The Doctrine of the Catholic Church on the Invocation of Saints, and on that of St. Joseph.
Before we begin to explain sweet and unctuous devotion to our holy patron, St. Joseph, a clear and simple exposition of the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Invocation of Saints, cannot fail to edify all, and, perhaps, enlighten some, of our pious readers. "Thy testimonies," cries out the Royal Prophet, "are wonderful . . . The declaration of thy words giveth light, and giveth understanding to little ones." (Ps. cxiii.). The stamp or seal of the Church upon any Devotion carries with it absolute certainty. The seal of the ruling prince upon the current ore certifies to his subjects that the glittering coin is not gilt, but genuine gold; in like manner, the seal or approbation of the Church upon any Devotion is an absolute guarantee to the faithful that the Devotion is solid, in accordance with sound doctrine, and conducive to life everlasting. The intelligent Catholic ought to go farther; he ought to be able to give an account of the faith that is in him, and to refute and conquer, with the arms the Church puts into his hands, the impious heretic and unbeliever.
In this evil age, when bold and defiant infidelity stalks abroad, and attacks and scoffs at every sacred truth of our holy faith; when the most powerful governments of the world, and men in the highest station, as well as men of talents and learning, have leagued with the powers of darkness to rob the people of their faith, and destroy the Church of Jesus Christ, every Catholic should not only glory in his holy religion, and defend it, even, if necessary, to the shedding of his heart's blood; but should also be instructed and prepared to defend the faith, practices, and devotions of his holy Church.
Nothing, even the most sacred, has escaped the lash and insults of wicked men. "The fool," says the sacred Text, "said in his heart: there is no God. They are corrupted, and become abominable in iniquities: There is none that doth good. God looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand or did seek God. All have gone aside, they are become unprofitable together" (Ps. lii. 1-4). If there be wicked men—and they are a legion—who blaspheme God, as they do, no wonder that they should insult God's Saints. If impious men, in the pride of their intellect and heart, deny, as they do, the Divinity of Jesus, the Saviour of the world, what wonder, then, that they should ridicule the Mother and the reputed Father of the Redeemer, Mary and St. Joseph. And what is more to be deplored, these men calling themselves Christians, are so blinded by foul and damning heresy, that they think they honour God by insulting Bus Saints, and that they please Jesus by blaspheming His Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. May God open their eyes to see the truth, and move their hearts to embrace it.
0ne of the most sublime and noble occupation of the genius of man is to " vindicate the ways of God to man," and to defend the Doctrines of God's holy Church.
Though simple devotion, not controversy, is our aim, yet we deem it a great privilege, yea, a labour of love, to defend, feebly, indeed, yet as best we can, the prerogatives of God's great Servants, and especially to trumpet the glories of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; and the sanctity and privileges of St. Joseph, the reputed Father of our Blessed Redeemer.
Before we touch on the arguments in favour of the Invocation of Saints, it is well to lay down clearly and distinctly the doctrine of the Catholic Church on this article of faith. For this we have only to refer to the Decrees of the Infallible Council of Trent.
"The holy Synod," declare the Fathers, "enjoins upon all bishops, and others who sustain the office and charge of teaching, that agreeably to the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion; and agreeably to the consent of the holy Fathers, and to the Decrees of sacred Councils; they especially instruct the faithful diligently concerning the Intercession and Invocation of Saints . . . teaching them that the Saints who reign with Christ offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful, suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and help, for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is our sole Redeemer and Saviour; but that they think impiously who deny that the Saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invoked; or who assert either that they do not pray for men, or that the Invocation of them to pray for each of us in particular is idolatry, or that it is repugnant to the word of God, and is opposed to the honour of the one mediator of God and men, Christ Jesus; or that it is foolish to supplicate vocally or mentally those who reign in heaven " (Sess. xxv.).
From this Decree, the teaching of the Catholic Church is, first, that the invocation of the Saints is, not absolutely necessary for each one's salvation, but is "good" and "useful;" secondly, that the aids and helps come to us, not directly from the Saints themselves, but from God, through their intercession and prayers; thirdly, that Jesus Christ is the sole and only Mediator between God and men, and that the intercession and prayers of the Saints derive all their efficacy and power from Him alone; and hence that the Intercession of the Saints is not injurious to the merits of Christ. "It is good and useful," says the Council, as we have seen, "suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and helps, for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our sole Redeemer and Saviour . . . one Mediator of God and men."
Communion of Saints.
How divine, and hence consoling, are the doctrines of the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church alone satisfies the reason of the intellect, as well as the feelings and the aspirations of the heart. The Divine Author of our faith is the same God who stamped His own image on the soul of man, and breathed into his heart pure and warm love. The great Creator has lighted up the heart of man with ardent, tender love for family and friends. To-day the family chain is broken; there is a missing link, a loved and loving one is gone to her everlasting account; here we are consoled by the doctrine of purgatory. Separation from this vale of tears only purifies and intensifies our affections for the dear departed. How happy the children feel that they can kneel and pray over the graves of their fond parents, and help them to the enjoyment of eternal bliss! But more heartless and cruel than the tyrant death, and colder than the grave, is the Protestant Creed, that snaps all connection between the living and the dead, and sternly forbids the loving daughter to whisper a prayer for a fond mother or sister in pain beyond the grave.
Consoling and holy, because divine, in like manner is the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. Every Christian says in the "Apostles' Cubed," "I Believe In The Communion Of Saints." Singular enough, Protestants retain the same Creed, make the same profession of faith; yet few appear to understand it, none to believe or practise it. The Catholic doctrine of the Communion of Saints soars up, so to speak, to the highest and most purified affections and aspirations of the human heart, and strikingly illustrates the tender mercy of God.
A loved and loving member of the family circle departs this life, and wings her flight to paradise. The soul now lost, so to speak, in the blissful glory of God, vividly sees what it is to lose or win heaven. From St. Paul we know that faith and hope have ceased in heaven, that charity, the queen of virtues, reigns supreme; in fact, love is the essence of eternal bliss. What, therefore, is more natural than the belief that the child possessing the glory of God, looks down to those she loved on earth; looks, with a purer, holier, and more intensified love, to her fond parents, sisters, and brothers; watches over them, prays for them, never forsakes them, till with herself they reign with God in glory.
Nobody denies that friends on earth can pray for and help each other. What is more natural than to believe that this friendship is continued and intensified beyond the grave, and that the friendly soul, seeing the thousand temptations, dangers, and fearful risks to which her friend is exposed; and knowing the infinite and everlasting joys he can so easily obtain by a few years strife and fidelity, with unspeakably more energy and efficacy helps her friends to paradise.
There is another, and, perhaps, a greater consolation in the " Communion Of Saints." The Communion Of Saints means, the mutual interchange of good offices between the Church militant and the Church triumphant; between us on earth and all the Saints of God in glory. We honour, respect, love them, and thank, and praise God for their glory and happiness; the Saints, on their part, take the deepest interest in our spiritual welfare, watch over us, and continually pray and intercede with the Almighty for the salvation of our immortal souls.
It is encouraging, to know, therefore, that we, in our exile, in this vale of tears, exposed to countless temptations day and night, giving battle to three powerful and relentless enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil— the road of salvation beset with innumerable pitfalls, dangers, and risks; it is, we repeat, encouraging to look up to heaven, and to be assured that we have in heaven a mighty army, countless millions of Angels and Saints, who look down upon us with sympathy, take a deep interest in, and help us, in our struggles, and intercede with God for our eternal salvation.
Each country has her natural heroes, men renowned for deeds of greatness, sacrifice, and courage. These heroes are immortalized by the brush and the chisel, by prose and song, and are kept before the eyes of each rising generation as models of imitation and emulation. The Church, too, has had, in every age, her heroes, men renowned for deeds of sacrifice and greatness; she has had her. Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, and Virgins; men who conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil; men who in human flesh have led the lives of Angels in heaven, and the lustre of whose virtues shine brighter as age succeeds age. These are the models the Church holds up to the youth of every age to admire, imitate, or emulate