Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating The Catholic Catechism/lesson5

Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating The Catholic Catechism  (1904)  by Francis Spirago
Lesson 5



Q. Who were the first man and woman?

A. The first man and woman were Adam and Eve.

The Hen’s Egg

The world did not come into existence without a Creator. A young man who had finished his studies at the high school came home with an overweening idea of his knowledge and wisdom. Amongst other foolish theories which he enunciated, he asserted that the world was not made, it came into existence of itself, and was not the work of a Creator. His mother, a simple but sensible woman, let him run on, and listened in silence; at length she said: ‘‘Since you have such definite knowledge on all these matters, tell me, did the egg exist first, or the hen?” “The egg existed first,” the youth replied, “all chickens come out of eggs.” His mother continued: “ That is impossible, for the egg comes from the hen, therefore the priority of existence belongs to the hen.” Her son answered: “ Perhaps you are right, mother.” But she said again: “ Yet you must not forget that there is never a hen that did not originally come out of an egg.” The youth was silent, and looked abashed. “ You will never be wise,” his mother said to him, “ if you do not believe in the Creator. The whole world will be an inexplicable puzzle to you and an enigma. Believe in God, and you will have the key to that enigma. Then only will you acquire true wisdom.” The hen indisputably existed before the egg, for the hen lays the egg, and has to hatch it if the young bird is to come out of it. Therefore God created the first hen.

Q. Were Adam and Eve innocent and holy when they came from the hand of God?

A. Adam and Eve were innocent and holy when they came from the hand of God.

The Decision Goes to Virtue

Original justice consisted of a sound mind in a sound body; of a perfect subjection of the lower parts of creation to the higher, of man’s lower to his higher nature; and of the complete harmony thus established between creatures and man, between man’s body and soul, and between man and God. Crantor, a Greek philosopher who lived about three hundred years before Christ, relates that one day the divinities, Wealth, Pleasure, Honor, Health, and Virtue, suddenly appeared before the throng at the Olympic games and asked the judges of the Areopagus to decide which of them most favorably influenced man’s happiness. Wealth dazzled for a moment the judges’ eyes, but Pleasure soon showed that he was only a means to her as an end. Honor claimed that Wealth and Pleasure were but things of a day unless linked to lasting renown, but then up rose Health and declared that without her all three were practically worthless. Virtue ended the dispute by making all the Greeks admit that even glory is but transitory, and that Wealth, Pleasure, Honor, and Health, without Virtue, become evils for those who do not know how to use them with discretion.

Q. Did God give any command to Adam and Eve?

A. To try their obedience, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain fruit which grew in the garden of Paradise.

The Bunch of Grapes.

It is related of St. Macarius, one of the Fathers of the desert, that, having received as a present a beautiful bunch of grapes, though he longed to taste them, he, to exercise himself in self-denial and obedience to his rule, resolved not to do so, but sent them with his compliments to a neighboring hermit. He, inspired with the same holy motives, sent them to a third; the third to a fourth, and so on until finally the grapes, having passed through most of the cells in the desert, came back to St. Macarius practically untouched. The latter, on receiving them and on learning after inquiry through whose hands they had passed, gave thanks to God that in the world should be found so many faithful sons of Adam and Eve to make reparation for their parents’ transgression.

Q. Which were the chief bleesings intended for Adam and Eve had they remained faithful to God?

A. The chief bleesings intended for Adam and Eve, had they remained faithful to God, were a constant state of happiness in this life and everlasting glory in the next.

Happiness on Earth and in Heaven

When St. Bernard and four of his brothers had determined to leave the world and devote themselves to the religious life, they paid a visit to Fontaines to ask their father’s blessing. On bidding farewell to their home and family, one of them said to their young brother, Nivard: ‘‘Good-bye, Nivard; you are now heir to all our father’s possessions, and will enjoy the pleasures of wealth and honorable station.” “Ah, yes!” replied Nivard, “you take heaven and leave me earth; the shares are not equal, and I will not be satisfied with mine.” And, in fact, when he had grown to man’s estate, and his father had no longer need of his services, Nivard, too, entered the convent.

Q. Did Adam and Eve remain faithful to God?

A. Adam and Eve did not remain faithful to God; but broke His command by eating the forbidden fruit.

Who is Happy besides God?

Charles the Ninth, king of France, once asked the celebrated poet, Torquato Tasso, whom he regarded as the happiest being. The poet answered: “ God.”

“ Everybody knows that,” said the king. “ What I want to know is who is the next happiest after God.” The poet replied: “Undoubtedly the happiest being after God is he who most closely resembles God, that is to say, whoever is most perfect in virtue.”

Q. What befell Adam and Eve on account of their sin?

A. Adam and Eve, on account of their sin, lost innocence and holiness, and were doomed to sickness and death.

The Woodcutter’s Conceit

We should have fallen into the sin of our first parents much more readily than they did, had we been in their place. In the employ of a prince there was a certain woodcutter who, while he was at work, was wont to inveigh against Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, abusing them roundly for having transgressed so easy a commandment and thereby brought such unbounded misery on their posterity. “I and my wife would not have been such fools,” he said. His employer overheard this speech, and said: “Well, well, we shall see. From this day forth you and your wife shall live at my expense and have it almost as well as Adam and Eve in Paradise; but the day of probation will come.” The wedded couple were given good rooms and grand clothes, they were not obliged to work, their daily food was brought from their master’s table, labor and anxiety were at an end for them. Then came the day of probation. One gala day the prince had them to dine at his table, and sumptuous viands were set before them; at last a dish closely covered was placed on the table and their host said: “ You can eat of every dish except this one; that is to be left until I return. You must not s6 much as touch it.” He then left the dining-hall and was absent for a long time. The two guests began to get impatient, their curiosity was awakened; it got stronger and stronger. At length the woman could resist no longer; she gently raised the cover. But the harm was done; a beautiful little bird flew out, and disappeared out of the window. Then the master of the house came back, and drove out both the man and his wife, bidding them be wiser in future. Here we have an example of human frailty.

Q. What evil befell us on account of the disobedience of our first parents?

A. On account of the disobedience of our first parents^ we all share in their sin and punishment, as we should have shared in their happiness if they had remained faithful.

The Heirs of an Estate

We are all inheritors of Adam’s sin and its consequences. An emperor once gave a large estate to one of his subjects, a man of rank, on condition that he should always be faithful to him. But the nobleman proved a traitor. Thereupon the emperor took his land and his title from him and banished him from his dominions. The man’s treachery brought misfortune on his children; they could not inherit either the property or the title that had been their father’s. All that he could bequeath to them was a legacy of disgrace and poverty. Our case is a similar one. Our first parents had and lost their supernatural privilege, and we also are deprived of them. They caused injury to both the soul and body; this is handed down to us. Only one thing is beyond our power to comprehend, that we inherit the sin of Adam; this is and ever will be a mystery of faith.

Q. What other effects followed from the sin of our first parents?

A. Our nature was corrupted by the sin of our first parents, which darkened our understanding, weakened our will, and left in us a strong inclination to evil.

The Spots of Ink on a New Dress

Disobedience has evil effects. A lady had a handsome dress of sky-blue silk made as a present to her grown-up daughter at Christmas. On Christmas eve the tailor brought it home. The young lady tried it on at once, to see if it was properly made. To her satisfaction and that of every one else, it was found to fit perfectly. The lady paid the bill, and said to her daughter: Go into the next room and bring a glass of red wine for the tailor. But mind you strike a light before you pour it out.” The girl went at once to do her mother’s bidding and soon returned with a glass of wine which she handed to the man. He raised the glass to his lips and took a good mouthful, but quickly spat it all out again. Lo and behold! The grand new dress was sprinkled with hideous spots of ink! The girl had not taken the trouble to do as her mother told her, and strike a light in the adjoining room; hence it came about that she took the wrong bottle, and brought a glass ‘of ink instead of wine. She got thoroughly scolded by her mother for her disobedience, and all the next year no new frock was given her. It was through disobedience that our first parents stained the robe of their primeval innocence.

Q. What is the sin called which we inherit from our first parents?

A. The sin which we inherit from our first parents is called original sin.

The Spring and the Stream

Two students were enjoying a holiday in the woods, and as they wandered along, they discoursed of original sin. ‘‘We cannot understand,” said one, “how original sin is transmitted.” “ We cannot fully understand it,” admitted the other, “ but we can at least form some idea of this truth.” As he was just then standing by a small spring, he stirred up the muddy bottom with his stick and watched the change that came over the appearance of the stream. “ There,” he said, “ our corrupted nature is like this spring and stream, except that human nature is not purified by motion and transmission.”

Q. Why is this sin called original?

A. This sin is called original because it comes down to us from our first parents, and we are brought into the world with its guilt on our soul.

The Neglected Pupil

The teacher of a Sunday school class propounded the foregoing question to a new pupil. The child in question, though bright enough, had been neglected by her parents, and it was only through means of some other pupils that she was led to come to church at all. Looking only to the meaning of the words she answered: “It is called original because it was a new kind of sin invented and committed then for the first time.” When asked, “What are capital sins?” she reflected, “ When papa approves of anything, he says, ‘ Capital! that’s capital! ’ ” and so she answered: “ A capital sin is a good sin.” We see herein the evil of neglect on the part of parents, and the necessity of religious instruction.

Q. Does this corruption of our nature remain in us after original sin is forgiven?

A. This corruption of our nature and other punishments remain in us after original sin is forgiven.

The Face of Socrates

We are all born with an inclination to evil rather than to good, and this is in consequence of original sin; but we can and should practice that self-correction in which virtue properly consists. A physiognomist, after a study of Socrates’ face, decided he was a man inclined to lewdness, anger, drunkenness, and many other vices. His disciples were indignant, but the philosopher (he lived in Greece four hundred years before Christ) stopped them, saying candidly: “ Keep quiet; the man is quite right, for I would actually be what he says I am, did I not apply myself to the study of philosophy and the practice of virtue.” If a heathen by natural means can so overcome his evil inclinations, how much more in this respect can and should Christians accomplish by grace!

Q. Was any one ever preserved from original sin?

A. The Blessed Virgin Mary, through the merits of her Divine Son, was preserved free from the guilt of original sin, and this privilege is called her Immaculate Conception.

The Apparition at Lourdes

Even at the present day apparitions take place in order to corroborate the truth of our religion. In the south of France, there is a small town called Lourdes, situated at the foot of the Pyrenees. In the year 1858, that is, four years after the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Mother of God appeared there no less than eighteen times. The following is an account of how she was seen by Bernadette Soubirous, a girl fourteen years old, the child of poor parents, who had brought her up piously and taught her to say the rosary. This she often did when keeping sheep on the hills. About midday on the 11th of February, 1858, Bernadette went with some other girls to pick up sticks on the banks of the river Gave, which flows at the foot of the mountains. While the Angelus was being rung from the church tower, she saw in a niche in the rocks on the other side of the river the figure of a woman, surrounded by a halo of brilliant light. She was clothed in a white robe, with a blue girdle round her waist and a long white veil on her head, while from her right arm there hung a rosary formed of white beads, the cross being of gold. This lady was most beautiful to behold, and she smiled kindly and Sweetly on the child. Bernadette fell on her knees and tried to tell her beads, but she was so much frightened that she could not even make the sign of the cross. Seeing this, the lady made the sign of the cross herself. Then the child, taking courage, blessed herself and recited the rosary all through. . When she had finished, the apparition suddenly vanished, just as a flame goes out. Bernadette told her companions what she had seen, and when she got home, she told her mother also. The next Sunday the girl went with her companions to the same spot, taking some holy water with her. Scarcely had she begun to say her beads when the same figure appeared again. This time Bernadette sprinkled some holy water in the direction of the place where the apparition stood; but instead of disappearing, the lady smiled benignantly, bowed her head, and approached somewhat nearer. The other children saw nothing extraordinary, they only noticed that Bernadette’s countenance beamed with delight. When the child went to the grotto for the third time she was accompanied by two women. On this occasion the shining figure expressed the wish that Bernadette should come thither daily for a fortnight, and that a great many people should come with her. Accordingly, when the apparition again took place, several hundred people were present; later on they might be counted by thousands. The girl passed through the crowd of spectators with a perfectly unassuming yet unembarrassed demeanor. No one but herself saw the apparition, yet every one observed that at the time she was rapt in ecstasy. Once a doctor held a lighted taper under her hand, but she did not move a muscle, and evidently felt no pain. He made the same experiment when the apparition had disappeared; she then screamed with pain. Twice during this period the figure failed to appear; then Bernadette returned home sorrowful and in tears. The priest of the place did not . interfere at all in the matter; yet the enemies of religion declared that it was a fraud, concocted by wily priests. The girl was taken to the police station and examined by a magistrate; but there was no ground for arresting her, so she was discharged. On one of the occasions, whereon Our Lady appeared clothed in light, she said to her: ‘‘ Go and tell the priest that it is my will that a church should be erected here to which the people shall come in procession.” Bernadette accordingly went to the parish priest and delivered the message. He bade her tell the lady first of all to give a proof of her power, and let that proof; be making the rosebush at her feet come into leaf and blossom in the winter. The next time the lady appeared, Bernadette did as she was desired; but the lady did not comply with the request; her reply was: “ Penance, penance, penance! ” Somewhat later she said to the girl, ‘‘ Drink some of the water of this spring, and wash yourself in it.” The child put her hands down to the spot indicated to find the spring, and the water came welling up out of the dry ground with ever increasing velocity, and from that time forth the source has yielded eighty-five gallons a minute. This water, which in appearance differs nothing from ordinary water, possesses miraculous healing properties; by the use of it, countless supernatural cures have been effected and still are effected to this day. On the 25th of March, the Feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette begged the lady to tell her her name. After she had repeated her request four times the answer was given in these words, uttered by the apparition with clasped hands: “ I am the Immaculate Conception.” Afraid lest she should forget the words, of whose meaning she had no idea, the girl hastened to the priest and repeated them to him. After a time the grotto was closed by the police, and bereft of all its costly decorations. But the Emperor Napoleon III reversed this decree and allowed free access to the grotto to all comers. In the year 1862 a Parisian barrister named Henri Laserre, who had lost his sight, was immediately and completely cured by bathing his eyes with some of the water, for which he had sent by the advice of a Protestant friend. Out of gratitude to almighty God he traveled all over France, visiting persons who had been cured of their respective maladies at Lourdes, to collect materials for publication in a book containing an account of the miracles wrought at that spot, and entitled Our Blessed Lady of Lourdes. In fact, the miracles were so numerous and so striking that the bishop of the diocese was compelled to look into the matter. He appointed a commission to investigate all the circumstances and to examine into the various cures, and not until four years had elapsed did he deliver his judgment concerning them. In the year 1862 he issued a pastoral letter, in which he solemnly acquainted the faithful of his diocese with the fact that supernatural occurrences had taken place at Lourdes, which could not be ascribed to anything other than divine omnipotence. He accordingly solicited contributions for building a church. The sum collected for this purpose amounted to two million francs, so that a magnificent sanctuary could be erected, which has become a celebrated place of pilgrimage.

In 1866 Bernadette entered the convent of the Sisters of Mercy at Nevers; before her death she solemnly stated upon oath that all that she had related concerning the supernatural apparitions at Lourdes was strictly true. Lourdes is now visited every year by millions of pilgrims from all parts of Christendom, and is a thorn in the side of the adversaries of religion. For the Catholic Church, however, the facts of the occurrences at Lourdes are most valuable, as they shed glory on our faith and afford an incontrovertible proof of the truth of our holy religion.