lesser part is wheat, for which is prepared a barn not a fire. […] The good also are many, but in comparison with the wicked the good are few. Many are the grains of wheat, but compared with the chaff, the grains are few.”
    -Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “If you wish to imitate the multitude, then you shall not be among the few who shall enter in by the narrow gate.”
    -Saint Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Out of one hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin until death, scarcely one will be saved.”
    -Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Many begin well, but there are few who persevere.”
    -Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “So that you will better appreciate the meaning of Our Lord’s words, and perceive more clearly how few the Elect are, note that Christ did not say that those who walked in the path to Heaven are few in number, but that there were few who found that narrow way. It is as though the Saviour intended to say: The path leading to Heaven is so narrow and so rough, so overgrown, so dark and difficult to discern, that there are many who never find it their whole life long. And those who do find it are constantly exposed to the danger of deviating from it, of mistaking their way, and unwittingly wandering away from it, because it is so irregular and overgrown.”
    -Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “What do you think? How many of the inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!”
    -Saint John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many priests are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous.”
    -Saint John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “If you want to be certain of being in the number of the Elect, strive to be one of the few, not one of the many. And if you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few; that is to say, do not follow the great majority of mankind, but follow those who enter upon the narrow way, who renounce the world, who give themselves to prayer, and who never relax their efforts by day or night, so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.”
    -Saint Anselm, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Christ’s flock is called “little” (Luke 12:32) in comparison with the greater number of the reprobates.”
    -Saint Bede the Venerable, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Nor should we think that it is enough for salvation that we are no worse off than the mass of the careless and indifferent, or that in our faith we are, like so many others, uninstructed.”
    -Saint Bede the Venerable, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “It is as though Jesus said: “O My Father, I am indeed going to clothe myself with human flesh, but the greater part of the world will set no value on my blood!”
    -Saint Isidore of Seville, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The greater part of men will set no value on the blood of Christ, and will go on offending Him.”
    -Saint Isidore of Seville, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “How few the Elect are may be understood from the multitude being cast out.”
    -Saint Hilary of Poitiers, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The majority of men shall not see God, excepting those who live justly, purified by righteousness and by every other virtue.”
    -Saint Justin the Martyr

    “There are a select few who are saved.”
    -Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

    “Those who are saved are in the minority.”
    -Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

    “It is granted to few to recognize the true Church amid the darkness of so many schisms and heresies, and to fewer still so to love the truth which they have seen as to fly to its embrace.”
    -Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church

    “Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians.”
    -Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

    “I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell, especially those Lutherans. […] I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes.”
    -Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

    “Behold how many there are who are called, and how few who are chosen! And behold, if you have no care for yourself, your perdition is more certain than your amendment, especially since the way that leads to eternal life is so narrow.”
    -Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church

    “The number of the elect is so small — so small — that, were we to know how small it is, we would faint away with grief: one here and there, scattered up and down the world!”
    -Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

    “Be one of the small number who find the way to life, and enter by the narrow gate into Heaven. Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so many of whom are lost. Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.”
    -Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

    “A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that all who die in mortal sin are condemned for ever and ever. According to statistics, approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so also will be their end.”
    -Saint Anthony Mary Claret

    “Nothing afflicts the heart of Jesus so much as to see all His sufferings of no avail to so many.”
    -Saint John Mary Vianney

    “Shall we all be saved? Shall we go to Heaven? Alas, my children, we do not know at all! But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.”
    -Saint John Mary Vianney

    “The number of the saved is as few as the number of grapes left after the vineyard-pickers have passed.”
    Saint John Mary Vianney

    “Notwithstanding assurances that God did not create any man for Hell, and that He wishes all men to be saved, it remains equally true that only few will be saved; that only few will go to Heaven; and that the greater part of mankind will be lost forever.”
    -Saint John Neumann

    “So vast a number of miserable souls perish, and so comparatively few are saved!”
    -Saint Philip Neri

    “Ah! How very small is the kingdom of Jesus Christ! So many nations have never had the faith!”
    -Saint Peter Julian Eymard

    “A great number of Christians are lost.”
    -Saint Leonard of Port Maurice

    “Ah, how many souls lose Heaven and are cast into Hell!”
    -Saint Francis Xavier

    “Ah! A great many persons live constantly in the state of damnation!”
    -Saint Vincent de Paul

    “Get out of the filth of the horrible torrent of this world, the torrent of thorns that is whirling you into the abyss of eternal perdition. […] This torrent is the world, which resembles an impetuous torrent, full of garbage and evil odors, making a lot of noise but flowing swiftly passed, dragging the majority of men into the pit of perdition.”
    -Saint John Eudes

    “One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And there numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.”
    -Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, #153

    “Fear and honor, praise and bless, thank and adore the Lord God Almighty, in Trinity and Unity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator of all things. Do not put off any longer confessing all your sins, for death will soon come. Give and it will be given you; forgive and you will be forgiven. . . Blessed are they who die repentant, for they shall go to the Kingdom of Heaven! But woe to those who are not converted, for these children of the Devil will go with their father into everlasting fire. Be watchful, therefore. Shun evil, and persevere in well-doing until the end.”
    -Saint Francis of Assisi

    “Meditate on the horrors of Hell, which will last for eternity because of one easily-committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think of the eternal flames of Hell, and how few there are that are saved.”
    -Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

    “Yes, indeed, many will be damned; few will be saved.”
    -Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

    “The path to Heaven is narrow, rough and full of wearisome and trying ascents, nor can it be trodden without great toil; and therefore wrong is their way, gross their error, and assured their ruin who, after the testimony of so many thousands of saints, will not learn where to settle their footing.”
    -Saint Robert Southwell

    “Oh how much are the worldlings deceived that rejoice in the time of weeping, and make their place of imprisonment a palace of pleasure; that consider the examples of the saints as follies, and their end as dishonorable; that think to go to Heaven by the wide way that leadeth only to perdition!”
    -Saint Robert Southwell

    “Live with the few if you want to reign with the few.”
    -Saint John Climacus

    “The number of the damned is incalculable.”
    -Saint Veronica Giuliani

    “I see around me a multitude of those who, blindly persevering in error, despise the true God; but I am a Christian nevertheless, and I follow the instruction of the Apostles. If this deserves chastisement, reward it; for I am determined to suffer every torture rather then become the slave of the devil. Others may do as they please since they are […] reckless of the future life, which is to be obtained only by sufferings. Scripture tells us that “narrow is the way that leads to life” […] because it is one of affliction and of persecutions suffered for the sake of justice; but it is wide enough for those who walk upon it, because their faith and the hope of an eternal reward make it so for them. […] On the contrary, the road of vice is in reality narrow, and it leads to an eternal precipice.”
    -Saint Leo of Patara

    “Brethren, the just man shall scarcely be saved. What, then, will become of the sinner?”
    -Saint Arsenius

    “Among adults there are few saved because of sins of the flesh. […] With the exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned.”
    -Saint Regimius or Rheims

    “How many among these uncivilized peoples do not yet know God, and are sunk in the darkest idolatry, superstition and ignorance! […] Poor souls! These are they in whom Christ saw, in all the horror of His imminent Passion, the uselessness of His agony for so many souls!”
    -Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini

    “O Jesus! […] Remember the sadness that Thou didst experience when, contemplating in the light of Thy divinity the predestination of those who would be saved by the merits of Thy sacred passion, thou didst see at the same time the great multitude of reprobates who would be damned for their sins, and Thou didst complain bitterly of those hopeless, lost, and unfortunate sinners.”
    -Saint Bridget of Sweden

    “The greater number of Christians today are damned. The destiny of those dying on one day is that very few – not as many as ten – went strait to Heaven; many remained in Purgatory; and those cast into Hell were as numerous as snowflakes in mid-winter.”
    -Blessed Anna Maria Taigi

    “They who are enlightened to walk in the way of perfection, and through lukewarmness wish to tread the ordinary path, shall be abandoned.”
    -Blessed Angela of Foligno

    “One day, Saint Macarius found a skull and asked it whose head it had been. ‘A pagan’s!’ it replied. ‘And where is your soul?’ he asked. ‘In Hell!’ came the reply. Macarius then asked the skull if its place was very deep in Hell. ‘As far down as the earth is lower than Heaven!’ ‘And are there any other souls lodged even lower?’ ‘Yes! The souls of the Jews!’ ‘And even lower than the Jews?’ ‘Yes! The souls of bad Christians who were redeemed with the blood of Christ and held there privilege so cheaply!’”
    -Blessed James of Voragine

    “I fear that Last Day, that day of tribulation and anguish, of calamity and misery, of mist and darkness, that Day on which, if the just have reason to fear, how much more should I: an impious, wretched, and ungrateful sinner!”
    -Blessed Sebastian Valfre

    “I was watching souls going down into the abyss as thick and fast as snowflakes falling in the winter mist.”
    -Blessed Benedict Joseph Labre

    “Take care not to resemble the multitude whose knowledge of God’s will only condemns them to more severe punishment.”
    -Blessed John of Avila

    “So many people are going to die, and almost all of them are going to Hell! So many people falling into hell!”
    –Blessed Jacinta of Fatima

    “Taking into account the behavior of mankind, only a small part of the human race will be saved.”
    -Lucy of Fatima

  5. Geoffrey says:

    Is this on the General Roman Calendar? They mentioned this feast on EWTN today, but none of my calendars, etc., make any mention of St Leonard…?

  6. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Okay, I have officially despaired now.

    I have been on the tip of the iceberg for a long time.

    I cannot read such things and have much hope to be saved. (not to mention those in my charge)

    May the Lord have mercy on me.


  7. benedetta says:

    God’s mercy is boundless for those who seek it, but we cannot presume that we will be rewarded for our deeds when it comes to final judgment. Have been thinking a lot lately of St. Alphonsus’ exhortation to pray constantly to be able to persevere. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…

  8. Catholictothecore says:

    Everything we do here on earth matters. But we must not let old man satan triumph over us by despairing, giving into hopelessness. That’s exactly what he wants. We must avail ourselves of the sacraments frequently and pray, pray, pray. Being a Christian Catholic is not easy. But if we stay close to God and do his will we can enter through the narrow gate and be saved. Luke chapter 13:22-30 should be in the forefront of our minds as well as Matthew chapter 25.

  9. Michelle F says:

    @ Bill Foley,

    Thank you for the list of quotes from the Saints. I saved a copy, and I will be copying them into my notebook (pen and paper) for future reference!

  10. PA mom says:

    Nor can I hope to be saved, or my children or husband. Could He have meant me not to make it even after the miracle I received? And my children, I am giving up my whole life out of love, but it won’t be enough?
    I understand half or less, didn’t even the angels lose half? But 5 of 33,000? Those are very bad odds.

  11. mysticalrose says:

    Wow. After reading all of those quotes, I too am inclined to despair. My only hope is the Holy Rosary. I do not believe that anyone who prays the Rosary every day will be lost. I’m banking on it.

    Also, the New Evangelization should begin with a reflection on all of Bill Foley’s quotes. I don’t think that we in the contemporary Church have any longer a sense of urgency with respect to our attempt to spread the Gospel. If you have ever read Nostra Aetate, you would think that we have all the time in the world to evangelize — I think that NA says that we can’t expect to see the fruit of the efforts of evangelization in mission countries for like a few generations. Hogwash! Christian charity demands that we not let people (or ourselves) be lost.

  12. Captain Peabody says:

    It is very dangerous to speak of such things, which is why most saints and the Scriptures themselves speak of them only in the broadest of terms, and with different emphases in different places. In one place, the Scriptures tell us that few are saved; in another, that the saved constitute a greater multitude than can possibly be numbered. This knowledge is meant for us only to the degree that it spurs us to love God and hope in him. Few are saved, and so we must strive with all our might to be among that few, trusting in God. Many are saved, and so so we must never despair in the infinite mercy of God, but always give thanks to him humbly and strive with all our might to do his will.

    The way is indeed narrow; but the battle is not ours, and so little is required of us to be saved. All we need is trust in Jesus, unfailing trust, and gratitude, and he will do the rest. St. Alphonsus De Ligouri says that one of the greatest torments of the damned will be seeing how very easy it would have been for them to be saved, and how little effort would have been required of them.

    The greatest claimer of souls today, I believe, is without a doubt despair and discouragement. So many souls now are alone, so many are hopeless, so many are addicted, so many do not believe that they can be saved. Sins of the flesh by themselves are weak; coupled with loneliness and despair, however, they claim many souls. Discouragement is the greatest tool of the Enemy.

    In past ages, when most were Catholics, spiritual writers emphasized the fewness of salvation to draw men to repentance and to greater strictness of life. At the same time, though, every single one of them proclaimed the Infinite Mercy of God, a Mercy which can and does save even the most hardened sinner. The saying most often on the lips of our savior was “Do not be afraid!”

    St. Faustina of Kowalski is, I believe, the saint of our times, and she saw as well as anyone the greatest temptation of our time: despair. In response, she gave to us the praise of divine mercy, a divine mercy that is without limits, a divine mercy which gives so many mercies, so many graces, that if each of us were to accept them all I believe we would all shortly become saints.

    I need more help of God in this than most of you good people, I am sure; I know that my impurity and pride cry to heaven for vengeance. But I know with all my heart that as long as the Lord permits me to live and draw breath, as long as he gives me a will to bewail my sins, that he desires me to be saved and will save me if I call upon him. My salvation does not rest in my own hands, but in the merciful hands of God, and if I call upon him and trust in him, his mercy will give me more than I could imagine. Pray for me, all of you, and I will pray for you. If we want ourselves and our children to be saved, we must pray.

    “Only that soul who wants it will be damned, for God condemns no one.”
    -St. Faustina

    “Let souls who are striving for perfection particularly adore My mercy, because the abundance of graces which I grant them flows from My mercy. I desire that these souls distinguish themselves by boundless trust in My mercy. I myself will attend to the sanctification of such souls. I will provide them with everything they will need to attain sanctity.”
    -Jesus to St. Faustina

    “And even if the sins of soul are as dark as night, when the sinner turns to My mercy he gives Me the greatest praise and is the glory of My Passion. When a soul praises My goodness, Satan trembles before it and flees to the very bottom of hell.”
    -Jesus to St. Faustina

    “Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God.” — St. John Vianney

    “Hope does not trust chiefly in grace already received, but on God’s omnipotence and mercy, whereby even he that has not grace, can obtain it, so as to come to eternal life. Now whoever has faith is certain of God’s omnipotence and mercy. [Thus]… there is certainty in the hope of a wayfarer.”
    -St. Thomas Aquinas

    “Since God displayed His great mercy in so many ways even toward Judas, an apostle turned traitor, since He invited him so often to be forgiven and did not allow him to perish except through despair alone, surely there is no cause for anyone in this life to despair even if an imitator of Judas.” — St. Thomas More

    All you holy angels and saints, pray for us.

  13. Taylor says:

    Do not worry, all, if you should stumble and fall. Our Lord is merciful to those who seek repentance and try to live a holy life. Our Lord does not forget that we are human; in fact, He has walked through the same vale of tears as we. Our Lord indeed wants all to be saved.

    Do not despair, but have hope and seek first the Kingdom of Heaven.

  14. NBW says:

    Thank you for posting this Father.

    @acardnal- thanks for suggesting the book & link. It sounds like a very good book.

  15. SouthTxMom says:

    “We must trust him. Even if there were any risk in trusting him, there is no help for it.”…

    “It is only when we are sinking overhead in his mercy that our unworthiness does not impair our confidence. Yet what can we do with the comparative infinity of our unworthiness but trust it to the absolute infinity of God’s compassion?”
    -Fr. Frederick William Faber

  16. fvhale says:

    @Geoffrey: St. Leonard of Port Maurice was a Franciscan, and is on the Franciscan Calendar. He is also listed in the Martyrologium Romanum, n. 11 for November 26. He died in Rome in the year 1751.

    In the Proper Offices of Franciscan Saints and Blesseds in the Liturgy of the Hours, there is an excerpt from his writings as the Second Reading of the Office of Readings:

    “…Behold the source of all our woes: no one considers what should be carefully examined; from this flows the manifold disarray in our actions. First of all, no attention is paid to the last things….
    Is there a remedy for these evils? Indeed there is! I should like to explain on bended knees to all prelates, pastors, priests and other ministers of God that this remedy is at hand, at least in great part: the devout exercise of the Way of the Cross. If by their zeal and care this devotion spreads through individual parishes and churches it will indeed be a powerful protection against the surging tide of vice and fill all with the greatest blessings of virtue who engage in loving reflection on the sufferings and love of Jesus Christ….” (from Opere complete vol. 2 [Venice 1868] pp. 176-177.)

  17. Supertradmum says:


    from Saturday–must be something in the air.

    Not despair, but a healthy dose of reality therapy…despair is when we give up on the mercy and goodness of the Crucified Christ and is a sin which adds to His sufferings. If we cling to the Cross, stay in sanctifying grace through the sacraments of the Church, believe and obey the Church is all things, spread the Good News of salvation in and out of season, we are part of the remnant. We can hope, which is the entire reason for hope. But, we must be objective about our own state before God and not hide sin nor pretend to be holier than we are. Go to Mary, if you are despairing.

  18. Clinton R. says:

    Very nice post, Father. We should be thankful for these saints and their clear and concise teaching on salvation. We very much should seek to enter through the narrow gate.

  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Captain Peabody, thank you very much!

    In addition, the Ark has been mentioned on which 8 people were saved. 8 people were saved, yes; but of those that were left to die in the floods, we know (not only hope; know) that “they” (which is quite possibly not each single of them, but still…) made it to Purgatory (read 1 Petr 3,19; noone preaches to the lost).

  20. Imrahil says:

    On another thing, the topic has been treated by the Magisterium of the Church. Which says the following:

    For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. He goes on to say that these are cases for Purgatory. (Benedict XVI, Spe salvi)

    Christ redeemed all the world by virtue of His Precious Blood. It is true that this does not destroy the freedom of the potentially saved person, but can this mean that no matter what, still Heaven is only for some hand-picked moral highperformers?

    Dear @PAMom, the angels, at least, lost less than half even according to St. Thomas (S.th. I 63 IX), without specification. Ludwig Ott said carefully against older notions of saved minorities that “we can suppose that the Realm of Christ is not less big than the Realm of Satan” (Dogmatics IV 1 § 12 III a).

    Actually the most accurate number we, I guess, “sort of have”, is one third: the number of the stars that the tail of the dragon wiped out of Heaven… but we do not know whether these are fallen angels, or fallen angels and reprobated men put together, or fallen angels and sinful (= all save 2) men put together, or is a litterally (“stars”) a reference to whatever actual material occurrences.

  21. StWinefride says:

    My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You!
    I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe,
    do not adore, do not hope and do not love You!

    O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners,
    and in reparation for the sins committed against
    the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

    O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell.
    Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.

    O Most Holy Trinity, I adore You! My God, my God,
    I love you in the most Blessed Sacrament!

    Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
    I offer You the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity
    of Jesus Christ, present in all the Tabernacles of the world,
    in reparation for the sacrileges, outrages and indifference
    by which He Himself is offended.
    And through the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart
    and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the
    conversion of poor sinners.

    Sweet Heart of Mary, be the salvation of Russia, Spain,
    Portugal, Europe and the whole world.

    By your pure and Immaculate Conception, O Mary,
    obtain for me the conversion of Russia, Spain, Portugal,
    Europe and the whole world.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

  22. pmullane says:

    1) Do not despair, all things are possible to God, May his mercy be praised and given Glory forever.

    2) You are weak. You cannot do this by yourself. Only God can bring you to heaven. Stop trying to be good by yourself, give yourself to God. When are you close to God? The Mass? The Rosary? Adoration? Prayer? Confession? Do those things more (as much as you can) and you will be close to God more. When are you far from God? Do these things as little as possible, and not at all if you can. You are weak. So am I. Let us allow God to be glorified through our misery, by showing that his mercy is enough to raise up ones even as miserable as we.

    Pray for Me, I will pray for you.

    God Bless.

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Given the estimated population of the earth in St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s time, and given the love of medievals for symbolic numbers, it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY that 30,000 actual people would have died on the same day as St. Bernard of Clairvaux. However, it is highly likely that you are supposed to read this as “symbolic number three, joined to symbolic number ten, joined to symbolic number one thousand, equals the symbolism of thirty thousand.”

    So you turn to St. Isidore of Seville, or St. Jerome, or any other basic medieval educational authority, and find out what the Biblical symbolism of those numbers might be. (And you could even factor out the entire number, just to get the chewiest rumination for yourself.)

    Now, if the monk had had a vision about the number 17, or the number 3647, or something else that’s hard to turn into Biblical symbolism, I would then have been suspicious about whether some other mathematical symbolism was involved which I just didn’t know. Only if there was no symbolism whatsoever would I read it as an actual factual number meant as prophecy; and then, I would do the thing one does with prophecies, and compare it to real life to see if it were a true or false prophecy.

    And yes, I’ve read St. Gregory the Great on Noah’s Ark, and St. Gregory of Elvira (Illiberitanus) too. And the point is not only that you can have a lot of fun comparing different personality types to different animals in the Ark, but that even most of the non-spiritual people are saved. It’s the raven and the dead floater bodies outside that have the big problem. Greg was mostly talking about how there are all different kinds of vocations and people in the Church. So yes, don’t forget to respond to Jesus’ mercy and try to avoid Hell; but staying inside the Ark of the Church is a darned good plan, and there’s no need to despair.

    There are many of those quotes which are supposed to be balanced by much gentler comments in the surrounding material or in other works. There are also many of those which come in fire and brimstone Catholic preaching, meant to be balanced by urging people to take advantage of Confession, or for the unbaptized and the irreligious to seek salvation or come back to the Church.

    A little spice of the pepper of urgency can wake up our tastebuds; using nothing but burning hot jalapenos makes it hard to taste the food or finish the meal.

  24. JonPatrick says:

    Two books I have found helpful when and if one tends toward despair or its opposite, complacency about salvation – Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and My Daily Bread, which is put out by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood. I believe Tan books carries both of these.

  25. Mariana says:



  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    And no, I don’t disbelieve that the monk might have had a visionary dream from God that employed Biblical number symbolism, any more than I’d doubt that someone might have a true dream that employed imagery or sound symbolism. Joseph’s dream about his brothers certainly employed plenty of number symbolism, if you recall, as did Pharaoh’s dream about the famine, and as did the dreams of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, and pretty much every other famous Bible dream except St. Joseph’s dream about the angel. (One feels that St. Joseph must have been a very straightforward person who liked things spelled out; but then, he was going to be living with Jesus face to face, and didn’t need any veils of number drawn over the facts.)

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Suburbanbanshee, statistics vary on the world population in the 13th century, but by the early 14th century, it was between 70-200 million people. 33,000 dying on one day world-wide would not be unusual, as the plague had started in the Far East by that time. St. Bernard and monk in question died on August 20, 1153, so my conservative estimate would be the 70 million, yet allowing the number said to have died on a particular day as a good number. Also, the wars with Islam were in full-swing in several areas, so many soldiers on both sides would be dying, as well as civilians because of warfare, even though the official Second Crusade was over. I stand with the monk visited by his friend in heaven on this one.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Suburbanbanshee Why cannot some symbolism be real rather than merely fiction? One post-Enlightenment New Criticism towards the Scripture is that all sacred numbers are metaphors or similes for something else. Not necessarily. If the Scripture states that Christ went into the desert for 40 days in imitation of the 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness by the Hebrews, why cannot that be both symbolic and real? A wedding ring is symbolic, but it is real. A veil for a nun is symbolic, but a real sacramental. Holy Water is both symbolic and real and so on….same with numbers.

  29. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If you want to believe that 30,000 people actually died that day (specially arranged by God to create a nice round number with Biblical symbolism), you are actually raising the importance of the numeric symbolism, not lowering it. Because if God went to all that trouble, and you are ignoring the numeric symbolism, those extra 765 people are being rather disrespected by you!

    And if we have to go into this, one would have to point out that more than three-fourths of the dead would have been pagan Chinese, pagan Indians, Muslims in Asia and the Middle East, pagans in the great cities of Mexico and Mississippian America, etc., etc. The large number of those who would have to have died unshriven and unrepentant because of war or plague in your scenario would also be a fairly unusual circumstance.

    In short, it doesn’t sound like a typical day, but more like a “judgment on the godless as a wakeup call for friends of Clairvaux” day.

    One would also note that friends of Clairvaux brought down 800 years of suffering on medieval Ireland by opining that there were no real Christians left and that some more devout country like England should take it over, mostly by taking an elderly Irish bishop’s complaints as a fact report. Nobody seemed to notice in Clairvaux that there were places in France, and elsewhere in Europe, that you could say the same things about.

    So sometimes the Clairvaux judgment wasn’t all that great. St. B was a great preacher, scholar, and thinker; but he didn’t necessarily care about the consequences of his zeal, and neither did his brothers. Frankly, I take everything out of Clairvaux with an Ireland-sized pinch of salt.

  30. Imrahil says:

    Of course some symbolism can be real rather then merely fiction. (Privately I speculate that there will, in Heaven, be an actual number of actual 144000 people who have some specific role I do not know about. But it is definitely neither the number of all saved or of all saved Jews, which is even disprovable from the text. [The saved come from “all tribes of Israel”, but in the list of the 144000 one tribe, Dan, is missing.])

    However, I don’t believe that the ratio of actual salvation is either 5/33000 in dead people, or only 5/1 in canonized saints. And just because someone reports that someone reported that someone had had a vision which can be both true and untrue, and both supernatural and just a dream, etc., I will not believe a thing which nothing in my faith compels me to believe and which, practically speaking, only leaves open the road to a despair combined with a “You must not despair” precept.

  31. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Meanwhile, having just gone back and read St. Gregory the Great on Noah’s Ark (that’s in his Homilies on Ezekiel, aka In Ezechielem, Bk II, hom. 4, 16-18), I’m in a position to tell you that Greg’s point was that he took the gradual narrowing of the Ark as a sign that people in the Church were supposed to grow and progress in holiness, moving up towards the one cubit bit at the top, which symbolizes Jesus. The increasing narrowness of the “nests” or “chambers” at the top is a sign that “the hearts of the faithful” (ie, ordinary Christians) will be perfected infinitely more in Christ there than they are now.

    Yes, Hell is real and you can go there. No, this doesn’t mean we should give up or expect damnation. Look what that did to Luther, for goodness sake.

  32. bookworm says:

    Forgive me for being a bit snarky here, but maybe the day when 30,000 people died and only 3 were saved was just a particularly bad day….

    Or maybe it was an example of what COULD happen if people didn’t change their ways and start seriously praying, evangelizing, etc. — kind of like the vision that Scrooge has in “Christmas Carol” of Tiny Tim dying and people gloating over his (Scrooge’s) own death. “Are these the shadows of things that must be, or only of things that MIGHT be?” he asks.

    Seriously, these “hardly anyone is saved and practically everybody goes to hell” type prophecies or visions have to be taken with a grain of salt and balanced with the many, many references in Scripture and Tradition to the great mercy of God. If I really, truly believed that the vast majority of people, including those I know, were going to hell I would go barking mad from despair, and that can’t possibly be the Holy Spirit talking.

    Maybe the message we should take away from these visions, locutions, etc. is that every living person, no matter how holy or pious they appear to be, is AT RISK of going to hell so we need to be constantly vigilant in prayer, penance and virtue.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    Well, St. Bernard is a great Doctor of the Church and in tradition with a small “t”, the greatest exegete on the Song of Songs, as well as the inspiration of 100s to join the Cistercians in his day. His men spread across Europe even into Spain, where one of his brothers became a well loved abbot, honored by the Spanish to this day. All in his family are “blesseds”.
    He was a peacemaker among princes as well as the caller of a crusade for which I apologize to no one. As to private revelations, we can take them or leave them. But, to start an attack on the person Dante puts in the highest empyrean of heaven, not too far from the Queen of Heaven and Earth herself, is showing a lack of wisdom and graciousness. I agree with his superior excellence. Needless to say, I have been studying his biographies and writings for over 30 years and have discovered new depths of his holiness daily.

    Again, you betray what I have written about many times-better said by William Butler Yeats himself-

    Out of Ireland have we come.
    Great hatred, little room,
    Maimed us at the start.

    And, if the hatred never ends, there is no room for those who hate for personal holiness and seeing God. Only the pure of heart see God and Bernard not only understood and shared that with us, but experienced it as one of the great mystics. Whether the above vision is true or not as a historical event, it serves the purpose of showing us the need for the extreme purity of heart to reach heaven-the point of this posting.

  34. Father K says:

    Captain Peabody thank you for putting a bit of a balance back in this topic. These speculations, especially when they get numerical put me in mind the likes of Jehovah’s Witnesses who scour the Bible for proofs of their dates regarding the Second Coming. They can’t see the wood for the trees and are misusing Scripture.

    An unhealthy focus on how many are saved [actually the focus is on a gleeful lip-licking calculation of how many are not saved] leads to Jansenism, despair and pharaisaism. Scripture, like the quotes from the Saints [who are not infallible, by the way] need to be read and interpreted correctly, not thrown around like grenades. [The context in which they were written is helpful]. The CDFs document on Eschatology should be read before embarking on these speculations.

    As Christians we are called to witness to an preach the Good News of salvation, not the bad news of damnation.

  35. Imrahil says:

    To which I would say (and note that the vision is not from St. Bernard himself),

    if it is true it is depressing in the highest degree; if it is wrong it serves nothing. In either case, a result is not showing the need for purity of heart (a thing quite reasonable and necessary), but as you said yourself extreme purity of heart, extreme to the point of practically nonexistent and unreachable.

    (Something about the comment: “But you need not reach it yourself; God does that for you.” True; but He did it for the other one’s too, and we are dealing with the practical results including the effects of God’s grace; hence we are back at the beginning.)

    Despair is a dreadful thing; and “it is forbidden to despair” may excuse somebody from the sin of it who says “I will not despair for I fear the sin”, but all other effects remain if the root is not treated.

    Indeed, as dear @Suburbanshee has mentioned, one can understand Martin Luther who basically said: “in that case, let’s not give a – insert expletive – about my future chances and let’s just act as if God will sort it out in the end” (of course, he did look for some, actually weak, Bible proof to substantiate the latter assertion, but that, I guess, was the original thought). One can even value that even in spite of such thinking, he remained in principle pious (by which I mean no endorsement, he was pious while gravely erring, Rome-hating and being uncharitable and vulgar; but yes, he was pious).

  36. Imrahil says:

    Please put a “Dear @Supertradmum” before my previous comment… and sorry.

  37. Glen M says:

    The Church teaches one mortal sin is enough to condemn the soul to Hell for all eternity.

    Depending on the diocese, 75%-90% of baptized Catholics did not fulfill their Sunday obligation this week – a mortal sin.

    Depending on the parish, 90%+ of those who attended Mass were probably not in a state of grace (based on participation in Confession).

    Given the above, it’s best to trust the saints: most don’t go to Heaven.

  38. The Masked Chicken says:

    The 5/33,000 number is, I suspect, symbolic and almost certainly provably false. Attend: how many baptized babies died that day? Do they not count as people? Are we to believe that none died (2 people went to Heaven, one being St. Bernard – was the other grown?)? If at least two baptized babies died, then the number of people who went to Heaven would have to be greater than 2, since baptized babies cannot sin and cannot go to Purgatory. Is the word, “people,” a mistranslation (generalization) of the word, “grown men?” That would make more sense, but what about the number of people who died after receiving Extreme Unction, but never regaining consciousness? Was that number greater than 3 in the whole world? If so, then there are more than 3 people in at least Purgatory. What about people who died immediately after going to confession. There might have been at least one. In other words, that 5/33,000 makes no sense in the presence of three sacraments of the forgiveness of sins.

    Old Testament figures do not count because there was no sacramental system in place. There was no sanctifying grace available.

    This is not to say that the number of people getting to Heaven will not be small, but it does give one hope.

    The Chicken

  39. Supertradmum says:

    Hello Chicken, clarification-monk told monk-the one revealing the message was in the desert as a solitude. As to numbers, in 1200, there were about 48 million people in Europe, which would make the larger number of 220 million across the world more likely, perhaps. One can argue about certain numbers here, as statisticians disagree. However, most of the world would not be Catholic or even Christian. Ergo, most of those who died as adults or even as children who sinned, would not be Christians. This story was told before the great age of the missionaries.

    This is the same problem we have today. Many people, including some in my own extended family, have not baptized their children, letting them decide when they are adults, depriving them of grace and a chance for heaven. You cannot imagine a world mostly not Catholic? Or in our day, non-practising, but still on the books, as it were? How many Catholics voted for O, including 75% of the Hispanics? How many are contracepting? ETC. Such problems as apostasy and moral sin were rampant in the Middle Ages, which is exactly why the Holy Spirit raised up so many new orders-to lead people back to Christ. Many people were in wastelands where there were no priests, or only travelling priests or bad priests. You presume a modern European scenario which really does not even exist today. Sacraments are not readily available in many places. The world of St. Leonard and St. Vincent Ferrer, who told the story, would have been worlds of apostasy to Albignesianism, (Ferrer lived during the plague and the heresy and the Avignon papacy–hard times) and later, in Leonard’s time, Protestantism and Enlightenment heresies, which is why the gloom. Only the pure in heart see God.

  40. Hidden One says:

    It would be wise for the despairing to read the whole of St. Leonard’s sermon. Let me quote an especially relevant part:

    “Brothers, I want to send all of you away comforted today. So if you ask me my sentiment on the number of those who are saved, here it is: Whether there are many or few that are saved, I say that whoever wants to be saved, will be saved; and that no one can be damned if he does not want to be. And if it is true that few are saved, it is because there are few who live well. As for the rest, compare these two opinions: the first one states that the greater number of Catholics are condemned; the second one, on the contrary, pretends that the greater number of Catholics are saved. Imagine an Angel sent by God to confirm the first opinion, coming to tell you that not only are most Catholics damned, but that of all this assembly present here, one alone will be saved. If you obey the Commandments of God, if you detest the corruption of this world, if you embrace the Cross of Jesus Christ in a spirit of penance, you will be that one alone who is saved.

    Now imagine the same Angel returning to you and confirming the second opinion. He tells you that not only are the greater portion of Catholics saved, but that out of all this gathering, one alone will be damned and all the others saved. If after that, you continue your usuries, your vengeances, your criminal deeds, your impurities, then you will be that one alone who is damned.

    What is the use of knowing whether few or many are saved? Saint Peter says to us, “Strive by good works to make your election sure.” When Saint Thomas Aquinas’s sister asked him what she must do to go to heaven, he said, “You will be saved if you want to be.” I say the same thing to you, and here is proof of my declaration. No one is damned unless he commits mortal sin: that is of faith. And no one commits mortal sin unless he wants to: that is an undeniable theological proposition. Therefore, no one goes to hell unless he wants to; the consequence is obvious. Does that not suffice to comfort you? Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved. Why torment yourself so? For it is certain that you have to commit mortal sin to go to hell, and that to commit mortal sin you must want to, and that consequently no one goes to hell unless he wants to. That is not just an opinion, it is an undeniable and very comforting truth; may God give you to understand it, and may He bless you. Amen.”

  41. marypatricia says:

    Thank you very much Father K for giving me back hope.There has been quite a lot on this topic recently on the internet and it just had the effect of making me despair.

  42. Father K says:

    Glen M

    There is the world of difference between naming a mortal sin objectively -‘to miss Mass on Sunday without a sufficient reason is a mortal sin’ – [that is correct] and condemning 75%+ of a parish to hell because they missed Mass last Sunday is quite another. Any priest who has any pastoral experience at all whether in or out of the confessioanl knows the difference bewteen objective and subjective guilt. In other words the individual may not be guilty of a mortal sin at all.

    Another example – from a noted canonist who posed this question to priests who were canon law students…’A woman comes to you in confession and confesses the sin of abortion. How likely is it that she will need the latae sententiae excommunication lifted?’ His answer….’most unlikey to extremely unlikely.’ This canonist is no liberal and his legal opinion is safe.

    My point being all of these matters are very nuanced and hurling around anathemas and pointing the finger at ‘mortal sinners’ does far more harm than good.

  43. MGL says:

    Father K puts it better than I could have:

    An unhealthy focus on how many are saved [actually the focus is on a gleeful lip-licking calculation of how many are not saved] leads to Jansenism, despair and pharaisaism. Scripture, like the quotes from the Saints [who are not infallible, by the way] need to be read and interpreted correctly, not thrown around like grenades.

    To the lip-lickers, paraphrasing Agrippa, I say, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a liberal.”

    Seriously, I understand why it’s fun to speculate on how many thousands died on one day back in St. Bernard’s day, but I’m more concerned about how many thousands read Bill Foley’s parade of horrors yesterday and decided that, since they and their families were almost certainly among the damned, they may as well give up the Faith altogether. Or those who had been drawn towards conversion, but shrank back at the overwhelming odds presented here. Perhaps there are souls among them who would have been saved but now will be damned, due to their despair. Have the lip-lickers forgotten that it is a mortal sin to cause others to sin (Lk 17:2), and that on the Last Day, we will be held to account for the souls of those we caused to sin?

    Those visions imply that Heaven is largely deserted, even that (contrary to the teachings of the Church) even most faithful, Mass-attending, prayerful, humble and contrite Catholics who avail themselves of the sacraments are damned. In this view, Catholicism is something of an Olympic sport, in which only the medallists have any assurance of joy. Oh, but they go on to say, persevere, pray constantly anyway! But why, if we’re almost all damned? What does it avail a man whose soul is almost certainly forfeit? Should he not gain the world while he can?

  44. The Masked Chicken says: Old Testament figures do not count because there was no sacramental system in place. There was no sanctifying grace available.

    That can’t be true. Nobody goes to heaven without sanctifying grace. The Old Testament patriarchs are venerated by the Church as saints, which they couldn’t be if they weren’t in heaven. They wouldn’t have made it into heaven (after Jesus opened the gates of heaven from the cross) had they died without sanctifying grace. They had what, in their day, constituted the true religion; even though it was a religion of types and figures, since it was true, it must still have provided them with the means of attaining sanctifying grace.

    As for today’s times, I don’t know how unreasonable it is to conclude that many, if not most, in what now passes for Christian civilization, are currently in a state of mortal sin. I don’t see how our current decadence could be possible in a world where most people were in the state of grace. And through it all, people seem to think that everyone goes to heaven, even when they are living as public sinners. They are the ones who most need the warnings of such as St. Leonard of Port Maurice.

  45. nmoerbeek says:

    And if the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
    1 Peter 4:8

    It would be better to spend our time in weeping for our sins rather than figuring out a way to excuse ourselves or others into heaven.

  46. acardnal says:

    I think most saints would agree that it is not enough to “want” to go to heaven or to “want” to avoid mortal sin; one must “will” it.

    DO something that is in accord with God’s will. Desire is not enough.

  47. Jim says:

    Father K,
    I am confused.

    How exactly is it possible for someone to knowingly miss Holy Mass on Sunday and not commit mortal sin ? Or is the point that 75% of Catholics have sufficient reason to miss Mass on Sundays ?

    “This canonist is no liberal and his legal opinion is safe.”
    Will this noted canonist defend me, when I stand in front of my Lord after death ? If he cannot why would I bother if his “legal” opinion is safe?

    all of these matters are very nuanced and hurling around anathemas and pointing the finger at ‘mortal sinners’ does far more harm than good.
    But doesn’t the church teach that : “To instruct the ignorant, To counsel the doubtful, To admonish sinners” are spiritual works of mercy ? Which is worse admonishing sinners or allowing sinners to go to hell by our silence ?

  48. Supertradmum says:

    Father K, I am sorry to disagree with a priest, but I have, for reasons on my blog, to help women who have had abortions, asked many canonists and even diocesan offices of the bishops of certain dioceses on the excommunication issue regarding abortion. It is always in effect and is automatic and must be lifted. I suggest you look again at the Madrid’s Cardinal of action at the last WYD, when he granted all the priests there hearing confessions the faculties, which must be given. Not all priests have these faculties, but some really good bishops give these (and it must be written out in the faculties) to all their priests, such as in the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley has given this faculty to all his priests. Your canonist is not correct. There are also penalties in some dioceses, such as one here in Eire, where the bishop of one diocese personally lifts the excommunications and wants to do so for pastoral reasons. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/world-youth-day-priests-granted-power-to-lift-abortion-excommunications/

  49. LisaP. says:

    “Few are saved, and so we must strive with all our might to be among that few, trusting in God. Many are saved, and so so we must never despair in the infinite mercy of God, but always give thanks to him humbly and strive with all our might to do his will.”

    If an individual is able to sincerely believe he or she is overwhelmingly probably damned and yet not despair, more power to him. Believing others are likely damned and yourself likely not is, of course, amazingly perilous.
    For most of us, graced with hope but tempted to both despair and pride, I suspect it’s good to figure there’s a reason God has never given us a straight, complete answer on that one.

  50. MGL says: To the lip-lickers, paraphrasing Agrippa, I say, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a liberal.” Seriously, I understand why it’s fun to speculate on how many thousands died on one day back in St. Bernard’s day, but I’m more concerned about how many thousands read Bill Foley’s parade of horrors yesterday and decided that, since they and their families were almost certainly among the damned, they may as well give up the Faith altogether. Or those who had been drawn towards conversion, but shrank back at the overwhelming odds presented here. Perhaps there are souls among them who would have been saved but now will be damned, due to their despair. Have the lip-lickers forgotten that it is a mortal sin to cause others to sin (Lk 17:2), and that on the Last Day, we will be held to account for the souls of those we caused to sin?

    Who’s licking lips here? And in what sense is it “fun” to meditate on the number of the damned? Did the saints quoted above give scandal by warning about the fewness of the saved? Did Our Lord, Who said that few enter the narrow gate? Does the Church, who urges us to meditate on the Four Last Things as a remedy for sin? St. Alphonsus had some things to say about damned souls that are a lot scarier than the quotes extracted from his works above. I for one am not licking my lips, because I know very well that if left to my own devices, I would make a beeline straight for hell. I pray daily NOT to be left to my own devices.

    It is necessary to think about these things, especially in our sin-saturated age when it is assumed that everyone goes to heaven regardless of how they have lived. If we do not meditate on hell and our very real danger of going there, we will not pray and strive to avoid it.

  51. Supertradmum says:

    Miss Anita Moore, O.P.

    The Holy Ghost was given to certain, not all people, in the Old Testament, which is why we see, for example Elijah giving Elisha the double dose of the Spirit clearly. This has been the teaching of the Catholic Church for ages. The difference is that Christ through His Crucifixion and Resurrection made it possible for ALL of us to be saved. Here is the CCC on the topic.

    “The patriarchs, prophets, and certain other Old Testament figures have always been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions.” CCC 61

  52. Imrahil says:

    Dear @nmoerbeek,
    shortly put: No. In a bit more words: for those to whom it is given to weep for their sins (and our sins), yes perhaps. But weeping for sins is not ranting about all the sins of the world and going out of one’s ways to emphasize its unsavability, even if in strict non-egoism including oneself in the rant.

    May I quote Johnny Cash: I had a brother named Frankie; Frankie aSometimes when it’s your brother, you look the other way. […] A man that turns his back on his family ain’t no friend of mine.” If we love somebody, we’ll go out of our way to excuse him; indeed I sometimes fancy whether that couldn’t be what God, Who loves us, will do in the end too (however, there are undoubtedly inexcusable things). It is among the sacrifices the clerical state brings along that they have to accuse and not excuse, for they must get their ministry fulfilled which, indeed, they do for love of the sinners… But still it remains a general habit at least of the laity not to rant against those they love.

    Let’s also note, for the record, that St. Peter spoke about the difficulties for the just man (singular) to be saved, not about the number of just men that are saved.

    Dear @Jim, the works of mercy are as you noted. However, admonishing sinners is, first, a wirk of mercy and no strict obligation; it, then, allows for prudential thinking; and as a general rule, laity will not need to use the form of rebuke. (Clergy sometimes must do so; mainly to make clear that the whole of our Faith is known and is not negligeable; this is, as I said, among the clerical sacrifices.)

  53. GregH says:

    All I know is that where I work which is largely made up of late 20’s to early 40’s you would be lucky to find 1 in 15 who go to Church at all.

  54. Imrahil says:

    I seem to have not given the Highway Patrolman quote correctly. Missing is Frankie ain’t no good.

  55. Supertradmum says:

    May I add to this conversation that the second act of charity we must do, after loving God first with our whole soul, mind, heart and will, is to love ourselves and work towards our own perfection and salvation. Then and only then can we really love our neighbour as ourselves. The love of God, as Suarez states, includes loving ourself and our neighbour. The principal end of all religious orders, as I am writing on my blog this week, is to perfect each member who chooses to enter first and foremost through the praising of God and obedience to the rule, whatever that might be.

    Heaven is the result of a life of caritas. Not sentimental love, but real love, including both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Just being good, as a young Irish woman told me, is not good enough, and she does not go to Mass at all, ever, except on Christmas. Her idea of good is ruined by the world, the flesh and the devil. Those who try and follow God cannot get presumptuous, as St. Therese the Little Flower told the nuns not to leave the pain killer medicine in her room overnight so that she would not be tempted to suicide, to drink it all, she was in such tremendous pain.

  56. Supertradmum says:

    Imrahil, we are absolutely under an obligation for both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by the fact of our baptism.

  57. LisaP. says:


    I have knowingly missed Mass on several Sundays without mortally sinning. Pretty sure I’ve been hospitalized for more than one Sunday. The point is that for any one individual any one act may not be sinful.

    It’s essential both to firmly state (and believe) that a sin is a sin and also thoroughly realize that you cannot — cannot — know in any one given case whether that sin has been committed. An abortion may have happened during a coma; Joe Biden may have just repented and confessed before you saw him in that communion line; that person eating candy right before communion might be preventing unconsciousness from an overdose of insulin!

    It’s kind of unfairly hard, then. We are suppsed to admonish sinners without any certainty about who they are! Of course, we all know when we have sinned ourselves. And we can approach people in love and say, “you seem to have. . .”, and be prepared to listen and help beyond the admonition. Seems to me priests are in a good position, they can look on a congregation and say, “If you are doing X under these conditions, you’re going to hell”. But to walk up to any one individual that didn’t show at Mass last week and tell him he’s certainly damned? Not what I think that means.

  58. Imrahil says:

    Did the saints quoted above give scandal by warning about the fewness of the saved? Did Our Lord, Who said that few enter the narrow gate?

    No, as they had good intention; but they need not necessarily have been right, and they spoke in context, and some things have a habit of allowing a less scary interpretation than they sound (such as the word “few”).

    Regarding the words Our Lords said, it just occurred to me in looking up that the English translation is “many are that enter thereat [viz. the gate after the broad way]”. In German, we always have the equivalent of “many are that go on it [viz. the broad way itself]”. If many go at the way that leads to perdition – well that’s obviously the case, isn’t it? But it does not say that many shall in the end perish.

    Well, after looking up “eiserchomai” and a rudimentary knowledge that “dia” means “through” and not for all things in the world “on”, I guess we Germans have the wrong translation.

    But still a man can be said to enter perdition when he enters mortal sin. A man that in this sense has entered perdition can still be saved in the end.

  59. Jim says:

    I have knowingly missed Mass on several Sundays without mortally sinning. Pretty sure I’ve been hospitalized for more than one Sunday.
    LisaP, knowingly missing Mass without sufficient reason is what the Churc says is a mortal sin. Which is why I also said “Or is the point that 75% of Catholics have sufficient reason to miss Mass on Sundays ?” Why misquote me and attack straw ?

    “If you are doing X under these conditions, you’re going to hell”. But to walk up to any one individual that didn’t show at Mass last week and tell him he’s certainly damned?
    Where did I state that one should “walk up to any one individual that didn’t show at Mass last week and tell him he’s certainly damned” ? Again why attack me for things I did not say ?

  60. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Supertradmum,

    thank you for your correction; though I still would not say “absolutely”, as we are absolutely under an obligation to not steal, etc. As regards the works of mercy, they seem to be mostly within the realm of freedom and of things we can do as unobligatory meritorious deeds… but still I was incorrect in omitting that, yes, there are circumstances where failure to do them can constitute a sin including a grave sin (as is evident from Mt 25).

    That however changes nothing as to the tendential difference between what I, without claim of being scholastically precise, called the clergy approach and the laity approach. I also still say that admonishing the sinners is a highly prudential thing.

  61. LisaP. says:

    Jim not trying to attack or misquote. My point was just that any one of those in the 75% could be without culpability, so you have to approach “admonishing sinners” in that light.

    If I misunderstood your point, I apologize! Didn’t think you we’re unaware that some might be guiltless, but it seemed you might miss that any one given person might be guiltless, even one who seemed guilty, if you catch my distinction?

  62. Lucas says:

    I think that it would be good for us who are on the way to becoming saints to meditate on just what hell is so that we can avoid straying from the narrow path of which Jesus speaks. Hell is non-community. In the words of Karl Rahner it “imprisons the whole man within the deadly lonely damnation of self-centered absurdity” (Theological Investigations, vol. 6, p. 242). And so in the sense that we are practicing in this life the role that we will have in the next one it might be good to consider the words of Blessed John Paul II that we should participate and make mutual participation favorable for others in the interest of charity in the communities that we find ourselves in. True peace implies participation. From what I have read action is best directed toward peaceful outcomes when we recollect ourselves in prayer, which is the greatest thing that we can do for our neighbor. We need that prayerful silence that becomes contemplation so that we can open ourselves to the Church’s desire for us to be “eager to act and yet intent on contemplation” so that action is subordinated to contemplation in the most fruitful way possible (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2). We pray as we live because we live as we pray (CCC 2725). These ideas have been helpful in concrete ways within the context of my own life: Maybe they will be useful to others as well.

  63. The Masked Chicken says:

    “That can’t be true. Nobody goes to heaven without sanctifying grace.”

    They didn’t, since sanctifying grace did not exist until Christ’s Incarnation. They went to the Limbo of the Just to wait. When Christ ascended, he supplied the grace necessary for them to go on to Heaven. Remember, these people all died with Original Sin on their souls, so they could not have gone to Heaven. One simply cannot completely compare the concept of soteriology between the Old and New Testaments because of the Incarnation. It changed things.

    “Hello Chicken, clarification-monk told monk-the one revealing the message was in the desert as a solitude. As to numbers, in 1200, there were about 48 million people in Europe, which would make the larger number of 220 million across the world more likely, perhaps. One can argue about certain numbers here, as statisticians disagree. However, most of the world would not be Catholic or even Christian. Ergo, most of those who died as adults or even as children who sinned, would not be Christians. This story was told before the great age of the missionaries.”

    Essentially, all of Europe was Catholic in 1300 (except the areas co-opted by Mohammedanism). The estimated population was 70 – 100 million. Life span was about 40 years, so the population of children below the age of reason (say, 5 years, to be conservative) would have easily been 1/16 of the population or 6.25 million. Are you saying that not one child out of 6 million died that day? One can image at least 250,000 infirmed people who were near death or unconscious. Not one of them died in the state of grace? What were the priests doing? These are people in invincible sanctifying grace. They are impeccable. None of the 33,000 people were children or infirmed? That is unbelievable.

    The Chicken

  64. The Masked Chicken says: “That can’t be true. Nobody goes to heaven without sanctifying grace.” They didn’t, since sanctifying grace did not exist until Christ’s Incarnation. They went to the Limbo of the Just to wait. When Christ ascended, he supplied the grace necessary for them to go on to Heaven. Remember, these people all died with Original Sin on their souls, so they could not have gone to Heaven. One simply cannot completely compare the concept of soteriology between the Old and New Testaments because of the Incarnation. It changed things.

    If you go back and read what I said, I noted that the souls of the patriarchs now honored as saints had to wait until the Passion and Death of Christ to get into heaven. But that does not mean they died in original sin. It can’t mean that, particularly if it is true that John the Baptist was cleansed from original sin in his mother’s womb. Yet John died before Jesus unlocked the gates of heaven, and I’m not aware of any tradition of the Church that says he was not also detained in the Limbo of the Fathers.

  65. The Masked Chicken says:

    “It can’t mean that, particularly if it is true that John the Baptist was cleansed from original sin in his mother’s womb.”

    Special dispensation.

    I may be wrong, but I thought that outside of baptism there was no way to get rid of original sin. Now, water baptism did not exist in the Old Testament – baptisms of blood and desire did, but the question is: were they efficacious before Pentecost or was the release from Original Sin given, in potentia, only until then? It seems to me the later is correct because it would be unjust to keep anyone out of Heaven who had sanctifying grace and no original sin, but we know the Patriarchs were kept out until the Ressurection/Pentecost.

    I stand to be corrected, of course, since that would be a kindness.

    The Chicken

  66. Glen M says:

    Dear Fr K,

    By no means do I take delight in the numbers who are damned, nor do I consider myself guaranteed of salvation. While Jesus walked the Earth, He indicated many will be lost; several saints have said the same thing.

    The best thing we can do is work on our own salvation with fear and trembling. After that we should work on those closest to us. My spouse’s siblings didn’t get to Mass on Sunday. Of course I don’t assume to know the state of their souls, but Church teaching is straight forward and the numbers speak for themselves (Mass attendance).

    An open question: since knowledge of the sin is a requirement to be mortal, what role does ignorance versus the responsibility to know the faith play in salvation? Example: What if among those who missed Mass on Sunday are people who’ve honestly forgotten this precept of the Church? They know they should go to Church but have honestly forgotten they must.

  67. nmoerbeek says:


    I wrote two sentences, how do you figure that I was ranting? My point about excusing others into heaven had to do with not being lax with ourselves nor expecting God to be lax with our neighbor.

    Rather than worrying we should be seeking repentance for ourselves and praying for others, weeping with sorrow for our sins and the sins of others.

  68. MGL says:

    Miss Moore,

    Who’s licking lips here? And in what sense is it “fun” to meditate on the number of the damned?

    I didn’t say it was “fun” to meditate on the number of damned; I said it was fun to speculate on whether St. Bernard’s enumeration of those who died that day was literal or symbolic, because it is. However, since this blog has a worldwide readership of (at a guess) many tens of thousands, I am more concerned about those readers who have been led into despair and abandonment by that enormous list of context-free private revelations.

    As for lip-licking, I do believe that some people take immoderate pleasure in propagating or dwelling on such private revelations, and that they will be answerable not only for their immoderation but for the scandal of leading others to despair.

    Did the saints quoted above give scandal by warning about the fewness of the saved? Did Our Lord, Who said that few enter the narrow gate? Does the Church, who urges us to meditate on the Four Last Things as a remedy for sin?

    No, the saints didn’t give scandal–they told people what they saw. But neither did they pile on sixty-eight such passages all at once, thus instilling a sense of hopelessness and futility in their listeners. We have seen several people in the comments respond to this list with a sense of despair, and we know that for every commenter, there are a great many silent readers who share the sentiment.

    As for Our Lord, he pointedly refused to answer the question except in very general terms. And the Church is of course entirely correct to urge us to meditate on the Last Things, but that is very different from saying that we should encourage others to a morbid fixation on the overwhelming likelihood of their own damnation.

    Plus, when all those quotes are fired in one great cannonade, one effect is to cast doubt on the clear teachings of the Church. For instance, what are we to make of St. Teresa of Avila when she writes,

    Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians.

    What is a bad confession? Is it a dishonest one, in which we consciously withhold certain sins, or merely a negligent one, in which we fail to provide an exhaustive accounting of ourselves due to time pressure, nervousness, or absent-mindeness? Or is it something else altogether? Without context, how can we know? As it is, it’s a recipe for scrupulosity or despair. Against this, the Church teaches that all sins are forgiven in Confession, even those we honestly forget (though we should confess them if we remember them later).

    Likewise, when Blessed Anna Maria Taigi writes that The greater number of Christians today are damned, how are we to understand this? What is the context? How does this help lead people to Christ?

    Don’t get me wrong: I am very far from being a universalist, and certainly do not regard my own salvation as a sure thing. I believe that “few” will be saved, but whether that few is 60%, 30%, 10%, or something closer to 0.0001% (as the quote-pile implies), I do not presume to say.

  69. bernadette says:

    I find it most terrifying where St. Leonard speaks of all the Catholics who are lost because of inadequate or invalid confessions. I think of all the confessions I have nervously bumbled and stumbled through, never sure if I am confessing correctly, never feeling sure that I have made a good confession. And are my motives for confessing always pure? Then there are all the rosaries and meditations when I fell asleep or my mind wandered. If only three out of 30,000 are saved I can guarantee I won’t be one of them. How does one overcome all these human weaknesses?

  70. Supertradmum says:

    Just a reminder, it was not St. Bernard’s vision but a monk who was visited by his dead desert monk friend who died on the same day as Bernard….just clarifying.

  71. Supertradmum says:

    MGL Sorry, ps. those who know me, know I am hyper-critical of private revelations on the whole. As this one was quoted by saints, I felt a little bit more sure than usual about such a thing. Read my blog. I am very severe on private revelations. The posting by Father Z. is valid with or without the story of the monk.

  72. The Masked Chicken says:

    Of course, if the monk could have identified the people who went to Heaven and Purgatory, we might have a better sense of what they did right. Speculation is dangerous.

  73. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I find it most terrifying where St. Leonard speaks of all the Catholics who are lost because of inadequate or invalid confessions.”

    Yes, that is terrifying. The thing is, I suspect that most people sincerely want to make a good confession or else, why bother?

  74. StWinefride says:

    Abortion is a “reserved sin” in certain countries only.

  75. Supertradmum says:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church 2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

    For the entire Church…the !983 Canon Law does not refer to reserved sins, as did the older versions. However, as here in the one diocese in Eire, a bishop may declare something such. It must be rare.

  76. Father K says:


    A quote from an interview done with Ed Peters, canonist, by Ignatius Press on his new book on excommunication:

    ‘Basically, the third misconception is this: many people think that, because a given Catholic committed an action for which automatic excommunication is the penalty (for example, heresy, schism, abortion), the penalty was actually incurred in that case. That’s not necessarily true, but the reasons behind my claim require us getting into Canons 18, 1323, and 1324, among others, canons that contain a startling list of factors that mitigate or even remove liability for canonical crimes. Now taken individually, these exceptions to penal liability make sense, but when read as a whole, as we have to do, they make it much more difficult to determine whether an automatic excommunication was actually incurred in a specific case. ‘

    This is why we have qualified canon lawyers.

    A similar argument can be made regarding mortal sin.

    This is why we have qualified moral theologians.

    A similar argument can be made regarding confession.

    That is why we have qualified theologians in pastoral theology and spiritual direction.

    I had appendicitis once and hey, instead of asking my neighbour to remove my appendix I went to a qualified surgeon.

  77. Imrahil says:

    Dear @nmoerbeek,

    forgive me! Must have been my bad English, among other things. No, I did not even think of you as ranting. The German word I had in mind was “schimpfen” (rebuke?), or even more accurately – a rebuke can be in place when occasionally it does serve as a good way of admonishing (here the psychological instinct is needed, which the charitable man normally does not lack) – “vor sich hin schimpfen” (rant?). I mostly had in mind the sort of silent, grumpy grumbling in a mixture of disgust, fear for the other’s salvation and pity for one who does not know better plus a disguised bad conscience that oneself has no better reaction…

    Not that that’d be entirely false, mind you… sin is disgusting, and there is all reason to fear for the other’s salvation, and for pity… But we’d rather disguise this ranting or grumbling, and, while sticking to the truths in our reason, not really cherish these emotions… if we want to appear charitable, or indeed if we want to cultivate our friendly feelings for the our fellowmen.

    I did not accuse you of such attitude. You said we should weep for the sins, and that is just fine; as long as it is weeping.

    My whole idea to think of this came from that in my observation weeping for the sins is not given to everyone (while agreeing that the sins are sins, and rationally disapprove of them, is); if it is treated as obligation, those who cannot weep will resort to rant, or whatever the true English word is.

    Thus, I took your comment as a starting point to make a general observation… Forgive me again if anything of that was unclear.

  78. LouiseA says:

    In playing the lottery, you sacrifice for a 1 in 175,000,000 chance.
    In striving for heaven, you sacrifice for a 1 in 6,600 chance (per legend attributed to some saint).

    If any of you have ever bought a lottery ticket with hope of winning money, why would you despair of the much, much better odds of winning heaven?

  79. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Masked Chicken,

    in the Old Covenant there was sanctifying grace available. For sanctifying grace as a consequence of Circumcision, see St. Thomas, S. th. III 70 IV (not in the same way as Baptism, but still effective). Also, I think the general principle that those under original sin only lose this sin (i. e. receive grace) upon their first fully conscious decision for the good (forgive me that I do not give some quotes here) was then true too. And contrition? Probably…

    However, heaven was not opened*, and they still had to wait patiently until the time was fulfilled and Our Lord redeemed them.

    [*It is, I guess, an allowed opinion that Heaven was opened for exceptional cases such as Henoch, Elija or Moses. Though the idea has been preferred in the Church’s history that they went to Earthly Paradise, or some else place distinct from Heaven, to wait.]

  80. Imrahil says:

    Dear @LouiseA,

    I read as a result of psychology that great rewards diminish (!) efforts…

    Be that as it may, at least by coincidence Our Lord wisely instituted that, while we are supposed to do everything for the eternal reward, we often enough get some temporal reward, especially for some parts of what we principally do for the eternal reward (such as working for a wage or as entrepreneur).

    Then, of course, we have, for good or evil, imbibed the idea that Hell is only for those worthy of the vilest punishments. We will not think of Heaven as a supreme reward totally undeserved and worthy of greatest efforts and quite apt to be reserved to a marginal quota of moral superperformers, even though this is, in itself, of course true. What we will think of is escaping Hell, and while it is true that any mortal sin deserves Hell (and but for the mercy of God even any venial sin would deserve Hell), we shrink back from the thought that God would have in fact ordained this for the bulk of mankind which, having committed some of these sins, still carries some interior attitude of not having fully resorted to being evil* (which can safely be supposed).

    [*I know that the distinction plainly cannot be easy to make. But not all distinctions need necessarily be easy to make; and we shall have a quite good Judge to deal with it.]

    Which is besides why Hell is good news. The doctrine of Hell says that all who escape Hell attain Heaven (after the, much too much neglected, Purgatory, in quite probably the bulk of cases that do attain Heaven). If we’d only speak of a shadowy existence or even a natural paradise of the sort prepared for the unbaptized infants in traditional theory, then supernatural Heaven would seem much more difficult to attend. Then Heaven would really seem a reward for special performance only. But God, praised be He, decided otherwise: Anyone comes to his Heaven, except the ones for which this is totally impossible.

  81. Bill Foley says:

    There is no reason to despair if we follow the teaching of Saint Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church, on mental prayer.

    By Saint Alponsus De Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    Page 1: “But I do not think that I have written a more useful work than the present, in which I speak of prayer as a necessary and certain means of obtaining salvation, and all the graces that we require for that object. If it were in my power, I would distribute a copy of it to every Catholic in the world in order to show him the absolute necessity of prayer for salvation.”

    Page 24: “In several places above quoted, and especially in his book of Sentences, he (Saint Thomas Aquinas) expressly lays it down as certain that everyone is bound to pray because—as he asserts—in no other way can the graces necessary for salvation be obtained from God except by prayer.”

    Page 30: “He who prays is certainly saved. He who prays not is certainly damned.”

    Page 45: “And let us understand that if we do not pray, we have no excuse because the grace of prayer is given to everyone.”

    Page 87: “….everyone has sufficient aid from God to enable him actually to pray ….by prayer he may obtain all other graces…. God in his goodness grants to everyone the grace of prayer, by which he is able to obtain all other graces….”

    Page 200: “Therefore all men have grace given them to pray, and by prayer to obtain the abundant grace which makes us keep the commandments.”

    Pages 214-215: “God refuses to no one the grace of prayer, whereby we may obtain his assistance to overcome every concupiscence and every temptation…. For the rest, my principal intention was to recommend to all men the use of prayer as the most powerful and necessary means of grace in order that all men should more diligently and earnestly attend to it if they wish to be saved; for many poor souls lose God’s grace, and continue to live in sin, and are finally damned, for this very reason, that they do not pray, nor have recourse to God for assistance. The worst of the matter is that so few preachers and so few confessors have any definite purpose of indoctrinating their hearers and penitents with the use of prayer, without which it is impossible to observe the law of God and to obtain perseverance in his grace….. Our whole salvation depends on prayer, and, therefore, that all writers in their books, all preachers in their sermons, and all confessors in their instructions to their penitents, should not inculcate anything more strongly than continual prayer. They should always admonish, exclaim, and continually repeat: ‘Pray, pray, never cease to pray.’ For if you pray, your salvation will be secure, but if you leave off praying, your damnation will be certain. All preachers and directors ought to do this because there is no doubt of this truth that he who prays obtains grace and is saved, but those who practice it are too few, and this is the reason why so few are saved.”

    Page 233: “St. Teresa used to say that he who neglects mental prayer needs not a devil to carry him to hell, but that he brings himself there with his own hands. And the Abbot Diocles says that ‘the man who omits mental prayer soon becomes either a beast or a devil.’”
    “Without petitions on our part, God does not grant the divine helps; and without aid from God, we cannot observe the commandments. From the absolute necessity of the prayer of petition arises the moral necessity of mental prayer; for he who neglects meditation and is distracted with worldly affairs will not know his spiritual wants, the dangers to which his salvation is exposed, the means which he must adopt in order to conquer temptations, or even the necessity of the prayer of petition for all men; thus, he will give up the practice of prayer, and by neglecting to ask God’s graces he will certainly be lost.”

    Page 234: “St. Robert Bellarmine says that for him who neglects meditation it is morally impossible to live without sin.”

    Pages 234-235: “But it is impossible for him who perseveres in mental prayer to continue in sin; he will either give up meditation or renounce sin. A good servant of God used to say that mental prayer and sin cannot exist together. And this we see by experience; they who make mental prayer rarely incur the enmity of God; and should they ever have the misfortune of falling into sin, by persevering in mental prayer they see their misery and return to God. Let a soul, says St. Teresa, be ever so negligent, if it persevere in meditation, the Lord will bring it back to the haven of salvation.”
    “All the saints have become saints by mental prayer. Mental prayer is the blessed furnace in which souls are inflamed with the divine love….. St. Catharine of Bologna used to say: ‘He who does not practice mental prayer deprives himself of the bond that unites the soul with God; hence, finding her alone, the devil will easily make her his own.’ ‘How,’ she would say, ‘can I conceive that the love of God is found in the soul that cares but little to treat with God in prayer.’”

    Pages 236-238: “St. Laurence Justinian says: ‘By the efficacy of mental prayer, temptation is banished, sadness is driven away, lost virtue is restored, fervor which has grown cold is excited, and the lovely flame of divine love is augmented.’ Hence, St. Aloysius Gonzaga has justly said that he who does not make much mental prayer will never attain a high degree of perfection.”
    “St. John Chrysostom compared mental prayer to a fountain in the middle of a garden.. . .
    But let him omit meditation, and you will find him instantly wanting in modesty of the eyes, proudly resenting every word, indevout, no longer frequenting the sacraments and the church; you will find him attached to vanity, to useless conversations, to passions, to earthly pleasures; and why? The water has failed, and, therefore, fervor has ceased…… The soul has neglected mental prayer; the garden is therefore dried up, and the miserable soul goes from bad to worse. When a soul abandons meditation, St. Chrysostom regards it not only as sick, but as dead. ‘He,’ says the holy Doctor, ‘who prays not to God, nor desires to enjoy assiduously his divine conversation, is dead…. The death of a soul is not to be prostrated before God.’”
    “The same Father says mental prayer is the root of the fruitful vine. And St. John Climacus writes that ‘prayer is a bulwark against the assault of afflictions, the spring of virtues, the procurer of graces.”

    Pages 260-261: “Distractions: If, after having well prepared ourselves for mental prayer, a distracting thought should enter, we must not be disturbed, nor seek to banish it with a violent effort; but let us remove it calmly and return to God.”
    “Let us remember that the devil labors hard to disturb us in the time of meditation in order to make us abandon it. Let him, then, who abandons mental prayer on account of distractions, be persuaded that he gives delight to the devil. It is impossible, says Cassian, that our minds should be free from all distractions during prayer.”
    “Let us, then, never give up meditation, however great our distractions may be. St. Francis de Sales says that if, in mental prayer, we should do nothing else than continually banish distractions and temptations, the meditation would be well made. Before him St. Thomas taught that involuntary distractions do not take away the fruit of mental prayer.”
    “Finally, when we perceive that we are deliberately distracted, let us desist from the voluntary defect and banish the distraction, but let us be careful not to discontinue our meditation.”

    Pages 261-263: “Arridities: The greatest pain of souls in meditation is to find themselves sometimes without a feeling of devotion, weary of it, and without any sensible desire of loving God; and with this is joined the fear of being in the wrath of God through their sins, on account of which the Lord has abandoned them; and being in this gloomy darkness, they know not how to escape from it, it seeming to them that every way is closed against them.”
    “When a soul gives itself up to the spiritual life, the Lord is accustomed to heap consolations upon it in order to wean it from the pleasures of the world, but afterwards, when he sees it more settled in spiritual ways, he draws back his hand in order to make proof of its love and to see whether it serves and loves God unrecompensed, while in this world, with spiritual joys. Some foolish persons, seeing themselves in a state of aridity, think that God may have abandoned them; or, again, that the spiritual life was not made for them, and so they leave off prayer and lose all that they have gained.”
    “In order to be a soul of prayer, man must resist with fortitude all temptations to discontinue mental prayer in the time of aridity. St. Teresa has left us very excellent instructions on this point. In one place she says: ‘The devil knows that he has lost the soul that perseveringly practices mental prayer.’ In another place she says: ‘I hold for certain that the Lord will conduct to the haven of salvation the soul that perseveres in mental prayer, in spite of all the sins that the devil may oppose.’ Again she says: ‘He who does not stop in the way of mental prayer reaches the end of his journey, though he should delay a little.’ Finally she concludes, saying: ‘By aridity and temptations the Lord proves his lovers. Though aridity should last for life, let not the soul give up prayer; the time will come when all shall be well rewarded.’”
    “The Angelic Doctor says that the devotion consists not in feeling but in the desire and resolution to embrace promptly all that God wills. Such was the prayer that Jesus Christ made in the Garden of Olives; it was full of aridity and tediousness, but it was the most devout and meritorious that had ever been offered in this world. It consisted in these words: ‘My Father, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.’”
    “Hence, never give up mental prayer in the time of aridity. Should the tediousness which assails you be very great, divide your meditation into several parts, and employ yourself for the most part, in petitions to God, even though you seem to pray without confidence and without fruit. It will be sufficient to say and to repeat: ‘My Jesus, mercy. Lord, have mercy on us.’ Pray and doubt not that God will hear you and grant your petition.”
    “In going to meditation, never propose to yourself your own pleasure and satisfaction, but only to please God and to learn what he wishes you to do. And, for this purpose, pray always that God may make known to you his will and that he may give you strength to fulfill it. All that we ought to seek in mental prayer is light to know and strength to accomplish the will of God in our regard.”

  82. The Masked Chicken says:

    Thanks, Imrahil for the comment on Original Sin. I must do more research to make sure I understand the history of the concept with Catholic Faith.

    “In striving for heaven, you sacrifice for a 1 in 6,600 chance (per legend attributed to some saint). ”

    On that day in history. Who ever said the odds were 6,600 to 1 all of the time?

    I still want a good answer to my baptized baby question. In the whole world on a day in
    1300 A. D. or so, no baptized babies died and no old people in a state of grace died, except five? No offense, but I really want to see that quote’s provenance.

    That being said, I am concerned that some tender hearts might be reading the rough and tumble discussion, here, and be driven to severe scruples. Someone who was barely thinking they would have a shot at Heaven after severe penances, confessions, and such, might be driven to think that they can’t even sneeze wrong, anymore.

    Just a few fun facts to lighten the mood:

    Odds of injury from shaving: 6,585 to 1
    Odds of injury from using a chain saw: 4,464 to 1
    Odds of injury from mowing the lawn: 3,623 to 1
    Odds of fatally slipping in bath or shower: 2,232 to 1
    Odds of being murdered: 18,000 to 1
    Odds of getting away with murder: 2 to 1
    Odds of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1
    Odds of getting hemorrhoids: 25 to 1
    Odds of being on plane with a drunken pilot: 117 to 1
    Odds of being audited by the IRS: 175 to 1
    Odds of an American speaking Cherokee: 15,000 to 1
    Odds of getting a hole in one: 5,000 to 1
    Odds of getting canonized: 20,000,000 to 1

    From: http://www.funny2.com/odds.htm

    The Chicken

  83. MGL says:


    That being said, I am concerned that some tender hearts might be reading the rough and tumble discussion, here, and be driven to severe scruples. Someone who was barely thinking they would have a shot at Heaven after severe penances, confessions, and such, might be driven to think that they can’t even sneeze wrong, anymore.

    And given some of the contributions here, that response would be amply justified. I mean, I’m hardly a tender heart, but right now it’s time to do Vespers and the Office of Readings, and part of me is saying the following:

    Why bother with the breviary? According to the testimony of forty-odd saints (plus the even more horrifying visions of St. Alphonsus that Miss Moore kindly spared us), I’m probably damned regardless. Why pray the Rosary daily, when I fail so often to persevere in mental prayer for the balance of my day … and according to St. Alphonsus, such perseverance is essential to salvation? Why should I work to pass the Faith on to my children when the odds are hugely, overwhelmingly against success? (Only 6,600 to 1!) Why should I assist in evangelizing others in RCIA when both I and they are likely destined for Hell? Why go to Confession when I will certainly forget something or neglect to explore the full depths of my depravity, rendering the Sacrament invalid and failing to secure forgiveness? Why attend Mass and receive Our Lord when I have likely made a bad confession and am therefore not properly disposed? Why read Scripture if the salvation it promises is only for an infinitesimal few moral superstars?

    I guarantee you that this “rough and tumble” discussion has been very effective in driving people around the world further away from Christ and his Church, thanks to the bleak and joyless satisfaction some seem to derive from precise quantification of the elect and the damned. One would almost think that these Catholics don’t actually want to bring people into the Church.

  84. nmoerbeek says:


    No problem!


    My Friend,

    God desires your salvation more than you do and Jesus Died for sinners. Thoughts of discouragement should be treated with contempt. God wants us to do our best, be humble and ask him for help.

    *I find the devotion to the brown scapular praying daily that a person dies wearing it to be helpful when faced with anxiety.

  85. Mariana says:

    Most Noble Prince of Dol Amroth,
    ‘To rant’ is “toben, poltern”, even “zetern”. I’m sure what you meant was more like ‘grumble’.

  86. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Mariana, thank you very much!

    And, of course,
    God desires your salvation more than you do and Jesus Died for sinners. Thoughts of discouragement should be treated with contempt. God wants us to do our best, be humble and ask him for help.
    May He thus reveal that these are not only words true but beyond our understanding, but that He actually saves the multitude of our beloved, our enemies and those fine creatures we never had a chance to know. May He, who shed His Blood to pay the ransom for our sins, not say: “Sorry, but even I could not prevent you my free creatures from falling into sin and thus you cannot enter Paradise.” Good and Merciful Jesus, come to us as Savior, not as Judge.

    And for those, including a very big part of me, that think we must not pray this way: the last sentence is a popular short-prayer, and here is the Psalmist:

    Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. […] My spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. […] Thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’ sake: for thy righteousness’sake bring my soul out of trouble.

  87. Jim says:

    Maybe its just me, but some of the comments in this thread, which mock the saints and doctors and reek with self love, pomp, modernism and confusion are just a disgrace.

    An apt thread for Fr. Z’s Litany for the Conversion of Internet Thugs (2.0)

  88. Supertradmum says:

    Father K, I have talked with canonists and priests on these points and they contradict what your canonist has said. I do not speak or write without checking sources. The sin is forgiven in any confessional, but the automatic excommunication must be lifted by the priest with faculties, or the bishop who decides he wants to see each person individually, as with one bishop here in Eire. This is why I mentioned the Archdiocese of Boston, for example and the Cardinal of Madrid’s action at WYD, as examples backing up what I have heard from other priests, including one, the head of an order, who showed me the type of wording which is necessary in the faculties. The wording is very specific and the excommunication is automatic, as indicated. I am not speaking from my own point of view on this and that should be clear.

  89. Supertradmum says:

    Bill Foley, thanks so much for those references, some of which I have and some not. I am researching this point at this time in depth. Very timely.

  90. Jim says:

    The St. Alphonsus book which Bill Foley quoted is available for free at archive.org.

    @Bill Foley
    Thank you very much. If you start a blog on the Saints, you have at least one assured reader. :-)

  91. Supertradmum says:

    Thanks, Jim. I have read of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and many others on mental prayer, but not St. Alphonsus, who by the way, is much loved by my son, who has read him. I am glad it is on line.

  92. Bill Foley says:

    MGL, are you really serious? I know that anti-Catholics troll these blogs.
    Not St. Alphonsus, nor any saint, nor any spiritual master in the Catholic Church expects one to spend the whole day in mental prayer. If one reads all of the writings of St. Alphonsus, one will know that he recommends the following for salvation: 1. Daily spiritual reading; 2. Daily mental prayer for at least 1/2 hour preferably in the morning. 3. Avoidance of occasions of sin. 4. Daily Mass attendance reception of Holy Communion. 5. Weekly Confession.
    Mental prayer is absolutely crucial because one can only get the graces necessary for salvation by asking God for them.
    One should also try to live in a state of prayer throughout the day by saying enough ejaculations to keep one’s heart fixed on God and thus be alert to conforming oneself with the will of God.

  93. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jim,

    er… which ones? For if they should be mine (a thought that at least is not totally nonsensical), I might beg for a direct attack…

    For the record, I have never pleaded not guilty of self-love; and when I lack self-love (which happens) I usually confess that as a sin.
    And while I firmly oppose Modernism (as condemned by the Church), I do not exclude the possibility that some things are different than the imagination which floated in the past through the Church populace’s understanding (provided they did not constitute a dogma) would image them.

    That being said, what actually was the thing people imagined might be worth its own inquiry. From such information as I do have, they thought eternal damnation to be a very rare thing which does happen sometimes but is too awful to be even thought of. See Ödon von Horvath, Towards Heaven (which I cite not as free from heterodoxies, it is not, but as evidence of popular feeling) or a popular joke which has its protagonist decide between heaven and purgatory. Naturally, the cultures of peoples which for some centuries lost the very notion of Purgatory are, sorry to say, of limited importance.

    I did not mock the Saints and Doctors, though… and coming to think of it and setting egocentrism aside, I have not seen anybody else do so.

  94. Bill Foley says:

    Dear Jim and Supertradum: The absolute necessity of spiritual reading for a fully developed interior life is a given. But the ignorance of what to read is astounding even among the clergy. Several of us here in Tucson give newly-ordained priests many great spiritual classics; most of these could and should be read by the laity. Here is a recommended list.
    This Tremendous Lover by Dom Eugene Boylan: This 1940’s classic should be the first book.
    Christ the Life of the Soul by Blessed Columba Marmion
    Christ in His Mysteries by Marmion
    The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard
    Collected Works of St. John of the Cross from ICS Publications
    Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila from ICS Publications
    Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux by Jamart
    Imitation of Christ by Thomas aKempis
    Intrduction to a Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
    Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church by Juan Arintero
    Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by de Caussade
    Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
    Three Ages of the Interior Life by Garrigou-Lagrange
    Treatise on the Love of God by St. Francis de Sales
    True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort
    The following are works by St. Alphonsus; God allowed him to live to be 91 so that we Catholics could have his masterpieces. By the way, more editions of his works have been printed than by any other author in history!
    Preparation for Death: A catechist in Africa used this book, and the positive results were stunning.
    The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection: Great work on prayer. Everyone gets the grace to pray, but one must petition God for the other graces necessary for salvation.
    Way of Salvation and Perfection
    The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ
    The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ: The finest work ever written on this subject.
    The Holy Eucharist
    Glories of Mary: Best book ever re Virgin Mary Mother of God
    Victories of the Martyrs
    I think that all of these works by St. Alphonsus are out of print. One can read them on the internet, or one can buy the hardcopies as used.

  95. Catholictothecore says:

    Thanks, Bill. I looked at your list and mentally ticked off the ones I have, the ones I’ve read, and others that I haven’t read. St. Alphonsus Liguori is one of my favorite saints. Bent over with Arthritis he offered it all up to our Lord. I pray to him daily for his intercession regarding my mother’s health.

    There is a post by Msgr Charles Pope related to this thread.


  96. The Masked Chicken says:

    I spent an afternoon over the summer trying to download as many free versions of spiritual classics as possible. If you are cash-strapped, many. many things are in the public domain and ripe for the picking for Kindles or iPads. I would post a list of sites with tens to hundreds of freebees, but that would send this post into yet more moderation :( Here are some suggestions of things you can Google to find many books, etc.:

    Lists of Theologians (Wikipedia)
    Lists of Doctors of the Church
    Librivox (audiobooks)
    Internet guide to Duns Scotus
    Summa Theologica PDF
    The Complete Ascetical works of St. Alphonsus

    The works of most theologians before 1900 may be found in some form on the Internet. Any other suggestions for site or ways to find things?

    The Chicken

  97. Father K says:

    If a latae sententiae excommunication has been incurred, then of course you are right. However, you are completely missing my point. It may well be that a latae sententiae excommunication has not been incurred – in fact, it is quite likely it has not. That is my point…go read what I and Ed Peters actually say.

  98. MGL says:

    Maybe its just me, but some of the comments in this thread, which mock the saints and doctors and reek with self love, pomp, modernism and confusion are just a disgrace.

    I think it’s just you, because I haven’t seen any mockery of the saints and the doctors of the Church whatsoever. If you’re referring to me, I objected to massed contextless quotes being used as a bludgeon, a practice which demonstrably results in driving people to either scrupulosity or despair, and is stunningly ineffective at drawing people closer to Christ. Father Z’s original point is well-taken, but the massed effect of Bob Foley’s quotes is to drive home the near-impossibility of salvation. As others have shown, many of these quotes are less dire than they first seem, either because they rely on the same non-specific “few” and “many” that Our Lord used, or because they are ameliorated by the wider context of the homily or writing. If any disrespect is shown to the saints, it is by those who use isolated passages as blunt instruments–to what good purpose, I cannot imagine.

    @Bill Foley,

    Yes, I am serious. I’m not sure what I wrote that would lead you to accuse me of being an anti-Catholic troll, but I assure you that I am, in fact, an orthodox, fairly traditionalist Catholic.

    My post last night was about 20% hyperbole, but I was trying to convey a very serious point. I am not sure what you hoped to achieve by pasting into the thread sixty-eight quotes from the saints emphasizing the difficulty of salvation, but as I said, you have likely driven a great many people close to despair and further from Christ. I have a hunch that we could probably round up sixty-eight quotes from saints and doctors–many of them the same ones–with a somewhat more irenic view of salvation, but dreadful visions of damnation do have a timeless appeal!

    My own view is not particularly irenic: If forced to conjecture, I would say that all Catholics who die in a state of grace will eventually attain the Beatific Vision. But as we’ve all noted at one time or another, the lines at Communion are far longer than the lines for Confession, so it is likely that a great number of our fellow Catholics are receiving unworthily, putting their salvation in peril. I believe other Christians can be saved, though they are lacking many of the graces. Salvation is more difficult still for other religions, and more or less impossible for atheists. On the other hand, God is infinitely merciful and wills all men to be saved, so who can really say?

    But here’s another problem I have with your approach. Note that the Church herself does not impose, as a requirement for salvation, all of the following:

    1. Daily spiritual reading;
    2. Daily mental prayer for at least 1/2 hour preferably in the morning.
    3. Avoidance of occasions of sin.
    4. Daily Mass attendance reception of Holy Communion.
    5. Weekly Confession.

    I agree 100% that someone who follows St. Alphonsus’s list will grow in holiness, as we are called to do. Please understand that I have no argument whatsoever with St. Alphonsus. But it is the Church who binds and looses, and she does not require such rigor.

    Likewise, I have great admiration for St. Teresa of Avila. But the Church tells us that even imperfect contrition and non-exhaustive confessions are sufficient to restore sanctifying grace, as long as we do not intentionally omit any mortal sins. So when the Little Flower is quoted as saying, Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians (and I am taking her quote at face value, since no context is provided), am I to believe Teresa, or Peter? I do not believe for a second that they are actually in opposition, but that quote, sitting out there on its own, could mislead people into the impression that St. Teresa is casting doubt on Church teaching.

    To put myself out on a limb, and invite cries of “modernist” and the like, I would point out that, just as we do not have a Magisterium of Theologians or a Magisterium of Nuns, neither do we have a Magisterium of the Saints. (To be sure, this is comparing rotten apples to perfect oranges, but the point stands.) I think there’s a very real risk in some circles of elevating private revelations or spiritual writings to a quasi-canonical status, as if the dreadful visions experienced by the saints provide insights beyond those revealed to the Church. At worst, this can lead to rigorism:

    Rigorism tempts not the lukewarm but the devout. The heart of a sincere, self-sacrificing believer feels drawn beyond the carefully worked-out, sane middle ground the Church has cleared on which ordinary Christians can build their lives. Instead of reading this experience as a religious vocation they might follow, Rigorists apply their insights universally and build from them ideologies. Surely, the “institutional Church,” corrupted perhaps by Constantine, has compromised the plain intentions of Christ. Is not “orthodoxy” really a fig-leaf for worldliness and Laxity?

  99. Imrahil says:

    Dear @MGL, thank you very much for your link (which I had to follow in an a bit manual way) and for your comments in general.

    I’d go so far as to say that, at least as far as the not pandemic sins of venial and “lesser among the grievous” nature are concerned (read: 6th commandment, drunkenness, drug abuse – that abortion does not belong to them is obvious, and if “crying to Heaven” means a thing then we may also not count homos*xuality here), and certainly as far as speculation about salvation possibilities are concerned, rigorism is the bigger of the two faults.

    Not that laxism would therefore be recommendable: one thing, it’s false; other thing, it by dialectics produces rigorism.

    Note that all these unorthodox movements that practically appear bribe us with laxity in the 6th commandment but display anti-human rigorism in all other fields.

    I’ll go on the surface without treating the essence of the religion. But on the surface (which is not totally without significance) it is this: The Catholic must be true to his beloved in 6th commendment affairs. But he may smoke; he may take an airplane to fly (with the same beloved) into vacation; he may be joyful without bad conscience even though there is sorrow in the world.

    All of the other movements in some degree lack this. They go into what very much looks like spiritual pride (let me not judge whether it is) about those who “only do what the law prescribes” if we ask why something they don’t want us to do is forbidden.

    The laxists merely do not think at all about that; if they do, it can be hoped that in the end they’ll say (as in a recent Bavarian hit, the Haberfeldtreiber, which describes an indulgent person at length) to the Grim Raper who wants to take them…: “It won’t help to whine, it won’t help to say ‘please’; where you now come to you will surely not freeze” (Purgatory?, for the basical attitude is described as follows:) “And I shrugged my shoulders and I said ‘Oh Gee; as it is, it is; as it must be it must be.'”

  100. Imrahil says:

    As far as the pandemic. Not “not pandemic”.

  101. Imrahil says:

    And of course the “flying into vacation with one’s beloved” would perhaps demand a marriage before… I was alluding to eco-moralizing, though.

  102. StWinefride says:

    Supertradmum, as I understand it, Can. 1321-1325 – (Code of Canon Law) provide details for where a latae sententiae excommunication is deemed not to have taken place.

    Which means that Father K. and Ed Peters are correct in suggesting that in the majority of cases a person has not incurred a latae sententiae excommunication for the sin of abortion.

  103. Jim says:

    My comment happened to below yours. Thats all. It neither means the I was talking about your comments nor that I wasn’t.

    I think it’s just you
    You can’t possibly know that, unless you can read other people’s mind. Can you ?

    I haven’t seen any mockery of the saints
    How about someone above calling Pope St. Gregory the great “Greg” ? If this is ok and not blasphemy, what was so wrong with Martin Luther calling St James “Jimmy” ?

  104. Bill Foley says:

    My comment is for all of the faithful Catholics who make comments on this blog. I refuse to respond to commenters such as MGL, and I urge you also to ignore him/her and his/her ilk. These trolls are either anti-Catholics, or columnists with the National Catholic Reporter, or leftist Catholics who agree with the National Catholic Reporter. One this is for certain; they do not care for the magisterium even if they assert that they do.
    The following shows that the New Testament requires mental prayer for salvation. [Here I must make a note; St. Teresa of Avila writes that some can only pray with vocal prayers; however, to be truly prayer, the mind and heart must also be involved, and thus it is also mental prayer]
    The second item is an official papal magisterial stamp on the doctrine of prayer according to St. Alphonsus. [Here I must also add that canonization is an infallible exercise of the papal magisterium; moreover, a Catholic can only become a saint if his/her writings are in full accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church.] Pope Benedict XVI agrees with St. Alphonsus about the necessity of mental prayer for salvation.

    Necessity of prayer from the New Testament.
    Matthew 6:6 But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, will reward thee.
    Colossians 4:2 Be instant in prayer: watching in it with thanksgiving:
    I Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing
    Matthew 7:7-11 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? Or if he shall ask a fish, will he reach him a serpent? If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father, who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?
    Luke 22:40 And when he was come to the place, he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
    Luke 21:36 Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of Man.

    Pope Benedict XVI: Saint Alphonsus on Prayer
    August 1, 2012
    Dear brothers and sisters?
    The Joyous Embrace of God the Father.
    Today marks the liturgical memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church, founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer — the Redemptorists — patron saint of scholars and moral theology and of confessors. St. Alphonsus is one of the most popular saints of the 18th century because of his simple, straightforward style and his teaching on the sacrament of Penance: In a period of great rigorism — the result of the influence of Jansenism — he recommended to confessors to administer this sacrament by revealing the joyous embrace of God the Father, who in His infinite mercy never tires of welcoming back the repentant son.
    Prayer: Necessary and Sure Means to Salvation.
    Today’s memorial offers us the occasion to consider St. Alphonsus’ teachings on prayer, which are extremely valuable and filled with spiritual inspiration. He considered his treatise, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, which dates back to 1759, to be the most useful of all his writings. In fact, he there describes prayer as “the necessary and sure means of obtaining salvation, and all the graces we need to attain it” (Introduction).
    He Who Prays is Saved.
    This sentence sums up the Alphonsian understanding of prayer. First, in saying that it is a means, he reminds us of the end to be attained: God created out of love in order to be able to give us the fullness of life; but because of sin, this goal, this abundance of life has, so to say, drifted away — we all know this — and only God’s grace can make it available. To explain this basic truth, and to enable us to understand in a straightforward way how real the risk is of man’s “being lost,” St. Alphonsus coined a famous, very elementary maxim, which states: “He who prays is saved. He who prays not is damned!” Commenting on this lapidary statement, he added: “To save one’s soul without prayer is most difficult, and even impossible … but by praying our salvation is made secure, and very easy” (Chapter II, Conclusion). And he goes on to say: “If we do not pray, we have no excuse, for the grace of prayer is given to everyone … if we are not saved, the whole fault will be ours, because we did not pray” (ibid.).
    We Cannot Manage Without Praying
    In saying that prayer is a necessary means, St. Alphonsus wanted us to understand that in every situation in life, we cannot manage without praying, especially in times of trial and difficulty. We must always knock at the Lord’s door with trust, knowing that in all things He takes care of His children, of us. We are invited, therefore, not to be afraid of turning to Him and of presenting our requests to Him with trust, in the certainty of obtaining what we need.
    What Is Truly Necessary?
    Dear friends, this is the central question: What is truly necessary in my life? With St. Alphonsus I respond: “Health and all the graces we need for this” (ibid.); naturally, he means not only bodily health, but above all also that of the soul, which Jesus gives to us. More than anything else, we need His liberating presence, which truly makes our lives fully human and therefore full of joy. And it is only through prayer that we are able to welcome Him and His grace, which by enlightening us in each situation, enables us to discern the true good, and by strengthening us, makes our will effective; that is, it enables it to do the good that is known. Often we recognize the good, but we are unable to do it. Through prayer, we arrive at the point of being able to carry it out.
    Weakness and the Richness of God’s Mercy
    The Lord’s disciple knows that he is always exposed to temptation, and he never fails to ask God for help in prayer in order to conquer it. St. Alphonsus recalls the example of St. Phillip Neri—very interesting—who “used to say to God from the first moment he awoke in the morning, ‘Lord, keep Thy hands over Philip this day; for if not, Philip will betray Thee’” (III, 3). A great realist! He asks God to keep His hand upon him. We, too, in the awareness of our own weakness, should humbly ask God’s help, relying on the richness of His Mercy.
    By Prayer Obtain the Strength You Do Not Possess
    In another passage, St. Alphonsus says: “We are so poor that we have nothing; but if we pray we are no longer poor” (II, 4). And in the wake of St. Augustine, he invites every Christian to not be afraid of obtaining from God, through prayer, the strength he does not possess and that he needs to do the good, in the certainty that the Lord does not withhold His help from whoever prays with humility (cf. III, 3).
    Relationship With God and Daily Prayer.
    Dear friends, St. Alphonsus reminds us that our relationship with God is essential for our lives. Without a relationship with God, our fundamental relationship is missing. And a relationship with God develops by talking with God in daily personal prayer, and by participating in the Sacraments; and so it is that this relationship can grow in us, and that the divine presence that directs our path, enlightens it and makes it secure and serene can also grow in us, even amid difficulty and danger. Thank you.

  105. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jim,

    ad 1: thanks!

    Ad mockery: The nickname was used by a person quoting St. Gregory as an authority (maybe one, I do not know and do not want to look, with a little disagreement, maybe also not, but an authority), if I remember correctly; without evident denigrating him. I cannot possibly see in this anything else than a sign of affection.
    What was so wrong with Martin Luther calling St James Jimmy?
    I do not know the incident nor, hence, the context. But it could be that he was talking about the straw epistle which had no real claim of being an inspired canonical text of the Bible, etc. Stripped from such context, nothing was wrong with it; even with such context, there are much worse things to complain about in Martin Luther (such as the heresy itself).

    Even Saruman got that one right that he enjoyed being called Sharkey.

  106. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Bill Foley,

    Here I must also add that canonization is an infallible exercise of the papal magisterium…
    About the fact that the person canonized is in Heaven.
    Moreover, a Catholic can only become a saint if his/her writings are in full accord with the teaching of the Catholic Church.
    As to the technical process of canonization, I guess that yes they must be in accord; but they can be only allowed opinions, and they have certainly no infallibility, nor even binding magisterial value. See St. Thomas on Infallible Conception.

    Re trollery, or NCR-agreement, I used to think that what a person says deserves belief until proved to the contrary.

    And even if anybody were a NCR columnist or so (I’m not, fwiw), still that does not make real questions unquestions, and real problems unproblems, and mere opinion Catholic doctrine. And faithful Catholics are those who follow all Catholic doctrine; beyond that, in doctrine nothing else can be demanded.

  107. MGL says:

    Goodness, Bill. People can read what I actually wrote, compare it to your misrepresentations, and decide for themselves. My apologies for upsetting you.

  108. Jim says:

    “I cannot possibly see in this anything else than a sign of affection.”

    Really ? Calling a Canonized saint, who was also the Holy Father and is a Doctor of the Catholic Church – Pope St Gregory the great “Greg” – the way someone would call their son or their drinking mate or worse – their dog, is a “sign of affection” ?

    See this is what happens when people forget who they are. I have nothing further to say.

    Wow! Just wow!

  109. Jim says:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church 2148:
    Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. St. James condemns those “who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called.”78 The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God’s name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion.

    Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin.

  110. Supertradmum says:

    StWinefride, with the possibility of excommunication over my head, preventing graces and union with the Church, I would not want a liberal priest in a confessional talking me out of the chance of the removal of the penalty. A person is complicated, yet evil is objective as well as subjective. We should always be cautious in assuming that we are more innocent than we are about any sin. My argument is that most priests do not even try to help one form a good conscience or even discover the depth of one’s conscience, and by giving liberals more of a chance to deny sin or penalties, do not help the women or girls involved. Children are capable of mortal sin, and teens capable of serious sins such as abortion with penalties. If all bishops trained their priests in these areas, and gave all their priests faculties for removing this penalty, it would be better. Psychology can work both ways, to help or to hinder repentance and freedom. Canon lawyers are not in the confessional, not all priests have discernment, and not all canonists are as orthodox as Dr. Peters.

  111. Imrahil says:

    Sure. What else?

    In your opinion, an sign of affection displaying an undue sense of proximity and thus to be shunned… but first it’s a plain objective fact that it was meant this way.

    In my opinion, it might not be my own style of speaking (it certainly is not my own style of speaking to refer to the Blessed Virgin as Mommy, and the like), but to rebuke someone else for it I’d first have to know as a moral-theologically proven principe that “thou shalt not call a saint in the way that thou callest thy dog, but also thy son and thy friend, even if thy friend, once thy classmate, has gone on to be your employer at the top of an international corporation”. I do not see such a principle. And if a deviation from the Court Etiquette is Finis Ecclesiae and even mockery (there exists a disrespect which is not mockery…) although there is apparently no intention to denigrate, then I in my turn can only say: Wow. Just wow.

  112. Imrahil says:

    Before going out of my way why I wrote “Finis Ecclesiae” and that I did not accuse you of any problems concerning indestructibility etc., would you just please replace

    is Finis Ecclesiae
    means having lost the Faith and gone over to the modernists and liberals in the English sense of the word

    Thank you!

  113. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jim,

    Could you please read on in your Catechism? Right in the next following number, the Catechism treats as existent “curses which, without intention to blaspheme, abuse the Name of God”. But these, certainly, in a sense, fail to be respectful against God’s Name. They are, also, sins. They are seemingly not blasphemies. Hence with your bold-marked “failure to show respect” something else has be meant.

    Similarly, St. Alphonsus (who has been mentioned a bit in this combox) treats the sin of “(merely) taking the Lord’s name in vain” as a sin distinct from blasphemy, and (while about blasphemy he does not make such restrictions) he says “this sin is in itself grave, albeit because people most of the time do not think what they say it is only venial”. (Quoted according to: Ferdinand Elger, Lehrbuch der katholischen Moraltheologie, i. e. A Manual on Catholic Moral Theology, § 216.)

    What is meant – and you know the Catechism uses a certain sort of collecting together all forms in which blasphemy can occur, rather than precisely defining “this and only this is blasphemy”, which is, besides the otherwise-contradiction I mentioned already, is also evident from the fact that it says “consists in” without any “or”, although certainly not all of these elements are always together – is that someone positively decides to show disrespect to God: that is blasphemy.

    Affectionate, matey tone certainly does not do that (as neither does it show disrespect to the mate). It might be bad, discourageable, sinful, on other grounds (if you talked about that unqualified taking-the-Name-in-vain I mentioned, you might have a better ground), but I do not want to go into such detail. Anyway it is not blasphemy; it is not mockery.

  114. Imrahil says:

    A note: The comments preciding my last comment were written before I read dear @Jim’s last comment.

  115. StWinefride says:

    Supertradmum, nobody is disputing the fact that the collapse in catechesis and lack of solid preaching from the pulpit is responsible for poorly formed consciences, or that children are capable of mortal sin, or that teens are capable of serious sins such as abortion with penalties.

    Can. 1323-1325 (and up to 1330) serve to point out the cases where a penalty has not been incurred.

    There’s no point in talking at cross purposes! We’re all on the same page, and literally at this moment! I’m sure each of us, in our own humble way, is doing everything we can to make sure that good triumphs over evil.

  116. Father K says:

    StWinefride – thank you – you have got the point. Sadly Supertradmum, you have not and it would be a very poor canon lawyer indeed who would think in your categories. Unfortunately the baggage you carry blinds you to the reality 0f what is under discussion here. Even Sharia law has its own procedures and jurisprudence!

    ‘I would not want a liberal priest in a confessional talking me out of the chance of the removal of the penalty.’ That has absolutely nothing to do with what I am talking about.

    ‘My argument is that most priests do not even try to help one form a good conscience or even discover the depth of one’s conscience, and by giving liberals more of a chance to deny sin or penalties, do not help the women or girls involved. Children are capable of mortal sin, and teens capable of serious sins such as abortion with penalties.’ That is why an orthodox, well trained confessor or canon lawyer is so necessary but it is essential the individual cases are not pre-judged – leave that to the experts; and I stand by my and Ed Peter’s assertion that in many cases, if not most, a latae excommunication for abortion most probably has not been incurred. However each case on its own merits.

    My point is it is just not helpful for people to make broad, sweeping assumptions in these cases; in fact the Church demands that each case be looked at, carefully and individually. A canon lawyer is expected to be pastoral, sensitive and prudent. Also canon 18 is of paramount importance here.

  117. The Masked Chicken says:


    Just a note: it is St. Therese of Liseaux and St. Teresa of Avila. You mixed the two up, above. With that being said, which of the two was reported to have talked about incomplete or invalid confessions sending people to Hell? Would the original poster provide a reference?

    Bill Foley,

    You wrote:

    “My comment is for all of the faithful Catholics who make comments on this blog. I refuse to respond to commenters such as MGL, and I urge you also to ignore him/her and his/her ilk. These trolls are either anti-Catholics, or columnists with the National Catholic Reporter, or leftist Catholics who agree with the National Catholic Reporter. One this is for certain; they do not care for the magisterium even if they assert that they do.”

    Wow. That is simply an abusive ad Hominem. I did not read his comment in any way like that. In such a highly charged topic, it becomes even more essential to discuss the ideas and not the man.

    You also wrote:

    “The following shows that the New Testament requires mental prayer for salvation. [Here I must make a note; St. Teresa of Avila writes that some can only pray with vocal prayers; however, to be truly prayer, the mind and heart must also be involved, and thus it is also mental prayer]”

    The teaching of the Church is that being in a state of supernatural grace is required for salvation. That’s it. Prayer is an adjunct for the disposition to receiving supernatural grace (including the grace of conversion), for the obtaining of greater merit, and for the conformation of the soul to Christ’s image (especially in a mutual exchange of hearts), but it is not a sine qua non for salvation. Babies and the enfeebled get into Heaven and they do not engage in mental prayer. It is important to read the Saints’s comments on prayer with this perspective.

    I take second to no one in my respect for prayer. It is the most essential thing for growth in the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Avila once said, “If a man is in mortal sin, let him pray, and he will either give up the sin or he will give up the prayer.” Nevertheless, St. Alphonsus would never say that mental prayer is an absolute necessity for getting into Heaven because that is not Catholic teaching. You may quote all of saints on prayer that you like (and their teachings do form a part of the development of our understanding of the Faith), but those quotes have a context and it must be the context of the complete teaching of the Church.

    I am not (not!) trying to pick a fight. I appreciate and am edified by your quotations, but while they show that mental prayer is the ordinary means of obtaining necessary graces along the road to salvation for the ordinary person, it is not something that one can hold up as a diagnostic tool such that St. Peter will say of a person, “He didn’t pray…away with him.” St. Therese would often fall asleep at prayer. Well, was it Hell for her? She was in so much pain near the end of her life that she even says that prayer was impossible. Would you condemn such a person? If someone’s 80 year old grandmother get baptized, but has a stroke and can’t focus on praying, should she be condemned? Be careful about making generalizations.

    The Chicken

  118. MGL says:


    Thanks for the correction on the Therese/Teresa distinction! I do (usually) know the difference, but such are the perils of the comment box. Thanks also for coming to my defense against Bill’s tirade. I have been entirely honest about my faith and my motives, so I don’t know why he thought it necessary to pronounce anathema on me rather than … you know, actually reading and addressing my arguments and questions.

    In any case, the confession quote at issue was in Bill’s first cut-and-paste comment:

    “Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians.”
    -Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

    There is simply no way to know what this quote means when presented this way, which is one of the several reasons I objected to Bill’s approach. Teresa may even mean “confession” in the sense of “Lutheran confession”, in which it means the body of believers who adhere to Luther’s teachings. But who knows?

  119. Bill Foley says:

    Another document of the Catholic Church fully supports the teaching of St. Alphonus on mental prayer. Number 2744 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church even quotes this Doctor of the Church.
    “Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?
    “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult easy…. For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.
    “Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned. (This statement is from St. Alphonsus.)

    There is no reason for anyone to despair. The teaching of the Catholic Church is straightforward and simple; if one wants to be saved, one must engage in mental prayer.
    How does one get the grace to get to heaven? Mental prayer! How does one get the grace to avoid going to hell? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to access the infinite mercy of God? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to love God with one’s whole being? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to love one’s neighbor as Christ loves us? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to have a horror of mortal sin? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to hate venial sin? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to be meek and humble? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace overcome the habit of viewing pornography and to become pure? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to overcome the sin of contraception? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to deny oneself and take up one’s cross and follow Jesus? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to die to self and to self-love? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to abandon oneself with complete trust into the hands of our loving Father? Mental prayer. How does one get the grace to persevere and especially the grace of final perseverance? Mental prayer.

    I urge the faithful Catholics who follow this blog to copy the teaching of St. Alphonsus on mental prayer that I have put on this blog and to disseminate it. The eternal salvation of many is at stake, and they must be shown the way to heaven—mental prayer.

  120. MGL says:


    Just to clarify: I never denied the necessity of mental prayer, and wholeheartedly agree with St. Alphonsus et al on the question. What I did point out is that, taken as a whole, St Alphonsus’s five-point list goes beyond what the Church requires. This is a bald statement of fact.

    So, to the extent that you were responding to me with your mental prayer quotes, you were responding to an argument I never made.

  121. The Masked Chicken says:

    Nowhere does the CCC say that mental prayer is necessary for salvation. The Vatican online edition is linked to the Intratext Concordance and there are exactly 4 instances of the word, “mental,” used in the entire CCC – all in the section on prayer, all making salutary remarks about mental prayer, but nowhere does it say that mental prayer is necessary for salvation. The word, “salvation,” is nowhere near. Prayer, in general, is mentioned as a help and a good indicator of growth in knowledge of The Lord and in holiness, but even the quotes you provide, above only say prayer, not mental prayer. I will say it, again, I hold mental prayer very dear, but it is simply wrong to make salvation conditional on that. This is not what the Church teaches. You must die in a state of Supernatural Charity. Prayer can help, but it is the Holy Spirit who gives the help. St. Teresa, in, I believe, her Life (I’d have to look it up) asks why some people never are given the gift of contemplation in this life, but must rely on vocal prayer and meditation. She says that the reason is known to God, but that He holds it in store for them in Heaven (assuming they live a life of virtue).

    So, yes, recommend mental prayer, but the whole purpose of mental prayer is to bear fruit in good works (see the last section of the Interior Castle). Mental prayer must, first of all, be a movement of the will, incited by the Holy Spirit, and it is the ever-growing strengthening of the will for Charity that is the essential fruit of any prayer, be it vocal or mental. St. Teresa said, “Prayer consists not in thinking much, but in loving much, so do whatever moves you to love”. Do that and you will get into Heaven.

    As for that quote by St. Teresa, I have searched the Intratext concordances of the Life, the Way of Perfection, and Interior Castle and not Lund this quote. Either it comes fom her letters (not online so I can’t quickly check), or this is one of the pseudo-quotes floating around. There is a spurious quote, often made, by St. Teresa, for example, that, “You are the only hands Christ has on Earth,” but a careful look at her writings does not turn it up.

    The Chicken

  122. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    As for that quote by St. Teresa, I have searched the Intratext concordances of the Life, the Way of Perfection, and Interior Castle and could not find this quote.

    The Chicken

  123. The Masked Chicken says:

    As for St. Lenard of Port Maurice, he has this to say on confession:

    “If you consider the sacrament of penance, there are so many distorted confessions, so many studied excuses, so many deceitful repentances, so many false promises, so many ineffective resolutions, so many invalid absolutions! Would you regard as valid the confession of someone who accuses himself of sins of impurity and still holds to the occasion of them? Or someone who accuses himself of obvious injustices with no intention of making any reparation whatsoever for them? Or someone who falls again into the same iniquities right after going to confession? Oh, horrible abuses of such a great sacrament! One confesses to avoid excommunication, another to make a reputation as a penitent. One rids himself of his sins to calm his remorse, another conceals them out of shame. One accuses them imperfectly out of malice, another discloses them out of habit. One does not have the true end of the sacrament in mind, another is lacking the necessary sorrow, and still another firm purpose. Poor confessors, what efforts you make to bring the greater number of penitents to these resolutions and acts, without which confession is a sacrilege, absolution a condemnation and penance an illusion?”

    I do not think that this squares with the Church’s understanding of moral culpability. St. Leonard, for instance, would have found someone who was, say, a kleptomaniac, guilty of making a bad confession if she did not first rid herself of the compulsion to steal. He simply would not be in possession of the knowledge that such a thing might be impossible outside of extraordinary graces (which may be supplied through prayer, sometimes), but what he would call either a mortal sin or a bad confession is understood in neither way by the Church, today. Has the Church grown lax in this? No. It simply understands man better than St Leonard did. If the person is making a sincere effort to overcome the condition, receiving all of the normal helps possible, then her habit of sin makes her action probably venial as far as subjective guilt.

    Thus, I find this whole notion of bad confessions, etc. to need a great deal of qualification. The idea of scaring someone into Heaven is a VERY danderous proposition which can only be skillfully executed by the hand of God. We mortals wield the knife too clumsily. These sort of, “crisis conversions,” are the exact opposite of the free, loving response of grace Jesus seeks. John Wesley used scare preaching very effectively, but the amount of hysteria produced during his revival preaching (some of which he mistook for conversion experiences) kept him from seeing that the method really is not very effective in the long-term.

    The Chicken

  124. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should be, St. Leonard. My apologies.

  125. Imrahil says:

    The idea of scaring someone into Heaven is a VERY danderous proposition which can only be skillfully executed by the hand of God.

    I believe you’re right… The only situation I can think of where scaring someone into Heaven is sensible is directly to a person when a person
    1. believes already
    2. but
    3. there is a concrete thing she is absolutely and with certainty morally obliged to do under grave sin but manifestly does not;
    4. or never goes to Confession (which, at least after the 1983 Code, is no sin for one who has not mortally sinned since his last one; but still this is so very important)
    – or –
    5. if it comes as a necessary sideeffect of a necessary act of teaching to eliminate the impression that the Church doctrine on the Last Things have changed.

    That is not meant to be an exhaustive list; and at any rate I’m of course a layman and glad that I need not normally do such things. May God give me the right words whenever I should.

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