IT is part of our belief that no man can lose his faith without mortal

sin. The conscious rejection of all or any religious truth once

embraced and forming a part of Christian belief, or the deliberate

questioning of a single article thereof, is a sin, a sin against God's

light and God's grace. It is a deliberate turning away from God. The

moral culpability of such an act is great in the extreme, while its

cannot be weighed or measured by any human norm or rule.

No faith was ever wrecked in a day; it takes time to come to such a

pass; it is by easy stages of infidelity, by a slow process of

half-denials, a constant fostering of habits of ignorance, that one

undermines, little by little, one's spiritual constitution. Taking

advantage of this state of debility, the microbe of unbelief creeps in,

eats its way to the soul and finally sucks out the very vitals of

faith. Nor is this growth of evil an unconscious one; and there lies

the malice and guilt. Ignorant pride, neglect of prayer and religious

worship, disorders, etc., these are evils the culprit knows of and

wills. He cannot help feeling the ravages being wrought in his soul; he

cannot help knowing that these are deadly perils to his treasure of

faith. He complacently allows them to run their course; and he wakes up

one fine morning to find his faith gone, lost, dead--and a chasm

yawning between him and his God that only a miracle can bridge over.

We mentioned ignorance: this it is that attacks the underpinning of

faith, its rational basis, by which it is made intelligent and

reasonable, without which there can be no faith.

Ignorance is, of course, a relative term; there are different degrees

and different kinds. An ignorant man is not an unlettered or uncultured

one, but one who does not know what his religion means, what he

believes or is supposed to believe, and has no reason to give for his

belief. He may know a great many other things, may be chock full of

worldly learning, but if he ignores these matters that pertain to the

soul, we shall label him an ignoramus for the elementary truths of

human knowledge are, always have been, and always shall be, the

solution of the problems of the why, the whence and the whither of life

here below. Great learning frequently goes hand in hand with dense

ignorance. The Sunday-school child knows better than the atheist

philosopher the answer to these important questions. There is more

wisdom in the first page of the Catechism than in all the learned books

of sceptics and infidels.

Knowledge, of course, a thorough knowledge of all theological science

will not make faith, any more than wheels will make a cart. But a

certain knowledge is essential, and its absence is fatal to faith.

There are the simple ignorant who have forgotten their Catechism and

leave the church before the instruction, for fear they might learn

something; who never read anything pertaining to religion, who would be

ashamed to be detected with a religious book or paper in their hands.

Then, there are the learned ignorant, such as our public schools turn

out in great numbers each year; who, either are above mere religious

knowledge-seeking and disdain all that smacks of church and faith; or,

knowing little or nothing at all, imagine they possess a world of

theological lore and know all that is knowable. These latter are the

more to be pitied, their ignorance doubling back upon itself, as it

were. When a man does not realize his own ignorance, his case is well

nigh hopeless.

If learning cannot give faith, neither can it alone preserve it.

Learned men, pillars of the Church have fallen away. Pride, you will

say. Yes, of course, pride is the cause of all evil. But we have all

our share of it. If it works less havoc in some than in others, that is

because pride is or is not kept within bounds. It is necessarily fatal

to faith only when it is not controlled by prayer and the helps of

practical religion. God alone can preserve our faith. He will do it

only at our solicitation.

If, therefore, some have not succeeded in keeping the demon of pride

under restraint, it is because they refused to consider their faith a

pure gift of God that cannot be safely guarded without God's grace; or

they forgot that God's grace is assured to no man who does not pray.

The man who thinks he is all-sufficient unto himself in matters of

religion, as in all other matters, is in danger of being brought to a

sense of his own nothingness in a manner not calculated to be

agreeable. No man who practised humble prayer ever lost hi& faith, or

ever can; for to him grace is assured.

And since faith is nothing if not practical, since it is a habit, it

follows that irreligion, neglect to practise what we believe will

destroy that habit. People who neglect their duty often complain that

they have no taste for religion, cannot get interested, find no

consolation therein. This justifies further neglect. They make a

pretence to seek the cause. The cause is lack of faith; the fires of

God's grace are burning low in their souls. They will soon go out

unless they are furnished with fuel in the shape of good, solid,

practical religion. That is their only salvation. Ignorance,

supplemented by lack of prayer and practice, goes a long way in the

destruction of faith in any soul, for two essentials are deficient.

Disorder, too, is responsible for the loss of much faith. Luther and

Henry might have retained their faith in spite of their pride, but they

were lewd, and avaricious; and there is small indulgence for such

within the Church. Not but that we are all human, and sinners are the

objects of the Church's greatest solicitude; but within her pale no

man, be he king or genius, can sit down and feast his passions and

expect her to wink at it and call it by another name than its own. The

law of God and of the Church is a thorn in the flesh of the vicious

man. The authority of the Church is a sword of Damocles held

perpetually over his head--until it is removed. Many a one denies God

in a moment of sin in order to take the sting of remorse out of it. One

gets tired of the importunities of religion that tell us not to sin, to

confess if we do sin.

When you meet a pervert who, with a glib tongue, protests that his

conscience drove him from the Church, that his enslaved intelligence

needed deliverance, search him and you will find a skeleton in his

closet; and if you do not find it, it is there just the same. A

renegade priest some years ago, held forth before a gaping audience, at

great length, on the reasons of his leaving the Church. A farmer

sitting on the last bench listened patiently to his profound

argumentation. When the lecturer was in the middle of his twelfthly,

the other arose and shouted to him across the hall: "Cut it short, and

say you wanted a wife." The heart has reasons which the reason does not


Not always, but frequently, ignorance, neglect and vice come to this.

The young, the weak and the proud have to guard themselves against

these dangers, hey work slowly, imperceptibly, but surely. Two things

increase the peril and tend to precipitate matters; reading and

companionship. The ignorant are often anxious to know the other side,

when they do not know their own. The consequence is that they will not

understand fully the question; and if they do, will not be able to

resolve the difficulty. They are handicapped by their ignorance and can

only make a mess out of it. The result is that they are caught by

sophistries like a fly in a web.

The company of those who believe differently, or not at all, is also

pernicious to unenlightened and weak faith. The example in itself is

potent for evil. The Catholic is usually not a persona grata as a

Catholic but for some quality he possesses. Consequently, he must hide

his religion under the bushel for fear of offending. Then a sneer, a

gibe, a taunt are unpleasant things, and will be avoided even at the

price of what at other times would look like being ashamed of one's

faith. If ignorant, he will be silent; if he has not prayed, he will be

weak; if vicious, he will be predisposed to fall.

If we would guard the precious deposit of faith secure against any

possible emergency, we must enlighten it, we must strengthen it, we

must live up to it.


THE First Commandment bids us hope as well as believe in God. Our trust

and confidence in His mercy to give us eternal life and the means to

obtain it,--this is our hope, founded on our belief that God is what He

reveals Himself to us, able and willing to do by us as we would have

Him do. Hope is the flower of our faith; faith is the substance of the

things we hope for.

To desire and to hope are not one and the same thing. We may long for

what is impossible of obtaining, while hope always supposes this

possibility, better, a probability, nay, even a moral certitude. This

expectation remains hope until it comes to the fruition of the things

hoped for.

The desire of general happiness is anchored in the human heart, deep

down in the very essence of our being. We all desire to be happy, We

may be free in many things; in this we are not free. We must have

happiness, greater than the present, happiness of one kind or another,

real or apparent. We may have different notions of this happiness; we

desire it according to our notions. Life itself is one, long, painful,

unsatisfied desire.

When that desire is centered in God and the soul's salvation, it

incontinently becomes hope, for then we have real beatitude before us,

and all may obtain it. It can be true hope only when founded on faith.

Not only is hope easy, natural, necessary, but it is essential to life.

It is the mainspring of all activity. It keeps all things moving, and

without it life would not be worth living. If men did not think they

could get what they are striving after, they would sit down, fold their

arms, let the world move, but they wouldn't.

Especially is Christian hope absolutely necessary for the leading of a

Christian life, and no man would take upon himself that burden, if he

did not confidently expect a crown of glory beyond, sufficient to repay

him for all the things endured here below for conscience's sake. Hope

is a star that beckons us on to renewed effort, a vision of the goal

that animates and invigorates us; it is also a soothing balm to the

wounds we receive in the struggle.

To be without this hope is the lowest level to which man may descend.

St. Paul uses the term "men without hope" as the most stinging reproach

he could inflict upon the dissolute pagans.

To have abandoned hope is a terrible misfortune--despair. This must not

be confounded with an involuntary perturbation, a mere instinctive

dread, a phantasmagoric illusion that involves no part of the will. It

is not even an excessive fear that goes by the name of pusillanimity.

It is a cool judgment like that of Cain: "My sin is too great that I

should expect forgiveness."

He who despairs, loses sight of God's mercy and sees only His stern,

rigorous justice. After hatred of God, this is perhaps the greatest

injury man can do to his Master, who is Love. There has always been

more of mercy than of justice in His dealings with men. We might say of

Him that He is all mercy in this world, to be all justice in the next.

Therefore while there is life, there is hope.

The next abomination is to hope, but to place our supreme happiness in

that which should not be the object of our hope. Men live for

pleasures, riches, and honors, as though these things were worthy of

our highest aspirations, as though they could satisfy the unappeasable

appetite of man for happiness. Greater folly than this can no man be

guilty of. He takes the dross for the pure gold, the phantom for the

reality. Few men theoretically belong to this class; practically it has

the vast majority.

The presumptuous are those who hope to obtain the prize and do nothing

to deserve it. He who would hope to fly without wings, to walk without

feet, to live without air or food would be less a fool than he who

hopes to save his soul without fulfiling the conditions laid down by

Him who made us. There is no wages without service, no reward without

merit, no crown without a cross.

This fellow's mistake is to bank too much on God's mercy, leaving His

justice out of the bargain altogether. Yet God is one as well as the

other, and both equally. The offense to God consists in making Him a

being without any backbone, so to speak, a soft, incapable judge, whose

pity degenerates into weakness. And certainly it is a serious offense.

No, hope should be sensible and reasonable. It must keep the middle

between two extremes. The measure of our hope should reasonably be the

measure of our efforts, for he who wishes the end wishes the means. Of

course God will make due allowances for our frailties, but that is His

business, not ours; and we have no right to say just how far that mercy

will go. Even though we lead the lives of saints, we shall stand in

need of much mercy. Prudence tells us to do all things as though it all

depended upon us alone; then God will make up for the deficiencies.