Our Lady Saint Mary
J. G. H. Barry

Part 3 out of 6

implies. She has caught the spirit of her Son, the spirit of selfless
offering to the will of God. It is the central accomplishment of the
life of sanctity. The life of sanctity must be wrought out from the
centre, from our contact with God. No one becomes holy by works,
whatever may be the nature of the works. Works, the external life, are
the expression of what we are, they are the externalization of our
character. If they be not the expression of a life hid with Christ in
God they can have no spiritual value, whatever may be their social
value. The kind of works which "are done to be seen of men" "have their
reward," that is, the sort of reward they seek, human approval; they
have no value in the realm of the spirit.

But the life that is lived as sacrifice, as a thing perfectly offered to
God, is a life growing up in God day by day. It is our Lord's life,
summed up from this point of view in the "I come to do thy will, O
God." Its most perfect reflection is caught by blessed Mary with her
acceptance of God's will: "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord." But it is
the life expression of all sanctity; for the saint is such chiefly by
virtue of his sacrificial attitude. It is the completest account of the
life of sanctity that it "leaves all" to follow a divine call. It is the
response of the Apostles who, as James and John, leave their father
Zebedee and the boats and the nets and the hired servants, to follow
Jesus. It is the answer of Matthew who rises from the receipt of custom
at the Master's word. It is the answer of all saints in all times.
Sanctity means the abandonment of all for Christ: it means the embracing
of the poverty of Jesus and Mary.

Is sanctity then, or the possibility of it, shut within the narrow
limits of a poor life? Well, even if it were, the limits would not be so
very narrow. By far the greater part of the human race at any time has
been poor, as poor as the Holy Family. Unfortunately, Christianity is
forgetting its vocation of poverty and becoming a matter of
well-to-do-ness. But we need not forget that the poor are the majority.
However, the fact is not that economical poverty is automatically
productive of spirituality, but that accepted and offered poverty is the
road to the heart of God. It is not denied that the rich man may
consecrate and offer his goods to God and make them instruments of God's
service; but in the process he runs great risk of deceiving himself and
of attempting to deceive God--the risk of quietly substituting for the
spirit of sacrifice the spirit of commercial bargaining, and attempting
to buy the favour of God, and of ransoming his great possessions by a
well-calculated tribute. It is not so much our possessions as the way we
hold them that is in question; it is a question whether the inner motive
of our life is the will to sacrifice or the will to be rich. "They that
desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many
foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition,"

These dangers S. Paul noted as the besetting dangers of riches are
counteracted by the possession of the spirit of sacrifice which holds
all things at the disposal of God, and views life as opportunity for the
service of God. And in so estimating life, we must remember that money
is not the only thing that human beings possess. As I pointed out the
vast majority of the human race have no money: it by no means follows
that they have no capacity or field for the exercise of the spirit of
sacrifice. There is, for instance, an abundant opportunity for the
exercise of that spirit in the glad acceptance of the narrow lot that
may be ours. Probably many, indeed most, poor are only economically
poor; they fall under S. Paul's criticism in that "they desire to be
rich," and are therefore devoid of the spirit of sacrifice that would
transform their actual poverty into a spiritual value. But all the
powers and energies of life do in fact constitute life's capital. A poor
boy has great possessions in the gifts of nature that God has granted
him. He may use this capital as he will. He may be governed by "the
desire to be rich," or by the desire to consecrate himself to the will
and service of God--and the working out of life will be accordingly. He
may become very rich economically, or he may devote his life to the
service of his fellows as physician, teacher, missionary, or in
numberless other paths. Once more, the meaning of life is in its
voluntary direction, and whatever may be his economic state, he may, if
he will, be "rich toward God."

If what we are seeking is to follow the Gospel-life, if we are seeking
to express toward man the spirit of the Master, we find abundant field
for the exercise of this spirit of sacrifice in our daily relations with
others. S. Paul's rule of life: "Look not every man to his own things,
but every man also to the things of others," is the practical rule of
the sacrificed will. It seeks to fulfil the service of the Master by
taking the spirit of the Master--His helpfulness, His consideration, His
sympathy--with one into the detail of the day's work. It is one of the
peculiarities of human nature that it finds it quite possible to work
itself up to an occasional accomplishment, especially in a spectacular
setting, of spiritual works, which it finds itself quite impotent to do
under the commonplace routine of life. The race experience is accurately
enough summed up in the cynical proverb: "No man is a hero to his
valet." It expresses the fact that in ordinary circumstances, and under
commonplace temptations, we do not succeed in holding life to the
accomplishment which is ours when we are, as it were, on dress parade.
In other words, we respond to the opinions we desire to create in
others; and the spirit of sanctity is a response not to public opinion,
but to the mind and thought of God. When we seek the mind of Christ, and
seek to reproduce that mind in our own lives, seek to be possessed by
it, then we shall gladly render back to God all life's riches which we
have received from Him, and acknowledge in the true spirit of poverty
that "all things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we
given Thee."

The world has got into a very ill way of thinking of God as _force_.
Force seems in the popular mind to be the synonym of _power_. The only
power that we understand is the power that _compels_, that secures the
execution of its will by physical or moral constraint. With this
conception of power in mind men are continually asking: "Why does not
God do this or that? If he be God and wills goodness, why does He not
execute goodness, use power to accomplish it?"

It ought to be unnecessary to point out that such a conception of power
is quite foreign to the Christian conception of God. Goodness that is
compulsory is not goodness. Human legislation, in its enforcement of
law, looks not to the production of goodness but to the production of
order, a quite different thing. But God's heart is set upon the
sanctification of His children and is satisfied with nothing less than
that. "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." But
sanctification cannot be compelled. The divine method is, that "when the
fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born
under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might
receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God sent forth
the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Through
this method we "were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." The
result is not that we are compelled to obey, but that "the love of
Christ constraineth us." The account of the apostolic authority is not
that it is a commission to rule the universal Church, but "now then we
are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray
you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."

The study of this divine method should put us on the right track in the
attempt to estimate the nature of sanctity and the results we may expect
from it. We shall expect nothing of spiritual value from force. We shall
be quite prepared to turn away from the governing parties in Jerusalem
as from those who have repudiated the divine method and are therefore
useless for the divine ends. We shall turn rather to those who gather
about the temple and there, in a life of prayer and meditation, wait for
the redemption. It is to these, who are the real temple of the Lord,
that the Lord "shall come suddenly," that the manifestation of God will
be made. And their hearts will overflow with joy as they behold the
fulfilment of the promises of God.

The power of God is the power of love; and it is that love, and that
love alone, that has won the victories of God. It is a very slow method,
men say. No doubt. But it is the only method that has any success. The
method of force seems effective; but its triumphs are illusory. Force
cannot make men love, it can only make them hate. The world is being won
to God by the love of God manifested in Christ Jesus our Lord. And it is
as well to remember, when we are tempted to complain of the slowness of
the process, that the slowness is ours, not God's. The process is slow
because men will not consent to become the instruments of God's love for
the world, will not transmit the crucified love of God's Son to their
fellows. They continually, in their impatience, revert to force of some
sort, for the attainment of spiritual ends. They become the tools of all
sorts of secular ambitions which promise support in return for their
co-operation. And the result may be read by any one not blinded by
prejudice in the futility and incompetence of modern religions of all
sorts. It is seen perhaps most of all in the pride of opinion which
keeps the Christian world in a fragmentary condition, and which
approaches the undoing of the sin of a divided Christendom with the
preliminary announcement that no separated body must be required to
admit that it has been in the wrong. Human disregard of the divine
method of love and humility can hardly go farther; and the only
practical result that can be expected to follow is such as followed from
the negotiations of Herod and Pontius Pilate--a new Crucifixion of the
Ever-sacrificed Christ.

We have risen to the divine method when we have learned to rely for
spiritual results upon God alone. Then is revealed to us the power of
sanctity. We turn over the pages of the lives of the saints, of those
who have been great in the Kingdom of God, and we are struck by the
growing influence of these men and women. They are simple men and women
whose life's energy is concentrated on some special work; they are
confessors or directors; they work among the very poor; they lead lives
of retirement in Religious Houses; they are preachers of the Gospel;
they are missionaries. The one thing that they appear to have in common
is utter consecration to the work in hand. And we see, it may be with
some wonder, that as they become more and more absorbed in their special
work, they become more and more centres of influence. Without at all
willing it they draw people about them, become centres of influences,
arouse interest, become widely known. In short, they are, without
willing it, centres of energy. Of what energy? Obviously, of the energy
of love: the love of God manifested in them draws men to God. The man at
whose disposal is unlimited force compels men to do his will; but he
draws no one to him except the hypocrite and the sycophant who expect to
gain something by their servility. The saint draws men, not to himself,
but to God; for obviously it is not his power but God's power that is
being manifested through him.

Unless we are very unfortunate we all know people whose attractiveness
is the attractiveness of simple goodness. They are not learned nor
influential nor witty nor clever, but we like to be with them. When we
are asked why, we can only explain it by the attractiveness of their
Christlikeness. What we gain from intercourse with them is spiritual
insight and power. Their influence might be described as sacramental:
they are means our Blessed Lord uses to impart Himself. They are so
filled with the mind of Christ that they easily show Him to the world;
and withal, quite unconsciously. For great love is possible only where
there is great humility.

And this power of sanctity which is the outcome of union with God is a
permanent acquisition to the Kingdom of God. God's Kingdom is ultimately
a Kingdom of saints. The sphere of God's self-manifestation in human
life increases ever as the saints increase; and the power of sanctity
necessarily remains while the saint remains, that is, forever. The saint
remains a permanent organ of the Body of Christ, a perdurable instrument
of the divine love. To speak humanly, the more saints there are, the
more the love of God can manifest itself; the wider its influence on
humanity. And the greater the Saint, that is, the nearer the Saint
approaches the perfection of God, to which he is called--Be ye therefore
perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect--the more influential he
must be; that is the more perfectly he will show the divine likeness and
transmit the divine influence. When we think of the power of the saints
as intercessors that is what actually we are thinking of,--the
perfection of their understanding of the mind of Christ.

But to return to this world and to the gathering in the temple on the
day of the Purification. These are they in whom the hope of Israel
rests. Israel is not a failure because it has brought forth these. God's
work through the centuries has not come to naught because in these
there is the possibility of a new beginning. The consummate flower of
Israel's life is the Blessed Mother through whom God becomes man; and
these who meet her in the temple are the representatives of those hidden
ones in Israel who will be the field wherein the seed of the Word can be
sown and where it will bring forth fruit an hundredfold. Jesus, this
Child, is God made man; and these around Him to-day, Mary and Joseph,
Simeon and Anna, are those who will receive His love and will show its
power in the universe forever.

And so it will remain always; the good ground wherein the seed may be
sown and bring forth unto eternal life is the spiritual nature of man,
made ready by humility and love,--"In quietness and confidence shall be
your strength." In the quietness that waits for God to act, the
confidence that knows that He will act when the time comes. It is well
if our aspiration is to be of the number of those who live lives hid
with Christ in God; who are seeking nothing but that the love of God may
be shed abroad in their hearts; who are "constrained" by nothing but the
love of Jesus. It is true that this simplicity of motive and aim will
bring it about that our lives will be hidden lives, lives of which the
world will take no note. We may be quite sure that none of the rulers of
Israel thought much about old Simeon who passed his time praying in the
temple. And if we want to be known of rulers it is doubtless a mistake
to take the road that Simeon followed. But the reward of that way was
that he saw "the Lord's Christ," that it was permitted him to take in
his arms Incarnate God, and then, in his rapture, to sing _Nunc
Dimittis_. We cannot travel two roads at once. When the Holy Family goes
out from the temple it can go, if it will, to the palace of Herod, or it
can go back to Bethlehem. It cannot go both ways and we know the way
that it took. And we in our self-examination to-night can see two roads
stretching out before us. We can go the way of the world, the way that
seeks (whether it finds or no) popularity and prominence, or we can join
the Holy Family and in company with Jesus and Mary and Joseph go back to
the quietness and hiddenness of the House of Bread where the saints
dwell. With them, sheltered by the Sacrifice of Jesus and the prayers of
Mary and Joseph we can wait for the Redemption in the full manifestation
of the life of God in us, and for the time when the love of God shall be
fully "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us."

O Sion, ope thy temple-gates;
See, Christ, the Priest and Victim, waits--
Let lifeless shadows flee:
No more to heaven shall vainly rise
The ancient rites--a sacrifice
All pure and perfect, see.

Behold, the Maiden knowing well
The hidden Godhead that doth dwell
In him her infant Son:
And with her Infant, see her bring
The doves, the humble offering
For Christ, the Holy One.

Here, all who for his coming sighed
Behold him, and are satisfied--
Their faith the prize hath won:
While Mary, in her breast conceals
The holy joys her Lord reveals,
And ponders them alone.

Come, let us tune our hearts to sing
The glory of our God and King,
The blessed One and Three:
Be everlasting praise and love
To him who reigns in heaven above,
Through all eternity.




The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and
take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt.

S. Matt. II, 13.

Deliver us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, from all evils past, present, and
to come: and at the intercession for us of Blessed Mary who brought
forth God and our Lord, Jesus Christ; and of the holy apostles Peter,
and Paul, and Andrew; and of blessed Ambrose Thy confessor, and bishop,
together with all Thy saints, favorably give peace in our days, that,
assisted by the help of Thy mercy, we may ever be both delivered from
sin, and safe from all turmoil. Fulfil this, by Him, with Whom Thou
livest blessed, and reignest God, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for
ever and ever.


Those who live in intimate union with God, the peace of whose lives is
untroubled by the constant irruption of sin, are peculiarly sensitive to
that mode of the divine action that we call supernatural. I suppose that
it is not that God wishes to reveal Himself to souls only at crises of
their experience or under exceptional conditions, but that only souls of
an exceptional spiritual sensitivity are capable of this sort of
approach. Communications of the divine will through dream or vision of
inner voice are the accompaniment of sanctity; one may almost say that
they are the normal means in the case of advanced sanctity. Most of us
are too much immersed in the world, are too much the slaves of material
things, to be open to this still, small voice of revelation. Our eyes
are dimned by the garish light of the world, and our ears dulled by its
clamour, so that our powers of spiritual perception are of the
slightest. This is quite intelligible; and we ought not to fall into the
mistake of assuming that our undeveloped spirituality is normal, and
that what does not happen to us is inconceivable as having happened at
all. If we want to know the truth about spiritual phenomena we shall put
ourselves to school to those whose spiritual natures have attained the
highest development and in whose experience spiritual phenomena are of
almost daily happening.

To the man "whose talk is of oxen," whose whole life is absorbed in the
study of material things, a purely spiritual manifestation comes as a
surprise. His instinctive impulse is to deny its reality as a thing
obviously impertinent to his understanding of life. But one whose life
is based on spiritual postulates, who is, however feebly, attempting to
shape life in accordance with spiritual principles, though he may never
have attained anything that can be interpreted as a distinct revelation
from God by vision or voice or otherwise, yet must he by the very basic
assumptions of his life be ready to regard such manifestations of God as
intelligible, and indeed to be expected. So far from regarding divine
interventions in life as impossible, we shall regard the Christian life
which has no experience of them as abnormal, as not having realised its
inheritance. The degree and kind of such intervention in life will vary;
but it is the fact of the intervention that is important: the mode in a
special case will be determined by the needs of that case. As we think
along these lines we reach the conclusion that what we call the
supernatural is not the unnatural or the abnormal, but is a higher mode
of the natural.

We are not surprised therefore to find that those whose spiritual
development was such as to make it possible for God to choose them to
fulfil special offices in relation to the Incarnation; who could be
chosen to be, in the one case, the Mother of God-incarnate, and in the
other, to be the guardian of the divine Child and His Blessed Mother,
have the divine will in regard to the details of the trust committed to
them, imparted to them in vision and in dream. So far from such vision
and dream suggesting to us "a mythical element" in the Gospel
narratives, they rather confirm our faith in that they harmonize with
our instinctive conclusions as to what would be natural under the
circumstances. We are prepared to be told that at this crisis in the
Holy Child's life "the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream,
saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into
Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek
the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child
and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt."

Thus early in our Lord's life is the element of tragedy introduced. The
Incarnation of God stirs the diabolic powers, the rulers of "this
darkness" to excited activity. The companion picture of the Nativity, of
the Holy Child lying in Mary's arms, of the wondering shepherds, of the
Magi from a far country,--the shadow of all this idyllic beauty is the
massacre of the Innocents, the wailing of Rachel for her children. It
is, as it were, the opening of a new stage in the world-old conflict
where the powers of evil appear to have the advantage and can show the
bodies of murdered infants as the trophies of their victory.

But are we to think of the death of a child as a disaster? Has any
actual victory redounded to the Prince of Power of the Air? One
understands of course the grief and sense of loss that attends the death
of any child, the breaking of the dreams which had gathered about its
future. What the father and the mother dreamed over the cradle and
planned for the future does not come to pass--all that is true. But in a
consideration of the broader interests involved, does not the death of a
baby have a meaning far deeper than a disappointment of hopes and
dreams? It is true, is it not? that the coming of the child brought
enrichment into the life of its parents? There was a new love born for
this one child which is not the common property of all the children of
the family, but is the peculiar possession of this child and its
parents. Life--the life of the parents--is better and nobler by virtue
of this love. They understand this, because when they stand by the side
of the child's coffin they never feel that it had been better that this
child had not come into existence. And more than that: as they commit
this fragile body to the grave they know that there is no real sense in
which they can say that they have lost this child. Rather, the child is
a perpetual treasure, for the moment contemplated through tears, but
presently to be thought of with unclouded joy. It is so wonderful a
thing to think of this pure soul caught back to God; to think of it
growing to spiritual maturity in God's very presence; to think of it
following the Lamb withersoever He goeth. Yes: to think of it also as
our child still, with our love in its heart, knowing that it has a
father and a mother on earth, and, that, just because of its early
death, it can be to them, what otherwise they would have been to it--the
guard and helper of their Jives. In God's presence are the souls of
children as perpetual intercessors for those whom they have left on
earth; and they may well rejoice before God in that what appeared the
tragedy of their death was in fact a recall from the field of battle
before the testing of their life was made. We wept as over an
irreparable loss,

While into nothingness crept back a host
Of shadows unexplored, of sins unsinned.

The artists have imagined the souls of those who first died for Jesus
attending Him on the way to Egypt as a celestial guard. In any case we
are certain that the angels who watched about Him so closely all His
life were with the Holy Family as they set out upon the way of exile. It
would have been a wearisome march but that Jesus was there. His presence
lightened all the toils of the desert way. Egypt, their place of refuge,
would not have seemed to them what it seems to us, a land of wonder, of
marvellous creations of human skill and intelligence, but a place of
banishment from all that was dear, from the ties of home and religion.
The religion which lay wrapped in the Holy Child was to break down
barriers and hindrances to the worship of God; but the time was not yet.
For them still the Holy Land, Jerusalem, the Temple, were the place of
God's manifestation, and all else the dwelling place of idols. They must
have shuddered in abhorrence at those strange forms of gods which rose
about them on every hand. We cannot ourselves fail to draw the contrast
between the statues which filled the Egyptian sanctuaries and before
which all Egypt, rich and poor, mighty and humble, prostrated
themselves, and this Child sleeping on Mary's breast. The imagination of
the Christian community later caught this contrast and embodied it in
the legend that when Jesus crossed the border of Egypt, all the idols of
the land of Egypt fell down.

We cannot follow the thought of the Blessed Mother through these strange
scenes and the experiences of these days. No doubt in the Jewish
communities already flourishing in Egypt there would be welcome and the
means of livelihood. But there would be perplexing questions to one
whose habit it was to keep all things which concerned her strange Child
hidden in her heart, the subject of constant meditation. Why, after the
divine action which had been so constant from His conception to His
birth, and in the circumstances which attended His birth, this reversal,
this defeat and flight? Why after Bethlehem, Egypt? Why after
Gabriel, Herod?

It brings us back again to the primary fact that the Incarnation is
essentially a stage in a battle, and that the nature of God's battles is
such that He constantly appears to lose them. He "goes forth as a giant
to run His course"; but the eyes of man cannot see the giant--they see
only a Babe laid in a manger. We are tricked by our notion of what
is powerful.

"They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam'st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry."

The battle presents itself to us as a demand that we choose, that we
take sides. The demand of Christ is that we associate ourselves with
Him, or that we define our position as on the other side. "The
friendship of the world is enmity with God" is a saying that is true
when reversed: The friendship of God is enmity with the world. An open
disclosure of the friendship of God sets all the powers of the world
against us. This may be uncomfortable; but there does not appear to be
any way of avoiding the opposition.

Our Lord, in His Incarnation, not only stripped Himself of His glory,
took the servant form, and in doing so deliberately deprived Himself of
certain means which would have been vastly influential in dealing with
men, but He also declined, in assuming human nature, to assume it under
conditions which would have conferred upon Him any adventitious
advantage in the prosecution of His work. He would display to men
neither divine nor human glory: He would have no aid from power or
position, from wealth or learning. He undertook His work in the strength
of a pure humanity united with God. He declined all else. And He found
that almost the first event of His life was to be driven into exile.

And they who are associated with Him necessarily share His fortunes.
Unless they will abandon the Child, Mary and Joseph must set out on the
desert way. They had no doubt much to learn; but what is important is
not the size or amount of what we learn, but the learning of it. When we
are called, as they were, to leave all for Christ, it often turns out
as hard, oftentimes harder, to leave property as riches; and the reason
is that what we ultimately are leaving is neither poverty nor riches,
but self: and self to us is always a "great possession."

Therein, I suppose, lies the solution of the problem of the relation of
property and Christianity in the common life. Idleness is sin; every one
is bound to some useful labour, no matter what his material resources
may be. And if we work for our living, if our labour is to be such as
will support us, then there at once arises the problem of possessions.
Useful, steady labour will ordinarily produce more than "food and
raiment." Under present social arrangments accumulated property is
handed on to heirs. A man naturally wants to make some provision for his
family. Or he finds himself in possession of considerable wealth and the
impulse is to spend in luxuries of one sort or another,--modern
invention has put endless means of ministering to physical or aesthetic
comfort within his reach. He can have a motor car, a country house, an
expensive library; he can have beautiful works of art. And then he is
confronted with the picture of the Holy Family which can never have
lived much beyond the poverty line. He realises the nature of our Lord's
life of poverty and ministry. And though the plain man may not feel that
he can go very far in imitating this life, he does feel that there is a
splendour of achievement in those who take our Lord at His word and sell
all to follow Him.

But the literal abandonment of life to the ideal of poverty is clearly
not what our Lord contemplated for the universal practice of His
followers. He nowhere indicates that all gainful labour is to be
abandoned, or that having gained enough for food and raiment we are to
idle thereafter, or even give ourselves to some ungainful work. The
Kingdom of heaven does not appear to be society organised on the lines
of socialism or otherwise. Our Lord contemplated life going on as it is,
only governed by a new set of motives. It has as the result of the
acceptance of the Gospel a new Orientation; and as a result of that it
will view "possessions" in a new way. The acceptance of the Gospel means
the self surrendered utterly to the will of God, and all that self
possesses held at the disposal of that will. We may expect that God's
will for us will be manifested in the events of life and its
opportunities, and we shall hold ourselves alert and ready to embrace
that will. It may be that the call will come to sell all, and we need to
beware lest the thoroughness of the demand terrify us into the
repudiation of our Lord's service; lest the thought of the sacrificed
possessions send us away sorrowing. Ordinarily the call is less
searching than that; or perhaps the mercy of God spares us from demands
that would be beyond our strength. In any case, the truly consecrated
self will regard luxury as a dangerous thing, replete with entanglements
of all kinds, that it were well to avoid at the expense of any
sacrifice. One does well to hold "possessions" in a very loose grip,
lest the hold be reversed, and we become their servants rather than
they ours. And it is well to emphasise again that the mere size of
possessions is of small importance. There is a not very rational
tendency to think of this as being a matter of millions, for the man of
moderate income to think that there is no problem for him. The problem
is as pressing for him as for any man. His minimum of comfort may be as
tightly grasped as the other man's maximum. The only solution of the
problem will be found in the converted self. Those who have really given
themselves to God hold all things at His disposal. They are not thinking
how they can indulge self but how they can glorify God.

Egypt to many will stand for another sort of abandonment which much
perplexes the immature Christian: that is, the sort of isolation in
which the new Christian is quite likely to find himself when first he
attempts to put Christian principles into practice. We imagine one
brought up in the ordinary mixed circles of society, where there are
unbelievers and lax Christians mingled together, and where there are no
principles firmly enough held to interfere with any sort of enjoyment of
life which offers. Such an one--a young woman, let us suppose--in the
Providence of God becomes converted to our Lord, and comes to see that
the lax and indifferent Christian life she had been leading was a mere
mockery of Christian living. Speedily does she find when she attempts to
put into action the principles of living which she now understands to be
the meaning of the Gospel that a breach of sympathy has been opened
between her and her accustomed companions; that many things which she
was accustomed to do in their society and which made for their common
fund of amusement are no longer possible to her. The careless talk, the
shameless dress, the gambling, the drinking, the Sunday amusements--such
things as these she has thrown over; and she finds that with them she
has thrown over the basis of intimacy with her usual companions. It is
not that they are antagonistic but simply that their points of contact
have ceased to exist. Her own inhibitions exclude her automatically from
most of the activities of her social circle. She finds herself much
alone. Her friends are sorry for her and think her foolish and try to
win her back, but it is clear to her that she can only go back by going
back from Christ.

This is the common case of the young whether boy or girl to-day, and the
practical question is, Can they endure the isolation? It is easy to say:
Let them make Christian friends; but that is not always practical,
especially in the present state of the Church when there is no cohesion
among its members, no true sense of constituting a Brotherhood, of being
members of the same Body. We have to admit that the attempt to hold a
high standard usually ends in failure, at least the practical failure of
a weak compromise. But there are characters that are strong enough to
face the isolation and to readjust life on the basis of the new
principles and to mould it in accord with the new ideals. The period of
this readjustment is one of severe testing of one's grasp on principles
and one's strength of purpose. But the battle once fought out we attain
a new kind of freedom and expansion of life. We look back with some
amusement at the old life and the things that fascinated us in the days
of our spiritual unconsciousness much as we look back at the games that
amused us in our childish hours. The desert of Egypt that we entered
with trepidation and fearful hearts turns out not to be so dreadful as
we imagined, and indeed the flowers spring up under our feet as we
resolutely tread the desert way.

These trials must be the daily experience of those who attempt to put
their religion into practice, and these perplexities must assail them so
long as the Christian community continues to show its present social
incompetence; so long, that is, as we attempt to make the basis of our
social action something other than the principles of the spiritual life.
A Christian society, one would naturally think, would spring out of the
possession of Christian ideals; and doubtless it would if these ideals
were really dominant in life, and not a sort of ornament applied to it.
Any social circle contains men and women of various degrees of
intellectual development and of varying degrees of experience of life;
what holds them together is the pursuit of common objects, the objects
that we sum up as amusement. Now the Christians in a community certainly
have a common object, the cultivation of the spiritual life through the
supernatural means offered by the Church of God. One would think that
this object would have a more constraining power than the attractions of
motoring or golf; but in fact we know that this is not so save in
individual cases. There is not, that is to say, anywhere visible a
Christian community which is wrought into a unity by the solidifying
forces of its professed ideals. Those very people whose paths converge
week by week until they meet at this altar, as they leave the altar,
follow diverging paths and live in isolation for the rest of their time.

One of the constant problems of the Church is that of the loss of those
who have for a time been associated with it--of those who have for a
time seemed to recognise their duty to God, and their privileges as
members of His Son. They drift away into the world. We pray and meditate
and worry over this and try to invent some machinery which will overcome
it. But it cannot be overcome by machinery, especially by the sort of
machinery which consists in transferring the amusements that people find
in the world bodily into the Church itself. It cannot and will not be
overcome until a Christian society has been created which is bound
together by the interests of the Kingdom of God, and in which those
interests are so predominant as to throw into the shade and practically
annihilate other interests. And especially must such spiritual interests
be strong enough to break down all social barriers so that the cultured
and refined can find a common ground with the uneducated and socially
untrained in the spiritual privileges that they share in common. When
the banker can talk with his chauffeur of their common experience in
prayer, and the banker's wife and her cook can confer on their mutual
difficulties in making a meditation, then we shall have got within
sight of a Christian society; but at present, while these have no
spiritual contact, it is not within sight. The primitive Christian
community in Jerusalem made the attempt at having all things in common.
Their mistake seems to have been that they, like other and more modern
people, by "all things" understood money. You cannot build any society
which is worth the name on money, a Church least of all. It is
unimportant whether a man is rich or poor; what is important is his
spiritual accomplishment: and it is common spiritual aims and
accomplishments which should make up the "all things" which possessed in
common will form the basis of an enduring unity. But not until
accomplishment becomes the supreme interest of life can we expect to get
out of the impasse in which we at present find ourselves; in which, that
is, the person can be converted to Christianity and enter into union
with God in Christ and become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and
wake to find himself isolated from his old circle by his profession of
new principles; but not, by his new principles, truly united to his
fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God! One is tempted to write, What a
comedy; but before one can do so, realises that it is in fact a tragedy!

Mother of God--oh, rare prerogative;
Oh, glorious title--what more special grace
Could unto thee thy dear Son, dread God, give
To show how far thou dost all creatures pass?
That mighty power within the narrow fold
Did of thy ne'er polluted womb remain,
Whom, whiles he doth th' all-ruling Sceptre hold,
Not earth, nor yet the heavens can contain;
Thou in the springtide of thy age brought'st forth
Him who before all matter, time and place,
Begotten of th' Eternal Father was.
Oh, be thou then, while we admire thy worth
A means unto that Son not to proceed
In rigour with us for each sinful deed.

John Brereley, Priest (Vere Lawrence Anderton, S.J.) 1575-1643




And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was
subject unto them.

S. Luke II, 51.

The Holy Church acknowledges and confesses the pure Virgin
Mary as Mother of God through whom has been given unto us the
bread of immortality and the wine of consolation. Give
blessings then in spiritual song.


After the rapid succession of fascinating pictures which are etched for
us in the opening chapters of the Gospel there follows a space of about
twelve years of which we are told nothing. The fables which fill the
pages of the Apocryphal Gospels serve chiefly to emphasise the
difference between an inspired and an uninspired narrative. The human
imagination trying to develop the situation suggested by the Gospel and
to fill in the unwritten chapters of our Lord's life betrays its
incompetence to create a story of God Incarnate which shall have the
slightest convincing power. These Apocryphal stories are immensely
valuable to us as, by contrast, creating confidence in the story of
Jesus as told by the Evangelists, but for nothing more.

We are left to use our own imagination in filling in these years of
silence in our Lord's training; and we shall best use it, not by trying
to imagine what may have occurred, but by trying to understand what is
necessarily involved in the facts as we know them. We know that the home
in Nazareth whither Mary and Joseph brought Jesus after the death of
Herod permitted them to return from Egypt was the simple home of a
carpenter. It would appear to have been shared by the children of
Joseph, and our Lady would have been the house-mother, busy with many
cares. We know, too, that under this commonplace exterior of a poor
household there was a life of the spirit of far reaching significance.
Mary was ceaselessly pondering many things--the significance of all
those happenings which, as the years flowed on without any further
supernatural intervention, must at times have seemed as though they were
quite purposeless. Of course this could not have been a settled feeling,
for the insight of her pure soul would have held her to the certainty
that such actions of God as she had experienced would some day reveal
the meaning which as yet lay hidden.

In the meantime other things did not matter much, seeing she had Jesus,
the object of endless love. Every mother dreams over the baby she cares
for and looks out into the future with trembling hope; so S. Mary's
thoughts would go out following the hints of prophecy and angelic
utterances, unable to understand how the light and shadow which were
mingled there could find fulfilment in her Child. But like any other
mother the thought would come back to her present possession, the
satisfaction of her heart that she had in Jesus. With the growth of
Jesus there would come the unfolding of the answering love, which was
but another mode in which the love of God she had experienced all her
life was manifesting itself. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and we are
able to enter a little into the over-flowing love of Mary as she watched
the advance, this unfolding from day to day. The wonder that was hers in
guiding this mind and will, in teaching our Lord His first prayers, in
telling Him the story of the people of whom He had assumed our nature!
There was here no self-will, no resistance to guidance, no perversity to
wound a mother's heart. In the training of an ordinary child there are
from time to time hints of characteristics or tendencies which may
develop later into spiritual or moral disaster. There are growls of the
sleeping beast which make us tremble for the future: there are hours of
agony when we think of the inevitable temptations which must be met, and
suggestions of weakness which colour our imagination of the meeting of
them with the lurid light of defeat. But as Mary watched the unfolding
character of Jesus she saw nothing there that carried with it the least
suggestion of evil growth in the future, no outcropping of hereditary
sin or disordered appetite. A constantly unfolding intelligence, and
growing interest in the things that most interested her, an eagerness to
hear and to know of the will and love of the eternal Father, these are
her joy. That would have been the centre--would it not?--of the
unfolding consciousness of Jesus: the knowledge of the Father.

Training by love, so we might describe the life in the Home at Nazareth.
And we must not forget the grave ageing figure who is the head of the
household. _The Holy Family_--that was the perfect unity that their love
created. There is a wonderful picture of these three by Sassaferato
which catches, as no other Holy Family that I know of does, the meaning
of their association. S. Mary whom the artistic imagination is so apt,
after the Nativity, to transform into a stately matron, here still
retains the note of virginity which in fact she never lost. It is the
maiden-mother who stands by the side of the grave, elderly S. Joseph,
the ideal workman, who is also the ideal guardian of his maiden-wife.
And Jesus binds these two together and with them makes a unity,
interpreting to us the perfection of family life.

Family life is a tremendous test, it brings out the best and the worst
of those who are associated in it. The ordinary restraints of social
intercourse are of less force in the intimacy of family life: there is
less need felt to watch conduct, or to mask what we know are our
disagreeable traits. It is quite easy for character to deteriorate in
the freedom of such intercourse. It is pretty sure to do so unless there
is the constant pressure of principle in the other direction. The great
safeguard is the sort of love that is based on mutual respect,--respect
both for ourselves and for others. We talk a good deal as though love
were always alike; as though the fact that a man and a woman love each
other were always the same sort of fact. It does not require much
knowledge of human nature or much reflection to convince us that that is
not the case. Love is not a purely physical fact; and outside its
physical implications there are many factors which may enter, whose
existence constitute the _differentia_ from case to case. It is upon
these varying elements that the happiness of the family life depends.
One of the most important is that character on either side shall be such
as to inspire respect. Many a marriage goes to pieces on this rock; it
is found that the person who exercised a certain kind of fascination
shows in the intimacy of married life a character and qualities which
are repulsive; a shallowness which inspires contempt, an egotism which
is intolerable, a laxity in the treatment of obligations which destroys
any sense of the stability of life. A marriage which does not grow into
a relation of mutual honour and respect must always be in a state of
unstable equilibrium, constantly subject to storms of passion, to
suspicion and distrust.

And therefore such a marriage will afford no safe basis on which to
build a family life. But without a stable family life a stable social
and religious life is impossible. It is therefore no surprise to those
who believe that the powers of evil are active in the world to find that
the family is the very centre of their attack at the present time. The
crass egotism lying back of so much modern teaching is nowhere more
clearly visible than in the assertion of the right of self-determination
so blatantly made in popular writings. By self-determination is
ultimately meant the right of the individual to seek his own happiness
in his own way, and to make pleasure the rule of his life. "The right to
happiness" is claimed in utter disregard of the fact that the claim
often involves the unhappiness of others. "The supremacy of love,"
meaning the supremacy of animalism, is the excuse for undermining the
very foundations of family life. No obligation, it appears, can have a
binding force longer than the parties to it find gratification in it.
Personal inclination and gratification is held sufficient ground for
action whose consequences are far from being personal, which, in fact,
affect the sane and healthy state of society as a whole.

The decline of a civilisation has always shown itself more markedly in
the decline of the family life than elsewhere. The family, not the
individual, is the basis of the social state, and no amount of
theorising can make the fact different. Whatever assails the integrity
of the family assails the life of the state, and no single family can be
destroyed without society as a whole feeling the effect. "What," it is
asked, "is to be done? If two people find that they have blundered, are
they to go on indefinitely suffering from the result of their blunder?
If an immature boy or girl in a moment of passion make a mistake as to
their suitability to live together, are they to be compelled to do so at
the expense of constant unhappiness?"

It would seem obvious to say that justice requires that those who make
blunders should take the consequences of them; that those who create a
situation involving suffering should do the suffering themselves and not
attempt to pass it on to others. It is not as though the consequences of
the act can be avoided; they cannot. What happens is that the incidence
of them is shifted. It is a part of the brutal egotism of divorce that
it is quite willing to shift the incidence of the suffering that it has
created on to the lives of wholly innocent people; in many cases upon
children, in all cases upon society at large. For it is necessary to
emphasize the fact that society is a closely compact body: so interwoven
is life with life that if one member suffer the other members suffer
with it. Breaches of moral order are not individual matters but social.
This truth is implied in society's constantly asserted right to regulate
family relations in the general interest even after it has ceased to
think of such relations as having any spiritual significance. We need
to-day a more vivid sense of the _community_ lest we shall see all sense
of a common life engulfed in the rising tide of individual anarchism. We
need the assertion in energetic form of the right of the community as
supreme over the right of the individual. We must deny the right of the
individual to pursue his own way and his own pleasure at the expense of
the rights of others. And to his insolent question, "Why should I suffer
in an intolerable situation?" we must plainly answer: "Because you are
responsible for the situation, and it is intolerable that you should be
permitted to throw off the results of your wickedness or your stupidity
upon other and innocent people."

And it is quite clear that should society assert its pre-eminent right
in unmistakable form and make it evident that it does not propose to
tolerate the results of the egotistic nonsense of self-determination and
the right of every one to live his own life, the evils of divorce and of
shattered families would presently shrink to relatively small
proportions. The present facility of divorce encourages thoughtless and
unsuitable marriages in the first place; and in the second place,
encourages the resort to divorce in circumstances of family disturbance
which would speedily right themselves in the present as they have done
in the past if those concerned knew that their happiness and comfort
for years compelled an adjustment of life. When as at present any one
who loses his temper can rush off to a court and get a marriage
dissolved for some quite trivial reason, there is small encouragement to
practice self-control. If a man and woman know that the consequences of
conduct must be faced by them, and cannot be avoided by thrusting them
upon others, they will no doubt in the course of time learn to exercise
a little self-control.

The family is the foundation of the state because, among other things,
it is the natural training place of citizens: no public training in
schools and camps can for a moment safely be looked to as a substitute
or an equivalent of wholesome family influence. If the family does not
make good citizens we cannot have good citizens. The family too is at
the basis of organised religious life; if the family does not make good
Christians we shall not have good Christians. The Sunday School and the
Church societies are poor substitutes for the religious influence of the
family, as the school and the camp are for its social interests.

One is inclined to stress the obvious failure of the family to fulfil
its alloted functions in the teaching of religion as the root difficulty
that the Christian religion has to encounter and the most comprehensive
cause of its relative failure in modern life. The responsibility for the
religious and moral training of children rests squarely upon those who
have assumed the responsibility of bringing them into the world, and it
cannot be rightly pushed off on to some one else. To the protest of
parents that they are incompetent to conduct such training, the only
possible reply is a blunt, "Whose fault is that?" If you have been so
careless of the fundamental responsibilities of life, you are
incompetent to assume a relation which of necessity carries such
responsibility with it. It is no light matter to have committed to you
the care of an immortal soul whose eternal future may quite well be
conditioned on the way in which you fulfil your trust. It would be well
as a preliminary to marriage to take a little of the time ordinarily
given to its frivolous accompaniments and seriously meditate upon the
words of our Lord which seem wholly appropriate to the circumstance:
"Whoso shall cause to stumble one of these little ones which believe in
me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck,
and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea." It is the careless
and incompetent training of children which in fact "causes them to
stumble" when the presence of word and example would have held them
straight. It has been (to speak personally) the greatest trial of my
priesthood that out of the thousands of children I have dealt with, in
only rare cases have I had the entire support of the family; and I have
always considered that I was fortunate when I met with no interference
and was given an indifferent tolerance. It is heart-breaking to see
years of careful work brought to naught (so far as the human eye can
see: the divine eye can see deeper) by the brutal materialism of a
father and the silly worldliness of a mother.

The interplay of lives in a family should be consciously directed by
those who control them to the cultivation, to the bringing out of the
best that is in them. Education means the drawing out of the innate
powers of the personality and the training of them for the highest
purposes. It is the deliberate direction of personal powers to the
highest ends, the discipline of them for the performance of those ends.
The life of a child should be shaped with reference to its final destiny
from the moment of its birth. It should be surrounded with an atmosphere
of prayer and charity which would be the natural atmosphere in which it
would expand as it grows, and in terms of which it would learn to
express itself as soon as it reaches sufficient maturity to express
itself at all. It should become familiar with spiritual language and
modes of action, and meet nothing that is inharmonious with these. But
we know that the education of the Christian child is commonly the
opposite of all this. It learns little that is spiritual. When it comes
to learn religion it is obviously a matter of small importance in the
family life; if there is any expression of it at all, it is one that is
crowded into corners and constantly swamped by other interests which are
obviously felt to be of more importance. Too often the spiritual state
of the family may be summed up in the words of the small boy who
condensed his observation of life into the axiom: "Men and dogs do not
go to Church." In such an atmosphere the child finds religion and morals
reduced to a system of repression. God becomes a man with a club
constantly saying, Don't! He grows to think that he is a fairly virtuous
person so long as he skilfully avoids the system of taboos wherewith he
feels that life is surrounded, and fulfils the one positive family law
of a religious nature, that he shall go to Sunday School until he is
judged sufficiently mature to join the vast company of men and dogs.

Nothing very much can come of negatives. Religion calls for positive
expression; and it is not enough that the child shall find positive
expression once a week in the church; he must find it every day in the
week in the intimacy of the family. He must find that the principles of
life which are inculcated in the church are practiced by his father and
his mother, his brother and his sister, or he will not take them
seriously. If he is conscious of virtue and religious practice as
repression, a sort of tyranny practiced on a child by his elders, his
notion of the liberty of adult life will quite naturally be freedom to
break away from what is now forced upon him into the life of
self-determination and indifference to things spiritual that
characterises the adult circle with which he is familiar.

But consider, by contrast, those rare families where the opposite of all
this is true; where there is the peace of a recollected life of which
the foundations are laid in constant devotion to our Lord. There you
will find the nearest possible reproduction of the life of the Holy
Family in Nazareth. Because the life of the family is a life of prayer,
there will you find Jesus in the midst of it. There you will find Mary
and Joseph associated with its life of intercession. In such a family
the expression of a religious thought will never be felt as a discord.
The talk may quite naturally at any moment turn on spiritual things.
There are families in which one feels that one must make a careful
preparation for the introduction of a spiritual allusion: one does it
with a sense of danger, much as one might sail through a channel strewn
with mines. There are other families in which one has no hesitation in
speaking of prayer, of sacraments, of spiritual actions, as things with
which all are familiar in practice, and are as natural as food and
drink. In this atmosphere it produces no smile to say, "I am going to
slip into the Church and make my meditation"; or, "I shall be a little
late to-night as I am making my confession on my way home." Religion in
such a circle has not incurred contempt through familiarity: it still
remains a great adventure, the very greatest of all indeed; but it is an
adventure in the open, full of joy and gladness.

The Holy Family was a family that worked hard. It is no doubt true that
our Lord learned his foster-father's trade, so that those who knew him
later on, or heard His preaching, asked, "Is not this the carpenter?"
But the Holy Family was a radiant centre of joy and peace because Jesus
was in the midst of it. Where Jesus dwells there is the effect of his
indwelling in the spiritual gladness that results. Mary was never too
busy for her religious duties nor Joseph too tired with his week's work
to get up on the Sabbath for whatever services in honour of God the
Synagogue offered. They were perhaps conscious as the Child "increased
in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" of a spiritual
influence that flowed from Him, and sweetened and lightened the life of
the home. They were not conscious that in His Person God was in the
midst of them; but that is what we can (if we will) be conscious of. We
are heirs of the Incarnation, and God is in the midst of us; and
especially does Jesus wish to dwell, as He dwelt in Nazareth, in the
midst of the family. He wishes to make every household a Holy Family. He
is in the midst of it in uninterrupted communion with the soul of the
baptised child; and the father and mother, understanding that their
highest duty and greatest privilege is to watch and foster the spiritual
unfolding of the child's life in such wise that Jesus may never depart
from union with it, become as Joseph and Mary in their ministry to it.
There is nothing more heavenly than such a charge; there is nothing more
beautiful than such a family life.

There is often a pause in God's work between times of great activity--a
time of retreat, as it seems, which is a rest from what has preceded and
a preparation for what is to come. Such a pause were these years at
Nazareth in the life of Blessed Mary. The time from the Annunciation to
the return from Egypt was a time of deep emotion, of spirit-shaking
events. Later on there were the trials of the years of the ministry,
culminating in Calvary. But these years while Jesus was growing to
manhood in the quietness of the home were years of unspeakable privilege
and peace. The daily association with the perfect Child, the privilege
of watching and guarding and ministering to Him, these days of deepening
spiritual union with Him, although much that was happening to the mother
was happening unconsciously,--were strengthening her grasp on ultimate
reality, so that she issued with perfect strength to meet the supreme
tragedy of her life. How wonderful God must have seemed to her in those
thirty years of peace! To all of us God is thus wonderful in quiet
hours; and the quiet hours are much the more numerous in most of our
lives. But have we all learned to use these hours so that we may be
ready to meet the hours of testing which shall surely come? No matter
how quiet the valley of our life, some day the pleasant path will lift,
and we must climb the hilltop where rises the Cross. It will not be
intolerable, if the quiet years have been spent in Nazareth with Jesus
and Mary and Joseph.

Most holy, and pure Virgin, Blessed Mayd,
Sweet Tree of Life, King David's Strength and Tower,
The House of Gold, the Gate of Heaven's power,
The Morning-Star whose light our fall hath stay'd.

Great Queen of Queens, most mild, most meek, most wise,
Most venerable, Cause of all our joy,
Whose cheerful look our sadnesse doth destroy,
And art the spotlesse Mirror to man's eyes.

The Seat of Sapience, the most lovely Mother,
And most to be admired of thy sexe,
Who mad'st us happy all, in thy reflexe,
By bringing forth God's Onely Son, no other.

Thou Throne of Glory, beauteous as the moone,
The rosie morning, or the rising sun,
Who like a giant hastes his course to run,
Till he hath reached his two-fold point of noone.

How are thy gifts and graces blazed abro'd,
Through all the lines of this circumference,
T'imprint in all purged hearts this Virgin sence
Of being Daughter, Mother, Spouse of God?

Ben Jonson, 1573-1637.




And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Know ye
not that I must be in my Father's house?

S. Luke II, 49.

We give thanks unto thee, O Lord, who lovest mankind, Thou
benefactor of our souls and bodies, for that Thou hast this
day vouchsafed to feed us with Thy Heavenly Mysteries; guide
our path aright, establish us all in Thy fear, guard our
lives, make sure our steps through the prayers and
supplications of the glorious Mother of God and Ever Virgin
Mary and of all Thy saints.


The time was come when by the law of His people the Boy Jesus must
assume the duties of an adult in the exercise of His religion. Therefore
His parents took Him with them to Jerusalem that He might participate in
the celebration of the Passover. It would be a wonderful moment in the
life of any intelligent Hebrew boy when for the first time he came in
contact with the places and scenes which were so familiar to him in the
story of his nation's past; and we can imagine what would have been the
special interest of the Child Jesus who would have been so thoroughly
taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, and who would have felt an added
interest in the places He was now seeing because of their association
with His great ancestor, David. Still His chief interest was in the
religion of His people, and it was the temple where the sacrificial
worship of God was centred that would have for Him the greatest
attraction. This was His "Father's House," and here He Himself felt
utterly at home. We are not surprised to be told that He lingered in
these courts.

"And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus
tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew it not."
They had perfect confidence in Jesus; and yet it seems strange that they
should have assumed that He was somewhere about and would appear at the
proper time. When the night drew on and the camp was set up there was no
Child to be found. Then we imagine the distress, the trouble of heart,
with which Mary and Joseph hurry back to Jerusalem and spend the ensuing
days in seeking through its streets. We share something of our Lord's
surprise when we learn that the temple was the last place that they
thought of in their search. Did they think that Jesus would be caught by
the life of the Passover crowds that filled the streets of Jerusalem?
Did they think that it would be a child's curiosity which would hold him
fascinated with the glittering toys of the bazaars? Did they think that
He had mistaken the caravan and been carried off in some other direction
and was lost to them forever? We only know that it was not till three
days had passed that they thought of the temple and there found Him.
"And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto Him,
Son, why has thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have
sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought
me? Know ye not that I must be in my Father's house?"

S. Mary and S. Joseph were proceeding on certain assumptions as to what
Jesus would do which turned out to be untenable. It is one of the
dangers of our religion--our personal religion--that we are apt to
assume too much which in the testing turns out to be unfounded. We reach
a certain stage of religious attainment, and then we assume that all is
going well with us. When one asks a child how he is getting on he
invariably answers: "I am all right." And the adult often has the same
childish confidence in an untested and unverified state of soul. We are
"all right"; which practically means that we do not care to be bothered
with looking into our spiritual state at all. We have been going on for
years now following the rules that we laid down when we first realised
that the being a Christian was a more or less serious matter. Nothing
has happened in these years to break the placidity of our routine. There
has never been any relapse into grievous sin; we have never felt any
real temptation to abandon the practice oL our religion. We run along as
easily and smoothly as a car on well-laid rails. We are "all right."

But in fact we are all wrong. We have lapsed into a state of which the
ideal is purely static: an ideal of spiritual comfort as the goal of our
spiritual experience here on earth. We have acquired what appears to be
a state of equilibrium into which we wish nothing to intrude that would
endanger the balance. We are, no doubt, quite unconsciously, excluding
from life every emotion, every ambition, as well as every temptation,
which appears to involve spiritual disturbance. But we need to be

For the spiritual life is dynamic and not static; its ideal is motion
and not rest. Rest is the quality of dead things, and particularly of
dead souls. The weariness of the way, which is so obvious a phenomenon
in the Christian life, is the infallible sign of lukewarmness. What we
need therefore is to break with the assumption that we know all that it
is necessary to know, and that we have done or are doing all that it is
necessary to do. It is indeed the mark of an ineffective religion that
the notion of necessity is adopted as its stimulus, rather than the
notion of aspiration. The question, "Must I do this?" is a revelation of
spiritual poverty and ineptitude. "I press on," is the motto of a
living religion.

Personal religion, therefore, needs constantly to be submitted to new
tests, lest it lapse into an attitude of finality. Fortunately for us,
God does not leave the matter wholly in our hands, but Himself, through
His Providence, applies a wide variety of tests to us. It is often a
bitter and disturbing experience to have our comfortable routine broken
up and to find that we have quite miserably failed under very simple
temptations. And the sort of failure I am thinking of is not so much the
failure of sin as the failure of ideal. It is the case of those who
think that they have satisfactorily worked out the problems of the
spiritual life, and have reached a satisfactory adjustment of duty and
practice, and then find that if the adjustment changes their practice
falls off. The outer circumstances of life change and the change is
followed by a readjustment of the inner life on a distinctly lower
plane. It is revealed to us that the outer circumstances were
controlling the spiritual practice, and not the practice dominating the
circumstances. The ruling ideal was that of comfort, and under the new
circumstances the spiritual ideal is lowered until it fits in with a new
possibility of comfort in the altered circumstances. It is well to
examine ourselves on these matters and to find what is the actual
ruling motive in our religious practice.

We may have assumed that we have Jesus, when all the assumption meant
was that we thought that He was somewhere about. After all, it will not
aid us very much if He is "in the company," if we go on our day's
journey without Him. It is a poor assumption to build life upon, that
Jesus exists, or that He is in the Church, or that He is the Saviour. It
is nothing to us unless He is _our_ Saviour, unless He is personally
present in us and with us. And it is not wise or safe to let this be a
matter of assumption, even though the assumption rest on a perfectly
valid experience in the past; we cannot live on history, not even on our
own history. That Jesus is with us must be verified day by day, and we
ought to go no day's journey without the certainty of His presence. We
can best do that, when the circumstances of life permit, by a daily
communion. There at the altar we meet Jesus and know that He is with us.
When the circumstances of life do not permit, (and often they do, when
we lazily think they do not) there are other modes of arriving at
spiritual certainty.

It is quite easy to lose Jesus. He does not force His companionship upon
us, but rather when we meet Him. "He makes as though he would go
farther." He offers Himself to us; He never compels us to receive Him as
a guest. And when we have in fact received Him, and asked Him to abide
with us, He does not stay any longer than we want Him. We have to
constrain Him. In other words, we lose Jesus, we lose the vitality of
our spiritual life (though we may retain the routine practice of our
religion), if we are not from day to day making it the most vital issue
of our lives. That does not necessarily mean that we are spending more
time on it than on anything else, but that we are putting it first in
the order of importance in our lives and are sacrificing, if occasion
arise, other things to it, rather than it to them. That a man loves his
wife and child does not necessarily mean that he actually spends more
time on them than he does on his business, but it does mean that they
are more important in his life than his business, and if need arise it
will be the business that is sacrificed to them and not they to the
business. Spirituality is much less a matter of time than of energy. A
wise director can guide a man to sanctity who will probably consecrate
his Sunday, and give the director one half hour on week days to
dispose of.

To lose Jesus does not require the commission of great sin, as we count
sin. The quite easiest way to lose Him is to forget Him and go about our
business as though He did not exist. That is a frequent happening. For
vast numbers Jesus does not exist except for an hour or so on Sunday.
They give Him the formal homage of attendance at church on Sunday
morning and then they go out and forget Him, not only for the rest of
the week but for the rest of the day. The religion which thus reduces
itself to a minimum of attendance at Mass on Sunday morning is surely
not a religion from which much can be expected in the way of spiritual
accomplishment. If it be true that there is a minimum of religious
requirement which will ensure that we "go to heaven," then that sort of
religion may be useful; but I do not know that anywhere such a minimum
_is_ required. The statement that I find is "Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
mind, and with all thy strength." The outstanding characteristic of love
is surely not niggardliness, but passionate self-giving. All things are
forgiven, not to those who are careful to keep within the limits
required, but to those who "love much."

The study of many cases, the experience of over thirty years in the
confessional, convinces me that the chief cause of spiritual failure
among Christians is not the irresistible impact of temptation but the
lack of spiritual vision. The average man or woman is not consciously
going anywhere; but they are just keeping a rule which is the arbitrary
exactment of God. It might just as well be some other rule. That is, in
their minds, the practice of the spiritual life has no immediate ends;
it is not productive of spiritual expansion; it is not a ladder set up
on earth to reach heaven on which they are climbing ever nearer God, and
on the way are catching ever broader visions of spiritual reality as
they ascend. The knowledge and the love of God are to them phrases, not
practical goals, invitations to paths of spiritual adventure. Hence,
having no immediate ends to accomplish, they find the whole spiritual
routine dull and unattractive and naturally tend to reduce it to a
minimum. It is not at all surprising that in the end they drop religion
altogether, as why should one keep on travelling a road that leads
nowhere? How can one love and serve a Jesus whom one has lost?

The problem of personal religion is the problem of finding Jesus, of
bringing life into a right relation to Him. The plain path is to follow
the example of His parents who sought Him "sorrowing." Sorrow for having
lost Jesus is the true repentance. Repentance which springs from fear of
consequences, or from disgust with our own incompetence and stupidity
when we realise that we have made a spiritual failure of life, is an
imperfect thing. True repentance has its origin in love and is therefore
directed toward a person. It is the conviction that we have violated the
love of our Father, our Saviour, our Sanctifier. Sorrow springing from
love is sorrow "after a godly sort." It is easy for us to drift into
ways of carelessness and indifference which seem not to involve sin, to
be no more than a decline from some preceding standard of practice which
we conclude to have been unnecessarily strict; but the result is an
increasing disregard of spiritual values, a growing obscuration of the
divine presence in life. Then the day comes when some quite marked and
positive spiritual failure, a failure of which we cannot imagine
ourselves to have been guilty, when we were living in constant communion
with our Lord, arouses us to the fact that for months our spiritual
vitality has been declining and that we have ended in losing Jesus. It
is a tremendous shock to find how fast and how far we have been
travelling when we thought that we were only slightly relaxing an
unnecessarily strict routine: that when we thought that we were but
acting "in a common sense way," we were in reality effecting a
compromise with the world. Well is it then if the surprise of our
disaster shocks us back to the recovery of what we have lost, if it send
us into the streets of the city, sorrowing and seeking for Jesus.

Mere spiritual laziness is at the bottom of much failure in religion.
There is no success anywhere in life save through the constant pressure
of the will driving a reluctant and protesting set of nerves and muscles
to their daily tasks. The day labourer comes home from his work with his
muscular strength exhausted, but he has to go back to the same
monotonous task on the morrow: his family has to be fed and clothed and
he cannot permit himself to say, "I am tired and will stay away from
work to-day." The business or professional man comes back from his
office with a wearied brain that makes any thought an effort, but he
must take up the routine to-morrow; the pressure of competitive business
does not permit him to work when and as much as he chooses. But the
Christian who is engaged in the most important work that is carried on
in this world, the work of preparing an immortal soul for an unending
future, is constantly under the temptation "to take a day off"--to let
down the standard of accomplishment till it ceases to interfere with the
business or the pleasure of life; is constantly too tired or too busy to
do this or that. In short, religion is apt to be treated in a manner
that would ensure the bankruptcy of any material occupation in life. Why
then should it not ensure spiritual bankruptcy?

Surely, to retain Jesus with us, to live in the intimacy of God, is the
most pressingly important of our duties; it is worth any sort of
expenditure of energy to accomplish it. And it cannot be accomplished
without expenditure of energy. The view of religion which conceives it
as a facile assent to certain propositions, the occasional and formal
participation in certain actions, the more or less strict observance of
certain rules of conduct, is so far from the fact that it is not worth
discussing. Religion is the realised friendship of God; it is a personal
relation of the deepest and purest sort; and, like all personal
relations, is kept alive by the mutual activities of those concerned.
The action of one party will not suffice to keep the relation in healthy
state. The love of God itself will not suffice to maintain a being in
holiness and carry him on to happiness who is himself quite indifferent
to the entire spiritual transaction--whose attitude is that of one
willing to be saved if he be not asked to take much trouble about it.
That lackadaisical attitude can never produce any result in the
spiritual order; it can only ensure the spiritual decline and death of
one who has not thought it worth while to make an effort to live.

Jesus can be found; but the finding depends upon the method of the
seeking. There are many men who claim, and quite honestly, to be in
pursuit of truth: to find the truth is the end of all their efforts. Yet
they do not succeed in finding it. Why is this? I think that the
principal reason is that they are constituting themselves the judges of
the truth; they first of all lay down certain rules which God must obey
if He wishes them to believe in Him! They insist on having, before they
will believe, a kind of evidence that is impossible of attainment. They
assert that this or that is impossible, and the other thing incredible.
They partially ascertain the laws that govern the material universe, and
they deny to the Maker of the universe the power to act otherwise than
in accord with so much of the order of nature as they have discovered!
They deny to God the sort of personal action in this world that they
themselves constantly exercise.

The method is not a method that can be hopeful of success. And it is
worth noting that it is not a method that these same men followed in
their investigations of the natural world. They have not accumulated
information about natural law by first laying down rules as to how
natural law must act, and refusing to listen to any evidence which does
not fall in with these rules: rather, they have set themselves to
observe how nature does act, and then deduced rules from their
observation. Why not pursue the same method in religion? Why not in an
humble spirit observe how God does act? Why start by saying, "Miracles
do not happen?" Why reject as incredible the Virgin Birth and the
Resurrection? Why not get a bigger notion of God than that of a
mechanician running a machine, and think of Him as a Person dealing with
persons? The relation of persons cannot be mechanical or predetermined;
they are and must be free and spontaneous: they have their origin, not
in the pressure of invariable law but in the impulse of love.

Nor is the search for Jesus that is inspired by mere curiosity likely
to be a success. There are many people who are curious about religion,
and they want to know why we believe thus and so; and particularly why
we act as we do. Why do you keep this day? What do you mean by this
ceremony? Do you think that it is wrong to do this or that? Such people
wander about observing; but their observation we understand is the
observation of an idler who does not expect to be influenced by what he
observes, but only to be amused. These are they who run after the latest
thing in heresy, the newest thing in thought. What is observable about
them is that they never seriously contemplate doing anything themselves.
They are like those multitudes who followed our Lord about for awhile
but were dispersed by the test of hard sayings.

But Jesus can be found. He is found of all those who seek Him humbly and
sincerely, putting away self and desiring simply to be led: who do not
challenge Him with Pilate's scornful, "What is truth?" but rather say,
"Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief." He is easily found of those
who know where to look for Him. There is no mystery about that,--He will
certainly be in His Father's House. The surprise of Joseph and Mary that
He had thus dealt with them is answered by Jesus' surprise that they did
not certainly know where He would be: "Wist ye not that I must be in My
Father's House?"

In the House of God, the Church of God, is the ready approach to Jesus.
It is in the last degree foolish to waive aside the Church in which are
stored the treasures of more than nineteen centuries of Christian
experience as though it did and could have nothing to say in the matter.
A seeker after information as to the meaning of the constitution of the
United States would be considered a madman if he impatiently turned from
those of whom he made enquiry when they suggested the decrees of the
Supreme Court as the proper place to seek information. Surely, from any
point of view, the Church will know more about Jesus than any one else:
if in all the centuries it has not discovered the meaning of Him Whom it
ceaselessly worships there is small likelihood that that meaning will be
discovered by an unbeliever studying an ancient book! If the Church
cannot lead us to Jesus, and if it cannot interpret to us His will,
there is small likelihood that any one else will be able to do so. And
if during all these centuries His will has been unknown it can hardly be
of much importance to discover it now. If His Church has failed, then
His Mission is discredited.

For us who have accepted His revelation as made to the Church and by it
unfailingly preserved, who have learned to find Him there where He has
promised to be until the end of time, there is another sense in which we
think of His words as words of encouragement and consolation. There are
hours in life which press hard upon us; there are other hours when the
sense of God's love and goodness fills us with thankfulness and joy. In
such hours we crave the intimacy of personal communion: we want to tell
our grief or our joy. And then we take our way to the temple, and know
that we shall find Him there in His Incarnate Presence in His Father's
House. We go in and kneel before the Tabernacle and know that Jesus is
here. Here in the silence He waits for us. Here in the long hours He
watches; here is the ever-open door leading to the Father where any man
at any time may enter. He who humbled Himself to the hidden life of
Nazareth now humbles Himself to the hidden life of the Tabernacle: and
we who believe His Word, have no need to envy Joseph and Mary the
intimacy of their life with Jesus, because here for us, if we will, is a
greater intimacy--the intimacy of those of whom it can be said: They
evermore dwell in Him and He in them.

Lady of Heaven, Regent of the Earth,
Empress of all the infernal marshes fell,
Receive me, thy poor Christian, 'spite my, dearth,
In the fair midst of thine elect to dwell:
Albeit my lack of grace I know full well;
For that thy grace, my Lady and my Queen,
Aboundeth more than all my misdemean,
Withouten which no soul of all that sigh
May merit heaven. 'Tis sooth I say, for e'en
In this belief I will to live and die.

Say to thy Son, I am his--that by his birth
And death my sins be all redeemable--
As Mary of Egypt's dole he changed to mirth,
And eke Theophilus', to whom befell
Quittance of thee, albeit (so men tell)
To the foul fiend he had contracted been.
Assoilzie me, that I may have no teen,
Maid, that without breach of virginity
Didst bear our Lord that in the Host is seen:
In this belief I will to live and die.

A poor old wife I am, and little worth:
Nothing I know, nor letter aye could spell:
Where in the church to worship I fare forth,
I see heaven limned with harps and lutes, and hell
Where damned folk seethe in fire unquenchable:
One doth me fear, the other joy serene;
Grant I may have the joy, O Virgin clean,
To whom all sinners lift their hands on high,
Made whole in faith through thee, their go-between:
In this belief I will to live and die.


Thou didst conceive, Princess most bright of sheen,
Jesus the Lord, that hath no end nor mean,
Almighty that, departing heaven's demesne
To succour us, put on our frailty,
Offering to death his sweet of youth and green:
Such as he is, our Lord he is, I ween:
In this belief I will to live and die.




And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;
and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus was called,
and his disciples, to the marriage.

S. John II, 1.

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we thy servants may
enjoy constant health of body and mind, and by the glorious
intercession of blessed Mary, ever a virgin, be delivered
from all temporal afflictions, and come to those joys that
are eternal. Through.

Having received, O Lord, what is to advance our salvation;
grant we may always be protected by the patronage of blessed
Mary, ever a virgin, in whose honor we have offered this
sacrifice to thy majesty. Through.

Old Catholic.

"There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was
there." To S. John Blessed Mary is ever the "mother of Jesus." He never
calls her by her name in any mention of her. Jesus who loved him and
whom he loved and loves always with consuming passion, held the
foreground of his consciousness; all other persons are known through
their relation to Him. As he is writing his Gospel-story toward the end
of his life, the Blessed Virgin has long been gone to join her Son in
the place of perfect love. We cannot conceive of her living long on
earth after His Ascension. Her "conversation" would in a special way be
"in heaven." Whatever the time she remained here awaiting the will of
God for her, we may be sure that the days she spent under the protection
of S. John were wonderful days for him, wherein their communing would
have been the continual lifting of their hearts and souls to Him, Child
and Friend, who is also God enthroned at the Right Hand of the Father.
It is not unlikely that the marvellous spiritual maturity of which we
are conscious in the writings of S. John was aided in its unfolding by
the intimacy of his relations with S. Mary. But always she remained to
him what she was because of what Jesus was; she remained to the end "the
mother of Jesus."

Here at the marriage of Cana the way in which she is mentioned suggests
that she was staying in the house where the marriage was celebrated: she
was simply there; Jesus and the disciples were called, invited, to the
wedding. Some relationship, it has been suggested, between S. Mary and
the bride or groom led to her presence in the house. That however is
mere conjecture. The marriage in any case was a wonderful one, for both
Jesus and Mary were there. It was therefore the ideal of all weddings
which seem to lack the true note of the new matrimony which springs from
the Incarnation if they take place without such guests. As in
imagination we follow Mary as she goes quietly about the house, which
like her own was a home of the poor, helping in the arrangements of the
wedding, one cannot help recalling many weddings with which one has had
something to do, and in the arrangements of which we cannot think of
Mary as having any part. They were the arrangements of the weddings of
Christians, and the weddings took place in a Christian church; but
neither is Mary there nor Jesus called. We are unable to think of Mary
as present amid the tumult of worldiness and frivolity, the endless
chatter over dress and decoration, which so commonly precedes the
celebration of a sacrament which is the symbol of "the mystical union
that there is betwixt Christ and His Church." That deep piety which puts
God and God's will before all else would strike a jarring note here,
where the dominant note is still the pagan note of the decking of the
slave for her new master. It is perhaps not without significance of the
direction of the movement of the modern mind that the protests of the
emancipated woman are against the Christian, not the pagan elements in
matrimony: she tends to regard marriage as a state of temporary luxury
rather than the perfect union of two souls in Christ. Clearly in
marriages which are regarded as purely temporary engagements, dependent
on the will of the parties for their continuance, there is no place for
the mother of Jesus. The purity that emanates from her will be a silent
but keenly felt criticism on the whole conception underlying a vast
number of modern marriages. Even as I write I read that in a certain
great city in the United States the number of divorces granted was one
fourth of the number of the marriages celebrated.

Clearly at marriages which are surrounded with this atmosphere of
paganism, be they celebrated where they may, there is no place for the
Blessed Mother; and neither is Jesus called. His priest, unfortunately,
is often called, and dares celebrate a sacrament which in the
circumstances he can hardly help feeling is a sacrilege. There are many
cases in which what purports to be Christian marriage is between those
who are not Christians, or of whom only one is a Christian in any
complete sense. One hears frequently of the sacrament of matrimony being
celebrated when only one of the parties is baptised. It is of course
possible for any priest to act on the authority conferred upon him by
the state and in his capacity as a state official perform marriages
between those whom the state authorises to be married: but why do it
under the character of a priest? or why throw about the ceremony the
suggestions of a sacrament?

If Jesus is really to be called to a marriage, it means that the
preparations for the marriage will be largely spiritual. The parties to
the marriage will approach the marriage through other sacraments. They
will both be members of the Church of God by baptism; and they will be,
or look forward to becoming, communicants. They will prepare for the
sacrament of matrimony by receiving the sacrament of penance, and
receiving the communion. What better preparation for starting a new
life, for setting out to create a new family in the Kingdom of God, a
family in which the ideals of the life at Nazareth are to be the ruling
ideals, than that cleansing of soul that fits them for the beginning of
a new life? A priest has great joy when he knows that those who are
kneeling before him to receive the nuptial blessing are souls pure in
God's sight, dwellings ready and adorned for the coming of Christ.

For it is the normal and fitting crown of the ceremonies of marriage
that Jesus be there, that the Holy Mass be celebrated and that those who
have just been indissolubly united may as their first act partake of the
Bread of Heaven which giveth life to the world. I myself would rather
not be asked to celebrate a wedding unless it is to be approached with
the purity of Mary, and sealed by the partaking of Jesus. It is so great
and wonderful a thing, this sacrament of matrimony. Here are two human
beings setting out to fulfil the vocation of man to build up the Kingdom
of God, to set up a new hearth where the love of God may be manifest and
where children may be trained in the knowledge and love of God; where
the life of Christ may find contact with human life and through it
manifest God to the world--how wonderful and beautiful and holy all
that is! And then to remember what commonly takes place is to be
overcome with a sense of what must be the pain of God's heart.

We go back to look into the home where Mary seems to be directing the
arrangements of the wedding feast. It was a poor home and not much could
be provided; the wine, so essential to the feast, failed. What was to be
done? To whom would Mary look? She could have no money to buy wine. One
feels that after Joseph's death she had come more and more to look to
Jesus for help of all sorts. The deepening of their mutual love, the
completeness of their understanding, would make this the natural thing.
S. Mary feels that if there is any help in these embarrassing
circumstances, any way of sparing the feelings of the bridegroom, Jesus
will know it and help. There is no doubt in her mind; but the certainty
that He can help. So she turns to Him with her "they have no wine." The
words as we read them contain at once an appeal and a suggestion: an
appeal for help, advice, guidance, with the hint that Jesus can
effectually help if He will. It is not as some have rather crudely
thought a suggestion that He perform a miracle, but the appeal of one
who has learned to have unlimited trust in Him.

The reply of our Lord cannot fail to shock the English reader; and the
very nature of the shock ought to indicate that there is something wrong
with the translation. The words sound brusque and ill-mannered; and our
Lord was never that nor could be, least of all to His blessed Mother.
The dictionaries all tell us that the word translated woman is quite as
well translated lady, in the sense of mistress or house mother. There is
really a shade of meaning that we have no word for. Perhaps we best
understand what it is that is missed if we recall the fact that when our
Lord addressed S. Mary from the Cross He used the same word: "Woman,
behold thy son." In such circumstances we understand that the word on
our Lord's lips is a word of infinite tenderness. I do not believe that
we could do better than to translate it mother. We might paraphrase our
Lord's saying thus: "Mother, we are both concerned with the trouble of
these friends; but do not be anxious; I will act when the time comes."
His words are perfectly simple and courteous, though they do, no doubt,
suggest that her anxiety is unnecessary and that He will act in due
time. If we are to understand that our Lady was suggesting that He
perform a miracle, then He certainly yielded to her intercession.

Indeed, this short aside in the rejoicing of the marriage celebration is
suggestive of wide reaches of thought. It suggests, which concerns us
most here, something of the mode of prayer. Prayer is not a force
exercised upon God, it is an aspiration that He answers or not as He
sees fit, according as He sees our needs to be: and if He answers, He
answers in His own way and at His own time--when His hour is come. The
intercession of the saints, and of the highest saint of all, the holy
Mother, must thus be conceived as aspiration not as force. We hardly
need to remind ourselves that Blessed Mary though the highest of
creatures is still a creature and infinitely removed from the uncreated
God. When we think of her prayers or the prayers of the saints as having
"influence" or "power" with God, we must remember the limitations of
human language. It is quite possible through inaccurate use of language
to create the impression that we believe the prayers of the saints to be
prevailing with God because of some peculiar spiritual energy that
belongs to them, or, still worse, because we regard them as a sort of
court favourites who have special influence and can get things done that
ordinary people cannot. We need only to state the supposition to see
that we do not mean it. When we think what we mean by the influence of
the prayers of the saints, of their prevailingness with God, we know
that we mean that the superior value of the prayers of the saints is due
to the superior nature of their spiritual insight, to their better
understanding of the mind and purpose of God. Blessed Mary is our most
powerful intercessor because by her perfect sanctity she understands God
better than any one else. No educated Christian believes that she can
persuade God to change His mind or alter His judgment, or that she or
any saint would for a moment want to do so. Nor do we who cry for aid in
the end want any other aid than aid to see God's will and power to do
it: we have no wish or hope to impose our will on God. Prayer is
aspiration, the seeking for understanding, the submitting our desires to
the love of God; and the prayer of the saints helps us because they are
our brothers and sisters, of the same household, and join with us in the
offering of ourselves to God that we may know and do His holy will. And
we can see here in this incident at Cana the whole mode of prayer. There
is the just implied suggestion of the need, the hint of her own thought
about the matter, in the way in which S. Mary presents the case to
Jesus. There is the divine method which approves the end sought but
reserves the time and method of fulfilling it to the "hour" which the
divine wisdom approves. There is the ideal Christian attitude which
accepts the divine will perfectly, and says to the servants: "Whatsoever
he saith unto you, do it."

"They have no wine": S. Mary's word expresses the present weakness of
humanity, Man is born in sin, that is, out of union with God. That hoary
statement of dogmatic theology seems to stir the wrath of the modern
mind more than any other dogma of the Christian Faith, except it be the
dogma of eternal punishment. It is rather an amusing phenomenon that
those who have no visible basis for pride are likely to be the most
consumed with it. The pride of Diogenes was visible through the holes in
his carpet; the pride of liberalism is visible in its irritability
whenever the subject of sin, especially original sin, is mentioned. Yet
the very complacency of liberalism about the perfection of man, is but
another evidence (if we needed another) of his inherent sinfulness, his
weakness in the face of moral ideals. If we confess our sins we are on
the way to forgiveness; but if we say that we have no sin the truth is
not in us.

This boasting of capacity to be pure and strong without God,
theologically the Pelagian heresy, is sufficiently answered by a
cursory view of what humanity has done and does do. Even where the
Christian religion has been accepted the accomplishment is hardly ground
for boasting. The plain fact is (and you may account for it how you
like, it remains in any case a fact) that human beings are terribly weak
in the face of moral and spiritual ideals. They are not sufficiently
drawn by them to overcome the tendency of their nature toward a quite
opposite set of ideals. We do run easily and spontaneously after ideals
which the calm and enlightened judgment of the race, whether Christian
or non-Christian, has continuously disapproved. We know that Buddha and
Mahomet and Confucius would repudiate Paris and Berlin and New York and
London with the same certainty if not with the same energy as Christ. We
live in a time when a decisive public opinion gets its way; and
therefore we are quite safe in saying that the misery and sin which go
unchecked in the very centres of modern civilisation exist and continue
because there is no decided public opinion against them.

All attempts at reform which are merely attempts to reform machinery are
futile, they can produce only passing and superficial results. There is
only one medicine for the disease of the world, and that medicine is the
Blood of Christ. Ultimately, one believes, that will be applied; but
evidently it will not be applied in any broad way as a social treatment
till all the quack remedies have demonstrated their uselessness. The
last two centuries have been the flowering time of quacks. The mere
history of their theories fills volumes. Our own time shows no decline
in productiveness, nor decline in hopefulness in the efficacy of the
last remedy to bid for support. But the time of disillusionment must
some time come.

When that time comes all men will lift their eyes, as individual men
have always lifted them, up to the hills whence cometh their help.
Except they had kept their eyes so resolutely fastened on the earth at
their feet they would have seen, what has always been visible to those
who lift up their eyes, a crucified Figure on the one supreme hill of
earth,--the hill called Calvary. There "one Figure stands, with
outstretched hands" saying, with inextinguishable optimism, the
indestructible optimism of God, "and I, if I be lifted up, will draw all
men unto me."

What in the end will prevail with them, what will make them turn to the
Tree which is for the healing of the nations, is the perception that in
it is the remedy for the weakness that they have either sought to heal
by other means, or have resolutely denied to exist at all. There are men
whose wills are so strong that even in the grip of some serious disease
they will long go on about their business asserting that there is
nothing the matter with them and overcoming bodily pain and weakness by
sheer will power; but the end comes finally with a collapse that is
perhaps beyond remedy. We live in a society which has the same
characteristics, but it may be that it will see its state and turn to
healing. For God cannot heal except with our co-operation. Christ pleads
from the Cross, but he can do no more. He will not submit to our tests;
He will not come down that we may believe in Him. We must come to Him,
laying aside all our pride and self-will, and kneel by the Cross to
ask His help.

We know, do we not? that that is the law for the individual; that we
found the meaning of Christ, and what He can do in life, when we laid
aside pride and self-will and humbly asked help and pardon. It may be
that we resisted a long while, struggling against the pull of the divine
magnet; but if we have attained to spiritual peace it is because the
Cross won, because we found ourselves kneeling at the feet of Jesus.
Perhaps we have not got there yet, but are only on the way. Perhaps our
religion as yet is a formality and not a devotion. Perhaps our pride
still struggles against the Catholic practice of religion. Then why not
give way now, to-night? Let Mary take you and lead you to Jesus. She
will bring you to him with her half-suggestion, half-prayer: "He has no
wine." He has got to the end of his strength, and he has found the
weariness of self, he is ready for healing. O my divine Son, is not this
your opportunity, your "hour"?

Jesus loves to have us bring one another to Him. It is so obviously the
response to His Spirit, that carrying out of His teaching, so to love
the brother that we may bring him to the healing of the Cross. To care
for the spiritual needs of the brother is a real ministry: it is an
extension of Christ in us that clothes us with the power to aid other
souls in work or prayer. What a beautiful picture of this work there is
in the Gospel of St. John. "And there were certain Greeks among them
that came up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore to Philip,
which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we
would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and
Philip tell Jesus." And this work of presenting souls to Jesus which is
so clearly one of our chief privileges, how should not that be also the
privilege of all the saints, and especially of the Holy Mother? Blessed
Mary, we may be sure, delights in leading souls who so hesitatingly come
to her, to the presence of her Son,--just presenting them in their need
and with her prayer, which is all the plea that is needed to attract the
love and mercy of Jesus. "Why not," ask certain people who have not
thought out the meaning of Catholic dogma, "why not go at once to our
Lord; why go in this roundabout way?" Why not? Because of our human
qualities. Because we need company and sympathy. For the same reason
precisely that makes us ask one another's prayers here. "The Father
Himself loveth you." Why in this roundabout way ask me to pray? You do
not come to me because you lack faith in God or in God's love; you come
to me because you feel, if only implicitly, that in the Body of Christ
association in love and sympathy and work is a high privilege, and that
it is God's will that we should work together and "bear one another's
burdens." And the frontiers of the Kingdom of God are not the frontiers
of the Church Militant, and its citizens are not only the citizens of
the Church here below, but--we believe in the Communion of saints.

The hour of God strikes for any soul when that soul yields to
prevenient grace and places itself utterly at the disposal of God,
confiding wholly in His divine wisdom. When our Lord had answered His
Blessed Mother she turned away satisfied. She did not have to concern
herself any further; it was now in Jesus' hands to provide as He would.
It remained but to see that His will should be carried out when He
made it known.

Submission is a difficult attitude to acquire; but it is such a happy
attitude when once one has acquired it. The critics of it wholly mistake
it and confound it with fatalism. It is not fatalism, or passive
acquiescence in another's will--a will that we have no part in forming
and cannot reject. Submission is the acceptance of God's will as the
expression of the highest wisdom for us. It is not true that we have no
part in forming it; it is at any time an expression of God's will for us
which is determined by the way in which we hitherto have corresponded to
that will. Submission means that we have put ourselves in a position of
active co-operation with that will, that we have made it ours: because
it is the expression of a divine wisdom and love we make it wholly ours.
And we have found in the acceptance of it not bondage but liberty. It is
wonderful how our preconceived notion of God and religion vanishes
before the first gleams of experience. To the unregenerate the service
of God is utter bondage; to the regenerate it is perfect freedom. And
the difference seems to be accounted for by the reversal of ideals, by a
new direction of affections. "I will run the way of thy commandments,
when thou hast set my heart at liberty,"

A true conversion is, perhaps, signified, more than in any other way, by
the liberty of the heart,--by this change in the object of our love.
That has been the constant exhortation to us, to love that which is
worthy of love. "Set your affection on things above." "Love not the
world, neither the things that are in the world." And we, loving the
world and the things that are in the world, listen impatiently. But
there is no possibility of a sincere conversion without a change of
love. "A change of heart" conversion is often called, and so inevitably
it is. And as we go through our self-examination one of the most
profitable questions we can ask is, "What do I love?" That will commonly
tell the whole story of the life, for "where a man's treasure is, there
will his heart be also."

Richard Rolle said: "Truly he who is stirred with busy love, and is
continually with Jesu in thought, full soon perceives his own faults,
the which correcting, henceforward he is ware of them; and so he brings
righteousness busily to birth, until he is led to God and may sit with
heavenly citizens in everlasting seats. Therefore he stands clear in
conscience and is steadfast in all good ways the which is never noyed
with worldly heaviness nor gladdened with vainglory."


O Glorious Lady, throned in light,
Sublime above the starry height,
Whose arms thine own creator pressed,
A Suckling at thy sacred breast.
Through the dear Blossom of thy womb,
Thou changest hapless Eva's doom;
Through thee to contrite souls is given
An opening to their home in heaven.
Thou art the great King's Portal bright,
The shining Gate of living light;
Come then, ye ransomed nations, sing
The Life Divine 'twas hers to bring.
Mother of Love and Mercy mild,
Mother of graces undefiled.
Drive back the foe, and to thy Son
Lead thou our souls when life is done.
All glory be to thee, O Lord,
A Virgin's Son, by all adored,
With Sire and Spirit, Three in One,
While everlasting ages run.




And when the wine failed, the mother of Jesus saith unto him,
They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I
to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

S. John II, 3, 4.

We, the faithful, bless thee, O Virgin Mother of God, and
glorify thee as is thy due, the city unshaken, the wall
unbroken, the unbreakable defence and refuge of our souls.


"Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." These words have often been
called the Gospel according to S. Mary. They certainly sum up her whole
attitude in life. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me
according to thy word," she had said in reply to the message S. Gabriel
brought her: and that is the meaning of her whole life-story, that she
is at all times ready to accept the will of God, to give herself to the
fulfilment of the divine purpose. There is no more perfect attitude, for
it is the attitude of her divine Son whose meat it was to do the will of
the Father and to finish His work, whose whole life's attitude was
compressed into the words of His self-oblation in Gethsemane, "Not my
will, but thine be done."

And this is the virtue that Jesus Christ inculcates upon us. "When ye
pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven ... thy will be done." There
is no true religion possible without that attitude. And therefore one is
deeply concerned about the immediate future inasmuch as the spirit of
obedience, the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of Mary, is so rare. As one
looks into the social development of the Christian era, one feels that
the life and example of S. Mary has been of immense influence in the
development of the ideal of womanhood. The rise of woman from a wholly
subordinate and inferior condition to a condition of complete equality
with man has owed more to S. Mary than to any other factor. I am not
concerned with political equality; that under our present conditions of
social development women should have that equality if they want it seems
to me just, but I am by no means satisfied that in the long run it will
prove a boon either to them or to society at large. But I am at present
thinking of their spiritual equality, which after all is the basis of
their other claims; and this comes to them through the Gospel, and was
shown to the mind of the Church largely through S. Mary. In the earliest
records of the Church woman stands on the same level of privilege as
man, and the same sort of spiritual accomplishment is expected of her.

There are many members of the Body of Christ and there is a certain
spiritual equality among them; but "all members have not the same
office." In the Holy Spirit's distribution of functions within the Body
there is a difference. Some functions, by the allotment of God, women
are not called to exercise: these are sacramental and ruling functions.
Others, as prophecy (the daughters of S. Philip), and ministry (the
deaconess), are given them. For centuries she recognised this allotment
and gave her best energies to her appointed works. She showed herself a
true daughter of Mary in her loyal acceptance of the divine will and her
zeal in its accomplishment. And what was the result? The Calendar of
Saints, filled with the names of women, is the answer. There are no more
wonderful works of God than the women whose names are commemorated at
the altars of the Church and whose intercession is constantly asked
throughout Catholic Christendom. There can be no thought of narrowness
of opportunity or limitations in life as we study that wonderful series
of women who have illumined the history of the Church from the day of S.
Gabriel's message to this very moment when there are many many women who
are faithfully following their vocation and doing God's will, and who
will one day be our intercessors about the throne of God and of the
Lamb, as they are our intercessors in the Church on earth to-day. Why
any woman should complain of lack of opportunity and of the narrowness
of the Church--the Church that has nourished S. Mary and S. Monica, S.
Catherine of Genoa and S. Theresa; the foundresses of so many and so
varied Religious Orders, so many who have devoted their lives to
teaching, nursing, conducting works of charity, I am at a loss to
understand. To-day we are witnessing all over the world a revolt of
women against the Church; we hear not infrequent threats of what is to
be done to the Church by those revolted members. I am afraid that woman
is on the edge of another tragedy. She is once more looking fascinated
at the fruit which "is good for food, and pleasant to the eyes and to be
desired to make one wise," and listening to a voice that whispers: "Thou
shalt be as God."

The question which is becoming more urgent everywhere is, What are the
women of the future to be,--the daughters of Eve, or the daughters of
Mary? It is not a question for declamation, but a question that calls
for immediate action: and the action must be the action of women. If
women clamour for work in the Church of God, here it is, and here it is
abundantly; and to accomplish it there is no need that they "seek the
priesthood also." The work in the Church of God is in the first place a
work that God has given mothers to do; it is the primary duty of a
mother to bring up her children, and especially her daughters, in fear
of the Lord. That she can always succeed I do not for a moment claim;
there are many adverse factors in the situation that she has to deal
with. But she is inexcusable if she does not give her effort to the work
as the most important work of her life. She is utterly inexcusable and
must answer to God for the result if she turn her children over to the
care of maids and teachers while she occupies herself with society or
any exterior work.

In the second place the work of the Church of God is a work that ought
to appeal to all women and a work that any woman can help in. All women
can help the spiritual progress of the Church by meditating upon the
life of Blessed Mary and fashioning their lives upon her example. We are
all tremendously affected by example, and that is especially true of
young girls. Their supreme terror seems to be that they should be caught
doing or saying something different from what all other girls say or do
or wear. Their opinions are as imitative as their clothes. Hence the
need of the pressure of a strong Christian example, which would result
most readily in the union of Christian women in a single ideal. Our
present difficulty is that so many of our women who are devout members
of the Church in their private capacity, so far succumb to the
group-mind in their social relations that they are possessed by the same
terror as the young girl in the face of the possibility of being
different. Therefore are they careful to hide their real feeling for
religion and their devotion to spiritual things under the mask of
worldly conformity which evacuates their example of much of the power
that it might have. I am quite convinced that fear of the world is about
as strong an impulse toward evil as love of the world.

We need that women should clear their ideals and realise their public
responsibility for the presentation of them. We need terribly at this
moment insistence on the purity and simplicity of the Holy Mother of
God. One is stunned at the abandonment of the ideal of reserve and
modesty that the last few years have seen. Women seem to take it quite
gaily: men, one notes, take it much more seriously. I have been
consulted by more than one father during the past year as to the
possibility of sending a boy to a school where he would be kept out of
the society of half-naked girls. Have mothers no longer any sense of the
value of purity? Or have they simply abandoned all responsibility that
normally goes with being a mother? One recognises how helpless a man is
under the circumstances, that his intervention in such matters simply
casts him for the part of family tyrant; but why should a mother abandon
her duty simply because her daughter says: "You don't understand. Girls
are not as they were when you were young. All the girls do this. No
other mother takes the line that you do. You are not modern."

One knows, of course, that the whole matter of decline in manners and
morals is but a part of the world-wide revolt against the morality of
Jesus Christ that we are witnessing everywhere. Social and religious
teachers, students of history and social movements have seen the
approach of this revolt for a long time, have been watching its rise and
growth. When they have pointed out the end of the path that we have been
travelling, they have been disposed of by calling them pessimists. These
"pessimists" pointed out long ago that the denial of the obligation to
believe would be followed by an abandonment of all moral standards. They
pointed out to the devotees of "liberal religion" that they are in
reality the leaders of a moral revolt, that if it does not make any
difference what you believe it will soon come to make no difference what
you do. It is a rather silly performance to blow up the dam which holds
back the mass of water of an irrigation system and imagine that no more
water will flow out than you want to flow out. When the Protestant
revolt blew up the restraining dams of the Catholic Religion they had no
right to expect that only so much denial of Catholic truth as it suited
them to dispense with would be the result. Through the broken dams the
whole religion of Christ has been flowing out and it is mere empty
pretence to claim that all that is of any value is left. It is
impossible to maintain anything of the sort now that all the moral
content of the Christian system is openly thrown overboard by vast
numbers of the population of the world, in every country that claims to
be civilised. It is useless to say that there has always been evil in
the world and that the maintenance of the Catholic religion has never
anywhere abolished sin. That is true, but it is not to the present
point. The social situation is one where there are definite religious
and moral ideals strongly maintained and universally recognised, though
there are many men and women who violate them; it is quite another
situation when the ideals themselves are repudiated and set aside as
superstitions. That is our case to-day. The Christian theory is
confronted with a theory of naturalism in morals, and those who follow
that theory do not do so with a feeling that they are violating accepted
ideals, but with the assumption that they are missionaries setting forth
a new faith. Those who have revolted from the Kingdom of God have now
set up another kingdom and proclaimed openly, "We will not have this Man
to reign over us." The revolt which began with a breach in the dogmatic


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