ND   Jacques Maritain Center : Religion, Agnosticism, Education / by J.L. Spalding

VII. The Victory of Love.

Delivered at Eden Hall, Philadelphia, Nov. 21, 1900.

WHATEVER brings us into personal relations with wider worlds, with larger and more enduring life, gives us a sense of freedom and joy; for we are the prisoners of faith, hope, and love, and are driven to make ceaseless appeal to them to enlarge the confining walls; to constitute us, if so it may be, dwellers in a boundless universe, where truth and beauty and goodness are infinite; where what uplifts and deifies is eternal; where, ceasing to be the slaves of animal needs, we are made citizens of a spiritual kingdom and have divine leisure to live for and in the soul. Now, more than anything else religion is able to realize for us these ideals; to diffuse itself through our whole being; to level the hills and fill the valleys, to bridge the chasms and throw assuring light into the abysses of doubt and despair; to make us know and feel that God is near, that He is our father and has the will to save. So long, then, as human nature is human nature religion shall draw and hold men; and without it nor wealth nor position nor pleasure nor love can redeem them from the sense of the vanity and nothingness of existence. The things of time are apparent and relative; the absolute reality, the power within and above the whole, religion, and religion alone, reveals.

The efficacy, therefore, of an organization to keep pure religious faith alive and active is the highest test of its worth, and the Catholic Church when tried by this test stands pre-eminent. Her power to speak to the mind, the heart, the imagination, the whole man, is proclaimed and dreaded by her enemies; while those who believe in her are stirred to tender and grateful thoughts at the mention of the name of her whom they call Mother. She is dear to them for a thousand reasons. Has she not filled the earth with memorials of the soul's trust in God? Who has entered her solemn cathedrals and not heard whisperings from higher worlds? Her liturgy, her sacred rites, her grave and measured chants; the dim lights that ever burn in her sanctuaries; the mystic vestments with which her ministers are clothed; the incense diffusing a hallowed fragrance through the long, withdrawing aisles; the bells that morning, noon, and night repeat the Angel's salutation to Mary and seem to shower blessings from heaven -- all this speaks to the soul, subdues and softens the heart, until we long to bow the head in prayer and give free course to the gathering tears.

Can we not read in the countenances of those who love her truly, the story of lives of patience and reverence, purity and mildness? How unwearyingly do they labor! How serenely when death comes do they rest from their labors! What a heavenly spell has she not thrown, does she not still throw, over innumerable souls, creating in them habits of thought, love, and deed, against which theories of whatever kind are advanced in vain! They have made experiment; they have tasted the waters of life; they know and are certain that it is better to be for a single day in the holy place of the Lord than to dwell for a thousand years in the habitations of sinners. Has she not the secret of teaching the poor and unlearned the higher wisdom -- the wisdom that lies in the spiritual mind and the lowly heart; making them capable of feeling God's presence and of viewing all things in their relations to Him who is eternal; enabling them to forget their nothingness in the consciousness of co-operating with Him for ends that are absolute, under the guidance of heaven-appointed leaders, comrades of the noble living and the noble dead; certain that though they die yet shall they live? Thus she turns her true children to righteousness, lifting the individuality of each from out the crushing mass of matter and of men; giving them deeper convictions of the sacredness and worth of life, of the possibilities that lie open to the meanest soul if he be but converted to God, who even in the most degraded can still see some likeness of Himself.

The Church has power to attract and hold the most different minds. In all the centuries since Christ was born, among all the races of men, she has found followers and lovers. She impresses by her long descent, her historic continuity, her power to adapt herself to an ever-varying environment; by the force with which she resists foes whether from within or from without; at all times maintaining her vigor, despite the corruptions of her children and the hatred and persecution of the world; thus manifesting herself as the city of God, the kingdom of Christ, a spiritual empire in which there is an imperishable principle of supernatural life and of indefectible strength. The unity of her organization and government, the harmony of her doctrines, the consistency of her aims and purposes, the sublimity of her ideals, the persistency of her efforts to mould the minds and hearts of men into conformity with the will of God, make appeal to what is best in human nature.

Her catholicity, too, -- her diffusion throughout the world, her assertion and maintenance of the whole body of revealed religion; her ability and readiness to assimilate and consecrate to divine uses whatever is true or good or fair in nature and in art, in literature and in science, in philosophy and in the teachings of history; holding nothing alien to her constitution or to the ends for which she exists, that may be made to declare God's power and mercy and wisdom, or to render less dark and helpless and sorrowful the lot of His children on earth, -- this also is a plea to which generous souls must hearken. Then, her claim of authority -- of the gift to utter with inerrancy divine truth to an erring race, asserting at once the highest social principle and the supernatural character of the society established by Christ; setting herself, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, in the highest place, as the interpreter of the doctrines of salvation, even though they be consigned to inspired books, since books can never be the fountain-head of right belief or the tribunal of final resort for a body of living men, -- this also compels attentive and serious minds to reflect and to weigh whether the denial of the infallibility of the Church does not lead, with the inevitabieness of a logical conclusion, to the denial of revelation.

Her history, which carries us back to the origins of the modern world, bringing us face to face with the Roman Empire, at the zenith of its power and splendor, when the little band that walked with Jesus of Nazareth by the shores of the Sea of Galilee and over the hills of Judea seemed scarcely to exist at all, so insignificant they appeared to be; and then, as the years pass by, placing before our eyes as in a panorama the passion and death and resurrection of the Saviour, the hesitations and misgivings of the Apostles, the ascension into heaven, the coming of the Holy Ghost; the outburst of the divine enthusiasm which impelled the believers to go to the ends of the earth that by their words and deeds, by their lives and deaths, they might spread the glad tidings and bear witness to the supreme and awful fact that God had visited His children and redeemed them from the curse of sin, throwing open the gates of life to men of good-will in the whole wide world, without distinction of race or tongue, -- that the Church after the lapse of centuries is still able to speak to us and tell us, as though she were a divine person who had lived all the while, that of all this she was part, and to the truth of it all bears testimony, doubtless must uplift, strengthen, and reassure whosoever gives due heed.

Our confidence in her increases as we behold her in mortal conflict with imperial persecutors and savage mobs, whose fury seeks the utter abolition of the name of Christian; while her faithful children -- old men and young, matrons and maidens -- gather round her to shed their blood in her defence; until finally, when three hundred years have passed and hundreds of thousands have offered their lives as a sacrifice and a testimony to God and the soul, she comes forth from the desert and the underground darkness, unafraid and unhurt, to enter on her great task of converting the world to the religion of the Son of Man. With what superhuman confidence and power she battles against ignorance and barbarism, lust and greed, violence and rapine! She grows not weary, but generation after generation sends her heroic sons wherever lies the shadow of the darkness of death, that they may bring all the tribes of the earth to see the new light which has shone from the throne of the Most High.

With a divine enthusiasm they turn from the pride of life, the thirst for gold and the pleasures of sense, abandon father and mother, country and friends, to give themselves wholly to the task the Master imposed upon His Apostles when He bade them go and teach the nations; bidding all men to turn from evil and to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, -- a kingdom which holds for those who enter the secret of happiness and of all the enduring good both for the time that now is and for eternity. How joyously they take up their work, seeking the lost sheep in interminable forests, in unexplored islands; confronting barbarous chiefs, and hordes inured to rapine and blood; uttering the praise of lowly mindedness and cleanness of heart, of peace and mildness, of love and mercy, where such words had never been spoken before -- to men whose whole theory and practice of life was war and robbery and extermination; who had not even the idea of humanity, but considered all who were not united to them by ties of blood as natural enemies!

Is it not marvellous that this far-spreading and irresistible enthusiasm for the conversion and uplifting of the race should have burst forth just when the civilized world was sinking beneath the weight of hopeless impotence and degradation; when tyranny, brutality, greed, and lust had destroyed all that gives life worth and joyousness? -- that from the midst of the vices that are born of despair should spring superhuman hope and courage; from out a world given over to hate and cruelty, where the poor are oppressed and trampled on, where those who in battle escape the sword are reserved for butchery in the arena, there should arise the tenderest and most passionate love for all who suffer and are heavy laden? The old world is dying, and the new is waiting to be born. A new religion is here founded on new conceptions of God and of man -- on new conceptions of man's duties to God, to himself, and to his fellows; on the faith that the Eternal and Omnipotent, from whom and by whom and in whom all things are, is a father who has care of even the least of His children, and who so loves them that He sends His Divine Son to teach and guide them, to suffer and die for them.

Since God is love, love is the supreme law of the universe; and man's first duty and highest perfection is to love God and all men. This is the gospel, the glad tidings arousing millions from sleep in the shadow of death. Belief in the pagan deities had perished in the hearts of all who thought, leaving in its place blank atheism or mere nature-worship, which favored the indulgence of the baser appetites and reprobated no crime. Even the noblest and the best either doubted whether there were gods or were persuaded that if such beings existed they had no concern with human affairs. Out of this mental incapacity, moral debasement, and spiritual paralysis there breaks forth a fountain-head of new life -- a race of men and women who are certain that God is, and that He is their father. Not now, indeed, for the first time is He called father, but for the first time the name as applied to the Supreme Being implies a tender, personal and intimate relationship with man. The Divine Spirit is breathed into the soul, and awakens a consciousness of the infinite worth and preciousness of life. That the all-high and omnipotent God should enter into personal relationship with the lowliest of His children, should cherish, cheer, guide, and uphold them, seems too fair and gracious and exalted a thing for mortals to believe of themselves; yet it is what this new race is persuaded of, and it is the most astounding and most quickening faith that has ever taken possession of human hearts. Is it incredible that He who makes and holds the universe in poise should love? And if He loves, is it incredible that He should love those whom He has made capable of love, in whose spiritual being He has awakened a quenchless thirst for truth, goodness, and beauty?

Whatever man may think, woman cannot doubt that God is love, or that Christ is that love made manifest. Woman is the heart, man the mind; and great thoughts spring from the heart. She lies closer to the sources of life, to the faith and wonder of children, to the supreme reality that is veiled by what appears; and she is guided by a divine instinct to understand that the infinite need is the need of love. Love is her genius, her realm, her all the world. She feels what only the wisest know -- that the radical fault is lack of love; that if men did but love enough, all would be well. From the dawn of history she had been the great prisoner of faith, hope, and love. With a divine capacity for the highest spiritual life and the highest spiritual influence, she had been made a drudge, a slave, a means, an instrument. As it is easy to hate those whom we have wronged, the pagan world, having degraded and outraged woman, seemed to take pleasure in heaping scorn and ignominy upon her; and even to-day in heathen lands her lot is little better.

Classed with slaves, thrust aside, mistrusted, kept in ignorance, her whom nature had overburdened, man was not ashamed to trample on. The wife makes the home; the mother, the man. And yet in reading the literatures of Greece and Rome we are hardly made aware that their great men had wives and mothers, so little does woman play a part in their history, except as an instrument of pleasure. The ancients, in fact, had no right conception of love; never knew that God is love, that the last word of all things, the absolute and final good, is love; that true love, or the love of the true good, which is itself love, is the central source whence all wisdom springs. Christ having come, religion is, as Pascal says, God sensible to the heart, which has reasons of its own that reason hardly knows; a method of its own, which is the method of charity -- that of Jesus, who finds the root and source of all sin in the lack of affection, in the hardness of the heart that seeks itself and is thus made the victim of pride, of greed, and of lust.

Nothing is beautiful, nothing sublime but the immensity of love; and nothing brings perfect joy and peace but complete self-surrender to God, which is love's highest act. Divine beauty holds the secret of the universe, -- it is the cause of love, and love is the cause of all things. They alone have the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ, who love Him and all men. Whatever we do, if it be done for love, is rightly done. Like a pure flame, love embraces, interpenetrates, and fills with light every duty imposed upon us; nay, if duty be also love, nothing else smiles on us with so fair a face. "Where there is love," says St. Augustine, "there is no toil; or if toil, the toil itself is loved." They who love God think not of themselves, but give their time, their strength, their heart, their health, their life, to serve those whom it is possible for them to help. Our capacity is measured by our power of love. We can do or learn to do whatever with all our soul we desire and will to do. As we are most surely reached through our affections, our nature is best explained by them. We are what we love far more than what we think; for it is our love rather than our thought that impels us to act, to put forth and make objective the true self. We are judged by our works, but our works are the offspring of our love. Hence love is the test of the kind of being we are: it is the proof that we are the disciples of Him who is God's love made a sufferer and a sacrifice.

If love is the mark of discipleship, how shall woman be excluded? If sacrifice is the law of love, its way and means, how shall she who from the beginning has been the bearer of the world's burden of sorrow be unequal to the ordeal? If love is patient, kind, gentle, lowly minded; if it bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things; if it runs, if it flies, if it is glad, if it is free, where shall it find a home if not in woman's heart? If charity is the greatest of all things, and chastity its twin-sister, where may the double crown be so fitly placed as on woman's brow? If the charity of Christ constraineth us, who shall so willingly yield to the heavenly compulsion as woman?

In truth, the Saviour is associated with woman as no man before or since has ever been associated with her. Through Him, the Virgin Mother holding the Divine Child in her arms is the most hallowed object on earth. The woman taken in adultery, and that other whose sin was known to all the city, draw near to Him, and at once we breathe an air as pure as thoughts that rise in immaculate hearts. He never appears more beautiful and godlike than when mothers crowd around Him, kneeling for blessings on their children. How tender and holy are His relations with the sisters of Bethany! Mary Magdalen is the type of that innumerable multitude of victims whom man, in his brutal passion, having outraged and degraded, spurns and casts forth into hopeless misery. And Jesus speaks but a word to her, and she is made pure and forever sacred to all noble and generous souls.

In His religion nothing great shall be accomplished unless woman put her hand to the work. To her the Angel is sent to announce His coming. She is with Him at the manger, with Him in His flight and exile, with Him in all the years of His hidden life, with Him at the marriage feast, with Him when He hangs on the cross. To a woman He first appears when He has risen from the dead. And when He is no longer visible on earth, the hearts of women follow after, seek and find Him in the unseen world, where what is pure and fair is forever so: where no shadow of change or evil can fall upon the face of love. He revealed woman to herself, revealed her to man. Until He taught, suffered, and died, the inexhaustible treasures of her great heart of pity and love were unknown even to herself.

Aristotle, the clearest and strongest intellect of the pagan world, had said: "Both a woman and a slave may be good; though perhaps of these the one is less good and the other wholly bad." In what another world we are than that of this mighty master of those who know, when we hear Him who is more than man: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath great love!" "If men were quit of women they would probably be less godless," said Cato the censor; but Our Lord, when He lifts woman to the level of His own heart, shows us that by mothers, wives, and sisters, by pure and holy women chiefly, shall godliness be kept alive among men. The highest influence is spiritual influence, and henceforth it shall be exercised by woman in a larger degree than by man; and in every age open and sincere minds shall be able to exclaim with Libanius, the pagan teacher of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom: "What women these Christians have!"

The soul is greater than a universe in which there should be no soul; and when God is worshipped in spirit and in truth -- that is with love and sacrifice -- the soul of woman clothes itself with a wealth of beauty and devotion. In the days of persecution she suffers at Rome, at Lyons, at Carthage, the worst that fiendish cruelty can invent, with a heroism and serene cheerfulness which men have never surpassed. The desert has no terrors for her if her life be hidden in God with Christ; and as wife and mother she inspires a reverence and confidence that fill the home with a joy and peace which make it a symbol of heaven. The Church itself, the bride of Christ and the mother of souls, appears to her faithful children in the semblance of a woman clothed with chastity and beauty and transfigured by love. When she comes forth from the catacombs to plant the standard of the Cross on the Capitol, and the labarum on the ruins of Jerusalem, the victory is due to St. Helen more than to Constantine. Anthusa, Nonna, and Monica gave to the Church St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Augustine. Macrina and Scholastica stand as noblest allies by the side of their brothers, St. Basil and St. Benedict, the founders and lawgivers of monasticism. At Tolbiac, Clovis invokes the God of Clotilda, and a woman led the Franks to the foot of the Cross.

Throughout the Middle Age, from Queen Blanche, the mother of St. Louis; and the Countess Mathilda, the strong helper of Gregory VII.; and St. Clare, the friend of St. Francis of Assisi, to St. Catherine of Siena, who brings the Pope back to Rome after an exile of seventy years; to Joan of Arc, who delivers France from its foreign tyrants; and to Isabella of Castile, who sends Columbus to discover the New World, what a great and beneficent role woman plays in the history of religion and civilization! Looking to Mary as their model, whether mothers, wives, or consecrated virgins, -- to Mary whom none have invoked in vain, whom none have served and not been made thereby lowly minded and chaste, -- they founded the home, converted nations, upheld empires, taught in universities, and inspired the enthusiasm which created the Christian chivalry dedicated to the honor of womanhood and to the defence of all that is helpless; springing like a fair flower from the double root of chastity and love, to sweeten the air and fill the world with high thoughts and aims.

The world, indeed, was still full of darkness and violence, as even to-day it is full of greed and lust; but the regenerative principle had been planted in innumerable hearts, and a beginning of the transformation of woman's life had been made. She has been enrolled in the brotherhood of the race; her soul is as precious, her life as sacred, her rights as inviolable as man s. As a person, her origin and destiny are the same as his; as a member of the family, founded on monogamy, her office is the highest and holiest; and the Church stands by her side to protect her against the tyranny of man's more brutal nature, by defending, with her great and mysterious power, the sanctity and indissolubility of the marriage tie.

Ideas become fruitful and productive of good only when they are embodied in institutions: and the root principles that God is our Father and all men brothers; that chastity and gentleness, reverence and obedience, patience and love, have priceless value; that woman and the child are infinitely sacred, could not have created a public opinion favorable to their acceptance and diffusion had they not been taken up into the life of the Church; had they not been proclaimed and enforced by her, and made part of her organic structure. It was not mechanical and scientific progress, not the increase of wealth and knowledge, but her influence, her ministry, her orders, her whole social fabric, that preserved the monogamic family and lifted woman to a grace and power in the world she had hitherto never known. In the face of whatever wrongs and degradations, even though found in the sanctuary itself, she proclaimed the doctrines of righteousness, asserted the majesty and supremacy of the law. Abuses never discouraged her; wrongs never diminished the ardor with which she defended the home against the passions that threatened its ruin; and in this warfare that which first of all was at stake was woman's honor and welfare.

But while she consecrates and guards the temple of domestic love, the Church maintains that a state of perfect chastity, of virginity, has, from an ideal point of view at least, yet higher and holier worth. In marriage the man and the woman are little more than the instruments whereby the race is multiplied and preserved. But human beings are primarily and essentially ends, not means; and the most precious results of a people's life, of the life of the race itself, are noble and godlike personalities. The right estimate is not by number and quantity, but by kind and quality. The continuance of the race is indispensable, but it is not less indispensable that individuals should move upward in the light of true ideals. Hence Our Lord seems to lay the chief stress of his teaching and example on the perfection of the individual soul. Failure here is utter failure, though one should gain the whole world. Hence, too, the Church concerns herself first of all with the overcoming of sin, with the creating of holiness, with salvation of souls. She appeals to those who hear the divine whisperings in the innermost parts of their being, to turn from pride and greed and sensuality, -- the vices most opposed to human perfection, to holiness, to the soul's salvation, -- and to consecrate all their life to humility, poverty, and chastity, that they may find the blessedness of the lowly minded, of the clean of heart, of those who possess nothing but have all, since they have peace and love.

We judge of a man's wisdom by his hopefulness, it has been said. Better still may we judge of it by his humility. If he be wise he says to himself: The world is too great for thee: in the universe thou art as though thou hadst no being at all. Whether thou think or strive, thou art blind and weak. Yet do thy little with a brave and cheerful spirit. This is all that is required of thee. Thou art not worthy to be the least of God's servants. Learn, then, to bear with a humble and patient heart what is or shall be given thee to bear; thankful that thou hast been able even for a moment to look to Him with devout faith and hope, and to bless His name. If he truly know himself, however much he be praised and extolled, he can never be flattered into self-complacency. Others he may please, but not himself.

This wisdom of the thoughtful is revealed to sincere and innocent souls, who when they look to God find that they can know and love Him only when, in self-forgetfulness, they deny themselves and think only of Him. They are meek and mild; and whatever they do or suffer, the spirit of lowly-mindedness precedes, accompanies, and follows them. They are peaceful, patient, faithful, and obedient. It costs them little to resign their own will that they may walk the more securely in the way of the divine counsels. As the hearts of children are drawn to a mother, as exiles yearn for home, they turn from a world they hardly know, -- not caring to know it, -- and long to fly from all the vanity and show, all the strife and turmoil, to seek in the company of kindred souls the sense of security and freedom, the quiet and the bliss that belong to those who have found the truth and follow after love; who, having overcome the pride of life, give themselves to the service of sufferers and little ones. As they seek not honors and distinctions, they are not fascinated by the glitter of gold -- the world's great idol, master, and slave. They know that the only true wealth is life: since life, ever more perfect life, is the supreme and final end of action: and that, more than almost any other passion, greed -- the love of money -- destroys in men the power to form right estimates of life and conduct; for it forces them to look away from the perfecting of their own being and the good of their fellows, to what is material and external, and therefore but incidental.

The fear of the poor is their poverty, says the book of Proverbs. This may mean that the helpless condition in which poverty places them is ever a source of anxiety and dread; but, rather, I think, that this anxiety and dread are themselves poverty; while they who possess nothing, but have faith and courage and love, are rich enough and free enough from fear. The possessions to which we cling breed cowardice; but wealth of soul is confidence and strength. He who loves is rich; for love creates its world, and fills the desert or the prison cell with a light and joy which the loveless, though they dwell in palaces, can never know. It is life's fairest flower and best fruit: and he, therefore, who gives new power of love, gives new life and raises us to higher worlds. Hardly can a rich man feel that it were well if all were as he; but the wise and good are certain that what they know and love is the best any human being can know and love; that they who make themselves worth possessing and become masters of themselves have the truest and most gracious possessions.

What doth it avail a fool to have riches, asks Solomon, seeing that he cannot buy wisdom? Ruskin rightly says that all vices are summed up, and all their forces consummated, in the simple acceptance of the authority of gold instead of the authority of God, and in the preference of gain or increase of gold to godliness or the peace of God. Again: "Occult theft -- theft which hides itself even from itself, and is legal, respectable, and cowardly -- corrupts the body and soul of man to the last fibre of them." Of what evils is not greed the fountain-head? It darkens the mind, dulls the wits, hardens the heart, warps the conscience, and perverts the understanding. It breeds hate, dissension, injustice, and oppression; makes thieves, liars, usurers, cowards, perjurers, adulterators of food and drink, and anti-social criminals of every kind. It stirs up wars of conquest, robs whole nations, and stares in stolid indifference while its victims starve by the million. It is more insatiable than lust and more cruel than revenge. It considers faith, honor, and truth, purity and innocence, patriotism and religion, as wares to be bought and sold. It is in sum atheism, which, turning from God and the soul, drives its votaries, in a kind of brutish madness, to strive to clutch the universe of matter; deluding them with the superstition that the more they grasp and call their own the greater they become. Their personality seems to grow as the circle of their possessions enlarges, as though a man's money could be himself.

Greed, in drying up the fountains of noble life within, reduces its slaves to a kind of machine whose one office is to get gold. It degrades all their impulses and passions. They are not ambitious of glory or fame or honor or of any noble kind of influence or power, but all their ambition falls upon matter. Their sole desire, their one thought is to amass wealth. They are not jealous of those who excel them in moral or intellectual qualities, who have more faith or genius or virtue than they, but of those alone who have greater possessions. They are decadent, they are degenerate; but the world is so prone to this superstition that public opinion measures by commercial standards not only the worth and importance of individuals but the strength and civilization of nations. The ideal is the ever-increasing production and distribution of what ministers to man's physical needs -- everything for the body, nothing for tain of peace and bliss. Not by intellectual processes can He be discovered, but by leading a life which none but the modest and mild, the lowly minded and pure hearted, can live. If we would have the higher, we must renounce the lower. Heroic abnegations are required of those who would enter on the perfect way. It is not enough that they be humble and obedient and free from greed: they must also be wholly chaste.

There is something more worthy of the soul than the pursuit of wealth; and there is a higher calling than marriage, holy though it be. As there is in man an immoderate desire for riches, there is also in him an insatiate craving for pleasure. Mountains of gold could not satisfy his greed, and a world filled with things that minister to the senses could not hush the clamor of his appetites. The more ample and varied his possessions become, the stronger and more uncontrollable grows his longing for enjoyment. He tunnels the mountains, he spans the oceans; he flies on vaporous wings; he harnesses the lightning to carry him and his words to the ends of the earth; he takes possession of the products of every zone and of every kind of skill. All things become for him the materials for the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life. And still he hungers and thirsts for new sensations. He becomes the slave and victim of low desire. The passions, which are meant for life and joy, are perverted to the service of misery and death. Their reek rises to darken the mind, to harden the heart, and to paralyze the will. Love is driven from its celestial home and cast into the soil and mire of the animal nature. The soul is bowed beneath the weight of the body and compelled to do its ignoble behests. The stress of life is transferred from reason and conscience to the senses. The voluptuary exults not in great thoughts and high purposes, but crawls crippled and bedraggled through the sloughs of animalism; and when he has sunk to the depths he becomes a contemner.

He who loves not God, loves but himself; and the self without God is but a thing of flesh and blood, of sensation and passion. Virtue is love rightly ordered, and disorderly love is the mother of all depravity. In nothing is this seen in such lurid light as in the perversion of the instinct which, intended for the propagation of the race, is debased to a means of moral and physical degradation and death. More than war and pest and famine and drunkenness, this abject vice dishonors, blights, and poisons the flower and fruit of human life. It murders love and makes hope a mockery and a curse. It defiles with its polluting touch the brow of childhood, the cheek of youth, the lips of maidenhood. It hangs like a mildew on the soul, rendering it incapable of faith or honor or truth, of pure devotion to any worthy cause or being. Like the serpent's in paradise, its foul breath makes a waste in homes where all was joy and innocence. It is the accomplice of shame and disease, and injects into the blood of families and nations a mortal taint. It is the enemy of genius, of art, of freedom, of progress, of religion; and above all of woman, who has been and still is its victim and symbol of dishonor. In a thousand cities to-day, as in ancient times, this abject vice has its temples innumerable, in which woman is the priestess.

O blessed be Christ, the virgin Son of a virgin Mother, who has taught us that chastity is the mother of all virtue, the bride of faith, hope, and love; the sister of beauty, strength, and goodness; the companion of meekness and peace! And blessed be the Church, who has never in any age or any land lowered the banner on which is inscribed, Humility, Poverty, Chastity, conquering through Love!

I think of her most gladly, not when I recall her great history, her permanence in the world, the invincible courage with which she has withstood oppressors, heresiarchs, and mobs clamoring for blood; the indefectible vigor with which she overcomes and survives her foes, whether they be from within or from without; the solemn splendor of her rites and ceremonies; the majestic cathedrals that lift the cross above the noise and tumult of cities into the pure air of heaven; the monastic piles with which she has crowned a thousand hills, with the music of whose bells and sacred chants she has filled and consecrated a thousand vales, -- not when I remember all this does my heart thrill with the deepest emotion; but when I turn my thoughts to that innumerable army of virgins, angels of innocence and purity, who in every age and in many lands lead the life of solitude and contemplation, of simplicity and benignity; who, though clothed in austere garb, bear brave and cheerful hearts, aglow with love, while they minister to the sick, the abandoned, the fallen, whether crushed by the weight of sin or that of solitary age and poverty; who nourish and form the religious spirit in childhood, making it reverent, devout, and chaste; who offer ceaseless prayers to Heaven and give to the world the highest examples of what Christ would have his followers become; working without a thought of what men may say of them, telling their good deeds not even to God.

To repeat what elsewhere I have said of this army of Catholic virgins, they are but the living forms of patience and service, of humility and love. What matter where their cradles stood, amid what scenes they grew, what arms held them, or what lips kissed their infant brows? They came from God, they ministered to human suffering and sorrow, they returned to God. This is the sum of their life's story; this is all they cared to know of themselves; this is all we need know of them. But though they would hide themselves, the divine beauty and power of their lives cannot be hidden. They are permanently interesting, as whoever makes the supreme act of perfect self-sacrifice is interesting. To the thoughtless and the frivolous such an existence may seem dull and monotonous, as a superficial view leads us to think that to live is to change. But when we look deeper we find that life is a continuous triumph over that which changes. As in God it is immutable, so in man it tends to a state of permanence by identifying itself more and more with truth, goodness, and beauty, which are forever the same. To live in the highest sense is to find and recognize oneself in all things, remaining constant in the midst of a transitory and evanescent world. The realm of consciousness for these consecrated virgins is not narrow: their love and sympathy are wide as the heart of Christ.

As we find ourselves in giving ourselves to wife and children, to God and country, to truth and honor, so they in abandoning all find a nobler and a sweeter life. They are the representatives of the highest devotion, the purest love, and the most beneficent sympathies of the human heart. They are the heroines of the service of humanity; the priestesses who keep aglow the fire of the divine charity which Christ came to kindle in the world. In their youth they drank at the fountain which quenches thirst forever; in their springtime bloom they saw through the veil that hides or blurs the image of the Eternal, and ever after they walk waiting for God. Since religion in its deepest sense is a life more than a doctrine, our sisterhoods are an argument for the truth of the Catholic faith, whose force seems to render all our controversies, apologies, and schemes of edification more or less idle. These silent armies, moving in obedience to the whisperings of the unseen Master, make us invincible. So long as, generation after generation, tens of thousands of the purest, gentlest souls find that the love of Christ constrains them, Christ lives and rules. This is the marvellous thing that has impressed some of the greatest minds. Heroes and orators grow to be themes for declamation, but the purest and the best follow close to Christ, and devote themselves to Him with a personal sense of love as strong as that of a mother for her child.

They who know our sisterhoods most thoroughly, best know that this is simple truth. Their lives bear witness to the divinity and power of the Saviour with a force and eloquence to which mere words cannot attain. In the midst of weakness they are strong; in the midst of trouble they are calm; in the presence of death they are joyful. They are rich enough though poor; happy enough though beset by trials. In solitude, they are full of peace; far from the world, their pure thoughts keep them company; forgotten of men, they are at home with God. There is about them the serene air of immortal things. They have the assurance that it is well with them whatever may lie beyond. The bonds which love weaves around us are not chains, but freedom's livery. The most generous are the happiest; and the most fortunate are not those who receive or gain the greatest possessions, but those who with a loving heart make the greatest sacrifices. They are not confused or dominated by the problems and doubts of their time, but rise from out the riddles of existence into serene worlds where duty is plain. Passing by the unfathomable mysteries of human life, they do their work with hearts as glad as that of a child singing in its father's house.

In countless homes into which an unclean spirit could not enter and live, the mothers have received their exalted faith in the priceless worth of purity from the lips and hearts of nuns. In thousands of parishes the light of Catholic truth and love shines from the convent with a more pervasive and unremitting glow than from the pulpit; and as a gentleman is best known by his behavior to women, so a true priest is discovered by the reverence and consideration he shows to nuns. Bigotry itself, narrow and obdurate, ready almost to hate the good it is forced to recognize in those whose creed it abhors, cannot long withstand the test of contact with these simple, gentle, and true-hearted women. How infinitely poorer, coarser, more frivolous, and sensual life would be were it not for them!

Oh, the wealth of love in a woman's heart! -- the wife's unconquerable truth and loyalty, the mother's tenderness and affection; the bloom and warmth, the freshness and fragrance of a virgin's soul when the mystic voice first awakens it to conscious life! Oh, the countless oratories where hearts are bowed in the silent service of a boundless devotion, giving all and asking nothing; knowing only that God is, and that He is love! From the thousand books wherein I read that we can know nothing of the infinite mystery, that all is dark and cold and meaningless; that faith deceives, that hope deludes, that love betrays, that religion is but a dream of unhappy creatures who awake from the bosom of the infinite unconscious, and live only long enough to know their misery -- from all this bleak and wintry waste, full of darkness and death, I turn to the pure hearts of women who love, and again the light plays around me. I drink the balmy air; the birds sing, the waters leap for joy, the mountains lift their heads; and I am in God's world and am His child.

When glancing athwart many a sad and gloomy page of history, I read of schism and heresy, of hate and cruelty; of bitter controversies that never end; of pride and ambition, of greed and lust -- I think of the hosts of holy women who have followed the Church, like the chosen few who followed Christ on the narrow blood-stained way that led to Calvary; who watch and wait, who serve and are helpful, who work and are silent; and I am certain that the cause which century after century thus constrains thousands of the purest and gentlest hearts to sacrifice their lives to the highest and most unselfish ends, is the cause of God, the cause for which Christ suffered and died.

Something of all this, my dear Ladies and Sisters of the Sacred Heart, may be deemed appropriate as part of the celebration of the centenary of the foundation of your society, which sprang from the heart of Jesus, the open and exhaustless fountain of the pure love of God and man. As life is a continuous victory over its changing environments, it is natural that the soul should seek to fix what is fleeting in its existence by holding steadfastly to the times and places that are most sacred. Thus in memory we are glad to gather about the homes of our childhood, while the fields and the hills, the clouds and the stars, the birds and the domestic animals, even, return to help to complete the scene, from the midst of which those about whom our earliest and purest affections centred, look forth upon us again with a love that seems eternal. The seasons come and depart, the flowers bloom and fade, the young grow old and the old pass away, but the soul is an abiding principle of life and love, which, though the visible universe should vanish utterly, would still find itself at home with the Eternal, with God. The stronger the individual, the more permanent the family, the more vital and persistent the religion, the greater is the power to inspire memories that last. Saints and heroes are the hinges on which the opening and shutting doors of history turn. When the family is abiding, as with the Israelites, the whole people look back from generation to generation, to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and to the God of their fathers.

The Church, a religion of historic continuity, a religion which returns even to the beginning, to the promise of the Messiah, and comes down through the ages with the chosen people, through captivity and dispersion and seeming destruction, until the Desired of the nations is born, -- what a weight of memories she bears! what dates and shrines, what saints and heroes are hers! She fills the days and the years with solemn festivals in commemoration of the Saviour and of those who have loved Him with a perfect love. At His birth what glad songs break forth from a chill and ice-bound earth; what merry laughter of children, what happy hearts are gathered around blazing hearths, full of pleasant and cheering thoughts, because Christ is born! And when He enters on His passion and agony, and bows His head consenting to death, though the sunshine be golden, the air balmy, and all nature fair and fragrant, again darkness falls upon the world and a stone is rolled upon the human heart. But when He rises, we too laugh with the flowers and sing with the birds; serene as the azure skies, we feel the thrill of immortal joy; a new spirit within telling us that once having risen to the life of the soul, we can never wholly die.

As in devout reverence the Church follows with sacred and solemn ritual her Divine Lord from the announcement of His birth even to His ascension into heaven, so she keeps vigil and festival with His saints -- apostles, confessors, martyrs, virgins. And among them she loves to place the founders of religious orders and societies. It is, then, in a right Catholic spirit that to-day in many lands the daughters of the brave, humble, loving, and faithful woman who established the Society of the Sacred Heart a hundred years ago are gathered, that the memory of her and her work may inspire in them a purer love of the Divine Master and a more unconquerable purpose to labor even unto death in the cause for which He lived and died. She has not as yet been placed in the calendar of the canonized, but who can doubt that she is a saint and a mother of saints?

At the time when the Revolution had devastated the Church in France, had desecrated her sacred edifices, had made martyrs or exiles of her priests and religious, had enthroned on the high altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame a shameless woman as the symbol of a bestial worship; when millions believed that infidelity had finally triumphed, and that the religion of Christ was to be blotted from the earth, a country girl, Sophia Madeleine Barat, the daughter of an artisan in Burgundy, the land of St. Bernard and of Bossuet, finding her soul all aflame with divine love, was led, under the guidance of a holy priest, to establish the Society of the Sacred Heart. She had been educated by her brother, a priest also, who had given her a thorough religious training and a good knowledge of the classics. She was only twenty-one years old, of delicate bodily frame, but strong in mind, firm of purpose, and capable of boundless devotion. She had the qualities of the true Frenchwoman -- common-sense, tact, knowledge of the management of men and affairs, quick wit, self-forgetfulness, industry, economy, cheerfulness, and courage. Above all she had a reverent, devout, and ardent soul that felt that God is love, that Christ is divine love made human, and that in comparison with this love all other things are light as air and trivial as dust.

Religious asceticism -- heroic humility, voluntary poverty and perfect chastity -- is for the sake of love, as military asceticism is for the sake of glory, and monetary asceticism for the sake of pelf. As the warrior and the miser find self-denial easy, much more are they who greatly love able to abstain and renounce. "A wise man needs but little," Madam Barat was wont to say, "and a saint still less." And all that she seemed to feel the need of was to love the Lord, and in lowliness of spirit and entire disinterestedness to follow after Him in the service of the little ones, of whom He said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven."

But why should I utter the praises of her who, with the instinct of good sense and great virtue, turned resolutely from whatever ministers to vanity? To be praised for love and love's work seems little less than profanation; and when we are wholly in earnest, words of flattery are as disagreeable as the buzzing of insects. In the presence of heroic souls vain speech is doubly vain; and we best show our reverence for the noble dead, not by eulogy, but by acting in their spirit and by faithfully striving to continue the work they began. If your venerable foundress could in bodily presence be here to-day to rejoice with us in all that God has wrought through the handmaidens of the Sacred Heart, she would crave, not laudatory utterance, but elevation of soul, thoughts that breathe faith and hope, courage and love. She would ask us to dwell on the marvellous beneficent work of the society during the first century of its existence, only that we might thence derive greater confidence in God, more devout love for the Divine Saviour, and more complete consecration of our lives to the cause for which He lived and died. For as much love as there is in us, so much religion, so much power; and as much self-seeking, so much limitation. The only true prosperity is prosperity of soul; and material progress, unless it be sustained by religious and moral progress, ends in decadence and ruin. If all is well within, circumstances are never intolerable; but if inner wholeness be lacking, we are wretched though we be clothed with the pomp and majesty of kings.

What a gracious inspiration was that of Madam Barat, who, when she was drawn to found a society whose chief work should be education, felt that first of all it was necessary that she should baptize herself and her companions in the fountain-head of divine Love? For love alone can educate. The love of what is higher than ourselves; the love that bears us upward on the wings of hope and aspiration, of imagination and desire, toward perfect truth, beauty, and goodness, as they are found in God, is the power that creates the greatest and the noblest men and women, whether they be saints, sages, heroes, or supreme poets. It is because her love is the purest and most abiding that the mother is the greatest of all teachers; and it is because the Church has a mother's heart, which the worldlings and politicians who at times seem to control her have never been able to chill, that she is the great school of saints.

Education is largely persuasion, and they persuade best who make themselves best loved; and the best loved are the most loving. When there is question of moral and religious truth, -- above all, of wisdom and goodness, -- the surest appeal is through the heart to the mind. But the heart can be touched only by those who have a heart. If we would lead men to love God, we ourselves must love them and Him. Education, when given by the vain and conceited, but inspires a more insidious kind of self-love; whereas its true end is to make us understand and feel that it is only when we lose sight of ourselves in the pursuit of what is greater than we, of what is eternally right and fair, that we enter on the way that leads to a high and blessed life. "The entire object of education is to make people not merely do the right things, but enjoy the right things; not merely industrious but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love knowledge; not merely pure, but to love purity; not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice."

Madam Barat used to say to her mistresses that to become a stream one must first be a fountain-head. We can give but what we have; and, in the deepest sense, we can teach but what we love. Is it credible that they who work for money should do more perfect work and be made thereby more perfect than they who work for truth and love? The ideal which our striving and yearning have made living within us stamps itself on the minds and hearts of those whom we influence. The life we lead, vastly more than the words we speak, makes us centres of light and force. Wherever there is a deeply religious spirit, there is a sanctuary; wherever there is a high and luminous soul, there is a school. Of the living the living are born -- like of like.

The world in which woman's being may unfold itself is widening and deepening. For her, too, henceforth the career is open to make use of talent. She may do whatever high or fair or useful thing she can make herself able to do. She, like man, has the right to gain a livelihood, and the nobler right to live in ever-broadening spheres of religious, moral, and intellectual sympathy and influence. In her education, therefore, there should be no lack of thoroughness, no showy superficiality, no excessive attention to mere accomplishments. She must be led into deep and serious subjects; her heart and imagination must be kept in a pure and lofty element of thought. Whatever expresses the highest moods and states to which the human spirit may attain, whether it be religion or patriotism or art or literature, has inestimable worth for her, since it is a sign and symbol of her kinship with the world of invisible and real things -- of her kinship with God. The decisive consideration for her also is not what knowledge is most entertaining or useful, but what knowledge is best adapted to form the mind and to confirm character.

She must become accustomed from her childhood to plain food and simple ways, that she may never lose the power to take delight in innocent amusements and pure pleasures. Let her love beauty, and strive to make herself and the world beautiful; but let her understand that a hard and proud heart, a vacant and vulgar mind, not a plain face, is ugly; and that a countenance over which innocence, cheerfulness, and intelligence are diffused is necessarily fair. Vanity and selfishness, greed and sensuality, envy and pride, spite and cowardice, spoil all loveliness and mar all life. Nothing horrible or dreadful can happen to us except through our own fault and folly; and the greatest misery is the consciousness of our own sin. Virtue alone brings sure and abiding joy. It is praiseworthy, and without it nothing is so. Behavior, rather than knowledge, is the end of education. Hence its foundation is moral, and therefore religious; and where in the modern world we are intent on sharpening the wits without first laying this moral and religious foundation, the inevitable result must be the blighting of the noblest flower and fruit of human life.

Education, indeed, can but unfold the being we have received. It cannot make a poet of a mathematician, a great mind of a small one. But it should not be our concern to become great men or great women, it being our business to make of ourselves genuine men and genuine women; and right education, aided by each one's industry and good-will, can effect this for all. Let no woman believe there is aught of good in weakness. There is no joy but in strength -- strength of body, strength of mind, strength of heart, strength of soul. "To be weak is to be miserable." Faith is strength, virtue is strength, wisdom is strength, love is strength, health is strength. What a happy thing it is that the higher education of women tends to make them physically even superior to their sisters who are content with idleness and ignorance! To live in the mind, to walk in the light of high ideals, to cherish a noble purpose, to strive in a worthy cause, gives freshness and vigor to the body, even, whereas it is weakened and wasted by a frivolous, aimless, self-indulgent kind of existence.

It was Madam Barat's desire to form valiant women -- women, able to do and suffer, to counsel and rule. She believed that women, when their souls bathe in the fountains of divine love, may have the spirit and fortitude of men. Nay, at times she was tempted to think that the men of her day had become weaklings, and that God was calling women to do the work which requires heroic hearts and boundless devotion. It gives her delight when she finds her nuns filled with courage and energy; when their reliance on God banishes all disquietude, even in the midst of revolution and pestilence. "How seldom," she exclaims, "are valiant women to be found! The Bible says they are more precious than pearls and diamonds; and what praise it goes on to bestow upon them! Let us, then, labor with all our might to train such women, at whatever cost to ourselves. They in turn will train others, and the good work will proceed; for in this century we cannot rely upon men for the preservation of the faith. It is to the weaker sex that this task is entrusted. O Altitudo! How God's thoughts differ from our thoughts! But He is Almighty."

Her first aim was holiness through the love of the Lord; and after this it was her most ardent desire to form valiant women, who, clothed with chastity and comeliness, filled with faith and zeal, should bend all the energies of cultivated minds and generous hearts, in whatever sphere of life they might be thrown, to the apostolic work of the salvation of souls. And in doing this she seems to have had a special gift, and to have succeeded beyond all others who have founded religious communities in our century. This at least is the testimony which Americans who are acquainted with what the Ladies of the Sacred Heart have accomplished in our own land can hardly refuse to bear. What noble, gracious, loving, and helpful women, whether they labor within convent walls or in wider spheres of action, have been educated in their schools! In a hundred cities, in a thousand homes, they are centres whence radiate purity and love, sweetness and light. They are strong and gentle, they are patient and mild, they are wise and helpful. They rule not alone in the house, but in the hearts and minds of fathers, husbands, and sons, who, when experience has taught them how sordid, hard, and narrow so many of their fellows are, think of these noble and gracious women, and are certain that in human nature there is a godlike power of truth, goodness, and beauty.

How shall I permit this occasion to pass without turning my thought to Madam Hardey, one of the first pupils of the Sacred Heart in America and the foundress of many homes of religion and learning, whom it was my good fortune to know and to honor and reverence almost above all other women! Had Madam Barat done nothing for America but to train her and give her opportunity for the exercise of her great talents, she would have made us forever her debtors. What a fund of good sense, what a balance of judgment, what a sentiment of justice, what endurance of labor and trial, what power of love and helpfulness, what a strong and serene spirit there was in her! She had the gift to make authority lovable; and where she ruled, the wise and virtuous wished that she might never cease to rule. She was born to govern, and in obeying her all felt that they were hearkening to the voice of reason and doing the will of God. How wholly unselfish, how free from vanity, how incapable of deceit she was! How tolerant, how large of mind and heart, how able and ready to sympathize with all who have good-will!

Though loved with a tender devotion which few have known, and followed with a confidence that never questions aught, though honored and consulted by the rich and fashionable, not less than by priests and bishops, Madam Hardey retained always the perfect simplicity of speech and action which belongs only to the most innocent or the greatest souls. She knew how to adapt herself to every situation and to the most various dispositions. No one left her presence without having been made braver and better. To know her was to understand the supreme worth of character when it is moulded by religious faith and love. She was as ready to sweep a room as to plan the foundation of a great convent, and whatever she did appeared to be the right thing to do. Occupied for nearly the whole of her life with financial affairs and the government of the houses she had established, she kept the fervor of her early piety and a novice s scrupulous fidelity in the observance of the rule. One felt that her wisdom and strength came from within, -- from a soul that dwelled in habitual loving communion with God. Apart from Him she understood that no good could possibly come to her, and that as He was the end so was He the principle of her being.

At the age of sixteen, in the flower of health and beauty, she had seen the vanity of all that comes to end, and had turned with resolute will from her happy home and the promises of the world, to give her whole heart to the service of the Blessed Saviour; and for sixty years, even unto death, she followed after Him with a courage that never failed and a love that never grew cold. Her body lies in France, but her spirit is here, -- a living force to cheer and strengthen, to uplift and guide. Her life and example have become a permanent possession, and we can never think meanly of ourselves while we remember that she was our sister and mother.

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