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Religious Expressions


Caritas - Papal Office
by His Holiness Pope Pius XIII
May 22, 2005
Issue 052 

Fifty Ninth Anniversary of
Our Ordination to the Priesthood

At Our First Mass on June 6, 1946 (59 years ago) the priest who gave the sermon for the occasion quoted (the Offertory Prayer for the Mass of Popes), Jeremiah 1, 9-10:

“Behold, I have given My words in thy mouth. Lo, I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up and pull down, to waste and to destroy, and to build and to plant.”

Those words quoted from the Prophet Jeremiah touched Our heart to the core, and We determined to live them out to the best of Our ability. The opening words took on a fuller meaning on October 24, 1998 when We became the Pope, and thus God set Us over nations and over kingdoms of the whole world.

At first reading the words “to root up and pull down, to waste and destroy” seem very shocking. However, when one observes honest laborers he sees that the farmer who goes into a waste land must root up stumps, and pull down shacks, and waste the weeds. Without that preparatory work no crops can be grown. Once the land is ready for use the farmer proceeds “to build and to plant.” He sets up new buildings, and he plants food-producing plants. It is his greatest desire that the crops, receiving from God sunshine and rain, will produce if possible a hundred fold crop.

Here We transfer the metaphor to the souls of men. We are obliged to root up and pull down what is evil in men by reason of the sin of Adam, called original sin. In the Ten Commandments, God condemns the basic violations of His commands, namely: by the Fourth Commandment, “condemn-ing disobedience to all lawful authority, by the Fifth Command-ment forbidding the unjust taking of human life, by the Sixth Commandment forbidding the sins against the flesh – adultery, fornication, and so forth. Then follows the Seventh Commandment forbidding injustices in dealing with our neighbor, as robbery, theft and so forth. Finally, the Eighth Commandment forbids the speaking of untruth whereby our neighbor is lead into error and misery, yes, even to eternal damnation.

In this newsletter We are going to dwell more fully on the second part of the words addressed by God to Jeremiah, and in 1946 by the preacher to Us at Our first Holy Mass. We are to “build and to plant.” This command applies to children immediately after birth and continually during life. The person who does not have well-developed habits of the Christian life, will find himself living in a vacuum, and you know that a vacuum calls for a fill. The filling of that vacuum is most readily done by bad habits of sin which make life on earth a misery and damnation forever after death. There are two basic types of habits. One is acquired by mere good will and practice, and the other is learned from others. Just take a few obvious good habits. St. Peter and Paul did not have rosaries. They did not have scapulars. They did not have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and so forth and so on. The piety of the faithful and some private revelations have given us today, many fine Christian practices that we should not let die by reason of our not practicing them.

Books dealing with these Catholic practices are readily available. Certainly one can find ads from religious goods stores that sell crucifixes, holy pictures, rosaries, holy water fonts, candles, medals, cribs for Christmas, palms for Palm Sunday and so forth. With all these sacred objects there should be proper instruction lest those with more zeal than common sense use them in a superstitious way, thus calling down on themselves curses rather than blessings.

We have come upon a very fine booklet that can be most helpful in finding ways to practice our Catholic faith, CUSTOMS & TRADITONS of the CATHOLIC FAMILY. Order this 74page booklet from Catholic Treasures, P.O. Box 5034, Monrovia, CA 91017-1734.

The imprimatur was given by Bishop Noll in the 1930s. The Neumann Press of Long Prairie, MN reprinted it in 1994. Hence, it has served Catholics well for over a half a century.

The overall structure of the booklet is that it lists and explains religious practices from various countries and races. It covers the USA, Germany, France, and gives variations within those places and other areas.

The table of contents list three areas.

  1. Your Home, A Church in Miniature.
  2. Family Devotions for the Liturgical Year.
  3. Family Religious Customs of Various Nationalities.

The last number covers ten areas.

  • Family Religious Customs Among German People.
  • Living Holy Week with Christ.
  • Mexican Family Customs in Our Catholic Southwest.
  • Slovaks and Family Customs in Our Catholic Southwest,
    and so forth and so on.

It is good to make a checklist to see if our Catholic homes have the basic essentials on hand and in place. Every Catholic home should have on their walls crucifies and suitable pictures of Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother and so forth. If there are no religious goods stores in the area of the homes, parents can order these things by mail from catalog companies. Especially in bedrooms there should be holy water fonts, constantly filled with holy water, and on some tables there should be a blessed candle. For continued protection against diabolical torment and freedom from storms and fires, the candle need not be burned. Its devotional presence is sufficient.

Behind some pictures there should be some sticks of Palms taken from the Palm Sunday Mass.

If the home is in possession of a VCR and/or CD players there should be records of sacred music. Likewise, it is praiseworthy to have videos of Our Lady of Fatima, the story of Lourdes, old films of the true Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and so forth and so on.

We pause here in Our enumerations to tell you that living the faith is a way of life, so these objects and practices gradually get assembled without feeling a notable financial burden. Even little children can have religious objects such as a Blessed Virgin type of doll for the girls, a toy altar for the boys and the like.

Thus far We have dealt with objects for the home. It is important to also care for the body with fitting religious objects. Every adult and child should have around their necks or pinned on their clothing various blessed medals, as the medal of the Immaculate Conception generally called the Miraculous Medal. Girls should be proud to wear such a medal around their neck as an ornament. Religious goods stores have many devotional objects for sale. It is up to each person’s devotional life to select the objects they want to use.

From the time of the use of reason every person should be wearing the Brown Scapular of Mt. Carmel, the one given to St. Simon Stock personally by Our Blessed Mother. Any Catholic can make or buy such a scapular and wear it even without having it blessed or being invested with it by a priest. All one needs are two small pieces of brown woolen cloth even without any markings on them. It is worn in front and in back of the chest. The strings can be any string, chain or even a fishing line. Pinning it on ones clothing will not do. It is a garment, so it must be worn as a garment in order to be valid. It invests one in the garment of the Blessed Virgin, and it brings down her singular protection and blessings. Our Blessed Mother promised that whosoever dies wearing this garment will be saved. Remember there is more to it than first appears. A soldier wears the military uniform. If he has it on before he enters or after he leaves the service it is not said that he “wears” the uniform. The same is said of ball players wearing the uniform of his club. In order to be Mary’s child, wearing the clothing of her family, one must wear her brown scapular day and night. We encourage one and all to also wear the five fold scapular, and it must be imposed on one by a priest. According to each one’s devotion he may have himself enrolled in any number of scapulars and societies of devotion.

We always carry in Our pocket at tinny bottle of Holy Water, and We have done so for very many year. Such a devotion brings much protection and many blessings that are contained in the ritual blessing of Holy Water. It is, indeed, a very long blessing. Hence, every priest makes sure that he has a supply in a jug or several jugs so that the faithful can obtain their supply of Holy Water whenever they have need to replenish their home supply.

Here We shall give you a touching experience that We had during Our first week in the Capuchin Novitiate in Huntington, Indiana. As We were working in Our room someone knocked at the door, possibly the first time that happened to Us. We opened the door, and there stood a young Capuchin with a pitcher of Holy Water. He reached into Our room and filled the Holy Water fountain that was right beside the door. It was there, no doubt, so that one would use the Holy Water whenever entering and leaving the room.

The ritual has blessings for very many things. There is a blessing for vehicles, that is, cars and trucks. We always bless Our cars as soon as We get a new one. We do not end Our devoting there. We put the medal of St. Christopher in a prominent place, for he is to be Our helper along the way of the road and the way of life. We have several other medals stuck on the dash board near the steering wheel. When We sell and trade our car for a new car We remove all those objects of devotion and place them into the new car. Who knows, some person, who possibly is not a Catholic, may get that old car and trash the sacred objects of devotion.

We remember with devotion Our first months in the Capuchin monastery. One day We saw our oldest and retired priest with his stole on sprinkling Holy Water on the monastery gardens and fruit orchards. He blessed them with the Church formulas found in the ritual.

You might say that you do not live in a monastery. However, you can have the priest in normal times come from time to time to bless your buildings, gardens, fields, animals and the like, where this applies. If there is no priest to do so, you can give a layman’s blessing to those things with Holy Water yourselves.

The booklet “Customs & Traditions of the Catholic Family” gives many examples of how different ecclesiastical seasons can be celebrated, bringing many blessings to the entire family. For example, at the beginning of Advent, one could put the crib for the Infant Jesus in a convenient location with a box of tiny straw sticks beside it. Whenever a member of the family made a sacrifice for the Advent season in preparation for Christmas he/she could put a straw stick on the manger where the statue of the Infant Jesus would be placed on the evening of December 24th. That external sign gives more meaning to the internal preparations for Christmas.

Catholics should shop well in advance for Christmas in order to find, if possible, Christmas cards with a Christmas pictures and appropriate Catholic sentiments.

Families who have tape recorders, CDs and the like will do well to have first-class Christmas music of a sacred nature. Hymns of the Blessed Virgin are in order all year around. Every family should secure a devotional hymnal, for without such a book how are you going to carry on the best devotions that are from tradition? Make sure that wild music and stupid modern literature are kept out of your homes. Only that which is uplifting should find a place in Catholic homes.

When readers of this letter have within them the power to make public customs they should do so. We remember how deeply We were impressed at the Corpus Christi liturgical celebration in Our parish which was named, “Corpus Christi Church.” A country road ran right in front of the Church, and on the other side of the road was the parish cemetery. At three corners of that cemetery there were small buildings just large enough to keep an altar for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The altar linens, candle sticks and the like were preserved in the private homes of parishioners. They set up the equipment and decorated the altar for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The whole parish gathered together for that feast, and our pastor invited neighboring priests so that we could have a Solemn High Mass, and that was followed by the entire parish taking part. At each of the three altars there was benediction with the proper hymns and prayers. Finally the procession ended in the Church where the fourth benediction was given. That yearly profound religious ceremony, a united parish effort, likely contributed to Our vocation to the Capuchin Order and Catholic priesthood with Our three brothers following the same religious and priestly vocation. We tell you this to inspire you readers to work out religious practices which fit into society today.

Religious Expressions

We shall copy a very interesting paragraph entitled: Religious Expressions: “The reverent use of the name of God and of religious expressions in the home is well-deserving of special mention and attention. It is a practice that serves very well as an antidote against a secularized family life. Among the Italians, Poles, Portuguese, Germans, Irish, French, and others one still finds such expressions in use. They should be made generally accepted practices again. They can exercise a very profound influence over the lives of the family members. The following are among expressions still heard today: “God willing”; “The Lord reward you”; “Our Lady, help you.”

When members of the family meet in the morning it is praiseworthy that they greet each other with “Praised be Jesus Christ.” R/ “Now and forever. Amen.” Likewise when retiring they should wish each other a blessing for the night as, “Good night, and God bless you.”

Where these practices are lost the author above says: “It should be our holy ambition to restore them again, to make them universally accepted once more and carried into practice – with suitable adoptions that may be called for.”

Immodest Dress

Holy Mother Church, over and over repeats the admonition that all men and women must dress with due modesty. She threatens those who neglect this admonition with some woes given by our Lord. In Matthew 18, 7 We read:

“Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom scandal cometh.”

Those who give scandal are to be admonished, and when that admonition is ignored they are to be corrected “with three witnesses.” In verse 17 the quotation continues.

“And if he will not hear them: tell the church (the Catholic community). And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.”

For this one page of warnings and admonitions We are offering you a wonderful booklet (24 pages) entitled IMMODEST DRESS The Mind of the Church, by Louise Martin, from Catholic Treasures, Monrovia, CA 91017-7134, phone (800) 257-4893.

The opening paragraph of the booklet is: As far back as 1921, the Church spoke out strongly against immodest fashions. At that time, Pope Benedict XV, in his Encyclical Letter “Sacra Propediem” stated: “One cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and station. Made foolish by a desire to please, they do not see to what degree the indecency of their clothing shocks every honest man and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for such apparel as for a grave fault against Christian modesty. Now it does not suffice to exhibit themselves on public thoroughfares, they do not fear to cross the threshold of churches, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passion to the Eucharistic Table, where one receives the Heavenly Author or Purity.” The world owes a great debt of gratitude to Father Bernard A. Kunkel (died 1969) pastor of St. Cecelia’s Church, Bartelso, Illinois for his twenty-five years of leading the crusade for holy purity through modesty in dress. He pointed out as follows: “Our Mother Most Chaste being dethroned from their hearts, there as no other logical course for them, than to exile Her from their man-made churches and from the hearts of their millions of followers. But the devil could not hope to corrupt completely Christ’s Mystical Body, the Catholic Church, unless he could first succeed in dethroning Mary, the Mother Most Chaste, from the hearts of Catholics.

Father Kunkel quoted the words of Our Lady to the ten year old Jacinta of Fatima, while Jacinta lay dying in a hospital in Lisbon, Portugal in 1920. “Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord very much. Those who serve God ought not to follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”

Here is an interesting quotation: “In 1846, the Pontifical Government of Italy, under Pope Gregory XVI, seized secret documents from the Communists of that day. The Pope sent those documents to Cretinau-Joly, who published them in French in 1875 with the approval of Pope Pius IX. One of these documents is most revealing. “It has been decided in our councils (of the Communists) that we must get rid of Catholics, but we do not want to make martyrs, so let us strive to popularize vice among the people … Let them drink it in … make men’s hearts corrupt and you will have no more Church.

A directive from Rome (09/14/1938) is as follows: “In order that uniformity of understanding prevail … we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers’ breath under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees (so that the knees are fully covered when seated). Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”

Pope Pius XI quotes Deuteronomy 22, 5.

“A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel: neither shall a man use women’s apparel. For he that doeth those things is abominable before God.”

Some say skimpy dresses do not bother them, and of them Pope Pius XII observes: “And he is right: He has become morally and spiritually blind through repeated sins. His conscious is dead! … Style may never give a proximate occasion of sin, and clothing must be a shield against disordered sensuality.”

The booklet concludes with the following observation of those who see nothing wrong with immodesty in dress: “The dirt is already in the mind which can see no need for closing the shutters of the eyes to evil. Just as an untidy housewife is “not affected” by dirty shoes entering her dirty house.”

Pius, pp. XIII
May 22, 2005

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