by Father Frederick William Faber
If we hated sin as we ought to hate it, purely, keenly, manfully, we should do more penance, we should inflict more self-punishment, we should sorrow for our sins more abidingly.
Then, again, the crowning disloyalty to God is heresy. It is the sin of sins, the most loathsome of things which God looks down upon in this malignant world. Yet how little do we understand of its excessive hatefulness! It is the polluting of God’s truth, which is the worst of all impurities.
Yet how light we make of it! We look at it, and are calm. We touch it and do not shudder. We mix with it, and have no fear. We see it touch holy things, and we have no sense of sacrilege. We breathe its odor, and show no signs of detestation or disgust.
Some of us affect its friendship; and some even extenuate its guilt. We do not love God enough to be angry for His glory. We do not love men enough to be charitably truthful for their souls.
Having lost the touch, the taste, the sight, and all the senses of heavenly-mindedness, we can dwell amidst this odious plague, in imperturbable tranquillity, reconciled to its foulness, not without some boastful professions of liberal admiration, perhaps even with a solicitous show of tolerant sympathies.
Why are we so far below the old saints, and even the modern apostles of these latter times, in the abundance of our conversations? Because we have not the antique sternness? We want the old Church-spirit, the old ecclesiastical genius. Our charity is untruthful, because it is not severe; and it is unpersuasive, because it is untruthful.
We lack devotion to truth as truth, as God’s truth. Our zeal for souls is puny, because we have no zeal for God’s honor. We act as if God were complimented by conversions, instead of trembling souls rescued by a stretch of mercy.
We tell men half the truth, the half that best suits our own pusillanimity and their conceit; and then we wonder that so few are converted, and that of those few so many apostatize.
We are so weak as to be surprised that our half- truth has not succeeded so well as God’s whole truth.
Where there is no hatred of heresy, there is no holiness.
A man, who might be an apostle, becomes a fester in the Church for the want of this righteous abomination. We need St. Michael to put new hearts into us in these days of universal heresy.
But devotion to the Precious Blood, with its hymning of the Church and its blazoning of the Sacraments will give us Michael’s heart and the craft to use Michael’s sword. Who ever drew his sword with nobler haste, or used his victory more tenderly, than that brave archangel, whose war-cry was All for God?
The Precious Blood is His Blood, who is especially Uncreated Truth. It is His Blood who came with His truth to redeem souls.
Hence love of souls is another grace, which comes from the spirit of devotion to the Precious Blood. I wish “the love of souls” were words that were not so shortly said. They mean so much that we should linger over them, in order to imbibe their sweetness, perhaps also their medicinal bitterness as well.
A volume would hardly say all that wants saying upon this matter. In all ages of the Church a zeal for souls is a most necessary grace; and this is hardly an age in which it is less necessary than usual.
Alas! It is a rare gift, incredibly rare, rare even amongst us priests, and a gift unfortunately dishonored more than most gifts by base counterfeits and discreditable impostures.
Of all things that can be named, the love of souls is perhaps the most distinctively Catholic. It seems to be a supernatural sense, belonging only to the Church.
There are several classes of saints, classes divided from each other by wide discrepancies of grace, and a dissimilitude, almost an incompatibility, of gifts. Yet the love of souls is an instinct common to all saints of whatever class.
It is a grace, which implies the accompaniment of the greatest number of graces and the exercise of the greatest number of virtues. It is the grace which irreligious people most dislike; for it is a grace which is peculiarly obnoxious to the worldly.
It is a gift also, which requires an unusually fine spiritual discernment; for it is always and everywhere the harmony of enthusiasm and discretion. Natural activity, vulgar emulation, the bustle of benevolence, the love of praise, the habit of meddling. The over-estimate of our own abilities, the hot-headedness of unripe fervor, the obstinacy of peculiar views, the endless foolishnesses of indocile originality — all these things prepare so many delusions for the soul, and so multiply them by combining in varieties, that the gift of counsel and the virtue of prudence, as well as the cool audacity of an apostle, are needed for the exercise of this love of souls.
It is also a very laborious grace, wearing the spirit, fatiguing the mind, disappointing the heart.
This is the reason why in so many persons it is a short-lived grace. It is a part of almost everybody’s fervor, while it is part of the perseverance of very few. It is a grace which never grows old, never has the feelings of age, or the repose of age, or the slowness of age.
Hence many men cast it aside as a thing which belongs to youth, as if it were a process to be gone through, and then there was an end of it. The soul of an apostle is always youthful. It was mature in its young prudence; and it is impetuous in its grey-haired zeal.
– Taken from The Precious Blood, Chapter VI “The Devotion To The Precious Blood”, by Frederick William Faber, originally published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers to the Holy See with a Dedication by Fr. Faber dated 1860 on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.