A priest is a man who, entirely independently of his merits and worth, is set apart for the teaching of the revealed truth of Our Lord.
As I, a priest, speak the Catholic Faith, I am not speaking it freely. I am not speaking of it, in doctrinal territories, as the fruit of my free speculation. There is some sense in which I freely choose to be the slave which I am to that Truth, but a Catholic priest, dressed in black, segregated by Holy Orders, his whole life dedicated to a commitment and a crusade, is free only to speak what Jesus Christ taught and what the Catholic Church has defined.
I am not going to depart from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the infallible definitions which safeguard those teachings, given to us by the Holy Roman Pontiffs of the Catholic Church, no matter how little it pleases people who, because of doctrinal weaknesses in their Faith, like to have religion an evasive, pushed-to-the-side, interfaith affair!
I have told you many times in Saint Benedict Center that one of the first things, after my ordination, that came home to me, and alarmed me, was the knowledge that a priest was going to have a hard time in America to tell the beautiful, simple, unchangeable truths of the Catholic Faith. This was made clear to me by the leisurely, almost effortless way in which among most Americans any utterance of the Faith from the mouth of a priest was detoured by way of being "religious differences." I was told, "We do not discuss religious differences." Or, "We do not like arguments on the subject of religion." Or, "We do not like to be disagreeable on the subject of God."
One of the requirements of a priest is that he be a resistant person, and one able to clarify vision where it concerns the interests of men as they move towards eternity. Sometimes that will take a great deal of courage on the part of the priest because no priest likes to offend, or be stubborn, or over-insistent. A priest does not like to tell his listeners that the reason they do not have the Faith is because of their own bad will. And yet, if we do not say that there is in the world today bad will at the root of the evasion of Jesus and Mary, of the Catholic Faith, and of the Holy Father, then our cause is a lost cause, and we are not speaking the way Our Lord wanted us to speak.
Nothing can be taught, unless there is some good will in the hearts of the receivers. Our Lord made good will the crux of whether or not the truth was going to come home to the people who listened to Him. "They do not have the truth because they do not want to have the truth!" He said. "Neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead." (Luke 16:31.)
One of the experiences I have had during my life has been that of dealing with college men and women, and of being able to indicate to them that there was bad will in what was keeping them away from Our Lord and Our Lady. I listened to them for long, long months, and I knew then, as I know now, that the thing which kept every one of them from being a Catholic was bad will.
You may say that it is not nice to say "bad will." Well, if you do not accuse them of bad will you are going to have to accuse them of things which I would not want to have said of me. I would rather have bad will than the things they are said to have. It is said that their lack of faith is due to background, environment, bad blood, bad digestion, ignorance, and so on.
Bad will, if I had it, I could change; but with those other things, I do not know how long it would take me to restore myself. If a man is bad willed, he can turn around and be good willed, when he realizes what is the matter with him, because the will is a spiritual faculty and what was bad will can become good will.
There is not a single person in the United States, who has the use of reason, who does not know that Jesus Christ is the crux of the whole world’s salvation or damnation. There is not a person who does not somehow sense, in the depths of his mind, that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and that it is, therefore, the true Church.
The call to salvation should not be an invitation. It should be a challenge! It should be a clarion call. "Listen! Do you want to be damned forever and abandoned by God, except for being kept in mere existence? Do you want to be put down with God’s enemies? If you don’t, listen to what I have to say!"
Damnation and salvation in the same utterance are what make a man realize what both these values mean. "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire!" (Matt. 25:41.) These words of Our Lord’s wake a man up! They make a man think in terms of his flesh and blood. Every man knows what fire is.
From Jesus we get both the call to salvation and the awareness of what it is. Jesus came to bring us the message of eternal life. To have a sure place as co-heirs to all the majesty and power of God for all eternity, as the adopted brothers of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is what Christ promised to us. In comparison with the life prepared for us, everything in this world is mere triviality. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9.)
To obtain salvation is the purpose of our life. This whole world was made by God from the very beginning to be a world in which Christian salvation is the challenge. Our Lord told His Apostles: "Go forth and teach all nations." Go forth and tell them what you are to give them. Tell them what they should be looking for!
When Father Isaac Jogues came to the North American Indians, he did not say to them, "What are your wigwam wants?" He said, "Wigwams or not, this is what I tell you: You have had plenty of canoes floating on water. You have had falls and fountains, lakes and rivers, in your land. But I am going to make water do more than all your currents put together have done since they began flowing! The waters of Baptism which I will give you, will open for you the gates of eternal life!"
We should not be sitting around saying, "What is America looking for, peace of mind?" Peace of mind is not salvation! Peace of soul is not salvation!
"I am come to cast fire on the earth," Our Lord said. (Luke 12:49.) "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you." (John 14:27.) "For I came to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter against her mother .... The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son .... And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household .... And he that taketh not up his cross and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me." (Matt. 10:21,35,36,38.)
Do you call that satisfying a man’s wants?
A real Catholic says that the achieving of salvation is a victory, and the first victory that a man ought to be thinking of during the day. The one effort which a man ought to be making every moment of his life is toward the saving of his immortal soul. Everything else would take care of itself — sanity, certitude, marriage, children, vocation, employment — all would be beautifully taken care of, if the saving of his immortal soul were the first aim of every man.
A real Catholic says that the challenge of salvation is absolute, whether the statistics please you or not. Some statistics say that there are three hundred and seventy-five million Catholics in the world. I doubt if the number is that high, but by pushing figures you might get within sight of it. When I was in the seminary, the conjectured number was about three hundred and thirty-five million.
Let us say that there are two billion people in the world. And let us suppose that the Catholics make a good one-sixth of the population. One-sixth of the world would be Catholic, therefore, and five-sixths of the world would not.
What is the matter with the five-sixths of the world who are not Catholic? Well, they have not the excuse in our own particular day that the challenge of the Faith was not put up to them, because the news of Saint Benedict Center has gone over the whole world! It is very well known that a Catholic priest was silenced and his followers placed under interdict for saying that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.
Just sheer obstinacy or stubbornness on a priest’s part — on my part — in not being willing to obey a superior (if that were all there were to it), is hardly enough impact on news to have the ears of the world open with interest. Why are people in every country interested in Saint Benedict Center? I received a letter yesterday from Holland. Today I received letters from Ireland, from South America, Italy, Russia, Czechoslovakia, England, India.
We have had the International News Service, the United Press, the Associated Press, the New York Times, the New York Herald Tribune, newspaper reporters and feature writers from all over the United States, telephoning us, coming over to see us. What are they interested in? A priest’s supposed disobedience? No!
They are interested in the fact that a group of hard-working scholars, laboring for nine years in the shadow of the most prestiged university in America — studying the Scriptures and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church — have put their finger on the thing that is causing the sickness of the world. People are excited about a group of Catholics who are giving a clear answer to a clear question! They know that those who cannot indicate where salvation is in clear reply, simply do not know where salvation is! Saying fast that there is no salvation outside the Church, and then adding that sincerity outside the Church is salvation within the Church, is the most diabolical double-talk ever uttered in the name of religious teaching!
I told you last week that the big hold-up question which I was given, with regard to the Church’s doctrine on salvation, was: "There are, comparatively, so few Catholics in the world. Do you mean to tell me that five-sixths of the world, who are not Catholic, are going to Hell?"
It looks very bad for God, they say, if five-sixths of the world are not going to Heaven, and only one-sixth of the world is. And then I have to explain that that one-sixth of the world does not necessarily go to Heaven either, just because it is Catholic. A Catholic has a hard time to save his soul. It is not enough to be a Catholic to get to Heaven. One has to be a good Catholic.
Do I think I am going to be saved? I do not know for sure. I must measure up to the requirements for salvation. But I know for sure what these requirements are.
The first requirement is that I persevere in the Catholic Faith. This is the highest achievement a man can aspire to, and the highest favor God can bestow. No one can merit this great favor. One can only pray for it, while doing all in one’s power to please God and to fulfill His commands.
It has been rumored that I have been telling those among whom I work that I, and possibly they, will go to Heaven, and that the rest of the world will go to Hell. That is not true. We are Catholics, not Calvinists. What I have been saying is that the majority of the world will not save their souls, and we hope and pray that we will not be part of that majority.
Pope Pius XII recently canonized a French priest who had died in disgrace. The priest was Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, who was ordained in 1700 and died in 1716, at the age of forty three. Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort was thrown out of every diocese in France. Bishop after bishop expelled him. All his followers deserted him. The French Jansenists tried to poison him. Everywhere he went he was rebuked.
Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort has this to say concerning the number of those who are going to be saved: "The number of the elect is so small — so small — that were we to know how small it is, we should faint away with grief. The number of the elect is so small that were God to assemble them together, He would cry to them, as He did of old by the mouth of His prophet, ‘Gather yourselves together, one by one’ — one from this province, one from that kingdom."
If this declaration of Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort’s is cruel, intolerant, bigoted, why was the priest who made it canonized a saint? And why are his ideas now given to Catholics in writings which they are permitted and encouraged to read?
Saint John Chrysostom said that very few priests are saved. Saint Teresa of Avila said that she saw souls falling into Hell like snowflakes. The Curé of Ars said that the number of those saved was as few as the grapes left on the vine after the pickers had finished their work!
Saint Augustine said: "Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. He can have honor; he can have the Sacraments; he can sing ‘Alleluia’; he can answer, ‘Amen’; he can hold the Gospel; he can have faith in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach; but never, except in the Catholic Church can he have salvation."
If this was wrong doctrine, why do they keep Saint Augustine as a Doctor of the Church? Why do they celebrate his feast? Why do not the Liberals rub out his feast from the calendar?
That one statement of Saint Augustine’s alone lets you know that I am pointing towards what the Catholic Church has always taught. If people say that outside the Catholic Church there is salvation, they ought not merely to attack me and silence me, they ought to rip out Saint Augustine from the calendar of saints — or tell me where I have misquoted him.
A Protestant says it is easy to get to Heaven — just be sincere to anything. And Liberal Catholics are now saying the same thing!
I am telling you, my dear children, what the Holy Father will have to define again, and what is our Faith! I am telling you what the Liberal Catholics are keeping away from you. And I am telling it to you in clear challenge! A lot of crazy thinking is corrected by clear challenges! And I do not know any place where man goes wilder than when he starts to think incorrectly in religious territories.
Take this sort of reasoning, for example: A man says, "My religion, or an important part of it at least, is to respect your religion, regardless of what it is."
Or, "I hold that Christ is Divine. If you say He is not Divine, I have respect for your belief."
Do you not see that that is an awfully funny creed? I get into Heaven through Christ, and you get into Heaven without Christ! That is a strange division in a world in which we are meant to be one. In other words, I have Christ and believe He is God, but I cannot give Him to you, whom I love!
Do you really and truly believe that Jesus is God and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Who leadeth all men into eternity?
Yes, you say.
Then how can you possibly be a friend to anyone unless your heart is constantly beating to give to him that Jesus Who is your God ? Why give your friend your friendship, or your books, or let him play your victrola records, and not give him the belief in your heart?
Whoever says that he has Jesus Christ for his Saviour, and thinks that everyone else does not have to have Him as Saviour too, does not really believe in or love Jesus Christ!
What kind of Christianity is it where one-sixth of the world is being saved through belief in Jesus, and the other five-sixths is being saved by disbelief in Him?
A real Catholic fights for the preservation of Jesus and Mary. He says that his Blessed Mother, unless she is for everyone, could not possibly be the Queen of Angels, could not possibly be the Virgin of Bethlehem, could not possibly stand before the veiled faces of the Cherubim and Seraphim!
That is what Saint John Chrysostom says. And he is the great, golden-mouthed Doctor of the Church.
Liberal Catholics give us a very funny kind of God; a God Who, whatever reward He has waiting for us in eternity, is pretty clumsy in the way He is preparing us for it. He gave one sixth of us His Blessed Mother, one-sixth of us His Body and Blood to be our Food; and the other five-sixths He gave nothing to. He left them with only fine feelings about themselves, fine sayings from the Farmers’ Almanac, fine platitudes directed towards the goals of indefiniteness. He gave them no Calvary, no Bethlehem, no Blessed Eucharist, no Sacraments, no Resurrection, no Assumption.
Just imagine Our Blessed Lady’s Assumption into Heaven being for the encouragement of only one-sixth of the world, and the other five-sixths having to get in on a starvation diet!
You hear it said, "Father Feeney says that you have to be a member of the Catholic Church in order to be saved!" That is right. That is what I am saying. But it is made to sound as if I am the one taking the cruel position.
I am taking the kind position. Every man is kind when he is telling the full truth! And most especially is this so when the truth he is telling is eternal truth.
Either "No salvation outside the Catholic Church" means just that, or else let us throw in the one-sixth with the five-sixths and say that no one knows where we are going! And do not think that we are far away from that, right here in the United States, where the trend is to a religion of America, called for the moment, "Interfaith."
You know how many Catholics are losing their Faith because priests think that the one thing they dare not do is to be challenging and preach the truth. There may be many things about me that annoy you, but one thing you have to admit: I am not trying to duck the issue. I am not giving you false leads. I am not saying, "Everything is going to be all right." I am not going to end up with impressive gestures, with Rotary Club Christianity, with Interfaith ideas.
There are three kinds of Communists: economic Communists, cultural Communists, and religious Communists. The least dangerous of these three is the economic Communist, the man who has no money. Then comes the cultural Communist, the man who has no values.
And finally, the most dangerous of all, is the religious Communist, the man who has no Faith and who wishes to share that lack of Faith with everybody.
It is this last form of Communism which has given rise to the movement known as Interfaith, which consists of a common denominator belief that leaves a Jew delighted, a Protestant contented, and a Catholic without an Apostles’ Creed.
What we need is more courage. And more courage! And then more courage!
My dear men and women, I am not here to preserve a notion in religion, but rather to preserve the Faith for which the martyrs died, and the Faith which the Doctors taught. There is not a single saint I might pick up: Saint Bernard, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Teresa of Avila, who does not say all these things which I am telling you. If you doubt it, come and listen to me, and let me show you.
Please let me give you the Catholic Faith straight! Let me give it to you the way Jesus taught it, the Saints lived it, the Popes and Councils defined it. Simply, clearly, it is this: that unless you are a child of the Holy Father, and are baptized, and receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, you will not save your soul!
Unless you take the Blessed Mother of Jesus and recite the prayer the angel said to her, and unless "Jesus" is the sweetest name on your lips, and the thought of Jesus is always in your mind, you will not dwell in Heaven for all eternity.
My Blessed Mother, little Mary of Nazareth, to whom the Angel Gabriel appeared and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women," is the Mother of God. She is the Mother of the only God I adore. She is the Mother of my Emmanuel, and if her Child is not God, then I have no God to adore, and I refuse to take any other.
This world was given the first tangible hope it ever had, in Christmas. And I insist: If that little Jesus of Bethlehem is not God, and that little Mother, Mary of Nazareth, is not the Mother of God, then I am sorry, I just do not believe in God, and neither do you!
We were studying in class today the life and times of Saint Edward the Confessor, that beautiful English king who was noted for his love and reverence of Jesus, and who lived almost eleven hundred years after the birth of Christ, when the Norman kings came into England. And here is something to think about: As far apart as we are in time, if we got together tonight, Saint Edward the Confessor and I, we could talk the same Faith — Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Holy Father, the Seven Sacraments, the forgiveness of sins. The very same utterance would be ours, however our styles of English might differ.
I know, and everyone else knows, that that is true. Those who do not hold the Catholic Faith do not even stick for five years to what they talk in place of it. Seventy million Protestants in the United States now do not believe in anything! Just imagine trying to defend that kind of thing!
The result is, thousands and thousands of husbands and wives, who do not even remotely worship the same God. The result is, hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls in love, who do not know even remotely what is the nature of their eternal destiny. Imagine a boy making love to anything so frail as a girl, and not being able to offer her the Christian securities that God puts at his disposal. And then imagine death striking this young girl swiftly, and leaving her loved one never to know in his heart what her ultimate destiny has been!
The first time that I administered the Sacrament of Baptism was in the middle of a river, in the middle of a New England winter. I was told, on my way to hear confessions in a parish close to Boston, that a boy had just fallen through the ice in a river nearby. I ran to the place where he was last seen. Someone had called the Fire Department, too, and so a fireman and a priest went out together on the ice to look for the boy in one of the holes in the ice-covered river.
We found him, and pulled him out. And I baptized him conditionally. Later I learned from his mother that he had never been baptized, and that she was pleased with what I had done. She said it was the only hope left to her concerning him.
May I say that the Catholic Faith is available to every country in the world: to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, India (some Catholic Indian girls have come here to Saint Benedict Center, descendants of the converts of Saint Francis Xavier), China, Japan, Java, Cuba, South America, Canada, and so on.
I always wonder how anyone studying American history could fail to notice — supposing he were just interested in knowing the plain, historical facts about Columbus — that one of the islands Christopher Columbus discovered he named "San Salvador." San Salvador means Holy Saviour! Why would not a person ask himself about that? Why was the first-named island in the new world called Holy Saviour Island?
Columbus crossed the ocean on a boat named "The Santa Maria." Is a girl, Mary, remembered from the first century up to 1492 a hard girl to find out about? Is there any information about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, a man in the United States could not get in case he wanted to know? How much does any American student read about Our Blessed Lady?
Suppose a man were just poetic, artistic. It would be nice to know, would it not, what kind of a girl the greatest painters in the world were painting, or the greatest musicians were writing songs about? Is that not so? Especially when you see and read of the horrors, brutalities, scandals that go on night and day in every city of the United States, in all our dives and brothels, in all our lack of respect for woman, and in all the condescension of people who look down on her.
If my Blessed Mother is not for everyone I meet, she is not for me. If my Hail Mary is not mine to give you too, whoever you are, then I do not have a Hail Mary. And the thing is finished if our Holy Father the Pope, the most visible leader of religion in the world today, is not necessary, as Christ’s Vicar, for every man’s salvation.
When the atomic bomb comes, do not dare to go before God and say that a Catholic priest did not tell you the message of salvation! I have given it to you as clear as crystal, and there is no way in which you can squirm out of it.
If you want to know what the Catholic Faith is — now that you have had brought home to you its necessity for salvation — I will take time and patience to teach you every bit of the beauty of Christianity.
The hard fact of the matter is, my dear children, that if five sixths of the world do not find the Catholic Faith it is because five-sixths of the world would not take it even if it were given to them. If they will not take it in the green wood, they will not take it in the dry!
If you will not take it as I give it to you tonight, what chance have I with the Zulus?
If you will not take it in Cambridge, what chance have I with the native on the desert island?
Before I close, I would like to dwell for a few moments on the feast of today.
This washout of a world had in it one sublime success. Quantitatively, the world did not give much to God. But in quality, it gave Him a girl so transcendently beautiful, so responsive to the slightest wish of His heart on any and every term, that she was worthy to be called His masterpiece of creation.
She is higher than all the angels. She is alone in her singular, solitary beauty. She is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son, and the Spouse of God the Holy Ghost. She is the Mediatrix of All Graces, the little Gate of Heaven for the boys and girls, men and women, who want to be human on Sacred Heart terms.
I have no words adequately to eulogize her. I have, however, one small message in terms of the visibility of God’s covenant with man that will touch her feast of today.
This is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is not the feast of the Immaculate Creation, though Our Lady’s soul was created by God’s power and love. It is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast commemorates the first instant that this child, privileged above all creatures, began to be in the womb of Anna, her mother.
I cannot think of anything less visible — as the word visible has display value, exhibition value, publicity value — than a tiny, infinitesimal girl, dwelling in the womb of her mother. But because this is the seed of the visibility she will have, and the visibility she will give her Son; because visibility has now become, and will grow and move and be born into the world; because flesh and blood will be the Queen of the Angels: this is the feast of the Immaculate Conception!
She is infinitely close to an angel, she is so almost non-material, this little Mary who, immaculately conceived, has just begun to be. But she is infinitely far away from an angel also, in that she is a human child. Maybe only the angels could see her, with angelic brilliance. Anna herself did not know, as she breathed and walked and slept.
But God knew!
A silent child was in the womb of Anna; a child who was to move into the world, and who was to be the visible Queen of Heaven and Earth.
It is for the safeguarding of her that we are dedicated in the Catholic Church. To the little visible girl, and her little visible Child.
Her orbit went from the Immaculate Conception, in Nazareth, to her Coronation, in Heaven. On this day, in her infinitesimal smallness, I, priest of her Son, greet her: the one complete success in human creation; Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope!