1. By going to schools forbidden by the Church; 2. by the neglect of their religious duties; 3. by the reading of bad books; 4. by worldliness and a wicked life; 5. by intercourse with scoffers at religion; 6. by mixed marriages; 7. by becoming members of secret societies; 8. by pride and subtle reasoning on the mysteries of religion.
1. There are different causes which lead to apostasy from the faith to infidelity. The most successful means ever employed by Satan to bring about gradually a universal falling-away from Christ and His religion, is the introduction of the present system of public, or state-school, education. This I have sufficiently shown in my book, “Public School Education.” In these schools no mention of God and religion is to be made. The best means to abolish religion is not to teach any. Children are to be brought up infidels. But there are some who assert that “there is no sectarian teaching in the public schools, and, consequently, a Catholic may send his children to them without exposing them to any danger.” Now, even supposing there really was no sectarian teaching in the common schools, even then a Catholic parent cannot send his children to such a school without exposing them to the greatest danger. Those who approve of the public school, because nothing sectarian is taught there, act like a certain husbandman who wished to transplant a fine young tree to a certain part of his garden. On examining the new place, however, he found that the ground was filled with poisonous ingredients, which would greatly endanger the life of the tree. He therefore transplanted the tree to a sandy hill, where there were, indeed, no poisonous ingredients, but where there was also no nourishment for the tree. Now, will any one assert that the young tree was not in danger of perishing in this new place? And will any one assert that the faith and soul of a child are not in danger of being ruined in those godless common schools? Even if Protestantism is not taught there, infidelity is taught and practised there: and infidelity is even worse than Protestantism.
But is it really true that Protestantism is not taught in many of our public schools? This is unfortunately far from being the case. Napoleon I. introduced the public-school system into France, in order, as he honestly declared, “to possess the means of controlling political and moral opinions.” Puritans and Freemasons, in this country, have clearly the same end in view in upholding the present system of public schools.
In the early days of New England, and even of several of the other American States, the Puritans always used the public schools as a powerful means of spreading their peculiar doctrines. When they were stripped of this power by the liberal founders of American independence, they still struggled for many years to accomplish, by indirect means, the injustice which they dared not maintain openly. We all remember how the poor Catholic boys and girls of the public schools were harassed by colporteurs and proselytizers, who carried baskets filled, not with bread for the poor hungry children, no, but with oily tracts, cunningly devised to weaken, or even destroy, the religious faith of those poor little ones. In some schools, even, Catholic children were urged and enticed to go to the sectarian Sunday schools; and pictures, cakes, and sweet meats were liberally promised, in order to induce them to go. Teachers were selected with special regard to their bitter hatred of the Catholic Church, and their zeal for “evangelical ” propagandism. Some years ago, in New Orleans, when the school-board was composed of bigoted sectarians; many of them sectarian preachers, all the Catholic teachers, male and female, were turned out of the schools, merely because they were Catholics.
And even if Catholic children are not always expressly taught doctrines opposed to their religion, nevertheless the school-books which they use are, as I have said, frequently tainted with anti-Catholic prejudices and misrepresentations. Nothing can be more evident than the decidedly anti-Catholic spirit of English literature in all its departments. It has grown up, ever since England’s apostasy, in an anti-Catholic soil, in an anti-Catholic atmosphere, and from an anti-Catholic stem. It is essentially anti-Catholic, and tends, wherever it comes in contact with Catholic feelings and principles, to sully, infect, and utterly corrupt them. Sound knowledge, a sound head, strong faith, and great grace, all these combined may, indeed, preserve one whom the necessity of his position may lead into un-Catholic schools; but no one will deny that this anti-Catholic literature must exercise a most baneful influence over all those who, without sufficient preparation from nature or grace, plunge into it, in the pursuit of amusement or knowledge. Protestant ideas will not make the Catholic turn Protestant, there is not much danger of that, but they will tend to make him an infidel; they will destroy his principles without putting others in their place; they will relax and deaden the whole spiritual man.
In these schools Catholic children are taught that the Catholic Church is the nursery of ignorance and vice; they are taught that all the knowledge, civilization, and virtue which the world now possesses, are the offspring of the so-called ” Reformation.” They learn nothing of the true history of Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Ireland, Austria, and the other Catholic countries of Europe; they learn nothing of the true history of Mexico, and the various Catholic countries of North and South America. They never hear of the vast libraries of Catholic learning, the rich endowments of Catholic education, all over the world, for ages; they never hear of the countless universities, colleges, academies, and free schools established by the Catholic Church, and by Catholic governments, throughout Christendom. Where is the common-school book whose author has manly honesty enough to acknowledge that even the famous universities of Oxford and Cambridge were founded by Catholics, and plundered from their lawful possessors by an apostate government?
Moreover, Catholic children are often singled out by their school-companions, and sometimes even by their teachers, as objects of ridicule. Now, what is the result of all this training? The consequence is, that either the Catholic children become ashamed of their holy religion, and despise their parents, or, if they have the courage to hold out, their tender minds are subject to numberless petty annoyances: they must endure a species of martyrdom. This is no exaggeration: I have it from good authority. Practically speaking, the present common-school system is but a gigantic scheme for proselytism and infidelity.
Now, we intend that our children shall be taught to love and revere their holy Church. We wish to teach them that that Church has been, for over eighteen hundred years, the faithful guardian of that very Bible of which Protestants prate so loudly, and which they dishonor so much. We wish our children to learn that the Catholic Church has been, in all ages, the friend and supporter of true liberty; i. e., liberty united to order and justice. We wish them to know that the Catholic Church has ever been the jealous guardian of the sanctity of marriage; that she has always defended it against brutal lust and heathen divorce courts. We wish our children, in fine, to regard the Church as the only hope of society, the only salvation of their country, the only means of preserving intact all the blessings of freedom.
The public schools are not only seminaries of infidelity, they are, moreover, in many cases, hotbeds of immorality. In these schools every child is received, no matter how vicious or corrupt he or his parents may be. “One mangy sheep,” as the homely proverb says, “infects the whole flock.” So one corrupt child in a school is capable of corrupting and ruining all the others. And, in fact, where have our young people learned the shameful habit of self-abuse, and many other foul, unnatural crimes, that are bringing so many thousands to an early grave? Ask those unhappy victims, ask our physicians throughout the country, and they will tell you that, in almost every instance, it was from the evil companions with whom they associated in the common schools. Ah! you will see, only on the day of judgment, how many unnatural crimes have been taught and propagated, from generation to generation, in these very hotbeds of iniquity.
A certain friend of mine a man of great learning and experience wrote to me, one day, that he himself had been, in his youth, subjected to college-training; that, be it by nature or by grace, or both combined, he resisted and escaped. “But,” he adds, “from my observation and experience, I would say it did require a miracle for Catholic youth to escape the damnable effects of a non-Catholic education.” I have had opportunities, in this line, that many a priest has never had. I assert that a Catholic boy of tender years, and perhaps careless training, can be preserved from moral contamination, in public and mixed schools, by nothing less than a miracle. I will not chop logic with any one about it. It is a matter of fact. I therefore assert it as of ascertained result, that in most cases especially in those cases where there are enough of Catholics together to have a school of their own their frequenting a school without religion will land most of them in utter carelessness of their religion.
2. Many fall away from the faith because their parents neglected giving them any instruction in religion. There is a certain class of parents who have their children instructed in everything but their religion. There are other parents who allow their children to grow up in ignorance of everything except in the manner in which they may make some money. Now, when the time draws near for these children to make their first communion, their parents will take them to the priest to prepare them for this holy action in a week or two. Now, what can children learn in a couple of weeks? Certain it is that what they learn very seldom enters their hearts. Their hearts are not prepared for the Word of God; they are light-minded, and, in many cases, corrupted, and what they do learn is learned from constraint. No sooner are they free from constraint than they throw their religion overboard: they become the worst enemies of the Catholic Church. The young man who set fire to St. Augustine’s Church, in Philadelphia, Pa., was a Catholic, and he gloried in being able to burn his name out of the baptismal record. By a just punishment of God, these neglected Catholic children will become our persecutors. Thus is verified in these children what God says through the Prophet Isaias: ” Therefore is my people led away captive because they had not knowledge.” (Isa. v, 13.)
There are others who do not wish to be instructed in their religious duties, in order that they may more easily dispense themselves from the obligation of complying with these duties. Now, it is this very class of men that easily give ear to the principles of infidelity, because these principles please their corrupt nature better than those of our holy religion. The class of these men is very numerous, and their number is on the increase every day. For, not having any religion themselves, nor wishing to have any, what wonder if their children follow their example? Such as the tree is, such also will be the fruit. A few weeks ago, a Catholic lady of New York asked a little child: “How many Gods are there, and who made you?” The child could not answer these questions. So the Catholic lady said to the child: “Say, ‘There is but one God;’ say, ‘God made me.'” When the mother of the child heard this she flew into a passion, and said: “My child shall never learn such a thing: God has nothing to do with my child.” Behold how infidel mothers bring up their children!
There are others who gradually fall away from the faith and become infidels, because they neglect a most essential Christian duty, that of prayer. “The impious,” says David, “are corrupt, and they become abominable in their ways . . . They are all gone aside; they are unprofitable together: there is none that does good, no, not one . . . Destruction and unhappiness are in their ways.” “Now, the cause of all this wickedness,” continues David, “is because they have not called upon the Lord.” God is the light of our understanding, the strength of our will, and the life of our heart. Now, the more we neglect to pray to God, the more we shall experience darkness in our understanding, weakness in our will, and deadly coldness in our heart. Our passions, the temptations of the devil, and the allurements of the world, will draw us headlong from one abyss of wickedness to another, until we fall into the deepest of all, into infidelity, and indifference to all religion.
3. There is another special cause of the loss of faith: it is the reading of bad books. Bad books are, 1. idle, useless books which do no good, but distract the mind from what is good. 2. Many novels and romances which do not appear to be so bad, but often are bad. 3. Books which treat professedly of bad subjects. 4. Bad newspapers, journals, miscellanies, sensational magazines, weeklies, illustrated papers, medical works. 5. Superstitious books, books of fate, etc. 6. Protestant and infidel books and tracts. *
There are certain idle, useless books, which, though not bad in themselves, are pernicious, because they cause the reader to lose the time which he might and ought to spend in occupations more beneficial to his soul. He who has spent much time in reading such books, and then goes to prayer, to Mass, and to holy communion, instead of thinking of God and of making acts of love and confidence, will be constantly troubled with distractions; for the representations of all the vanities he has read will be constantly present to his mind.
The mill grinds the corn which it receives. If the wheat be bad, how can the mill turn out good flour? How is it possible to think often of God, and offer to him frequent acts of love, of oblation, of petition, and the like, if the mind is constantly filled with the trash read in idle, useless books? In a letter to his disciple Eustochium, St. Jerome stated for her instruction that, in his solitude at Bethlehem, he was attached to, and frequently read, the works of Cicero, and that he felt a certain disgust for pious books, because their style was not polished. Almighty God, foreseeing the harm of this profane reading, and that, without the aid of holy books, the saint would never reach that height of sanctity for which he was destined, administered a remedy, very harsh, no doubt, but well calculated to make him alive to his fault. He sent a grievous sickness on him, which soon brought the solitary to the brink of the grave. As he was lying at the point of death, God called him in spirit before his tribunal. The saint, being there, heard the Judge ask him who he was. He answered unhesitatingly: “I am a Christian; I hold no other faith than thine, my Lord, my Judge.” “Thou liest,” said the Judge; “thou art a Ciceronian, for, where thy treasure is, there thy heart is also.” He then ordered him to be severely scourged. The servant of God shrieked with pain as he felt the blows, and begged for mercy, repeating with a loud voice, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord! have mercy upon me.” Meanwhile, they who stood round the throne of that angry Judge, falling on their faces before him, began to plead in behalf of the culprit, implored mercy for him, and promised in his name that his fault should be corrected. Then St. Jerome, who, smarting with pain from the hard strokes he had received, would gladly have promised much greater things, began to promise and to swear, with all the ardor of his soul, that never again would he open profane or worldly works, but that he would read pious, edifying books. As he uttered these words he returned to his senses, to the amazement of the bystanders, who had believed him to be already dead.
St. Jerome concludes the narration of this sad history with these words: “Let no one fancy that it was an idle dream, like to those which come to deceive our minds in the dead of night. I call to witness the dread tribunal before which I lay prostrate, that it was no dream, but a true representation of a real occurrence; for, when I returned to myself, I found my eyes swimming with tears, and my shoulders livid and bruised with those cruel blows.” He tells us, finally, that, after this warning, he devoted himself to the reading of pious books, with the same diligence and zeal that he had before bestowed upon the works of profane writers. It was thus that Almighty God induced him to that study of divine things which was so essential to his own progress in perfection, and destined to do so much good to the whole Christian world.
It is true that, in works like those of Cicero, we some times find useful sentiments; but the same St. Jerome wisely said, in a letter to another disciple: “What need have you of seeking for a little gold in the midst of so much dross, when you can read pious books, in which you shall find all gold without any dross?” (Epis. ad Furian.) As to novels, they are, in general, pictures, and usually very highly wrought pictures, of human passions. Passion is represented as working out its end successfully, and attaining its objects, even by the sacrifice of duty. These books, as a class, present false views of life; and as it is the error of the young to mistake these for realities, they become the dupes of their own ardent and enthusiastic imaginations, which, instead of trying to control, they actually nourish with the poisonous food of phantoms and chimeras.
When the thirst for novel-reading has become insatiable,–as with indulgence it is sure to do,–they come at last to live in an unreal fairy-land, amidst absurd heroes and heroines of their own creation, thus unfitting themselves for the discharge of the common duties of this every-day world, and for association with every-day mortals. The more strongly works of fiction appeal to the imagination, and the wider the field they afford for its exercise, the greater in general are their perilous attractions; and it is but too true that they cast, at last, a sort of spell over the mind, so completely fascinating the attention, that duty is forgotten and positive obligation laid aside to gratify the desire of unravelling, to its last intricacy, the finely-spun web of some airy creation of fancy. Fictitious feelings are excited, unreal sympathies aroused, unmeaning sensibilities evoked. The mind is weakened; it has lost that laudable thirst after truth which God has imprinted on it; filled with a baneful love of trifles, vanity, and folly, it has no taste for serious reading and profitable occupations; all relish for prayer, for the Word of God, for the reception of the sacraments, is lost; and, at last, conscience and commonsense give place to the dominion of unchecked imagination. Such reading, instead of forming the heart, depraves it. It poisons the morals and excites the passions; it changes all the good inclinations a person has received from nature and a virtuous education ; it chills, by little and little, pious desires, and in a short time banishes out of the soul all that was there of solidity and virtue. By such reading, young girls on a sudden lose a habit of reservedness and modesty, take an air of vanity and frivolity, and make show of no other ardor than for those things which the world esteems, and which God abominates. They espouse the maxims, spirit, conduct, and language of the passions, which are there under various disguises artfully instilled into their minds j and, what is most dangerous, they cloak all this irregularity with the appearances of civility and an easy, complying, gay humor and disposition.
St. Teresa, who fell into this dangerous snare of reading idle books, writes thus of herself: “This fault failed not to cool my good desires, and was the cause of my falling insensibly into other defects. I was so enchanted with the extreme pleasure I took herein, that I thought I could not be content if I had not some new romance in my hands. I began to imitate the mode, to take delight in being well dressed, to take great care of my hands, to make use of perfumes, and to affect all the vain trimmings which my condition admitted. Indeed, my intention was not bad, for I would not for the world, in the immoderate passion which I had to be decent, give any one an occasion of offending God; but I now acknowledge how far these things, which for several years appeared to me innocent, are effectually and really criminal.”
Criminal and dangerous, therefore, is the disposition of those who fritter away their time in reading such books as fill the mind with a worldly spirit, with a love of vanity, pleasure, idleness, and trifling; which destroy and lay waste all the generous sentiments of virtue in the heart, and sow there the seeds of every vice. Who seeks nourishment from poisons! Our thoughts and reflections are to the mind what food is to the body; for, by them, the affections of the soul are nourished. The chameleon changes its color as it is affected by pain, anger, or pleasure, or by the color upon which it sits; and we see an insect borrow its lustre and hue from the plant or leaf upon which it feeds. In like manner, what our meditations and affections are, such will our souls become either holy and spiritual, or earthly and carnal.
In addition to their other dangers, many of these books unfortunately teem with maxims subversive of faith in the truths of religion. The current popular literature in our days is penetrated with the spirit of licentiousness, from the pretentious quarterly to the arrogant and flippant daily newspaper; and the weekly and monthly publications are mostly heathen or maudlin. They express and inculcate, on the one hand, stoical, cold, and polished pride of mere intellect, or, on the other, empty and wretched sentimentality. Some employ the skill of the engraver to caricature the institutions and offices of the Christian religion, and others, to exhibit the grossest forms of vice and the most distressing scenes of crime and suffering. The illustrated press has become to us what the amphitheatre was to the Romans, when men were slain, women were outraged, and Christians were given to the lions, to please a degenerate populace. “The slime of the serpent is over it all.” It instils the deadly poison of irreligion and immorality through every pore of the reader. The fatal miasma floats in the whole literary atmosphere, is drawn in with every literary breath, corrupting the very life-blood of religion in the mind and soul. Thus it frequently happens that the habitual perusal of such books soon banishes faith from the soul, and in its stead introduces infidelity. He who often reads bad books will soon be filled with the spirit of the author who wrote them. The first author of pious books is the Spirit of God; but the author of bad books is the devil, who artfully conceals from certain persons the poison which such works contain. Written, as they generally are, in a most attractive, flowery style, the reader becomes enchanted, as it were, by their perusal, not suspecting the poison that lies hidden under that beautiful style, and which he drinks as he reads on.
But it is objected the book is not so bad. Of what do bad books treat? What religion do they teach? Many of them teach either deism, atheism, or pantheism. Others ridicule our holy religion and everything that is sacred. What morals do these books teach? The most lewd! Vice and crime are deified; monsters of humanity are held out as true heroes. Some of these books speak openly and shamelessly of the most obscene things, whilst others do so secretly, hiding their poison under a flowery style. They are only the more dangerous, because their poisonous contents enter the heart unawares.
A person was very sorry to see that a certain bad book was doing so much harm. He thought he would read it, that he might be better able to speak against it. With this object in view, he read the book. The end of it was that, instead of helping others, he ruined himself.
Some say: “I read bad books on account of the style. I wish to improve my own style. I wish to learn something of the world. “This is no sufficient reason for reading such books. The good style of a book does not make its poisonous contents harmless. A fine dress may cover a deformed body, but it cannot take away its deformity. Poisonous serpents and flowers may be very beautiful, but, for all that, they are not the less poisonous. To say that such books are read purely because of their style is not true, because those who allege this as an excuse, sometimes read novels which are written in a bad style. There are plenty of good books, written in excellent style, which are sadly neglected by these lovers of pure English.
To consult those books for a knowledge of the world is another common excuse for their perusal. Well, where shall we find an example of one who became a deeper thinker, a more eloquent speaker, a more expert business man, by reading novels and bad books? They only teach how to sin, as Satan taught Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden tree, under the pretence of attaining real knowledge; and the result was, loss of innocence, peace, and paradise, and the punishment of the human race through all time.
Some profess to skip the bad portions and read only the good. But how are they to know which are the bad portions, unless they read them? The pretext is a false one. He only will leave the bad who hates it. But he who hates the bad things will not read the books at all, unless he be obliged to do so: and no one is obliged to read them, for there are plenty of good, profitable, and entertaining books which can be read without danger.
There is a class of readers who flatter themselves that bad books may hurt others, but not them; they make no impression on them. Happy and superior mortals! Are they gifted with hearts of stone, or of flesh and blood? Have they no passions? Why should these books hurt others and not them? Is it because they are more virtuous than others? Is it not true that the bad, obscene parts of the story remain more vividly and deeply impressed upon their minds than those which are more or less harmless? Did not the perusal of these books sometimes cause those imaginations and desires forbidden by Christian modesty? Did they not sometimes accuse themselves in confession of having read them? If not, they ought to have done so. Who would like to die with such a book in his hand?
Readers of bad books, who say such reading does not affect them, should examine themselves and see whether they are not blinded by their passions, or so far gone in crime that, like an addled egg, they cannot become more corrupt than they already are.
See that infamous young man, that corrupter of innocence! What is the first step often of a young reprobate who wishes to corrupt some poor, innocent girl? He first lends her a bad book. He believes that, if she reads that book, she is lost. A bad book, as he knows, is an agreeable corrupter; for it veils vice under a veil of flowers. It is a shameless corrupter. The most licentious would blush, would hesitate to speak the language that their eyes feed on. But a bad book does not blush, feels no shame, no hesitation. Itself unmoved and silent, it places before the heart and imagination the most shameful obscenities. A bad book is a corrupter to whom the reader listens without shame, because it can be read alone and taken up when one pleases!
Go to the hospitals and brothels: ask that young man who is dying of a shameful disease; ask that young woman who has lost her honor and her happiness; go to the dark grave of the suicide, ask them what was the first step in their downward career, and they will answer, the reading of bad books.
A certain young lady of the State of New York was sent to a convent school, where she received a brilliant education. She spoke seven languages. She wished to enter a convent, but was prevented by her parents. Her parents died, and after their death the young lady took to novel-reading. She soon wished to imitate what she had read: she wished to become a heroine. So she went upon the stage, and danced in the “Black Crook.” At last she fell one day on Second Avenue, in New York, and broke her leg in six places. She was taken to a hospital, where a good lady gave her a prayer-book. But she flung it away, and asked for a novel. She would not listen to the priest encouraging her to make her confession and be reconciled to God. She died impenitent, with a novel in her hand.
Assuredly, if we are bound by every principle of our religion to avoid bad company, we are equally bound to avoid bad books; for, of all evil, corrupting company, the worst is a bad book. There can be no doubt that the most pernicious influences at work in the world at this moment come from bad books and bad newspapers. The yellow-covered literature, as it is called, is a pestilence compared with which the yellow fever, and cholera, and small-pox are as nothing: and yet there is no quarantine against it. Never take a book into your hands which you would not be seen reading. Avoid not only notoriously immoral books and papers, but avoid also all those miserable sensational magazines and novels and illustrated papers which are profusely scattered around on every side. The demand which exists for such garbage, speaks badly for the moral sense and intellectual training of those who read them. If you wish to keep your mind pure and your soul in the grace of God, you must make it a firm and steady principle of conduct never to touch them.
Would you be willing to pay a man for poisoning your food? And why should you be fool enough to pay the authors and publishers of bad books, pamphlets, and magazines, and the editors of irreligious newspapers for poisoning your soul with their impious principles and their shameful stories and pictures.
Go, then, and burn all bad books in your possession, even if they do not belong to you, even if they are costly. Two boys in New York bought a bad picture with their pocket-money, and burned it. A young man in Augusta, Ga., spent twenty dollars in buying up bad books and papers, to burn them all. A modern traveller tells us that, when he came to Evora, he there on Sunday morning conversed with, a girl in the kitchen of the inn. He examined some of her books which she showed him, and told her that one of them was written by an infidel, whose sole aim was to bring all religion into contempt. She made no reply to this, but, going into another room, returned with her apron full of dry sticks, all of which she piled upon the fire and produced a blaze. She then took that bad book and placed it upon the flaming pile; then, sitting down, she took her rosary out of her pocket, and told her beads until the book was entirely burned up. (Compitum, book ii, p. 239.) In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that, when St. Paul preached at Ephesus, many of the Jews and Gentiles were converted to the faith: “And many of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds. And many of those who had followed curious arts, brought together their books and burnt them before all. And counting the price of them, they found the money to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (Acts xix, 18, 19.)
A young nobleman, who was on a sea voyage, began to read an obscene book, in which he took much pleasure. A religious priest, on noticing it, said to him: “Are you disposed to make a present to our Blessed Lady? “The young man replied that he was. “Well,” said the priest, “I wish that, for the love of the most holy Virgin, you would give up that book and throw it into the sea.” “Here it is, father,” answered the young man. “No,” replied the priest, “you must yourself make this present to Mary.” He did so at once. Mary was not slow in rewarding the nobleman for the great promptness with which he cast the bad book into the sea; for, no sooner had he returned to Genoa, his native place, than the Mother of God so inflamed his heart with divine love, that he entered a religious order. (Nadasi, Ann. Mar. S. J., 1605.)
4. Another cause that leads to the loss of faith is the corruption of the heart, the slavery of the passions. You will find men who deny the immortality of the soul, who deny the eternity of hell, who deny the infallibility of the Church. You will find men who deny the divine origin of confession. But why, my brethren, why? It is because these wholesome truths put a check to their passions. They cannot believe these truths and, at the same time, gratify their criminal desires.
An honest, virtuous man would never think of doubting or contradicting these sacred truths. In spite of its innate pride, the mind is the slave of the heart. If the heart soars to heaven on the wings of divine love, the mind, too, rises with it. But if the heart is buried in the mire of filthy passions, it soon exhales dark, fetid vapors, which obscure the intellect. The infidel’s reason is the dupe of his heart.
There is a man who was once a good Catholic, who used formerly to go regularly to Mass and to confession. Now he goes no longer to confession, now he is an infidel. But why? Has he, perhaps, become more enlightened? Has he received some new knowledge? No; the only new knowledge he has received, is the sad knowledge of sin. He believed as long as he was virtuous. He began to doubt only when he began to be immoral; he became an infidel only when he became a libertine. The history of his life is soon told. Wishing to gratify his passions without restraint and without remorse, he tried to rid himself of a religion which would have troubled him in the midst of his unlawful pleasures. Religion appeared to him like the hand on the wall, writing his doom in the very midst of his senseless revelry. Human respect, and the gratification of his passions, are the only causes that induced him to become an infidel.
5. To frequent the society of the wicked, of scoffers at religion, is, for many, another cause of losing the faith. A scoffer at religion is a man without principle, a man sunk in the grossest ignorance of what religion is. He blasphemes what he does not understand. He rails at the doctrines of the Church, without really knowing what these doctrines are. He sneers at the doctrines and practices of religion, because he cannot refute them. He speaks with the utmost gravity of the fine arts, the fashions, and even matters the most trivial, and he turns into ridicule the most sacred subjects. In the midst of his own circle of fops and silly women, he utters his shallow conceits with all the pompous assurance of a pedant.
There is a young man. He was brought up a Catholic. He went every day to a Catholic school until he made his first communion. He learned his catechism well. But his parents complain that he no longer says any morning or night prayers, that he goes no longer to confession, to holy communion, and to Mass on Sundays. Why not? It is because he frequents the society of wicked companions, who ridicule religion and scoff at everything sacred. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” In the company of such wicked young men he soon feels ashamed of his religion, becomes quite indifferent to it, gives up every practice of piety, and finally becomes an infidel, a scoffer at religion himself.
6. Experience has sufficiently shown that mixed marriages are also a cause why many have lost their faith. This is the reason why the Catholic Church has always opposed them. The Catholic party is generally exposed to the danger of losing the faith, or of becoming indifferent to it. The Catholic education of the children is also generally neglected, and often made impossible.
There is a congregation in one of the Middle States, which numbers about two hundred families. There are not fewer than fifty-seven mixed marriages in it. The number of converts is but six, and the number of those who gave up the Catholic religion is twenty-two. As to the children, there are at present found fifty-four who are being instructed in the rudiments of our religion, and it is hoped that they will adhere to the practice of her doctrines. But there are one hundred and thirty-seven who are receiving their religious training in some religious sect, or are left to grow up in utter ignorance. There are thirty-one more whose ultimate end is as yet doubtful. The number of perverted Catholics is nearly four to one in this congregation. There is no reason to believe that mixed marriages are less productive of evil in other congregations. We shall say more on this point in the explanation of the sacrament of matrimony.
7. The state of irreligion and infidelity into which millions of men who were Catholics are plunged at present, is the work of secret societies of Freemasonry. In the first volume of this work, Part I, I have clearly proved that the principal object of Freemasonry is to destroy all revealed religion, and to introduce heathenism in its place. To join any of the secret societies is to give up the Catholic religion; for the Catholic Church has excommunicated all those who have joined a secret society. Nevertheless there are thouands who join these satanic societies, and give up God and his holy religion for Satan and his work of impiety.
8. Pride, and subtle reasoning on the mysteries of faith, is another means which the devil uses to make people lose the faith. There are certain proud men who say that they cannot believe such an article or such a mystery of faith, because it is too obscure, too incomprehensible, and contrary to reason; they wish to believe no more of the truths of religion than they can understand. Hence they bring up ever so many objections to revealed truths, and thus exhibit a lamentable lack of reason. For, to be a man, it is necessary to have reason. Reason is the light of man. But reason tells us that it is necessary to believe what God has revealed, because God cannot reveal anything but truth, and that there is no sense in him who wishes to submit to his reason the very Author of his reason; and that to wish to understand what is above his intelligence, is to be without intelligence. There is a young man. He is a Catholic, who always believed what God teaches us through His Church. He frequently associates with one who, in a subtle manner, reasons on the mysteries of faith. He begins to listen to him with pleasure. The consequence is that he exposes himself to all kinds of temptations against faith. He begins himself to reason on its mysteries, then to doubt them, and at last to lose all faith in them. He dies an infidel.
Alas! how many are there who once were fervent children of the Catholic Church; they lived in the grace of God, in great happiness and peace, but, for the reason just given, are now leading the wicked lives of infidels! Their misfortune should be a warning for us all. Therefore, “Let him that thinketh himself to stand, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. x, 12.)
Litany of Faith
(by Pope Pius VI, 1775 – 1799)
Lord, have mercy upon me.
Christ, have mercy upon me.
Lord, have mercy upon me.
O God the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on me. *
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, *
O God the Holy Ghost, *
O Holy Trinity, one God, *
Thou, who being eternal truth, canst not deceive, *
Thou, who being infallible wisdom canst not be deceived, *
Thou, who hast built thy church on an immovable rock, *
Thou, who hast promised continual succor to thy church, *
That thou art the one true God, who rewardeth the good and punishest evil,
I believe firmly, O my God. **
That thou art one in essence and three in person, **
That thy divine Son became man and died for the salvation of the world, **
All that thou hast revealed in Holy Scripture; all that Jesus Christ has taught us in his Holy Gospel; all that the holy Apostles have preached; all that the General Councils have declared truths of faith; all that the Catholic Church orders me to believe, **
All articles of faith, written and unwritten, **
Without any hesitation or doubt; with an entire submission of my mind; with a perfect consent of my will; with an interior and exterior confession, **
On account of Thy supreme majesty; on account of Thy infallible word; on account of thy veracity, and infallibility, **
Even if it becomes for me a cause of persecution; even if I must lose all I possess; even if it costs me my life, **
In union with the lively faith of all the just; in union with the constant faith of all the martyrs; in union with the most perfect faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary, **
Let us pray:
O God, who, in the superabundance of thy goodness, hast called me to the true Catholic faith, give me the grace to persevere, constantly to the end of my life. Cast, too, a look of mercy on the heretics and unbelievers for whom thy divine Son shed his precious blood; enlighten and fortify them by thy supernatural grace, in order that they may acknowledge the true church in which alone men can be saved, and may courageously enter that church, without human fear, temporal motives, and vain subterfuges, and that thus by a true and active confession of faith they may attain everlasting salvation. Amen.