By Rev. Henry Brinkmeyer
NINETEENTH CONFERENCE. VICTIMS WITH CHRIST.
'THERE is an apostleship of suffering as well as an apostleship of word and prayer. A priest is officially commissioned to exercise this triple apostleship. Participating in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, he must himself be like Christ, not only a priest, a sacrificer, but also a victim. As watchman, ambassador, shepherd, teacher, sower and reaper, he must not only labor and pray for souls, he must also be willing to suffer for them. Many are found faithfully spending their strength in quest of the strayed sheep of their flocks, but alas! not all are willing to suffer, not all have the spirit of unreserved self-oblation. Our blessed Saviour therefore seeks elsewhere to supply this want. He seeks victims, especially among souls still radiant with their baptismal innocence, of who having lost that pearl of rare price have recovered it in the deep waters of penance and tears. He finds them sometimes on the highways of the world, but more frequently in the enclosed gardens of religious communities. And finding souls thus generous to enter into His life of sacrifice, He pours out upon them an abundance of griefs and sorrows. He communicates to them the spirit of prayer, the love of humiliations, of sufferings and deprivations. He roots out of their hearts pride and its succulent branches, the love of approval and esteem, jealousy, self-sufficiency, ambition, and human respect, and plants instead a profound humility and a veneration for authority. Some of them our blessed Saviour ordains to suffer for infidels, others for heretics and schismatics, others again for sinners in general, or for souls in purgatory, for the conversion of a certain country, for this or that parish, family or individual. Finally, our Lord ordains some to suffer for the sanctification of priests and the multiplication of earnest workmen in His vineyard, which vocation next to that of the ministry is the noblest that can be entrusted to souls. Such special victims we know to have been Saints Catherine of Sienna, Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, Aloysius Gonzaga, Rose of Lima, Blessed Margaret Mary, and many others who, Innocent themselves, suffered for the guilty.
But when our Lord revealed Himself to Blessed Margaret Mary and bade her promote the Devotion to His Sacred Heart, He certainly did not design to make of all those who should practice this devotion special victims, such as I have described. Out on the broad fields of the world and in the narrower sphere of religion He meant to inflame ordinary Christian souls with divine love, and to appeal to them to make some reparation for the insults, the negligences and coldness that He suffers from men in the Sacrament of His love; and though He complained that what grieved Him most was the treatment He received from some hearts consecrated to Him, yet He imposed no great sacrifices, suggested no heroic expiation, asked no victims of immolation. He taught Blessed Margaret Mary only three special ways of honoring and pleasing Him. These were, first, the Holy Hour, secondly, frequent reception of Holy Communion, particularly on Fridays, and lastly, the institution of a Feast in honor of His Sacred Heart. He further enjoined that on this feast a public act of reparation was to be made to atone for the insults heaped upon Him while exposed on the altar during the Octave of Corpus Christi. Those were the only new special practices He taught her,—practices that could without great difficulty be devoutly observed by the faithful at large, as by souls specially consecrated to God. I say, they were the only new practices He suggested—for there was one other familiar way of serving Him that He never tired of impressing upon the disciple and apostle of His Sacred Heart, and that was absolute fidelity to the duties of her state of life, unconditional, unexceptional obedience to rules and precepts, careful sanctification of every daily action. Whenever His wishes and commands conflicted with those of the Mother Superior, Margaret Mary was always to obey the latter; she was to prefer the fulfillment of the slightest duty ordained by Rule, to the sacred joy of communing with Him in the Blessed Sacrament; strongly did He reprimand and punish the least infraction of discipline, even though it were committed under the false idea of sanctifying herself or giving pleasure to her divine Spouse. In this way He prepared her to instruct others and gradually to become herself a special victim of His love for souls.
Do we not desire to make reparation, at least for our own sins? Do we not also long to make ourselves pleasing to the Sacred Heart by discharging every debt that stands against us? And is there anyone amongst us so cold, so devoid of apostolic spirit as not to wish to aid in saving the souls of his brethren? Ah, then, let us labor, first of all, to become faithful Christians, faithful observers of all the obligations of our state of life. Faithful observance of every duty implies a moral martyrdom. Many saints lived ordinary lives and never attempted extraordinary things: their aim was to do ordinary things extraordinarily well. In this wise we shall cancel many a debt, secure assistance for others and console the Heart of our Eucharistic Lord.
But is not our love generous enough to undertake a little more? Once again, who is so rich, so powerful, and withal, so good and beautiful as He? He is the fairest of the children of men, whiter than the lily, gentler than the lamb, the poorest of the poor, the lowliest of the lowly, the humblest of the humble, the Beloved who will not break the bruised reed or extinguish the smoking flax, so patient, forbearing, running after the wayward sheep, pressing the prodigal to His Heart, yet at the same time the King of ages, the Wonderful, the Holy One, the Light of light, the Judge of the living and the dead, the Emmanuel, yea, the mighty God! He is Love itself: how can we then resist His love? What does He ask of us? First, He pleads that we will give Him entrance into our hearts in Holy Communion, that we will receive Him often. "My delight is to be with the children of men." And shall we not give Him that delight? What can be easier? Oh! how is it possible for Christians to stay away from Him for an entire year? Is He not the Bread of our souls? Where is faith, love, self-interest? Receive Him, then, often; if not oftener than at present, at least with more fervent love and more generous preparation.—What else does He ask? That we stay with Him occasionally. Can you forget the Garden of Gethsemane? Remember the complaint made to Peter. "Simon, sleepest thou? couldst thou not watch one hour?" In the Tabernacle also our Lord is alone. Few believe in Him. He is amongst His own as of yore, and His own receive Him not. Throngs pass to and fro before His churches, giving no thought to the sacred Presence there. Men are busy with their vain occupations, they speak of projects and success and failure as if they are to live forever, yet never think of the gentle Saviour who is in their midst. He sustains them, He gives them light of understanding and warmth of heart, He fills their days with sunshine and their nights with wholesome rest, He is their God, their future Judge, their eternal bliss: but He is abandoned, as He was in the night of suffering, He is left alone with naught to keep Him company save the dim light of the modest sanctuary lamp. "Couldst thou not watch one hour?" "Stay with Me!" Keep vigil with Me for a little while!—Is there aught else our Lord asks of those devoted to His Heart? Yes, He asks their help in the work of saving souls. Many a human being is this moment on his death-bed. On the cot of a hospital ward, in a den of sin, on the prairies of the west, in the woods of Africa, out on the rough waves of an ocean-storm, perhaps unknown, alone, unconscious, a sinner is slowly breathing out his life. A few moments more, and all will be over for a never-ending eternity. Oh, how many of the dying are dead in sin! how many there are whose souls are laden with ten thousand deeds of darkness! how many cold and reckless, how many struggling in despair! Shall our Lord's blood bear no ransom; shall His Heart have loved in vain; shall He be deprived of the glory that He so justly claims? Oh, pray with Him, suffer with Him. Have you the courage of love ? Then offer yourself a victim to Him. Let the lamp of your life be burnt out for Him. Let sorrow darken your pathway and thorns be strewn over its sod. Let anguish of spirit be yours, since so often it was His. One day the good Master will meet you with a welcome and rest your weary head upon His bosom, and there let you be inebriated with the joy of His own living Heart.