by Rev. Daniel A. Lord, 1950’s
These Pious People
He was what the boys call a regular guy. They put the accent on the word “regular,” and they mean it for a compliment. He never made the varsity football team, for he was too light; but he went out for practice and sat cheerfully on the bench.
When the tennis season came around, he did his school honor on the courts. He managed half the student activities, sang a bit, danced well and eagerly, liked boys and girls frankly and was frankly liked by them. A regular guy, the faculty liked him too.
Yet, as I slipped up from my classroom late one afternoon, I found him on his knees in the dusk of the chapel praying as hard as he played. Then I discovered that he averaged three Communions a week; and once when he was fumbling for change, he pulled out an unashamed black rosary. So I decided that he was a pious chap, and suddenly liked the word pious.
Funny the way certain words get into bad odor! Take “pious” for instance. No young man objects to being thought honorable or honest or clean-minded or reverent; but pious—rather not!
Even young women have a sort of idea that a really pious person never wears this year’s styles and probably thinks a musical revue is a magazine for music teachers.
As a matter of fact, it’s a beautiful word, and it takes a really courageous, two-fisted, red-blooded person to be pious. Not to look pious, understand! Looking pious has nothing in the world to do with being pious.
St. Louis as he rushed out to battle in his golden armor; Joan of Arc astride her white horse; St. Stanislaus walking vigorously across the continent of Europe to get from a palace to a religious house; St. Catherine of Siena insisting that the Pope return from Avignon—none of these looked pious. But their piety was a beautiful thing, though it took courage for them just as it does for us.
For that matter, it takes courage just to be good. With the modern world determined (as Joseph McCabe, fallen monk, says it is) to destroy our fundamental idea of goodness, it takes courage to be decently pure and honest. To go the step beyond and to be pious demands positive heroism.
Who prays nowadays? Yet the pious man or woman has the courage to make the sign of the cross in public, and to kneel before God admitting that prayer is a duty and a genuine need.
Who believes nowadays? Yet the pious man has the bravery to tell the scoffer, whose laugh is his loudest argument, that he accepts God’s word before any man’s and bows his intellect more readily before God’s mysteries than before nature’s.
Who follows Christ nowadays? Why, they’ve made of the Savior a sort of platitudinous Babbit who praises big business and approves the naturalism of our times.
But the pious man remembers His humility, His love of little children, His hatred of pride, His contempt for wealth, His beautiful (let’s use the right word) piety, and has the bravery to accept Christ’s standards of value in an age that ignores them.
For Christ our Blessed Savior had the courage to be pious in an age quite like our own. He prayed when religion was mere formalism. He demanded faith from the rationalistic Sadducees. He talked religion when talking religion was regarded as not quite good taste.
If religious essentials were at stake, He spoke the truth and offended the conciliatory. He shed tears over sin, wept tenderly with friends, prayed to His Father before the world and through the long silences of the night. He was pious and He was the essence of heroism.
On your knees beg of Him the courage, in the face of an impious world, to deserve the despised adjective “pious.”
Mothers of Saints
The Church does not often canonize whole groups of people. She has seldom canonized groups of martyrs, like the companies of Roman soldiers who were shot to death by their companions, or the Japanese martyrs, or the companions of Rudolph Azevedo.
And though you and I may regard mothers as martyrs, the Church will never canonize them as a class, because they do not fit her definition. Still, if ever the Church should start to canonize whole groups of people, she would certainly begin with mothers, mothers like yours and mine.
For she remembers gratefully the fact that almost every saint in heaven, whether canonized or utterly unknown by the Church on earth, is a saint because a saintly mother set the feet of her child on the road to perfection. The child may be the one canonized; back of that child is the saintly figure of the mother without whom he would never have reached the altar nor the glory of martyrdom.
Such mothers were Blanche, mother of Louis the saint; the exquisite mothers of Aloysius and Alphonsus; the saintly peasant mother of Don Bosco and Pius X. Motherlike they step aside so that their child may receive the glory of canonization. They are content with the shadows of comparative obscurity provided their children stand in the white light of a halo.
Yet the Church knows whom under God she may thank for her saints. She knows that, as before Christ came the Mother of Saints, so before almost every martyr or confessor or virgin came a holy mother whose brave, quiet soul held tight the unrecognized heroism of high sanctity.
And we in our hearts know that if we are not saints the fault is ours, not that of the mothers who turned our infant steps straight up the road of sanctity.
An optimist is one who sees an opportunity in every difficulty — a pessimist is one who sees a difficulty in every opportunity. Which are you?
A WORD ON DISCOURAGEMENT
Believe it or not, —Once upon a time the devil decided to go out of business. He offered his tools for sale to whomever would pay the price. On the night of the sale they were all attractively displayed, a bad-looking lot.
They were Malice, Hatred, Envy, Jealousy, Sensuality, and Deceit, and all the other implements of evil. Each was marked with its price. Apart from the rest lay a harmless-looking wedge-shaped tool, much worn, yet priced higher than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what it was.
“That’s discouragement,” was the reply.
“Why do you have it priced so high?”
“Because,” replied the devil, “it is more useful to me than any of the others. I can pry open and get inside a man’s conscience with that when I could not get near him with any of the others, and when once inside I can use him in whatever way suits me best. It is so much worn because I use it with nearly everybody, as very few people yet know it belongs to me.”
It hardly need be added that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He still owns it and is still using it. Beware of it!
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? An optimist looks at an oyster and expects a pearl. A pessimist looks at the same oyster and expects ptomaine poisoning.
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As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should first resort to a competent guide to reach that Goal of all goals. And no better guide to Heaven exists than An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Doctor of the Church. It is at once easy to read, being laid out in short chapters, yet thorough, authoritative, reliable, kind and gentle a mirror of its author. It is a book, moreover, for all, because all are called to the devout life. True devotion to God, the author points out, adorns every vocation. The devout life, moreover, is a lovely, a pleasant, and a happy life.
If your life seems to make no sense, or if you don’t know which path to take, St. Francis de Sales will console and inform you. In this warm little book, he explains to you what God’s will is and how He reveals it yes, even to you, and even in the seemingly random events of your life.
No matter what you’re going through now (or may have gone through), you’ll see why you should love and trust in God’s will and long for its fulfillment. Best of all, you’ll learn a sure method for discovering God’s will in any situation today!
As you begin to discern God’s loving hand even in seemingly chaotic events, St. Francis de Sales will lead your mind and your heart to the still waters of God’s gentle consolation.