Australian Catholic Truth Society 1961 (No. 1355)
Christ Our Leader -
Everyone is interested in developing personality. Catholic leaders (and
indeed, all Catholics) are no exception, nor should they be. Through
perfecting their own personalities they can more frequently lead others
Some persons think that they can, by imitating someone else, make their
personalities the same as the one who is admired. This is not only
difficult, it is a practical impossibility because each individual's
personality is totally different from everyone else's.
Personality is not a mere matter of one quality or another; it is (not
to become too technical) the sum total of the characteristics,
tendencies, abilities, background, culture - in fact, of everything
that makes up or constitutes an individual - and the way these things
and the composite of these qualities impress other
If it were possible to find a perfect personality, then it would be not
only desirable, but sensible and intelligent to try to acquire the
characteristics of that person.
There has been one Personality Who throughout two thousand years has
been found perfect. This Person is so attractive that, He has drawn
others to Him, has inspired others to follow Him. If we, then; as
Catholics and Catholic leaders, would wish others to be attracted to us
and to follow us in our aim to extend Christ's Kingdom, we should try
to be perfect, to be like Him.
Our Leader - His Personality
THE PERFECT PERSONALITY BELONGS TO CHRIST
Christ is the perfect model for all personalities: Christ practised all
virtues even to the point of heroism. His motives were always perfect.
Christ was in perfect accord with the wishes and the will of God: He
loved His fellow-men with a love greater than any other man: He loathed
sin and all approaches to sin, even while loving the sinner:
His Personality still holds a universal appeal. All
classes, all nations, all ages of both sexes, find Him attractive.
Christ's Personality is magnetic, drawing all people to Himself, as a
powerful magnet. His Personality is capable of
powerful imitation, permitting the most learned and the most ignorant,
the humble, the poor, and the sick - all to learn to imitate Him
because He is all-perfect.
Christ is capable of imitation. In becoming Man. Christ became like to
us in all things except sin. For thirty years He led an ordinary and
hidden life. He was subject to His parents, Mary and Joseph, and to the
authority of the State. He was a wage-earner, a toiler. He knew lack of
sleep, and fatigue. He knew successes and reverses. He had to exercise
great patience. He knew physical and moral torture. He was a Man of the
most delicate sensibilities; yet, because He loved God and His
fellow-men, He persevered in spite of rebuffs and rebukes.
He was a man with pure intentions, admirable fervour, limitless
generosity, firm determination and constancy. His charity exceeded the
charity of all the rest of the world. His thoughtfulness in taking the
initiative, in doing things for us and for our welfare, even before we
knew they had to be done, is unparalleled.
Catholic leaders, then, must follow Christ if they would be perfect. We
must ask ourselves whether our motives are pure, whether our intentions
are honest and direct, and whether our method of working has been like
Christ's. We must strive to do as He did, do as He would do if He were
working with us, visibly, on earth today. We need Christ's
characteristics if we are to succeed in His work.
We must pray for guidance, then, for courage and for perseverance. We
must give ourselves to Him and let His magnetism draw us to Him that we
may know Him more perfectly and intimately.
CHRIST THE KING
In considering the Kingship of Christ we recognize the fact that Christ
was a King. He came from the royal household of David. His human nature
was descended from that long line of noble men and women who were the
forebears of Mary and Joseph.
Catholic leaders may take courage from meditating on some of the
virtues shown by Christ, the King, the Ruler, the Leader, the Man.
The purpose of a ruler is to balance liberty with law and order. Christ
gave to everyone a liberty that was real; it was a matter of permitting
people a free choice. Christ preached the law of God, the Father, and
gave to all men a set of definite precepts by which they should be
guided in that law. He accepted the Ten Commandments of God and
interpreted them. His Sermon on the Mount defined definitively what men
should do for the general and special good of mankind.
In the human order men cannot be expected to fulfil laws if they are
ignorant of them. That all might know the laws in order to follow them.
Christ promulgated them widely. He preached to the multitudes. But He
did more; He left behind Him a teaching body that everyone throughout
all ages might know the law.
But Christ did not force the acceptance of these rules. He allowed men
to choose freely. He had given them a noble freedom of the will and
permitted them the nobility to exercise their choice. Even in the case
of Judas, when Christ's Sacred Heart must have bled for one who had
turned against Him and His Father. He left him the liberty to choose
whether he would be loyal or traitorous.
Christ's Kingdom is of the spiritual order. This was not because He did
not know or because He overlooked human nature and the handicaps
thereof. He took into account all of the foibles and jealousies and
selfishness of man; yet He constantly preached and prayed and acted
spiritually. He offered the Kingdom of His Father to all who would take
up their cross and follow Him. He showed the misery that would result
from those who dealt in the things of the material order alone, those
who are the children of Mammon. The beatitudes. which are Christ's
promise of a sure and eternal reward, are all of the spiritual order.
Above all else, Christ prayed His prayer and taught His Apostles how to
pray: "Our Father, Who art in heaven . . . . Your Kingdom come . . . on
earth as it is as it in heaven." The Apostles then and now are
commissioned to bring, with God's help, that Kingdom to earth.
Christ's platform was based on love. Never did Christ preach, act, or
recommend hatred. Constantly He showed the love of His Father and gave
us repeated examples of Christian charity. He showed love of His
neighbour, of His enemies, of those who loved Him and of those who
despised Him. Even on the Cross, when He was being crucified for man,
He prayed to the heavenly Father for those who were putting Him to
death. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It was
on the Cross, too, that He forgave Dismas and promised him paradise.
Dismas admitted his crime, accepted his punishment, and showed sorrow.
Christ forgave him.
Christ's Kingdom is for all. In this world, disparate as it is, Christ
offered His Kingdom to the rich and the poor, to the healthy and the
sick, to the just and the unjust. He gave His message to individuals
and He gave it to the multitudes. He told His Apostles how precious was
one human soul. He grieved over the loss of one person and, through
homely parable, reminded us of the shepherd who would seek one lost
sheep. Constantly He was that Shepherd ready to seek and bring home one
of His lost flock.
Through His lowliness, His mildness, His obedience, as well as through
His wisdom, His majesty and His beauty, Christ appealed to all men. He
left Food for His subjects, the Living Water and the Bread of Life,
that all might be saved to His Father. He showed no partiality, no
injustice. While firm always, He was gentle. Was He not willing to sit
without the gates of Jerusalem weeping and hoping that He might gather
the people to His Kingdom, even as a hen would her chicks ?
Christ founded His Kingdom on the virtue of obedience. He came down
into the world in obedience to His Father. He lived His life according
to the Will of God. He preached not His own law, but the law of His
Father. He constantly enjoined deep, internal obedience, a willing
submission of the individual will to a Higher Will. He acted, and left
for our emulation, the most perfect acquiescence of His freedom when He
said, "Not My Will, but Yours, be done."
Christ was obedient to the civic laws. He showed how they contributed
to right order. But the greater obedience was always that heroic
obedience of the mind and heart and will to God.
Christ was obedient even unto death. Knowing that the law would
persecute Him for it, He answered Pilate (when he asked, "Are You a
King, then?") with: "You said it. I am a King. For this was I born, for
this came I into the world, that I should give witness to the truth."
Truly this was heroic obedience!
Catholic leaders then, imitating the Personality of Christ, take to
themselves the model of Christ the King. the Ruler, the Leader. To be
given power in His cause is a glorious thing. If we would be good
leaders we must be as like to Him as we can be in order that we can
serve Him best. We give glory to Him and to His realm in order that
Christ will reign in our hearts; then we can give Christ to the world.
CHRIST THE PRIEST
With the rebirth of the liturgical movement in the Church almost
synchronously with the call to the laity for participation in the
apostolate of the Hierarchy, Catholic, leaders have become more
conscious of their co-priesthood (the priesthood of the Faithful).
While Our Blessed Lord had three great offices to fulfil while on
earth, that of a Prophet or Teacher, that of the High Priest of the New
Dispensation, and that of King, Catholic leaders, whether priests or
co-priests, give consideration to the personality of the Priesthood of
Christ if they would imitate Him in their leadership.
A priest is one whose chief function is that of worship.
This worship takes the unique form of sacrifice.
Christ, the Priest, gave perfect worship. He gave complete sacrifice.
While the literal meaning of "priests" comes from the word meaning
"elder," the liturgical expression of bridge-builder (pontifices) is
one recognized by all students and familiar to Catholic leaders who are
trying to live the life of the Church fully and completely.
The Priesthood of Christ was necessary after the fall of man. In order
to re-instate man in the supernatural order after Adam had deliberately
fallen from grace in the Garden of Eden, it was necessary for One to
offer perfect homage of obedience to God the Father. It was necessary
for a Mediator (Bridge-builder) to show His complete dependence upon
the Creator, God, the One Who had been infinitely offended by Adam's
turning from Him.
Since God was the One offended, it was impossible for anyone but a
perfect being to bridge the chasm between sinful man and a sinless God.
Yet the person also had to be a man, and like to every other man in all
things save sin. Hence it, was the God-Man, Christ. Who had to repair
the original refusal of worship of our first parents by becoming the
Mediator, the Bridge-builder, the Priest. It was He Who had to
sacrifice His all.
Yet, though He was God-Man. Christ's preparation for the sacrifice,
which had to be complete, was one of prayer, mortification, humility,
and obedience. He established a norm of perfection because He knew how
deeply God had been offended. and He wished to offer to the Creator a
perfectly pure oblation or sacrifice - His own most perfect Being.
Christ, mercifully thoughtful, extended His Priesthood. As our Elder
Brother, Head of the Mystical Body, Christ established a priesthood for
the sanctification of the world for all times. At the Last Supper He
declared the perpetuation of the Sacrifice by telling His twelve
apostolic priests to continue with the offering of His Body and Blood,
the only true Sacrifice for the redemption of mankind for all eternity.
Almost beyond all else, the Priesthood of Christ designates hope. As
all sacrifices are made with the hope that good will be produced, so
Christ's Sacrifice was made with the hope that God would accept the
redemptive act. That He did so was evidenced in the resurrection of
Christ from the dead, when He who "was delivered up for our offences .
. . rose again for our justification."
To us, then, as priests and co-priests, in imitation of the Priesthood
of Christ several things are made clear:
Catholic leaders, co-priests with ordained priests and with Christ,
offer God the worship and sacrifice that is due to Him in as
Christ-like a way as possible. They understand and appreciate the
fundamental worship of our Catholic Faith, the Sacrifice of Calvary and
of the Last Supper, renewed daily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and
in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. As co-priests they participate in
the Sacrifice, Christ's Sacrifice. Through His generosity Catholic
leaders, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, may co-operate in
Yet Catholic leaders are not asked to sacrifice their will as Christ so
completely had to sacrifice His in Gethsemane, nor as He had to offer
His precious Body and Blood on the first Holy Thursday and on Calvary;
they do, however, give their will and their minds and their bodies to
the service of Christ and for the furtherance of His teaching and for
the sanctification of souls. In all that they do, they must, as true
followers of Christ, render homage to God, their Creator. They must
obey His commands. They must use their intellects and their hearts for
His greater glory and for the purpose of helping others to know and to
In preparation for their priesthood which is begun at baptism in a
passive way, and in confirmation in an active way when they become
soldiers of Christ, Catholic leaders try to be examples of Christ's
virtues "that meditating on Your law, day and night, they may believe
what they read, teach what they believe and practise what they teach. .
. . They show forth in themselves justice, constancy, mercy, fortitude
and all other virtues." They become poor in spirit. They exercise great
zeal for souls. They practise charity, devotedness, patience, humility
and meekness. They must truly aim at perfection, for theirs is the
great privilege of serving Christ and with Christ, and he was
That the sacrifice be made possible and lasting, Catholic leaders must
give their service with a great abundance of love. They aim at a close
and intimate union with Our Divine Lord and meanwhile practise
self-abnegation. Each must try to deserve the name "alter Christus"
and, as CHRIST-ians, all must
declare to the world that they are of His group, that they are each an
"alter Christus." (another Christ). The hope that was given to all men
through the Priesthood of Christ can and must sustain Catholic leaders,
and while aiming at this most intimate association with Christ they may
have perfect confidence that Almighty God will permit them to
participate in the redemption of all men in the sanctification of souls.
With humility, then, as well as with hope, Catholic leaders remember
always the function of their co-priestly work and build their own
interior lives to conform with the spiritual perfection of the First
Priest. As one great spiritual writer has said, they must never forget
the God of good works in their promotion of the good works of God. It
is this spiritual life that will refuel the zeal which is imperative to
CHRIST AND AUTHORITY
All leaders must at some time, and usually many times, exercise
authority. As Catholic leaders they must respect definite authority,
too. Therefore, a clear concept of authority and the attitude of the
great Leader Christ towards it, is of important moment to those who are
striving to imitate the Personality of Christ.
If there was ever a man who did not need to respect authority that Man
was Christ Who, though Man, was God. He could have thrown over all
man-made laws. Being God, He was not bound by the law which He had
Himself imposed upon man. Yet Christ did recognize the authority:
OF GOD: When the devil took Him
up into a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and
the glory of them he said to Christ: "All these will I give You if
falling down You will adore me." Christ answered Satan "Begone, Satan,
for it is written, the Lord your God shall you adore and Him only shall
you serve." Christ recognized the power which belongs to God alone to
command the universe and made others aware of it.
That Christ further recognized the authority which God has over man is
proved when He said, "Not My Will but Yours be done." His whole life
was given over to a service of His Father in a conscious recognition of
the right which God holds to demand that service. "All things are
delivered to me by My Father."
OF THE COMMANDMENTS: "Do not
think I am come to destroy the law or the prophets," said Christ in the
Sermon on the Mount. "I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For Amen
I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle
shall not pass the law till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall
break one of these Commandments and shall so teach men shall be called
the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he
shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Christ recognized the
teachings of God to Moses in the old law and further urged His
followers to fulfil that law.
OF THE CHURCH: To insure the
power of the Church He said: "All power is given to Me in heaven and in
earth . . . and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation
of the world." It was an authority given for all times and Christ
promised that He would remain with it. Further, when establishing the
Church, He said: "You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My
Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." No power,
therefore, could supersede that of the Church. Its authority is
all-powerful next to God.
OF PARENTS: Christ spoke
reprovingly to the scribes: "For God said: 'Honour your father and your
mother. And he that shall curse father or mother, let him die the
death'." In carrying out the practice Himself we know that He went down
to Nazareth and was subject to His parents. Only once did He leave them
and then it was to do His Father's business.
OF CIVIC AUTHORITY: Christ,
with His parents, regularly registered and paid taxes that were decreed
by civic law. We recall, too, that on His way to Capharnum with Peter
they were stopped to pay the toll, the didrachma. Christ ordered Peter
to do so in order that they would not scandalize those who were
collecting, even though Christ was the Son of the Father of the
Universe. At another time, when asked about tribute to Caesar, He
answered by saying, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are
Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Catholic leaders find an encouraging example in Christ's attitude
towards authority and in His practising the laws that come within the
scope of divine and human authority. Like Christ they recognize the
supreme authority of God. Because the authorship is certain they
observe the Commandments of God and of the Church.
Catholics recognize the authority of parents and imitate the filial
devotion of Christ as well as giving obedience to the Commandments of
God. They pay respect to the authority of the State because Christ has
decreed that a State, because of its essential functions, has power to
effect certain good for mankind.
In all things Catholic leaders remember that Christ taught His
Apostles: "The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above
his lord." Following Christ's example, leaders may enjoy the security,
then, that comes with recognition of those who have been placed in
position of power and pay them the respect that their positions demand.
As leaders observe the commands and direction of the rules of their
societies, of their directors, of their pastors and of their bishops,
they may appreciate that that authority is rightful and is productive
of right order. So, too, Catholic leaders recognize the authority of
their civic officers, city, State and Federal, and they will respect
those who have been elected to places of official capacity; they will
also benefit by their guidance and direction.
Exemplary as they grow in following Christ in this respect. then,
leaders will be more responsible guardians of rules and laws and will
use their own authority with rightful purpose.
CHRIST AND CHARITY
Every Catholic leader is called upon to practise the virtue of charity;
yet their human nature is often severely taxed. Serious reflection on
Christ's charity and the constancy with which He practised it in His
own personality will create a greater desire for increasing the virtue
in imitation of Christ.
Ideas of charity are often confused. Too frequently they are limited to
notions of alms-giving. An understanding of the full meaning of charity
is helpful to every Catholic leader. Charity is a supernatural virtue
that causes us to love God above all things for His own sake and to
love our neighbour for God's sake. To exercise charity or to love
perfectly, one must have a knowledge of the object loved. If we are to
love God perfectly, we must know Him. If we are to exercise charity
towards our neighbour we must know him, know and appreciate that he is
one of God's children and that he is a member of the Mystical Body of
The elements of love or of charity can be classified into four notions:
One must feel sympathy for another not necessarily because "we are
exactly alike," but rather because we may "complete" each other,
because a harmony exists between and among persons. In common parlance
we say that there is a dove-tailing or a fitting-in of each other's
virtues and attributes.
One must wish to share and be willing to share a communion of heart and
mind. There must be a desire for union and the willingness to effect
One must feel an impulse of the soul to draw close to another in order
that there may be mutual enjoyment in the presence of each other.
One must experience a sense of joy, of pleasure and of happiness in the
possession of the love of another.
Christ knew what charity is, understood its full implications, and He
exercised the virtue. He loved God above all things. His love was a
selfless love. His only desire was to do what God wished. He united His
mind to God by frequent thought of Him and by prayer to Him;
repeatedly, we learn from the Gospels, Christ sought quietude in which
to speak to His heavenly Father. Thomas a Kempis says, "In silence and
in solitude the devout soul makes progress." Certainly Christ lost no
human opportunity for making progress in the development of His "human
soul" because He continuously gave His reverent esteem and thought to
Christ also gave the full submission of His will to God. "Not My Will,
but Yours be done," is historic evidence of this. Loving the Father of
heaven and of earth, above all things, even above self, He surrendered
the faculty of His Will to God the Father.
The Man-Christ loved other human beings. Some He loved very
particularly and dearly, as John, Mary and Martha, and His own beloved
mother. Yet He was willing to and did subordinate all His human
affections to the Divine Love of His Father.
During His whole life Christ dedicated all of His energies, His
strength and His talents to the service of souls. He spent His time on
earth doing good to souls by tirelessly helping others to a greater and
more intensive knowledge of God.
Christ gave us and continues to give us love or charity. The numerous
examples of Christ's charity to the poor, the weak, the crippled, and
sinners are familiar to all intelligent people. Furthermore, Christ
left us the Sacraments of the Church and the means of acquiring
sanctifying grace through a Church that is infallible and cannot be
wrong. He gave us the cleansing Sacrament of Baptism, showing His love
by making us members of His True Church. He gave us the Sacrament of
Penance whereby He perpetuated in a systematized way His forgiveness of
the wayward children of God. But His great sacrament of love is the
Sacrament of the Eucharist. In that He left us His own precious Body
that we might live more closely in union with Him and that we might
give Him to the rest of the world. He permits us to feel the effects of
that love through added strength and courage and patience. "To be with
Jesus is a sweet paradise," truly.
Catholic leaders in their desire to be Christlike ask themselves how
they can practise charity. It is assumed that they are striving for
personal sanctification. Yet, to love perfectly is a grace given
immediately only to a few; perfect love must be sought for and worked
for. One of the first and most important steps is to overcome personal
faults. We must unite ourselves with the God of love and imitate Christ
as He loved God.
CHRIST AND HIS FATHER
Christ's relationship to His Father is worthy of special study. The two
great interests of His life were to do the Will of God and to save
souls. Recurrently in Holy Scripture we find references to His
perpetual and ever-constant love of and desire to strive for the glory
of God the Father. It is well for Catholic leaders to know how He felt
and what their Model Personality did.
As a boy of twelve Christ was lost to His parents. The Gospel story is
familiar to everyone. When found by His mother and foster-father, we
recall, Christ answered: "How is it that you sought Me ? Did you not
know that I must be about My Father's business ?" We know that the
Boy-Christ had consecrated His play, His work and His studies to God;
but that was not enough.
He knew that the doctors in the temple, sincere of purpose and
struggling for truth, needed enlightenment. So He went to them, boy
though He was and very youthful in the eyes of the venerable doctors of
the law. He began His Father's business by teaching the truths of His
Father, that all might know Him.
Of the rest of the hidden life of Jesus little is known from the
Scriptures. Of His relationship to His Father during that time,
however, much could be conjectured by recalling that after John had
baptized Christ, God Himself was heard to declare. "This is my beloved
Son in Whom I am well pleased." His had been no open display of
leadership. Had it been, the early writers would have trumpeted aloud
His deeds during this period of His life. No, it was a hidden homage
and service. But His Father was "well pleased" with His Son.
Christ knew that the world could not know God if He led only a hidden
life. He entered upon His public life and encouraged others to do so.
He told His followers: "So let your light shine before men that they
may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven."
Again. He said, "In this is My Father glorified that you bring forth
very much fruit, and become My disciple." It was an authorized
direction, a close following of the Son, that He urged upon the
disciples. To assure them that it was the work of God, He said: "If I
do not the works of My Father, believe the works: That you may know and
believe that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father."
Christ showed His utter dependency upon God the Father in the prayer He
left to the world from the Mount: "Our Father . . . Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as
it is in heaven . . . Give us this day our daily bread . . . And
forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us .
. . And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." In
praying for Himself, in supplication to God, He showed us how to pray.
It was "Our" Father, not "My" Father. He prayed for the glory of our
Father on earth and in heaven. That was of first importance. He taught
us how to ask for the material things of the earth, to ask even for our
daily bread. He pleaded for forgiveness and intimated the necessity for
us to forgive our trespassers. He taught us to ask to be delivered from
temptation, not just sin, but from the temptation to do anything that
Submission to the Will of God and the desire to accomplish the Will of
God is all important. To quote from a few instances in Christ's Life:
In Gethsemane, three times He prayed, "My Father, if it be possible,
let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You
will." "For whosoever shall do the Will of My Father, that is in
heaven, he is My brother, My sister, and mother." With that
relationship came the promise of family loyalty, of regard for those
who are members of Christ's family. To them He further promised: "Not
every one . . . shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that
does the Will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven."
To those who are trying to follow Christ and to carry on His apostolate
great consolation and strength and courage are given in Christ's own
words: "And I will ask the Father and He shall give you another
Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever."
He also said, ". . . And whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My
Name, He may give it you."
Catholic leaders may sometimes find it difficult to remember the
greater honour and glory of God. Dwelling on the innumerable examples
left to us by Christ in which He showed us so specifically what His own
attitude was and what ours should be, we surely may persevere until the
great day dawns when we hear Him say, "Come, all you blessed of My
Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you."
CHRIST AND HIS MOTHER
Christ was the Son of God. His human mother was Mary. It is not our
purpose to give proof here of this accepted doctrine. Suffice it to
recall but a few comments: "Is not this the carpenter's Son ? Is not
His mother called Mary ?" "Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a
Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel." (Isa. 7; 14.) "When His
Mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was
found with Child of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. 1; 18.) That Christ was
truly born of Mary, and that His Father was God has been given credence
from the world for two thousand years.
At the birth of the Infant we know that Mary "wrapped Him in a manger."
(Luke 2; 6.) The Baby was given the care, the love, and the attention
that is given to human sons, with the added affection and sweetness
that encompassed His Blessed Mother's heart. From then on, continuing
through His boyhood days, the relationship between Mary and her Son
must have been a most intimate one. That Christ learned His religion as
other Jewish boys did from their mothers, is inevitable. That He
learned a graciousness of manner, of courtesy, of manliness, and of
obedience, is also undoubtedly true. This Son for Whom there was no
room at the inn, was happily welcomed into the bosom of the Holy
Family. Their very poverty helped to keep them close, in the human way
That the Holy Family was poor is without doubt. "I am poor and in
labours from My youth; and being exalted have been humbled and
troubled." (Ps. 87; 16.) Christ voluntarily accepted the poverty of
earth with the exalted poverty of work. Under His foster-father He
learned His trade; He knew the importance of dignified labour and was
prepared to meet the economic exigencies of the day. That He supported
His widowed mother, after the death of St. Joseph, is an accepted
belief. That He cherished this filial duty towards His mother is
apparent. For thirty years He gave of His dutiful and loving
personality to the mother who gladly and obediently followed the
dictates of God the Father.
The realization that He must cause grief to His mother must have added
unbearable weight to the already heavy burden which Christ carried to
Calvary. Yet, though He passed her on the way to His execution, and the
sorrow of that meeting of mother and Son is sufficient to tear the
heart strings of any human being, one of His chief thoughts on the
Cross was for His mother. "When Jesus therefore had seen His mother and
the disciple standing whom He loved, He says to His mother: 'Woman,
behold your son'." Christ had to leave His mother. He was doing the
work for which God sent Him on earth; He was giving His life that we
might have life eternal. But such was not the case with His sweet
mother. She had borne Him, nurtured Him, taught Him, loved Him, and now
He, the object of her love, was to leave her. Yet he did not leave
without trying to assuage her loss. He would entrust her to the care of
His most loving and gentlest disciple, John. He would even ask her to
consider John as her son from now on that she might give of the fulness
of her heart to this new son.
And then Christ turned to John and "He says to the disciple, 'Behold
your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own."
Every child, with love in his heart, desires that everyone else know
his mother. Every man who cherishes that tender affection for his
mother wants his whole world to meet and know and share his mother. He
even rejoices when that mother embraces his friends within her generous
affection. The example of Christ as personified when He told John that
from henceforth onward Mary was to be his mother in a special way
readily accounts for this devotion. From His agony on the Cross Christ
spoke of the depth of this love for His mother, His pride in her, His
joy in wanting to share her affections. He called the attention of John
and of all sons and daughters of this world to His mother. So great was
His love for her and so fathomless her beauty and motherliness that He
had to share her with us. He was about to die, to retire from the real
stage which is life. But He gave to the world His most priceless human
possession, His mother.
Catholics can never forget that Mary is their mother. Deep as their
devotion for their human mothers may be, and Christ certainly gave
plenteous example of such a devotion, Catholic leaders cannot forget
even momentarily that Mary was given to us by God Himself to be the
mother of our big Brother, and that Christ Himself gave Mary to us as
the Mother of all humanity when He said to John, "Behold your mother."
True to Christian family spirit, then, it behoves Catholic leaders to
deepen their faith in Mary and to look to her for guidance and
direction. We must call upon her very frequently with the realization
that our heavenly mother in her expansive love will surely lead her
loyal children to a love of the Triune God. Surely this is what her Son
wishes us to do; it is what our Catholic faith dictates so lovingly.
THE YOUTHFUL CHRIST
"The Call to Youth" has become
a shibboleth of the modern youth. Everyone seems to be calling youth
for this, that, or the other thing. Some also recognize the call OF youth, and it is of
gripping interest to Catholic leaders that they should heed primarily
the yearning needs of young people.
Leaders of youth have a strategic responsibility imposed upon them.
Catholic leaders realize that the spiritual implications of such
leadership are momentous because they must help to mould, develop and
inspire the spiritual yearning and cravings of a God-given and
A serious consideration of the Youthful Christ is important for one in
a position of responsibility. Christ must become the Model for other
youth; His youthful spirit should pervade the interests of Catholic
leaders of youth.
One of the abiding convictions concerning the Personality of Christ is
that He was undoubtedly a CHEERFUL
Youth. Little is recorded, it is true, about the early years of
the Boy; yet much can be surmised from the historical facts that are
recounted in the Gospel.
The Holy Family, as other Jewish families, happily joined in the
celebration of the Passover. It was a joyous occasion for all who
participated and the long trip to Jerusalem was filled with gaiety.
Christ's anticipations of the festivities were undoubtedly those of a
young boy, healthy and full of life, travelling along the road with
companionable friends, playing games along the way, enjoying the
beauties of the countryside as they travelled.
Christ was not a Boy Scout, but Christ knew nature and was observant of
its beauties; the birds, the trees and the flowers all appealed to Him.
Imagine His spontaneous joy as the birds sang their songs from the
tree-tops or played hide-and-seek among the brambles. With what quick
appreciation He viewed the lilies of the field lifting their beautiful
faces to the sun; the large herds of sheep must have fascinated this
Boy as He watched the tender care given them by their watchful
shepherds; the occasional fishermen patiently and quietly waiting for
their catch drew Him to them as they threw their lines hopefully; and
the mustard trees, the vineyards and fig trees all caught His eye and
fancy. Christ was in intimate union with God, His Father, and was
cheered by the creations of God and the care which He showered upon the
glories of nature. As He later shared these things with His followers
during His public life, using the things of nature to clarify His
teachings, so too in His youthful and cheerful simplicity did He share
the joys of His Father with His companions ,along the road to Jerusalem.
Christ, the Youth, was industrious:
From His boyhood days, Christ studied
the Jewish law. As was the case with other children of His race, He
learned most from His parents, particularly from His intelligent and
learned mother. The Old Testament, the Jewish Law, contained the most
important text, books of the era. These contained religious teachings,
philosophical truths, and scientific observations. How industrious
Christ had been in applying Himself to study of His books was shown
when He was twelve years of age. The doctors in the temple, all older
men, could not confound the Boy with any of their questions. They were
amazed by the facts that He recounted to them from His retentive
memory. He had worked hard and well at His studies.
Christ was also industrious in performing manual work. While still a boy He
worked in His foster-father's little shop. Through necessity, He
learned this manual art which meant sustenance to the Holy Family. The
things that He made were the customary furnishings for a home, His own
home and the homes of His neighbours. The planing of wood and the
piecing of heavy blocks demanded planning, attention, strength,
perseverance, and patience. His work by hand was not less demanding of
His energies and industry than His intellectual learning. And He did
Christ was devoted to His family.
For thirty years of His life He remained in their home. He was happy
there. He worked with His parents. learning from them and helping them.
He prepared for His future work under their guidance and tutelage. He
enjoyed the sociability of His family and of their friends. Their
interests in civic things were His interests and He learned early the
value of registering, of paying taxes, and of respecting civic
authority. He appreciated all that his extended family did for Him and
in return He gave them of His affection, His time, His consideration,
and His filial obedience. Thirty years may seem an eternity to many
young people, but it was a happy, crowded period' for Christ.
These three characteristics in the personality of the Youthful Christ
are only three of many. To Catholic leaders of youth. however, they are
sure and definite guides. The cheerful
and the observant leader; the leader attuned to the beauties of
nature and detached from the discordant perversions of life; the
leader who is sympathetic with God's plan of the universe; that's the
leader for this age; the personality of that leader will help to lead
others to God. The leader who is industrious,
both mentally and manually, will accomplish necessary work for his
group. He will also arouse a willingness to work in others; he will be
capable of showing them how to work.
Next in importance to personal purity and sincerity, the leader who has
a true appreciation of family life
and who is grateful to his family and devoted to them will be the
example of true Christian youth. It will not be amiss for all Catholic
leaders to entrench in their own minds a true image of the Youthful
Christ and to revive in their personalities the spirit of youth which
is ever Christian.
CHRIST AND HIS HUMANITY
It is sometimes difficult for casual thinkers to distinguish between
the humanity and the divinity of Christ. For that reason too many
well-meaning and sincere Catholics are discouraged from attempting
to imitate Christ. They know they cannot imitate the divinity of
Christ; they cannot be God. Therefore, in their confusion, they
hesitate to imitate Christ, the Man.
That Christ was divine is not the object of this theme. His
resurrection from the dead is the greatest proof of that, and
well-known to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. They can
read and study the proofs fully elsewhere. Our concern, at this point
in our reflections of Christ's personality, is with Christ's humanity.
While His whole life displayed His human nature, His passion in a
special way offered the world the human side of Christ. The divinity of
the God-man could not be extinguished; it was His human nature that
Catholic leaders suffer; there is little doubt of that. They meet with
reverses and with hardships, with physical pain and mental torment.
Through our meditations on the human nature of Christ and particularly
of His suffering, we can see Christ in His most intensively human
Christ suffered the loss of His friends. One of the twelve chosen
Apostles, Judas, proved a traitor and sold Jesus to the executioners
for thirty pieces of silver. Peter, the stalwart, three times denied
his friendship with Christ. Others, whom He had helped and cured and
aided and fed, turned from Him and feared to stand by Him when the law
called for His life. Imagine the heartaches of that Man Who had given
of His love unstintingly, when some of His closest, most cherished, and
most confidential friends deserted Him.
Christ suffered in making others suffer. He knew that He had to thrust
a sword through His mother's tender heart, and that she would undergo
deepest grief not only over the loss of her Son, but because of the
violent, physical manner of His death. He knew that His beloved
friends, Mary of Bethany and her sister and brother, Martha and
Lazarus, and John, were loyal friends who would give their lives rather
than see Him suffer; yet He had to cause them that suffering. The human
heart of Christ must have been wrenched at the knowledge that He would
cause so much sorrow to those who loved Him.
Christ suffered physical agony. A heavy crown of sharp-pointed thorns
was plaited upon His Head until the blood streamed down His Face. He
was cruelly beaten with a scourging that tore His flesh. He was loaded
down with a mammoth cross that tore and strained His muscles and sinews
and taxed the strength of a heart that was already crushed. His Hands
and Feet were ripped with the spikes that were driven into them to hold
Him on the Cross. And they soaked His bleeding mouth and lips with
Christ suffered humiliation, too. He was dragged before a civil court
and condemned by a pagan world because He was pure and good and
righteous. He was publicly beaten and spat upon by the rabble. He was
stripped of His clothing publicly and exposed to the gawking stares and
ribald sneers of a blood-thirsty mob. He was treated, throughout the
trial and execution, as a fool and was crucified with criminal thieves.
Christ suffered loneliness. To be alone with God, in peace and
security, is a beautiful accomplishment. But to be alone. and to feel
that friends and God have deserted one, is truly to suffer loneliness.
Christ's cry from the prophetic Psalm 22(21), "My God, My God, why have
You forsaken Me ?" stirs us to the depth of our souls. The man who was
Christ knew loneliness of the most acute type. That His friends had
failed Him; that He seemingly had to fail His friends; that He was
tortured physically and suffered humiliations; all of these facts were
agonizing. But the height and depth of His passion was reached when He
seemed to feel that even God, His Father, had deserted Him.
We have seen before that it was necessary for a man to act as mediator
between God and men. Christ was that Man; that He suffered in His work
as Mediator there can be no doubt as we review and relive the passion.
Christ taught us how to suffer. No matter what may be the utter
aloneness of Catholic leaders, and very often the greater the leader
the more lonely one can be, Christ in His human suffering can be their
model. Like Christ, though their hearts are bleeding and their bodies
sore distressed, though their very spirit is stifled even unto the
point of calling, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me ?" they can
keep the crucified Man before their eyes. They can continue to do the
work of Our Father until they, too, may say, "It is consummated."
CHRIST OUR FRIEND
Everyone knows that Christ came down to earth because of His love for
us. Whenever our thoughts turn to the Sacred Heart we are filled with
wonderment and appreciation because the Lord-God left His heavenly
Father and the choirs of attending angels to come down on earth to
redeem us. Meditation on this one single thought is so awful and
overpowering that thinking persons can never doubt, much less deny,
Christ's deep and abiding love and friendship.
All Catholic leaders logically must strive for sanctity. They know that
holiness, as St. Thomas has said, "does not consist in knowing much, in
meditating much, in thinking much. The great secret of sanctity lies in
loving much." A fuller realization of Christ's love for us should and
will enkindle our hearts with a deeper and more insatiable desire to be
friends with Christ in return, to love Him completely.
During His earthly life Christ loved all people. In particular
instances, He showed His special friendship to a few. The Gospels speak
of Mary of Bethany and Martha and Lazarus, of Mary Magdalene and of
John, of Peter and James. Christ loved children; He also loved the
lepers. Through His companionship, He gave constant example to the
whole world of His abiding love for men and of His wish to share His
joys and sorrows with His friends. He even addressed Judas, who was
about to betray Him, as "friend." He tried to remind Judas of His love
for him, hoping to deter him from the dastardly trick with which he
would betray Christ. And on the Cross Christ responded immediately to
the friendly recognition of Dismas, the Good Thief, by promising him
From the time of His infancy until He hung on the Cross, Christ's arms
were almost continuously extended, showing us in a human way how much
He wanted to enfold us in His love. As a mere Babe His arms were held
open pleading for our love. On the Cross His arms were nailed wide
apart; His loving us and His intense yearning for our love made Him
give His life that we might live. The sins of man held Him fast so
that, seemingly with ironic symbolism. He could not encircle His loved
ones. But His Heart was so full of love that it overflowed; the very
lance that pierced His sacred side permitted blood from His Sacred
Heart to be shed upon us. Nothing, not even death, could quell His love.
Christ's friendship was constant and immutable. Though He fulfilled His
earthly mission as Man and then ascended to His Father, He left us His
most precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He so loves the
world and he so empties himself in 'kenosis' that in the tabernacle He
remains silent, patient, and a "prisoner" of His own love. He never
changes. He is there always. When we call Him forth, He comes joyously
into our hearts. When we ignore Him, He just waits for us as a trusting
and confident Friend. He, God, could force our love and our friendship,
but this He does not do. As on earth He suffered abuse, ignominy,
insult, calumny and contempt, so in the tabernacle He suffers
"aloneness", insult, contempt and coldness. But whether we be a Mary
Magdalene or a Dismas, a Judas or a Peter, whether child or adult,
healthy or leprous, Christ remains in the world to satisfy our need for
companionship and intimate association.
Christ shows His friendship everywhere, at any time. Whether we are
walking or riding, in city streets or subways, in automobiles or in the
theatre, on the hillside or the ocean, a whispered word, a breathed
prayed, will always bring Christ to us. Hardly a wish is felt before
Christ, in friendship, is fulfilling it for us. How numerous are the
times that we call on Him; how numerous are the times that He answers
us. He is so anxious for our love and He loves us so much that there is
nothing He will not do if what we ask is for the honour of God and our
soul's good. Spiritual favours are showered by Him in abundance; trust
in Him will bring our material needs. Confidence in Him will give us
strength and courage to do the right thing and to overcome temptations.
He gives us friends here on earth that we may share our love with them.
Yet, when people turn from us and scorn us, when they calumniate or
scandalize us, Christ remains faithful wherever we are. No wonder the
gross world sometimes fails to understand such great love and
friendship, for surely He seems to love without reason; He loves almost
to the point of folly.
Christ is our friend in joy and sorrow. When we are in need, when we
have lost dear friends, when hardships and disasters overtake us, we
need only to turn to Christ, even though we may have formerly turned
against Him. When joys come to us Christ is ready to share them with
us. At the birth of an infant in a family Christ is ready, through His
Church, to offer the cleansing waters of Baptism. When we have bought a
new home, Christ, through His priests, will permit a special blessing
on the home. Whether at ordination or profession, at marriage, or at
Confirmation, Christ, our friend, is present. Christ is not jealous of
our happiness; He will share it and intensify it. Nor is Christ cold
and cruel when we are in agony or in sorrow. He will come, as the one
true friend, to ease the hurt and calm the irritation.
As Catholic leaders we grow more and more alert to the friendship which
Christ has given us. We grow in appreciation of His love for us. We
give our hearts and minds to the consuming fire of His love. We can let
our hearts beat more quickly, more wildly, if we will, because of our
love for Him. We can never love Him too much.
In imitation of His personality we love His other brothers and sisters,
those whom He loves as we continue with our Catholic leadership.
Because of our love for Him we purify our human friendships and make
them steadfast and constant.
Christ, our Leader and Lord, youthful and loving, loyal Son of God and
devoted Son of Mary, we pray You to hold us fast as Your friends that
with You we may extend the Kingdom of the Father.
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