THE first and greatest sinner against religion is the idolater, who

offers God-worship to others than God. There are certain attributes

that belong to God alone, certain titles that He alone has a right to

bear, certain marks of veneration that are due to Him alone. To ascribe

these to any being under God is an abomination, and is called idolatry.

The idols of paganism have long since been thrown, their temples
br /> destroyed; the folly itself has fallen into disuse, and its

extravagances serve only in history "to point a moral or adorn a tale."

Yet, in truth, idolatry is not so dead as all that, if one would take

the pains to peruse a few pages of the current erotic literature

wherein people see heaven in a pair of blue eyes, catch inspired words

from ruby lips and adore a well trimmed chin-whisker. I would sooner,

with the old-time Egyptians, adore a well-behaved cat or a toothsome

cucumber than with certain modern feather-heads and gum-drop hearts,

sing hymns to a shapely foot or dimpled cheek and offer incense to

"divinities," godlike forms, etc. The way hearts and souls are thrown

around from one to another is suggestive of the national game; while

the love they bear one another is always infinite, supreme, without

parallel on earth or in heaven.

No, perhaps they do not mean what they say; but that helps matters very

little, for the fault lies precisely in saying what they do say; the

language used is idolatrous. And a queer thing about it is that they do

mean more than half of what they say. When degenerate love runs riot,

it dethrones the Almighty, makes gods of clay and besots itself before


What is superstition and what is a superstitious practice? It is

something against the virtue of religion; it sins, not by default as

unbelief, but by excess. Now, to be able to say what is excessive, one

must know what is right and just, one must have a measure. To attempt

to qualify anything as excessive without the aid of a rule or measure

is simply guesswork.

The Yankee passes for a mighty clever guesser, outpointing with ease

his transatlantic cousin. Over there the sovereign guesses officially

that devotion to the Mother of God is a superstitious practice. This

reminds one of the overgrown farmer boy, who, when invited by his

teacher to locate the center of a circle drawn on the blackboard, stood

off and eyed the figure critically for a moment with a wise squint; and

then said, pointing his finger to the middle or thereabouts: "I should

jedge it to be about thar'." He was candid enough to offer only an

opinion. But how the royal guesser could be sure enough to swear it,

and that officially, is what staggers plain people.

Now right reason is a rule by which to judge what is and what is not

superstitious. But individual reason or private judgment and right

reason are not synonyms in the English or in any other language that is

human. When reasoning men disagree, right reason, as far as the debated

question is concerned, is properly said to be off on a vacation, a

thing uncommonly frequent in human affairs. In order, therefore that

men should not be perpetually at war concerning matters that pertain to

men's salvation, God established a competent authority which even

simple folks with humble minds and pure hearts can find. In default of

any adverse claimant the Catholic Church must be adjudged that

authority. The worship, therefore, that the Church approves as worthy

of God is not, cannot be, superstition. And what is patently against

reason, or, in case of doubt, what she reproves and condemns in

religion is superstitious.

Leaving out of the question for the moment those species of

superstition that rise to the dignity of science, to the accidental

fame and wealth of humbugs and frauds, the evil embraces a host of

practices that are usually the result of a too prevalent psychological

malady known as softening of the brain. These poor unfortunates imagine

that the Almighty who holds the universe in the hollow of His hand,

deals with His creatures in a manner that would make a full-grown man

pass as a fool if he did the same. Dreams, luck-pieces, certain

combinations of numbers or figures, ordinary or extraordinary events

and happenings--these are the means whereby God is made to reveal to

men secrets and mysteries as absurd as the means, themselves. Surely

God must have descended from His throne of wisdom.

Strange though it appear, too little religion--and not too much--leads

to these unholy follies. There is a religious instinct in man. True

religion satisfies it fully. Quack religion, pious tomfoolery, and

doctrinal ineptitude foisted upon a God-hungry people end by driving

some from one folly to another in a pitiful attempt to get away from

the deceptions of man and near to God. Others are led on by a sinful

curiosity that outweighs their common-sense as well as their respect

for God. These are the guilty ones.

It has been said that there is more superstition--that is belief and

dabbling in these inane practices--to-day in one of our large cities

than the Dark Ages ever was afflicted with. If true, it is one sign of

the world's spiritual unrest, the decay of unbelief; and irreligion

thus assists at its own disintegration. The Church swept the pagan

world clean of superstition once; she may soon be called upon to do the

work over again.