Foreword to the First Printing
I have been persuaded by the members of my Order, The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to publish some of the talks I have been giving on Thursday evenings at Saint Benedict Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the past ten years.
Leonard Feeney, M.I.C.M.
Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, 1952.
Foreword to the 1974 Printing
The sad situation of the Faith in America and in the whole world is breaking the hearts of true Catholics. The gates of hell have all but prevailed against the Church. It is because Catholics have let go of the Church’s doctrine on salvation that all else is being taken away from us. This is what is causing the sickness of the world, and it is even more true to say so today than when I said so twenty-five years ago.
My message today is identically the same as the one I have been giving for the past quarter of a century. It is perpetually part of the infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, against which Our Lord has promised the gates of hell will never prevail.
Leonard Feeney, M.I.C.M.
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, 1974.
To Saint Pius X
respectfully and lovingly dedicated
The only way I can get to what I want to talk about tonight, the love of God for us as a Child and His birth into the world as a Child, is by giving you a challenge.
At Bethlehem, in the crib, is a loving, warm, exquisite Baby. In order to find that little Charity, that bundle of Love lying in the straw, you have got to walk down the hills, over the rocks, across the brooks, into the dark, in your hunt for the cave. You have got to sacrifice other things in order to find it, even the brightness of the stars. The songs of the angels have to be put away, or, if you are a shepherd, your sheep. That is how chaste you have to be to find this Baby.
Holy Scripture says about the shepherds to whom the angels appeared, that they were “field-living.” There are two kinds of shepherds: one, the kind who go home at night for supper and return the next morning; and the other, the real pastoral kind, who stay in the field with their sheep night and day, probably going home on holidays with a lamb for dinner.
The shepherds in Holy Scripture were field-watchers. They lived with their sheep on the hill. We know that there is no custodian of anything in the order of nature — no farmer to his field, no bird lover to his doves, no cow puncher to his cattle — so warm and intimate and close, so dependable and loving, as a shepherd to his sheep. In the order of affection, sheep are the closest linked animal to man.
Not even a master is as close to his dog as a shepherd is to his sheep. A shepherd lives with his sheep, watches them pasture, thinks according to their rhythms, shares their weather. He contemplates them. Sheep are man’s nourishment and warmth, his food and his wool, his dinner and his clothing. A sheep goes to slaughter not opening his mouth. He is eager to be sacrificed.
And so, as occupations go, I do not think there is any man who could with more reason say it was impossible to leave his work and go over to Bethlehem than a shepherd. A businessman could lock his door. An innkeeper could put his clerk in charge. But a shepherd is afraid to put another shepherd in his place, because sheep follow the leads of a shepherd. One flock, you will notice, is not like another flock. Nervous shepherds have nervous flocks. Lazy shepherds have lazy flocks.
I am an expert at this because I lived for ten months in North Wales. Our religious house was in the midst of the sheep country, and I had plenty of opportunity to study the ways of the shepherds with their sheep. I wrote a poem about it:
Oh you should have seen the miracle
I saw when I was in Wales,
Where myriads of sheep go munching up
And lunching down the dales;
And graze along the meadow marsh,
And nibble around the mill,
Cross the bridges over the brook,
Bleat and eat and fill
Their bellies full of blossoms;
Then lie awhile and sleep.
Then slowly up the slope again
And slowly down the steep,
Their little mouths meandering on,
Bite by bite they pull,
Inch by inch, the sweet grass
While all the beautiful
Valleys of Wye from stream to sky
Are turning into wool.
There is too, perhaps, no occupation to which has been attached so much honest, decent sentiment, as to that of a shepherd.
The sheep are coming home in Greece
Flock by flock and fleece by fleece . . .
Almost a philosophy of life has grown around a shepherd and his sheep.
I could see a more pointed, but no more decisive, sacrifice than a shepherd leaving his sheep on the mountain top and going over to see a little baby, in a cave which housed also an ox and an ass, two kinds of animals in which a shepherd is not interested!
But the shepherds went. They left flocks of angels in the sky, and flocks of sheep on the hill; and they went over to Bethlehem to see a Baby — a little Infant dressed in swaddling clothes — with His Mother beside Him.
As far as I can make out from the Scriptural story, the shepherds did not immediately go back to their sheep. Instead, they went to tell everyone in the town about what they had seen.
Luke 2:18. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds ….
20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
They went from field to field, to all the neighboring pastures, and before a day was over, they did not know which shepherd belonged to which sheep.
What did the angels say to the shepherds when they appeared to them, on the hills around Bethlehem? They said, “Glory to God in the highest . . . .” That means, the highest awareness of God, allied to the highest praise of Him, is now going to occur on earth, for men to relish and to realize in angelic simplicity.
The angels also said, “Peace on earth to men of good will.” Inasmuch as it was to the shepherds that this encouragement was given, it is easy to imply — in fact, it is necessary to see — that these shepherds were men of good will. They were holy men. They were men pleasing to God. They were just men — men in the state of justification.
What new news were the angels coming to give to these believing and holy shepherds, who were in the state of justification? The angels were giving the shepherds the new news of salvation! “For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people; For: This day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord . . . You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12.)
If this message to these simple shepherds meant anything, it had to mean that salvation was not theirs until this day — however just, however holy, however trustful and believing they might be. The shepherds were told, “This day is born to you a Saviour,” which meant, salvation does not begin until He is born.
“And you shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger,” means that salvation is a visible thing, as visible as a freshly born, freshly wrapped child, now drinking milk at its mother’s breast.
This leads me, my dear listeners, to pause for a little while, to teach you simply, as a father, what is the distinction between justification and salvation — in careful, simple, understandable, theological illustrations; or else you will not be able to understand why “men of good will,” to whom “peace” is given, did not have a Saviour until the day of Christmas.
You will not understand Christmas at all, if you do not somehow know the difference between justification and salvation. It is a lack of a knowledge of this most important and basic distinction — without which a true understanding of the Old Testament and its fulfillment in the New can never be made — that has led the Liberal theologians of our day to keep on saying that all you need to do to be saved is to be justified, and that you can be justified without the waters of Redemption which the Babe of Bethlehem was born to bring!
For, the moment that this Baby shall begin His public life to bring His Redemptive message to the world — the heavens will open again! And God will say to the sinners, just and unjust, gathered around John the Baptist and the River Jordan: “This” — referring to the Jesus Who is being baptized with water — “is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17.) You find the Mother of Jesus at Bethlehem. And you find the approving Eternal Father of Jesus at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan!
This is our Saviour. And without our Saviour, there is no salvation.
You will remember that I spoke to you a week or so ago about the fact that until the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven there was a state for departed souls known as the “Limbo of the Just.” This Limbo was for those who, antecedent to the coming of Our Lord, believed He was coming, and believed He was to be the Saviour and the Redeemer of the world. They had a love and a behavior that was consonant with the fact that God was going to become flesh and blood. They had died in the state of grace. If they had any Purgatory to fulfill, it had been fulfilled. All the temporal punishment due to their sins had been removed. They were perfect setups for the Beatific Vision, were it to be achieved in non-Incarnational terms.
Why could you not say then, that they belonged to the soul of the Beatific Vision? Why all this boxing up of these perfect, sinless souls if the divine nature in them, put there by sanctifying grace, enabled them to love God with all the power of soul they had? They had paid up in suffering for all the offences they had committed. Why are they huddled there, nonbeatified?
All the saints of the Old Testament were there in Limbo. Not one of them had seen the Beatific Vision. They were just waiting. Some of those holy souls must have had to wait many centuries in the Limbo of the Just. Why not let them go to Heaven? They were justified! They had the true Faith! They were sanctified! They had died in the state of sanctifying grace!
They had justification and sanctification. Why was salvation being kept from them?
The answer is, because the souls in the Limbo of the Just could not go into Heaven until the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ in visibility led them in! Until Jesus went into Heaven in His flesh, they could not go in with their souls.
The souls in Limbo could have reminded Jesus: “Dear Jesus, You know we have not any bodies. We are not going to get our bodies again until the last day.”
And Jesus could have replied: “I am sorry, but until I am in Heaven in body you cannot be there in soul, no matter how pure and unsullied and sinless your souls may be.”
If that does not wipe out the “soul of the Church” theory, I do not know what does! How do you like that for a challenge in terms of the controversy we are now going through here in Saint Benedict Center?
Let me repeat: The holiest men who died in the Old Testament could not see God until God’s Son led them to God — until Jesus entered first. Without that Flesh and Blood, resurrected and ascended, without the visible Jesus with material eyes and hands and feet and beating heart, their state of justification and sanctification was called “Hell”! That is what the Apostles’ Creed means, in that phrase we never pay much attention to:
. . . He descended into Hell, the third day He rose again from the dead: He ascended into Heaven . .
I would like to offer that as a problem to those who are saying that you can get into Heaven by being sincere and living up to the best that is in you. Here were saints in the Old Testament who not only lived up to the best in themselves, but who believed in revealed truth — who believed in Jesus Christ, in a Redeemer to come. And still, they could not see God! Salvation could not occur until matter (flesh and blood) had moved into the Beatific Life. It is of the Catholic Faith that no human mind, save the mind of Jesus, was admitted to the Beatific Vision until Ascension Thursday.
Is justification the same as salvation? Of course, it is not! Lucifer, the prince of the devils, was once in the state of justification. He was created in the state of justification, and from that state he fell. Justification is only the divine courtyard of salvation: the preparation field, where you are given the grace to be tried out, as you move Godwards. If you have the right stuff, God keeps you. If you have not got the right stuff, God throws you out! “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41.)
Adam was created in the state of justification. He was in the state of sanctifying grace, and in this state he was given a trial — to see if he would persevere in it, to see if his justification ought to be a sealed thing, forever. “Of the fruit of that tree you shall not eat,” God commanded. And Adam went over and ate the fruit which God had forbidden him, and his state of justification was lost.
Do you see clearly that justification and salvation are not the same thing? Let me repeat. Lucifer had justification, and is now damned. Adam had justification, and committed Original Sin — and bequeathed the state of alienation from God to every one of his children. Lucifer was never saved, though he was once justified. Justification is a divine probation. Many are tried and found wanting.
You and I enter the state of justification. But that does not mean that we are saved! You never hear a Catholic going around and yelling, “Are you saved?” You might hear a Catholic asking another Catholic, “Are you in the state of sanctifying grace?”
The answer, I hope, would be, “Yes.”
“Do you still continue to say, `Pray for us sinners’?”
“Yes! Because I have not yet been saved. Because I must always pray for the grace of final perseverance. And because, ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’ ‘He that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.’ ”
Is getting into the state of sanctifying grace, salvation? No!
What is it? Getting into the state of sanctifying grace is justification.
What is required, once you have justification, in order that you may have salvation? You are required to do that for which you were put into the state of justification, and you must persevere in justification until death. As regards the first of these, let me give you an example. Were a man to have gotten into the state of sanctifying grace through Baptism, and were he to come to the time when he could receive the Blessed Eucharist, if he did not eat the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, he would have no life in him. His justification would be meaningless and fruitless. And he would eventually lose his soul, unless he made his justification fruitful.
Every man in the Church, even though he is in the state of sanctifying grace, is required to receive Holy Communion during Easter time, or else he commits a mortal sin. Even in the state of justification, there are other requirements given to us which we are obliged to fulfill.
Is that coming clear to you? I hope so.
Now, in the Old Testament, what did you have to do in order to get into the state of justification, after Adam had sinned? You had to believe in a Redeemer to come, and you had to keep the Commandments. It was not enough just vaguely to “love God.”
If, in the Old Testament, you believed “somehow in a God”; or believed only in “everything that was good and fine”; or, you were hoping for the best, or believed in belief — you would not be saved. You had to believe in a Redeemer to come.
It was to diffuse this knowledge of the Redeemer to come that the Jews were always going into exile or captivity — Alexander was coming in, or the Egyptians were coming up. The Jews were circulating all over the world. There was no one, in the whole world, who did not know that a Redeemer was promised, that He was to be given to the Jews, and that He was to be from the tribe of Juda.
When Saint Paul started his last journey to Rome, and was wrecked off an island just south of Sicily, do you remember how the “ignorant natives” greeted him? They thought he was God. They knew the Messias was to be of flesh and blood, and was to have a voice.
Were there people in the Old Testament who believed in the Redeemer to come, and who kept the Commandments? Yes! What were these people called, the “saved”? No, only the “just.”
When they died, the just of the Old Testament, as we saw a few moments ago, went, not to the Beatific Vision, but to the Limbo of the Just. What is the matter with Moses, and David, and Abraham? With Ruth, and Esther, and Judith? Are they not in the state of sanctifying grace, in the state of justification? Yes! But justification and salvation are two different things! Justification is the road to salvation, but it is not it. It is the journey, but not the goal.
Even a person who dies now in the state of justification has to be judged. Why is it not enough to ship him through automatically? He has to stand up in Particular Judgment, to see if he has done all the required things in justification!
If justification and salvation are the same thing, then you and I are saved. We do not need to worry any more, because we are in the state of sanctifying grace! How absurd!
Actually, no one worries more about his eternal salvation than a holy person in the state of sanctifying grace. The saints are always praying that they may not be lost. Saint Teresa of Avila, in the state of justification, saw the place in Hell reserved for her if she kept on going to the parlor to speak to a person she should not speak to. To whom much is given, of him much is expected.
When Jesus, on the top of the Mount of Olives, ascended into Heaven, the souls of the just ascended with Him. That is of the Faith. The entrance fee of salvation for the souls in the Limbo of the Just was the Flesh and Blood of Jesus, leading them in! That was the requirement for the Old Testament.
Jesus is not going to come down again and lead another group into salvation. He is not coming back until He comes in all His power and majesty, to judge the living and the dead, on the Last Day. He is not going to come down and lead you and me into salvation. He has decreed a different way for us, of the New Testament.
Jesus, without Whom in flesh and blood not one justified soul in the Old Testament could enter into salvation, as He was departing this earth said, as His last commission to His Apostles, “Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you . . . .” (Matt. 28:19,20.)
“Go ye into the whole world,” Jesus said, “and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15,16.) Jesus is leaving as the fruit of His Passion and Death and Redemption, the Sacrament of Baptism of Water.
Jesus does not say, “Go forth and teach all nations, and I will take them, and lead them to Heaven again.” No! To put it in our own words, Jesus says: “I am not coming any more, until the Last Day. I am giving you the water I well earned by My Redemption. If that does not touch you, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I hope that is perfectly clear to you!
Just as we are required to have one Faith and one Baptism, so as to be saved, we are also required to have one Lord. Just as that Lord led, in flesh and blood, the souls of the Just waiting in Limbo into the Beatific Life, so He has left it to His Vicar in flesh and blood to guide us into Heaven.
The gate of the Kingdom of Heaven in beatitude was opened for the first time by the entrance of Jesus. The keys to that gate were put in the hands of Christ’s Vicar on earth when He said to Peter, and his successors: “And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” No matter what we do in the way of justification, we can never enter salvation unless we enter it under the leadership of him who has the keys to that Kingdom.
That flesh and blood Vicar of Jesus Christ is none other than the Pope, our Holy Father, a visible head for Christ’s visible Church. He is a man whom we can point to as the visible Vicar on earth of the visible Christ in eternity. He is as pointable-at now in time as Jesus once was when He walked the streets of Jerusalem, followed by Peter and His Apostles.
It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church that no one can be saved who is not subject to that flesh and blood Vicar of Jesus, the Roman Pontiff. It is one of the requirements for salvation. Justification is useless for purposes of the Beatific Vision unless submission to Christ’s Vicar has been added to it in essential complement.
Pope Boniface VIII, in 1302, infallibly declared in his bull, Unam Sanctam: “We declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is wholly necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” A defined dogma can never be changed. It holds for every age; it applies to every generation, until the end of time.
If you do not have a belief in, and submission to, a visible Holy Father and a visible Church, with clear distinguishable marks, you will never get into Heaven.
Our Holy Father the Pope has been given to us by Christ so as to preserve the incarnational values of Redemption until the end of time. He is the only one who is sure to preserve Jesus and Mary at Bethlehem. He is the only one who will unflinchingly protect Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. He is the only one who indispensably can safeguard the flesh and blood dogmas of Christianity in infallible pronouncement. He alone can speak ex cathedra. And his utterances are given to Rome and the world: urbi et orbi.
All these values which I am presenting to you tonight, my dear children, are clear values. You are responsible before God for everything I teach you. You cannot go on being “clever” about Christianity, once you have listened to me, or, in my stead, any Catholic priest who will authoritatively teach you the truth. I place responsibility on you for everything you have listened to, tonight, for everything I have said. One day, in the life to come, I shall see you and meet you perhaps before the Judgment Seat of God and I shall ask you what you have made of the talk I gave you on that Thursday night before Christmas, when I had a bad cold.
There is great responsibility always on the listener. All Our Lord’s instructions to His Apostles indicated this responsibility. “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matt. 10:14,15.)
May I say that there is a terrific responsibility on every boy and girl who has ever heard me speak on Thursday night, especially now that the defined doctrines of the Church are being assailed in such wholesale fashion. Either believe what I have said, or else tell me where I have falsified the Christian message. Tell me one Council I have denied, or one Doctor I have misquoted. Do not read me some hardly known theological writer of this century, or last century. Give me one Pope infallibly defining, or one Council.
It is not too much of a mystery why the majority of people are not going to be saved. It is as clear as crystal.
“The world, by and large, then,” you say, “is somewhat of a failure, as far as salvation is concerned, Father?”
“Yes!” I tell you. “It seems that it is.”
“Isn’t that a bad thing to come from God?”
Surely you must see the absurdity of that question! That sounds as if God made this world as a project, and if He is not successful with it, He will be disgraced for all eternity! As a matter of fact, God is so successful all by Himself, within Himself, that failure of what is outside Him, does not even need to bother Him. You might say that almost everything He makes is a failure! Failure is almost as much a part of it as He is. Every flower dies. Every tree eventually collapses. Rivers ultimately dig out their beds. Lakes evaporate. Stars burn up!
But this world, as far as men go, need not be a failure! Everybody could know about the Catholic Faith! There is not a city in the United States where you could not find it. Little babies could not find it, I grant you, but little Protestant babies who die before they reach the age of reason are saved. Baptism made them Catholics. That is very sweet, is it not? There is only one Baptism. And every baptized baby is a subject of our Holy Father the Pope. (When you go to Heaven, most of the Americans you meet will be under seven years of age!) But you are not babies, and I am not talking to you as babies. I am talking to you as grown-ups, with Christian responsibilities for fulfilling all Christ’s commandments, once you have heard them.
I would be very presumptuous, certainly, if I thought I could move over and settle the whole world’s problems in one night’s lecture. I can settle the problem for this room! You do not need to go to Hell! You can go to Heaven! Sufficient for the congregation is the preacher thereof, when he is preaching Christ’s message.
Do I know if I am going to be saved? No! What do I know? I know how to be saved. And I know that I am on the right road. If the Catholic Church is not the Church for everybody, it is not the Church Christ founded.
Perhaps America would like Catholic priests to talk non-Catholicism? I do not know what they want us to do in America! I can only say to you that in case you want to know what the Catholic Church has been teaching, and what the saints have been saying, I am telling it to you, my dear listeners. I am giving it to you simply and clearly and fully and straight! Salvation is going God’s way. Salvation is not “Going My Way”!
Salvation in the Old Testament was from God the Father, promising the Blood of His Divine Son. Salvation in the New Testament is from God the Son, promising His water and the Holy Ghost.
The Blood that flowed from the side of Jesus when He died on the Cross was a testimony to us of what God the Father had given. God the Father did not spare His only Divine Son.
The Water that flowed from the side of Christ, when He was crucified on the Cross, was a testimony of the Water of Baptism, which He would give, in union with the Holy Ghost, to save the world. “As the Father hath sent me,” Christ said to His Apostles, “I also send you.” (John 20:21.)
Salvation in the New Testament is the complete performance of the Blessed Trinity — is of the Father, and the Son He sent, and of the Holy Ghost, sent by the Son. “But I tell you the truth,” Our Lord said, “it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7.)
The waters of Baptism were purchased by the Blood of Jesus. Those who teach whatever Jesus commanded His Apostles to teach, now teach with raging tongues of fire. Baptism is the water of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who was sent by the First Person, to take water and unite it to the power of the Third.
The Blessed Trinity is in complete covenant with the world once Baptism has been given us by Jesus. When Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan, the Father’s voice was heard, saying, “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” And the Spirit of God — the Holy Spirit — was seen, descending in the form of a dove.
For a valid Baptism, you need to pour water, in the name of Jesus Christ, and make the invocation to the Blessed Trinity while you are pouring.
I did not invent this entrance requirement for redemption and salvation. Jesus gave it to me — the same Jesus Who said, in the Sermon on the Mount, that I dare not drop from His commands one jot or one tittle. (Matt. 5:18.) Imagine dropping the first jot, and the first tittle, that Jesus ordered, and continuing to call it Christianity! Imagine claiming to be able to summon the Holy Ghost without the waters of Baptism! Imagine doing this in the face of Jesus’ challenge at the Last Supper: “I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you.”
Now that I have got my doctrinal message over in detail, let me give it to you in simple summary, before I go on to speak again of Christmas.
In the Old Testament, you could not be justified unless you wanted a Redeemer to come, and you could not be saved until He came. In the New Testament, you cannot be justified unless you want the water Jesus bequeathed us on the Mount of Olives; and you cannot be saved until that water is poured on your head!
That is what Saint Paul was told when he was struck down on the road to Damascus. That is what Saint Peter believed when he was sent to baptize the justified Cornelius. And that is what the eunuch asked for, in the Acts of the Apostles, when he met Saint Philip on the road.
It is now: Baptism of Water, or damnation! If you do not desire that Water, you cannot be justified. And if you do not get it, you cannot be saved.
Let me get back again to Christmas.
I do not know what Christmas in the United States is going to be like from now on. I frankly do not! I have seen how it has deteriorated in the past twenty-five years. I know the deceivers and haters of Jesus and Mary, across the street at Harvard College, will go through this Christmas religiously as fraudulently as they went through the last one. There will be red lights blinking on Christmas trees, this year the same as last year. Light, revealing nothing! Light, meant to be the means of making things visible, with nothing to show!
Undoubtedly, somebody like Theodore Spencer, of Harvard — who called Jesus a “myth,” before he died — will get up and read Dickens’ Christmas Carol. That is supposed to be very Christmasy! Some noted actor, if he is able, will do a little Christmas barking on the radio. Some notorious comedian will roar like Santa Claus!
That is the culture that goes with Christmas now. And because I, once a son in the Society of Jesus, see it as sad and tragic, and say it is sad and tragic, I am resented. People do not want to see! They would much prefer to hear about an invisible Christmas, and an invisible Church, that we could have in common with those who deny or despise Christ’s Divinity and His birth at Christmas from the womb of a little Jewish girl, Mary of Nazareth.
When the angels said to the shepherds, “Go over to Bethlehem!” they did not mean, “Go over and commune with nature.” They did not mean, “Turn to Bethlehem, the way a wild Mohammedan would turn to Mecca!” They did not say, “Close your eyes and imagine what profound depths there are in you.”
The angels said, “Run like men, and find the Baby — and His little Mother, with Him!”
A mother makes a baby doubly visible. A mother is the framework of the baby. A mother is the auspices under which you look at a baby. You are almost afraid to look at a baby unless his mother is there.
For those who are truly anxious to know and love Jesus and Mary at Christmas, let me touch on one little phase of the situation.
This is a child’s world. And a child does not have too many successes. Have you ever watched a child learn to walk? He finally achieves one step after five thousand failures!
A child does not have too many playmates. He does not have too many people at his birthday party. He does not have too many songs to sing him to sleep at night. If he is going to stay a child, he is a little bit lost in the world — a little bit alone. He is the most singular thing in a multitude. His one cry is, “Where is my mother” or “Where is my daddy?” as he looks into every other unsatisfactory face.
A child does not have too long a story to tell about himself. It is a simple tale. He can tell you his whole history in very short order. A child, when he has one sure friend, does not worry about the friends he does not have. A child does not go to sleep each night weirdly worrying about all the other children in the world who might be going to sleep, too; wondering, just as he is on the verge of slipping into slumber, if there is any insomnia on the rest of the street. A child is, in an innocent way (I will not call him selfish), a self-contained little thing.
A child’s trust, and heart, and love, and footsteps, and eyes, and interest, are never frustrated by failure. He goes to the piano which he fails to play, opens the book which he does not succeed in reading reaches for the moon which does not come down to him, asks to go in an automobile that will not take him. Things are constantly being taken away from a child. “You cannot have this; you cannot have that.”
A Child is given unto us! A Child is born to us, Who is Christ the Lord! Our Lord’s whole life was, in its simplicity, the life of a child. He did not have too many friends. I do not think you would call seventy two disciples too many followers — or twelve apostles too many close friends.
A child does not travel much. Neither did Jesus. Except for His excursion into Egypt, He never left the tiny territory of Palestine.
A child expects his little gifts to the world not to have too much dependence on a multitude. I think you can get a child very tired of giving ice-cream cones to fifty people. He does not mind sharing one cone with you, or giving two or three things; but he is not a good headwaiter at a party, or a good entrepreneur.
A child thinks his little mother is the greatest mother, in fact the only mother, in the world. He has to be taught that there are such things as other mothers.
A child is indignant, decisive, impetuous.
We all stay a child as we go through life — the best part of us does. We are a child when we eat, when we sleep, when we are sick, when we are old. When we are lonely, we are a child; when we are hurt, we are a child. If we only would let that child in us become interested in Jesus, you would be surprised how easily we could find Him!
I do not have to teach you to think like a child. It is the one art you all know. Direct your child-interest towards Jesus, and you will be surprised at what wonderful results you will get.
Jesus of Bethlehem is given all over the world in the simple, complete value of Christmas, in all the traditions we know — in the kind of story one tells to a child. The inspired record of His life in Holy Scripture is there, in case a child is looking. If you are looking as a child this Christmas, it is child’s play to find it.
If, while you are looking, you are not being a child, but are being very adult, grand, organizational, theoretical, proud, ideological, superacademic and non-committal (there is nothing less non-committal than a child), you will not find Him. You will not find Him even when you see a First-Communion little girl come down the aisle and say to her father (as I once heard a little girl say), “Pick me up and kiss me because Jesus is in my heart.” You will not find Him even when you see a little nun consecrated to God, whose face and eyes and hands show it. It will just miss you. You will not even know He is there. You will hear a lot of talk of a girl, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus — about whom there is a book in every library. You will not have time to read her autobiography — you will not even know it is obtainable. You will see her picture here in our room, which Ellen Maria Beneway painted, and you will dismiss it with a non-childlike dismissal; with an adult, supercilious grin, and a horrid academic face.
Depart from me, you cursed academic frauds! You Harvard hypocrites! You would not go over to Bethlehem if it were standing right in front of you! You would not want to know the truth of the Catholic Faith. That is why you do not find it!
A Child is given to you! A Child is born to you Who is Christ, the Lord! Sometimes He takes the meanest instruments to tell you His message. I do not know any priest in the United States of America who could be called this Christmas (thanks to newspaper publicity) a meaner instrument than I am.
But I can still tell you the way of a Child.