Page images

many Protestants believe that it is restored even to infants incapable of belief by their being baptized.

Now, what the Church teaches with regard to the Blessed Virgin is simply this : that to her, by a special privilege, on account of her having been selected as the Mother of the Redeemer, this right to heaven was restored even before her birth, at the very instant of her conception; that what we call the stain of original sin never was upon her. That is what the word “immaculate” means. Macula, in Latin, means a stain or spot; “immaculate," then, means free from stain; and to say “Immaculate Conception" simply means, then, that her human nature was free at its very conception from this stain or spot of sin, being in that respect like that of her Divine Son. But this does not for a moment imply that she had any Divine Nature, as her Son had; nor does any Catholic dream of understanding it in that way.

Now, what objection can possibly attach to this, except that no positive proof of it may appear? No reason can be stated why it should not have been so; there is no impiety or idolatry in it. Of course, if one is to take nothing as belonging to the Christian faith but what is plainly or unquestionably stated in the Bible, one will not believe or accept it; but if one will leave this, which I think has been fairly shown

in what precedes to be unreasonable ground, there is hardly anything in which the consent of the Christian world previous to the Protestant Reformation, or since that outside of the influence of that Reformation, has been more unanimous. The Greek and other Oriental churches do not formally state it ; but it is quite safe to say that their members would not and do not reject it, for the devotion to the Blessed Virgin has been, if anything, greater with them than even in the Roman Church. And the question about it among Catholics, which did exist before the solemn definition in 1854, was not so much whether it was a true doctrine, but rather whether it was a matter, properly speaking, of the faith ; or whether the original stain did not rest for an instant, as it were, on Mary, being removed the instant afterward; attaching to her, as we may say, purely as a matter of form. These doubts were not very grave ones, and all were probably glad to have them removed.

Try, then, to clear away the prejudices and imaginations which you may have entertained about this very simple matter, and if you do not agree with us and the great majority of Christendom about it, do not think that we are idolaters because we think as we do.




(HE next article which we find in our pro

fession is as follows: "the true, real, and substantial

presence of the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In this we have the statement of one of the great mysteries of the faith; one which, as I have said, was in the beginning kept a profound secret, so far as possible, from the world outside the Christian pale, and only communicated to those who had been received into it. At present, and for a long time past, the discipline has been different; it is now explained, as far as it can be, to all who desire to know it; and yet very many, as did the Jews in the time of our Lord Himself, misunderstand and misrepresent it.

Perhaps this is not so much to be wondered at; for it is, of course, a matter impossible for us here to thoroughly understand. But that should only dispose us to try to understand it better; for that it is taught by our blessed Lord Himself quite explicitly, cannot be denied.

Please turn in your Bible to the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel. I will quote here from your own version, for that you will not gainsay. We read in verse 51 : “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

The Jews who heard Him, as I have said, misunderstood this, and were shocked at it. They said (v. 52), “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? »

Now, Protestants generally say that our Lord only meant this figuratively; that He did not mean that any one was to receive Him substantially, but only to commune with Him in a spiritual manner. And indeed we agree that it is only the spiritual union with Him that is of use; the merely material or corporal reception of His body would be of no avail, as we read below (v. 63). But if there was, after all, to be 110 actual reception of Him corporally, He could easily have removed all their objections by saying at once that a spiritual communion was all that was intended. But instead of this, He goes on (v. 53): “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in

If what He had said was merely a metaphor, why not explain it away; but no, He


goes on to state it even more strongly than before.

Why should He do this, if not to show unmistakably that there really was to be a mysterious substantial reception of Him, imparting great spiritual blessings which could not otherwise be received ; having for its object these spiritual blessings, but requiring this ineans for their attainment? And, if his hearers had all accepted all that Protestants say was meant-and certainly any one who believed in Himi even as a good and holy man might do that, there being now no other mystery than this definitely proposed as a test of their faithwhy should He say, "there are some of you that believe not” (v. 64) ? And why should some of them actually “go back and walk no more with him" (v. 66) except that they, like Protestants, felt that this mystery about the reception of His flesh and blood was something too hard for them to accept? It could hardly have been the allusion to His death or to His ascension which drove them away. These were not the points against which they had protested.

But after all, we must not get into controversy. I only want to call your attention to this matter, and have you think of it yourselves.

We all know that this mystery was afterward still more solemnly proclaimed by our Saviour when, at the Last Supper, He took bread, as all

« PreviousContinue »