Saint Worship - Part 8

It is impossible not to pity our poor materialists who see no existence, no reality, that transcends the sensible order. How little they know or dream of the riches and beauty, the life and grandeur, of God’s universe! For them "a primrose by a river’s brim" is a primrose and nothing more: it symbolizes to them no reality beyond itself. The unbelieving Jew saw in Mary only a lowly Hebrew maiden, or the wife of Joseph the carpenter; and yet, while all that, she was the Mother of God, the Queen of angels, the most glorious of the creatures of God. The same carnal-minded Jew saw nothing in Our Lord Himself as He traveled over Judea and Galilee, poor and destitute, with not whereon to lay His Head, but the carpenter’s son; and yet He was the Lord of Glory, the Majesty of Heaven and earth, the Creator and Governor of the world. To the literalist, who sees nothing beyond the letter, the sacred symbols, the consecrated elements, are simply bread and wine; and yet they are, under the [material] forms of bread and wine, the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity, of the Incarnate God Who gave Himself for us. Catholicity teaches and finds, so to speak, the Real Presence everywhere, in everything; all facts, all events, each in its own order and degree, are symbols of truths that infinitely transcend them, and the elect soul regenerated by the Holy Ghost is really joined by faith to that world of inconceivable joy and bliss which awaits the just and is the beatitude of the saints. For faith, says the apostle, "is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not" – argumentum non apparentium.

In the great truth I here insist upon is the key to the marvelous wisdom, even in things of the world, so often met with in saints who live wholly retired and in solitude. These men do not spend their lives in forming acquaintance with mere outward facts, or with the productions of other men’s brains. They meditate on the facts before them, penetrate their meaning, and grasp the universal truth they symbolize. A soul that has learned to meditate finds all nature opened, unveiled to its view, and matter enough to charm, to delight, to instruct, the edify and elevate it for years in a single spear of grass; for to the heart opened by faith, nature is full of God, and God is the fountain of all science, wisdom, life, and joy. It is not that the holy man is supernaturally or miraculously instructed in a special manner, but that he looks beneath and beyond the literal fact, penetrates the symbol, and finds himself in living relation with a higher and broader order of truth. Mere external facts give us knowledge and wisdom only as we meditate on them and penetrate their meaning. Animals have as keen senses as men, and often keener, and they have before them as broad a range of sensible facts; but they lack the mind that sees in the sensible fact that sign of an intellectual and spiritual truth, and that can attain by meditation to the truth signified. The great reason why we moderns fall so far below the men of antiquity or of the early ages of the Church is that we speculate more and meditate less, and exercise our understanding less when we meditate. We are active, not contemplative.

But I am suffering the attractiveness of this theme to lead me away from the question before me. I have simply wished to call the attention of my readers to the fact that Catholicity is catholic, that all the doctrines and practices of the Church rest on real and universal principles, and that in neither is there anything narrow, arbitrary, capricious, sectarian, or unreal. Indeed, her dogmas embody the principles, and her practices, her worship in all its parts, are designed to keep alive faith in her dogmas, and to realize them in the daily practical life of the faithful.

The principle on which rests the intercession of the saints is that God uses in completing or perfecting His works the ministry or agency of second or created causes, that is, the agency or ministry of creatures. This is seen in the order of nature no less than in the order of grace. We see it in all the facts of generation, the continuance and multiplication of plants and animals, and in the continuance, multiplication, and growth of the human race itself. So universal is this principle, which goes in the unbelieving world under the name of development, and so uniform and necessary is the part of second causes that not a few of our scientific men see no need of a first cause, and recognize no action but the action of creatures. There is a strong disposition in modern science to explain the origin and progress of all creatures and of the globe itself by their pretended [self-sufficient] laws of development.

God creates alone, by the word of His power; but, without releasing the creature from dependence on Him, He makes its existence, growth, and well-being dependent, under Him, on others. The child is not born without society, nor reared without the nurse’s aid. He must have food, and that must be supplied from first to last by others, at first without, and afterwards with, his co-operation. Light, air, heat, moisture, are all needed, and are administered by nature, also a creature of God. Indeed the whole created system is a system of mediation and intercommunion.

God gives the harvest, and yet the farmer must till the soil and sow the seed or He will reap no harvest. Throughout all orders there are means adapted to the end, and if the means are not used, the end is not gained, so with regard to prayer. It is a means to an end; and it is as unreasonable to suppose the end without he means in this case as in that of the husband-man. God knows from the beginning that the harvest is needed, yet He does not give it unless the appointed means are used. In answering prayer He does not change, nor ordinarily work a miracle; we obtain the blessing because we comply with the conditions on which He bestows it, and are in a state in which we can receive and profit by it.

The intercession of the saints is in accordance with the same principle, a principle of universal application: that of the agency of the creature in perfecting and completing creation, or the return of existences to God as their final cause.

This is seen in the Incarnation, through which, and through which alone, man is redeemed, elevated, and glorified. in the Incarnation God makes Himself creature, that the creature may fulfill its destiny, and it is in His humanity that He redeems, regenerates, and sanctifies man, thus making the creature the medium of the whole teleological order. We see the same principle in the institution of the priesthood, and it lies at the bottom of all public divine service. It is clear, then, that the prayers and intercessions of the saints are included in principle in the original plan of the Creator and harmonize perfectly with both the ordinary and the extraordinary providence of God.