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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lord, are they few that are saved?

With not one canonised saint of the Catholic Church stating the opposite, and a whole litany of saints recognizing and affirming it, this is a truth which should not be passed off lightly. “Doubtless in the heart of each…a fervent desire has arisen to gain admission to the realms of eternal light, and become a partaker of it’s joys. Perhaps each one will feel sure that his hopes in this respect will be fulfilled. It is however greatly to be feared that many a one will come short of the goal and will be forever excluded from the kingdom of heaven” (Fr. Marten von Cochem, O.S.F.C. "The Four Last Things – Death Judgement Heaven Hell"). What proportion of mankind do you suppose will be found in paradise after the general judgement? Perhaps half? Or a quarter, or even a tenth? Alas I fear that it will be nothing of the sort. We need only look to the gospel of Saint Luke to find ample justification of it: “And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate: for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter and shall not be able.” (Luke xiii. 24). Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself urges us to strive to enter by the narrow gate. He exhorts us to strive, that is to take great trouble, to exert all our powers. If you imagine to yourself somebody striving after something, do you imagine them to be half-heartedly going after it, or showing indifference in the matter? No these people who are striving are determined and motivated to obtain their goal! Yet Our Lord goes on to say that it is of those who seek to enter by the narrow way, that there will come many who shall not be able. If many of those who desire to enter into the kingdom of God fail to do so, what will become of those who lead careless and perhaps ungodly lives and manifest no zeal, no interest in what concerns their eternal salvation?
So what should we take away with us from the consideration of this truth? We should take away with us a great fear of the judgements of God. Not however a dry, barren fear, but a fear which causes us to look at our lives and to root out anything we find there with which God could reproach us on the last day. We should also consider those words of the disciples: “Who then can be saved?”, and Our Lords reply: “With men it is impossible, but not with God…” (Mark x. 26-27). We should then implore the mercy of God, and what better way can be found to influence the heart of God, that the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of mercy, and the Refuge of sinners? St. Alphonsus Liguori tells us that to ensure our salvation it is necessary to practice a devotion to Our Lady which is constant, that is, that we never omit until the end of our lives. And what does he suggest as a suitable devotion? Perhaps to say the ‘Little office of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ every day? Or maybe to pray 15 decades of the rosary every day? These practices are undoubtedly great acts of devotion towards our heavenly Mother, however it is neither of these that St. Alphonsus suggests. It is merely to pray (if possible lying prostrate on the floor) three ‘Hail Marys’ in the morning after rising, and three again before going to bed, adding the short prayer after each ‘Hail Mary’: “O Mary, by Thy pure and immaculate conception make my body pure and my soul holy, my Mother preserve me this day/night from mortal sin. Amen.” With this practice, so long as we persevere in it until death, day and night, we shall surely be saved.


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