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The Jacobin Clubs of the French Revolution, covering as they did the entire kingdom, created among the masses, among the needy and turbulent working city classes especially, a murderous public opinion directed against religion, against the Church, the clergy, the religious orders, and all ecclesiastical institutions.
This public opinion, systematically fostered, kept up a Satanic hatred of the very name of priest, and of everything connected with his profession. Side by side with this monstrous hatred a contempt of religion was fostered, which was as effective as the homicidal hatred itself.
As I read the discourses pronounced in the States General of 1789, in the Constituent Legislative Assemblies, and in the National Convention, I find that the foremost orators give continual vent to both of these sentiments. They give their coloring to the legislative decrees, the official reports, the language of the clubs, the editorials in the press, the countless, clever, and inflammatory pamphlets with which the country was deluged. These same pamphlets, more perhaps than anything else, continually excited the people to contempt and hatred of religion, and then to the murder of all religious persons.
The assassins in the pay of Danton, who broke into the prisons of Paris and slaughtered indiscriminately men and women, had but two words by which they addressed their victims-scélérat (villain), misérable (wretch). Not a bishop fell, unresisting, beneath the hand of the executioner, or the stroke of the assassin, but was apostrophised in this way.
The cargoes of priests who were sent across the ocean to perish miserably on the voyage, or to suffer and die obscurely in the swamps of Guyana, were all spoken of as if they were the deepestdyed criminals, the vilest among the vile. And this language is persistently applied to them by the men in power, by legislators and officials, down to the time of the First Consulate.
This same policy and practice is skilfully pursued in France at the present time. One needs only to be present in the French Chambers during any discussion where the interest of the laboring classes, the question of education, the maintenance of the Budget of Public Worship, or the exemption of clerics from military service are concerned, to be convinced, by the insulting and outrageous language of the radical majority that they despise religion and the priesthood with a heartiness which only equals the fierce and ferocious hatred expressed against the Church, her ministers, and institutions.
The whole civilized world is thoroughly informed about the success and completeness with which the party in power in France is carrying out the programme of the Masonic Lodges in de-Christianizing France and laïcising (as they term it) school and hospital, almshouse and prison, the army and the navy.
The religious orders of men and women—even those devoted to the care of the orphan, the aged, and the sick—are pitilessly proscribed, and must disappear. Few, indeed, of them are left in the institutions where they so long ministered, like angels of light and mercy, to the deepest needs of our poor stricken humanity.
But the Masonic press must needs cover these men and women, the honor of France and the glory of their kind, with infamy before they drive them forth from their homes.
Several instances of this kind of wholesale moral assassination have quite recently occurred. The most monstrous vices are imputed to the members of these devoted communities. The entire infidel press has repeated the foul assertion again and again before any refutation can reach the public. And even when this refutation, peremptory and triumphant, appears, who but Catholics will read it in the columns of the Catholic journals ?
It is the purpose of the slanderers that the lie should start on its rounds far ahead of the refutation. They know that the lie will take root and flourish and bear fruit among the classes from which truth is as carefully excluded as the light of day is from the caves of Kentucky.
It would seem a hopelessly unequal battle. But French Catholics do not lose heart, or despair of their Church or their country.
It was the most splendid achievement of the anti-Christian conspirators to weaken, humiliate, dismember, and isolate France. There is no longer any Congress of Christian powers in which
claim the first seat as the most Christian nation. They have humbled her in the dust. And now it is sought to extinguish in her bosom the last spark of that Christian faith which sent St. Louis to Palestine and Samuel de Champlain to Quebec.
They will not succeed. The insane effort to build up a new nation, or to restore a fallen one, by giving it atheism as a cornerstone or a crowning, is as futile as to think that the Eiffel Tower, when completed, will be as splendid a triumph of the builder's art as Notre Dame, or St. Peter's in Rome, or the Cathedral of Cologne.
ANGELS AND MINISTERS OF GRACE.
UR mortal eyes are held in that, through their agency, we
have but small knowledge of a yet smaller portion of the creation. "Who," asks the inspired writer, " is able to declare His works?" And because our vision is so held, except we are blessed with the faith which is "the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things which appear not,” we gradually lose the remembrance of, or belief in, the existence of things not seen. So in the rush and turmoil of this, our nineteenth century, we are carried upon its flood with such an impetus that it is impossible to give our souls pause, or to cast a retrospective glance at the period when time was not—nor aught else, save God.
The era of the Creation looms up but dimly from out the mists of the ages, and the days when Adam walked in Paradise seem so lost in the perspective, that many of his sons, impatient of the mental strain required to trace yesterday into yesterday through yesterdays innumerable, have taken refuge in a total denial of the yesterday sought:
“In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved over the waters."
Until then, since an eternity, so incomprehensible that in the endeavor to realize it the first of Creation's mornings presses so closely upon our own little day as to seem a part of it, the perfections of the Godhead had been revealed to no created sense. Reflected in that vast crystal sea which St. John saw spread before the Throne, the beauty and the grandeur of the adorable Trinity had sufficed unto itself.
That boundless Love, ever springing from the Nature of the Father, found no created being to revel in the beauty of it; to thank Him for the boon of it; no responsive spirit to bow in adoration.
But “God said, 'Be Light made,' and Light was made, and God saw the Light that it was good!"
He spoke, and lo! the refulgence of thrice three thousand suns could not make up the sum of that material light's intensity. Whence was it? Did it emanate from the Face of the Triune God? Or was it a radiance from the wings of those ethereal beings to whom that Word, gifted with twofold power over the material and the intellectual, was the Word of Life ?
Endowed with a wisdom and a knowledge of which the finite mind of man cannot conceive, the Angels understood the scheme of the Creation, and that it included a being gifted with an intelligence only a little lower than their own, whose place in heaven should be nearer the Throne than theirs, won by the sacrifice of God to God; that this Sacrifice was to be the outcome of the Creator's love for this creature, all ungrateful and disobedient though he be. Their jealousy at this choice of a nature wanting in so many of their own high gifts, and, therefore, so immeasurably beneath the Godhead, and their astonishment at this revelation, fructified into insurrection. One-third of their number, led by him who, even amid that refulgent throng, shone as the Star of the Morning, fell into rebellion against the Will they had so lately worshipped.
And for their sin there was no mercy; awful beyond the power of words was their instantaneous punishment.
For an account of the fall of the Angels, which, according to theologians, took place before the creation of man, and about the first day of the six devoted by the Creator to His work, we must go to the last book of the Scriptures—the Apocalypse. By a retrospective revelation St. John was allowed to witness this engagement, short, sharp, and decisive.
“And there was a great battle in Heaven; Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and they prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, the old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast forth into the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
Let us rise on the wings of Faith, guided by the Word of God, to the Footstool of the Throne. Here, nearest to Jehovah, stand the Seven; St. John saw in His hand the seven stars, which “are the angels of the seven churches," and that each angel held a trumpet. Very beautiful is the vision which the Scriptures permit of these :
First of the mystic group is the princely Michael ; he whom we saw but now flushed with victory. This radiant figure stands forth distinct and glorious, even in the white splendor which surrounds his God.
Gabriel, the gentle angel of the Annunciation, the Trumpeter of the Judgment Day, is particularly dear to us, as it was through him came the glad tidings of redemption.
Raphael, he whose nature responds to the heart-throbs of hu
manity, to whom he brings most tender comforting, is the prince of guardians.
Uriel is mentioned in the Fourth Book of Esdras, “ The angel who was sent to me, whose name was Uriel.” 1
The nine choirs form the next division, but the sacred text does not give the order of their service.
Although the sacred writings do not tell us of any special ministry of the angels while our first parents were untempted, the sense of Scripture is that Lucifer, the fallen Archangel, spoke by the Serpent's crafty tongue. Then came the act of disobedience, and the man and woman were driven from their earthly Eden while Cherubim and a flaming sword turning every way kept the gates.
Hagar, fleeing from Sarah's anger, is met by an angel and sent back, and the future greatness of her unborn son is told her. Afterwards, the innocent victim of a jealous woman's anger, she is turned into the wilderness with her child. Her small stock of provisions soon fails, and where in all that stretch of sand will she find water? She puts the child down, and, going a distance, covers her face and wails out her plaint to God. The heaven opens and an angel speaks. A fountain has sprung up at His bidding, and the outlawed boy is saved.
The three men whom Abraham entertained in his tent, and at whose prophesy Sarah laughed, were angels. An angel prevented the sacrifice of Isaac; because of Lot's hospitality to two angels he and his escape the destruction of Sodom. Jacob has the vision of the ladder upon which angels are ascending and descending. Again, angels meet him when fleeing from Laban, but no mention is made of their mission. Later an angel wrestles with him, from whom he afterwards asks a blessing,
Night falls over Egypt and in its silence the dread angel of God goes through the land touching with fateful finger the hearts of the first born and bids their pulsations cease. Then, and not till then, does Moses lead out the chosen people. An angel guide is provided for them, to whom God advises them to listen :
“Take notice of him and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be condemned, for he will not forgive when thou hast sinned and My Name is in him."
There is another battle between Michael and the fallen Lucifer, which is mentioned only by St. Jude in his epistle, and that was “ when Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses." It is Michael whom Joshua meets in
1 The Fourth Book, however, it must be remembered, is not recognized by the Church as canonical Scripture. She, nevertheless, has adopted from it one of her Introits in Easter week. From the same book is derived the text current through all Christendom,“ Magna est veritas, et pratvalebit” (Truth is great, and shall prevail).