Suicide – The Inconsolable Sin? 

Editor writes…

A reader – we’ll call him Mark (not his real name) – emailed the following short article for publication.  We’re withholding his real name out of consideration for the young suicide, Shaun (also not his real name).

From the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

Positive and direct suicide perpetrated without God’s consent always constitutes a grave injustice towards Him. To destroy a thing is to dispose of it as an absolute master and to act as one having full and independent dominion over it; but man does not possess this full and independent dominion over his life, since to be an owner one must be superior to his property. God has reserved to himself direct dominion over life; He is the owner of its substance and He has given man only the serviceable dominion, the right of use, with the charge of protecting and preserving the substance, that is, life itself. Consequently suicide is an attempt against the dominion and right of ownership of the Creator. Source

Mark writes…

I found out today that a young man I know, Shaun, had died. Given that he was only in his early twenties, I was shocked and the first thing I asked was, “What on earth happened?” The facial expression of the person who had broken the news to me said it all. He had committed suicide.

Suicide is something that often occupies my thoughts. Not in the sense that I’ve considered it myself, quite the opposite in fact. I’m at a complete loss as to how someone could get to the point where they don’t want to live. My grandfather committed suicide many years ago. Some of the boys I went to school with did too. Now, a boy l have known for many years has chosen to end his life. We don’t know why. How his family feel right now I can’t even imagine. What a waste of a life!

Quite recently, British soap “Coronation Street” was praised for raising awareness of male suicide when it ran a storyline involving the suicide of a popular male character. We are told that more must be done to encourage young men to talk about their feelings. We must remove the stigma of mental ill-health, the experts declare. When talking with a friend about the awful news I received today, they suggested that we should do more to promote a growth mindset. Although I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these suggestions, I also have a different view which I hope to explore in this short reflection.

We all endure difficulties in life. Family troubles, relationship issues, money worries and health problems, to name but a few. Many of us experience bouts of low mood and even depression. However, to contemplate and attempt suicide is different. What could possibly lead someone to that dark precipice where death is the only answer? I don’t know. This is the key question I’m asking myself tonight through my shock and grief.

I can’t help but wonder if rejection of God plays a part. Shaun was Catholic and as a child had a strong devotion to St Joseph. However, in his teenage years, Shaun drifted from the Faith and even promoted the LGBT agenda. I’ve now idea if he was homosexual himself. What’s clear is that although, as far as I’m aware, Shaun never made any declaration that he had rejected God, his actions suggest that he had. Is there a connection here? I think there is.

I often wonder what my life would be like if I didn’t believe in God and didn’t adhere to the Catholic Faith. The thought terrifies me. Although I’m by no means a model Catholic and often neglect my religious duties, faith in God keeps me sane. There’s something to live for! The promise of Heaven and eternal life with God sheds light even on the darkest of days. Without faith, without the Catholic Church, I would have nothing. Would life be worth living? On a purely human level, perhaps. Lying in bed until midday on a Sunday, eating steak and chips on a Friday and never having to worry about Commandments morning might allow me to sink into a pleasure-filled cesspit. However, lying in bed at night and realising how short life is would surely terrify me.

Did Shaun believe in God? Did he believe that God is his loving Father? Did he believe he had a soul? Did he know that his soul was made in the image and likeness of God? How COULD he believe all this and still do what he did?

Right now, I find myself thinking about where Shaun’s soul is now. I know the Church’s teaching on suicide. It’s a mortal sin. Is there any hope for those who commit suicide? If there’s mental illness involved, can the person have full knowledge and/or consent? How can someone commit suicide and NOT be mentally ill? I don’t know if there are definitive answers.

Comment:

How, then, should we  pray for those who have committed suicide?  Gut Catholic instinct suggests entrusting the soul to Our Lady’s motherly love, but please feel free to share your own thoughts, devotions, quotes, videos and prayers to console Shaun’s family and the families of all those who have taken their own lives, unless, that is, you believe it is impossible to console anyone suffering the loss of a friend or family member as a result of suicide – IS suicide “the inconsolable sin”?     

Scripture: Be Angry And… Go To Hell!

St. Paul mentions outbursts of anger along with sev­eral other sins, including fornication, jealousy, enmity, and strife. He concludes with this warning: “I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:20–21). What could be further from Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount, to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43)? He said, “I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:22)…

We have all encountered people who explode when they feel angry. It baffles me how often this sort of anger rears its ugly head in marriages — even in allegedly Christian marriages. The damage done by this behavior is huge. A raging father or mother or child is torture for just about everyone in the family, including the angry one. This is an­other behavior that’s incompatible with being a Christian.

I am often surprised to discover Christians who pray ardently, who receive the sacraments regularly, who even attend Mass daily, and yet have an anger problem. “If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain” (James 1:26).

Some even say, “Well, if you’re [of ethnicity X], you’re going to get angry a lot.” Not so! Rather, if you’re a Chris­tian, you will work very hard to find a way to cut back on your anger dramatically. For the real Christian, it’s not where we’re from that counts the most, but where we would like to go one day. Explosive anger is not something you want to have with you when you leave this planet. It will profoundly dampen your ability to enter the Kingdom.

If you have a problem with exploding anger and you want to be a Christian, you absolutely must work hard to overcome it. You cannot simply say, “Well, that’s me,” if you want to be friends with the Lord. Granted, perhaps most angry outbursts are not mortal sins because sufficient reflection is absent. But choosing not to strive ardently to overcome hateful outbursts is usually done with full knowl­edge and deliberate consent of the will and so could well be a mortal sin. As with many serious sins, if we are really trying to overcome them, we can be close to God. If we are not trying, we can’t.  [Taken Father T.G. Morrow:   Recognising Sinful Anger ]

Comment: 

In recent days, I’ve been in conversation with a variety of friends (and enemies!) about anger; when it is useful, when it is good or not-so-good, when it is, or might be, sinful, and since Pope Francis hasn’t been on a plane recently (that I’ve heard about), and thus we have a gap in the “Francis Latest” Department, I thought it might prove to be an interesting topic for discussion. The topic isn’t simply about being angry, though  – that’s too easy – but about holding on to anger, even allowing it to turn to bitterness.  Is there a cure?  Help!  

Happy Christmas Bloggers & Readers!

For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace.

(Isaiah 9:6)

Comment: 

A very happy Christmas to one and all from the editor and team, as we celebrate the Feast marking the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour of our souls from the eternal misery of Hell.  A happy and holy Christmas, to one and all.  Feel free to post your  thoughts on Christmas and related topics, your favourite carols and Christmas stories, jokes and poems.  Below,  a seasonal video clip to kick-start the fun. Enjoy! 

Abuse of God’s Mercy: An Insult To God

merciful-god

On the Abuse of Divine Mercy 
Sermon by St. Alphonsus Liguori
 

In this day’s gospel we read, that a certain man fell into the hands of robbers, who, after having taken his money, wounded him, and left him half dead. A Samaritan who passed by, saw him, and taking pity on him, bound up his wounds, brought him to an inn, and left him to the care of the host, saying: “Take care of him.” These words I this day address to those, if there be any such among you, who, though their souls are wounded by sin, instead of attending to the care of them, continually aggravate the wounds by new sins, and thus abuse the mercy of God, who preserves their lives, that they may repent, and not be lost forever. I say to you: Brethren, take care of your souls, which are in a very bad state; have compassion on them. “Have pity on thy own soul (Eccl. xxx. 24).” Your souls are sick, and what is worse they are near the eternal death of hell; for he who abuses to excess the divine mercy, is on the point of being abandoned by the mercy of God. This shall be the subject of the present discourse. 

St. Augustine says that the devil deludes Christians in two ways “by despair and hope.” After a person has committed sin, the enemy, by placing before his eyes the rigour of divine justice, tempts him to despair of the mercy of God. But, before he sins, the devil by representing to him the divine mercy, labours to make him fearless of the chastisement due to sin. Hence the saint gives the following advice: “After sin, hope for mercy; before sin, fear justice.” If, after sin, you despair of God’s pardon, you offend him by a new and more grievous sin. Have recourse to His mercy, and He will pardon you. But, before sin, fear God’s justice, and trust not to His mercy; for, they who abuse the mercy of God to offend him, do not deserve to be treated with mercy. Abulensis says, that the man who offends justice may have recourse to mercy; but to whom can they have recourse, who offend and provoke mercy against themselves? 

When you intend to commit sin, who, I ask, promises you mercy from God? Certainly God does not promise it. It is the devil that promises it, that you may lose God and be damned. “Beware,” says St. John Chrysostom, “never to attend to that dog that promises thee mercy from God (Hom. 50, ad Pop).”

If, beloved sinners, you have hitherto offended God, hope and tremble: if you desire to give up sin, and if you detest it, hope; because God promises pardon to all who repent of the evil they have done. But if you intend to continue in your sinful course, tremble lest God should wait no longer for you, but cast you into hell.

Why does God wait for sinners? Is it that they may continue to insult Him? No; He waits for them that they may renounce sin, and that thus He may have pity on them, and forgive them. “Therefore the Lord waiteth, that he may have mercy on you.” (Isa. xxx. 1, 8.) But when He sees that the time which he gave them to weep over their past iniquities is spent in multiplying their sins, He begins to inflict chastisement, and He cuts them off in the state of sin, that, by dying, they may cease to offend Him. Then He calls against them the very time He had given them for repentance. “He hath called against me the time (Lam. i. 15).” “The very time,” says St. Gregory, “comes to judge.” 

O common illusion of so many damned Christians! We seldom find a sinner so abandoned to despair as to say: I will damn myself. Christians sin, and endeavour to save their souls. They say: “God is merciful: I will commit this sin, and will afterwards confess it.” Behold the illusion, or rather the snare, by which Satan draws so many souls to hell. “Commit sin,” he says, “and confess it afterwards.” But listen to what the Lord says: “And say not, the mercy of the Lord is great; He will have mercy on the multitude of my sins (Eccl. v. 6.).” Why does He tell you not to say, that the mercy of God is great? Attend to the words contained in the following verse: “For mercy and wrath come quickly from Him, and His wrath looketh upon sinners (Ibid., ver. 7).” The mercy of God is different from the acts of His mercy; the former is infinite, the latter are finite. God is merciful, but He is also just. St. Basil says, that sinners only consider God as merciful and ready to pardon, but not as just and prepared to inflict punishment. Of this the Lord complained one day to St. Bridget: “I am just and merciful: sinners regard Me only as merciful.” St. Basil’s words are: “Bonus est Dominus sed etiam Justus, nolimus Deum ex dimidia parte cogitare.” God is just, and, being just, he must punish the ungrateful. Father John Avila used to say, that to bear with those who avail themselves of the mercy of God to offend Him, would not be mercy, but a want of justice.

Mercy, as the divine mother said, is promised to those who fear, and not to those who insult the Lord. “And His mercy to them that fear Him (Luke i 50).”

Some rash sinners will say: God has hitherto shown me so many mercies; why should He not here after treat me with the same mercy? I answer: He will show you mercy, if you wish to change your life; but if you intend to continue to offend Him, He tells you that He will take vengeance on your sins by casting you into hell. “Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time, that their foot may slide (Deut. xxxii. 35).” David says, that “except you be converted,” He will “brandish His sword (Ps. vii. 13).” The Lord has bent His bow, and waits for your conversion; but if you resolve not to return to Him, He will in the end cast the arrow against you, and you shall be damned. O God! there are some who will not believe that there is a hell until they fall into it. Can you, beloved Christians, complain of the mercies of God, after He has shown you so many mercies by waiting for you so long? You ought to remain always prostrate on the earth to thank Him for His mercies, saying: “The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed (Lamen. iii. 32).” Were the injuries which you offered to God committed against a brother, he would not have borne with you. God has had so much patience with you; and He now calls you again. If, after all this, He shall send you to hell, will He do you any wrong? “What is there,” He will say, “that I ought to do more for my vineyard, that I have not done to it (Isa. v. 4)?” Impious wretch! what more ought I to do for you that I have not done? 

St. Bernard says, that the confidence which sinners have in God’s goodness when they commit sin, procures for them, not a blessing, but a malediction from the Lord. “Est infidelis fiducia solius ubique maledictionis capax, cum videlicet in spe peccamus (Serm, iii., de Annunc).” O deceitful hope, which sends so many Christians to hell! St. Augustine says: “Sperant, ut peccent! Vae perversa spe (In Ps. cxliv).” 

They do not hope for the pardon of the sins of which they repent; but they hope that, though they continue to commit sin, God will have mercy upon them; and thus they make the mercy of God serve as a motive for continuing to offend Him. 

Accursed hope! hope which is an abomination to the Lord! “And their hope the abomination (Job xi. 20).” This hope will make God hasten the execution of His vengeance; for surely a master will not defer the punishment of servants who offend him because he is good. Sinners, as St. Augustine observes, trusting in God’s goodness, insult Him, and say: “God is good; I will do what I please (Tract, xxxiii. in Joan).” But, alas! how many, exclaims the same St. Augustine, has this vain hope deluded! “They who have been deceived by this shadow of vain hope cannot be numbered.” St. Bernard writes, that Lucifer’s chastisement was accelerated, because, in rebellion against God, he hoped that he should not be punished for his rebellion. Ammon, the son of king Manasses, seeing that God had pardoned the sins of his father, gave himself up to a wicked life with the hope of pardon; but, for Ammon there was no mercy. St. John Chrysostom says, that Judas was lost because, trusting in the goodness of Jesus Christ, he betrayed Him. “Fidit in lenitate Magistri.” 

He that sins with, the hope of pardon, saying: “I will afterwards repent, and God will pardon me:” is, according to St. Augustine, “not a penitent, but a scoffer.” The Apostle tells us that “God is not mocked (Gal. vi. 7).” 

It would be a mockery of God to offend Him as often and as long as you please, and always to receive the pardon of your offences. 

“For what things a man shall sow,” says St. Paul, “those also shall he reap (Ibid., ver. 8).” They who sow sins, can hope for nothing but the hatred of God and hell. “Despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering (Rom. ii. 4).” Do you, O sinner, despise the riches of the goodness, of the patience, and long-suffering of God towards you? He uses the word riches, because the mercies which God shows us, in not punishing our sins, are riches more valuable to us than all treasures. “Knowest thou not,” continues the Apostle, “that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance (Ibid)?” 

Do you not know that the Lord waits for you, and treats you with so much benignity, not that you may continue to sin, but that you may weep over the offences you have offered to Him?

For, says St. Paul, if you persevere in sin and do not repent, your obstinacy and impenitence shall accumulate a treasure of wrath against the day of wrath, that is, the day on which God shall judge you. “According to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God (Ibid., verse 5).” 

To the hardness of the sinner shall succeed his abandonment by God, Who shall say of the soul that is obstinate in sin, what he said of Babylon: “We would have cured Babylon; but she is not healed; let us forsake her (Jer. li. 9).” 

And how does God abandon the sinner? He either sends him a sudden death, and cuts him off in sin, or He deprives him of the graces which would be necessary to bring him to true repentance; He leaves him with the sufficient graces with which he can, but will not, save his soul. The darkness of his understanding, the hardness of his heart, and the bad habits which he has contracted, will render his conversion morally impossible. Thus, he shall not be absolutely but morally abandoned.

“I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted (Isa. v. 5).” When the master of the vineyard destroys its hedges, does he not show that he abandons it? It is thus that God acts when He abandons a soul. He takes away the hedge of holy fear and remorse of conscience, and leaves the soul in darkness, and then vices crowd into the heart. “Thou hast appointed darkness, and it is night: in it shall all the beasts of the wood go about (Ps. ciii. 20).” 

And the sinner, abandoned in an abyss of sins, will despise admonitions, excommunications, divine grace, chastisement, and hell: he will make a jest of his own damnation. “The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sin, contemneth (Prov. xviii. 3).”

Why,” asks the Prophet Jeremias, “doth the way of the wicked prosper (Jer. xii. 1)?” He answers: “Gather them together as sheep for a sacrifice (v. 3).” Miserable the sinner who is prosperous in this life! 

The prosperity of sinners is a sign that God wishes to give them a temporal reward for some works which are morally good, but that He reserves them as victims of His justice for hell, where, like the accursed cockle, they shall be cast to burn for all eternity.
“In the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers: Gather up the first cockle, and bind it in bundles to burn (Matt. xiii. 30).” 

Thus, not to be punished in this life is the greatest of God’s chastisements on the wicked, and has been threatened against the obstinate sinner by the Prophet Isaias. “Let us have pity on the wicked, but he will not learn justice (Isa. xxvi. 10).” On this passage St. Bernard says: This mercy I do not wish for: it is above all wrath. “Misericordiam hanc nolo; super oimiem iram misericordia ista (Serm, xlii., in Cant).” 

And what greater chastisement than to be abandoned into the Lands of sin, so that, being permitted by God to fall from sin to sin, the sinner must in the end go to suffer as many hells as he has committed sins?”

Add thou iniquity upon their iniquity. . . . let them be “blotted out of the book of the living (Ps. lxviii. 28, 29).” On these words Bellarmine writes: “There is no punishment greater than when sin is the punishment of sin.” It would be better for such a sinner to die after the first sin; because by dying under the load of so many additional iniquities, he shall suffer as many hells as he has committed sins. This is what happened to a certain comedian in Palermo, whose name was Caesar. He one day told a friend that Father La Nusa, a missionary, foretold him that God should give him twelve years to live, and that if within that time he did not change his life, he should die a bad death. Now, said he to his friend, I have travelled through so many parts of the world: I have had many attacks of sickness, one of which nearly brought me to the grave; but in this month the twelve years shall be completed, and I feel myself in better health than in any of the past years. He then invited his friend to listen to a new comedy which he had composed. But, what happened? On the 24th November, 1688, the day fixed for the comedy, as he was going on the stage, he was seized with apoplexy, and died suddenly. He expired in the arms of a female comedian. Thus the scene of this world ended miserably for him. 

Let us make the application to ourselves, and conclude the discourse. Brethren, I entreat you to give a glance at all the bygone years of your life: look at the grievous offences you have committed against God, and at the great mercies which He has shown to you, the many lights He has bestowed upon you, and the many times He has called you to a change of life. 

By this sermon he has today given you a new call. He appears to me to say to you: “What is there that I ought to do to my vineyard, that I have not done to it (Isa. v. 4)?” What more ought I to do for you that I have not done? What do you say? What answer have you to make? Will you give yourselves to God, or will you continue to offend Him?

Consider, says St. Augustine, that the punishment of your sins has been deferred, not remitted; “unfruitful tree! The axe has been deferred. Be not secure: you shall be cut off.” If you abuse the divine mercy, you shall be cut off; vengeance shall soon fall upon you. What do you wait for? Do you wait till God sends you to hell? The Lord has been hitherto silent; but He is not silent forever. When the time of vengeance shall arrive He will say: “These things hast thou done, and I was silent. Thou thoughtest unjustly that I should be like to thee: but I will reprove thee, and set before thy face (Ps. xlix. 21).” He will set before your eyes the graces which he bestowed upon you, and which you have despised: these very graces shall judge and condemn you. 

Brethren, resist no longer the calls of God; tremble lest the call which He gives you today may be the last call for you. Go to confession as soon as possible, and make a firm resolution to change your lives. It is useless to confess your sins, if you afterwards return to your former vices. 

But you will perhaps say that you have not strength to resist the temptations by which you are assailed. Listen to the words of the Apostle: “God is faithful, Who will not permit you to be tempted above that which you are able (1 Cor. x. 13).” God is faithful: He will not permit you to be tempted above your strength. And if of yourself you have not strength to overcome the devil, ask it from God, and He will give it to you. “Ask, and you shall receive (John xvi. 24).” “Praising,” said David, “I will call on the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies (Ps. xvii. 4).” And St. Paul said: “I can do all things in Him Who strengthened me (Phil. iv. 13).” Of myself I can do nothing; but with the divine assistance I can do all things. Recommend yourselves to God in all temptations, and God will enable you to resist them, and you shall not fall. 

Comment:

The Pope has spread abroad belief in a false mercy, one which – according to St Alphonsus – might take souls to Hell. 

Is the optimistic reliance on this false mercy, this failure to understand that unrepentant sin will take souls to Hell, one of the reasons for the growing number of blatant scandals we are witnessing today; double-living clergy, laity living in manifest public sin receiving Holy Communion and such like? Share your thoughts… 

Who’s right – the Gospels or YouGov?

HellquoteOne of our Glasgow readers, George (his real name!) sent me a copy of a letter he had submitted to the Daily Mail, in response to their article Oh hell – it’s the least that we deserve, by Jonathan Brocklebank, September, 11, 2015.

The article is a commentary on a YouGov poll which “shows significantly more guilty consciences in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, with 14 per cent admitting their sins merit damnation.” Only “10 per cent of people in the rest of the UK think Satan’s furnaces should await them in the afterlife.”  [Ed: and before our English readers jump to the wrong conclusion – this has nothing to do with the independence referendum 😀 ]

I’ve been unable to find a link to the article online (not having a Facebook , Google or Twitter account) but the reader who sent me his unpublished letter also enclosed a copy of the article, so here are a few quotes from it.  You can study the YouGov poll here

The YouGov survey revealed that: “…despite Scots’ dimmer view of their own moral virtue, they are less afraid of death than those in the rest of Britain. They are also less likely to believe in the afterlife…”  The survey asked: ‘If there were a heaven and a hell, which would you end up in?” The article continues:  “Among Scots, 48 per cent believed they would pass through the Pearly Gates – in line with the UK average.  The proportion willing to admit they deserved the other place was surprisingly high – a finding which one minister said might be explained by Scots’ cultural Calvinism placing greater weight on sin.” [Ed: Well, it sure ain’t because they’re hearing  thunderous sermons on Hell  in Catholic parishes. ]

Below is our reader’s letter to the Daily Mail:  he is disappointed it was not selected for publication, so it will be pleasing to be able to let him know that we published it here and discussed the very good points contained therein…

George’s Letter to the Daily Mail…

Dear Sir,

I found the results of the YouGov survey on “would you end up in Heaven or Hell?” fascinating and most revealing.

As it happens, I had been reading about the forthcoming centenary of the apparitions, in 1917, at Fatima where Lucy, one of the three seers, when asked this same question later in life said: “Taking into account the behaviour of mankind, only a small part of the human race will be saved.”

This seems to agree with many of the saints who answered “that most people will end up in Hell.”  Indeed, Jesus Himself said in the Gospels that “few” are saved and enter by what He called “the narrow gate.”

All this runs counter to the YouGov results, e.g. 52% of Londoners believed they were “heaven bound”. As for views on “fearing death” when only 16% of those surveyed said that “death scared them” we know that St Paul said that we all should approach death and the final judgment with “fear and trembling.”

All this “doom” seems to be at loggerheads with comments from the majority of the clergy over the last half-century, saying that “most, if not all of us will go to Heaven.” Seldom a mention of Hell.

Could they be guilty of  genuine heresy?  Perhaps another YouGov poll is needed. 

Yours etc.

Comments invited

Are Very Few Catholics Saved?

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The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved
by St Leonard of Port Maurice

The extract below from the famous sermon of  St Leonard is published in the Education section of our xurrent newsletter. It will be continued in our next edition. In the meantime, we thought it would be interesting to discuss it here. Does the evidence offered by St Leonard for his startling claim about the little number of those who are saved, really stack up – or should we rely on the great mercy of God to keep us out of Hell?

Introduction

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was a most holy Franciscan friar who lived at the monastery of Saint Bonaventure in Rome. He was one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. He used to preach to thousands in the open square of every city and town where the churches could not hold his listeners. So brilliant and holy was his eloquence that once when he gave a two weeks’ mission in Rome, the Pope and College of Cardinals came to hear him. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were his crusades. He was in no small way responsible for the definition of the Immaculate Conception made a little more than a hundred years after his death. He also gave us the Divine Praises, which are said at the end of Benediction. But Saint Leonard’s most famous work was his devotion to the Stations of the Cross. He died a most holy death in his seventy-fifth year, after twenty-four years of uninterrupted preaching. One of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s most famous sermons was “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved.” It was the one he relied on for the conversion of great sinners. This sermon, like his other writings, was submitted to canonical examination during the process of canonization. In it he reviews the various states of life of Christians and concludes with the little number of those who are saved, in relation to the totality of men. Below, some extracts from this great missionary’s vibrant and moving sermon.

The Teaching of the Fathers of the Church

It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to hell. To disillusion them and take them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned? Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them. To resolve this doubt, let us put the Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, on one side; on the other, the most learned theologians and erudite historians; and let us put the Bible in the middle for all to see. Now listen not to what I will say to you – for I have already told you that I do not want to speak for myself or decide on the matter – but listen to what these great minds have to tell you, they who are beacons in the Church of God to give light to others so that they will not miss the road to heaven. In this manner, guided by the triple light of faith, authority and reason, we will be able to resolve this grave matter with certainty. Note well that there is no question here of the human race taken as a whole, nor of all Catholics taken without distinction, but only of Catholic adults, who have free choice and are thus capable of cooperating in the great matter of their salvation. First let us consult the theologians recognized as examining things most carefully and as not exaggerating in their teaching: let us listen to two learned cardinals, Cajetan and Bellarmine.

They teach that the greater number of Christian adults are damned, and if I had the time to point out the reasons upon which they base themselves, you would be convinced of it yourselves. But I will limit myself here to quoting Suarez. After consulting all the theologians and making a diligent study of the matter, he wrote, “The most common sentiment which is held is that, among Christians, there are more damned souls than predestined souls.” Add the authority of the Greek and Latin Fathers to that of the theologians, and you will find that almost all of them say the same thing. This is the sentiment of Saint Theodore, Saint Basil, Saint Ephrem, and Saint John Chrysostom. What is more, according to Baronius it was a common opinion among the Greek Fathers that this truth was expressly revealed to Saint Simeon Stylites and that after this revelation, it was to secure his salvation that he decided to live standing on top of a pillar for forty years, exposed to the weather, a model of penance and holiness for everyone. Now let us consult the Latin Fathers. You will hear Saint Gregory saying clearly, “Many attain to faith, but few to the heavenly kingdom.” Saint Anselm declares, “There are few who are saved.” Saint Augustine states even more clearly, “Therefore, few are saved in comparison to those who are damned.” The most terrifying, however, is Saint Jerome. At the end of his life, in the presence of his disciples, he spoke these dreadful words: “Out of one hundred thousand people whose lives have always been bad, you will find barely one who is worthy of indulgence.”

The Words of Holy Scripture

But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, “This ark was the figure of the Church,” while Saint Augustine adds, “And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark.” The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it.

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