John McQuirk.

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we exclude the true term or standard of comparison :


when \\e open them to God, we feel our insignifi-
cance and sink into nothing, because we see that
God alone is great, and man with all things else is
but the veriest dust in the palm of His hand; that
the whole creation is but refuse before Him; that
He has poised all things on His three fingers; that
in His presence the pillars of heaven shake and the
Angels, impure in His sight, would tremble and
fade away ! There is no such glory offered to God
in heaven as that which from earth ascends to Him
from this Unutterable Sacrifice. The worship which
men by this oblation are enabled to offer to the eter-
nal God, is not merely as great as that which the
Angels offer by their silent adoration or loud ho-
sannas — to compare the glory of the Mass with this
would be to say little — ^but greater, diviner beyond
all measure, for it is that of God praising and glori-
fying God. This Sacrifice, so acceptal)le to God, and
so propitious of His wrath and outraged justice and
all-enduring patience, it is that saves the world and
holds the hand of God from destroying men.

In this Sacrifice there is the same Priest and Vic-
tim as on Calvary. It is true no blood is shed, there
is no death; by the Cross, not by the Alass, redemp-
tion has been wrought. The Mass is no mere com-
memoration of the Sacrifice on the Cross: it is one
and the same. It is truly propitiatory and effica-
cious: for the dead to abridge their sufferings, and
hasten their entrance into heaven ; for the sins and
satisfactions, for the spiritual needs, and even tem-
poral, of those yet in the estate of the way. It is
medicine, strength, light to the spiritually blind and
sick ; to the weak of soul, their support and persever-


ance. Grace, repentance, forgiveness, even for great
sins and crimes, come from this Sacrifice, and for
the many needs of men.

It enables mortals to worship God with a worship
worthy of the Angels, in fact, superior to that with
which they tender to God by their unceasing praise
and silent adoration : for it is God offered to God.

Its benefits are shared by the souls in Purgatory,
whose sufferings it relieves, whose woes it solaces,
whose torments it assuages, whose imprisonment it
shortens, whose ransom it entreats, whose ascent in-
to heaven it implores and secures.

After what we have said concerning the nature
of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, what should be
our convictions and sentiments regarding it — in com-
ing to, during, and going from it ? What should be
our anxiety to be always present at it, never to miss
it, to be always promptly and punctually at the time
of its celebration. How we should seek to please
God by our living faith in this myster}% and to edify
our neighbor by the exhibition of this faith in our
manner and bearing and spirit of recollection. How
unfailing and unfaltering should be our confidence
• in the inexhaustible efffcacy of this Sacrifice, which
contains and dispenses the superabundant merits of
Christ and His blood. With what devotion and
innocence and freedom from sinful distractions
should we seek to discharge this great duty of hear-
ing Mass, at which we assist as witnesses, as minis-
ters and as victims. In what a spirit of faith we
should join our souls with that of the priest in con-
secrating this Divine Victim. How we should pros-
trate ourselves before the Lord of infinite Majesty,


avowing our utter dependence and nothingness, in a
manner, annihilating ourselves, and rendering to
Him supreme adoration and worship. With such
convictions and sentiments we shall not long he con-
tent to be partakers in the Sacrifice without being
recipients of the Sacrament : our souls will be filled
with a longing for this Divine food, which will only
be satisfied by actual participation : and the oftener
we communicate, the greater will be our desire and
hunger for this food of Angels, and wine that ger-
minates in virgins, and a pledge of immortal life.
Returning home, our souls will be filled with com-
punction, as we realize the Centurion's faith : This,
truly, is the Son of God.


And I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and on
this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give
to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven ; and
whatever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound
also in heaven ; and whatever thou shalt loose upon
earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. — St. Matt, xvi,

Jesus Christ came into the world to save all
men; not only those of His own generation, but all
succeeding generations till the end of time. As He
did not purpose to abide personally on earth, it was
necessary that He should establish a Church to con-
tinue forever and consummate the work which He
had begun ; a Church which, while evangelizing the
world, would be the depositary and dispenser of all
the graces which He was to bestow for the salvation
and sanctification of men. With what mission He
had been sent by His eternal Father, with the same
should the Church be established and sent by Him.
"As the Father sent Me, so I send you ; go ye there-
fore into the whole world and preach the Gospel to
every creature. He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved ; he that believeth not shall be con-



This Church would naturally represent Him ; be-
ing His legation on earth ; doing the work which
he had entrusted to her and created her for. Some
of the Fathers speak of the Church, as a continued
Incarnation which issued forth from His opened
side as He hung upon the Cross. And when we
consider that the inspired Apostle speaks of her as
"the Spouse of Christ, without spot or wrinkle or
any such thing" ; and that the Church is the very
body of Christ, we must see that she is truly a certain
continuation of the Great Mystery by which her
Divine Author became man; a prolonged dwelling
in visible form wdiich He has taken on earth. This
being true, it is obvious that in the discharge of her
office, she must speak with authority ; and that those
to whom slie is sent, by a correlative duty are bound
to hear and to believe, what she teaches and to do
all what she commands. Otherwise, there would
be no meaning or purpose or result in her existence.

Such an institution, coming from God, ought to
reflect something of the awful unity of the God-
head, something of the features of its Divine Parent
and Creator. As, according to St. Augustine, every-
thing that God has made suggests, though at an
infinite distance, some resemblance to Him, surely
His Church, above all the works that He has made,
should image or shadow forth something betokening
whence she is, and whose she is, and whither she
would lead men. Hence it w^as that Jesus prayed
that His Church ''should be one, even as the Father
in Him and He in the Father are one." As Christ
was one with His Father, so the Church, His mys-
tical body, ought to be one in its nature, not sun-


dered or split, as institutions merely human always
are. The depositary on earth of the truth of God
must be one, as the truth itself is one and undivided.
This truth is brought home to men by Divine Faith,
accepting the teachings of Revelation.
. The Church, like any moral organization, to be
one must have had a Head ; a visible, appealable head
to whom recourse may be had in all discussions or
controversies ; and who will have supreme and final
authority, which all are bound to obey. "One was
constituted head," says St. Jerome, "that all occasion
of schism might be removed." Our Lord constantly
taught that His Church should be one; and, like a
prudent man, made provision for this unity. In
speaking of the Church He continually made use of
illustrations implying the oneness of its nature and
the existence of this supreme, necessary authority.
He terms it a family, a house, a flock, a fold, in all
of which there is unity and headship. "Other sheep
I have that are not of this fold, them also must I
bring and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
Accordingly He constituted Peter this Head of
His Church. No sooner did Christ see Peter, when
brought to Him by his brother Andrew, than
Christ seemingly recognizing in him^ a suitable head
for His Church, said : "Thou art Simon, the son of
John, thou shalt be called Cephas," which is inter-
preted Peter — that is, stone or rock. He thus
changed Peter's name, conformably to the custom
by which in the old Law the name was changed to
signify the office or mission to which one was as-
signed. Thus Abram's name was changed to Abra-
ham, because he was to be the father of a great and


numerous people. Christ changed the name to sig-
nify what Peter, now that ere long He would return
to the Father and would be with them bodily no
more, would be to them and in His Church, its visi-
ble head and rock foundation, the impregnable for-
tress against which the gates of hell would in vain
contend. This is the promise of Peter's Primacy
in the Church when Christ is gone. ''Whom do you
say that I am?" he asked of the disciples. Peter
declared : ''Thou art Christ the Son of the living
God." And Jesus made answer : "Blessed art thou
Simon Bar Jona, because flesh and blood hath not
revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in Heaven.
And I say to thee that thou art Peter and upon this
rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee
the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever
thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven,
and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be
loosed also in Heaven." St. Matt. xvi.

It was not that Christ knew not wdiat men or the
Apostles thought of Him that He put to them this
inquiry : for He was God and "Knew what was in
man, and He needed not that any man should give
testimony of Him." But he wished to give him
whom He destined for the future headship of His
Church an opportunity of professing the faith which
He knew was in his heart.

Jesus declared Peter blessed, because the faith in
Him which he has just professed, could not have
been taught or revealed to him by flesh or blood,
that is, by any human discernment, but only by His
Father in Heaven, by the light and grace of the Holy


Ghost. 'Tor no one cometh to Him save the Father
draw him." Christ then, as if in return for this
acknowledgment of His Divinity, tells Peter what
he is and what he is to be in His Church. He had
already changed his name; He now renews the
change, ''Thou art Cephas or Peter" ; and on this
rock foundation He will build His Church. He
imitates the wise man, whom He elsewhere com-
mends, who built upon the rock, not upon the sand :
stability in the one case, collapse in the other. Peter,
therefore, is the rock- foundation of the Church.
Whatever the foundation is to the house — its firm-
ness, its strength, its abiding security — all that is
Peter to the Church. He is not built on the Church;
but the Church is built on him. He does not depend
upon or derive his power and strength from the
Church; but the Church depends upon, and derives
its being and power from him. He derives his
strength from Christ alone, from Whom alone he
derives his office ; the Church rests upon him as
Christ's vicegerent. He depends upon Christ.

He adds that, the gates of hell shall never prevail
against it. Why? Because of its rock-foundation,
rendering it unassailable to all the machinations of
the devil ; causing it to rise superior to all human
assaults. The flesh, the world, and the devil — all
earth and hell may league against, but they are no
match for the Church of the living God, built upon
its rock-foundation, and sustained by the out-
stretched arm of Him who has declared His abiding
presence with her till the consummation of the
world. They will never overcome her, but they shall
be overcome by her. They shall perish, as all the


enemies of God must; they shall cease with the
world that sustains them. She shall outlast all
things else, and pass from her militant state here
below to that of eternal triumph in Heaven.

He adds : ''I will give to thee the keys of the king-
dom of Heaven." That is, the Church which pre-
pares us for and leads us thither, and through which
alone Heaven can be entered. The keys signified
the supreme power which He had received from the
Father; the same keys or power does He impart to
Peter, His vicegerent on earth. The keys were the
symbol of authority and power, and were placed
upon the shoulder. Christ, Who possessed them by
sovereign right, about to leave the world, bestows
them upon His representative. He, as Christ, ''shall
open, and no man shall shut ; shall shut, and no man
shall open." He is the living Representative of
Christ, the invisible Head. Upon his shoulder rests
the government of the Church; with him are the
keys, emblematic of the power which Christ has
over the Church, and which Peter was to exercise
in His name. He is the Head, all others are the

"What thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in
Heaven, whatever thou loose on earth shall be loosed
in Heaven." Here is the court of last resort, whose
decisions, final and irrevocable, shall be reaffirmed
in Heaven. Whatever laws or ordinances, rewards
or punishments for the welfare and growth of the
Church, or the salvation of souls ; whatever deci-
sions in matters of faith and morals thou shalt or-
dain or render, shall find their sanction in Heaven;
whatever obligations or penalties or excommunica-


tions thou shalt dissolve or nullify, shall be ratified
in Heaven. All is vested in thee Peter, Son of John,
till I come to judge the world.

In St. Luke XXII we read that Christ, having
admonished the Apostles that their rule ''should not
be that of the kings of the earth, who lord it over
them" ; and having "assigned to them a kingdom,"
and declared that they ''should sit on thrones judg-
ing the twelve tribes of Israel," addressed Himself
to the "greatest among them who should be as the
least :" "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath sought
you, to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for
thee that thy faith may not fail ; and thou when
thou turnest, confirm thy brethren." Jesus thus dis-
closes the dark designs of hell against the Apostles,
to subvert their thrones, to defraud them of the
kingdom which He had promised them; and this
he would do by sifting them as wheat is winnowed,
as chaff is cast to the winds. He would attack, not
their charity, or their hope, but the root, the source,
the foundation of all — he would subvert and de-
stroy their faith. But, fear not; for I have supplied
a safeguard : "I have prayed for thee," Peter. All
are assailed, Satan had sought all ; yet He prays for
Peter alone, because on his faith alone does the faith
of the Church depend. Their security will be in
clinging to Peter: "I have prayed for thee Peter,
and thou converted, confirm thy brethren." Christ's
efficacious prayer is at once the strong defense of
Peter's own faith, and the sovereign security of that
of the Apostles : he is to confirm them ; they are to
be confirmed and made secure by clinging to him.
Thus shall Satan's stratagems be frustrated: thus


shall the powers of darkness be scattered : thus
shall the Church stand unshaken and invulnerable
for all time upon the rock of Peters unfailing faith,
for which the Son of God has prayed, and obtained
His prayer; ''for the Father always heareth Him."
In the last chapter of St. John Christ's appearance
to all the Apostles by the Sea of Tiberias is
recorded. When they had dined, Christ pro-
ceeds to reaffirm in another way, or to
fulfill and actualize what He had promised Peter
when He declared him the rock-foundation, and
when He had constituted him the confirmer of his
brethren's faith. "When therefore they had dined,
Jesus saith to Simon Peter : Simon, Son of John,
lovest thou me more than these? He saith to Him ;
Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He
saith to him : Feed my lambs. He saith to him
again : Simon, Son of John lovest thou me ? He
saith to Him : Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love
Thee. He saith to Him : Feed my lambs. He saith
to him the third time : Simon, Son of John, lovest
thou me? Peter was grieved, because He had said
to him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he
said to Him : Lord, Thou knowest all things : Thou
knowest that I love Thee. He said to him : Feed
my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to thee : When thou
wast young, thou didst gird thyself, and did walk
whither thou wouldest. But when thou wilt be old,
thou wilt stretch forth thy hands, and another will
gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not.
And this He said, signifying by what death he should
glorify God. And when He had said this, He saith
to him: Follow me." — John xxi : 15-19.


This is Christ's final commission to the Head of
His Church. Here is summed up all He had made
Peter when He declared him to be the rock-founda-
tion of His Church; all that He had given him when
he invested him with the keys of the kingdom of
Heaven ; all that He imparted to him when He
promised him strength for the permanence of his
own faith, and that of the Apostles, whom he was
to confirm; all these promises are now fulfilled, all
these powers and prerogatives are reaffirmed and
actually conferred in this form in which all the faith-
ful are the lambs, and all the Apostles the sheep,
and Peter the Supreme Shepherd, who is to feed,
to rule, to govern all — lambs and sheep; and that,
too, with authority as the word "feed" implies.
Christ could not have employed a clearer or stronger
metaphor than that of sheep, lambs, and shepherd to
declare the relations that should always exist be-
tween Peter and the faithful : authority, full and
complete, for the one ; obedience, heartfelt and un-
ceasing, for the other. The threefold summons to
declare his love (perhaps suggested by Peter's three-
fold denial and as a reparation thereof) so extraor-
dinary in its form, would indicate that Christ,
now about to leave the world, and desirous of con-
stituting His living legate on earth, was about to
confer extraordinary power upon him : the repeti-
tive form of the question would indicate that the
supreme hour had come when He would confer the
highest, the fullest, the utmost limit of power to
feed, to rule, to provide for, to guard the whole
flock, pastors and faithful.

This Primacy, from the nature of the case, was


to exist for all time. If in the Apostles' time a
headship was necessary that all occasion of schism
being removed, perfect unity might be preserved,
still more necessary did it become when Christ and
the Apostles had gone, charity grew faint and the
bonds that held the faithful together were slackened ;
if necessary when the faithful were few and the
Church yet only in its potential expansion, how
much more so when it was diffused throughout the
world, professed by divers peoples, different nations,
diverse temperaments, widely various laws, customs
and habits, and when its hierarchy extended from
the rising to the setting sun. The Primacy, there-
fore, in the intention of Christ, as also shown in
His promise of perpetuity, was to last forever.
Like the Sacraments He has left in the Church —
meant for all ages, and peoples, and places, — for
the salvation of souls, so also is the Primacy of St.

It was in St. Peter's competence to fix this Prima-
tial See where he chose; in Antioch, or Rome, or
Ephesus, or Jerusalem, anywhere that he thought
best for the good of the Church. Wherever he lived
and died and laid down his episcopate, there it would
l3e resumed and inherited by his successors for all
time. To such a place his office and prerogatives
would belong by Divine right. Peter's choice and
act would determine what Christ had left indeter-
minate : the human fact would settle the divine right.
As the choice of the priest selects the host to be
consecrated ; but, once consecrated, it is no longer
in human power to undo it ; so, similarly, it is no
longer possible to undo or transfer the choice of


Peter made fact by his act and sealed by his death.
Peter, as all the world knows, fixed his See at Rome ;
led thither, as is believed, by the Lord. After his
residence first at Antioch, he lived for a quarter cen-
tury at Rome, and there laid down his life; being
crucified with his head downwards on the Janiculum.
"When thou wast young, thou didst gird thyself, and
didst walk whither thou wouldest. But when thou
wilt be old, thou wilt stretch forth thy hands, and
another will gird thee, and lead thee whither thou
wouldest not. And this He said, signifying by what
death he should glorify God."— St. John XXI. This
the Lord had preannounced to him. There his power
was inherited by Linus, his successor, who in turn
transmitted it to his, and so down through the ages
it has come ; and there it will abide forever. To-day
Peter lives and speaks in Pius ; thus he will live on
until Christ shall come to judge the world.


"O blessed Cecilia, Thou didst triumph over Al-
machius; Thou didst call Tiburtius and Valerian to
the crown of martyrdom. — Anthem.

When we have said that St. Cecilia was a virgin
and martyr, we have pronounced her eulogy. No
higher praise, no greater glory can be ascribed to
any human being than that of being l3oth virgin
and martyr. If we spoke with the tongue of Angels,
if we sang with the inspiration with which they per-
petually sing the glories of the Lamb, we could
utter nothing better, nothing holier, nothing more
sublime of any saint.

Virginity and Martyrdom ! Seldom do we re-
flect upon the signification of these words. Seldom
do we think of the self-denial, of the utter detach-
ment from the world, of the astonishing self -sur-
render, of the heroic patience, the untold sufferings,
the excruciating torments, the wondrous love of
God and man, and all the other lofty virtues which
they imply. Holy Church has been the prolific
mother of so many virgins and martyrs that the
words, become so familiar to our ears, fail to sug-
gest to us the transcendent gifts, the sublime virtues
which they necessarily suppose. When we look
back upon the Church's liistory, and contemplate the



uncounted numbers of her children who have laid
before the Throne of God, as so many offerings, the
Hly of their Virginity ensanguined with the blood
of Martyrdom ; when we call to mind the myriads
of virgins and martyrs whom St. John saw follow-
ing the Lamb whithersoever He went and glorifying
His name ; seeing how unceasingly and universally
these virtues have flourished in the Church of God,
we are apt not to apprize them at their true and
lofty value.

What is it to be a Virgin? Of all the virtues
there is none more excellent than that of Virginity.
Our Lord seemed to have a special predilection for
it. Born of a Virgin Mother, having the virgin St.
John the Baptist for a precursor, allowing the virgin
St. John the Evangelist to lean upon His bosom at
the last supper and to feel the beatings of His Sacred
Heart, commending His Virgin Mother to the care
of this same Virgin Apostle at the foot of the Cross,
He unmistakably manifests to us how dear this holy
virtue is to Him. In His public teachings, while
He never uttered a word against marriage, but, by
doing away with the polygamy, made it approach
unto Virginity, and restored it to its pristine condi-
tion and raised it to^ the dignity of a Sacrament;
yet He ever asserted the superior excellence of Vir-
ginity. And in His dealings with souls, in that mys-
terious communion which is continually going on
between Him and His faithful ones here below. He
has always reserved for Virgins His choicest graces,
His holiest inspirations. To them He has revealed
the details of His passion, and many circumstances
of His life, otherwise unknown. It was to a Virgin


He made known His wish that His Sacred Heart
should be adored, and its burning love declared to
all men. St. John tells us that no one could sing the
canticle of praise which he heard except the one

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 22 of 43)