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|The Scalabrinian Congregations|
The Missionary Fathers and Brothers of St. Charles
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles
Scalabrini A living voice
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c) THE CHURCH IS HOLY
"The Church is holy"
The greatest work of God the Father is Jesus Christ, and the greatest work of Jesus Christ is his Church. He acquired and purified her with his blood, sanctified her with his spirit, and enriched her with his merits so as to present her to his Father without spot or wrinkle and have her reign with him forever in heaven. The Church, therefore, is holy in her Author, who is the source and font of all holiness. She is holy in the sacraments, the channels from which all graces derive. She is holy in her unbloody Sacrifice, by which a pure
oblation is offered to the name of God. She is holy in her worship, which is so majestic and beautiful that it inspires the liveliest faith, the deepest respect, and the most tender piety, a worship that transcends logic and speaks powerfully even to the hearts of the unorthodox.
The Church is also holy in her teachings, because her main concern is to preserve them incorrupt, just as she received them from her Founder, so that, through these teachings, she might heal spiritual infirmities and dissipate the darkness shrouding the minds of people; so that, with these teachings, she might incite her sons and daughters to good works and inspire them to the practice of voluntary poverty, a more perfect obedience, an angelic virginity, and an austere and penitent life, instilling in them the courage needed for sacrifice and martyrdom.
The Church is holy in her sons and daughters because the Savior "gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good" (...). Come and look for yourselves. Those untold millions of generous martyrs, of solitary penitents, of chaste virgins, of heroes of all kinds; those countless shepherds and priests burning with holy zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, rushing off even to distant lands where the sword of persecution is being wielded or deadly diseases are reaping victims; those innumerable religious whose virtues, austerity of life, spirit of solitude, prayer, zeal, charity, and detachment from earthly things are admired by their very enemies; those numberless good people, ignored by the world but known and loved by Him who searches hearts ‑- all these people are sons and daughters of the Catholic Church. Being holy in herself and holy in all her things, the Church will never cease to nurture within herself giants of holiness, giants worthy of the supreme honor of the altars and, in this way, to be "the inexhaustible source of all good things."12
"The Church is the mother of holiness"
Holiness is the inseparable and distinctive attribute of the true Church. God is holiness by nature. Hence the Church, which comes from God, must bear the mark of holiness. St. Augustine says that the Catholic Church is holy, indeed that she is the mother of holiness: sanctitatis mater (...).
A source of holiness is, first of all, the truths the Catholic Church
teaches us. Her teachings are not mere theories but eternal principles, from which flow countless moral consequences that divinize our nature, as it were (...). A God who is just and infinitely merciful, the immortality of the soul, atonement for sin through penance, forgiveness of offenses, patience, charity, humility, and so on, these are all teachings that have helped mold countless upright and illustrious heroes in all ages.
A source of holiness is found in the sacraments, which the Church administers to us with the tenderness of a mother. She administers Baptism to wipe away the stains of our physical origin; Confirmation to make us stronger in fighting the battles of the Lord; Penance as a means to atone for our sins; the Eucharist to communicate the very Author of holiness to us; the sacrament of Matrimony to sanctify the family; Sacred Orders to perpetuate, here below, the priesthood of Jesus Christ; Extreme Unction to pour heaven's consolations down upon our bed of pain.
A source of holiness is offered in the precepts she enjoins on us. They are full of indulgence and kindness. Through them this gentle mother guides us through the dangers of the world to the port of salvation. She does everything she can to make us happy in this life and in the next. She commands us to love God with our whole heart, to direct to him ‑- as to our last end ‑- all our thoughts, our affections, our works, all that we are and all that we can do, and to love our neighbor as ourselves with the love that comes from God. Finally, she urges us to imitate Jesus Crucified, our Lord, the sublime model of resignation, fortitude and glory, so that, crucified with him to the vanity of this world, we may share both his sufferings and his joys.
A source of holiness is the Communion of Saints, fruit of that perfect love that binds together Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant and, out of them, forms one body of which Jesus Christ is the head. Thus we share in the merits of the just ones who are still pilgrims here on earth, as well as in the glory of the heavenly citizens.13
"Show us anything honorable that religion does not give rise to or does not inspire "
Show us anything honorable that the Catholic religion does not give rise to or does not inspire. Friendship perhaps? Yes, but only the Catholic religion can give us true and faithful friends. Gratitude maybe? Yes, but only the Catholic religion fashions a truly good heart and seasons social life with pure joy. Marriage perhaps? Yes, but is it not true that, by raising marriage to the dignity of a sacrament, the Catholic religion has made marriage stable and holy and wants it to reflect the image of the union between Christ and his Church? Social responsibilities maybe? Yes, but is it not the gospel that commands us to be humble, gentle, kind, meek, patient, and charitable? Courage maybe? Yes, but who are the heroes that can stand next to those the Catholic religion takes pride in? Good governance perhaps? Oh, if nations, republics and kingdoms could be governed only by the precepts of the gospel, you would not find corruption, injustice, slander, ambition, hatred, theft, murder, sacrilege, and rebellion.14
"The treasury of the Church is the Communion of Saints"
The Communion of the Saints, namely the common treasury of graces and merits found in the Church, is due principally to its Head (...). So, it is to Jesus Christ that the Church owes the lavish supply of its goods. Oh, I am no longer amazed that this reserve fund is inexhaustible and infinite. The blood of Jesus Christ, this adorable blood ‑- one drop of which would have been enough to redeem the world ‑- his tears, his prayers, his life, his works, his labors, and his sufferings: all these make up the treasury of the Church and keep supplying it. It is a chain of merits that extends from one end of the earth to the other. It is a river of graces that flows incessantly through humanity and makes it fruitful (...).
Even though the life of the members derives, above all, from the Head, we must not think that the members themselves do not contribute to this life. In fact, the Apostle says: "God has so constructed the body ... that the members may have the same concern for one another, so that their surplus may also supply your needs."
Now, if this applies to the natural body of human beings, to the body of a family, to the body of a city, should this not apply also to the Church, which is the body of Jesus Christ, the family of the elect, the City of God?
Let us look at the vast army of saints, who were once on this earth and now live triumphantly in heaven. How much suffering, how many prayers, how many sacrifices have flowed like streams into the infinite ocean of the merits of Jesus Christ, which make up the treasury of the Church.
In this treasury I see not just the superabundant satisfactory and intercessory merits of Christ but also those of the Virgin and the saints. I see the blood of the martyrs, the austerity of the hermits, the zeal of the Apostles, the faith of the confessors, and the palms of the virgins. Your own good works, the very prayers you offered up to God today with your Bishop are there. By virtue of the Communion of Saints, our prayer leaves this church, flies on the wings of angels, crosses the oceans, and goes straight to the heart of our distant brothers and sisters, to our impenitent brothers and sisters, to our separated brothers and sisters. Our prayer brings them the balm of consolation, the grace of repentance, the gift of perseverance. The Communion of Saints reaches everywhere. Through it, there are no limits of time or space.15
"How consoling, how beautiful is this dogma of the Communion of Saints"
Do you not hear the sobs coming up from the depths? "Have pity on me, at least you, my friends!" Have pity on me, at least you who were once my friends (...), These are cries of pain and lamentation. It is the cry of a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a cry rising up to us from the prison of expiation, pleading for our suffrages, because not even suffering can destroy the Communion of Saints. Why should the Communion of Saints be broken by the expiation of the righteous? Do they not belong to the body of Jesus Christ, just like us? Are they not living members of the family of the elect and of the city of God? So, why should they not share in the common treasury of the Church, in our satisfaction for sin, in our sacrifices, in our help?
How truly consoling, how truly beautiful is this dogma of the Communion of Saints! Heaven prays, earth prays, purgatory prays. Thus
purgatory, earth, heaven, the Church Suffering, the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, all assist each other and are united in a mutual exchange of supplications and merits. From purgatory prayer rises up to earth. From earth it soars to Heaven. There, echoed by the saints, it obtains relief, light, and peace. Purgatory prays for us. Heaven prays for us. And, in the midst of our joys and sorrows, we poor exiles and pilgrims pray to Heaven.
It is through us that the cry of those souls in prison arrives at the throne of God. From up there, the bounteous mercy of God flows down over the earth and from earth, like a heavenly dew, descends on Purgatory where it falls on lips burning in expiatory flames.16