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Most arduous of all the forms of that brotherly love which is essential to the spiritual well-being of Christians generally, and of priests in particular, is the forgiving of injuries, the manifestation of good-will and kindness towards those who have done us harm, who have been, or perhaps actually are, our secret or avowed enemies. Herein, as in no other circumstances, is evidenced the truth of that testing text, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." The express command, “Love your enemies,” bids human nature overcome its innermost self, and might well be considered impossible of execution did it not emanate from Him who prayed for His crucifiers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Now, while self-deceit, even among the ministers of the altar, is as easy as breathing, as common as air, it must be well-nigh impracticable for a priest of God to delude himself as to the absolute necessity of his obeying the precept: “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.' There is no possible evading the patent sense and import of this declaration of the Holy Ghost: “If therefore thou offerest thy gift at the altar, and there shalt remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and first go to be reconciled to thy brother; and then come and offer thy gift." The very wording of the text clothes it with peculiar appositeness to the men who ascend the altar every morning; and hence they, above and beyond all other imitators
of Christ, are inexcusable if they fail to observe the precept.
Delusion as to the meaning and intent of the law is, as has been said, practically impossible in the case of priests; but delusion as to one's fulfillment of the law is not only altogether possible but altogether common among Christians in the world, and is not sufficiently rare even among the servants of the sanctuary. The assertion, “Oh, yes; I forgive him; I don't wish him any evil,” is entirely in place on the lips of a priest, and no doubt sounds well; but if the speaker nevertheless preserves in his inmost heart an unconquered feeling of resentment or hatred, an imperfectly repressed desire for revenge, an unmistakable disposition to rejoice over the humiliation or downfall of his enemy, no protestation of forgiveness, be it ever so emphatic, will alter the fact that he is really obeying, not the law of Christ, “Love your enemies,” but the preChristian lex talionis, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
To declare, as some clerics have been known to do, that they forgive those who have injured them but can never forget the injuries, is often to falsify their own statements. True, the law of fraternal charity does not prescribe the forgetting of injuries, their absolute erasure from the tablets of the memory, and such forgetting may indeed be quite beyond one's power to effect, in which case there is clearly no violation of charity; but the emphasized declaration that we will never forget what our enemies have done to us may easily enough mean that our asserted forgiveness is merely a shallow pretense. "Let us love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth."
As a fitting conclusion to a discussion of the brotherly love that should characterize all clerics, let a brief word be said in behalf of those priests who have most need of charity's tender and beneficent offices, those who have been overtaken by misfortunes from which nothing but God's mercy has preserved many of ourselves, those who have fallen by the wayside. St. Vincent de Paul tells us our duty in their regard: “Let us endeavor to show ourselves full of compassion towards the faulty and the sinful. If we do not show compassion and charity to these, we do not deserve to have God show it towards us." The author will perhaps be pardoned for supplementing St. Vincent's counsel with some cognate advice written in his younger days in sonnet form and published under the title, "Judge Not:
Be not alert to sound the cry of shame
Shouldst thou behold a brother falling low:
His battle's ebb thou seest, but its flow-
His prowess long sustained, his yielding slow
Till this thou knowest, as thou canst not know,
"Judge not," hath said the Sovereign Judge of all,
Whose eye alone not purblind is nor dim,-
Hadst thou received from those who vanquished him:
RUBRICAL ODDS AND ENDS
QUERIES AT A CONFERENCE
Trifles make perfection, but perfection itself is no trifle.Michael Angelo.
He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater.—Luke: xvi, 10.
According to a prevalent sentiment, we should do away with the distinction between the preceptive rubrics (those which bind under pain of sin, mortal or venial according to the matter) and directivo rubrics (those which are not binding in themselves, but state what is to be done in the form of an instruction or counsel). -F. Cabrol, 0. 8. B., in Cathi Encycl.
THE last quarterly ecclesiastical conference for
the Egbert diocese had been looked forward to with unwonted interest by pastors and curates, and in consequence there was a full attendance of clerics when the session opened in the Parish Hall of the presiding Dean, Father Patterson. The preliminary formalities having been gone through with, the Dean made a statement sufficiently explanatory of both the unusual interest and the lack of absentees. "It will be within the easy recollection of all of you, reverend fathers,” he said, “that at our September conference we decided to make this present session something of a novelty in the way of these clerical meetings. It was determined that, instead of having several papers read and discussed, we should resolve ourselves into what may be termed a rubrical quiz-class. We all know that the average reader of our excellent Sacerdotal
Monthly is especially interested in its editor's answers to the various queries propounded by his numerous correspondents as to the correct practice in some one or other of our multifarious rites and ceremonies; and the suggestion that at least one of our quarterly conferences might laudably be devoted to a similar purpose was, as you remember, greeted with applause and unanimously adopted.
“As for our manner of procedure at this, the first session of the kind, I think our best plan will be for each member of the conference to put such questions as he has in mind or as may be suggested by cognate queries propounded by others, without any special regard to formal sequence or coördination. Fathers Downey, Doyle, and Harris, who were appointed in September to serve as a Bureau of Information to-day, are no doubt ready to solve any rubrical problems submitted to them; and I, for one, expect to receive some interesting information from their answers to our various queries. So much being said by way of preamble, I now declare the conference open for business. Fr. Ferguson. Just to start the ball rolling, I
should like to ask something about the correct practice in genuflecting when one is giving Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I don't know whether any other member of the conference remarked the variations on that point exemplified during our last annual retreat, but I can vouch for it that no two of the four priests who gave Benediction during that week observed exactly the same ceremonies. To begin