By St Leonard of Port Maurice, – HIDDEN TREASURES OF MASS starts June 19th.
A lady who enters the church decked out in the height of fashion
is certain to attract the attention of all present, and perhaps, what God forbid, to draw to herself the adoration due to the adorable Victim of the altar. I need not cite examples to induce such persons to frequent the church every day: they are but too anxious to be seen there. My great object is to impress on them, with what modesty and respect they ought to comport themselves in the house of God, particularly during the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I must say that I have been exceedingly edified by the devotion and modesty of many Roman ladies of rank, who entered the churches and knelt before God’s altars attired modestly and with all the reverence due to the Divine Presence. But, I am obliged to acknowledge, also, that I have been very much scandalized by the conduct of some vain and thoughtless creatures, who, arrayed in the fashions and follies of the hour, and with theatrical airs, dared insult the presence of the Most High, as if they were the goddesses of some heathen temple. In order, then, to inspire them with a holy fear in the presence of these august mysteries, I shall relate the following example from the life of the Blessed Ivetta, a Flemish noblewoman of the Province of Liege. Whilst assisting at Mass, on a Christmas morning, this holy widow found herself kneeling near a young lady of rank, dressed in the fashion of the time.
B. Ivetta saw by divine inspiration the workings of the heart of this vain and worldly-minded lady. The wretched creature seemed to attend to the most Holy Sacrifice, and pretended to prepare for Holy Communion, which she was about to receive : but, in reality, she was solely occupied with an impure passion for a person who was then in the church.
When this wicked lady stood up to approach the Holy Table, the Blessed Ivetta saw a troop of demons playing and dancing around her. Some of them attended her as servants; others arranged her hair and fashionable garments, whilst many more carefully adjusted her pearls and jewels. She went to the altar, surrounded by this infernal cortege, which seemed to rejoice over her sacrilegious crime. The priest descended from the altar with the adorable Host and placed It on the tongue of this unhappy lady; but, at the same moment, B. Ivetta saw our Savior separating Himself from the Sacred Species and ascending towards heaven. Thus, our Lord refused to enter into this wicked soul, and showed His horror of her impure heart. For, the Holy Ghost tells us, “ Wisdom will not enter into a corrupt soul, nor will it dwell in a body given to sin,” (Wis.1:4). But you will say, I am not of the number of those corrupted and wicked persons. Granted that you are not; let me ask what is the use of all that finery, those perfumes, that searching after effect, that desire to see and to be seen. Is not all this scandalous in a Catholic ? And does not such conduct “turn the house of God into a den of thieves?” For, you seek to turn away the thoughts of all present from God, and to attract them to yourselves. Enter, then, into yourselves, and make a firm resolution to imitate the glorious St. Elizabeth of Hungary. This holy queen earnestly desired to hear Mass every day; but when she assisted at it, she took off her crown, and removed her rings from her fingers; and thus divested of all her royal ornaments, she used to kneel in a modest attitude, covered with a veil, and was never seen to look around her or to allow her eyes to wander a moment from the altar. Such modesty and devotion were so pleasing to God that He showed His approval of it to the entire congregation. For, at one time during the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, she was surrounded with such a halo of glory that those who saw her were dazzled, and looked on her as an Angel from heaven. Imitate, then, this noble example, and be assured you will be pleasing in the sight of God and men ; and you will derive ineffable blessings from the Holy Sacrifice for time and eternity.
EXAMPLES FOR WOMEN IN GENERAL.
The Holy Mass is assuredly a great boon for the whole world, as we have already proved, yet we acknowledge that it is not possible for many poor women, on account of the circumstances of their state, to assist at Mass on week days. Those, for instance, who are nursing, or are bound by an obligation of justice or charity to attend the sick ; or who have a bad husband, who forbids them to go out; these need not attend Mass on week days on account of the difficulties of their state of life. In such cases submission to the Will of God and mortification of their own desires are far more pleasing to God than assisting at the Most Holy Sacrifice. Furthermore, and I say it for your consolation, by thus obeying, you double your merits ; since the goodness of God will accept your intention of hearing Mass, as if you actually had heard it; and He will at the same time reward your obedience to His Divine Will. On the contrary, disobedience would deprive you of both merits; as it would show that you thought more of your own will than of that of God, He has expressly declared in Holy Writ that ” Obedience is better than victims;” or in other words, that He is more pleased with a humble submission to His Divine Will than with Masses which are not of obligation. But what shall I say of you, when you go to Mass solely to indulge in idle conversations, voluntary distractions and feminine curiosity, and thus return from the church with your hands empty and without the least fruit from this source of infinite graces? This is what happened to a poor peasant woman who dwelt near her village church. This good woman, to obtain a special favor from God, which she earnestly desired, made a vow to hear a great number of Masses during the year. Hence, whenever she heard the bell ringing for Mass she immediately put off all her work and hurried to the church, even through sleet and snow, and the most inclement weather. When she returned home she was accustomed to count the number of Masses she had heard, and in order to assure herself that she had punctually fulfilled her vow, she placed a bean, each time, in a little box that she kept safely locked* At the end of the year, not doubting but that she had generously fulfilled her promise, had acquired great merits and procured great glory to God, she hastened to open the box ; but what was her surprise and horror when she found only one bean of the great number she had deposited therein. She was overwhelmed with astonishment and grief, so much so that she made her complaints to God with sighs and tears, saying : ” O Lord, how has it happened that of all the Masses I have heard, I have found only one marked down for me, by this single bean ? Certainly I never failed to be present in the church, even when it was most inconvenient to leave my cottage. Neither did I allow the weather, rain, frost or snow to prevent me from attending Holy Mass.” She then consulted a holy and learned priest, who questioned her, as to her dispositions on the way to church; and the devotion with which she assisted at Mass. She answered that on her way to church she occupied herself solely with gossip and nonsense, and when Mass was being celebrated she was in the habit of whispering to those around her and keeping her thoughts always fixed on the business of her house and farm.
“ Behold,” said the priest, “ the true cause of the loss of so many Masses ; gossiping, curiosity, and voluntary distractions have robbed you of their merits. The demon has gained the profits,
and your good Angel-guardian took away the beans which served as marks in order that you might understand how easily you could lose the fruits of your good works, when you have not performed them with the necessary dispositions.” Here, I ask you to make a serious reflection and self-examination on the many Masses you have heard during your life. How many of them have been acceptable to God ? What does your conscience answer ? If it tell you that very few have been meritorious before God, take care, in future, and resolve to hear Mass with all possible devotion. But if, unhappily, you are of the number of those wicked persons, who do the work of the devil by dragging souls down to hell, even in the very sanctuary of God, listen to the following dreadful example which ought to make you tremble:
Daily Indulgence: partial (S.C. Ind., Jan12,1897; S.P. Ap., Jan26,1932). St. Margaret of Cortona, Penitent.
#564. O most glorious Saint Margaret, true pearl whom Almighty God with do great love plucked from the hand of the infernal enemy who possessed thee, in order that , by means of thy wonderful conversion, holy life and most precious death, He might move all poor sinners to forsake sin, by doing good and avoiding evil as well as all sinful occasions; obtain for us, thy faithful clients, from thy exalted place in heaven, a place to which thy tears and thy penance elevated thee, the grace of a sincere repentance, a lively sorrow for our sins and, after a holy life spent, like thine, in the love of Jesus Crucified, the grace of a happy death and a crown of glory in paradise. Amen Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be. RACCOLTTA, pg. 453.