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"Without the inner light and voice of the Holy Ghost all preaching
is vain:" "and the preacher is as a sounding brass or a tinkling cyml)al."

St. Paul — Bossuet.

Volume III


113 E. 117th Street




R . y I 7 L

Copyright, 1916, bv
John McQuirk

All Rights Reserved




Zbc people ot St. ipaui'g parleb,

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So %onQ BnttusteD to ble paftoral Care,

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Dutifully anO Bttectlonateli^


Cbe Sutbor




Arch Bishop of Nezv York


It is the custom almost universal, to put a preface
before every book, like a porch before a house.
What is the use the Author has never been able to
see, except when, now and then, for some obvious
reason it is necessary. But a preface for sake of a
preface had better be omitted ; especially as he has
no drawer for old prefaces to be extracted and
stuck to a book as a frontispiece like unto the cus-
tom of a writer of old.

Instead of a preface, I will treat the Reader to a
taste of the immortal Pascal. ''True eloquence makes
light of eloquence, true morality makes light of
morality, that is to say, the morality of the judgment
makes light of the morality of the intellect, which
has no rules.

''W^hen we meet with a natural style, we are
charmed and astonished, for we looked for an
author, and we found a man. But those who have
good taste, and who seeing a book expect to find a
man, are altogether surprised to find an author:
plus pocticc qiiain humane locuius es. Those pay
great honour to nature, who show her that she is
able to discourse on all things, even on Theology."

''Eloquence is an art of saying things in such a
manner, ( 1 ) that those to whom we speak can hear


them without pain, and with pleasure; (2) that
they feel themselves interested, so that self-love
leads them, more willingly to reflect upon what is
said. It consists, therefore, in a correspondence
which we endeavor to establish between the mind
and the heart of those to whom we speak on the one
hand, and, on the other, the thoughts and the ex-
pressions employed ; this supposes that we have thor-
ousrhlv studied the heart of man so as to know all its
Springs, and to find at last the true proportions of
the discourse we wish to suit to it. We should put
ourselves in the place of those who are to listen to
us, and make experiment on (nu- own heart of tlie
turn we give to our discourse, to see whether one is
made for the other, and whether we can be sure that
our auditor will be, as it were, forced to yield. So
far as possible w^e must confine ourselves to what is
natural and simple, not aggrandise that which is
little, or belittle that which is great. It is not enough
that a phrase be beautiful, it must be fitted to the
subject, and not have in it excess or defect."

Praying that the Holy Ghost may accompany
these Sermons on the tongue of the Preacher, or in
the heart of the Listener or Hearer, I place them
before the Public.

St. Paul's Church, New York,
Festival of St. John the Baptist, 191G.


I. The Word of God .

II. The Love of God .

III. The Thought of Death

IV. Temptation

V. On Backsliding into Sin

VI. The Vice of Impurity .
\TI. On Avoiding the Occasions of


VIII. On the Trinity
IX. The Incarnation .
X. The Birth of Jesus Christ .
XI. The Duties of Parents to their

Children . ...

XII. The Duties of Children to their
Parents ....

XIII. The Kingdom of Christ

XIV. Mysteries no Bar to Belief .
XV. True Repentance .

XVI. The Divinity of Christ
XVII. The Resurrection of Christ
XVIII. The Nature of Prophecy
XIX. The Prophecies — The Proof of
Christ's Divinity .












XX. The Divinity of Christ shown

FROM His Predictions . . 270
XXI. The Devotion to the Sacred

Heart 281

XXn. On Sacrifice .... 293

XXHI. The Holy Sacrifice of the ATass 303

XXI\\ The Primacy of St. Peter . . 329

XXV. Saint Cecilia .... 340

XXVI. On Saint Patrick . . . .363

XXVII. The Ascension of Christ . . 390

XXVIII. The Spread of Christianity . 403

XXIX. On Spiritual Blindness . . 416

XXX. Priests Men, not Angels . .421

XXXI. Intemperance .... 427

XXXII. The Divinity of the Mosaic

Revelation . . . .451

XXXIII. Purgatory in Two Parts

First Part

On the Existence of Purgatory 474
Second Part

Nature of Purgatory . . 497
Duty of Relieving Souls in

Purgatory .... 503
How to Relieve the Souls in
Purgatory . . . .510

XXXIV. On Death 521

XXXV. The Nature of Time . . . 529

XXXVI. Time as the Opportunity of

Salvation .... 537
XXXVII. The Forty Hours Devotion . . 546
XXXVIII. On Preparation for the Holy

Eucharist .... 555
















The Last Judgment

The Shortness of Time — The
Proof of Immortality .

The Incarnation .

The Sacrament of Matrimony

On Death Bed Repentance .

Christmas Day

The Thought of Death

Mortal Sin ....

The Communion of Saints .

The Eternity of God

For Pentecost

The Feast of the Circumcision
AND the Feast of the Holy
Innocents' . . . .

On the Devil . . . .

On Earnestness in Religion







And when a great crowd was gathered together,
and they hastened to Him out of the cities, He spoke
by a simiHtude : The sower went out to sow his
seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside,
and it was trodden down, and the birds of the air
ate it up. And some fell on the rock, and as soon
as it had sprung up, it withered away, because it
had no moisture. And some fell among thorns,
and the thorns growing up with it, choked it. And
some fell on good ground, and sprang up, and
yielded fruit a hundred fold. Saying these things.
He cried out : He W' ho hath ears to hear, let him
hear. And His disciples asked Him what this par-
able might be ? And He said to them : To you it is
given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God ;
but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may
not see, and hearing they may not understand.
Now the parable is this : The seed is the word of
God. And those by the wayside are they who hear ;
then the devil cometh, and taketh the word out of
their heart, lest believing they should be saved.
Now those upon the rock are they who, when they
hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no
root : for they believe for a while, and in time of
temptation they fall aw^ay. And that which fell


among the thorns are they who, when they have
heard, go forth and are choked with cares and
riches and pleasures of Hfe, and bring no fruit to
maturity. But that on the good ground, are they
who in a good and excellent heart, hearing the word,
retain it, and bring forth fruit in patience. St. Luke
viii, 4-15.

There is nothing more precious than the word of
God. There is nothing more necessary than the
word of God. There is nothing more abused than
the word of God.

By the word of God we mean the message an-
nounced by Jesus Christ to His Apostles, and by
them to be announced to all men throughout all
time and till the end of the world. It is the living
voice of the Church through its regularly ordained
ministers. It is by this living voice calling upon
men to believe the Gospel and to live up to it that
it has pleased God to save the world. In this
preaching the Church is as infallible as in explicitly
defining the truth, or in deciding what is to be be-
lieved. This message Christ announced to those
of His day and nation; the Apostles in their time
to those of the w^hole world; and since it has been
proclaimed unceasingly in every age and in every
part of the world : and what is more, it is announced
not to men in general, and for once, but it is an-
nounced to every man born into the world, and to
him not now and then, but persistently from the
hour of his birth to his death. We may imagine
that God could have devised some other than this
apparently human means, — some instrument more
potent, to yield signal and permanent results, to


conquer the wills and subdue the stubborn hearts
of men.

But, if we reflect we shall find that there is a
deep, a divine wisdom in this plan which God has
ordained for the salvation of souls. In it men help
one another. It is not Angels, but men, sinful men,
who carry on the divine work. The sinner helps
the saint, as the saint helps the sinner. God has
destined all beings to their respective ends. He
leads them thereto in a manner suitable to their
nature. Man is to reach his in the exercise of his
free will, and by his own active cooperation. In
the economy which God has set up his free will is
consulted and preserved. There is no coercion put
upon him. He is sovereign of his own destiny.
He is free tO' follow the word of God unto salva-
tion. He is free to abuse or contemn the word of
God unto perdition.

Yet, this instrument of salvation which God in
His wisdom has elected is not so ordinary or in-
effectual or ill suited to its divine purpose as it may
seem to the casual observer. For the word of God
is not merely the external word or sound which pro-
ceeds from the mouth of its minister. Herein lies
a great truth which must be unfolded. Behind the
external word that strikes the ear, there lies the
inner word that strikes the heart. Besides the instru-
ment of grace, there is the grace itself. This inner
word, this inner light, this inner consciousness is
the Holy Ghost working in the soul ; He is the
source and efficacy of all salutary preaching. As
the Sacrament of Baptism is not merely the pouring
of water, but the communication of the Holy Ghost,


which it signifies, so the preaching of the word is
not the utterance of human speech, but the com-
munication of divine light and grace that accom-
pany it. And unless we listen to this internal
voice which sounds in our conscience, and speaks
in our soul, unless we are enlightened with this
light, and moved by this grace, all preaching is vain,
and the preacher is become as a ''sounding brass
and tinkling cymbal." Obedience to this divine
monitor is the success of the sermon. Disobedi-
ence or neglect of these visitings of grace is the
frustration of all preaching. This is why those
preachers who have been the most remarkable for
the power of speech, have not been always the most
successful in winning souls tO' Christ. Conversions
have been wrought most frequently, not "by the
persuasive words of human speech, but by the show-
ing of the Spirit." We would err if we imagined
that the success of the great sermons transmitted
to us from bygone generations, was proportioned
to the literary excellence that has preserved and
rendered them the most perfect of human speech.
On the contrary, there were men whose names his-
tory has failed to record, who were far more suc-
cessful in gaining souls, because they were more
successful or endowed with greater grace, in im-
parting to their hearers a larger measure of the in-
fluence of the Holy Ghost, and in increasing their-
responsiveness thereto.

The word of God is always the same ; "omnip-
otent is His word"; unfailing in its efficacy. Tf
it prove barren in many souls, the cause is to be
sought not in the word itself, but in the manner in


which it is announced, or in the dispositions with
which it is received. The soil in which the seed is
to be planted must be prepared that in its genial em-
brace it may receive life-giving warmth and vital
sap. So, likewise, the soul of man must be in such
a frame and disposition that the Word of God may
germinate in grace and salvation. Otherwise it
falls barren, and soon disappears.

Without the light and grace of the Holy Ghost
the sounds of the preacher can work no effect : but
this light and grace always go with them. Be care-
ful lest you abuse or contemn them. If this church
were plunged into darkness and the light of the
sun withdrawn, in vain would I point to you its
lines and proportions. So, if your souls be plunged
in the darkness that comes from the absence of the
Holy Ghost, in vain would I discourse to you of
the necessity of salvation, or of any truth of reli-
gion. Thus it is that people whose souls are in this
state have no taste, but rather a positive disgust for
religious instruction and meditation. God has with-
drawn from them His light, as a just punishment
for their abuse of His holy word.

In the parable which Our Lord reads to us to-
day. He proclaims for all time the course and pro-
cess which His Word pursues and works in the
souls of men ; also the different dispositions with
which on their part it is received, and has, accord-
ing to these dispositions, become an instrument of
salvation, or perdition. If it be successful, it is
because the required dispositions are present in the
heart; if it be unsuccessful, it is because these dis-
positions are wanting. Even as Our Lord in His


own locality could or would perform no miracles
because of their unbelief; so, He will not work the
miracles of salvation and sanctification for those
who are destitute of the docile mind and willing
heart which are indispensably necessary to the in-
fluence and working of His grace and light.

The Word of God is to be received as such, and
to be carefully discriminated from the word of
man. Otherwise, it must fail to exert its due effect
upon those who hear it. No matter how imperfect
may be the manner or how rude the utterance of
him authorized to announce it. So long as he is
sent by the Church and speaks in her name he is to
be recognized and listened to as the envoy of God.
No matter what may be the defects of his personal
character; he speaks in his official relation to you;
his actions you are not called upon to imitate, but
his warnings are the beacons of your salvation. He
may not be a saint ; but he announces truths capable
of sanctifying your soul and his own. If he be not
the concrete exhibition of his preachings, so much
the worse for himself; you will not be responsible.
You will never justify yourself before Christ, nor
extenuate your sins, by alleging any variance be-
tween the character of the preacher, and his preach-
ings. The message of salvation is to be received
from the hands through which God has been pleased
to send it. The gift is none the less valuable because
of the unworthiness of the messenger; if he is un-
worthy he is the more like those to whom he is
sent. If it is not unworthy of God to send salva-
tion and grace to sinners, outcasts from His favor,
it is no less worthy of Him to employ sinners as its


bearers. The hungry and famished are not
offended at the soiled hand of him who offers food
and drink. Dehcate indeed must be he who refuses
a treasure because not sent by a prince, or salvation
from heaven because not borne by an angel.

St. Paul declares an anathema tO' him who dis-
criminates not the body of Christ from ordinary
food. Take care that you incur not the same male-
diction for not discriminating the Word of God
from the word of man. If we look upon the sacred
Species, unenlightened by faith, we see but bread,
ordinary bread. It requires faith to enable us to
see therein the body of Jesus Christ. In like man-
ner, if we listen to the Word of God, without faith,
we hear but the word of man. It requires faith to
enable us to recognize the Word of God in the word
of man. **What care you have," says St. Augus-
tine, "that the body of Christ fall not to the earth;
have the same care lest you allow the Word of
God to fall barren upon your soul."

The end of preaching is the salvation of the
hearer. Its fruit will be proportioned tO' the degree
in which it is heard for this purpose. If it is heard,
or in the measure in which it is heard, for any other
purpose, it is rendered nugatory. That it be heard
for this end, it is necessary that there should be
a hunger and thirst for it. Without this hunger
and thirst it is useless or worse than useless. Our
appetite should be a real one, not simulated or
pretended. As corporal food requires bodily hun-
ger that it may be assimilated and nourish so the
Word of God must be received into a soul longing
for it, that it may become the source and sustenance


of its Spiritual life. Alas ! how few have this hunger
and thirst! How many have a [wsitive dislike for
hearing the Word of God! They even shun the
service at which there is a sermon. As they avoid
the opportunity of hearing- the Word of God, of
course it cannot reach them.

There are others who come, but how do they
come? Do they come to profit by the divine Word,
or do they come to sit out as best they can, as a
necessary infliction which they must endure? Do
they come to be entertained' as by the discourse of
some profane orator or lecturer? and to criticize
and find fault as they would some actor? It must
be owned that this is frequently the case. They have
no hunger or thirst for the message of salvation.
They listen, only thinking of when it will end. For
them the sermon is always too long. The shortest
sermon would be too long for all such. The Bible
itself read with the dispositions of such people
would be profitless.

How many, or rather, how few, before coming
to church, prepare their minds to listen with fruit
to the sennon? Do they try to banish all distract-
ing cares from their minds? Do they seek to pre-
sent to the Word of God that genial soil upon which
it may fall and produce good fruit ? Do they pray
to the Holy Ghost that the word of the priest
may find an entrance to their souls, and become
to them the means of salvation? On the 'con-
trary, do not many, by their want of prepar-
edness, as far as they can, turn it into a means
of their eternal ruin? For continued neglect of the
Word hardens the heart and closes it to the influ-


ence of grace. As before prayer, so before listen-
ing to the Word of God, we must "prepare our
souls, and be not as those who tempt God."

The Word of God is not sent to men in general,
but to every man in particular, even as a letter is
sent to him whose name is upon it. Hence the ac-
ceptance of this divine Epistle is not to be a general,
but an individual and hearty and undivided ac-
ceptance. It is not sufficient that we give it a warm
approval, and our voucher of its truthfulness, and
then proceed to dispense it out to others, expressing
regret that those whom we know it admirably suits
are not present to hear, or if present, that they do
not take it to heart. If with these generous hands
you serve others, meanwhile neglecting yourselves,
you will surely starve. In this matter you are to
serve yourselves first, and listen to the Word ol
God as sent, as it is, to yourself personally, not for
others. You know in your heart when you try to
parry the blow it makes on your conscience, by as-
signing it to others, that it is far more suitable to
yourself; your very effort to decline it proves that.
When, then, you hear the minister of God denounce
those sins which your conscience reproaches you
with, say within yourself, ''He means me, and no
one else; that is a message from God sent directly
to me; I must not allow it to miscarry." If he
arraigns the impure, and points out the harrowing
effects that follow the vice, not alone in the indi-
vidual, but on society at large, and your conscience
disturbs you, seek not to allay the disturbance, for
it is unto your salvation. If he portrays the evil
of intemperance, ask yourself, or rather listen to


your soul: are you subject to this vice, or ever ha\e
been, or feel you any proneness thereto? If so, you
take the divine warning to heart, either as a preven-
tive or a corrective or a safeguard. If the minister
of God raises his warning voice against the sin of
stealing, or the spread of dishonesty, or any other
vice that corrupts the heart of man and imperils
his eternal salvation, deliberate and determine before
God in the sanctuary of your conscience, and with
fear and trembling, how far the condemnation
reaches you : look upon it as sent, a message of
warning, and a summons to repentance, not to the
hearers in general, but to yourself in person : act as
if you were the only hearer; the force of the mes-
sage is not diminished because it is applicable to so
many. Salvation is measured out not by the lump,
or to the multitude, but singly, and tO' individuals.
In all this the priest performs the office of your
guardian Angel. And if you heed not him, neither
would you an angel from heaven. The angel will
never come. The priest is always at hand. He,
too, is far more competent to minister to your
wants : for he can compassionate with your weak-
ness and makes allowances from his own experi-
ence for the temptations and trials that beset us in
this mortal life. Even if the angel came, you would
find some doubt as to whether he was an angel. Or,
if satisfied of this, you would still find some excuse
for not Mieving or for not obeying him. You
would, in Scripture phrase, have l)ought a farm,
or a yoke of oxen, or married a wife, and pray to
be excused from coming to him, or hearing him.
If you believe not the minister of Christ, neither


would you believe one come back from the dead.
Remember Dives, who wanted to send warning to
his own lest they too should come into his abode of
misery. And remember the words of Christ : "They
have Moses and the prophets : and if they believe
not Moses and the prophets, neither would they
believe one from the dead." It is not because the
minister of Christ is not authority enough that you
do not believe him. It is because you have not that
docile mind and willing heart, that good ground
spoken of in the parable of this Sunday. Be you
assured that the only means you will ever have for
your conversion and salvation is the Word of God
announced by His priests : your hope is in affording
to that Word the dispositions of soul which it im-
peratively requires.

Many imagine that when the sermon is over their
concern in it is over also; forgetting that it is by
reflection subsequent to the sermon that the truths
announced by the priest are chiefly to sink into the
soul. The seed is but scattered in the furrows; it
remains to be planted in the heart before it can
germinate in its rightful fruit. At this critical
moment it is liable to be trodden under foot, or dry
up and evaporate, or be snatched away by the birds
of the air, or choked by the weeds ; for as yet it
has no firm lodgment in the soul. It is because no
reflection, serious and sustained and prayerful, fol-
lows the sermon that it has so little effect. If you
would profit by the Word of God, you must medi-
tate upon it. ''With desolation is the whole land
m.ade desolate because there is no one who thinketh
in his heart." To pursue a different course is folly.


The discourse which has cost the priest, it may be.
hours or days of reflection, cannot be assimilated
by you, and its work in your soul cannot be done
by merely listening: to look at one running is not
to run yourself : to listen to the discourse even with
attention is not to meditate upon what you hear.
The longer you meditate upon it, the more fruit
you W'ill derive. The message of salvation that God
sends is to be cordially harbored and thoughtfully
entertained. The w^ords of the priest, proclaiming
those tidings from God to your soul, are of the
same authority and deserve the same recognition
as if made knowm by an angel. Nothing can con-
travene or suspend the regularly established minis-
try of the Word. Hence St. Paul proclaims anath-
ema to even an angel wdio would preach a gospel
other than that which he had preached. Nor is it
necessary to listen to many sermons : you should be
not mere ''hearers," but ''doers" of the Word. As
the mind is best nourished by the frequent perusal
of a few^ books than by skimming througli a library;

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 43)