Fr. Leonard Goffine's
The Church's Year
Originally published in German in 1880.
Re-published in 1999 by Sarto House, PO Box 270611, Kansas City,
MO 64127-0611, USA
Web-edition with permission of Sarto House.
of the Epistles and Gospels for Sundays and Holy Days, to which
are added instructions on Catholic Faith and Morals.
INSTRUCTIONS ON THE MANNER OF USING THIS BOOK
My dear Catholic,
before you commence to read these instructions:
yourself in the presence of God.
Humble yourself before Him, sincerely imploring His forgiveness.
that you may be enlightened, that you may love Him.
Recommend yourself to the Blessed Virgin and to the saints.
by step, read the instructions carefully. After each point reflect
upon the truth you have just read, asking yourself:
What must I believe? That
which I have just read. Then make an act of faith, saying: "O
Lord! I will believe this truth, help my faith, increase my
must l now do?
I must correct the faults opposed to this truth.
have I done heretofore?
Unhappily, O God, I have acted in contradiction to this
truth; how differently, O Jesus, from Thee and from Thy saints!
shall l now do?
Here make a firm resolution to put these truths into immediate
practice, to contend against and overcome the faults opposed
to them, and to acquire new virtue.
the reading with acts of faith, hope, charity, and contrition; repeat
the same each time you read in this or in any book of devotion,
and you will soon perceive that great benefit for your soul is derived
from such exercises.
AND INSTRUCTIONS CONCERNING THE CHURCH YEAR
is understood by the Church Year?
By the Church
Year is understood the succession of those holy days and seasons,
reoccurring with each succeeding year, which the Church has appointed
to be celebrated, that the faithful may be reminded of the divine
graces and mysteries, may praise God, and occupy themselves, at
such times, with pious, devotional exercises in His honor, and for
their own sanctification.
does the Church Year begin, and when terminate?
It begins with
the First Sunday of Advent and concludes with the last Sunday after
is the Church Year divided?
weekdays, festivals, holy days, and fast days.
Sunday is the
first day of the week, sanctified in an especial manner by God Himself;
therefore, it should be devoted exclusively to His service. The
Apostles called it the "Lord's Day."
should Sunday be devoted exclusively to God?
is but proper that man, who is created for the service of God only,
should reserve at least one out of the seven days of the week for
that service, and for the salvation of his own soul; again, in the
beginning, God ordered that on the seventh day or Saturday, on which
He rested after finishing the work of creation (Ex. 20:11), man
should also rest (Ex. 20:8‑10), abstain from all worldly employment,
and attend only to the worship of God. This was the Sabbath, or
day of rest, of the Jews which they were required to keep holy (Lev.
the Catholic Church, authorized by Christ,
inspired by the Holy Ghost, and directed
by the Apostles, has made Sunday, the
first day of the week, the day of rest
for Christians. The holy martyr Justin
(+ 167 A.D.) makes mention of this fact.
Sunday was designated as the day of rest
for the Christians partly to distinguish
them from the Jews, as well as for the
following reasons: On this day God commenced
the creation of the world, so too on this
day He crowned the glorious work of our
Redemption by Christ's Resurrection; on
this day, as Bellarmine says, Christ was
born, was circumcised, and was baptized;
and on this day the Holy Ghost descended
upon the Apostles.
is this day called Sunday?
this day, as St. Ambrose says, Christ, the sun of justice, having
driven away the darkness of hell, shone forth, as the rising sun,
in the glory of the Resurrection (Mal. 4:2).
should the Catholic keep Sunday holy, and how does he profane it?
Sunday is kept
holy by abstaining from all servile work performed for wages or
gain, or not commanded by necessity; by passing the day in works
of piety; in hearing Mass devoutly, listening to the word of God
in church and spending the day at home in a quiet manner pleasing
to God. If justly prevented from being present at church on Sundays
and holy days of obligation, we should unite, in spirit, with the
priest and the faithful assembled there, and pray fervently; during
the rest of the day we should read books of devotion, and endeavor
to perform some work of charity. Sunday is profaned by being spent
either in idleness, or in unnecessary servile work, or in that which
is still worse, debauchery, gambling, dancing, and other sinful
actions. It would be better, that is, less sinful, as St. Augustine
says, to till the field on such days, than to spend them in frivolous,
dangerous, and sinful pleasures. But it is not forbidden, after
having properly attended divine service, to participate on Sundays
and holy days in honorable, decorous entertainment of the mind and
ought a Catholic to think of dances and fairs on Sundays and holy
days of obligation?
of dancing on such days cannot possibly be pleasing to God. Dancing
in general is an occasion of sin. The council of Baltimore protests
against round dances especially, because they are highly indecent.
Buying and selling without great necessity, as also holding fairs
on Sundays and holy days are likewise sinful. God never ordained
His days of rest for the gratification of avarice. What rewards
are offered for keeping Sunday sacred, and what punishment is incurred
by its desecration?
The Old Law
promised blessings, spiritual and temporal to those who kept holy
the Sabbath day (Lev. 26), and threatened all evils and misfortunes
to those who desecrated it. Thus, to show how much He condemned
its profanation, God caused a man to be stoned to death for gathering
wood upon that day (Num. 15:32). The Catholic Church from her very
beginning, and in several councils (Council. Elv. A.D. 313, Paris
829) has enjoined the keeping holy of Sundays and holy days, and
experience proves in our days especially, that, as the consequence
of the constantly increasing profanation of Sundays and holy days,
immorality and poverty are growing greater; a manifest sign that
God never blesses those who refuse to devote a few days of the year
to His honor and service.
FOR ALL SUNDAYS O God,
who hast appointed Sunday, that we should serve Thee and participate
in Thy grace, grant that always on this day our faith may be renewed,
and our hearts incited to the praise and adoration of Thy Majesty;
through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
days set apart by the Catholic Church, to celebrate with due solemnity
the mysteries of religion, or the memory of the saints. Hence they
are of two kinds, the festivals of our Lord, and the festivals of
the Church the right to institute festivals and fast days?
To deny her
such right would be to place her below the Jewish Synagogue, which
in acknowledgment of benefits received, established many festivals,
such as the Feast of Lots (Esther 9:26); the festival in honor of
Judith's victory over Holofernes (Jud. 16:31); the feast of the
Dedication of the Temple (II Mac. 4:56), which our Lord Himself
celebrated with them (Jn. 10:22). Should not the Catholic Church,
therefore, celebrate with equal solemnity the far greater blessings
she has received from God? God Himself, through Moses, commanded
the Jews to celebrate and, as it were, to immortalize by the Pasch
their redemption from Egyptian captivity; the reception of the Ten
Commandments on Mount Sinai, by the festival of Pentecost; their
forty years journey through the desert, and their living in tents,
by the feast of the Tabernacles. How unjustly then would the Church
conduct herself, if she would not commemorate, as the Old Law did,
by the institution of certain festivals in honor of God and His
saints, those graces of which He has made her partaker, through
Christ and His saints, since our Lord gave to the Apostles and to
the bishops, their successors, the power to bind and to loose, that
is, to make ordinances and, as circumstances may require, changes
for the salvation of the people (Mt. 18:18)! These festivals are
instituted to assist the faithful in working out their salvation.
And from this very right of the Church to institute festivals, follows
her right to change or abolish them at her discretion, whenever
her object of directing them to the honor of God is no longer reached,
and the faithful in this case would be as much bound to obey her,
as when she established them, for: Who hears not the Church, says
Christ, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican (Mt. 18:17).
are holy days and festivals to be observed?
They are to
be observed like Sunday. Besides we should endeavor to understand
well the mysteries and blessings of God and the lives and labors
of the saints on whose account the festivals have been instituted.
This we can do by hearing Mass and attending catechetical instruction,
or by reading devotional books at home, in order to induce ourselves
to love and praise God and to imitate the saints, which is the object
the Church has in view in instituting festivals. But, unfortunately,
as this object of the Church is responded to by few, and as, on
the contrary, the holy days are spent very differently from what
the Church intended, she has done well in abolishing certain
festivals, or transferring them to Sunday, that they may be at least
better regarded, and no offence offered to God by their profanation.
are fast days?
Fast days are
those days on which the Church commands us to mortify the body by
abstaining from flesh‑meat, or by taking but one full meal
in the day. Those days on which besides abstinence from meat, but
one full meal is allowed, are called Fast Days of Obligation; those
days on which it is only required to abstain from flesh‑meat,
are called Days of Abstinence.
the Church institute fast days?
She can, because
the Church of Christ, as mother of the faithful, has the power to
make all useful and necessary regulations for the salvation of their
souls. In doing so she only follows the example of our Lord, her
Head, for He fasted, and of the Apostles, who, even in their day,
ordered the Christians to abstain from blood and things strangled
(Acts. 15:29), in order not to prevent the conversion of the Jews,
who, on account of the Old Law, abhorred the blood and meat of strangled
animals. This prohibition was removed when this danger no longer
existed. "Fasting is no new invention, as many imagine," writes
the Father of the Church, Basil the Great, "it is a precious treasure,
which our forefathers preserved long before our days, and have handed
down to us."
has the Church instituted fast days, and for what purpose?
Church, from the very beginning, has looked upon external fasting
only as a means of penance. Her object in instituting fast days,
therefore, was and is that by fasting the faithful should mortify
their flesh and their evil desires, seek to pacify God, render satisfaction
for their sins, practice obedience to the Church, their mother,
and by practicing these virtues become more zealous and fervent
in the service of God. Innumerable texts of Scripture, as well as
experience prove that fasting aids to this end. The Fathers of the
Church praise very highly the usefulness of fasting, and our Lord
predicted that the Church, His spouse, would fast, when He, her
Bridegroom, should be taken from her (Mt. 9:15).
are we to think of those heretics and Catholics who condemnthe
command of the Church?
who contemn this command, condemntheir mother, the Church, and
Christ her founder, her head, who fasted; they give scandal to the
faithful children of the Church, and do themselves great harm,
because they become slaves of the flesh, subjecting their souls
to the evil desires of the body and thus fall into many sins. They
prove moreover, that they have departed from the spirit of the early
Christians who fasted with great strictness; that they are too cowardly
to overcome themselves, and offer God the sacrifice of obedience
to His Church. The heretics have the Bible against them, if they
assert that the command of the Church to fast is useless and unnecessary
(Acts 13:2-3): that Bible which they so often quote, as well as
all Christian antiquity, experience and reason. One of the Fathers
of the Church, St. Basil, writes: "Honor ever the ancient practice
of fasting, for it is as old as the creation of man. We must fast
if we would return to paradise from which gluttony expelled us."
Every rational, reflecting person must acknowledge, as experience
teaches, that bodily health, and unimpaired mind are best preserved
and improved by temperance and abstinence, especially from flesh‑meat.
It was by continual fasting that many of the fathers of the desert
preserved vigorous health, often living beyond the usual limit of
man's age, sometimes for more than a century, even in tropical countries,
where a lifetime is generally shorter than in colder climates. St.
Paul, the first hermit, lived one hundred and thirteen years; St.
Anthony one hundred and five; St. Arsenius one hundred and twenty;
St. John, the silent, one hundred and four; St. Theodesius, abbot,
one hundred and five. The Catholic Church here proves herself a
good mother to us, for in this command she regards not only the
spiritual, but also the corporal welfare of her children. The words
of our Lord: "Not that which goeth into the mouth, defileth a man:
but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Mr.
15:11), was meant for the Pharisees who judged certain kinds of
food prohibited by law, or that had been touched by unclean hands,
to be unclean. Had He intended it to be understood in the sense
the contemners of fasting assert, He would have declared intoxication
by drinking, or even the taking of poison, to be permitted; certainly,
food being the gift of God and therefore good, does not make man
a sinner, but disobedience to the command and gluttony make him
are the most important fast days, and days of abstinence?
the weekdays of Lent; the Fridays in Advent;
the Ember days for the four seasons of
the year; and the Vigils of All-Saints,
Christmas, Whitsunday, and the
Assumption. If the Feast, however, occurs
on Monday, the vigil is kept on the Saturday
before; as Sunday is never a fast day.
The days of
abstinence are, all Fridays in the year, excepting Christmas day
when it falls on Friday; and all fast days of obligation, excepting
those on which the use of flesh-meat is expressly allowed by the
proper authorities. Soldiers and sailors in the service of the United
States of America, however, are exempted from the rule of abstinence
throughout the year; Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday in
Holy Week, the Vigils of the Assumption and Christmas excepted.
A day of abstinence
is that on which it is not allowed to eat flesh-meat.
are the Ember days and why are they instituted?
The Ember days
are the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of each of the four
seasons of the year, set apart as fast days by the Catholic Church.
According to the testimony of Pope Leo, they originated in the time
of the Apostles, who were inspired by the Holy Ghost to dedicate
each season of the year to God by a few days of penance, or, as
it were, to pay three days interest, every three months, on the
graces received from God. The Church has also commanded us to fast
at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year, because
it is at this time that she ordains the priests and other servants
of the Church, which even the Apostles did with much prayer and
fasting. Thus she desires that during the Ember days Christians
should fervently ask of God by prayer, by fasting and other good
works, worthy pastors and servants, on whom depends the welfare
of the whole Christian flock; she desires that in the spring Ember
days we should ask God's blessing for the fertility of the earth;
in summer for the preservation of the fruits of the field, in autumn
when the harvest is ripe, and in winter when it is sheltered, that
we should offer to God by fasting and prayer a sacrifice of thanks,
petitioning Him to assist us, that we may not use His gifts for
our soul's detriment, but that we refer all praise to Him, the fountain
of all good, and assist our neighbor according to our means.
They are the
eves of certain festivals, which the Church has ordered to be observed
as fast days. The early Christians prepared themselves by fasting,
praying and watching, as signified by the Latin word "Vigili,"
for the coming festival. Thus to this day in the Vigil Mass the
priest does not say: "Ite Missa est" - Go ye, Mass is over,"
but, "Benedicamus Domino"; "Let us praise the Lord," because
in olden times when Mass was celebrated at night, the Christians
were exhorted to continue praising God in Church until the dawn
of the festival. This nightwatch the Church has now abolished, partly
on account of the declining zeal of the Christians, and partly on
account of the fear of its being abused; the fast, however, has
been retained to honor God and His saints, to obtain their intercession,
and to mortify the flesh according to their example. "By fasting
on the eves of festivals," says St. Bernard, "We learn that we
can enter heaven only through many sufferings."
does the Church forbid the use of flesh-meat on Fridays and Saturdays?
says Pope Innocent, "forbids the use of flesh-meat on Fridays because
our Lord died on that day, and on Saturdays because on that day
He rested in the sepulchre, and also that we may be better prepared
by this abstinence for Sunday." In many dioceses the use of flesh-meat
is allowed on Saturdays, and the permission is so marked in the
calendar, and every year announced to the people; for this dispensation
the faithful should perform another good work and fast the more
conscientiously on Fridays.
is bound to fast, and who not?
over seven years of age, unless for some reason excused, are required
under pain of mortal sin, to abstain from flesh‑meat on all
days of fasting and abstinence; all those who are over twenty‑one
years of age are allowed to take but one full meal a day. A severe
illness or a dispensation obtained for valid reasons, excuses from
abstinence on Fridays: those are dispensed from fasting on one meal,
who cannot fulfil the command without great inconvenience, such
as: those recovering from sickness, pregnant and nursing women,
old and infirm people, those who are engaged in hard labor, undertaking
severe journeys, and the poor who have no full meals; also, those
who are prevented by the fast from some better work, incumbent upon
their office, or dictated by Christian charity. These persons mentioned
are excused from fasting, in so far that they are permitted to eat,
whenever they need food, but must still abstain from the use of
flesh-meat unless dispensed
from the command of abstinence. They should, however, be sincerely
grieved to be unable to unite with the whole Church in such meritorious
work, and should endeavor to make amends by prayer, alms and other
are those who sin against fasting?
who deliberately and without sufficient cause do not abstain from
the use of flesh-meat; secondly, those who without any of the excuses
mentioned, take more than one full meal a day; thirdly, those who
eat between the time of meals; fourthly, those who indulge in long,
extravagant and sumptuous dinners, and excessive drinking, all of
which are opposed to the spirit of penance and mortification. Lastly,
when on a fast day meat and fish are used at the same meal.
it not allowed to eat anything in the evening, on fast days?
The early Christians
were so rigorous in their penance that they contented themselves
with one temperate meal on fast days, and that was generally of
bread and water, taken only in the evening; but as, in the course
of time, the penitential zeal declined, the Church like an indulgent
mother permitted, besides the full meal at noon, a small quantity
of food to be taken in the evening, about as much as would make
the fourth part of a regular meal, or not to appear scrupulous,
as much as would not cause too great an aggravation, or exhaust
the strength necessary for the next day's labor; but "to wish
to feel no aggravation in fasting, is to wish not to fast at all."
what intention should we fast?
the intention of doing penance and punishing the body for the sins
which we have committed by yielding to its evil desires; secondly,
to satisfy God and to unite ourselves with our Lord in his forty
days fast; thirdly, to obtain strength to lead a chaste, pure life;
fourthly, to give to the poor that which is saved by fasting.
Whatever is necessary to be understood further in regard to
this subject, will be found in the instructions on the forty days
is the meaning of Advent, and what do we understand by the term?
The word Advent
signifies coming, and by it is understood the visible coming of
the Son of God into this world, at two different times.
It was when
the Son of God, conceived of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the immaculate
Virgin Mary, was born, according to the flesh, in the fullness of
time, and sanctified the world by His coming, for which the patriarchs
and prophets had so longed (Gen. 49:10; Is. G4:1; Lk. 10:24).
Christ had not yet come, how could the Just of the Old Law be saved?
after their sin, God revealed to our first parents that His only-begotten
Son would become man and redeem the world (Gen. 3:15). In the hope
of this Redeemer and through His merits, all in the old covenant
who participated in His merits by innocence or by penance, and who
died in the grace of God, were saved, although they were excluded
from heaven until the Ascension of Christ.
will the second coming of Christ take place?
At the end
of the world when Christ will come, with great power and majesty,
to judge both the living and the dead.
is Advent, and why has the Church instituted it?
Advent is that
solemn time, immediately preceding Christmas, instituted by the
Church in order that we should, in the first place, meditate on
the Incarnation of Christ, the love, patience and humility which
He has shown us, and prove our gratitude to Him, because He came
from the bosom of His heavenly Father into this valley of tears,
to redeem us; secondly, that we may prepare ourselves by sincere
repentance, fasting, prayer, alms-deeds, and other works pleasing
to God, for the coming of Christ and His birth in our hearts, and
thus participate in the graces which He has obtained for us; finally,
that He may be merciful to us, when He shall come again as judge
of the world. "Watch ye, for ye know not at what hour your Lord
will come" (Mt. 5:42). "Wherefore be you also ready; because
at what hour you know not, the Son of man will come" (Mt. 24:44).
was Advent formerly observed?
from now. It then commenced with the Feast of St. Martin, and was
observed by the faithful like the Forty Days' Fast, with strict
penance and devotional exercises, as even now most of the religious
communities do to the present day. The Church has forbidden all
turbulent amusements, weddings, dancing and concerts, during Advent.
Pope Sylverius ordered that those who seldom receive Holy Communion
should, at least, do so on every Sunday in Advent.
should this solemn time be spent by Christians?
recall, during these four weeks, the four thousand years in which
the just under the Old Law expected and desired the promised Redeemer,
think of those days of darkness in which nearly all nations were
blinded by saran and drawn into the most horrible crimes, then consider
their own sins and evil deeds and purify their souls from them by
a worthy reception of the Sacraments, so that our Lord may come
with His grace to dwell in their hearts and be merciful to them
in life and in death. Further, to awaken in the faithful the feelings
of repentance so necessary for the reception of the Savior in their
hearts, the Church orders that besides the observance of certain
fast days, the altar shall be draped in violet, that Mass shall
be celebrated in violet vestments, that the organ shall be silent
and no Gloria sung. Unjust to themselves, disobedient to the Church
and ungrateful, indeed, to God are those Christians who spend this
solemn time of grace in sinful amusements without performing any
good works, with no longing for Christ's Advent into their hearts.
are Rorate High Masses, and why are they celebrated?
They are the
solemn high Masses celebrated in some countries in commemoration
of the tidings brought to the Blessed Virgin by the Archangel Gabriel,
announcing to her that she was to become the Mother of God; they
derive their name from the words of the Introit in the Votive Mass,
Rorate coeli desuper. They are celebrated very early in the
morning because the Blessed Virgin preceded our Lord, as the aurora
precedes the rising sun.
IN ADVENT O God, who by Thy gracious Advent hast
brought joy into this world, grant us, we beseech Thee, Thy
grace to prepare ourselves by sincere penance for its celebration
and for the Last Judgment. Amen.
SUNDAY IN ADVENT
The first Sunday
in Advent is the first day of the Church Year, and the beginning
of the holy season of Advent. The Church commences on this day to
contemplate the coming of the Redeemer, and with the
long for Him; during the entire season of Advent she unites her
prayers with their sighs, in order to awaken in her children also
the desire for the grace of the Redeemer; above all to move them
to true penance for their sins, because these are the greatest obstacles
in the path of that gracious Advent; therefore she prays at the
Introit of the day's Mass:
To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O
my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed: neither let
my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee
shall be confounded. Show me, O Lord, Thy ways, and teach
me Thy paths (Ps. 24). Glory be to the Father.
Raise up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power, and come;
that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the
threatening dangers of our sins, and to be saved by Thy deliverance.
Through our Lord.
(Rom. 13:11‑14). Brethren, knowing the time,
that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep: for now
our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is
past, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the
works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk
honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not
in chambering and impurities, not in contention and strife;
but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
does St. Paul teach us in this epistle?
explaining the duties of a Christian life to the Romans who
were converted mainly by St. Peter, he exhorts them to hesitate
to fulfil these duties, and he seeks to move their hearts by this
time of grace, presented them by the Christian dispensation, and
by the shortness of the time of grace.
is here meant by sleep?
and blindness of the soul that, forgetting her God, is sunk in a
lukewarm, effeminate, slothful and lustful life, which, when it
is gone, leaves nothing more than a dream.
does St. Paul say, "salvation is nearer"?
He wishes to
impress upon the Romans that they now have far greater hope of salvation
than when they first became Christians, and that they should secure
it by a pious life, because death, and the moment on which depended
their salvation, or eternal reward, was drawing near. "What is our
life," says St. Chrysostom, "other than a course, a dangerous course
to death, through death to immortality?"
is the signification of day and night?
The night signifies
the time before Christ, a night of darkness, of infidelity and of
injustice; the day represents the present time, in which by the
gospel Christ enlightens the whole world with the teachings of the
are "the works of darkness"?
All sins, and
especially those which are committed in the dark, to shun the eye
of God and man.
is the "armor of light"?
virtue and grace, the spiritual armor, with which we battle against
our three enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, and in which
armor we should walk honestly before all men. A Christian who in
baptism has renounced the devil and all his pomps, must not live
in vice, but must put on Christ Jesus, that is, must by the imitation
of Christ's virtues adorn his soul, as it were, with a beautiful
garment. This text (verse 13) moved St. Augustine to fly from all
works of uncleanness in which he had been involved, and to lead
a pure life which he had before thought difficult.
Grant, O Lord, that we may rise by penance from the sleep
of our sins, may walk in the light of Thy grace by the performance
of good works, may put on Thee and adorn our souls with the
imitation of Thy virtues. Amen.
(Lk. 21:25‑33). At that time, Jesus said
to his disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in
the moon, and in the stars: and upon the earth distress of
nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the
sea and of the waves, men withering away for fear and expectation
of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of
heaven shall be moved; and then they shall see the Son of
man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when
these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your
heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to
them a similitude: See the fig tree, and all the trees; when
they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is
nigh. So you also, when you shall see these things come to
pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen I say
to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things
be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words
shall not pass away.
does the Church cause the gospel of the Last Judgment to be read
on this day?
To move us
to penance, and to induce us to prepare our souls for the coming
of Christ, by placing the Last Judgment before our minds. Should
not the thought of this terrible judgment, when all good and all
evil will be revealed, and accordingly be rewarded or punished in
the presence of the whole world‑should not this thought strengthen
us in virtue!
signs will precede the Last Judgment?
The sun will
be obscured, the stars will lose their light and disappear in the
firmament (Is. 13:10), lightning and flames will surround the earth,
and wither up every thing; the powers of heaven will be moved, the
elements brought to confusion; the roaring of the sea with the howling
of the winds and the beating of the storms will fill man with terror
and dread. Such evil and distress will come upon the world, that
man will wither away for fear, not knowing whither to turn. Then
will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, the holy cross,
the terror of the sinners who have scorned it, the consolation of
the just who have loved it (Mt. 24:30).
will all this come to pass?
the people love the creatures of God so inordinately, more than
the Creator, and use them only to His dishonor, He will destroy
them in this terrible manner, arming all creatures for vengeance
against His enemies (Wis. 5:8‑24, and showing by the manner
of their destruction the evils which will fall upon all sinners.
The darkness of the sun will indicate the darkness of hell; the
blood-red moon, the anger and wrath of God; the disappearance and
falling of the stars, will represent the fall of sinners into the
abyss of hell and their disappearance from earth; and the madness
of the elements, will exhibit the rage of the beasts of hell. Sinners
will then vainly, and too late, repent that they have attached their
hearts to things which will end so horribly, and that only increase
does Christ nevertheless command: "Lift up your heads, for your
redemption is at hand"?
are spoken to the just who as long as they live on earth are like
prisoners and exiles, but who at the Last Judgment will be taken
body and soul into their long desired fatherland, the kingdom of
heaven: into the freedom of the children of God. These will have
reason to raise their heads, now bowed in mourning, and to rejoice.
will the Last Judgment commence?
By the command
of God the angels will sound the trumpets, summoning all men from
the four parts of the earth to come to judgment (I Thess. 4:15).
Then the bodies of the dead will unite with their souls, and be
brought to the valley of Josaphat, and there placed, the just on
the right, the wicked on the left (Mt. 25:33). Then the devils as
well as the angels will appear; Christ Himself will be seen coming
in a cloud, in such power and majesty that the sinners will be filled
with terror. They will not dare to look at Him, and will cry to
the mountains to fall upon them, and to the hills to cover them
will the judgment be held?
The book of
conscience, upon which all men are to be judged, and which closed
with this life, will be opened. All good and evil thoughts, words,
deeds and motives, even the most secret, known only to God, will
then be as plainly revealed to the whole world as if they were written
on each one's forehead; by these each one will be judged, and be
eternally rewarded, or eternally punished.
O God! If we
must then give an account of every idle word (Mt. 12:36),
how can we stand in the face of so many sinful words and actions!
will God hold a universal public Judgment?
after death, a special private judgment of each soul takes place,
God has ordained a public and universal judgment for the following
reasons: First, that it may be clearly shown to all how just has
been His private judgment, and also that the body which has been
the instrument of sin or of virtue may share in the soul's punishment
or reward; secondly, that the justice which they could by no means
obtain in this life, may be rendered before the whole world to the
oppressed poor, and to persecuted innocence, and that the wicked
who have abused the righteous, and yet have been considered honest
and good, may be put to shame before all; thirdly, that the graces
and means of salvation bestowed upon each, may be made known; fourthly,
that the blessed providence of God which often permitted the righteous
to suffer evil while the wicked prospered, may be vindicated, and
it be shown on that day that His acts are acts of the greatest wisdom;
fifthly, that the wicked may learn the goodness of God, not for
their comfort or benefit, but for their greater sorrow, that they
may see how He rewards even the slightest work performed for His
love and honor; finally, that Christ may be exalted before the wicked
on earth as before the good in heaven, and that the truth of His
words may solemnly be made manifest.
Just art Thou O God, and just are Thy judgments. Ah, penetrate
my soul with holy fear of them, that I may be kept always in
awe, and avoid sin. Would that I could say with the penitent
St. Jerome: "Whether I eat or drink, or whatever I do, I
seem to hear the awful sound of the trumpet in my ears: `Arise
ye dead, and come to judgment."'