Yesterday, an excerpt appeared in the November issue of Benedictus for the Feast of St. Cecilia. It deserves to be shouted from the housetops.
It is expanded below, from the original statement by a well-known French Benedictine.
“Insensibility to evil for which we are not personally responsible, or from which we are not likely to suffer, is one of the features of [our] period. We acknowledge that all is going to ruin, and we look on at the universal destruction without ever thinking of holding out a helping hand to save a brother from the wreck.
Where should we now be, if the first Christians had had hearts as cold as ours? If they had not been filled with that immense pity, that inexhaustible love, which forbade them to despair of a world, in the midst of which God had placed them to be the salt of the earth? Each one felt himself accountable beyond measure for the gift he had received. Freeman or slave, known or unknown, every man was the object of a boundless devotedness for these hearts filled with the charity of Christ.
Let us imitate in something at least, these examples to which we owe so much. Let us waste less of our time and eloquence in bewailing evils which are only too real. Let each one of us set to work, and gain one of his brethren: and soon the number of the faithful will surpass that of unbelievers. Without doubt, this zeal is not extinct; it still works in some, and its fruits rejoice and console the Church; but why does it slumber so profoundly in so many hearts which God had prepared to be its active centers?
This cause is unhappily to be traced to that general coldness, produced by effeminacy, which might be taken by itself alone as the type of the age; but we must add thereto another sentiment, proceeding from the same source, which would suffice, if of long duration, to render the debasement of a nation incurable. This sentiment is fear; and it may be said to extend at present to its utmost limit.
Men fear the loss of goods or position, fear the loss of comforts and ease, fear the loss of life. Needless to say, nothing can be more enervating, and consequently more dangerous to the world, than this humiliating preoccupation; but above all, we must confess that it is anything but Christian. Have we forgotten that we are merely pilgrims on this earth? And has the hope of future good died out of our hearts?
Cæcilia will teach us how to rid ourselves of this sentiment of fear. In her days, life was less secure than now. There certainly was then some reason to fear; and yet Christians were so courageous that the powerful pagans often trembled at the words of their victims. God knows what he has in store for us; but if fear does not soon make way for a sentiment more worthy of men and of Christians, all particular existences will be swallowed up in the political crisis.
Come what may, it is time to learn our history over again. The lesson will not be lost if we come to understand this much: had the first Christians feared, they would have betrayed us, for the word of life would never have come down to us; if we fear, we shall betray future generations, for we are expected to transmit to them the deposit we have received from our fathers.
The Church daily pronounces thy name with love and confidence, in the Canon of the Mass; and she looks for thy assistance, O Cæcilia, knowing it will not fail her. Prepare a victory for her, by raising up the hearts of Christians to the realities, which they too often forget while they run after the vain shadows from which thou didst win Tiburtius. When the minds of men become once more fixed upon the thought of their eternal destiny, the salvation and peace of nations will be secured. … From the midst of thy glory thou wilt watch over us; and when our last hour draws nigh, we beseech thee by the merits of thy heroic martyrdom, assist us. … Give us to understand the value of Virginity, of the Apostolate, and of Martyrdom.”