Bread of Life

And now I speak to you a profound and reverential thing. I say it with the deepest humility in my heart and the deepest reverence in my mind, and I hope the deepest courtesy in the words in which I say it.

What I say is this: The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, was baptized by water; and had to be baptized in order to be saved.

Our Lady was redeemed in her own special way. She was preservatively redeemed. From the very first instant Our Lady entered existence, she entered it as a justified child. The stain of original sin had never been allowed to touch her because of the foreseen merits of Christ, her Child. She was not only a just maiden, she was highest of all the just. The angel called her “full of grace.” And the angel said, “The Lord is with thee.” (Luke 1:28.)

But it was not enough, even for the Blessed Virgin, to have been preservatively redeemed and kept free from the stain of original sin. Her Child was her Savior, and she had to share in the fruits of salvation which it was His to bestow.

Our Lady was redeemed before Our Saviour came, because in God’s plans it is not needful for the Redeemer to have come in order for one to be redeemed. Redemption is awarded in view of the price the Redeemer is going to pay, in case He has not yet come, or has paid in case He has come. The just souls in the Old Testament, therefore, could be justified by believing in the Redeemer to come. They could be justified before the Redeemer came. But they could not be saved until He came. Salvation is another grace beyond the grace of Redemption. Salvation requires the Saviour to have come.

Let me put it in this simple way. A man could be born in original sin, then be redeemed by sanctifying grace, then fall out of the state of sanctifying grace, and then go to Hell. It could then be said of this man that he was created in the state of original sin; that he was then redeemed; and that he was afterwards damned. To be redeemed, therefore, and to be saved are not one and the same thing. Many souls, once redeemed, are now damned; Judas Iscariot, for instance.

Q. Did Christ redeem the whole world?
A. Yes, Christ redeemed the whole world. That is to say, He paid a price large enough to redeem the whole world. But the fruits of this Redemption were not applied to all souls. The fruits were theirs for the asking but they would not ask, and so they did not receive.

Q. Were the fruits of Redemption ever applied to some souls who are now in Hell?
A. Yes. Some souls benefited by the fruits of Redemption, entered the state of justification, lost it by mortal sin, died in that state and went to Hell. Therefore, it is true to say that many of the redeemed are now in Hell.

Q. Did Christ save all men?
A. Christ did not save all men. Christ died for their salvation, but most men refuse to be saved.

Q. Does not Christ wish all men to be saved?
A. Yes. Christ wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4.) This is called the “salvific will of Christ.”

Q. Does Christ wish men to be saved without coming to the knowledge of the truth?
A. He does not! This is not the salvific will of Christ.

Q. Are there any of the saved now in Hell?
A. No!

Q. I repeat, are there any of the redeemed now in Hell?
A. Yes!

Q. Does this make clear to us the distinction between Christ Our Redeemer and Christ Our Saviour?
A. It most certainly does.

Everyone must now see that salvation is a step beyond Redemption. Everyone must now see there are very good reasons for calling Our Lord both Our Redeemer and Our Saviour.

If anyone shall say to me, why did Our Lady need to be baptized if she was conceived without the stain of original sin, I shall ask in reply, why did John the Baptist, who was sanctified in his mother’s womb, need to be baptized in order to be saved?

“I ought to be baptized by thee,” Saint John the Baptist said to Jesus, “and comest thou to me?”

“Suffer it to be so now,” Jesus answered him. “For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice.” (Matt. 3:14,15.)

Was John the Baptist baptized? Of course, he was baptized, else why did he say, “I ought to be baptized by Thee”? Holy Scripture goes out of its way in the lesson of John the Baptist to teach us that even a child sanctified in his mother’s womb, the first fruits of the Redeemer already come, needed also to receive the waters of Baptism so as to be saved.

One needs to receive the waters of Baptism even if one be John the Baptist. Our Faith tells us this innocently and clearly. And the great Doctors of the Church, including Saint Jerome and Saint John Chrysostom, positively affirm it to be so, and go out of their way to tell us that John the Baptist was baptized by Jesus.

What then was the superiority of John the Baptist’s justification over ours?

He was justified before he was born.

And what is the superiority of Our Lady’s justification over Saint John the Baptist’s?

She, our Immaculate One, was justified the moment she was conceived.

When Our Lady journeyed down the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth, it was then that John the Baptist, the child of Elizabeth, leaped in his mother’s womb. Why did he leap? It is true he was sanctified the moment Our Lady with her Divine Child entered his house. His sanctification we must attribute to the presence of Jesus. But my question is: Why did he leap?

Saint John the Baptist leaped because he was not only John, the child. He leaped because he was also John, the Baptist! He leaped because he was in the presence of the most beautiful creature on whom the waters of Baptism were ever going to be bestowed for purposes of salvation.

Saint John the Baptist leaped because he was in the presence of the Mother of God, who was sinless from the first moment of her conception; who was full of justification; who was full of grace! John leaped in his mother’s womb because he was the flesh and blood precursor of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the Saviour even of the Just — the Saviour even of the Queen of the Just! He knew by some mystical insight the purposes to which the waters of Baptism were going to be put when they were poured on the head of the future Queen of Angels.

We know that were it not for the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb, her journey down the hill country and into the house of Elizabeth would have no efficacy on its own. We know well that the sanctification of the infant in Elizabeth’s womb was due to the Divinity of the Child tabernacled in the womb of Mary. But neither God the Father in Heaven, nor mothers like Elizabeth on earth, distinguish with too much precision between a woman and a child when the woman is with child.

Elizabeth did not cry, “Whence is this to me, that my God should come to me?” She cried, “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Not even Mary’s entrance through Elizabeth’s door sufficed for the sanctification of the Precursor. Our Lady’s footstep and voice both were needed, for Saint Luke tells us that it was when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary that the infant leaped in her womb:

Luke 1:41. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42. And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44. For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Our Lady, herself, when she answered Elizabeth, admitted the distinction between justification and salvation. And this is the point which I am trying so hard to make for you, dear children of Saint Benedict Center, so as to preserve your Faith. Our Blessed Lady said, in the very first words of her Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (Luke 1:46.) And well might she say this, because she was in the state of sanctifying grace, where magnifying the Lord is the soul’s privilege.

But Our Blessed Lady immediately added: “And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:47.) Why does Mary call Jesus her Saviour? Why does she need a Saviour? As her Redeemer, what justifying grace has He denied her? If being in the state of justification is sufficient for salvation, why does Our Lady call her Child her Saviour?

When the angel hailed Mary as full of grace, her Divine Child had not yet been conceived. The Saviour was not yet in our world. And she was full of grace. Why did Mary need a Saviour? The answer is, because the waters of Baptism, which her Son would give, were necessary for her — not as redemption from original sin since she had already been preserved free from the stain of original sin — but to open for her the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. The King must enter first, and the Queen must enter on the King’s sacramental terms.

Likewise we know, from the structure of all sacramental theology, that no one, not even the Blessed Virgin Mary, could be entitled to receive the Blessed Sacrament until the waters of Baptism had been received. Baptism is not only the closing of the old life — for which it was not needed in the case of Mary — it is the opening of the new, for which, even in her, the unique case, it was needed.

When Jesus was about to die, He handed over the care of His Blessed Mother to a newly ordained priest, a beloved Apostle, raised to the Sacrament of Holy Orders the night before. It was the privilege of this great Apostle, Saint John, to be Our Lady’s priest, her Mass celebrator, from the day of Christ’s death to the day of her own death, at the age of seventy-two.

Every morning when Our Lady went to Holy Communion she received back into her body the Flesh and Blood she had once given to be assumed into the sanctity of the Second Person of the Godhead. This Flesh and Blood, as it came back to her at Holy Communion time from the hands of one of Christ’s priests, gave her sacramental grace even though she was full of grace as it came. She was filled up and flowing over, and from her abundance we have all received.

No one, not even the Blessed Virgin Mary, can validly receive the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist until he has been first baptized with water.

This is not my arrangement. This is the will of God. And the first one who would want to observe it in sacramental and divine importance would be the Handmaid of the Lord, whose delight it was to say, “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” (Luke 1:38.)

Let me pause here, then, and repeat for you, with complete awe, the necessities imposed on the humility of Our Blessed Lady so as to enable her, the sinless one, immaculately conceived, the virginal Mother of God’s own Son and the virginal Spouse of the Holy Ghost, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as the crowned Queen of the Angels along with her risen and ascended Son.

“He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid,” Our Lady said. (Luke 1:48.) Let me mention the exalted reason for this humility. This most justified creature, this girl full of grace, this perfection of all creaturehood — of whom the angel could say, “The Lord is with thee,” without any equivocation — even in her sanctification owed the salvation of her soul and body to her Son, Who did not cease to be her Saviour.

Our Lady did not need to be baptized so as to get rid of the guilt of original sin. The guilt of original sin she never had. She was preserved from it. And that is why she is said to have been immaculately conceived.

In 1854, Pope Plus IX infallibly defined that Our Lady was immaculately conceived. Four years later, in 1858, she appeared to a little French girl, in the southern part of France, and improved on this definition in her own charming and personal way. Our Lady did not say to Bernadette, “I was immaculately conceived.” She said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The two requirements, then, for the Mother of Jesus to be crowned as the Queen of the beatified, were: that she be baptized by water for the salvation of her soul, and that she receive the Flesh and Blood of her Child in the Holy Eucharist, for the salvation of her soul and of her body.

These two sacraments were administered to Our Lady. And surely a third, the Sacrament of Confirmation. And so in soul and body, she was assumed into Heaven and crowned in the great Palace of Salvation, in its highest Throne Room, in the seat reserved for the Queen.

“Hail, full of grace,” was the greeting of the Angel Gabriel to her in her perfect state of justification. “Hail, Holy Queen,” is what she is called in Heaven, in her state of perfect salvation.

Would you like a summary of things implied so far, stated in dear catechism questions? I will give it to you:

Q. What do we mean by Our Lady’s conception when we are using the title, The Immaculate Conception?
A. We are referring to Our Lady as conceived in her mother’s womb, not to Our Lady’s conception of Jesus, in her womb.

Q. Why is Our Lady called the Blessed Virgin? Is it because she was both blessed and virgin?
A. It is rather because she was blessedly virginal; because she was faithful as a virgin, fruitful with a Divine Child. It is because she was maternally virginal; or better, it is because she was the Virgin Mother.

Q. Which was the greater gift to Our Lady, to be immaculately conceived, or to be the virginal Mother of God?
A. To be the virginal Mother of God.

Q. Why was she immaculately conceived?
A. Because one day she was going to be the virginal Mother of God.

Q. Would Adam”s children have been immaculately conceived if he had not eaten the forbidden fruit?
A. Adam’s children would have been conceived in the state of grace, but there would be no reason for referring to this as immaculate conception.

Q. What warrants our calling Our Lady’s conception in the state of grace an immaculate conception?
A. Because a conception in the state of original sin was due Our Lady, provided she had not been preserved from it.

Q. Would it be all right to say Our Lady was conceived apart from original sin?
A. Not precisely.

Q. How, therefore, is it best to put the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?
A. It is best to say that Our Lady was conceived without the stain of original sin.

Q. Were some of the effects of original sin endured by Our Lady?
A. Yes. The fact that Our Lady could die, for instance, or could suffer, or could know sorrow, or had to eat bread by the sweat of her brow, were all external effects of original sin which she had to suffer.

Q. What effect of original sin was Our Lady spared from?
A. The internal effect of it, namely, the guilt of it in her soul. Indeed, she was also freed of the effects of concupiscence and of power to contract sickness, as special embellishments of her beautiful, sinless spirit, and as special honors to the flesh and blood from which the flesh and blood of God were to be taken. But Our Lady could be tired. She could be lonely, and hungry. She could weep, and be hurt. She could have been killed, had anyone tried to harm her. And, finally, Our Lady could die. She did die. Thanks be to God’s preservative power, her flesh never knew corruption in its brief visit to the grave.

Q. On which side of the picture do you put Our Lady; with God, or with man?
A. I put Our Lady with man. Our Lady is not God.

Q. Is she as powerful as God?
A. By nature, no; by grace, yes; for she is Virgin Most Powerful. She said: “He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49.)

Q. Why, therefore, is Our Lady, Virgin Most Powerful?
A. Because God has so willed it.

Q. Did God have to will it?
A. No!

Q. Why did He will it?
A. He willed it because He willed it. And no one dares ask Him why, who knows Him to be God.

Q. Is God powerless to unwill that which He has already willed?
A. Yes. God is powerless now to do so. And powerless by His own Divine choice.

Q. Does not this make God’s omnipotence innocently attractive to us, to say it is put in the keeping of one of our children?
A. It makes Him infinitely lovable, and on our own terms.

Q. Do we love God more with Mary or without her?
A. Without Mary, none of us would love God. We would reverence Him, and fear Him; but we would never speak to Him as Our Father; never ask Him for His Divine Child as our daily Bread; and we would never say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Q. Is Our Blessed Lady the mediator between God and man?
A. She is not. There is only one mediator, and He is Christ, Our Lord.

Q. What do we mean by calling Our Lady, “Mediatrix of All Graces”?
A. We mean that all the graces that the Mediator won for us, including the grace of Himself as our Emmanuel, are put into Our Lady’s keeping. They receive these graces to whom Our Lady gives them; and they are refused these graces from whom she takes them away.

Q. Why was the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined so late?
A. Because it is not the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady that the heretics who hate Our Lady are most interested to attack.

Q. Are the heretics not interested in making Our Lady a sinner?
A. No. They are not. They are content to let her be called sinless, provided they can say she was not a virgin.

Q. What is the Protestant phobia with regard to Our Blessed Lady?
A. Her virginity.

Q. Will some of the heretics admit her to have been a virgin for a while?
Our Lady’s Fullness of Grace
A. Yes, provided you acknowledge that she had other children besides Jesus.

Q. Is the Blessed Virgin the main hatred of the Protestants towards the Catholic Church?
A. No. The Protestants’ main hatred in the Catholic Church is the Blessed Eucharist.

Q. How did the Protestants in their prayers, insidiously attack the Blessed Eucharist?
A. By destroying the intimate, Eucharistic, petitional meaning of the Our Father. They also added a dismissal phrase at the end of it, to wit: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

Q. Have the Protestants come out lately with a new Bible?
A. Yes. They have just come out with a new Bible. It is called the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and it is the largest financed publication of the Holy Scripture ever made under heretical auspices.

Q. Does the revised Protestant Bible ease up at last on the Our Father?
A. Yes, it does.

Q. How?
A. By taking out the spurious final phrase, “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

Q. But was not that the most important phrase in the Our Father in the way the Protestants said it and sang it up until now?
A. Yes; it was.

Q. Have the Protestants tampered with other phrases in the Bible?
A. Yes. A notable example is their rendering of the famous Christmas message uttered by the angels: “Peace on earth to men of good will.” (Luke 2:14.)

Q. How did the Protestants phrase this message of the angels?
A. Their old Bible recorded it: “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Q. How does the new, revised version of the Protestant Bible record this message?
A. The new, revised edition of the Protestant Bible has changed the angels’ message into: “. . . and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.”

Q. Is it not true that now the Protestant Our Father is the same as the Catholic Our Father?
A. It seems to read the same.

Q. Can you explain this capitulation on the part of the Protestants?
A. Yes. They are launching an attack on the Blessed Virgin Mary. And they want the interfaith clergy of the Catholic Church in the United States not to notice it.

Q. How are they distracting the American Catholic hierarchy from the tricks they are playing with the Word of God?
A. By changing the erstwhile Protestant Our Father into the Catholic version, and by easing up on the alteration they made in the message of the angels to the shepherds at Bethlehem.

Q. Will the Catholic Bishops of America be pleased with this concession on the part of the Protestants?
A. They will be very pleased, and will express their pleasure many times in the newspapers.

Q. And now, having let up on the Our Father, where does the new Protestant Bible deal its blow?
A. At the Hail Mary.

Q. At the Hail Mary directly?
A. No. They decided that would not be prudent at this time.

Q. So, where do they deal their blow, aimed to destroy the value of this prayer?
A. At the Prophecy of Isaias, in the Old Testament, which declares: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isa. 7:14.)

Q. What do the Protestants now call this virgin whom Isaias foretold?
A. They call her “a young woman.”

Q. And how do they now put it?
A. “Behold a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”

Q. Is that the end of the Hail Mary?
A. Yes, and the end of Isaias, and of Emmanuel, and of the fruit of Mary’s womb, and of the Bread of Life. It is the Our Father and the Hail Mary given the American Protestant brush-off in one well-studied blow.

Q. What phrase do the Protestants most hate in the Our Father?
A. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Q. What phrase do they most hate in the Hail Mary?
A. “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

Q. Who is meant in both these phrases?
A. Jesus.

Q. Whom do the Protestants hate in the Our Father and in the Hail Mary?
A. Jesus. He is the “supersubstantial bread” of the Our Father. (Matt. 6:11.) He is the “blessed fruit” of the Hail Mary. (Luke 1:42.)

Q. They protest they do not hate Jesus!
A. I have clearly known and shown that they do.

Let us consider for a few moments the Our Father and the Hail Mary. I think you would say that the Our Father and the Hail Mary are the two most common prayers on the lips of Catholics throughout the centuries.

The Our Father is said to the hiddenness of God in Heaven. And the Hail Mary is said to the hiddenness of God in a girl on earth: “And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

In the Our Father, you cannot see God the Father in Heaven, and in the Hail Mary you cannot see God the Son on earth. Both of these prayers are sublime prayers of sheer faith.

Do you think it an accident that these are the prayers the Church has made the very substance of its invocation throughout the centuries? If we think a little farther, we might also say that God values more what we can see with our inner vision than what we attest to from what He has given us through our outer senses. Or, rather, let me put it this way: He would rather have us know Him through the genius and love and warmth and generosity and keenness of our inner vision, than He would reveal Himself to us. “Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” (John 20:29.)

You know that the whole rest of your eternity, once you have finished this life, is going to be blistering with things being revealed! Eternity is going to be complete vision. Vision takes over and nothing else remains. There is no more darkness. There will be the whole blazing Godhead — the whole burning aeons of eternity.

We have our few little years now in which we grope our way towards this eternal life, earning our way to it. God gives us a little help, and He loves it when we walk a little farther ourselves.

We could never merit eternal happiness. We could never fully earn our way to the Beatific Vision. But God is very anxious to make it a just reward. He wants to make it something we are entitled to.

There are parallel passages in the Our Father and the Hail Mary which are very much alike. Do you not think so? We say to Our Father Who is in Heaven: “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…” That is what we say to Him in praise. The rest of the prayer is petition.

We say to Our Lady, in the Hail Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…” That is what we say to her in praise. The rest of the prayer is petition.

How close must be Jesus and Mary, when the arch-prayer of all the prayers offered to Mary is the prayer made of her before she even showed us Jesus! When there was only one pair of eyes to look into with physical sight, and a little baby hidden, to be seen only by faith!

You might say, “Well, not too much faith would be required after a while, Father, for the little mother obviously was with child.” Yes, but you would have to believe on faith that this was a Virginal Mother, that she was the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, and that dear Saint Joseph was not the father of the Child. Do you not see that?

That is the foundation of all Christianity! So much does Christianity rest on that foundation that if you are not prepared to go and love Jesus in the womb of Mary, you might as well leave Christianity. If you just take over Jesus in His later years, when He was a teacher and said fine things that ought to be remembered — fine Christian principles for the world — it would be much better not to take Him at all. That is farthest away from the way true Christianity has remembered Him all through the centuries.

True Christianity has looked into Mary’s eyes, and adored the Jesus it could not see. It has adored Jesus when Mary was breathing for Him, nourishing Him with her blood; when her footsteps were the advance of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity! Her sleep was His sleep! Her rest was His rest! Her fatigue was His fatigue! Her mountain climbing was God ascending! Her descent into a valley was God lowering Himself into the depths of His own world! When Jesus and Mary were one heartbeat and one blood stream!

That is where we say the Hail Mary. If that is not true, the whole first chapter of Luke is wasted. Holy Scripture entrusts itself to the clarion call of a loving mind. “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8.) Blessed are those who want to find God, for here is where they will find Him!

You will not find Jesus in treatises on Christ. You will not find Him in Mauriac’s Life of Christ, or Papini’s Life of Christ, or Fulton Oursler’s Greatest Story Ever Told. This last is a conceited, proud performance which is full of heresy. Neither will you find Jesus in Karl Adam’s Spirit of Catholicism, or in Fulton Sheen’s Peace of Soul.

You will find Jesus first in the womb of Our Blessed Lady after an angel has greeted her and the power of the Holy Ghost has overshadowed her. You will find Him as she walks over a hill, or hides in a cave at His birth. If you are as simple as the shepherds, and have their faith and clear vision, somehow the angels will open the sky for you, and you will be able to find Jesus, as a Baby in a crib.

And then you will be able to listen, later on, to Him as He teaches — Him Whom you adored in the pure citadel of Our Blessed Lady, from which citadel He departed only for love of us!

Our Lady suffered no pain at the birth of Jesus. That is of the Faith. It was pain enough that those two, who were so one, should be, in space, apart! The pain, the travail, and the labor; the heartache and the heartbreak of Our Lady, were on Calvary, when she gave Him in death for us.

She gave Him to life for us, and she gave Him to death for us.