Mothers, Fathers, and Wicked Spirits: Stories from the Catechist

[Taken from The Catechist by Very Rev. Canon Howe Imprimatur: Edm. Canonicus Surmont, January 26, 1922]

Efficacy of the Hail Mary — In the year 1604 there were in the city of Flanders two young students who, instead of attending to the acquisition of learning, sought only the indulgence of the appetite and the gratification of their unchaste passions. One night they went to a house of ill-fame; after some time, one of them, called Richard, returned home, and the other remained. After having reached his house, Richard, while undressing to go to bed, remembered that he had not said the Hail Marys which he was accustomed to recite every day in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Being oppressed with sleep, he felt a great repugnance to say them; however, he did violence to himself and recited the usual Hail Marys, without devotion, and half asleep. He went to bed, and during his sleep, he saw before him his companion, presenting a deformed and hideous appearance. “Who are you?” said Richard. “Do you not know me?” replied the other. “How,” rejoined Richard, “have you undergone such a change? You look like a demon.” “Ah! unhappy me,” exclaimed the other, “I am damned. In leaving that infamous house I was strangled. My body lies in the street, and my soul is in hell. Know that the same chastisement awaited you, but the Blessed Virgin, on account of your little devotion of reciting the Hail Marys, has saved you from it.” Richard, shedding a torrent of tears, fell prostrate on the ground, to thank Mary, his deliverer, and resolved on a change of life for the future.

Saint Alphonsus’ Lesson — When St. Alphonsus Liguori was an old man, and could not leave his room, his greatest grief was that he could no longer go to visit Jesus present in the holy tabernacle. “Do you not know,” he said, “that you may obtain more by a quarter of an hour’s prayer before the altar than by all the other devotions of the day put together.”

Love of Sons for their Mother — A poor widow, who had been deprived of the use of her limbs, felt the most lively regret at not being able to go to Mass on Sundays. When Sunday came round, she invariably said to her sons: “What a happiness would it be to me if I could go to Church and hear Mass! but I cannot go, for I am old, infirm and the road is long”; and as she said these words, the poor woman shed tears and fetched a deep sigh; then she raised to her lips the cross of her beads, which she was telling with the greatest piety and recollection. Her two sons, who entertained a filial affection towards their old parent, soon contrived to satisfy their mother’s pious longings. They attached to her old armchair two poles, and by this means they carried the poor woman to Church. As they entered, for the first time, the road to the Church, carrying the old mother in her chair, the people on the road loaded them with their blessings, and even cast flowers on their path. The pastor of the place, hearing of this loving invention of filial love, ascended the pulpit, and took for his text these words of Deuteronomy: “Honor thy father and mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.” His discourse was full of unction, and produced a thrilling effect upon the congregation. He compared the flowers cast on the path of the two sons, when bearing their mother to Church, to the benedictions which God would soon shower down on them.

Benedict XI and His Mother — The illustrious Pope Benedict XI was the son of a humble shepherd. When he was raised to the Pontifical throne, word was spread through Rome that his mother had come to visit him, and the whole city went out to meet her in honor of her son, who was the Pope. The good woman put on the humble dress belonging to her lowly station, and appeared before him. No sooner had she entered, than the Pope, at once rising from his throne, left his Cardinals, and went to meet her. When he drew near to her, he threw his arms around her and wept, as he said: “There is no one in the world who could love his mother as much as I do mine.” This beautiful example is handed down to us to show that in whatever condition of life our parents are, it is our duty to honor them.

A Father’s Opposition — A wealthy man had an only son whom he destined to perpetuate his name. The son, however, feeling he had a religious vocation, after persevering efforts, was at length received. The father followed him to the novitiate, and by entreaties and tears succeeded in bringing him back to the world. After awhile, the son again felt the call of God to religion and he entered a second time, and a second time in like manner was drawn back to the world. The father now wished to have him married, and had already found him a partner; the son, however, as was natural, made a choice of his own. This produced discord and mischief, which went to such a length that one day he killed his father, with the result that the son died on the scaffold! How many evils follow from opposing a religious vocation, which is sometimes too little appreciated, even in Christian families!

A Young Suicide — A few years ago, a mere boy of sixteen was found dead in his room: he had deliberately suffocated himself, already tired of existence, almost before having tasted life. What led him to such a crime? Incredulity and irreligion. His father had said: “When my boy grows up, I’ll leave him to choose his own God and his own religion.” The time for choosing had arrived, and he chose death. Unhappy son! Unhappy father!

Berengarius — Beregarius denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and he brought many other persons into his error. When he was on his deathbed, as we are told by Blessed Leonard, he was seized with a great fear. The priest who assisted him in his last passage tried to encourage him. What was his answer? “I am about,” he said, “to go before the judgement-seat of Christ; I will tell you that for my own sins I hope for pardon; but for the sins I have made others commit I fear I shall not be pardoned. I fear I shall be damned, for I do not know how to repair the damage I have done.”

Saint Thomas and His Companion — One day a friend of St. Thomas of Aquin cried out to him by way of amusement: “Thomas, look at the flying ox.” St. Thomas looked around him in astonishment to see where the strange animal was, but of course could not see it anywhere. His friend then began to laugh, and said to him that he was surprised to see that he was so credulous. But the Saint replied: “It is much easier to believe that an ox could fly than that a Christian could tell a lie.”

A Mother’s Advice — A pious mother, who had brought up her son with great care, seeing him about to leave her to enter the world, in order that he might earn for himself a livelihood, desired to give him a lesson which he might never forget. For two days before the time of his departure, she gave him nothing to eat but sweet food and other dainties. At first the young man was pleased with it, and thought that his mother had given it to him as a mark of her affection, since he was so soon to be separated from her. But when the evening of the first day had come, he asked her to give him some solid food, as he had already begun to be dissatisfied with the sweet food she had given him. But she told him that he must be content with what she had placed before him. The next day, as he received the same kind of food, he became so disgusted with it that he could not even look at it, and he begged his mother not to allow him to perish with hunger, but to give him some plain bread. His mother said to him: “My dear child, I had a special object in placing before you all these sweet and dainty dishes. You are about to leave me to enter a world that is full of wickedness. It will put before your eyes many things which at first sight appear pleasing enough – glory, honor, riches and pleasures. They dazzle the eye, but they can never satisfy the heart. They may be very pleasant for a moment, but they bring along with them in their train only remorse and unhappiness. Oh, my child,” she continued, “do not allow yourself to be deceived by them. Yesterday I saw with what avidity you at first ate the sweet pastry I had prepared for you. Today, on the contrary, you are filled with disgust at even the very look of it. So it is with those who allow themselves to be deceived when they first enter the world. They so often fly at once to its pleasures, which very soon bring them much bitterness. Be warned, therefore, in time, my child, and as soon as you are tempted by these things of which I have spoken to you, thrust them aside, and be content with the plain food of a Christian — that is, bearing patiently with all your crosses here on earth, that you may be obtain an eternal reward in Heaven.”

The Bottle of Water — A woman went to the priest to complain of her husband’s passion and temper, and angry words. The priest, who knew that her tongue also was rather voluble, gave her a small bottle of pure water. “Take this,” he said, “and when next your husband gets angry, take a mouthful and you will soon find the value of it: your husband will remain quiet.” An opportunity soon presented itself, and she followed the advice she had received; the same a second time, and a third, with the marvelous results that were promised! Returning to thank the priest for what she considered a miraculous water, he said: “There’s no miracle in the water: it’s your own tongue has done the good, by keeping silence for once: the only merit the water has is to have forced you to keep silence, for you were unable to talk, while you had your mouth full.” To oppose one in anger is to add fuel to the fire: silence is the best remedy.

Death of Chrysoarius — St. Gregory, in his Dialogues, relates that there was a man in his time, named Chrysoarius, a man as full of vices as he was wealthy in riches, but, above all, extremely addicted to the sin of impurity. God willed to put a period to the sins of this wicked man, which he daily heaped one upon another, and sent him a severe sickness, of which he died, but in a very extraordinary manner. Approaching his last end, he suddenly perceived a multitude of evil spirits, who presented themselves to him in hideous forms, and made a show as if they would immediately carry him into hell. He began to tremble, look aghast, and mournfully cry out for help. He turns himself on every side to avoid the sight of these horrid shapes, but which way soever he moves they are continually before his eyes. After many a struggle, feeling himself surrounded and violently seized by these wicked spirits, he began horribly to cry out: Truce till morning – truce till morning! and shrieking thus, his soul was torn from his body, and he died miserably without obtaining the truce he required.