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The Catholic Doors Ministry
presents the Bible Course
“Roman Catholic Vestments”

  1. “What do you call that thing that the priest is wearing?” This is a commonly asked question that Catholics ask because they do not know what to call the clothing that is being worn by the clergy. The purpose of this course is to educate the faithful in the area of vestments.
  2. The word “vestment” comes from the Latin. It simply means clothing. Now, it is generally used to represent the garments that are worn by the ministers of religion in the performance of their sacred duties.
  3. Vestments are a sacramental. That means they are set apart and blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion in those who see and those who use them. They are the uniform of the priest when he is “on duty,” while he is exercising the functions of his ministry and using the sacred powers which he received at his ordination. The clothing that is worn by the priest while he is not “on duty,” it is not called vestments.
  4. The Mass vestments were originally ordinary garments of the ancient Roman world. While the the fashions of dressing have changed with the passing centuries, the priest continued to wear at the altar the ancient Roman costume of his predecessors.
  5. Thus, the priest, vested for mass, is a wonderful witness to the historical continuity of the Catholic Church with the primitive Church of Rome, founded by the Prince of the Apostles.
 alb 6. THE ALB – The alb is a long, white linen liturgical vestment with tapered sleeves. It is a garment (or robe) that is worn by the priest during the Holy Mass. It symbolizes the innocence and purity that should adorn the soul of the priest who ascends the altar. While it is white in the Western Church, it can be of any color in the Eastern Church.
 amice 7. THE AMICE – The amice is a liturgical vestment consisting of an oblong piece of white linen that is worn around the neck and shoulders and partly under the alb. It measures 36″ x 24″ with two 36″ strings of twill tape. Originally, the purpose of the amice was as a neckcloth to protect the valuable chasuble and stole. Until 1972, the amice was an obligatory vestment. Now it is optional, provided that the alb worn by the priest does cover all of his clothes underneath. If his clothes is not all covered, an amice must still be used. The amice is associated with the “helm of salvation.” While putting it on, the priest would say, “Lord, give me strength to conquer the temptations of the devil.”


 biretta 8. THE BIRETTA – The biretta is a stiff square-shapped hat with silk trim and tuft. It has three or four ridges, called “horns,” across the crown. It is worn by the clergy. It is black for priests, deacons, and seminarians, purple for bishops, and scarlet for cardinals. The biretta is now optional for clerics who are celebrating or concelebrating Mass.
 camauro 9. THE CAMAURO – The camauro is the crimson velvet cap trimmed with white ermine, worn by the Pope, instead of the biretta, on non-liturgical occasions. The camauro, like the biretta, evolved from the academic cap of the Middle Ages. Unlike the biretta, however, it did not evolve much. The camauro in its present form was established by the twelfth century.


 cappa 10. THE CAPPA – “Cappa” or “Cope” is Latin for “choir cape, black cape.” It is a long black liturgical mantle, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. Sometimes it has a hood. It was worn in choir during the Divine Office by the clergy of cathedral churches and by many religious, and is still retained by the Dominicans during winter months.
 cappamagna 11. THE CAPPA MAGNA – The cappa magna (literally, “great cape”) is a voluminous ecclesiastical garment with a long train, proper to cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates. No longer mandatory (and therefore rare), the cappa magna was never abolished and still appears in the Ceremonial of Bishops. Ordinarily scarlet for cardinals and purple for bishops, the garment dates to the first millennium and its train has varied in length over the ages.


 cappello 12. THE CAPPELLO ROMANO – A cappello romano, meaning Roman hat, is a hat with a wide, circular brim and a rounded rim worn by the clergy. It is made of either beaver fur or felt, and lined in white silk. It serves no ceremonial purpose, being primarily a practical item. The wearing of it is optional, but it is never worn during services. It is generally uncommon outside of Rome today. The pope wears a red cappello with gold cords. All other clerics wear black cappelli. A cardinal may have a cappello with red and gold cords with scarlet lining. A bishop’s may have green and gold cords with violet lining. A priest may substitute black lining for his. Cappelli worn by deacons and seminarians have no distinguishing items.
 cassock 13. THE CASSOCK – The cassock, also known as a soutane, comes in a number of styles or cuts, though no particular symbolism attaches to these. It usually has 33 buttons (symbolic of the years of the life of Jesus) down the front. There are two types of cassock: the ordinary cassock and the choir cassock. A band cincture or fascia is also worn with both types of cassocks. The ordinary cassock is the black cassock worn by most clerics. Choir dress cassocks for bishops, protonotaries apostolic, and honorary prelates are purple.


 chasuble 14. THE CHASUBLE – The chasuble is the vestment that is put on over all the others during Liturgical services. Originally this was a very full garment, shaped like a bell and reaching almost to the feet all the way round. During a bad artistic period, the 18th and 19th century especially, the Chasuble suffered much from a process of shortening a stiffening. Today there is a return to the historical and beautiful, ample, nicely draping Chasubles. The Chasuble symbolizes the virtue of charity, and the yoke of unselfish service for the Lord, which the priest assumes at ordination.
 chimere 15. THE CHIMERE – The chimere is a sleeveless gown, usually of red, but sometimes of black material of quality and derived from the Spanish word “Zammarvia” that means “riding cloak.” It is an upper robe of a Bishop. This garment serves as a symbol of the mantle of a prophet. The chimere is only worn by the Bishop because it signifies him as chief proclaimer and defender of the faith in the apostolic tradition.


 cincture 16. THE CINCTURE – The cincture is the cord used as a belt to gird the Alb. It symbolizes the virtues of chastity and continence (meaning “the exercise of self constraint in sexual matters”) required of the priest. It comes in many colors.
 crosier 17. THE CROSIER – The word “crosier” comes from the Latin word “crocia” which means “crook or bend.” It is a Pastoral Staff, the symbol of authority and jurisdiction. This ecclesiastical ornament is conferred on bishops at their consecration and on mitred abbots at their investiture. It is used by these prelates in performing certain solemn functions.


 dalmatic 18. THE DALMATIC – The dalmatic is an outer, sleeved tunic that came to Rome from Dalmatia, whence its name. It is worn in place of the chasuble, by the deacon and sub-deacon during Solemn Mass. It symbolizes the joy and happiness that are the fruit of dedication to God.
 douillette1 19. THE DOUILLETTE – The douillette (or greca or cappotto) is a long, loose-fitting, double-breasted cloak worn over the cassock or simar by all clerics. It is white for the Pope, black for all other clerics. The douillette came into the Roman Church through France. It was originally employed in the East, where it was known as the greca. It was adapted from civil wear for the clergy in 1812, and has changed little since.


 ringpope 20. THE EPISCOPAL RING – The Pope’s ring, known as the Fisherman’s Ring, is used as the personal and unique seal of that reigning Pontiff. It is destroyed when he dies. Cardinals make use of the cardinalatial ring bestowed upon them at consistory, and bishops use the episcopal ring bestowed upon them at their consecration. It should be noted that the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. Pontifical doctors make use of a doctoral ring at academic functions when they would use the doctoral biretta. Priests, both diocesan and order, may use the ring of profession during liturgical events. The ring is a gift of the Pope to each new bishop.
 fanon 21. THE FANON – The fanon is a shoulder cape that only the pope wear. It consist of two pieces of white silk ornamented with narrow woven stripes of red and gold. It is nearly circular in shape with a round hole in the middle for the head to pass through, and with a small gold cross embroidered in front. It is worn over the alb, and only at solemn pontifical Mass.


 ferraiolo 22. THE FARRAIOLO – The ferraiolo is a full cape, now almost completely out of style, worn by clerics in abito piano. It is scarlet watered silk for a cardinal, violet silk for a bishop, violet wool for a protonotary apostolic, and black wool for any other degree of cleric. The Pope does not make use of a ferraiolo.
 gauntlets 23. THE GAUNTLETS – The gauntlets are the liturgical gloves that are an option for bishops to use during liturgical celebrations (as celebrant or concelebrant, not in choir). They are made of silk, and extend partially past the wrist. They can match the liturgical color, or can be always white. The gauntlets, like so many vestments, developed out of necessity to help keep the hands of the bishops warm during liturgical ceremonies in cold, stone churches. Since they became optional after Vatican II, the gauntlets are today seen only very rarely.


 gloves 24. THE GLOVES – Gloves used by clerics must always be black, and are not used during a liturgical celebration. The master of ceremonies alone may make use of white gloves, and is the only one allowed gloves while vested in choir. The Pope also uses white.
 humeralveil 25. THE HUMERAL VEIL – The Humeral Veil is worn so as to cover the back and shoulders (where it gets its name) and its two ends hang down in front. To prevent its falling from the shoulders, it is fastened across the chest with clasps or ribbons attached to the border. The Humeral Veil is worn by the priest or deacon in processions of the Blessed Sacrament, in giving Benediction, in carrying the Host to its repository on Holy Thursday, and bringing it back to the altar on Good Friday. In processions of the Blessed Sacrament and at Benediction given with the monstrance, only the hands are placed under the humeral veil; in other cases, it covers the sacred vessel which contains the Host. The Humeral Veil is usually and properly some shade of white (from ivory to white is acceptable).


 manipule 26. THE MANIPULE – The manipule is an ornamental vestment of colored silk or damask over the left forearms. Originally this vestment was a handkerchief carried in the left hand or thrown over the left arm. It symbolizes the labor and hardship the priest must expect in his ardent apostolate.
 mantelletta 27. THE MANTELETTA – The mantelletta, while formerly worn by all bishops and some of the monsignori, is now only used by the seven protonotaries apostolic de numero. It is a short, violet mantle with slits for the arms, worn over the rochet and choir cassock.


 mitre 28. THE MITRE – The mitre is the common headdress of bishops, worn at liturgical functions. It is either precious, golden (orphreyed), or simple (simplex). The precious mitre is worn by celebrants, the simple by concelebrants, and the golden by the celebrant at an ordination. All the cardinals wear a damasked mitre (simplex) in presence of the Pope. It is very tall, and is made of layered white damask silk.
 mozzetta 29. THE MOZZETTA – The mozzetta is the short shoulder-cape worn by bishops over the choir cassock and rochet in choir dress. It is made of the same material and color as the cassock.


 pallium 30. THE PALLIUM – The pallium is only worn by archbishops, patriarchs, and the Pope, as symbol of the authority of metropolitan. It is a thin band of white wool worn around the neck with extensions front and back. It has black crosses on it, and is pinned to the chasuble in three places around the neck.
 pastoralstaff 31. THE PASTORAL STAFF (OF THE POPE) – The staff, used by the Popes in place of a crozier since Pope Paul VI (died 1978), were silver color with a crucifix and corpus at the top. Throughout history, the Popes have not used the Pastoral Staff. Only since Pope Paul VI have they used it.


 pectoralcross 32. THE PECTORAL STAFF – The pectoral cross is a small cross, usually about 6 inches in height, worn around the neck of a bishop and suspended by either the cord (in liturgical vestments or choir) or the chain (in abito piano). The cord is scarlet and gold for a cardinal; green and gold for a bishop.
 rochet 33. THE ROCHET – The rochet is a knee-length, white vestment worn over the choir cassock by bishops in choir. It is often, but not necessarily, very fancy with lace and linen. It is not interchangeable with the surplice, contrary to the belief of many bishops. It is distinct from the surplice not in the level of decoration, but in the sleeve: the sleeve of a rochet, like an alb, fits flush against the choir cassock; the sleeve of a surplice is fuller, and often bell-shaped.


 simar 34. THE SIMAR – The simar (or zimarra), is only worn by the ranks of the episcopate. It is the most common dress for a bishop. It resembles a cassock in many respects, but it is not properly a cassock, as it has in addition to it a shoulder-cape of the same material and color. It is always black (except for the Pope), and the trim is scarlet for cardinals and amaranth-red for bishops.
 soprana1 35. THE SOPRANA – The soprana is a black wool cloak worn by any cleric, but most notably by Roman seminarians. It is rarely seen outside of Rome today. This cloak originated in the seminaries of Rome, and used to include colored silk trim and facings, which were specific to each seminary.


 stole 36. THE STOLE – Roman magistrates wore a long scarf when engaged in their official duties, just as our judges wear a court gown. Whenever a priest celebrates Mass or administers the Sacraments, he wears the stole as a sign that he is occupied with an official priestly duty. When placing the stole about his neck, in vesting for Mass, the priest begs God to give him on the last day the ‘garment of immortality’ that was forfeited by our sinful first parents.
 surplice 37. THE SURPLICE – The surplice, like the rochet, is a knee-length, white vestment worn over the choir cassock, but by priests, deacons, and seminarians rather than bishops. It is typically simple in design, but can be very fancy. It is distinct from the rochet not in the level of decoration, but in the sleeve: the sleeve of a rochet, like an alb, fits flush against the choir cassock; the sleeve of a surplice is fuller, and often bell-shaped.


 triregno 38. THE TRIREGNO – The triregno, or Papal tiara, is the triple crown reserved to Popes. No Pope since Pope Paul VI (died 1978) has been crowned with it, and no Pope since John XXIII (died 1963) has made use of it. The tiara developed from the mitre. The three crowns are symbolic of the Pope’s three-fold powers: potestas magisterii, potestas regimini, and potestas ministerii. [Meaning: “teaching, sanctifying, and governing.”]
 zucchetto 39. THE ZUCCHETTO – The zucchetto is the silk skullcap worn by the Catholic clergy. It is white for the Pope, scarlet for a cardinal, and violet for a bishop. Priests may use a black cloth zucchetto for everyday wear, but not during the liturgy.

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Back to: Liturgical Vestments

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

  1. How great is the dignity of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, may be judged best from this that Christ Our Lord, Son of the Eternal Father, having assumed the nature of fallen man, not only, with His loving desire of compassing the redemption of our race, ordained it in an especial manner as the principle and foundation of domestic society and therefore of all human intercourse, but also raised it to the rank of a truly and great sacrament of the New Law, restored it to the original purity of its divine institution, and accordingly entrusted all its discipline and care to His spouse the Church.
  2. In order, however, that amongst men of every nation and every age the desired fruits may be obtained from this renewal of matrimony, it is necessary, first of all, that men’s minds be illuminated with the true doctrine of Christ regarding it; and secondly, that Christian spouses, the weakness of their wills strengthened by the internal grace of God, shape all their ways of thinking and of acting in conformity with that pure law of Christ so as to obtain true peace and happiness for themselves and for their families.
  3. Yet not only do We, looking with paternal eye on the universal world from this Apostolic See as from a watch-tower, but you, also, Venerable Brethren, see, and seeing deeply grieve with Us that a great number of men, forgetful of that divine work of redemption, either entirely ignore or shamelessly deny the great sanctity of Christian wedlock, or relying on the false principles of a new and utterly perverse morality, too often trample it under foot. And since these most pernicious errors and depraved morals have begun to spread even amongst the faithful and are gradually gaining ground, in Our office as Christ’s Vicar upon earth and Supreme Shepherd and Teacher We consider it Our duty to raise Our voice to keep the flock committed to Our care from poisoned pastures and, as far as in Us lies, to preserve it from harm.
  4. We have decided therefore to speak to you, Venerable Brethren, and through you to the whole Church of Christ and indeed to the whole human race, on the nature and dignity of Christian marriage, on the advantages and benefits which accrue from it to the family and to human society itself, on the errors contrary to this most important point of the Gospel teaching, on the vices opposed to conjugal union, and lastly on the principal remedies to be applied. In so doing We follow the footsteps of Our predecessor, Leo XIII, of happy memory, whose Encyclical Arcanum,[1] published fifty years ago, We hereby confirm and make Our own, and while We wish to expound more fully certain points called for by the circumstances of our times, nevertheless We declare that, far from being obsolete, it retains its full force at the present day.
  5. And to begin with that same Encyclical, which is wholly concerned in vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its sacramental dignity, and its perpetual stability, let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed, and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture;[2] this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.[3]
  6. Yet although matrimony is of its very nature of divine institution, the human will, too, enters into it and performs a most noble part. For each individual marriage, inasmuch as it is a conjugal union of a particular man and woman, arises only from the free consent of each of the spouses; and this free act of the will, by which each party hands over and accepts those rights proper to the state of marriage,[4] is so necessary to constitute true marriage that it cannot be supplied by any human power.[5] This freedom, however, regards only the question whether the contracting parties really wish to enter upon matrimony or to marry this particular person; but the nature of matrimony is entirely independent of the free will of man, so that if one has once contracted matrimony he is thereby subject to its divinely made laws and its essential properties. For the Angelic Doctor, writing on conjugal honor and on the offspring which is the fruit of marriage, says: “These things are so contained in matrimony by the marriage pact itself that, if anything to the contrary were expressed in the consent which makes the marriage, it would not be a true marriage.”[6]
  7. By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life.
  8. From this it is clear that legitimately constituted authority has the right and therefore the duty to restrict, to prevent, and to punish those base unions which are opposed to reason and to nature; but since it is a matter which flows from human nature itself, no less certain is the teaching of Our predecessor, Leo XIII of happy memory:[7] “In choosing a state of life there is no doubt but that it is in the power and discretion of each one to prefer one or the other: either to embrace the counsel of virginity given by Jesus Christ, or to bind himself in the bonds of matrimony. To take away from man the natural and primeval right of marriage, to circumscribe in any way the principal ends of marriage laid down in the beginning by God Himself in the words ‘Increase and multiply,'[8] is beyond the power of any human law.”
  9. Therefore the sacred partnership of true marriage is constituted both by the will of God and the will of man. From God comes the very institution of marriage, the ends for which it was instituted, the laws that govern it, the blessings that flow from it; while man, through generous surrender of his own person made to another for the whole span of life, becomes, with the help and cooperation of God, the author of each particular marriage, with the duties and blessings annexed thereto from divine institution.
  10. Now when We come to explain, Venerable Brethren, what are the blessings that God has attached to true matrimony, and how great they are, there occur to Us the words of that illustrious Doctor of the Church whom We commemorated recently in Our Encyclical Ad salutem on the occasion of the fifteenth centenary of his death:[9] “These,” says St. Augustine, “are all the blessings of matrimony on account of which matrimony itself is a blessing; offspring, conjugal faith and the sacrament.”[10] And how under these three heads is contained a splendid summary of the whole doctrine of Christian marriage, the holy Doctor himself expressly declares when he said: “By conjugal faith it is provided that there should be no carnal intercourse outside the marriage bond with another man or woman; with regard to offspring, that children should be begotten of love, tenderly cared for and educated in a religious atmosphere; finally, in its sacramental aspect that the marriage bond should not be broken and that a husband or wife, if separated, should not be joined to another even for the sake of offspring. This we regard as the law of marriage by which the fruitfulness of nature is adorned and the evil of incontinence is restrained.”[11]
  11. Thus amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. And indeed the Creator of the human race Himself, Who in His goodness wishes to use men as His helpers in the propagation of life, taught this when, instituting marriage in Paradise, He said to our first parents, and through them to all future spouses: “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.”[12] As St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle Saint Paul to Timothy[13] when he says: “The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that marriage is for the sake of generation: ‘I wish,’ he says, ‘young girls to marry.’ And, as if someone said to him, ‘Why?,’ he immediately adds: ‘To bear children, to be mothers of families’.”[14]
  12. How great a boon of God this is, and how great a blessing of matrimony is clear from a consideration of man’s dignity and of his sublime end. For man surpasses all other visible creatures by the superiority of his rational nature alone. Besides, God wishes men to be born not only that they should live and fill the earth, but much more that they may be worshippers of God, that they may know Him and love Him and finally enjoy Him for ever in heaven; and this end, since man is raised by God in a marvelous way to the supernatural order, surpasses all that eye hath seen, and ear heard, and all that hath entered into the heart of man.[15] From which it is easily seen how great a gift of divine goodness and how remarkable a fruit of marriage are children born by the omnipotent power of God through the cooperation of those bound in wedlock.
  13. But Christian parents must also understand that they are destined not only to propagate and preserve the human race on earth, indeed not only to educate any kind of worshippers of the true God, but children who are to become members of the Church of Christ, to raise up fellow-citizens of the Saints, and members of God’s household,[16] that the worshippers of God and Our Savior may daily increase.
  14. For although Christian spouses even if sanctified themselves cannot transmit sanctification to their progeny, nay, although the very natural process of generating life has become the way of death by which original sin is passed on to posterity, nevertheless, they share to some extent in the blessings of that primeval marriage of Paradise, since it is theirs to offer their offspring to the Church in order that by this most fruitful Mother of the children of God they may be regenerated through the laver of Baptism unto supernatural justice and finally be made living members of Christ, partakers of immortal life, and heirs of that eternal glory to which we all aspire from our inmost heart.
  15. If a true Christian mother weigh well these things, she will indeed understand with a sense of deep consolation that of her the words of Our Savior were spoken: “A woman . . . when she hath brought forth the child remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world”;[17] and proving herself superior to all the pains and cares and solicitudes of her maternal office with a more just and holy joy than that of the Roman matron, the mother of the Gracchi, she will rejoice in the Lord crowned as it were with the glory of her offspring. Both husband and wife, however, receiving these children with joy and gratitude from the hand of God, will regard them as a talent committed to their charge by God, not only to be employed for their own advantage or for that of an earthly commonwealth, but to be restored to God with interest on the day of reckoning.
  16. The blessing of offspring, however, is not completed by the mere begetting of them, but something else must be added, namely the proper education of the offspring. For the most wise God would have failed to make sufficient provision for children that had been born, and so for the whole human race, if He had not given to those to whom He had entrusted the power and right to beget them, the power also and the right to educate them. For no one can fail to see that children are incapable of providing wholly for themselves, even in matters pertaining to their natural life, and much less in those pertaining to the supernatural, but require for many years to be helped, instructed, and educated by others. Now it is certain that both by the law of nature and of God this right and duty of educating their offspring belongs in the first place to those who began the work of nature by giving them birth, and they are indeed forbidden to leave unfinished this work and so expose it to certain ruin. But in matrimony provision has been made in the best possible way for this education of children that is so necessary, for, since the parents are bound together by an indissoluble bond, the care and mutual help of each is always at hand.
  17. Since, however, We have spoken fully elsewhere on the Christian education of youth,[18] let Us sum it all up by quoting once more the words of St. Augustine: “As regards the offspring it is provided that they should be begotten lovingly and educated religiously,”[19] – and this is also expressed succinctly in the Code of Canon Law – “The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children.”[20]
  18. Nor must We omit to remark, in fine, that since the duty entrusted to parents for the good of their children is of such high dignity and of such great importance, every use of the faculty given by God for the procreation of new life is the right and the privilege of the married state alone, by the law of God and of nature, and must be confined absolutely within the sacred limits of that state.
  19. The second blessing of matrimony which We said was mentioned by St. Augustine, is the blessing of conjugal honor which consists in the mutual fidelity of the spouses in fulfilling the marriage contract, so that what belongs to one of the parties by reason of this contract sanctioned by divine law, may not be denied to him or permitted to any third person; nor may there be conceded to one of the parties anything which, being contrary to the rights and laws of God and entirely opposed to matrimonial faith, can never be conceded.
  20. Wherefore, conjugal faith, or honor, demands in the first place the complete unity of matrimony which the Creator Himself laid down in the beginning when He wished it to be not otherwise than between one man and one woman. And although afterwards this primeval law was relaxed to some extent by God, the Supreme Legislator, there is no doubt that the law of the Gospel fully restored that original and perfect unity, and abrogated all dispensations as the words of Christ and the constant teaching and action of the Church show plainly. With reason, therefore, does the Sacred Council of Trent solemnly declare: “Christ Our Lord very clearly taught that in this bond two persons only are to be united and joined together when He said: ‘Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh’.”[21]
  21. Nor did Christ Our Lord wish only to condemn any form of polygamy or polyandry, as they are called, whether successive or simultaneous, and every other external dishonorable act, but, in order that the sacred bonds of marriage may be guarded absolutely inviolate, He forbade also even willful thoughts and desires of such like things: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.”[22] Which words of Christ Our Lord cannot be annulled even by the consent of one of the partners of marriage for they express a law of God and of nature which no will of man can break or bend.[23]
  22. Nay, that mutual familiar intercourse between the spouses themselves, if the blessing of conjugal faith is to shine with becoming splendor, must be distinguished by chastity so that husband and wife bear themselves in all things with the law of God and of nature, and endeavor always to follow the will of their most wise and holy Creator with the greatest reverence toward the work of God.
  23. This conjugal faith, however, which is most aptly called by St. Augustine the “faith of chastity” blooms more freely, more beautifully and more nobly, when it is rooted in that more excellent soil, the love of husband and wife which pervades all the duties of married life and holds pride of place in Christian marriage. For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church. This precept the Apostle laid down when he said: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church,”[24] that Church which of a truth He embraced with a boundless love not for the sake of His own advantage, but seeking only the good of His Spouse.[25] The love, then, of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds.[26] This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbor, on which indeed “dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets.”[27] For all men of every condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely Christ Our Lord, and by God’s grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is proved by the example set us of many saints.
  24. This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof.
  25. By this same love it is necessary that all the other rights and duties of the marriage state be regulated as the words of the Apostle: “Let the husband render the debt to the wife, and the wife also in like manner to the husband,”[28] express not only a law of justice but of charity.
  26. Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that “order of love,” as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: “Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church.”[29]
  27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband’s every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.
  28. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact, if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact .
  29. With great wisdom Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, in the Encyclical on Christian marriage which We have already mentioned, speaking of this order to be maintained between man and wife, teaches: “The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays. Let divine charity be the constant guide of their mutual relations, both in him who rules and in her who obeys, since each bears the image, the one of Christ, the other of the Church.”[30]
  30. These, then, are the elements which compose the blessing of conjugal faith: unity, chastity, charity, honorable noble obedience, which are at the same time an enumeration of the benefits which are bestowed on husband and wife in their married state, benefits by which the peace, the dignity and the happiness of matrimony are securely preserved and fostered. Wherefore it is not surprising that this conjugal faith has always been counted amongst the most priceless and special blessings of matrimony.
  31. But this accumulation of benefits is completed and, as it were, crowned by that blessing of Christian marriage which in the words of St. Augustine we have called the sacrament, by which is denoted both the indissolubility of the bond and the raising and hallowing of the contract by Christ Himself, whereby He made it an efficacious sign of grace.
  32. In the first place Christ Himself lays stress on the indissolubility and firmness of the marriage bond when He says: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder,”[31] and: “Everyone that putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery, and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”[32]
  33. And St. Augustine clearly places what he calls the blessing of matrimony in this indissolubility when he says: “In the sacrament it is provided that the marriage bond should not be broken, and that a husband or wife, if separated, should not be joined to another even for the sake of offspring.”[33]
  34. And this inviolable stability, although not in the same perfect measure in every case, belongs to every true marriage, for the word of the Lord: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder,” must of necessity include all true marriages without exception, since it was spoken of the marriage of our first parents, the prototype of every future marriage. Therefore although before Christ the sublimeness and the severity of the primeval law was so tempered that Moses permitted to the chosen people of God on account of the hardness of their hearts that a bill of divorce might be given in certain circumstances, nevertheless, Christ, by virtue of His supreme legislative power, recalled this concession of greater liberty and restored the primeval law in its integrity by those words which must never be forgotten, “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” Wherefore, Our predecessor Pius VI of happy memory, writing to the Bishop of Agria, most wisely said: “Hence it is clear that marriage even in the state of nature, and certainly long before it was raised to the dignity of a sacrament, was divinely instituted in such a way that it should carry with it a perpetual and indissoluble bond which cannot therefore be dissolved by any civil law. Therefore although the sacramental element may be absent from a marriage as is the case among unbelievers, still in such a marriage, inasmuch as it is a true marriage there must remain and indeed there does remain that perpetual bond which by divine right is so bound up with matrimony from its first institution that it is not subject to any civil power. And so, whatever marriage is said to be contracted, either it is so contracted that it is really a true marriage, in which case it carries with it that enduring bond which by divine right is inherent in every true marriage; or it is thought to be contracted without that perpetual bond, and in that case there is no marriage, but an illicit union opposed of its very nature to the divine law, which therefore cannot be entered into or maintained.”[34]
  35. And if this stability seems to be open to exception, however rare the exception may be, as in the case of certain natural marriages between unbelievers, or amongst Christians in the case of those marriages which though valid have not been consummated, that exception does not depend on the will of men nor on that of any merely human power, but on divine law, of which the only guardian and interpreter is the Church of Christ. However, not even this power can ever affect for any cause whatsoever a Christian marriage which is valid and has been consummated, for as it is plain that here the marriage contract has its full completion, so, by the will of God, there is also the greatest firmness and indissolubility which may not be destroyed by any human authority.
  36. If we wish with all reverence to inquire into the intimate reason of this divine decree, Venerable Brethren, we shall easily see it in the mystical signification of Christian marriage which is fully and perfectly verified in consummated marriage between Christians. For, as the Apostle says in his Epistle to the Ephesians,[35] the marriage of Christians recalls that most perfect union which exists between Christ and the Church: “Sacramentum hoc magnum est, ego autem dico, in Christo et in ecclesia;” which union, as long as Christ shall live and the Church through Him, can never be dissolved by any separation. And this St. Augustine clearly declares in these words: “This is safeguarded in Christ and the Church, which, living with Christ who lives for ever may never be divorced from Him. The observance of this sacrament is such in the City of God . . . that is, in the Church of Christ, that when for the sake of begetting children, women marry or are taken to wife, it is wrong to leave a wife that is sterile in order to take another by whom children may be hand. Anyone doing this is guilty of adultery, just as if he married another, guilty not by the law of the day, according to which when one’s partner is put away another may be taken, which the Lord allowed in the law of Moses because of the hardness of the hearts of the people of Israel; but by the law of the Gospel.”[36]
  37. Indeed, how many and how important are the benefits which flow from the indissolubility of matrimony cannot escape anyone who gives even a brief consideration either to the good of the married parties and the offspring or to the welfare of human society. First of all, both husband and wife possess a positive guarantee of the endurance of this stability which that generous yielding of their persons and the intimate fellowship of their hearts by their nature strongly require, since true love never falls away.[37] Besides, a strong bulwark is set up in defense of a loyal chastity against incitements to infidelity, should any be encountered either from within or from without; any anxious fear lest in adversity or old age the other spouse would prove unfaithful is precluded and in its place there reigns a calm sense of security. Moreover, the dignity of both man and wife is maintained and mutual aid is most satisfactorily assured, while through the indissoluble bond, always enduring, the spouses are warned continuously that not for the sake of perishable things nor that they may serve their passions, but that they may procure one for the other high and lasting good have they entered into the nuptial partnership, to be dissolved only by death. In the training and education of children, which must extend over a period of many years, it plays a great part, since the grave and long enduring burdens of this office are best borne by the united efforts of the parents. Nor do lesser benefits accrue to human society as a whole. For experience has taught that unassailable stability in matrimony is a fruitful source of virtuous life and of habits of integrity. Where this order of things obtains, the happiness and well being of the nation is safely guarded; what the families and individuals are, so also is the State, for a body is determined by its parts. Wherefore, both for the private good of husband, wife and children, as likewise for the public good of human society, they indeed deserve well who strenuously defend the inviolable stability of matrimony.
  38. But considering the benefits of the Sacrament, besides the firmness and indissolubility, there are also much higher emoluments as the word “sacrament” itself very aptly indicates; for to Christians this is not a meaningless and empty name. Christ the Lord, the Institutor and “Perfecter” of the holy sacraments,[38] by raising the matrimony of His faithful to the dignity of a true sacrament of the New Law, made it a sign and source of that peculiar internal grace by which “it perfects natural love, it confirms an indissoluble union, and sanctifies both man and wife.”[39]
  39. And since the valid matrimonial consent among the faithful was constituted by Christ as a sign of grace, the sacramental nature is so intimately bound up with Christian wedlock that there can be no true marriage between baptized persons “without it being by that very fact a sacrament.”[40]
  40. By the very fact, therefore, that the faithful with sincere mind give such consent, they open up for themselves a treasure of sacramental grace from which they draw supernatural power for the fulfilling of their rights and duties faithfully, holily, perseveringly even unto death. Hence this sacrament not only increases sanctifying grace, the permanent principle of the supernatural life, in those who, as the expression is, place no obstacle (obex) in its way, but also adds particular gifts, dispositions, seeds of grace, by elevating and perfecting the natural powers. By these gifts the parties are assisted not only in understanding, but in knowing intimately, in adhering to firmly, in willing effectively, and in successfully putting into practice, those things which pertain to the marriage state, its aims and duties, giving them in fine right to the actual assistance of grace, whensoever they need it for fulfilling the duties of their state.
  41. Nevertheless, since it is a law of divine Providence in the supernatural order that men do not reap the full fruit of the Sacraments which they receive after acquiring the use of reason unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field unless the parties exercise these supernatural powers and cultivate and develop the seeds of grace they have received. If, however, doing all that lies with their power, they cooperate diligently, they will be able with ease to bear the burdens of their state and to fulfill their duties. By such a sacrament they will be strengthened, sanctified and in a manner consecrated. For, as St. Augustine teaches, just as by Baptism and Holy Orders a man is set aside and assisted either for the duties of Christian life or for the priestly office and is never deprived of their sacramental aid, almost in the same way (although not by a sacramental character), the faithful once joined by marriage ties can never be deprived of the help and the binding force of the sacrament. Indeed, as the Holy Doctor adds, even those who commit adultery carry with them that sacred yoke, although in this case not as a title to the glory of grace but for the ignominy of their guilty action, “as the soul by apostasy, withdrawing as it were from marriage with Christ, even though it may have lost its faith, does not lose the sacrament of Faith which it received at the laver of regeneration.”[41]
  42. These parties, let it be noted, not fettered but adorned by the golden bond of the sacrament, not hampered but assisted, should strive with all their might to the end that their wedlock, not only through the power and symbolism of the sacrament, but also through their spirit and manner of life, may be and remain always the living image of that most fruitful union of Christ with the Church, which is to venerated as the sacred token of most perfect love.
  43. All of these things, Venerable Brethren, you must consider carefully and ponder over with a lively faith if you would see in their true light the extraordinary benefits on matrimony – offspring, conjugal faith, and the sacrament. No one can fail to admire the divine Wisdom, Holiness and Goodness which, while respecting the dignity and happiness of husband and wife, has provided so bountifully for the conservation and propagation of the human race by a single chaste and sacred fellowship of nuptial union.
  44. When we consider the great excellence of chaste wedlock, Venerable Brethren, it appears all the more regrettable that particularly in our day we should witness this divine institution often scorned and on every side degraded.
  45. For now, alas, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense of shame put aside, now by word again by writings, by theatrical productions of every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by cinematographs portraying in vivid scene, in addresses broadcast by radio telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices either are extolled or at least are depicted in such colors as to appear to be free of all reproach and infamy. Books are not lacking which dare to pronounce themselves as scientific but which in truth are merely coated with a veneer of science in order that they may the more easily insinuate their ideas. The doctrines defended in these are offered for sale as the productions of modern genius, of that genius namely, which, anxious only for truth, is considered to have emancipated itself from all those old-fashioned and immature opinions of the ancients; and to the number of these antiquated opinions they relegate the traditional doctrine of Christian marriage.
  46. These thoughts are instilled into men of every class, rich and poor, masters and workers, lettered and unlettered, married and single, the godly and godless, old and young, but for these last, as easiest prey, the worst snares are laid.
  47. Not all the sponsors of these new doctrines are carried to the extremes of unbridled lust; there are those who, striving as it were to ride a middle course, believe nevertheless that something should be conceded in our times as regards certain precepts of the divine and natural law. But these likewise, more or less wittingly, are emissaries of the great enemy who is ever seeking to sow cockle among the wheat.[42] We, therefore, whom the Father has appointed over His field, We who are bound by Our most holy office to take care lest the good seed be choked by the weeds, believe it fitting to apply to Ourselves the most grave words of the Holy Ghost with which the Apostle Paul exhorted his beloved Timothy: “Be thou vigilant . . . Fulfill thy ministry . . . Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.”[43]
  48. And since, in order that the deceits of the enemy may be avoided, it is necessary first of all that they be laid bare; since much is to be gained by denouncing these fallacies for the sake of the unwary, even though We prefer not to name these iniquities “as becometh saints,”[44] yet for the welfare of souls We cannot remain altogether silent.
  49. To begin at the very source of these evils, their basic principle lies in this, that matrimony is repeatedly declared to be not instituted by the Author of nature nor raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a true sacrament, but invented by man. Some confidently assert that they have found no evidence of the existence of matrimony in nature or in her laws, but regard it merely as the means of producing life and of gratifying in one way or another a vehement impulse; on the other hand, others recognize that certain beginnings or, as it were, seeds of true wedlock are found in the nature of man since, unless men were bound together by some form of permanent tie, the dignity of husband and wife or the natural end of propagating and rearing the offspring would not receive satisfactory provision. At the same time they maintain that in all beyond this germinal idea matrimony, through various concurrent causes, is invented solely by the mind of man, established solely by his will.
  50. How grievously all these err and how shamelessly they leave the ways of honesty is already evident from what we have set forth here regarding the origin and nature of wedlock, its purposes and the good inherent in it. The evil of this teaching is plainly seen from the consequences which its advocates deduce from it, namely, that the laws, institutions and customs by which wedlock is governed, since they take their origin solely from the will of man, are subject entirely to him, hence can and must be founded, changed and abrogated according to human caprice and the shifting circumstances of human affairs; that the generative power which is grounded in nature itself is more sacred and has wider range than matrimony – hence it may be exercised both outside as well as within the confines of wedlock, and though the purpose of matrimony be set aside, as though to suggest that the license of a base fornicating woman should enjoy the same rights as the chaste motherhood of a lawfully wedded wife.
  51. Armed with these principles, some men go so far as to concoct new species of unions, suited, as they say, to the present temper of men and the times, which various new forms of matrimony they presume to label “temporary,” “experimental,” and “companionate.” These offer all the indulgence of matrimony and its rights without, however, the indissoluble bond, and without offspring, unless later the parties alter their cohabitation into a matrimony in the full sense of the law.
  52. Indeed there are some who desire and insist that these practices be legitimatized by the law or, at least, excused by their general acceptance among the people. They do not seem even to suspect that these proposals partake of nothing of the modern “culture” in which they glory so much, but are simply hateful abominations which beyond all question reduce our truly cultured nations to the barbarous standards of savage peoples.
  53. And now, Venerable Brethren, we shall explain in detail the evils opposed to each of the benefits of matrimony. First consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent) but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden. Others say that they cannot on the one hand remain continent nor on the other can they have children because of the difficulties whether on the part of the mother or on the part of family circumstances.
  54. But no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.
  55. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, “Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.”[45]
  56. Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.
  57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: “They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.[46]
  58. As regards the evil use of matrimony, to pass over the arguments which are shameful, not infrequently others that are false and exaggerated are put forward. Holy Mother Church very well understands and clearly appreciates all that is said regarding the health of the mother and the danger to her life. And who would not grieve to think of these things? Who is not filled with the greatest admiration when he sees a mother risking her life with heroic fortitude, that she may preserve the life of the offspring which she has conceived? God alone, all bountiful and all merciful as He is, can reward her for the fulfillment of the office allotted to her by nature, and will assuredly repay her in a measure full to overflowing.[47]
  59. Holy Church knows well that not infrequently one of the parties is sinned against rather than sinning, when for a grave cause he or she reluctantly allows the perversion of the right order. In such a case, there is no sin, provided that, mindful of the law of charity, he or she does not neglect to seek to dissuade and to deter the partner from sin. Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.
  60. We are deeply touched by the sufferings of those parents who, in extreme want, experience great difficulty in rearing their children.
  61. However, they should take care lest the calamitous state of their external affairs should be the occasion for a much more calamitous error. No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. “Let no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.”[48]
  62. This same doctrine was again solemnly repeated and confirmed by the Church in the condemnation of the Jansenist heresy which dared to utter this blasphemy against the goodness of God: “Some precepts of God are, when one considers the powers which man possesses, impossible of fulfillment even to the just who wish to keep the law and strive to do so; grace is lacking whereby these laws could be fulfilled.”[49]
  63. But another very grave crime is to be noted, Venerable Brethren, which regards the taking of the life of the offspring hidden in the mother’s womb. Some wish it to be allowed and left to the will of the father or the mother; others say it is unlawful unless there are weighty reasons which they call by the name of medical, social, or eugenic “indication.” Because this matter falls under the penal laws of the state by which the destruction of the offspring begotten but unborn is forbidden, these people demand that the “indication,” which in one form or another they defend, be recognized as such by the public law and in no way penalized. There are those, moreover, who ask that the public authorities provide aid for these death-dealing operations, a thing, which, sad to say, everyone knows is of very frequent occurrence in some places.
  64. As to the “medical and therapeutic indication” to which, using their own words, we have made reference, Venerable Brethren, however much we may pity the mother whose health and even life is gravely imperiled in the performance of the duty allotted to her by nature, nevertheless what could ever be a sufficient reason for excusing in any way the direct murder of the innocent? This is precisely what we are dealing with here. Whether inflicted upon the mother or upon the child, it is against the precept of God and the law of nature: “Thou shalt not kill:”[50] The life of each is equally sacred, and no one has the power, not even the public authority, to destroy it. It is of no use to appeal to the right of taking away life for here it is a question of the innocent, whereas that right has regard only to the guilty; nor is there here question of defense by bloodshed against an unjust aggressor (for who would call an innocent child an unjust aggressor?); again there is not question here of what is called the “law of extreme necessity” which could even extend to the direct killing of the innocent. Upright and skillful doctors strive most praiseworthily to guard and preserve the lives of both mother and child; on the contrary, those show themselves most unworthy of the noble medical profession who encompass the death of one or the other, through a pretense at practicing medicine or through motives of misguided pity.
  65. All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: “Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for honest wedlock, but for impure gratification; if both are not party to these deeds, I make bold to say that either the one makes herself a mistress of the husband, or the other simply the paramour of his wife.”[51]
  66. What is asserted in favor of the social and eugenic “indication” may and must be accepted, provided lawful and upright methods are employed within the proper limits; but to wish to put forward reasons based upon them for the killing of the innocent is unthinkable and contrary to the divine precept promulgated in the words of the Apostle: Evil is not to be done that good may come of it.[52]
  67. Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother’s womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven.[53]
  68. Finally, that pernicious practice must be condemned which closely touches upon the natural right of man to enter matrimony but affects also in a real way the welfare of the offspring. For there are some who over solicitous for the cause of eugenics, not only give salutary counsel for more certainly procuring the strength and health of the future child – which, indeed, is not contrary to right reason – but put eugenics before aims of a higher order, and by public authority wish to prevent from marrying all those whom, even though naturally fit for marriage, they consider, according to the norms and conjectures of their investigations, would, through hereditary transmission, bring forth defective offspring. And more, they wish to legislate to deprive these of that natural faculty by medical action despite their unwillingness; and this they do not propose as an infliction of grave punishment under the authority of the state for a crime committed, not to prevent future crimes by guilty persons, but against every right and good they wish the civil authority to arrogate to itself a power over a faculty which it never had and can never legitimately possess.
  69. Those who act in this way are at fault in losing sight of the fact that the family is more sacred than the State and that men are begotten not for the earth and for time, but for Heaven and eternity. Although often these individuals are to be dissuaded from entering into matrimony, certainly it is wrong to brand men with the stigma of crime because they contract marriage, on the ground that, despite the fact that they are in every respect capable of matrimony, they will give birth only to defective children, even though they use all care and diligence.
  70. Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason. St. Thomas teaches this when inquiring whether human judges for the sake of preventing future evils can inflict punishment, he admits that the power indeed exists as regards certain other forms of evil, but justly and properly denies it as regards the maiming of the body. “No one who is guiltless may be punished by a human tribunal either by flogging to death, or mutilation, or by beating.”[54]
  71. Furthermore, Christian doctrine establishes, and the light of human reason makes it most clear, that private individuals have no other power over the members of their bodies than that which pertains to their natural ends; and they are not free to destroy or mutilate their members, or in any other way render themselves unfit for their natural functions, except when no other provision can be made for the good of the whole body.
  72. We may now consider another class of errors concerning conjugal faith. Every sin committed as regards the offspring becomes in some way a sin against conjugal faith, since both these blessings are essentially connected. However, we must mention briefly the sources of error and vice corresponding to those virtues which are demanded by conjugal faith, namely the chaste honor existing between man and wife, the due subjection of wife to husband, and the true love which binds both parties together.
  73. It follows therefore that they are destroying mutual fidelity, who think that the ideas and morality of our present time concerning a certain harmful and false friendship with a third party can be countenanced, and who teach that a greater freedom of feeling and action in such external relations should be allowed to man and wife, particularly as many (so they consider) are possessed of an inborn sexual tendency which cannot be satisfied within the narrow limits of monogamous marriage. That rigid attitude which condemns all sensual affections and actions with a third party they imagine to be a narrowing of mind and heart, something obsolete, or an abject form of jealousy, and as a result they look upon whatever penal laws are passed by the State for the preserving of conjugal faith as void or to be abolished. Such unworthy and idle opinions are condemned by that noble instinct which is found in every chaste husband and wife, and even by the light of the testimony of nature alone, – a testimony that is sanctioned and confirmed by the command of God: “Thou shalt not commit adultry,”[55] and the words of Christ: “Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.”[56] The force of this divine precept can never be weakened by any merely human custom, bad example or pretext of human progress, for just as it is the one and the same “Jesus Christ, yesterday and today and the same for ever,”[57] so it is the one and the same doctrine of Christ that abides and of which no one jot or tittle shall pass away till all is fulfilled.[58]
  74. The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children. It must be social, economic, physiological: – physiological, that is to say, the woman is to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs; finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs, giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and family.
  75. This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.
  76. This equality of rights which is so much exaggerated and distorted, must indeed be recognized in those rights which belong to the dignity of the human soul and which are proper to the marriage contract and inseparably bound up with wedlock. In such things undoubtedly both parties enjoy the same rights and are bound by the same obligations; in other things there must be a certain inequality and due accommodation, which is demanded by the good of the family and the right ordering and unity and stability of home life.
  77. As, however, the social and economic conditions of the married woman must in some way be altered on account of the changes in social intercourse, it is part of the office of the public authority to adapt the civil rights of the wife to modern needs and requirements, keeping in view what the natural disposition and temperament of the female sex, good morality, and the welfare of the family demands, and provided always that the essential order of the domestic society remain intact, founded as it is on something higher than human authority and wisdom, namely on the authority and wisdom of God, and so not changeable by public laws or at the pleasure of private individuals.
  78. These enemies of marriage go further, however, when they substitute for that true and solid love, which is the basis of conjugal happiness, a certain vague compatibility of temperament. This they call sympathy and assert that, since it is the only bond by which husband and wife are linked together, when it ceases the marriage is completely dissolved. What else is this than to build a house upon sand? – a house that in the words of Christ would forthwith be shaken and collapse, as soon as it was exposed to the waves of adversity “and the winds blew and they beat upon that house. And it fell: and great was the fall thereof.”[59] On the other hand, the house built upon a rock, that is to say on mutual conjugal chastity and strengthened by a deliberate and constant union of spirit, will not only never fall away but will never be shaken by adversity.
  79. We have so far, Venerable Brethren, shown the excellency of the first two blessings of Christian wedlock which the modern subverters of society are attacking. And now considering that the third blessing, which is that of the sacrament, far surpasses the other two, we should not be surprised to find that this, because of its outstanding excellence, is much more sharply attacked by the same people. They put forward in the first place that matrimony belongs entirely to the profane and purely civil sphere, that it is not to be committed to the religious society, the Church of Christ, but to civil society alone. They then add that the marriage contract is to be freed from any indissoluble bond, and that separation and divorce are not only to be tolerated but sanctioned by the law; from which it follows finally that, robbed of all its holiness, matrimony should be enumerated amongst the secular and civil institutions. The first point is contained in their contention that the civil act itself should stand for the marriage contract (civil matrimony, as it is called), while the religious act is to be considered a mere addition, or at most a concession to a too superstitious people. Moreover they want it to be no cause for reproach that marriages be contracted by Catholics with non-Catholics without any reference to religion or recourse to the ecclesiastical authorities. The second point which is but a consequence of the first is to be found in their excuse for complete divorce and in their praise and encouragement of those civil laws which favor the loosening of the bond itself. As the salient features of the religious character of all marriage and particularly of the sacramental marriage of Christians have been treated at length and supported by weighty arguments in the encyclical letters of Leo XIII, letters which We have frequently recalled to mind and expressly made our own, We refer you to them, repeating here only a few points.
  80. Even by the light of reason alone and particularly if the ancient records of history are investigated, if the unwavering popular conscience is interrogated and the manners and institutions of all races examined, it is sufficiently obvious that there is a certain sacredness and religious character attaching even to the purely natural union of man and woman, “not something added by chance but innate, not imposed by men but involved in the nature of things,” since it has “God for its author and has been even from the beginning a foreshadowing of the Incarnation of the Word of God.”[60] This sacredness of marriage which is intimately connected with religion and all that is holy, arises from the divine origin we have just mentioned, from its purpose which is the begetting and education of children for God, and the binding of man and wife to God through Christian love and mutual support; and finally it arises from the very nature of wedlock, whose institution is to be sought for in the farseeing Providence of God, whereby it is the means of transmitting life, thus making the parents the ministers, as it were, of the Divine Omnipotence. To this must be added that new element of dignity which comes from the sacrament, by which the Christian marriage is so ennobled and raised to such a level, that it appeared to the Apostle as a great sacrament, honorable in every way.[61]
  81. This religious character of marriage, its sublime signification of grace and the union between Christ and the Church, evidently requires that those about to marry should show a holy reverence towards it, and zealously endeavor to make their marriage approach as nearly as possible to the archetype of Christ and the Church.
  82. They, therefore, who rashly and heedlessly contract mixed marriages, from which the maternal love and providence of the Church dissuades her children for very sound reasons, fail conspicuously in this respect, sometimes with danger to their eternal salvation. This attitude of the Church to mixed marriages appears in many of her documents, all of which are summed up in the Code of Canon Law: “Everywhere and with the greatest strictness the Church forbids marriages between baptized persons, one of whom is a Catholic and the other a member of a schismatical or heretical sect; and if there is, add to this, the danger of the falling away of the Catholic party and the perversion of the children, such a marriage is forbidden also by the divine law.”[62] If the Church occasionally on account of circumstances does not refuse to grant a dispensation from these strict laws (provided that the divine law remains intact and the dangers above mentioned are provided against by suitable safeguards), it is unlikely that the Catholic party will not suffer some detriment from such a marriage.
  83. Whence it comes about not unfrequently, as experience shows, that deplorable defections from religion occur among the offspring, or at least a headlong descent into that religious indifference which is closely allied to impiety. There is this also to be considered that in these mixed marriages it becomes much more difficult to imitate by a lively conformity of spirit the mystery of which We have spoken, namely that close union between Christ and His Church.
  84. Assuredly, also, will there be wanting that close union of spirit which as it is the sign and mark of the Church of Christ, so also should be the sign of Christian wedlock, its glory and adornment. For, where there exists diversity of mind, truth and feeling, the bond of union of mind and heart is wont to be broken, or at least weakened. From this comes the danger lest the love of man and wife grow cold and the peace and happiness of family life, resting as it does on the union of hearts, be destroyed. Many centuries ago indeed, the old Roman law had proclaimed: “Marriages are the union of male and female, a sharing of life and the communication of divine and human rights.”[63] But especially, as We have pointed out, Venerable Brethren, the daily increasing facility of divorce is an obstacle to the restoration of marriage to that state of perfection which the divine Redeemer willed it should possess.
  85. The advocates of the neo-paganism of today have learned nothing from the sad state of affairs, but instead, day by day, more and more vehemently, they continue by legislation to attack the indissolubility of the marriage bond, proclaiming that the lawfulness of divorce must be recognized, and that the antiquated laws should give place to a new and more humane legislation. Many and varied are the grounds put forward for divorce, some arising from the wickedness and the guilt of the persons concerned, others arising from the circumstances of the case; the former they describe as subjective, the latter as objective; in a word, whatever might make married life hard or unpleasant. They strive to prove their contentions regarding these grounds for the divorce legislation they would bring about, by various arguments. Thus, in the first place, they maintain that it is for the good of either party that the one who is innocent should have the right to separate from the guilty, or that the guilty should be withdrawn from a union which is unpleasing to him and against his will. In the second place, they argue, the good of the child demands this, for either it will be deprived of a proper education or the natural fruits of it, and will too easily be affected by the discords and shortcomings of the parents, and drawn from the path of virtue. And thirdly the common good of society requires that these marriages should be completely dissolved, which are now incapable of producing their natural results, and that legal reparations should be allowed when crimes are to be feared as the result of the common habitation and intercourse of the parties. This last, they say must be admitted to avoid the crimes being committed purposely with a view to obtaining the desired sentence of divorce for which the judge can legally loose the marriage bond, as also to prevent people from coming before the courts when it is obvious from the state of the case that they are Iying and perjuring themselves, – all of which brings the court and the lawful authority into contempt. Hence the civil laws, in their opinion, have to be reformed to meet these new requirements, to suit the changes of the times and the changes in men’s opinions, civil institutions and customs. Each of these reasons is considered by them as conclusive, so that all taken together offer a clear proof of the necessity of granting divorce in certain cases.
  86. Others, taking a step further, simply state that marriage, being a private contract, is, like other private contracts, to be left to the consent and good pleasure of both parties, and so can be dissolved for any reason whatsoever.
  87. Opposed to all these reckless opinions, Venerable Brethren, stands the unalterable law of God, fully confirmed by Christ, a law that can never be deprived of its force by the decrees of men, the ideas of a people or the will of any legislator: “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”[64] And if any man, acting contrary to this law, shall have put asunder, his action is null and void, and the consequence remains, as Christ Himself has explicitly confirmed: “Everyone that putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”[65] Moreover, these words refer to every kind of marriage, even that which is natural and legitimate only; for, as has already been observed, that indissolubility by which the loosening of the bond is once and for all removed from the whim of the parties and from every secular power, is a property of every true marriage.
  88. Let that solemn pronouncement of the Council of Trent be recalled to mind in which, under the stigma of anathema, it condemned these errors: “If anyone should say that on account of heresy or the hardships of cohabitation or a deliberate abuse of one party by the other the marriage tie may be loosened, let him be anathema;”[66] and again: “If anyone should say that the Church errs in having taught or in teaching that, according to the teaching of the Gospel and the Apostles, the bond of marriage cannot be loosed because of the sin of adultery of either party; or that neither party, even though he be innocent, having given no cause for the sin of adultery, can contract another marriage during the lifetime of the other; and that he commits adultery who marries another after putting away his adulterous wife, and likewise that she commits adultery who puts away her husband and marries another: let him be anathemae.”[67]
  89. If therefore the Church has not erred and does not err in teaching this, and consequently it is certain that the bond of marriage cannot be loosed even on account of the sin of adultery, it is evident that all the other weaker excuses that can be, and are usually brought forward, are of no value whatsoever. And the objections brought against the firmness of the marriage bond are easily answered. For, in certain circumstances, imperfect separation of the parties is allowed, the bond not being severed. This separation, which the Church herself permits, and expressly mentions in her Canon Law in those canons which deal with the separation of the parties as to marital relationship and co-habitation, removes all the alleged inconveniences and dangers.[68] It will be for the sacred law and, to some extent, also the civil law, in so far as civil matters are affected, to lay down the grounds, the conditions, the method and precautions to be taken in a case of this kind in order to safeguard the education of the children and the well-being of the family, and to remove all those evils which threaten the married persons, the children and the State. Now all those arguments that are brought forward to prove the indissolubility of the marriage tie, arguments which have already been touched upon, can equally be applied to excluding not only the necessity of divorce, but even the power to grant it; while for all the advantages that can be put forward for the former, there can be adduced as many disadvantages and evils which are a formidable menace to the whole of human society.
  90. To revert again to the expression of Our predecessor, it is hardly necessary to point out what an amount of good is involved in the absolute indissolubility of wedlock and what a train of evils follows upon divorce. Whenever the marriage bond remains intact, then we find marriages contracted with a sense of safety and security, while, when separations are considered and the dangers of divorce are present, the marriage contract itself becomes insecure, or at least gives ground for anxiety and surprises. On the one hand we see a wonderful strengthening of goodwill and cooperation in the daily life of husband and wife, while, on the other, both of these are miserably weakened by the presence of a facility for divorce. Here we have at a very opportune moment a source of help by which both parties are enabled to preserve their purity and loyalty; there we find harmful inducements to unfaithfulness. On this side we find the birth of children and their tuition and upbringing effectively promoted, many avenues of discord closed amongst families and relations, and the beginnings of rivalry and jealousy easily suppressed; on that, very great obstacles to the birth and rearing of children and their education, and many occasions of quarrels, and seeds of jealousy sown everywhere. Finally, but especially, the dignity and position of women in civil and domestic society is reinstated by the former; while by the latter it is shamefully lowered and the danger is incurred “of their being considered outcasts, slaves of the lust of men.”[69]
  91. To conclude with the important words of Leo XIII, since the destruction of family life “and the loss of national wealth is brought about more by the corruption of morals than by anything else, it is easily seen that divorce, which is born of the perverted morals of a people, and leads, as experiment shows, to vicious habits in public and private life, is particularly opposed to the well-being of the family and of the State. The serious nature of these evils will be the more clearly recognized, when we remember that, once divorce has been allowed, there will be no sufficient means of keeping it in check within any definite bounds. Great is the force of example, greater still that of lust; and with such incitements it cannot but happen that divorce and its consequent setting loose of the passions should spread daily and attack the souls of many like a contagious disease or a river bursting its banks and flooding the land.”[70]
  92. Thus, as we read in the same letter, “unless things change, the human family and State have every reason to fear lest they should suffer absolute ruin.”[71] All this was written fifty years ago, yet it is confirmed by the daily increasing corruption of morals and the unheard of degradation of the family in those lands where Communism reigns unchecked.
  93. Thus far, Venerable Brethren, We have admired with due reverence what the all wise Creator and Redeemer of the human race has ordained with regard to human marriage; at the same time we have expressed Our grief that such a pious ordinance of the divine Goodness should today, and on every side, be frustrated and trampled upon by the passions, errors and vices of men.
  94. It is then fitting that, with all fatherly solicitude, We should turn Our mind to seek out suitable remedies whereby those most detestable abuses which We have mentioned, may be removed, and everywhere marriage may again be revealed. To this end, it behooves Us, above all else, to call to mind that firmly established principle, esteemed alike in sound philosophy and sacred theology: namely, that whatever things have deviated from their right order, cannot he brought back to that original state which is in harmony with their nature except by a return to the divine plan which, as the Angelic Doctor teaches,[72] is the exemplar of all right order.
  95. Wherefore, Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, attacked the doctrine of the naturalists in these words: “It is a divinely appointed law that whatsoever things are constituted by God, the Author of nature, these we find the more useful and salutary, the more they remain in their natural state, unimpaired and unchanged; inasmuch as God, the Creator of all things, intimately knows what is suited to the constitution and the preservation of each, and by his will and mind has so ordained all this that each may duly achieve its purpose. But if the boldness and wickedness of men change and disturb this order of things, so providentially disposed, then, indeed, things so wonderfully ordained, will begin to be injurious, or will cease to be beneficial, either because, in the change, they have lost their power to benefit, or because God Himself is thus pleased to draw down chastisement on the pride and presumption of men.”[73]
  96. In order, therefore, to restore due order in this matter of marriage, it is necessary that all should bear in mind what is the divine plan and strive to conform to it.
  97. Wherefore, since the chief obstacle to this study is the power of unbridled lust, which indeed is the most potent cause of sinning against the sacred laws of matrimony, and since man cannot hold in check his passions, unless he first subject himself to God, this must be his primary endeavor, in accordance with the plan divinely ordained. For it is a sacred ordinance that whoever shall have first subjected himself to God will, by the aid of divine grace, be glad to subject to himself his own passions and concupiscence; while he who is a rebel against God will, to his sorrow, experience within himself the violent rebellion of his worst passions.
  98. And how wisely this has been decreed St. Augustine thus shows: “This indeed is fitting, that the lower be subject to the higher, so that he who would have subject to himself whatever is below him, should himself submit to whatever is above him. Acknowledge order, seek peace. Be thou subject to God, and thy flesh subject to thee. What more fitting! What more fair! Thou art subject to the higher and the lower is subject to thee. Do thou serve Him who made thee, so that that which was made for thee may serve thee. For we do not commend this order, namely, ‘The flesh to thee and thou to God,’ but ‘Thou to God, and the flesh to thee.’ If, however, thou despisest the subjection of thyself to God, thou shalt never bring about the subjection of the flesh to thyself. If thou dost not obey the Lord, thou shalt be tormented by thy servant.”[74] This right ordering on the part of God’s wisdom is mentioned by the holy Doctor of the Gentiles, inspired by the Holy Ghost, for in speaking of those ancient philosophers who refused to adore and reverence Him whom they knew to be the Creator of the universe, he says: “Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves;” and again: “For this same God delivered them up to shameful affections.”[75] And St. James says: “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble,”[76] without which grace, as the same Doctor of the Gentiles reminds us, man cannot subdue the rebellion of his flesh.[77]
  99. Consequently, as the onslaughts of these uncontrolled passions cannot in any way be lessened, unless the spirit first shows a humble compliance of duty and reverence towards its Maker, it is above all and before all needful that those who are joined in the bond of sacred wedlock should be wholly imbued with a profound and genuine sense of duty towards God, which will shape their whole lives, and fill their minds and wills with a very deep reverence for the majesty of God.
  100. Quite fittingly, therefore, and quite in accordance with the defined norm of Christian sentiment, do those pastors of souls act who, to prevent married people from failing in the observance of God’s law, urge them to perform their duty and exercise their religion so that they should give themselves to God, continually ask for His divine assistance, frequent the sacraments, and always nourish and preserve a loyal and thoroughly sincere devotion to God.
  101. They are greatly deceived who having underestimated or neglected these means which rise above nature, think that they can induce men by the use and discovery of the natural sciences, such as those of biology, the science of heredity, and the like, to curb their carnal desires. We do not say this in order to belittle those natural means which are not dishonest; for God is the Author of nature as well as of grace, and He has disposed the good things of both orders for the beneficial use of men. The faithful, therefore, can and ought to be assisted also by natural means. But they are mistaken who think that these means are able to establish chastity in the nuptial union, or that they are more effective than supernatural grace.
  102. This conformity of wedlock and moral conduct with the divine laws respective of marriage, without which its effective restoration cannot be brought about, supposes, however, that all can discern readily, with real certainty, and without any accompanying error, what those laws are. But everyone can see to how many fallacies an avenue would be opened up and how many errors would become mixed with the truth, if it were left solely to the light of reason of each to find it out, or if it were to be discovered by the private interpretation of the truth which is revealed. And if this is applicable to many other truths of the moral order, we must all the more pay attention to those things, which appertain to marriage where the inordinate desire for pleasure can attack frail human nature and easily deceive it and lead it astray; this is all the more true of the observance of the divine law, which demands sometimes hard and repeated sacrifices, for which, as experience points out, a weak man can find so many excuses for avoiding the fulfillment of the divine law.
  103. On this account, in order that no falsification or corruption of the divine law but a true genuine knowledge of it may enlighten the minds of men and guide their conduct, it is necessary that a filial and humble obedience towards the Church should be combined with devotedness to God and the desire of submitting to Him. For Christ Himself made the Church the teacher of truth in those things also which concern the right regulation of moral conduct, even though some knowledge of the same is not beyond human reason. For just as God, in the case of the natural truths of religion and morals, added revelation to the light of reason so that what is right and true, “in the present state also of the human race may be known readily with real certainty without any admixture of error,”[78] so for the same purpose he has constituted the Church the guardian and the teacher of the whole of the truth concerning religion and moral conduct; to her therefore should the faithful show obedience and subject their minds and hearts so as to be kept unharmed and free from error and moral corruption, and so that they shall not deprive themselves of that assistance given by God with such liberal bounty, they ought to show this due obedience not only when the Church defines something with solemn judgment, but also, in proper proportion, when by the constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, opinions are prescribed and condemned as dangerous or distorted.[79]
  104. Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.
  105. Consequently, since everything must be referred to the law and mind of God, in order to bring about the universal and permanent restoration of marriage, it is indeed of the utmost importance that the faithful should be well instructed concerning matrimony; both by word of mouth and by the written word, not cursorily but often and fully, by means of plain and weighty arguments, so that these truths will strike the intellect and will be deeply engraved on their hearts. Let them realize and diligently reflect upon the great wisdom, kindness and bounty God has shown towards the human race, not only by the institution of marriage, but also, and quite as much, by upholding it with sacred laws; still more, in wonderfully raising it to the dignity of a Sacrament by which such an abundant fountain of graces has been opened to those joined in Christian wedlock, that these may be able to serve the noble purposes of wedlock for their own welfare and for that of their children, of the community and also for that of human relationship.
  106. Certainly, if the latter day subverters of marriage are entirely devoted to misleading the minds of men and corrupting their hearts, to making a mockery of matrimonial purity and extolling the filthiest of vices by means of books and pamphlets and other innumerable methods, much more ought you, Venerable Brethren, whom “the Holy Ghost has placed as bishops, to rule the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood,”[80] to give yourselves wholly to this, that through yourselves and through the priests subject to you, and, moreover, through the laity welded together by Catholic Action, so much desired and recommended by Us, into a power of hierarchical apostolate, you may, by every fitting means, oppose error by truth, vice by the excellent dignity of chastity, the slavery of covetousness by the liberty of the sons of God,[81] that disastrous ease in obtaining divorce by an enduring love in the bond of marriage and by the inviolate pledge of fidelity given even to death.
  107. Thus will it come to pass that the faithful will wholeheartedly thank God that they are bound together by His command and led by gentle compulsion to fly as far as possible from every kind of idolatry of the flesh and from the base slavery of the passions. They will, in a great measure, turn and be turned away from these abominable opinions which to the dishonor of man’s dignity are now spread about in speech and in writing and collected under the title of “perfect marriage” and which indeed would make that perfect marriage nothing better than “depraved marriage,” as it has been rightly and truly called.
  108. Such wholesome instruction and religious training in regard to Christian marriage will be quite different from that exaggerated physiological education by means of which, in these times of ours, some reformers of married life make pretense of helping those joined in wedlock, laying much stress on these physiological matters, in which is learned rather the art of sinning in a subtle way than the virtue of living chastely.
  109. So, Venerable Brethren, we make entirely Our own the words which Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his encyclical letter on Christian marriage addressed to the bishops of the whole world: “Take care not to spare your efforts and authority in bringing about that among the people committed to your guidance that doctrine may be preserved whole and unadulterated which Christ the Lord and the apostles, the interpreters of the divine will, have handed down, and which the Catholic Church herself has religiously preserved, and commanded to be observed by the faithful of every age.”[82]
  110. Even the very best instruction given by the Church, however, will not alone suffice to bring about once more conformity of marriage to the law of God; something more is needed in addition to the education of the mind, namely a steadfast determination of the will, on the part of husband and wife, to observe the sacred laws of God and of nature in regard to marriage. In fine, in spite of what others may wish to assert and spread abroad by word of mouth or in writing, let husband and wife resolve: to stand fast to the commandments of God in all things that matrimony demands; always to render to each other the assistance of mutual love; to preserve the honor of chastity; not to lay profane hands on the stable nature of the bond; to use the rights given them by marriage in a way that will be always Christian and sacred, more especially in the first years of wedlock, so that should there be need of continency afterwards, custom will have made it easier for each to preserve it. In order that they may make this firm resolution, keep it and put it into practice, an oft-repeated consideration of their state of life, and a diligent reflection on the sacrament they have received, will be of great assistance to them. Let them constantly keep in mind, that they have been sanctified and strengthened for the duties and for the dignity of their state by a special sacrament, the efficacious power of which, although it does not impress a character, is undying. To this purpose we may ponder over the words full of real comfort of holy Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, who with other well-known theologians with devout conviction thus expresses himself: “The sacrament of matrimony can be regarded in two ways: first, in the making, and then in its permanent state. For it is a sacrament like to that of the Eucharist, which not only when it is being conferred, but also whilst it remains, is a sacrament; for as long as the married parties are alive, so long is their union a sacrament of Christ and the Church.”[83]
  111. Yet in order that the grace of this sacrament may produce its full fruit, there is need, as we have already pointed out, of the cooperation of the married parties; which consists in their striving to fulfill their duties to the best of their ability and with unwearied effort. For just as in the natural order men must apply the powers given them by God with their own toil and diligence that these may exercise their full vigor, failing which, no profit is gained, so also men must diligently and unceasingly use the powers given them by the grace which is laid up in the soul by this sacrament. Let not, then, those who are joined in matrimony neglect the grace of the sacrament which is in them;[84] for, in applying themselves to the careful observance, however laborious, of their duties they will find the power of that grace becoming more effectual as time goes on. And if ever they should feel themselves to be overburdened by the hardships of their condition of life, let them not lose courage, but rather let them regard in some measure as addressed to them that which St. Paul the Apostle wrote to his beloved disciple Timothy regarding the sacrament of holy Orders when the disciple was dejected through hardship and insults: “I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sobriety.”[85]
  112. All these things, however, Venerable Brethren, depend in large measure on the due preparation remote and proximate, of the parties for marriage. For it cannot be denied that the basis of a happy wedlock, and the ruin of an unhappy one, is prepared and set in the souls of boys and girls during the period of childhood and adolescence. There is danger that those who before marriage sought in all things what is theirs, who indulged even their impure desires, will be in the married state what they were before, that they will reap that which they have sown;[86] indeed, within the home there will be sadness, lamentation, mutual contempt, strifes, estrangements, weariness of common life, and, worst of all, such parties will find themselves left alone with their own unconquered passions.
  113. Let then, those who are about to enter on married life, approach that state well disposed and well prepared, so that they will be able, as far as they can, to help each other in sustaining the vicissitudes of life, and yet more in attending to their eternal salvation and in forming the inner man unto the fullness of the age of Christ.[87] It will also help them, if they behave towards their cherished offspring as God wills: that is, that the father be truly a father, and the mother truly a mother; through their devout love and unwearying care, the home, though it suffer the want and hardship of this valley of tears, may become for the children in its own way a foretaste of that paradise of delight in which the Creator placed the first men of the human race. Thus will they be able to bring up their children as perfect men and perfect Christians; they will instill into them a sound understanding of the Catholic Church, and will give them such a disposition and love for their fatherland as duty and gratitude demand.
  114. Consequently, both those who are now thinking of entering upon this sacred married state, as well as those who have the charge of educating Christian youth, should, with due regard to the future, prepare that which is good, obviate that which is bad, and recall those points about which We have already spoken in Our encyclical letter concerning education: “The inclinations of the will, if they are bad, must be repressed from childhood, but such as are good must be fostered, and the mind, particularly of children, should be imbued with doctrines which begin with God, while the heart should be strengthened with the aids of divine grace, in the absence of which, no one can curb evil desires, nor can his discipline and formation be brought to complete perfection by the Church. For Christ has provided her with heavenly doctrines and divine sacraments, that He might make her an effectual teacher of men.”[88]
  115. To the proximate preparation of a good married life belongs very specially the care in choosing a partner; on that depends a great deal whether the forthcoming marriage will be happy or not, since one may be to the other either a great help in leading a Christian life, or, a great danger and hindrance. And so that they may not deplore for the rest of their lives the sorrows arising from an indiscreet marriage, those about to enter into wedlock should carefully deliberate in choosing the person with whom henceforward they must live continually: they should, in so deliberating, keep before their minds the thought first of God and of the true religion of Christ, then of themselves, of their partner, of the children to come, as also of human and civil society, for which wedlock is a fountain head. Let them diligently pray for divine help, so that they make their choice in accordance with Christian prudence, not indeed led by the blind and unrestrained impulse of lust, nor by any desire of riches or other base influence, but by a true and noble love and by a sincere affection for the future partner; and then let them strive in their married life for those ends for which the State was constituted by God. Lastly, let them not omit to ask the prudent advice of their parents with regard to the partner, and let them regard this advice in no light manner, in order that by their mature knowledge and experience of human affairs, they may guard against a disastrous choice, and, on the threshold of matrimony, may receive more abundantly the divine blessing of the fourth commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with thee and thou mayest be long-lived upon the earth.”[89]
  116. Now since it is no rare thing to find that the perfect observance of God’s commands and conjugal integrity encounter difficulties by reason of the fact that the man and wife are in straitened circumstances, their necessities must be relieved as far as possible.
  117. And so, in the first place, every effort must be made to bring about that which Our predecessor Leo Xlll, of happy memory, has already insisted upon,[90] namely, that in the State such economic and social methods should be adopted as will enable every head of a family to earn as much as, according to his station in life, is necessary for himself, his wife, and for the rearing of his children, for “the laborer is worthy of his hire.”[91] To deny this, or to make light of what is equitable, is a grave injustice and is placed among the greatest sins by Holy Writ;[92] nor is it lawful to fix such a scanty wage as will be insufficient for the upkeep of the family in the circumstances in which it is placed.
  118. Care, however, must be taken that the parties themselves, for a considerable time before entering upon married life, should strive to dispose of, or at least to diminish, the material obstacles in their way. The manner in which this may be done effectively and honestly must be pointed out by those who are experienced. Provision must be made also, in the case of those who are not self-supporting, for joint aid by private or public guilds.[93]
  119. When these means which We have pointed out do not fulfill the needs, particularly of a larger or poorer family, Christian charity towards our neighbor absolutely demands that those things which are lacking to the needy should be provided; hence it is incumbent on the rich to help the poor, so that, having an abundance of this world’s goods, they may not expend them fruitlessly or completely squander them, but employ them for the support and well-being of those who lack the necessities of life. They who give of their substance to Christ in the person of His poor will receive from the Lord a most bountiful reward when He shall come to judge the world; they who act to the contrary will pay the penalty.[94] Not in vain does the Apostle warn us: “He that hath the substance of this world and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?”[95]
  120. If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labor; if she, too, in the ordinary or even extraordinary labors of childbirth, is deprived of proper food, medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of God’s commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.
  121. Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families, without bringing great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their administrative duties.
  122. We are sorry to note that not infrequently nowadays it happens that through a certain inversion of the true order of things, ready and bountiful assistance is provided for the unmarried mother and her illegitimate offspring (who, of course must be helped in order to avoid a greater evil) which is denied to legitimate mothers or given sparingly or almost grudgingly.
  123. But not only in regard to temporal goods, Venerable Brethren, is it the concern of the public authority to make proper provision for matrimony and the family, but also in other things which concern the good of souls. just laws must be made for the protection of chastity, for reciprocal conjugal aid, and for similar purposes, and these must be faithfully enforced, because, as history testifies, the prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are established, which is the moral order, is weakened and where the very fountainhead from which the State draws its life, namely, wedlock and the family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens.
  124. For the preservation of the moral order neither the laws and sanctions of the temporal power are sufficient, nor is the beauty of virtue and the expounding of its necessity. Religious authority must enter in to enlighten the mind, to direct the will, and to strengthen human frailty by the assistance of divine grace. Such an authority is found nowhere save in the Church instituted by Christ the Lord. Hence We earnestly exhort in the Lord all those who hold the reins of power that they establish and maintain firmly harmony and friendship with this Church of Christ so that through the united activity and energy of both powers the tremendous evils, fruits of those wanton liberties which assail both marriage and the family and are a menace to both Church and State, may be effectively frustrated.
  125. Governments can assist the Church greatly in the execution of its important office, if, in laying down their ordinances, they take account of what is prescribed by divine and ecclesiastical law, and if penalties are fixed for offenders. For as it is, there are those who think that whatever is permitted by the laws of the State, or at least is not punished by them, is allowed also in the moral order, and, because they neither fear God nor see any reason to fear the laws of man, they act even against their conscience, thus often bringing ruin upon themselves and upon many others. There will be no peril to or lessening of the rights and integrity of the State from its association with the Church. Such suspicion and fear is empty and groundless, as Leo XIII has already so clearly set forth: “It is generally agreed,” he says, “that the Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ, wished the spiritual power to be distinct from the civil, and each to be free and unhampered in doing its own work, not forgetting, however, that it is expedient to both, and in the interest of everybody, that there be a harmonious relationship. . . If the civil power combines in a friendly manner with the spiritual power of the Church, it necessarily follows that both parties will greatly benefit. The dignity of the State will be enhanced, and with religion as its guide, there will never be a rule that is not just; while for the Church there will be at hand a safeguard and defense which will operate to the public good of the faithful.”[96]
  126. To bring forward a recent and clear example of what is meant, it has happened quite in consonance with right order and entirely according to the law of Christ, that in the solemn Convention happily entered into between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Italy, also in matrimonial affairs a peaceful settlement and friendly cooperation has been obtained, such as befitted the glorious history of the Italian people and its ancient and sacred traditions. These decrees, are to be found in the Lateran Pact: “The Italian State, desirous of restoring to the institution of matrimony, which is the basis of the family, that dignity conformable to the traditions of its people, assigns as civil effects of the sacrament of matrimony all that is attributed to it in Canon Law.”[97] To this fundamental norm are added further clauses in the common pact.
  127. This might well be a striking example to all of how, even in this our own day (in which, sad to say, the absolute separation of the civil power from the Church, and indeed from every religion, is so often taught), the one supreme authority can be united and associated with the other without detriment to the rights and supreme power of either thus protecting Christian parents from pernicious evils and menacing ruin.
  128. All these things which, Venerable Brethren, prompted by Our past solicitude We put before you, We wish according to the norm of Christian prudence to be promulgated widely among all Our beloved children committed to your care as members of the great family of Christ, that all may be thoroughly acquainted with sound teaching concerning marriage, so that they may be ever on their guard against the dangers advocated by the teachers of error, and most of all, that “denying ungodliness and worldly desires, they may live soberly and justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and Our Savior Jesus Christ.”[98]
  129. May the Father, “of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named,”[99] Who strengthens the weak and gives courage to the pusillanimous and fainthearted; and Christ Our Lord and Redeemer, “the Institutor and Perfecter of the holy sacraments,”[100] Who desired marriage to be and made it the mystical image of His own ineffable union with the Church; and the Holy Ghost, Love of God, the Light of hearts and the Strength of the mind, grant that all will perceive, will admit with a ready will, and by the grace of God will put into practice, what We by this letter have expounded concerning the holy Sacrament of Matrimony, the wonderful law and will of God respecting it, the errors and impending dangers, and the remedies with which they can be counteracted, so that that fruitfulness dedicated to God will flourish again vigorously in Christian wedlock.
  130. We most humbly pour forth Our earnest prayer at the Throne of His Grace, that God, the Author of all graces, the inspirer of all good desires and deeds,[101] may bring this about, and deign to give it bountifully according to the greatness of His liberality and omnipotence, and as a token of the abundant blessing of the same Omnipotent God, We most lovingly grant to you, Venerable Brethren, and to the clergy and people committed to your watchful care, the Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome, in Saint Peter’s, this 31st day of December, of the year 1930, the ninth of Our Pontificate.


  1. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
  2. Gen., I, 27-28; II, 22-23; Matth., XIX, 3 sqq.; Eph., V, 23 sqq .
  3. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
  4. Cod. iur. can., c. 1081 & 2.
  5. Cod. iur. can., c. 1081 & 1.
  6. S. Thom Aquin., Summa theol., p. III Supplem 9, XLIX, art.3.
  7. Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
  8. Gen., I, 28.
  9. Encycl. Ad salutem, 20 April 1930
  10. St. August., De bono coniug., cap. 24, n. 32.
  11. St. August., De Gen. ad litt., lib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12.
  12. Gen., I, 28.
  13. I Tim., V, 14.
  14. St. August., De bono coniug., cap. 24 n. 32.
  15. I Cor., II, 9
  16. Eph., II, 19.
  17. John, XVI, 21.
  18. Encycl. Divini illius Magistri, 31 Dec. 1929.
  19. St. August., De Gen. ad litt., lib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12.
  20. Cod. iur. can., c. 1013 & 7.
  21. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
  22. Matth., V, 28.
  23. Decr. S. Officii, 2 March 1679, propos. 50.
  24. Eph., V, 25; Col., III, 19.
  25. Catech. Rom., II, cap. VIII q. 24.
  26. St Greg the Great, Homii. XXX in Evang (John XIV,23-31), n.1.
  27. Matth., XXII, 40.
  28. I Cor., VII, 3.
  29. Eph., V, 22-23.
  30. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
  31. Matth., XIX, 6.
  32. Luke, XVI, 18.
  33. St. August., De Gen. ad litt. Iib. IX, cap. 7, n. 12.
  34. Pius VI, Rescript. ad Episc. Agriens., 11 July 1789.
  35. Eph., V, 32.
  36. St. August., De nupt. et concup., lib. I, cap. 10.
  37. I Cor., XIII, 8.
  38. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
  39. Conc. Trid. Sess., XXIV.
  40. Cod. iur. can., c. 1012.
  41. St. August., De nupt. et concup., lib. I, cap. 10.
  42. Matth., XIII, 25.
  43. II Tim., IV, 2-5.
  44. Eph., V, 3.
  45. St. August., De coniug. adult., lib. II, n. 12, Gen, XXXVIII, 8-10.
  46. Matth., XV, 14.
  47. Luke, VI, 38.
  48. Conc. Trid., Sess. VI, cap. 11.
  49. Const. Apost. Cum occasione, 31 May 1653, prop. 1.
  50. Exod., XX, 13; cfr. Decr. S. Offic. 4 May 1897, 24 July 1895; 31 May 1884.
  51. St. August., De nupt. et concupisc., cap. XV.
  52. Rom., III, 8.
  53. Gen., IV, 10.
  54. Summ. theol., 2a 2ae, q. 108 a 4 ad 2um.
  55. Exod., XX, 14.
  56. Matth., V, 28.
  57. Hebr., XIII, 8.
  58. Matth., V, 18.
  59. Matth., VII. 27.
  60. Leo XIII, Encycl. Arcanum, 10 Febr. 1880.
  61. Eph., V, 32: Hebr. XIII, 4.
  62. Cod. iur. can., c. 1060.
  63. Modestinus, in Dig. (Lib. XXIII, II: De ritu nuptiarum), lib. I, Regularum.
  64. Matth., XIX, 6.
  65. Luke, XVI, 18.
  66. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV, cap. 5
  67. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV, cap. 7
  68. Cod. iur. can., c. 1128 sqq.
  69. Leo XIII, Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae 10 Febr. 1880.
  70. Encycl. Arcanum, 10 Febr. 1880.
  71. Encycl. Arcanum, 10 Febr. 1880.
  72. St. Thom. of Aquin, Summ theolog., la 2ae, q. 91, a. I-2 .
  73. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
  74. St. August., Enarrat. in Ps. 143.
  75. Rom. I, 24, 26.
  76. James IV, 6.
  77. Rom., VII, VIII.
  78. Conc. Vat., Sess. III, cap. 2.
  79. Conc. Vat., Sess. III, cap. 4; Cod. iur. can., c. 1324.
  80. Acta, XX, 28.
  81. John, VIII, 32 sqq.; Gal., V, 13.
  82. Encycl. Arcanum. 10 Febr. 1880.
  83. St. Rob. Bellarmin., De controversiis, tom. III, De Matr., controvers. II, cap. 6.
  84. I Tim., IV,14.
  85. II Tim., 1, 6-7.
  86. Gal., Vl. 9.
  87. Eph., IV, 13.
  88. Encycl. Divini illius Magistri, 31 Dec. 1929.
  89. Eph., VI, 2-3; Exod., XX, 12.
  90. Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
  91. Luke, X, 7.
  92. Deut. XXIV, 14, 15.
  93. Leo XIII, Encycl. Rerum novarum, 15 May 1891.
  94. Matth., XXV, 34 sqq.
  95. I John, III, 17.
  96. Encycl. Arcanum divinae sapientiae, 10 Febr. 1880.
  97. Concord., art. 34; Act. Apost. Sed., XXI (1929), pag. 290.
  98. Tit., II, 12-13.
  99. Eph., I III, 15.
  100. Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIV.
  101. Phil., II, 13.

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Ad Salutem

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on April 30, 1930.

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren: Health and Apostolic Benediction.

  1. It is eminently befitting the nature and necessity of the case, that Christ Jesus has been and shall continue to be ready to safeguard the Church, which His provident care established for the salvation of the human race. This certainty is warranted by the promise of her Divine Founder, which we read in the Gospel; and it must be clear to evidence from the annals of that Church, on which error has never set a stain, which no falling awayhowever widespread-of her sons has made to waver, which regains her youthful vigor and ceaselessly renews her strength despite the assaults of impious men, even when carried to the most shocking extremes. While our Lord in securing the stability and promoting the growth of His foundation, which belongs to all time, did not limit Himself to a single method nor proceed always in the selfsame way, yet it is noteworthy that in every age He raised up distinguished men, who, by talents and efforts suited to the times and their exigencies, should rejoice the heart of the Christian people, by successively curbing and conquering the “power of darkness.” This choice of Divine Providence, when it fell upon Augustine of Tagaste, was marked by a discrimination that was more than ordinarily striking. He was the light set upon the candlestick, he was the vanquisher of every heresy and a guide to eternal salvation for his contemporaries. What is more, he continued to teach and console Christians as age succeeded age. Nay, even in our time we owe it to him in large measure that among believers the truth of Faith maintains its luster, while love for God has not ceased to burn. Indeed, it is a matter of common knowledge that the writings of Augustine, by their exceptional sublimity and charm, cast a spell over many who are at variance with us or who seem utter strangers to the Faith. Hence it is, that since the current year brings in its course with happy auspices the fifteenth centennial anniversary of the death of this peerless Bishop and Doctor, Christians the world over are eager to hold his memory in honor and are preparing to give public proof of their admiration and devotion. Yielding, therefore, to a sense of Our Apostolic office and to the delight that stirs Our soul, while desirous of adding to the chorus of praise, We urge you all, Venerable Brethren, and the clergy and flock of each of you, to join Us in offering special thanks to the Heavenly Father for enriching His Church by means of Augustine with so many matchless blessings-the Saint who profited so much by the Divine gifts lavished on him and turned the current of this wealth upon the Catholics of the world. It beseems us all today not merely to exult that by a miracle, so to speak, was once united to the Mystical Body of Christ a genius so great and lofty, that in the judgment of history his superior can hardly be found anywhere in any age, but rather to steep and nourish ourselves with his learning and copy the model of his holy life.
  2. The praise of Augustine has never ceased to be proclaimed in the Church of God, even by the Roman Pontiffs. While the holy Bishop was yet alive, Innocent I greeted him as a beloved friend[1] and extolled the letter which he had received from the Saint and from four Bishops, his friends: “A letter instinct with faith and staunch with all the vigor of the Catholic religion.”[2] Shortly after the death of Augustine, Celestine I defends him against his opponents in the following noble words:

“We have ever deemed Augustine a man to be remembered for his sanctity, because of his life and services in our communion, nor has rumor at any time darkened his name with the suspicion of evil. So great was his knowledge, as we recall, that he was always reckoned by my predecessors also among our foremost teachers. All alike, therefore, thought highly of him as a man held in affection and honor by all.”[3]

  1. Gelasius I hailed Jerome and Augustine as “luminaries among ecclesiastical teachers.”[4] Hormisdas wrote in answer to Bishop Possessor’s request for direction these weighty words: “What the Roman, that is, the Catholic Church follows and maintains touching free will and the grace of God, can be learned from the different works of blessed Augustine, those especially which he addressed to Hilary and Prosper, though the formal chapters are contained in the ecclesiastical records.”[5] A like testimony was uttered by John II, when in refutation of heretics he appealed to the works of Augustine: “Whose teaching,” he said, “according to the enactments of my predecessors, the Roman Church follows and maintains.”[6]
  2. Can anyone be unaware how thoroughly familiar with the doctrine of Augustine were the Roman Pontiffs, during the ages that followed close upon his death, as Leo the Great, for example, and Gregory the Great? Thus Saint Gregory, thinking as highly of Augustine as he thought humbly of himself, wrote to Innocentius, prefect of Africa: “If you wish to feast on choice food, read the works of blessed Augustine, your fellowcountryman. His writings are as fine wheat. Seek not for our bran.”[7] It is well known that Adrian I was in the habit of quoting passages from Augustine, whom he styled “an eminent doctor.”[8] Again, Clement VIII, to throw light on the obscure features of abstruse debates, and Pius VI, in his Apostolic Constitution “Auctorem fidei,” to unmask the evasions of the condemned Synod of Pistoia, availed themselves of the support of Augustine’s authority.
  3. It is a further tribute to the glory of the Bishop of Hippo, that more than once the Fathers in lawful Councils assembled, made use of his very words in defining Catholic truth. In illustration it is enough to cite the Second Council of Orange and the Council of Trent. Yet again, to cast a backward glance at the years of Our own youth, We wish at this point to recall and delightedly to ponder the words in which Our predecessor of immortal memory Leo XIII, after mentioning writers earlier than Augustine, lauded the help afforded by him to Christian philosophy: “But it is Augustine who seems to have borne off the palm from all. Of towering genius and thoroughly versed in sacred and profane knowledge, he waged relentless war on all the errors of his age with matchless faith and equal learning. What part of philosophy did he have untouched? Nay rather into what part did he not make thorough search as when he unfolded to the Faithful the deepest mysteries of the Faith or defended them against the mad attacks of foes; or again when, brushing away the false theories of Academics and Manicheans, he laid a sure and solid foundation for human knowledge, or studied in detail the nature and source and causes of the evils which harass mankind?”[9]
  4. Now before penetrating deeper into the study We have set Ourselves, We would note, for the benefit of all, that the lavish praises bestowed on our Saint by the writers of antiquity are to be understood in a proper sense, and not-as some, who do not share the Catholic sense, have thought-as though the weight of Augustine’s word were to be set ahead of the very authority of the teaching Church.
  5. Oh, how “God is wonderful in His saints”![10] In words bursting from the inmost recesses of a grateful and most loving heart, Augustine avowed and ardently extolled in his book of confessions the Divine mercy in his regard. Obedient to an impulse of Divine Providence, the pious Monica inspired her son in his early childhood with so strong a love of Christ, that he could one day write: “Through Thy mercy, O Lord, this name of my Saviour, Thy Son, had already been drunk in with my mother’s milk by my infant heart and profoundly cherished; anything apart from this name, no matter how learned or exquisite or true, could not wholly carry me away.”[11]
  6. In youth, parted from his mother, and a pupil of pagan masters-so was it permitted by the Most High-he lost his early piety, became the unhappy slave of carnal pleasures and was ensnared in the toils of Manicheism, being for nearly nine years an adherent of that sect. God’s purpose was, that the destined Doctor of Grace should learn by experience and transmit to later ages how extreme is the weakness and frailty of even the noblest spirit, if it be not made strong in the way of virtue by the safeguard of Christian training and ceaseless application to prayer, especially during youth, when the mind is bewitched more readily by the lure of error and the soul is led astray by the first stirrings of sense. God further permitted his defection, that our Saint might realize in his own life how wretched is the man who tries to fill his heart to satiety with creatures; a truth that he later plainly confessed before the Lord. ‘For Thou wert ever present with compassionate anger, mingling the bitterness of distaste with all my lawless delights, that I might seek delight without distaste and should fail to find this in aught, save in Thee, O Lord.”[12] Did not the Heavenly Father, then, abandon Augustine to his own devices, that Monica might ply Him with tearful entreaties and serve as a type of those mothers, who by their long-suffering and gentleness of temper, by their tireless supplication of the divine mercy, succeed at length in winning back their sons to virtue? For it was impossible that the sons would perish, for whom so many tears were shed.[13] Our Saint thus writes to the point:

“And in those same books containing the story of my conversion, telling how God converted me to the Faith which my unhappy and mad abuse of language was bent on destroying, do you not recall that the purpose of my narrative was to show that I was a boon granted to the loyal, daily tears of my mother, lest I be lost?”[14]

  1. Hence, Augustine was by degrees estranged from the Manichean heresy and, urged as it were by a Divine impulse, was led to Milan to meet Ambrose the Bishop there. The Lord “little by little with a touch of tender pity shaping and moulding his heart,”[15] though the wise words of Ambrose brought him to believe in the Catholic Church and in the truth of the Bible. Then it was that the son of Monica, though not yet immune from anxiety and from the allurements of vice, still grasped firmly the truth that Divine Providence has set the way of salvation only in Christ Our Lord and in the Sacred Scriptures, which find the sole warrant of their truth in the authority of the Catholic Church.[16] Yet how hard and toilsome is the complete conversion of a man, who has long been straying from the straight path. He was still the prey of his passions and of mental disquiet, which he was not strong enough to control. So far was he from deriving the strength from the teaching of Platonists concerning God and creatures, that he would have filled the measure of his misfortunes with the still greater one of pride, had he not learned at length from the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, that he who wishes to live like a Christian must build on a foundation of humility and depend on the aid of Divine grace. And now-we narrate a fact the story of which none can tell without tears-grieving over the deeds of his past life and inspired by the example of so many Christians, who were ready to make shipwreck of all created goods to gain the “one thing necessary,” he made his surrender to the Divine mercy, which had lovingly pursued him, at the moment when at prayer he was startled by a sudden voice that cried: “Take and read.” He opened a copy of the Epistles lying near and with Heaven’s grace effectively stirring his soul, the following passage met his eyes: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.”[17] And it is certain that from that moment to his dying breath, Augustine gave himself wholly to God.
  2. It soon became clear what sort of a “vessel of election” the Lord had wrought in Augustine and for what brilliant deeds he was destined. Ordained priest and later advanced to the bishopric of Hippo, he shed the light of his abundant learning not merely on Christian Africa, but on the entire Church, bestowing the while the blessings of his apostolate. He meditated on books of Holy Writ, long and earnestly did he offer to the Lord the prayers, whereof the meaning and the accent still live in his writings. That he might daily better fathom and understand the truths of Divine Revelation, he read through with close scrutiny the works of the Fathers and Doctors who preceded him and whom he regarded with humble veneration. Though he came after those holy men, like dazzling stars shed luster on the Catholic name- Clement of Rome, for example, and Irenaeus, Hilary and Athanasius, Cyprian and Ambrose, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom; though a contemporary of Jerome, nevertheless Augustine still excites in all men the greatest admiration because of the subtlety and depth of his thoughts and because of the marvelous wisdom breathing from the pages, which through long span of nearly fifty years he wrote and published. k would be too heavy a task to go over the many voluminous compositions which, belonging as they do to every sacred topic-both Biblical exegesis and moral instruction-are so varied that his commentators can with difficulty give a comprehensive survey of them in there entirety. However, may we not from this massive bulk of doctrine select for explicit mention some of his writings, which seem best suited to our age and most helpful to Christian society?
  3. First of all, Augustine made it the object of his strenuous endeavor that all men should thoroughly learn and with conviction what was the chief end of their existence, what was the only way that led to true happiness. Could anyone, we ask, no matter how shallow and frivolous, have heard without being deeply stirred that avowal, made to God by a man who had lived for pleasure so long and was admirably endowed for winning this world’s prizes, when he cried: “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it rest in Thee”?[18]
  4. These words, while stating in sum the whole of wisdom, at the same time fittingly portray God’s love for us, the peerless dignity of man, and the unhappy plight of those who live estranged from their Maker. At any rate in these days of ours above all, when the wondrous nature of created things is being daily laid bare with greater clearness, when man’s inventive genius is bringing under his sway nature’s forces and energies, to make them serve his convenience and wait upon his luxury and pleasure-today, we repeat, when the creations of art and industry, products of mind or mechanical toil are being multiplied and with incredible speed are carried to every corner of the earth, our spirit, absorbed in creatures, grows too forgetful of its Creator, makes fleeting goods its goal to the neglect of eternal ones, and turns to personal and public harm, aye, to its own ruin, those gifts which it has received from a bountiful God for the purpose of extending the kingdom of Christ and of promoting its own salvation. Now lest we become engrossed in this purely human and civil progress, which is wholly bent on material objects and on the pleasures of sense, we must scan and ponder the principles of Christian wisdom so aptly stated and expounded by the Bishop of Hippo: “God, therefore, the wise Creator and just Disposer of every nature, who placed the mortal race of man at the head of the scale of earthly excellence, bestowed on man certain gifts suited to his life in the safety, security, and fellowship of humankind, together with all that is necessary for maintaining or regaining this peace; such are the things that fittingly fall within the realm of sense, as light, night, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and all else that serves to nourish, shelter, foster, and embellish the human frame. This He has done on the eminently fair understanding, that the mortal who makes a right use of blessings adapted to human peace, will receive greater and better favors, that is, the peace of immortality and the glory and honor befitting it in eternal life for happiness with God and with the neighbor in God; whereas whoever misuses his gifts, will lose those of time without winning those of eternity.”[19]
  5. When he addressed himself to discussing the last end appointed for man, he makes haste to lay down the principle that those who wish to arrive thereto will make a fruitless endeavor, unless they submit themselves with docile obedience to the Catholic Church, since it alone is destined by God to enrich souls with the light of virtue, without which one of necessity strays from the right path and is driven headlong to imperiling his eternal salvation. For God in His goodness has by no means suffered men to look for Him with wavering steps and sightless eyes: “That they should seek God, if happily they may feel after Him or find Him.”[20] Rather banishing the darkness of ignorance, He makes Himself known by Revelation, and summons to the duty of repentance those who are wandering. “And God indeed having winked at the times of this ignorance, now declareth unto men, that all should everywhere do penance.”[21] After God had granted the gift of inspiration to the sacred writers, He entrusted the Bible to the Church, which His only begotten Son founded, for its safekeeping and authentic interpretation. By appealing to the miracles wrought by Christ the Founder, Augustine proved the Divine origin of the Church for its very inception.

“The ailing are healed, lepers are cleansed; the lame walk, sight is restored to the blind, hearing to the deaf. The men of that day beheld water changed into wine, 5,000 fed to repletion with five loaves, the sea traversed on foot, the dead rising from the grave. Thus some miracles visibly benefited the body, others by a hidden marvel the soul, all gave testimony of the majesty of the Worker for the good of all. And so God’s authority stirred men’s errant souls to seek Him.”[22]

  1. True, miracles declined somewhat in number thereafter. But for this a manifest reason is found in the fact that the Divine testimony was strikingly confirmed as time went on by the marvelous spread of the Faith and by the uplifting of human society to the plane of Christian morality. When trying to bring his friend Honoratus back to the Church, Augustine writes to this effect:

“Do you not think that a keen interest for human welfare is shown, not only in this, that many philosophers maintain that neither earth nor fire nor aught else within the range of sense should be worshipped as God-the only path to whom lies through the mind-but in the fact that an untaught multitude of men and women in so many different nations makes profession of its belief in the same truth? Witness an abstinence from food contenting itself with a meager diet of bread and water, fast not for a day but continued through many days. Witness a chastity so perfect as to be indifferent to wedlock and offspring, an enduring patience that scorns crucifixion and the stake, liberality that divides fortunes among the poor, in short, a contempt so intense of everything worldly as even to yearn for death. Not many do these things, fewer are they that do them well and wisely; but whole peoples approve, applaud, favor, aye, love such conduct. Nor is it without a closer approach of the mind to God, not without some spark of virtue, that whole peoples avow themselves too feeble to mount so high. This marvel has Divine Providence wrought by the oracles of the prophets, by the Incarnation and teaching of Christ, by the journeys of the Apostles, by the affronts and crosses and life-blood and death of martyrs, by the saintly lives we boast, and in all this can be discerned miracles suited to the needs of the time and worthy of such achievements and such virtues. Seeing, then, as we do such marked assistance from God, so much progress and fruit, shall we hesitate to nestle in the bosom of that Church which, as the human race confesses, stands a pillar of authority derived from the Apostolic See whereon successive Bishops have sat enthroned, while the rebel cry of heresy has been condemned in part by the popular voice, in part by the judgment of Councils, in part too by the majestic utterance of miracles?”[23]

  1. No one can gainsay that these words of Augustine, which have lost none of their force and energy since they were written, have been proved beyond cavil in the long lapse of fifteen centuries. As these ages sped, the Church of God, though afflicted by many a disaster and social upheaval, torn by many a heresy and schism, anguished by the treason of her followers and by the disloyalty of her sons, nevertheless, trusting in the promises of her Founder, while human institutions of varying origin that surrounded her fell in ruins, not only stood safe and unharmed, but also in every age glowed with brighter beauty in noble lives of holiness and devotion, while in many Christians she made the fire of charity burn with growing heat. Moreover, thanks to her missionaries and martyrs she brought into her Fold fresh nations, among whom the pristine glory of virginity renews its bloom and the rank of priest and Bishop keeps its vigor. In fine, so deeply has she imbued all peoples with her spirit of charity and justice, that the very men who treat her with indifference or hostility, cannot refrain from borrowing her way of speaking and acting. When our Saint, therefore, in refutation of the Donatists who dared to confine the true Church of Christ within the narrow bounds of a corner of Africa, maintained the universality or “catholicity” of a Church in which all men may find the help and protection of the aids of Divine grace, he rightly closed his reasoning with these solemn words: “The decision is sure in which the world concurs.”[24] The reading of this phrase, not so very long ago, influenced to such a degree a man of high fame and noble nature, that he did not tarry long in entering the one Fold of Christ.[25]
  2. Furthermore, Augustine emphatically asserted that this unity of the universal Church and her absolute inerrancy as a teacher, is derived not only from her invisible Head, Christ Jesus, who from Heaven “rules His body”[26] and speaks by the lips of His teaching Church,[27] but also for her visible head on earth, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the chair of Peter belongs by the lawful right of succession. For this line of Peter’s successors “is that rock against which the haughty gates of hell do not prevail.”[28] By incontestable right we “are kept within the bosom of the Church by a succession of priests from the chair of Peter the Apostle, to whom our Lord after His resurrection gave the charge of feeding His sheep, down to the episcopate of today.”[29] Again, when the Pelagian heresy had launched its attack and its adherents were endeavoring by guile and deceit to unsettle the minds and hearts of the Faithful, the Fathers of the Council of Milevum, which with others owed much to the inspiration and leadership of Augustine, submitted to Innocent I for his approval their discussions and the decrees they framed in stating their conclusions. The Pope in reply praised the bishops because of their zeal for religion and because of their thoroughly loyal spirit towards the Roman Pontiff.
  3. “They know,” he wrote, “that from the apostolic fountain-head issue answers to inquirers through all provinces. Particularly when a matter of Faith is in question, I think that our brothers and fellow-bishops should have recourse to Peter alone, namely to the author of the title and rank they hold, even as you, beloved Brethren, have now appealed, because he can give universal aid to all churches through the whole world.”[30] When Augustine, accordingly, had learned of the Roman Pontiffs condemnation of Pelagius and Caelestius, he uttered the following memorable words in a sermon to the people: “The views of two councils touching this controversy have been transmitted to the Apostolic See, and the answer has been sent back. The case has been settled. God grant that the error be ended likewise.”[31] These words of his, condensed a trifle, have passed into a proverb: “Rome has spoken, the cause is finished.” Again in another occasion, after citing the decision of Pope Zosimus put under the ban of his condemnation all Pelagians in all parts of the world, the saint wrote: “The Catholic doctrine is so ancient and well-grounded, so certain and clear in these words of the Apostolic See, that it would be criminal in a Christian to doubt of this truth.”[32]
  4. Now the Church has received from her Divine Spouse the treasures of heavenly grace conveyed mainly through the channel of the Sacraments. Hence, every loyal son of that Church, like the good Samaritan, pours oil and wine into the wounds of the sons of Adam, to free the guilty from sin, to strengthen the weak and feeble, to mould the lives of the virtuous nearer to the ideal of holiness. Even granting that some minister of Christ may at times fail in his duty, does it therefore follow that the power was rendered helpless and void of efficacy? Let us listen to the words of the Bishop of Hippo:

“I assert [he writes] and we all assert, that the ministers of so great a Judge should be just men. Let the ministers be just, if they will. If, however, they who sit on the chair of Moses refuse to be just I find my warrant of security in my Master, of whom His Spirit said: “He it is who baptizes.”[33]

  1. Would that the words of Augustine had been accepted formerly and were accepted today by all those who, like the Donatists, allege the fall of a priest as a reason for rending the seamless garment of Christ and for unhappily abandoning the way of salvation!
  2. We see how our Saint, for all his exalted genius, humbly submitted his judgment to the authority of the Church teaching. He knew that, as long as he did so, he would not swerve a finger’s breadth from Catholic doctrine. More than that, in pondering the sentence: “If you believe not, you will not understand,”[34] he learned with certainty that a heaven-born lightdenied to the proud-serves as a beacon to the minds of those who cling closely to the Faith and meditate the word of God in a mood of prayerful humility. He knew, besides, that it was the duty of priests-whose lips should keep knowledge[35]-since they are bound to explain and defend aright the truths of Revelation and expound their meaning to the Faithful, to penetrate the truths of Faith to the depths-so far as is allowed by Divine permission. As a result, inspired by uncreated Wisdom, by prayer and by meditation on the Divine mysteries, he plied his pen to such purpose, as to bequeath to posterity a copious and excellent body of sacred teaching.
  3. No one, Venerable Brethren, can read even cursorily these voluminous works without seeing how eagerly the Bishop of Hippo applied this spirit to advance in knowledge of God Himself. How true was his recognition of His Maker in the frame and the harmony of the created universe! How efficaciously he wrote and preached that his flock might attain to a like recognition!

“Earth’s beauty [he wrote] is the voice of the silent earth. You observe and see its beauty, its fertility, its energies. You see how it produces seed, how it often bears what was not sown. By your contemplation you put it to the question. Your scrutiny of the world is a form of questioning. When you have studied it in wonder and scanned it narrowly, when your search has revealed its mighty power, its dazzling beauty, its surpassing excellence, since it could not possess this excellence in itself and of itself, your mind straightway leaps to the thought that it could not have been self-caused, but is the handiwork of the creator. What you have found in it, is its speech avowing that you should praise the Creator. After you have pondered in its entirety the beauty of this world of ours, does not its very charm with one voice make answer: ‘I am not my own cause, God is my Maker’?”[36]

  1. Repeatedly he extolled in glowing language his Creator’s absolute perfection, beauty, goodness, eternity, immutability, and power. But he ceased not to point out that God is portrayed more truly in thought than in speech, though even thought fails to depict the true nature of His being,[37] while the name best suited to the Creator was the one that God revealed to Moses, when he asked by whom he was being sent.[38]
  2. However, our Saint did not rest content with a study of the Divine Nature with the unaided resources of the human intellect merely. With Holy Writ lighting his way, and guided by the Spirit of Wisdom, he bent the powers of his lofty genius to a study of the greatest of all mysteries, one which so many Fathers who had gone before him, with well-nigh infinite perseverance and unexampled enthusiasm had maintained against the wicked assaults of heretics. We meant the adorable Trinity of Father and Son and Holy Ghost in the unity of the Divine Nature. Aided by light from on high, he treated this central, this fundamental truth of the Catholic Faith with such depth and acuteness, that the Doctors who came after him had only to draw from Augustine’s contributions their materials. From these they reared a staunch rampart of theological science to repel the missiles vainly aimed in every age by a perverse human reason, that opposed this mystery, the most baffling of all to the mind of man. Let us hear the Bishop and Doctor of Hippo in his own words:

“In the Trinity we predicate as distinctive of the several Persons the relations that exist among them, as Father and Son, and Holy Spirit, the Gift of both. For the Father is not the Trinity, nor is the Son the Trinity, nor is the Gift the Trinity. But this distinction of Persons with respect to one another, is not to speak to them in the plural as three (in nature), but as one, namely, the Trinity itself. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God. So too the Father is good, the Son is good, the Holy Ghost is good. Again, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Ghost is almighty. But that does not mean that there are three gods, three good natures, three almighty natures; but one God, who is good, almighty, the Trinity. The same form is to be followed, when there is question not of their relations to one another, but of any attribute shared by each and all in common. For in this way they are described according to their essence. In the Trinity the essence, greatness, goodness, wisdom are without difference, and so of every absolute attribute predictable of a Person in Himself or of the whole Trinity.”[39]

  1. The style here is pithy and elusive. Elsewhere he makes use of wellchosen illustrations to enable us to arrive at some understanding to the mystery. Thus, for example, he dwells on the image of the Trinity reflected in the human soul, when it advances towards holiness; for, being mindful of God, it both thinks of Him and loves Him. In this way we catch a faint glimpse of the manner in which the Word is begotten by the Father, “Who in some sort has spoken in His coeternal Word all that belongs to Him substantially”;[40] as also of the manner in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, for He “breathes into us the mutual love, with which Father and Son love each other.”[41] Thereupon Augustine bids us render clearer and more beautiful this image of God within us day by day up to life’s close. Then, when God comes, the Divine image already impressed within us “will be made perfect by that vision which will be had after the Judgment face to face, but now avails us as a mirrored semblance in obscurity.”[42]
  2. Again, we can never sufficiently admire the language of the Doctor of Hippo, when he explains the mysteries that attend the clothing of the Onlybegotten Son of God with human flesh. He asks us in explicit terms-quoted by St. Leo the Great in his dogmatic epistle to the Emperor Leo:

“To recognize the two natures in Christ, that is to say, the Divine, by which He is equal to the Father; the human, by which the Father is greater. But both together are not two beings, for Christ is one; else, God would be a “quaternity,” not a Trinity. For as a -single human being results from the union of a rational soul and human flesh, so Christ is one, God and man.”[43]

  1. It was a wise resolution of Theodosius the Younger to command that, with every mark of respect, our Saint be summoned to the Council of Ephesus, where the Nestorian heresy was crushed. However, the unexpected death of Augustine stilled that voice of vehemence and power ere it could swell the chorus of the assembled Fathers and utter its anathema against the heresiarch, who had the hardihood to cleave Christ asunder, if we may so speak, and to assail the Divine maternity of the Blessed Virgin.[44] Nor should we overlook at this point, though it be with briefest mention, the fact that Augustine more than once brought out in clear relief the rank Christ holds as King. This truth We maintained and proposed to the devotion of the Faithful in Our Encyclical “Quas primas,” issued at the close of the Sacred Year. We saw fit to incorporate in the liturgy for the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, Lessons selected from the writings of Augustine.
  2. Everyone probably is acquainted with the matchless word De Civitate Dei, in which with surpassing skill he traces God’s guiding and ruling hand in the march of human history. There he brings as into a single focus the story of the world, availing himself of every aid that an assiduous study of Holy Writ and his knowledge of the culture of that epoch could furnish. In the successive steps that marked the growth of human society, his keen vision discerns and discriminates two cities, which “two loves” had founded, “namely, the earthly City, built by love of self even to contempt of God, the heavenly city, by love of God even to contempt of self.”[45] Babylon is one, Jerusalem the other. The two “are intermingled and hold a mingled course from the beginning of the human race to the end of time.”[46] But the issue of both is not one and the same, since at long last the citizens of Jerusalem will reign with God forever, while the subjects of Babylon in company with demons will eternally expiate their crimes. Accordingly, to the mind of Augustine the history of human society is nothing else than a portrayal of the uninterrupted outpouring of God’s love upon us. The heavenly city, of which He is the author, He bears onward through successes and reverses in such wise, that by His command the very madness and wickedness of the earthly City promote its growth, according to the text: “To them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.”[47] Consequently we must admit that it is foolish and senseless to imagine, as some do, that the dominant power in the course of the ages, should be sought in the mocking jests of blind fortune, or in the grasping ambition of men stronger than their fellows, or in ceaseless efforts of minds and hearts to develop natural forces to foster the arts, to secure the comforts of this life. The truth rather is that human events serve only to extend the City of God, which means the spread of evangelical truth and the promotion of the salvation of souls, conformably to the hidden but profoundly merciful designs of Him, who “reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly.”[48] Let us add a word further. Augustine set the mark, or more truly, the fiery brand of his condemnation on the moral infamy of Greek and Roman paganism. And yet yearning for such a religion has been seen to infatuate, even in our day, certain writers, shallow and even licentious, who extol such a cult for its beauty and fitness and attractiveness. Again, knowing thoroughly his contemporaries and their unhappy forgetfulness of God, with a pen at one time caustic, at another indignant, he scored in his pages all the compulsion and folly, all the outrages and lust, introduced into man’s life by the demons through the worship of false gods. There can be no salvation in the ideal of the earthly City, as it sets before its eyes a vain picture- of completeness and perfection. For scarcely anyone will take such an ideal seriously or, if he does, the prize he wins will be only the satisfaction of empty and fleeting glory.
  3. True, our Saint praises the ancient Romans, who “for the general welfare, the state, that is, and for the national treasure sacrificed their private fortunes, withstood greed, uplifted their country by a noble policy; so far as their laws went, they were innocent of crime and lewdness; these means and aims they took for the right path along which they pressed on in pursuit of honor, power, renown; they had the esteem of nearly all nations; many peoples bowed to their laws and their sway.”[49] However, as he remarks further on, what else did they gain by so much toil and hardship, “than the worthless pinnacle of human glory, which was all the reward they reaped, for which they burned with overmastering ambition, waging wars that set the world a flame?”[50] Furthermore, the fruit of the happy issue of their efforts and of their very sway itself, which our Creator employs to further the secret designs of His providence, does not fall into the grasp of those only who turn their backs on the heavenly City. For God “enriched the emperor Constantine-not a votary of demons, but a worshiper of the true God-with greater earthly blessings than any man would dare to crave in his dreams.”[51] He granted prosperity and victory after victory to Theodosius, who “was happier in being a member of the Church than in wielding an earthly scepter.”[52] Nay when rebuked by Ambrose for his slaughter of the people Thessalonica, “his penance was such that the multitude, who prayed for him, was more deeply moved to tears at sight of the imperial majesty abased, than to fear of his rage at their own offenses.”[53] Now while it is true that no man is refused temporal blessings, be he good or bad, and while misfortunes can overtake all, the virtuous as well as the wicked, yet we may not doubt that benefits and adversities are allotted by God for the furtherance of the eternal salvation of souls and for the well-being of the heavenly city. Therefore the leaders and rulers of the nations have received their authority from God for his end, that in the regions subject to them they should-as His associates-lend their efforts to promoting the designs of Divine Providence. Clearly, then, it is their duty to keep their gaze riveted on the supreme end set for man’s attainment, and while active for the earthly prosperity of their citizens, to do and command nothing in abatement of the laws of Christian justice and charity, but rather to make it easier for those under them to recognize and pursue the prizes that never fail.

“We do not style certain Christian emperors happy [writes the Bishop of Hippo], because their reign was a long one, or because, after dying in peace themselves, their sons succeeded to the throne; nor yet again because they vanquished the State’s foreign foes or were able to forestall and crush revolt of seditious citizens against themselves. These and similar favors that enrich or cheer this life of hardship, have been bestowed even on clients of the demons, on men who have no part in the kingdom of God like those of whom we speak. This is a boon of the Divine mercy, to prevent those who believe in God from craving temporal blessings as though they were of highest value. Rather do we term them happy, when they rule justly; when they yield not to pride if men praise them to the skies or offer the tribute of cringing servility, but bear in mind that they are mortal; when they make their power the handmaid of the Divine majesty, to extend as far as possible the worship of God; when they fear, love, adore God; when they cherish more that other kingdom, which they are not afraid to share with others; when they are slow to punish, quick to forgive; when they chastise because constrained thereto in ruling and maintaining the State, and not to sate the hunger of hatred; when they pardon offenses, not that crime may go unpunished, but through hope of the evil-doer’s amendment; when they temper whatever severe measures they take by mercy, gentleness, and openhandedness; when they curb passion the more sternly, the freer it might have been; when they think it better to hold sway over unruly desires than over nations of any kind; finally when they do all this not at the bidding of idle ambition, but one of love of eternal happiness; when they fail not to offer the true God in atonement for their sins the sacrifice of humility, forgiveness, and prayer. Christian princes of this type we declare are happy, now in hope, later on in fact, when our expectations shall be fulfilled.”[54]

29 Here indeed is an ideal protrait of a Christian sovereign, nor will you find anywhere a nobler or more perfect one. But it cannot be reproduced by the man who trusts the guidance of human wisdom, which often is slowwitted, oftener blinded by the emotions. The task is possible only for him, who, docile to the teaching of the Gospel, has come to learn that he cannot rule the state conformably to the Divine plan, that is, with good and happy issue, if he be not penetrated to the marrow with the spirit of justice joined with charity and humility. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that have power over them are called beneficent. But you not so: but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is the leader, as he that serveth.”[55] Hence all those are pitiably deluded, whose theory of government makes no account of man’s last and highest end, of the right use of the goods of this life. Others too in goodly number are in error, who hold that the laws of statecraft and of human progress cannot be made to square with the precept of Him who proclaimed: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”[56] We mean the precepts of Christ Jesus, who has provided and strengthened His Church with a superb, an immortal constitution which so many vicissitudes of time and fortune, so many tribulations during the twenty centuries that have passed have been unable to shake, and will never cause to totter even to the day of doom. Why, then, do the rulers, who have at heart the good and welfare of their citizens, hamper the action of the Church? Ought they not rather give her their support, as far as circumstances permit? The State need not fear that the Church will trench on the domain of its aims and its rights. Indeed Christ’s followers, obedient to Him who gave them their name, have from the beginning held State rights in loyal reverence; so much so that, when victims of persecution and stripes, they could say with good warrant: “Princes have persecuted me without cause.”[57] On this matter Augustine writes in his wonted masterly fashion:

“What harm had Christians done to the kingdoms of earth? Did their King forbid His soldiers to pay the tribute and yield the loyalty that are due to earthly kings? When the Jews were scheming to slander Him on this score, did He not tell them: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’? Did He not in person pay the tribute coin, taken from the mouth of a fish? When soldiers serving an earthly prince asked His Precursor what they should do to win eternal salvation, his answer was not: ‘Discard your uniform, cast your arms aside, abandon your king to take service under the Lord,’ but rather: ‘Do violence to no man, neither calumniate any man, and be content with your pay’ (Luke iii, 14). Did not one of His lieutenants and a beloved comrade say to his fellow-soldiers, to Christ’s liegemen, so to speak: ‘let every soul be subject to higher powers’ (Rom. xiii, 1)? Further on he adds: ‘Render therefore to all men their dues: tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honor, to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another’ (Rom. xiii, 7-8). Did not the Church enjoin prayer for sovereigns? In what, then, have Christians displeased them? What debt have they failed to pay? Wherein have Christians lacked submissiveness to earthly kings? Consequently, earthly kings have persecuted the Christians without cause.”[58]

  1. Surely no more is to be demanded of Christ’s disciples, than that they obey the just laws of the nation, provided, of course, it does not command what the law of Christ forbids, or forbid what the law of Christ commands, thus causing a severance between Church and State. Hence, it is hardly worth while to affirm a truth, that We think Our words have made sufficiently clear, namely, so far is the Church from harming the State, that it rather contributes generously to the help and profit of the state. On this topic there is no need of repeating here those golden words of the Bishop of Hippo quoted by Us in Our recent Encyclical on “The Christian Education of Youth”; nor those other equally persuasive, which Our immediate predecessor of happy memory, Benedict XV, cited in his Encyclical “Pacem Dei munus,” for the purpose of bringing into clear relief the fact, that the Church has striven ceaselessly to weld the nations together by Christian law, and has furthered every plan for securing to mankind the fruits of justice, charity, and universal peace, that the peoples of the world would make their goal that “unity which is the patroness of prosperity and renown.”
  2. However, our Saint in his delineation of the workings of Providence, did not rest satisfied with setting forth in a general way all that might relate to Church and State. He goes further. His keen mind analyzes and surveys how the grace of God, by an inward and hidden action, moves the human mind and will. The efficacy of this Divine grace, he had himself experienced, when he saw vanish the darkness of doubt in the sudden change of mind he so wonderfully underwent at Milan.

“How sweet it became for me of a sudden [he writes] to lack the sweetness of vain pleasures! It was now a joy to renounce what I had dreaded losing. Thou, sweetness true and perfect, didst set me free from them. As Thou wast ridding my heart of them, so didst Thou enter in their stead, more delightful than any pleasure-though not to flesh and blood; brighter than any light, but deeper than any secret; loftier than any honor, but not to men lofty in their own conceit.”[59]

  1. Meanwhile the Bishop of Hippo found a master and a guide in Holy Writ, especially in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, who also in his time had been miraculously converted to follow Christ. He allied himself with the teaching handed down by holy men, and with the Catholic sense of the Faithful. Day by day he was impelled to attack more vigorously the Pelagians, who stubbornly maintained that the Redemption of man by Christ Jesus was wholly without effect. Finally by a Divine impulse, he carried over many years his study of the ruin of the human race after the sin of our first parents, of the relation between the grace of God and free will, and of what goes by the name of predestination. So closely did he study the subject and with such happy results, that he was deemed the Doctor of Grace and was so entitled. He led the way for all other Catholic writers of later ages, to whom he reached a helping and a restraining hand, lest in their discussion of these intricate problems they err one way or the other: either by teaching that free will in man, once his original justice was lost, is but a name and no more, as the early Protestants and the Jansenists held; or that divine grace was not a free gift and was not allpowerful, as the Pelagians kept repeating. Some helpful suggestions might be introduced here, on which the men of our day could reflect with marked advantage. It is abundantly clear that readers of Augustine will not be caught in the toils of that pernicious error, which was widespread during the eighteenth century, namely, that the inborn impulses of the will should neither be feared nor curbed, since all of them are right and sound. From its false principle sprang those educational methods, which We condemned not long ago in Our Encyclical on “The Christian Education of Youth.” Their effect is to allow a free mingling of the sexes and to employ no precaution in controlling the growing passions of boyhood and youth. From this false principle too comes that license in writing and reading, in presenting or frequenting plays, that do not merely threaten innocence and purity with dangerous occasions, but actually plot their ruin and destruction. From this source again are derived those immodest fashions of dress, which Christian women can never be at too great pains to abolish.
  2. Now our Saint teaches that, ever since our first parents sinned, man has lost the perfection with which he was created; for when he possessed it, he was borne easily and smoothly along the path of virtuous conduct. On the contrary, in the present condition of our mortal life, he must resist evil and master the desires that lead and lure him astray in the way described by the Apostle: “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members.”[60] On this point, Augustine thus beautifully speaks to his flock:

“As long as we live here below, brethren, this holds true; yes, even we who have reached old age in this warfare, though our enemies are less fierce, still have foes to combat. Our enemies have grown wearied after a fashion, by the very passage of time; still, wearied though they are, they continue to harass the peace of our declining years by assaults of one kind or another. The young have a fiercer struggle; one we are acquainted with, through which we have passed. . . For as long as you bear about a mortal body, sin fights against you; only let it not rule in you. What do I mean by ‘let it not rule’? I mean by obeying its desires. Once you begin to obey, sin reigns. And what else is this obedience than to yield your members up to sin to serve iniquity…? Do not yield your members to sin to serve iniquity. God had given you through His Spirit power to keep your members in subjection. Passion rises in revolt: keep you the mastery over your members. What does the rebel aim at doing? Keep the mastery over your members; yield them not to sin to serve iniquity; do not give your adversary the weapons with which to fight you. Let not your feet wander to what is unlawful. Passion rebels: guard your members. Keep your hands free of every crime. Restrain your eyes from evil glances. Stop your ears, lest they willingly listen to lewd speech. Keep watch over the whole body, the whole frame, the noblest, the humblest parts. What can passion do? It knows how to rebel, but not how to conquer. Frequent and fruitless rebellion teaches it not to rebel.”[61]

  1. If only we encase ourselves in the armor of salvation against such a conflict, once we begin to refrain from sinning, we shall little by little blunt the edge of the enemy’s attack and sap his strength; until at length we shall wing our flight to that place of repose, where triumph and boundless joy will be ours. The credit of the victory is to be ascribed solely to the grace of God, which within us gives light to the mind and strength to the will, when we rise superior to so many hindrances and contests. It is the grace of God, We say. For as He created us, so is He able, through the treasures of His wisdom and power, to set aflame and fill our hearts wholly with His love. Hence the Church, which from the fountains of the Sacraments turns the stream of grace into our souls, is rightly entitled holy. For by her tireless, ceaseless influence she unites countless souls with God in the close bond of a friendship, in which they abide. What is more, many of these souls she guides and leads to an invincible fortitude, to perfect sanctity of life, to deeds of heroism. Why, is there not a growth year by year in the number of her martyrs, virgins, confessors, whom she holds up to her children for their admiration and imitation? Are not they so many fair flowers of staunch virtues of chastity and charity, transplanted by Divine grace from earth to heaven? To stay and wither in their native sickly state, is the lot only of those, who resist the Divine invitation and refuse to make a right use of their liberty. Again, the grace of God encourages us never to despair of anyone’s salvation while he lives, as well as to look hopefully for a daily increase of charity in all men. In the same grace is laid the foundation of humility and lowliness. For no matter how lofty a man’s perfection, he cannot fail to remember the words: “What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou has received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”[62] How, again, can such a man help turning with gratitude to Him, who “has put it within the reach of weaklings to will invincibly by His gift what is good, and invincibly to refuse to forfeit the good.”[63]
  2. Christ Jesus, our kind Master, inspires us to implore the gifts of His grace, when he says: “Ask, and it shall be given to you: Seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”[64] The very gift of perseverance “can be won by humble petition.”[65] For that reason, public and private prayer never fails in God’s churches.

“When have prayers not been offered in the Church, to obtain the gift of faith for infidels and for her enemies? What believer, whose friend or neighbor or wife was an unbeliever, did not entreat of the Lord a mind docile to the Christian Faith for the loved one? Was there ever anyone, who did not beg for himself the grace of persevering in God’s favor?”[66]

  1. Therefore, Venerable Brethren, offer supplication to God, and let your clergy and people join in your supplication-under the patronage of the Doctor of Grace-in behalf of those especially who are either strangers to the Catholic Faith or have strayed from the truth. Moreover, spare no pains in giving an exemplary training to those who seem to have a vocation to the priesthood, for they are destined-agreeably to their office-to be the dispensers of Divine grace.
  2. Possidius, the first to write the life of Augustine, declared that to a far greater degree than the readers of his works, the Saint

“profited those who could see and hear him preaching in his church and were familiar with his dealings with men. Not only was he ‘a scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old,’ not only a merchant who sold all he had to buy the precious pearl he found, but he was of the number of those to whom were directed the words: ‘Thus speak ye, thus do ye’-one of those of whom our Saviour says: ‘He that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.'”[67]

  1. For to begin with the queen of all the virtues, our Saint, leaving all else aside, made the love of God so completely the goal of his desires and efforts, and fed its flame so steadfastly in his soul, that he is fittingly portrayed as holding in his hand a burning heart. No one, who has even once turned the pages of the “confessions,” can forget the conversion between mother and son, at the window of the house in Ostia. The narrative, with its lifelike charm, makes us feel that we see Augustine and Monica there, side by side, absorbed in the contemplation of heavenly things. He writes:

“Alone together we held most sweet converse. Forgetting the things that lay behind and stretching out to those that were before, we questioned each other, in the presence of Truth, which Thou art, about the nature of the eternal life of the Saints, which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the mind of man to conceive. Mentally with parted lips we hung over the supernal rills of Thy fountain-the fountain of life with Thee-if happily we might be refreshed, so far as our condition would allow, and in some sort ponder so profound a mystery. . . And while we conversed with eager longing, with the heart’s supreme effort we made some approach thereto. We sighed and there left fettered the firstlings of the spirit, then to return to the sound of our voices, where the word begins and ends. Yet what bears any likeness to Thy Word, who is our Lord, who abides within Himself and ages not, who makes all things new?”[68]

  1. We must not imagine that it was an exceptional thing for Augustine thus to lift mind and heart above the life of the body. Any time he could spare from his daily duties and tasks, he devoted to meditation on the Sacred Scriptures he knew so well, that he might draw thence the relish and the light of truth. Rising on thought’s pinions from a consideration of the works and mysteries that reveal God’s surpassing love for us, he was borne aloft little by little to the Divine perfections themselves, into which he plunged-if we may so speak-as deeply as the heavenly grace given him allowed.

“Often I do this [he says, sharing with us his secret], this is my delight, and withdrawing from such activity as necessity imposes, I take refuge in this kind of pleasure. In all the things traversed by my mind, while I confer with Thee, I find no safe place for my soul except in Thee. In Thee are linked in unison my wandering strains. From Thee may nothing of mine depart. Sometimes, too, Thou dost admit me to a deep and unwonted interior emotion, to an indescribable sweetness. If that he brought to its perfection within me, I know of nothing which that life will not contain.”[69]

  1. Hence it was that he cried: “Too late have I loved Thee, O beauty so ancient, yet so new! Too late have I loved Thee!”[70]
  2. Again, how lovingly he contemplated the life of Christ, striving to reproduce an ever more perfect image of it in himself and to repay love with love. In his counsel to virgins, he impressed on them the same lesson: “Let Him be fixed deep in your heart, who for you was fastened to the cross.”[71] As his love of God burned with a more ardent flame as days went on, so too did he make incredible progress in the rest of the virtues. No one can refuse his admiration to a man-whom all venerated, extolled, consulted, hearkened to for his lofty genius and sanctity-both in his writings destined for publication and in his letters, making it his great concern not only to refer to the Author of all good the praise offered himself, as being due to God alone, and to encourage and praise others, as far as truth allowed, but also to lavish honor and reverence on his colleagues in the episcopate. These were especially his mighty forerunners, such as Cyprian and Gregory of Nazianzus, Hilary and John Chrysostom, Ambrose-his master in the Faith-whom he revered as a father and whose teaching and life he was wont to recall. But especially there shone with luster in our Saint the love of souls, a love inseparable from love of God, of those souls particularly who were committed to his pastoral care.
  3. From the day when-under Divine guidance-through the favor of bishop Valerius and the popular choice, he was first ordained priest and then raised to the See of Hippo, he became wholly engrossed in the task of nourishing his flock with the food of sound doctrine, of defending it from prowling wolves, of leading it to a happy eternity. With a courage that was combined with charity towards men in error, he fought against heresy. He took measures to protect his people against the wiles employed at the time by Manicheans, Donatists, Pelagians, and Arians. In his refutation of these heretics themselves, he not only checked the spread of false doctrine and recovered lost spoil, but even brought back his opponents to the Catholic Faith. To this end he was always equipped for controversy, even in public, for he trusted implicitly in the Divine aid, in the innate strength and efficacy of truth, and in the loyalty of his people. If any heretical writings came to his hands, he lost no time in refuting them one after the other. He was neither daunted nor worsted by the senselessness of error, by the pricks of controversy, by the stubbornness and unfairness of adversaries. Yet all the while, no matter how spiritedly he battled for the truth, never for a moment did he cease to implore from God the conversion of his foes, whom he cherished with the kindliness of Christian charity. His writings reveal with what humility and persuasiveness he addressed them:

“Let those be angry with you, who know not how hard a task it is to find the truth and to keep clear of error. Let those be angry with you, who know not how exceptional and difficult it is, to subdue imaginations of the flesh by the serenity of a pious mind. . . Finally, let those be angry with you, who have never been misled by the error, which they see has misled you. But I, after being for a long time storm-tossed, could turn my gaze on that clear truth which tells its story with no admixture of falsehood. . . Those fictions, in short, which from long use hold you entangled in their coils, I once studied closely, listened to eagerly, believed heedlessly, urged insistently on all I could, maintained against others stubbornly and vigorously. Hence I can by no means be angry with you, for as I had to bear with myself in those days, so now must I bear with you and treat you with all the patience my friends showed me, when I blindly and madly groped in the darkness of your tenets.”[72]

  1. Consequently, hope could not fail, a happy issue was assured to the zeal for religion of the Bishop of Hippo, to his tireless activity and gentleness of soul. The Manicheans were brought to Christ’s Fold, the schism of Donatus was ended, the Pelagians were routed on every side. Hence, after the death of Augustine, Possidius could write of him:

“This distinguished man, a most important member of the body of the Lord, was keenly alert in his concern for the welfare of the universal Church. Even in this life it was permitted him by the favor of God to rejoice over the fruit of his favors. This was true first in the Church of Hippo and its territory, where his jurisdiction chiefly lay, with its complete harmony and peace. Besides, in other parts of Africa he saw the rise and growth of Our Lord’s Church, either through his own efforts or through the efforts of others-of the priests he had ordained. He saw with joy Manicheans, Donatists, Pelagians, and pagans abandon their errors in great part and joined to the bosom of the Church. Then too he seconded and applauded the progress and zeal of all good men. The insubordination of his brethren he bore in a spirit of pious and holy tolerance. He mourned the abominations of the wicked, both within and without the Church; cheered, as I said, by the gain and saddened by the loss of the cause of the Lord.”[73]

  1. As our Saint displayed a courageous, an invincible spirit in the weighty interests of Africa or of the entire Church, so he excelled as a zealous and loving father of his flock. It was his practice to preach often to the people. At times he explained passages taken as a rule from the Psalms, from the gospel of St. John, from the Epistles of St. Paul, suiting himself to the capacity of the simpler and less intelligent of his hearers. At times he rebuked-and most fruitfully-any abuses or faults that might have crept in among the people of Hippo. In this function he toiled long and earnestly to win sinners back to God, to succor the poor, to plead the cause of the accused. Moreover, though he complained that this distracted and divided his mind, he endeavored to allay strife and litigation about secular matters among Christians, letting the exercise of episcopal charity win the day over his distaste for the world. His charity and courage shone with brightest muster amid the wreck of civilization, when the Vandals laid waste Africa, sparing neither priestly rank nor sacred temple. Some Bishops and priests were at a loss what course to pursue in the midst of so many crushing disasters. One of them asked Augustine his opinion, and the holy old man frankly wrote back, that it was not permissible for any priest, whose ministry was necessary to the Faithful, to leave his people, no matter what threatened.

“Surely we know [he said] that when such perils reach their crest and no escape is possible, people of both sexes and of all ages are wont to flock to the church. Some beg for Baptism, some for reconciliation, some for the performance of penance, all for consolation and for the Sacraments to be made available and administered. In such a crisis, if ministers be lacking, utter ruin is the lot of those who leave this world unregenerated or unshriven. How extreme is the grief of their brethren in the Faith, who cannot share with them the repose of eternal life! How piercing the lamentation of all, aye, and the bitter denunciation of some at the absence of sacred ministries and ministers! Consider what the fear of temporal evils does, and the eternal evils it entails. Whereas, if ministers be present, with the strength and means God gives them, succor is ready for all. Some are baptized, others are reconciled, none are robbed of Communion of the Body of the Lord; all are consoled, are edified, are exhorted to invoke the aid of God, who can avert whatever misfortune is feared. All are ready for either issue, so that, if that chalice may not pass from them, His will may be done who cannot will anything that is evil.”[74]

  1. He concludes in these terms: “If, however, anyone flees, so that the flock of Christ is deprived of the food by which it is nourished spiritually, that man is a hireling, who sees the wolf coming and flies, since he has no care for the sheep.”[75] What is more, our Saint practised what he preached. For in the city which was his episcopal see, while the barbarians were besieging it, the great-souled shepherd who stayed with his flock, yielded up his soul to God.
  2. Another fact may be now added to complete Our eulogy of Augustine. History avouches that this holy Doctor of the Church had seen at Milan, “outside the city walls under the fostering care of Ambrose,”[76] a dwelling-place of holy souls. Again, a little after his mother’s death, he knew of monasteries “at Rome also in large number . . . not merely for men, but for women likewise.”[77] Scarcely then had he landed on the shores of Africa, when he began to plan the progress of souls towards absolute perfection of life in the Religious state, and built a monastery in an estate of his. Here “he established himself for nearly three years, set himself free from all worldly cares, and with certain followers who attached themselves to him lived only for God, in the practice of fasting, prayer, and good works, meditating on the law of the Lord day and night.”[78] After his promotion to the priesthood, he founded another monastery at Hippo in the neighborhood of the church; “and began to live with the servants of God according to the manner and rule fixed under the holy Apostles: so that before all else no one in that society kept anything of his own, but they held all things in common, giving to each whatever he needed.”[79] When he was raised to the episcopal dignity, since he was unwilling to sacrifice the blessings of community life himself, yet would not throw open his monastery to all who came as visitors or guests of the Bishop of Hippo, he established a community of clerics in the episcopal palace. He required that, after renouncing their family property, they should live in common a life which, while remote from the allurements of the world and from anything like luxury, would not be over-harsh or austere. The inmates too were to fulfil unitedly the duties imposed by the love of God and of the neighbor.
  3. Not far away was a group of Religious women under the superiorship of his own sister. To these he gave an admirable rule, characterized at once by its wisdom and its moderation. This rule is followed today by a goodly number of religious congregations of both sexes, not only those who are called “Augustinians,” but others whose founders have added their individual constitutions to the original rule. These were the seed of a more perfect life in harmony with the evangelical counsels, which our Saint sowed among his contemporaries, and rendered a service not to Christian Africa alone, but to the universal Church; for it is from this spiritual militia that the Church has drawn during past centuries, and draws today, marked advantages and growth. Rich harvests of this sort sprang from the fruitful sowing of Augustine, even in the Saint’s life-time. Thus Possidius relates that, appealed to from every quarter, the Father and lawgiver permitted many Religious men to sally forth in all directions, in order that they might found new monasteries-as one fire kindles another-and might aid the churches of Africa by their learning and holiness of life.
  4. Hence our Saint could rejoice in this robust activity of Religious life, so fully meeting his desires. We may quote his own words:

“I, the writer of these lines, loved intensely the perfection our Lord spoke of, when He said to the rich young man: “Go, sell all you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have a treasure in heaven, and come follow me.” This I did, not of my strength, but with the help of His grace. Nor is my credit the less, because I was not a rich man. Neither were the Apostles rich men, who were the first to do this. He gives up the whole world, who gives up all he has and all he desires to have. As to the progress I have made along this road of perfection, I know better than any other man; but God knows better than I. To pursue this aim I urge others as best I can, and in the Lord’s name I am not without compeers, who have been won over by my means.”[80]

  1. In our day likewise We would like to see men arise all the world over, resembling the holy Doctor, many “sowers of chaste counsel,” who prudently, of course, but fearlessly and perseveringly, under God’s guidance would persuade others to adopt the Religious and priestly life. So would be provided a surer safeguard against the decline of the Christian spirit and the gradual decay of sound morality.
  2. We have sketched the career and the deserts of our subject, Venerable Brethren; a man to whom none or very few can be compared from among those who have flourished from history’s dawn to the present, if we regard his soaring and subtle genius, his wealth and range of learning, his sanctity mounting to the topmost pinnacle, his invincible defense of Catholic truth. We have already cited more than one who spoke his praises. How charmingly, and how truly, Jerome writes to his contemporary and close friend; “My resolution is to love, to welcome, to cherish, to admire you, and to champion your words as though they were my own.”[81] And again: “Well done! You are famous throughout the world. Catholics revere and receive you as another builder of the ancient Faith. A mark of greater glory it is, that heretics loathe you. Me too they assail with a like hatred. They would kill in desire those whom they cannot slay with the sword.”[82]
  3. Therefore, Venerable Brethren, as We have most gladly commemorated the Saint in this Encyclical, not long before the expiration of the year that marks the fifteenth century since his death, so we have it very much at heart that you would so extol his memory among your people, that everyone may venerate him, everyone-before all else-may strive to imitate him, everyone may render thanks to God for the benefits which have come to the Church through so great a Doctor. In this We know that Augustine’s noble sons-as is befitting-will take the lead. The ashes of their Father and Founder, given them through the kind grant of Leo XIII, Our predecessor of happy memory, they piously preserve at Pavia in the Church of St. Peter in Caelo Aureo. May the Faithful flock in crowds to that shrine, to honor his sacred remains and to gain the indulgences We have bestowed. Then too We feel constrained to declare Our lively hope and desire that the Eucharistic Congress of the whole world, soon to be held at Carthage, besides contributing to the triumph of Christ Jesus hidden under the Sacramental Species, may also redound to the honor of Augustine. For since the Congress will meet in the city where our Saint once vanquished the heretics and strengthened the Christians in their faith; in Latin Africa, whose ancient glories time will never wither, which was the birthplace of that mind of surpassing wisdom; not far either from Hippo, which had the happy fortune of witnessing his virtues and profiting by his pastoral care; it must surely come to pass that the memory of the holy Doctor and his teaching about the august Sacrament-which We have omitted as being somewhat familiar to most readers from the Church’s liturgy-will present itself to the minds of those that assemble there, nay, will almost greet their gaze.
  4. Finally, We exhort all the Christian faithful, and especially those who propose to visit Carthage, to make Augustine their intercessor with the Divine clemency, that brighter days may dawn hereafter upon the Church. Let them pray, too, that in the vast regions of Africa, natives and strangerswhether they are as yet ignorant of Catholic truth or are at a variance with Us-may not spurn the light of the Gospel teaching brought to them by our missionaries, may not defer to seek shelter in the bosom of their loving Mother, the Church.

May the Apostolic Benediction which We most lovingly bestow in the Lord on you, Venerable Brethren, and on all your clergy and people, win the bestowal of heavenly gifts and attest Our fatherly affection.

Given at Rome in St. Peter’s the twentieth day of April, on the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the year 1930, the ninth year of Our Pontificate.


  • 1. Innocent to the Bishops Aurelius and Augustine: epist. 184 among the Augustinian letters.
  • 2. Innocent to Aurelius, Alypius, Augustine, Evodius, and Possidius Bishops: epist. 183, n. 1, among the Augustinian letters.
  • 3. Celestine to Venerius, Marinus, Leotius, Auxonius, Arcadius, Filtanius, and the rest of the Bishops of Gaul: epist. 21, c. 2, n. 3.
  • 4. Gelasius to all the Bishops of Picenum (circa finern). 5. Hormisdas, epist. 70, to Bishop Possessor. 6. John 11, epist. olim 3, to certain Senators. 7. Registrum epistolarum, lib. X, epist. 37, to Innocendus, prefect of Africa.
  • 5. Hormisdas, epist. 70, to Bishop Possessor.
  • 6. John II, epist. olim 3, to certain Senators.
  • 7. Registrum epistolarum, lib. X, epist. 37, to Innocentius, prefect of Africa.
  • 8. Hadrian 1, epist. 83, to the Bishops throughout Spain. Cf. Ietter to King Charles on images, passim.
  • 9. Encyclical “Aeterni Patris.”
  • 10. Ps. lxvii, 36.
  • 11. Confessions, Bk. m, c. 4, n. 8.
  • 12. Confessions, Bk. 11, c. 2, n. 4.
  • 13. Ibidem. Bk. m, c. 12, n. 21.
  • 14. De dono perseverantiae, c. 20, n. 53.
  • 15. Confessions, Bk. Vl, c. 5, n. 7.
  • 16. Confessions, Bk Vll c. 7, n. 11.
  • 17. Ibidem, Bk. Vlll, c. i2, n. 29. (Rom. xiii, 13-14.)
  • 18. Confessions, Bk. 1, c. 1, n. 1.
  • 19. De Civitate Dei, Bk. XIX, c. 13, n. 2.
  • 20. Acts xvii, 27.
  • 21. Acts xvii, 30.
  • 22. De utilitate credendi, c. 16 n. 34.
  • 23. De utilitate credendi, c. 17, n. 35.
  • 24. Contra epist. Parmeniani, Bk. m, n. 24.
  • 25. J. H. Newman, “Apologia,” pp. 116-117. (London, 890.)
  • 26. Enarrat. in Ps. Ivi, n. I.
  • 27. Ibidem.
  • 28. Psalmus contra partem Donati.
  • 29. Contra epist. Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti, c. 4, n. 5.
  • 30. Innocent to Silvanus, Valentinus, and the rest who took part in the Council of Milevum. Eput. 182, n. 2 among the Augustianian letters.
  • 31. Serm. 131, c. 10, n. 10.
  • 32. Epist. 190, to Optatus, c. 6, n. 23.
  • 33. In Johannis Evang., tract. 5, n. 15.
  • 34. Isaias vii, 9 (Septuag).
  • 35. Mal. ii, 7.
  • 36. Enarrat. in Ps. cxliv, n. 13.
  • 37. De Trinitate, Bk. VII, c. 4, n. 7.
  • 38. Enarrat. in Ps. d, n. 10.
  • 39. De Trinitate, Bk. VIII, proem., n. I.
  • 40. Ibidem, Bk. XV, c. 21, n. 40.
  • 41. Ibidem, Bk. XV, c. 17, n. 27.
  • 42. De Trinitate, Bk. XIV, c. 19, n. 25.
  • 43. In Johannis evang., tract. 78, n. 3. Cf. St. Leo’s epist. 165, Testimonia, c. 6.
  • 44. Ibidem; cf. Breviarium causae Nestorianorum et Eutychianorum, c. 5.
  • 45. De civitate Dei, Bk. XIV, c. 28.
  • 46. Enarrat. in Ps. Ixiv, n. 2.
  • 47. Rom. viii, 28.
  • 48. Wisdom viii, 1.
  • 49. De civitate Dei, Bk. V, c. 15.
  • 50. Ibidem, BK. V, c. 17, n. 2.
  • 51. Ibidem, c. 25.
  • 52. Ibidem, c. 26.
  • 53. Ibidem, Bk. XV, c. 26.
  • 54. De civitate Dei, Bk. V, c. 24.
  • 55. Luke xxii, 25-26.
  • 56. Luke xxi, 33.
  • 57. Ps. cxviii, 161.
  • 58. Enarr. in Ps. cxviii, sermo 31, n. 1.
  • 59. Confessions, Bk. IX, c. I. n. I.
  • 60. Rom. vii, 23.
  • 61. Serm 128, cc. 9-10, nn. 11-12.
  • 62. I Cor. iv, 7.
  • 63. De correptione et gratia, c. 12, n. 38.
  • 64. Matt. vii. 7-8.
  • 65. De dono perseverantiae, c. 6, n. 10.
  • 66. Ibi em, c. 23, n. 63.
  • 67. Vita S. Augustini, c. 31.
  • 68. Confessions, Bk. IX, c. 10, nn. 23-24.
  • 69. Ibidem, Bk. X, c. 40, n. 65.
  • 70. Ibidem, c. 27, n. 38.
  • 71. De sancta virginitate, c. 55, n. 56.
  • 72. Contra epist. Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti, cc. 2-3, nn. 2-3.
  • 73. Vita S. Augustini, c. 18.
  • 74. Epist. 228, n. 8.
  • 75. Epist. 228, n. 14.
  • 76. Confessions, Bk. VIII, c. 6, n. 15.
  • 77. De moribus Ecclesiae catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum, Bk. 1, c. 33, n. 70.
  • 78. Possidius, Vita S. Augustini, c. 3.
  • 79. Ibidem, c. 5.
  • 80. Epist. 157, c. 4, n. 39.
  • 81. Epist. 172, n. I, among the Augustinian letters.
  • 82. Epist. 195, among the Augustinian letters.

Back to: 1900 DOCUMENTS


Encyclical on Christian Education
His Holiness Pope Pius XI
Promulgated on December 31, 1929

To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See and to all the Faithful of the Catholic World.

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

  1. REPRESENTATIVE ON EARTH of that divine Master who while embracing in the immensity of His love all mankind, even unworthy sinners, showed nevertheless a special tenderness and affection for children, and expressed Himself in those singularly touching words: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me,”[1] We also on every occasion have endeavored to show the predilection wholly paternal which We bear towards them, particularly by our assiduous care and timely instructions with reference to the Christian education of youth.
  2. And so, in the spirit of the Divine Master, We have directed a helpful word, now of admonition, now of exhortation, now of direction, to youths and to their educators, to fathers and mothers, on various points of Christian education, with that solicitude which becomes the common Father of all the Faithful, with an insistence in season and out of season, demanded by our pastoral office and inculcated by the Apostle: “Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.”[2] Such insistence is called for in these our times, when, alas, there is so great and deplorable an absence of clear and sound principles, even regarding problems the most fundamental.
  3. Now this same general condition of the times, this ceaseless agitation in various ways of the problem of educational rights and systems in different countries, the desire expressed to Us with filial confidence by not a few of yourselves, Venerable Brethren, and by members of your flocks, as well as Our deep affection towards youth above referred to, move Us to turn more directly to this subject, if not to treat it in all its well-nigh inexhaustible range of theory and practice, at least to summarize its main principles, throw full light on its important conclusions, and point out its practical applications.
  4. Let this be the record of Our Sacerdotal Jubilee which, with altogether special affection, We wish to dedicate to our beloved youth, and to commend to all those whose office and duty is the work of education.
  5. Indeed never has there been so much discussion about education as nowadays; never have exponents of new pedagogical theories been so numerous, or so many methods and means devised, proposed and debated, not merely to facilitate education, but to create a new system infallibly efficacious, and capable of preparing the present generations for that earthly happiness which they so ardently desire.
  6. The reason is that men, created by God to His image and likeness and destined for Him Who is infinite perfection realize today more than ever amid the most exuberant material progress, the insufficiency of earthly goods to produce true happiness either for the individual or for the nations. And hence they feel more keenly in themselves the impulse towards a perfection that is higher, which impulse is implanted in their rational nature by the Creator Himself. This perfection they seek to acquire by means of education. But many of them with, it would seem, too great insistence on the etymological meaning of the word, pretend to draw education out of human nature itself and evolve it by its own unaided powers. Such easily fall into error, because, instead of fixing their gaze on God, first principle and last end of the whole universe, they fall back upon themselves, becoming attached exclusively to passing things of earth; and thus their restlessness will never cease till they direct their attention and their efforts to God, the goal of all perfection, according to the profound saying of Saint Augustine: “Thou didst create us, O Lord, for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it rest in Thee.”[3]
  7. It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education, as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is “the way, the truth and the life,” there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.
  8. From this we see the supreme importance of Christian education, not merely for each individual, but for families and for the whole of human society, whose perfection comes from the perfection of the elements that compose it. From these same principles, the excellence, we may well call it the unsurpassed excellence, of the work of Christian education becomes manifest and clear; for after all it aims at securing the Supreme Good, that is, God, for the souls of those who are being educated, and the maximum of well-being possible here below for human society. And this it does as efficaciously as man is capable of doing it, namely by co-operating with God in the perfecting of individuals and of society, in as much as education makes upon the soul the first, the most powerful and lasting impression for life according to the well-known saying of the Wise Man, “A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”[4] With good reason therefore did St. John Chrysostom say, “What greater work is there than training the mind and forming the habits of the young?”[5]
  9. But nothing discloses to us the supernatural beauty and excellence of the work of Christian education better than the sublime expression of love of our Blessed Lord, identifying Himself with children, “Whosoever shall receive one such child as this in my name, receiveth me.”[6]
  10. Now in order that no mistake be made in this work of utmost importance, and in order to conduct it in the best manner possible with the help of God’s grace, it is necessary to have a clear and definite idea of Christian education in its essential aspects, viz., who has the mission to educate, who are the subjects to be educated, what are the necessary accompanying circumstances, what is the end and object proper to Christian education according to God’s established order in the economy of His Divine Providence.
  11. Education is essentially a social and not a mere individual activity. Now there are three necessary societies, distinct from one another and yet harmoniously combined by God, into which man is born: two, namely the family and civil society, belong to the natural order; the third, the Church, to the supernatural order.
  12. In the first place comes the family, instituted directly by God for its peculiar purpose, the generation and formation of offspring; for this reason it has priority of nature and therefore of rights over civil society. Nevertheless, the family is an imperfect society, since it has not in itself all the means for its own complete development; whereas civil society is a perfect society, having in itself all the means for its peculiar end, which is the temporal well-being of the community; and so, in this respect, that is, in view of the common good, it has pre-eminence over the family, which finds its own suitable temporal perfection precisely in civil society.
  13. The third society, into which man is born when through Baptism he reaches the divine life of grace, is the Church; a society of the supernatural order and of universal extent; a perfect society, because it has in itself all the means required for its own end, which is the eternal salvation of mankind; hence it is supreme in its own domain.
  14. Consequently, education which is concerned with man as a whole, individually and socially, in the order of nature and in the order of grace, necessarily belongs to all these three societies, in due proportion, corresponding, according to the disposition of Divine Providence, to the co-ordination of their respecting ends.
  15. And first of all education belongs preeminently to the Church, by reason of a double title in the supernatural order, conferred exclusively upon her by God Himself; absolutely superior therefore to any other title in the natural order.
  16. The first title is founded upon the express mission and supreme authority to teach, given her by her divine Founder: “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”[7] Upon this magisterial office Christ conferred infallibility, together with the command to teach His doctrine. Hence the Church “was set by her divine Author as the pillar and ground of truth, in order to teach the divine Faith to men, and keep whole and inviolate the deposit confided to her; to direct and fashion men, in all their actions individually and socially, to purity of morals and integrity of life, in accordance with revealed doctrine.”[8]
  17. The second title is the supernatural motherhood, in virtue of which the Church, spotless spouse of Christ, generates, nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace, with her Sacraments and her doctrine. With good reason then does St. Augustine maintain: “He has not God for father who refuses to have the Church as mother.”[9]
  18. Hence it is that in this proper object of her mission, that is, “in faith and morals, God Himself has made the Church sharer in the divine magisterium and, by a special privilege, granted her immunity from error; hence she is the mistress of men, supreme and absolutely sure, and she has inherent in herself an inviolable right to freedom in teaching.'[10] By necessary consequence the Church is independent of any sort of earthly power as well in the origin as in the exercise of her mission as educator, not merely in regard to her proper end and object, but also in regard to the means necessary and suitable to attain that end. Hence with regard to every other kind of human learning and instruction, which is the common patrimony of individuals and society, the Church has an independent right to make use of it, and above all to decide what may help or harm Christian education. And this must be so, because the Church as a perfect society has an independent right to the means conducive to its end, and because every form of instruction, no less than every human action, has a necessary connection with man’s last end, and therefore cannot be withdrawn from the dictates of the divine law, of which the Church is guardian, interpreter and infallible mistress.
  19. This truth is clearly set forth by Pius X of saintly memory:

Whatever a Christian does even in the order of things of earth, he may not overlook the supernatural; indeed he must, according to the teaching of Christian wisdom, direct all things towards the supreme good as to his last end; all his actions, besides, in so far as good or evil in the order of morality, that is, in keeping or not with natural and divine law, fall under the judgment and jurisdiction of the Church.[11]

  1. It is worthy of note how a layman, an excellent writer and at the same time a profound and conscientious thinker, has been able to understand well and express exactly this fundamental Catholic doctrine:

The Church does not say that morality belongs purely, in the sense of exclusively, to her; but that it belongs wholly to her. She has never maintained that outside her fold and apart from her teaching, man cannot arrive at any moral truth; she has on the contrary more than once condemned this opinion because it has appeared under more forms than one. She does however say, has said, and will ever say, that because of her institution by Jesus Christ, because of the Holy Ghost sent her in His name by the Father, she alone possesses what she has had immediately from God and can never lose, the whole of moral truth, omnem veritatem, in which all individual moral truths are included, as well those which man may learn by the help of reason, as those which form part of revelation or which may be deduced from it.[12]

  1. Therefore with full right the Church promotes letters, science, art in so far as necessary or helpful to Christian education, in addition to her work for the salvation of souls: founding and maintaining schools and institutions adapted to every branch of learning and degree of culture.[13] Nor may even physical culture, as it is called, be considered outside the range of her maternal supervision, for the reason that it also is a means which may help or harm Christian education.
  2. And this work of the Church in every branch of culture is of immense benefit to families and nations which without Christ are lost, as St. Hilary points out correctly: “What can be more fraught with danger for the world than the rejection of Christ?”[14] Nor does it interfere in the least with the regulations of the State, because the Church in her motherly prudence is not unwilling that her schools and institutions for the education of the laity be in keeping with the legitimate dispositions of civil authority; she is in every way ready to co-operate with this authority and to make provision for a mutual understanding, should difficulties arise.
  3. Again it is the inalienable right as well as the indispensable duty of the Church, to watch over the entire education of her children, in all institutions, public or private, not merely in regard to the religious instruction there given, but in regard to every other branch of learning and every regulation in so far as religion and morality are concerned.[15]
  4. Nor should the exercise of this right be considered undue interference, but rather maternal care on the part of the Church in protecting her children from the grave danger of all kinds of doctrinal and moral evil. Moreover this watchfulness of the Church not merely can create no real inconvenience, but must on the contrary confer valuable assistance in the right ordering and well-being of families and of civil society; for it keeps far away from youth the moral poison which at that inexperienced and changeable age more easily penetrates the mind and more rapidly spreads its baneful effects. For it is true, as Leo XIII has wisely pointed out, that without proper religious and moral instruction “every form of intellectual culture will be injurious; for young people not accustomed to respect God, will be unable to bear the restraint of a virtuous life, and never having learned to deny themselves anything. they will easily be incited to disturb the public order.”[16]
  5. The extent of the Church’s mission in the field of education is such as to embrace every nation, without exception, according to the command of Christ: “Teach ye all nations;”[17] and there is no power on earth that may lawfully oppose her or stand in her way. In the first place, it extends over all the Faithful, of whom she has anxious care as a tender mother. For these she has throughout the centuries created and conducted an immense number of schools and institutions in every branch of learning. As We said on a recent occasion:

Right back in the far-off middle ages when there were so many (some have even said too many) monasteries, convents, churches, collegiate churches, cathedral chapters, etc., there was attached to each a home of study, of teaching, of Christian education. To these we must add all the universities, spread over every country and always by the initiative an under the protection of the Holy See and the Church. That grand spectacle, which today we see better, as it is nearer to us and more imposing because of the conditions of the age, was the spectacle of all times; and they who study and compare historical events remain astounded at what the Church has been able to do in this matter, and marvel at the manner in which she had succeeded in fulfilling her God-given mission to educate generations of men to a Christian life, producing everywhere a magnificent harvest of fruitful results. But if we wonder that the Church in all times has been able to gather about her and educate hundreds, thousands, millions of students, no less wonderful is it to bear in mind what she has done not only in the field of education, but in that also of true and genuine erudition. For, if so many treasures of culture, civilization and literature have escaped destruction, this is due to the action by which the Church, even in times long past and uncivilized, has shed so bright a light in the domain of letters, of philosophy, of art and in a special manner of architecture.[18]

  1. All this the Church has been able to do because her mission to educate extends equally to those outside the Fold, seeing that all men are called to enter the kingdom of God and reach eternal salvation. Just as today when her missions scatter schools by the thousand in districts and countries not yet Christian, from the banks of the Ganges to the Yellow river and the great islands and archipelagos of the Pacific ocean, from the Dark Continent to the Land of Fire and to frozen Alaska, so in every age the Church by her missionaries has educated to Christian life and to civilization the various peoples which now constitute the Christian nations of the civilized world.
  2. Hence it is evident that both by right and in fact the mission to educate belongs preeminently to the Church, and that no one free from prejudice can have a reasonable motive for opposing or impeding the Church in this her work, of which the world today enjoys the precious advantages.
  3. This is the more true because the rights of the family and of the State, even the rights of individuals regarding a just liberty in the pursuit of science, of methods of science and all sorts of profane culture, not only are not opposed to this pre-eminence of the Church, but are in complete harmony with it. The fundamental reason for this harmony is that the supernatural order, to which the Church owes her rights, not only does not in the least destroy the natural order, to which pertain the other rights mentioned, but elevates the natural and perfects it, each affording mutual aid to the other, and completing it in a manner proportioned to its respective nature and dignity. The reason is because both come from God, who cannot contradict Himself: “The works of God are perfect and all His ways are judgments.”[19]
  4. This becomes clearer when we consider more closely and in detail the mission of education proper to the family and to the State.
  5. In the first place the Church’s mission of education is in wonderful agreement with that of the family, for both proceed from God, and in a remarkably similar manner. God directly communicates to the family, in the natural order, fecundity, which is the principle of life, and hence also the principle of education to life, together with authority, the principle of order.
  6. The Angelic Doctor with his wonted clearness of thought and precision of style, says: “The father according to the flesh has in a particular way a share in that principle which in a manner universal is found in God…. The father is the principle of generation, of education and discipline and of everything that bears upon the perfecting of human life.”[20]
  7. The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.
  8. That this right is inviolable St. Thomas proves as follows:

The child is naturally something of the father . . . so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father’s care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice if the child, before the use of reason, were removed from the care of its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning him against the will of the parents.[21] And as this duty on the part of the parents continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures. “Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue”[22] says the same St. Thomas.

  1. The wisdom of the Church in this matter is expressed with precision and clearness in the Codex of Canon Law, can. 1113: “Parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children, as well as to their physical and civic training, as far as they can, and moreover to provide for their temporal well-being.”[23]
  2. On this point the common sense of mankind is in such complete accord, that they would be in open contradiction with it who dared maintain that the children belong to the State before they belong to the family, and that the State has an absolute right over their education. Untenable is the reason they adduce, namely that man is born a citizen and hence belongs primarily to the State, not bearing in mind that before being a citizen man must exist; and existence does not come from the State, but from the parents, as Leo XIII wisely declared: “The children are something of the father, and as it were an extension of the person of the father; and, to be perfectly accurate, they enter into and become part of civil society, not directly by themselves, but through the family in which they were born.”[24] “And therefore,” says the same Leo Xlll, “the father’s power is of such a nature that it cannot be destroyed or absorbed by the State; for it has the same origin as human life itself.”[25] It does not however follow from this that the parents’ right to educate their children is absolute and despotic; for it is necessarily subordinated to the last end and to natural and divine law, as Leo Xlll declares in another memorable encyclical, where He thus sums up the rights and duties of parents: “By nature parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God’s blessing it was begotten. Therefore it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.”[26]
  3. It must be borne in mind also that the obligation of the family to bring up children, includes not only religious and moral education, but physical and civic education as well,[27] principally in so far as it touches upon religion and morality .
  4. This incontestable right of the family has at various times been recognized by nations anxious to respect the natural law in their civil enactments. Thus, to give one recent example, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in a decision on an important controversy, declared that it is not in the competence of the State to fix any uniform standard of education by forcing children to receive instruction exclusively in public schools, and it bases its decision on the natural law: the child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty, to educate him and prepare him for the fulfillment of his obligations.[28]
  5. History bears witness how, particularly in modern times, the State has violated and does violate rights conferred by God on the family. At the same time it shows magnificently how the Church has ever protected and defended these rights, a fact proved by the special confidence which parents have in Catholic schools. As We pointed out recently in Our letter to the Cardinal Secretary of State:

The family has instinctively understood this to be so, and from the earliest days of Christianity down to our own times, fathers and mothers, even those of little or no faith, have been sending or bringing their children in millions to places of education under the direction of the Church.[29]

  1. It is paternal instinct, given by God, that thus turns with confidence to the Church, certain of finding in her the protection of family rights, thereby illustrating that harmony with which God has ordered all things. The Church is indeed conscious of her divine mission to all mankind, and of the obligation which all men have to practice the one true religion; and therefore she never tires of defending her right, and of reminding parents of their duty, to have all Catholic-born children baptized and brought up as Christians. On the other hand so jealous is she of the family’s inviolable natural right to educate the children, that she never consents, save under peculiar circumstances and with special cautions, to baptize the children of infidels, or provide for their education against the will of the parents, till such time as the children can choose for themselves and freely embrace the Faith.[30]
  2. We have therefore two facts of supreme importance. As We said in Our discourse cited above: The Church placing at the disposal of families her office of mistress and educator, and the families eager to profit by the offer, and entrusting their children to the Church in hundreds and thousands. These two facts recall and proclaim a striking truth of the greatest significance in the moral and social order. They declare that the mission of education regards before all, above all, primarily the Church and the family, and this by natural and divine law, and that therefore it cannot be slighted, cannot be evaded, cannot be supplanted.[31]
  3. From such priority of rights on the part of the Church and of the family in the field of education, most important advantages, as we have seen, accrue to the whole of society. Moreover in accordance with the divinely established order of things, no damage can follow from it to the true and just rights of the State in regard to the education of its citizens.
  4. These rights have been conferred upon civil society by the Author of nature Himself, not by title of fatherhood, as in the case of the Church and of the family, but in virtue of the authority which it possesses to promote the common temporal welfare, which is precisely the purpose of its existence. Consequently education cannot pertain to civil society in the same way in which it pertains to the Church and to the family, but in a different way corresponding to its own particular end and object.
  5. Now this end and object, the common welfare in the temporal order, consists in that peace and security in which families and individual citizens have the free exercise of their rights, and at the same time enjoy the greatest spiritual and temporal prosperity possible in this life, by the mutual union and co-ordination of the work of all. The function therefore of the civil authority residing in the State is twofold, to protect and to foster, but by no means to absorb the family and the individual, or to substitute itself for them.
  6. Accordingly in the matter of education, it is the right, or to speak more correctly, it is the duty of the State to protect in its legislation, the prior rights, already described, of the family as regards the Christian education of its offspring, and consequently also to respect the supernatural rights of the Church in this same realm of Christian education.
  7. It also belongs to the State to protect the rights of the child itself when the parents are found wanting either physically or morally in this respect, whether by default, incapacity or misconduct, since, as has been shown, their right to educate is not an absolute and despotic one, but dependent on the natural and divine law, and therefore subject alike to the authority and jurisdiction of the Church, and to the vigilance and administrative care of the State in view of the common good. Besides, the family is not a perfect society, that is, it has not in itself all the means necessary for its full development. In such cases, exceptional no doubt, the State does not put itself in the place of the family, but merely supplies deficiencies, and provides suitable means, always in conformity with the natural rights of the child and the supernatural rights of the Church.
  8. In general then it is the right and duty of the State to protect, according to the rules of right reason and faith, the moral and religious education of youth, by removing public impediments that stand in the way. In the first place it pertains to the State, in view of the common good, to promote in various ways the education and instruction of youth. It should begin by encouraging and assisting, of its own accord, the initiative and activity of the Church and the family, whose successes in this field have been clearly demonstrated by history and experience. It should moreover supplement their work whenever this falls short of what is necessary, even by means of its own schools and institutions. For the State more than any other society is provided with the means put at its disposal for the needs of all, and it is only right that it use these means to the advantage of those who have contributed them.[32]
  9. Over and above this, the State can exact and take measures to secure that all its citizens have the necessary knowledge of their civic and political duties, and a certain degree of physical, intellectual and moral culture, which, considering the conditions of our times, is really necessary for the common good.
  10. However it is clear that in all these ways of promoting education and instruction, both public and private, the State should respect the inherent rights of the Church and of the family concerning Christian education, and moreover have regard for distributive justice. Accordingly, unjust and unlawful is any monopoly, educational or scholastic, which, physically or morally, forces families to make use of government schools, contrary to the dictates of their Christian conscience, or contrary even to their legitimate preferences.
  11. This does not prevent the State from making due provision for the right administration of public affairs and for the protection of its peace, within or without the realm. These are things which directly concern the public good and call for special aptitudes and special preparation. The State may therefore reserve to itself the establishment and direction of schools intended to prepare for certain civic duties and especially for military service, provided it be careful not to injure the rights of the Church or of the family in what pertains to them. It is well to repeat this warning here; for in these days there is spreading a spirit of nationalism which is false and exaggerated, as well as dangerous to true peace and prosperity. Under its influence various excesses are committed in giving a military turn to the so-called physical training of boys (sometimes even of girls, contrary to the very instincts of human nature); or again in usurping unreasonably on Sunday, the time which should be devoted to religious duties and to family life at home. It is not our intention however to condemn what is good in the spirit of discipline and legitimate bravery promoted by these methods; We condemn only what is excessive, as for example violence, which must not be confounded with courage nor with the noble sentiment of military valor in defense of country and public order; or again exaltation of athleticism which even in classic pagan times marked the decline and downfall of genuine physical training.
  12. In general also it belongs to civil society and the State to provide what may be called civic education, not only for its youth, but for all ages and classes. This consists in the practice of presenting publicly to groups of individuals information having an intellectual, imaginative and emotional appeal, calculated to draw their wills to what is upright and honest, and to urge its practice by a sort of moral compulsion, positively by disseminating such knowledge, and negatively by suppressing what is opposed to it.[33] This civic education, so wide and varied in itself as to include almost every activity of the State intended for the public good, ought also to be regulated by the norms of rectitude, and therefore cannot conflict with the doctrines of the Church, which is the divinely appointed teacher of these norms.
  13. All that we have said so far regarding the activity of the State in educational matters, rests on the solid and immovable foundation of the Catholic doctrine of The Christian Constitution of States set forth in such masterly fashion by Our Predecessor Leo Xlll, notably in the Encyclicals lmmortale Dei and Sapientiae Christianae. He writes as follows:

God has divided the government of the human race between two authorities, ecclesiastical and civil, establishing one over things divine, the other over things human. Both are supreme, each in its own domain; each has its own fixed boundaries which limit its activities. These boundaries are determined by the peculiar nature and the proximate end of each, and describe as it were a sphere within which, with exclusive right, each may develop its influence. As however the same subjects are under the two authorities, it may happen that the same matter, though from a different point of view, may come under the competence and jurisdiction of each of them. If follows that divine Providence, whence both authorities have their origin, must have traced with due order the proper line of action for each. The powers that are, are ordained of God.[34]

  1. Now the education of youth is precisely one of those matters that belong both to the Church and to the State, “though in different ways,” as explained above.

Therefore, continues Leo Xlll, between the two powers there must reign a well-ordered harmony. Not without reason may this mutual agreement be compared to the union of body and soul in man. Its nature and extent can only be determined by considering, as we have said, the nature of each of the two powers, and in particular the excellence and nobility of the respective ends. To one is committed directly and specifically the charge of what is helpful in worldly matters; while the other is to concern itself with the things that pertain to heaven and eternity. Everything therefore in human affairs that is in any way sacred, or has reference to the salvation of souls and the worship of God, whether by its nature or by its end, is subject to the jurisdiction and discipline of the Church. Whatever else is comprised in the civil and political order, rightly comes under the authority of the State; for Christ commanded us to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.[35]

  1. Whoever refuses to admit these principles, and hence to apply them to education, must necessarily deny that Christ has founded His Church for the eternal salvation of mankind, and maintain instead that civil society and the State are not subject to God and to His law, natural and divine. Such a doctrine is manifestly impious, contrary to right reason, and, especially in this matter of education, extremely harmful to the proper training of youth, and disastrous as well for civil society as for the well-being of all mankind. On the other hand from the application of these principles, there inevitably result immense advantages for the right formation of citizens. This is abundantly proved by the history of every age. Tertullian in his Apologeticus could throw down a challenge to the enemies of the Church in the early days of Christianity, just as St. Augustine did in his; and we today can repeat with him:

Let those who declare the teaching of Christ to be opposed to the welfare of the State, furnish us with an army of soldiers such as Christ says soldiers ought to be; let them give us subjects, husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants, kings, judges, taxpayers and tax gatherers who live up to the teachings of Christ; and then let them dare assert that Christian doctrine is harmful to the State. Rather let them not hesitate one moment to acclaim that doctrine, rightly observed, the greatest safeguard of the State.[36]

  1. While treating of education, it is not out of place to show here how an ecclesiastical writer, who flourished in more recent times, during the Renaissance, the holy and learned Cardinal Silvio Antoniano, to whom the cause of Christian education is greatly indebted, has set forth most clearly this well established point of Catholic doctrine. He had been a disciple of that wonderful educator of youth, St. Philip Neri; he was teacher and Latin secretary to St. Charles Borromeo, and it was at the latter’s suggestion and under his inspiration that he wrote his splendid treatise on The Christian Education of Youth. In it he argues as follows:

The more closely the temporal power of a nation aligns itself with the spiritual, and the more it fosters and promotes the latter, by so much the more it contributes to the conservation of the commonwealth. For it is the aim of the ecclesiastical authority by the use of spiritual means, to form good Christians in accordance with its own particular end and object; and in doing this it helps at the same time to form good citizens, and prepares them to meet their obligations as members of a civil society. This follows of necessity because in the City of God, the Holy Roman Catholic Church, a good citizen and an upright man are absolutely one and the same thing. How grave therefore is the error of those who separate things so closely united, and who think that they can produce good citizens by ways and methods other than those which make for the formation of good Christians. For, let human prudence say what it likes and reason as it pleases, it is impossible to produce true temporal peace and tranquillity by things repugnant or opposed to the peace and happiness of eternity.[37]

  1. What is true of the State, is true also of science, scientific methods and scientific research; they have nothing to fear from the full and perfect mandate which the Church holds in the field of education. Our Catholic institutions, whatever their grade in the educational and scientific world, have no need of apology. The esteem they enjoy, the praise they receive, the learned works which they promote and produce in such abundance, and above all, the men, fully and splendidly equipped, whom they provide for the magistracy, for the professions, for the teaching career, in fact for every walk of life, more than sufficiently testify in their favour.[38]
  2. These facts moreover present a most striking confirmation of the Catholic doctrine defined by the Vatican Council:

Not only is it impossible for faith and reason to be at variance with each other, they are on the contrary of mutual help. For while right reason establishes the foundations of Faith, and, by the help of its light, develops a knowledge of the things of God, Faith on the other hand frees and preserves reason from error and enriches it with varied knowledge. The Church therefore, far from hindering the pursuit of the arts and sciences, fosters and promotes them in many ways. For she is neither ignorant nor unappreciative of the many advantages which flow from them to mankind. On the contrary she admits that just as they come from God, Lord of all knowledge, so too if rightly used, with the help of His grace they lead to God. Nor does she prevent the sciences, each in its own sphere, from making use of principles and methods of their own. Only while acknowledging the freedom due to them, she takes every precaution to prevent them from falling into error by opposition to divine doctrine, or from overstepping their proper limits, and thus invading and disturbing the domain of Faith.[39]

  1. This norm of a just freedom in things scientific, serves also as an inviolable norm of a just freedom in things didactic, or for rightly understood liberty in teaching; it should be observed therefore in whatever instruction is imparted to others. Its obligation is all the more binding in justice when there is question of instructing youth. For in this work the teacher, whether public or private, has no absolute right of his own, but only such as has been communicated to him by others. Besides every Christian child or youth has a strict right to instruction in harmony with the teaching of the Church, the pillar and ground of truth. And whoever disturbs the pupil’s Faith in any way, does him grave wrong, inasmuch as he abuses the trust which children place in their teachers, and takes unfair advantage of their inexperience and of their natural craving for unrestrained liberty, at once illusory and false.
  2. In fact it must never be forgotten that the subject of Christian education is man whole and entire, soul united to body in unity of nature, with all his faculties natural and supernatural, such as right reason and revelation show him to be; man, therefore, fallen from his original estate, but redeemed by Christ and restored to the supernatural condition of adopted son of God, though without the preternatural privileges of bodily immortality or perfect control of appetite. There remain therefore, in human nature the effects of original sin, the chief of which are weakness of will and disorderly inclinations.
  3. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction shall drive it away.”[40] Disorderly inclinations then must be corrected, good tendencies encouraged and regulated from tender childhood, and above all the mind must be enlightened and the will strengthened by supernatural truth and by the means of grace, without which it is impossible to control evil impulses, impossible to attain to the full and complete perfection of education intended by the Church, which Christ has endowed so richly with divine doctrine and with the Sacraments, the efficacious means of grace.
  4. Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth, is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child, and which diminish or even suppress the teacher’s authority and action, attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of his education.
  5. If any of these terms are used, less properly, to denote the necessity of a gradually more active cooperation on the part of the pupil in his own education; if the intention is to banish from education despotism and violence, which, by the way, just punishment is not, this would be correct, but in no way new. It would mean only what has been taught and reduced to practice by the Church in traditional Christian education, in imitation of the method employed by God Himself towards His creatures, of whom He demands active cooperation according to the nature of each; for His Wisdom “reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly.”[41]
  6. But alas! it is clear from the obvious meaning of the words and from experience, that what is intended by not a few, is the withdrawal of education from every sort of dependence on the divine law. So today we see, strange sight indeed, educators and philosophers who spend their lives in searching for a universal moral code of education, as if there existed no decalogue, no gospel law, no law even of nature stamped by God on the heart of man, promulgated by right reason, and codified in positive revelation by God Himself in the ten commandments. These innovators are wont to refer contemptuously to Christian education as “heteronomous,” “passive, ‘obsolete,” because founded upon the authority of God and His holy law.
  7. Such men are miserably deluded in their claim to emancipate, as they say, the child, while in reality they are making him the slave of his own blind pride and of his disorderly affections, which, as a logical consequence of this false system, come to be justified as legitimate demands of a so-called autonomous nature.
  8. But what is worse is the claim, not only vain but false, irreverent and dangerous, to submit to research, experiment and conclusions of a purely natural and profane order, those matters of education which belong to the supernatural order; as for example questions of priestly or religious vocation, and in general the secret workings of grace which indeed elevate the natural powers, but are infinitely superior to them, and may nowise be subjected to physical laws, for “the Spirit breatheth where He will.”[42]
  9. Another very grave danger is that naturalism which nowadays invades the field of education in that most delicate matter of purity of morals. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youths against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.
  10. Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognize the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of the mind;[43] and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.
  11. In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, from those who hold from God the commission to teach and who have the grace of state, every precaution must be taken. Such precautions are well known in traditional Christian education, and are adequately described by Antoniano cited above, when he says:

Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself. Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details, nor refer to the various ways in which this infernal hydra destroys with its poison so large a portion of the world; otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing this fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child. Speaking generally, during the period of childhood it suffices to employ those remedies which produce the double effect of opening the door to the virtue of purity and closing the door upon vice.[44]

  1. False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of “coeducation.” This too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes. The Creator has ordained and disposed perfect union of the sexes only in matrimony, and, with varying degrees of contact, in the family and in society. Besides there is not in nature itself, which fashions the two quite different in organism, in temperament, in abilities, anything to suggest that there can be or ought to be promiscuity, and much less equality, in the training of the two sexes. These, in keeping with the wonderful designs of the Creator, are destined to complement each other in the family and in society, precisely because of their differences, which therefore ought to be maintained and encouraged during their years of formation, with the necessary distinction and corresponding separation, according to age and circumstances. These principles, with due regard to time and place, must, in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that, namely, of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public.
  2. Recalling the terrible words of the Divine Master: “Woe to the world because of scandals!”[45] We most earnestly appeal to your solicitude and your watchfulness, Venerable Brethren, against these pernicious errors, which, to the immense harm of youth, are spreading far and wide among Christian peoples.
  3. In order to obtain perfect education, it is of the utmost importance to see that all those conditions which surround the child during the period of his formation, in other words that the combination of circumstances which we call environment, correspond exactly to the end proposed.
  4. The first natural and necessary element in this environment, as regards education, is the family, and this precisely because so ordained by the Creator Himself. Accordingly that education, as a rule, will be more effective and lasting which is received in a well-ordered and well-disciplined Christian family; and more efficacious in proportion to the clear and constant good example set, first by the parents, and then by the other members of the household.
  5. It is not our intention to treat formally the question of domestic education, nor even to touch upon its principal points. The subject is too vast. Besides there are not lacking special treatises on this topic by authors, both ancient and modern, well known for their solid Catholic doctrine. One which seems deserving of special mention is the golden treatise already referred to, of Antoniano, On the Christian Education of Youth, which St. Charles Borromeo ordered to be read in public to parents assembled in their churches.
  6. Nevertheless, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, We wish to call your attention in a special manner to the present-day lamentable decline in family education. The offices and professions of a transitory and earthly life, which are certainly of far less importance, are prepared for by long and careful study; whereas for the fundamental duty and obligation of educating their children, many parents have little or no preparation, immersed as they are in temporal cares. The declining influence of domestic environment is further weakened by another tendency, prevalent almost everywhere today, which, under one pretext or another, for economic reasons, or for reasons of industry, trade or politics, causes children to be more and more frequently sent away from home even in their tenderest years. And there is a country where the children are actually being torn from the bosom of the family, to be formed (or, to speak more accurately, to be deformed and depraved) in godless schools and associations, to irreligion and hatred, according to the theories of advanced socialism; and thus is renewed in a real and more terrible manner the slaughter of the Innocents.
  7. For the love of Our Savior .Jesus Christ, therefore, we implore pastors of souls, by every means in their power, by instructions and catechisms, by word of mouth and written articles widely distributed, to warn Christian parents of their grave obligations. And this should be done not in a merely theoretical and general way, but with practical and specific application to the various responsibilities of parents touching the religious, moral and civil training of their children, and with indication of the methods best adapted to make their training effective, supposing always the influence of their own exemplary lives. The Apostle of the Gentiles did not hesitate to descend to such details of practical instruction in his epistles, especially in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where among other things he gives this advice: “And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger.”[46] This fault is the result not so much of excessive severity, as of impatience and of ignorance of means best calculated to effect a desired correction; it is also due to the all too common relaxation of parental discipline which fails to check the growth of evil passions in the hearts of the younger generation. Parents therefore, and all who take their place in the work of education, should be careful to make right use of the authority given them by God, whose vicars in a true sense they are. This authority is not given for their own advantage, but for the proper up-bringing of their children in a holy and filial “fear of God, the beginning of wisdom,” on which foundation alone all respect for authority can rest securely; and without which, order, tranquillity and prosperity, whether in the family or in society, will be impossible.
  8. To meet the weakness of man’s fallen nature, God in His Goodness has provided the abundant helps of His grace and the countless means with which He has endowed the Church, the great family of Christ. The Church therefore is the educational environment most intimately and harmoniously associated with the Christian family.
  9. This educational environment of the Church embraces the Sacraments, divinely efficacious means of grace, the sacred ritual, so wonderfully instructive, and the material fabric of her churches, whose liturgy and art have an immense educational value; but it also includes the great number and variety of schools, associations and institutions of all kinds, established for the training of youth in Christian piety, together with literature and the sciences, not omitting recreation and physical culture. And in this inexhaustible fecundity of educational works, how marvelous, how incomparable is the Church’s maternal providence! So admirable too is the harmony which she maintains with the Christian family, that the Church and the family may be said to constitute together one and the same temple of Christian education.
  10. Since however the younger generations must be trained in the arts and sciences for the advantage and prosperity of civil society, and since the family of itself is unequal to this task, it was necessary to create that social institution, the school. But let it be borne in mind that this institution owes its existence to the initiative of the family and of the Church, long before it was undertaken by the State. Hence considered in its historical origin, the school is by its very nature an institution subsidiary and complementary to the family and to the Church. It follows logically and necessarily that it must not be in opposition to, but in positive accord with those other two elements, and form with them a perfect moral union, constituting one sanctuary of education, as it were, with the family and the Church. Otherwise it is doomed to fail of its purpose, and to become instead an agent of destruction.
  11. This principle we find recognized by a layman, famous for his pedagogical writings, though these because of their liberalism cannot be unreservedly praised. “The school,” he writes, “if not a temple, is a den.” And again: “When literary, social, domestic and religious education do not go hand in hand, man is unhappy and helpless.”[47]
  12. From this it follows that the so-called “neutral” or “lay” school, from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education. Such a school moreover cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious. There is no need to repeat what Our Predecessors have declared on this point, especially Pius IX and Leo Xlll, at times when laicism was beginning in a special manner to infest the public school. We renew and confirm their declarations,[48] as well as the Sacred Canons in which the frequenting of non-Catholic schools, whether neutral or mixed, those namely which are open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is forbidden for Catholic children, and can be at most tolerated, on the approval of the Ordinary alone, under determined circumstances of place and time, and with special precautions.[49] Neither can Catholics admit that other type of mixed school, (least of all the so-called “ecole unique,” obligatory on all), in which the students are provided with separate religious instruction, but receive other lessons in common with non-Catholic pupils from non-Catholic teachers.
  13. For the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus and text-books in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth’s entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. To use the words of Leo Xlll:

It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.[50]

  1. And let no one say that in a nation where there are different religious beliefs, it is impossible to provide for public instruction otherwise than by neutral or mixed schools. In such a case it becomes the duty of the State, indeed it is the easier and more reasonable method of procedure, to leave free scope to the initiative of the Church and the family, while giving them such assistance as justice demands. That this can be done to the full satisfaction of families, and to the advantage of education and of public peace and tranquillity, is clear from the actual experience of some countries comprising different religious denominations. There the school legislation respects the rights of the family, and Catholics are free to follow their own system of teaching in schools that are entirely Catholic. Nor is distributive justice lost sight of, as is evidenced by the financial aid granted by the State to the several schools demanded by the families.
  2. In other countries of mixed creeds, things are otherwise, and a heavy burden weighs upon Catholics, who under the guidance of their Bishops and with the indefatigable cooperation of the clergy, secular and regular, support Catholic schools for their children entirely at their own expense; to this they feel obliged in conscience, and with a generosity and constancy worthy of all praise, they are firmly determined to make adequate provision for what they openly profess as their motto: “Catholic education in Catholic schools for all the Catholic youth.” If such education is not aided from public funds, as distributive justice requires, certainly it may not be opposed by any civil authority ready to recognize the rights of the family, and the irreducible claims of legitimate liberty.
  3. Where this fundamental liberty is thwarted or interfered with, Catholics will never feel, whatever may have been the sacrifices already made, that they have done enough, for the support and defense of their schools and for the securing of laws that will do them justice.
  4. For whatever Catholics do in promoting and defending the Catholic school for their children, is a genuinely religious work and therefore an important task of “Catholic Action.” For this reason the associations which in various countries are so zealously engaged in this work of prime necessity, are especially dear to Our paternal heart and are deserving of every commendation .
  5. Let it be loudly proclaimed and well understood and recognized by all, that Catholics, no matter what their nationality, in agitating for Catholic schools for their children, are not mixing in party politics, but are engaged in a religious enterprise demanded by conscience. They do not intend to separate their children either from the body of the nation or its spirit, but to educate them in a perfect manner, most conducive to the prosperity of the nation. Indeed a good Catholic, precisely because of his Catholic principles, makes the better citizen, attached to his country, and loyally submissive to constituted civil authority in every legitimate form of government.
  6. In such a school, in harmony with the Church and the Christian family, the various branches of secular learning will not enter into conflict with religious instruction to the manifest detriment of education. And if, when occasion arises, it be deemed necessary to have the students read authors propounding false doctrine, for the purpose of refuting it, this will be done after due preparation and with such an antidote of sound doctrine, that it will not only do no harm, but will an aid to the Christian formation of youth.
  7. In such a school moreover, the study of the vernacular and of classical literature will do no damage to moral virtue. There the Christian teacher will imitate the bee, which takes the choicest part of the flower and leaves the rest, as St. Basil teaches in his discourse to youths on the study of the classics.[51] Nor will this necessary caution, suggested also by the pagan Quintilian,[52] in any way hinder the Christian teacher from gathering and turning to profit, whatever there is of real worth in the systems and methods of our modern times, mindful of the Apostle’s advice: “Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.”[53] Hence in accepting the new, he will not hastily abandon the old, which the experience of centuries has found expedient and profitable. This is particularly true in the teaching of Latin, which in our days is falling more and more into disuse, because of the unreasonable rejection of methods so successfully used by that sane humanism, whose highest development was reached in the schools of the Church. These noble traditions of the past require that the youth committed to Catholic schools be fully instructed in the letters and sciences in accordance with the exigencies of the times. They also demand that the doctrine imparted be deep and solid, especially in sound philosophy, avoiding the muddled superficiality of those “who perhaps would have found the necessary, had they not gone in search of the superfluous.”[54] In this connection Christian teachers should keep in mind what Leo Xlll says in a pithy sentence:

Greater stress must be laid on the employment of apt and solid methods of teaching, and, what is still more important, on bringing into full conformity with the Catholic faith, what is taught in literature, in the sciences, and above all in philosophy, on which depends in great part the right orientation of the other branches of knowledge.[55]

  1. Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers, teachers who are thoroughly prepared and well-grounded in the matter they have to teach; who possess the intellectual and moral qualifications required by their important office; who cherish a pure and holy love for the youths confided to them, because they love Jesus Christ and His Church, of which these are the children of predilection; and who have therefore sincerely at heart the true good of family and country. Indeed it fills Our soul with consolation and gratitude towards the divine Goodness to see, side by side with religious men and women engaged in teaching, such a large number of excellent lay teachers, who, for their greater spiritual advancement, are often grouped in special sodalities and associations, which are worthy of praise and encouragement as most excellent and powerful auxiliaries of “Catholic Action.” All these labor unselfishly with zeal and perseverance in what St. Gregory Nazianzen calls “the art of arts and the science of sciences,”[56] the direction and formation of youth. Of them also it may be said in the words of the divine Master: “The harvest indeed is great, but the laborers few.”[57] Let us then pray the Lord of the harvest to send more such workers into the field of Christian education; and let their formation be one of the principal concerns of the pastors of souls and of the superiors of Religious Orders.
  2. It is no less necessary to direct and watch the education of the adolescent, “soft as wax to be moulded into vice,”[58] in whatever other environment he may happen to be, removing occasions of evil and providing occasions for good in his recreations and social intercourse; for “evil communications corrupt good manners.”[59]
  3. More than ever nowadays an extended and careful vigilance is necessary, inasmuch as the dangers of moral and religious shipwreck are greater for inexperienced youth. Especially is this true of impious and immoral books, often diabolically circulated at low prices; of the cinema, which multiplies every kind of exhibition; and now also of the radio, which facilitates every kind of communications. These most powerful means of publicity, which can be of great utility for instruction and education when directed by sound principles, are only too often used as an incentive to evil passions and greed for gain. St. Augustine deplored the passion for the shows of the circus which possessed even some Christians of his time, and he dramatically narrates the infatuation for them, fortunately only temporary, of his disciple and friend Alipius.[60] How often today must parents and educators bewail the corruption of youth brought about by the modern theater and the vile book!
  4. Worthy of all praise and encouragement therefore are those educational associations which have for their object to point out to parents and educators, by means of suitable books and periodicals, the dangers to morals and religion that are often cunningly disguised in books and theatrical representations. In their spirit of zeal for the souls of the young, they endeavor at the same time to circulate good literature and to promote plays that are really instructive, going so far as to put up at the cost of great sacrifices, theaters and cinemas, in which virtue will have nothing to suffer and much to gain.
  5. This necessary vigilance does not demand that young people be removed from the society in which they must live and save their souls; but that today more than ever they should be forewarned and forearmed as Christians against the seductions and the errors of the world, which, as Holy Writ admonishes us, is all “concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes and pride of life.”[61] Let them be what Tertullian wrote of the first Christians, and what Christians of all times ought to be, “sharers in the possession of the world, not of its error.”[62]
  6. This saying of Tertullian brings us to the topic which we propose to treat in the last place, and which is of the greatest importance, that is, the true nature of Christian education, as deduced from its proper end. Its consideration reveals with noonday clearness the pre-eminent educational mission of the Church.
  7. The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle: “My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you.”[63] For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ: “Christ who is your life,”[64] and display it in all his actions: “That the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”[65]
  8. For precisely this reason, Christian education takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ.
  9. Hence the true Christian, product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character. For, it is not every kind of consistency and firmness of conduct based on subjective principles that makes true character, but only constancy in following the eternal principles of justice, as is admitted even by the pagan poet when he praises as one and the same “the man who is just and firm of purpose.”[66] And on the other hand, there cannot be full justice except in giving to God what is due to God, as the true Christian does.
  10. The scope and aim of Christian education as here described, appears to the worldly as an abstraction, or rather as something that cannot be attained without the suppression or dwarfing of the natural faculties, and without a renunciation of the activities of the present life, and hence inimical to social life and temporal prosperity, and contrary to all progress in letters, arts and sciences, and all the other elements of civilization. To a like objection raised by the ignorance and the prejudice of even cultured pagans of a former day, and repeated with greater frequency and insistence in modern times, Tertullian has replied as follows:

We are not strangers to life. We are fully aware of the gratitude we owe to God, our Lord and Creator. We reject none of the fruits of His handiwork; we only abstain from their immoderate or unlawful use. We are living in the world with you; we do not shun your forum, your markets, your baths, your shops, your factories, your stables, your places of business and traffic. We take shop with you and we serve in your armies; we are farmers and merchants with you; we interchange skilled labor and display our works in public for your service. How we can seem unprofitable to you with whom we live and of whom we are, I know not.[67]

  1. The true Christian does not renounce the activities of this life, he does not stunt his natural faculties; but he develops and perfects them, by coordinating them with the supernatural. He thus ennobles what is merely natural in life and secures for it new strength in the material and temporal order, no less then in the spiritual and eternal.
  2. This fact is proved by the whole history of Christianity and its institutions, which is nothing else but the history of true civilization and progress up to the present day. It stands out conspicuously in the lives of the numerous Saints, whom the Church, and she alone, produces, in whom is perfectly realized the purpose of Christian education, and who have in every way ennobled and benefited human society. Indeed, the Saints have ever been, are, and ever will be the greatest benefactors of society, and perfect models for every class and profession, for every state and condition of life, from the simple and uncultured peasant to the master of sciences and letters, from the humble artisan to the commander of armies, from the father of a family to the ruler of peoples and nations, from simple maidens and matrons of the domestic hearth to queens and empresses. What shall we say of the immense work which has been accomplished even for the temporal well-being of men by missionaries of the Gospel, who have brought and still bring to barbarous tribes the benefits of civilization together with the light of the Faith? What of the founders of so many social and charitable institutions, of the vast numbers of saintly educators, men and women, who have perpetuated and multiplied their life work, by leaving after them prolific institutions of Christian education, in aid of families and for the inestimable advantage of nations?
  3. Such are the fruits of Christian education. Their price and value is derived from the supernatural virtue and life in Christ which Christian education forms and develops in man. Of this life and virtue Christ our Lord and Master is the source and dispenser. By His example He is at the same time the universal model accessible to all, especially to the young in the period of His hidden life, a life of labor and obedience, adorned with all virtues, personal, domestic and social, before God and men.
  4. Now all this array of priceless educational treasures which We have barely touched upon, is so truly a property of the Church as to form her very substance, since she is the mystical body of Christ, the immaculate spouse of Christ, and consequently a most admirable mother and an incomparable and perfect teacher. This thought inspired St. Augustine, the great genius of whose blessed death we are about to celebrate the fifteenth centenary, with accents of tenderest love for so glorious a mother:

O Catholic Church, true Mother of Christians! Not only doest thou preach to us, as is meet, how purely and chastely we are to worship God Himself, Whom to possess is life most blessed; thou does moreover so cherish neighborly love and charity, that all the infirmities to which sinful souls are subject, find their most potent remedy in thee. Childlike thou are in molding the child, strong with the young man, gentle with the aged, dealing with each according to his needs of mind of body. Thou does subject child to parent in a sort of free servitude, and settest parent over child in a jurisdiction of love. Thou bindest brethren to brethren by the bond of religion, stronger and closer then the bond of blood …. Thou unitest citizen to citizen, nation to nation, yea, all men, in a union not of companionship only, but of brotherhood, reminding them of their common origin. Thou teachest kings to care for their people, and biddest people to be subject to their kings. Thou teachest assiduously to whom honor is due, to whom love, to whom reverence, to whom fear, to whom comfort, to whom rebuke, to whom punishment; showing us that whilst not all things nor the same things are due to all, charity is due to all and offense to none.[68]

  1. Let us then, Venerable Brethren, raise our hands and our hearts in supplication to heaven, “to the Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls,”[69] to the divine King “who gives laws to rulers,” that in His almighty power He may cause these splendid fruits of Christian education to be gathered in ever greater abundance “in the whole world,” for the lasting benefit of individuals and of nations.

As a pledge of these heavenly favors, with paternal affection We impart to you, Venerable Brethren, to your clergy and your people, the Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, the thirty-first day of December, in the year 1929, the eighth of Our Pontificate.


  1. Marc., X, 14: Sinite parvulos venir ad me.
  2. 11 Tim., IV, 2: Insta opportune importune: argue, obsecra increpa in omni patientia et doctrina.
  3. Confess., I, I: Fecisti nos, Domine, ad Te. et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in Te.
  4. Prov. XXII, 6: Adolescens iuxta viam suam etiam cum senuerit non recedet ab ea.
  5. Hom. 60, in c. 18 Matth.: Ouid maius quam animis moderari, quam adolescentulorum fingere mores?
  6. Marc., IX, 36: Quisquis unum ex huiusmodi pueris receperit in nomine meo, me recipit.
  7. Matth., XXVIII, 18-20: Data est mihi omnis potestas in caelo et in terra. Euntes ergo docete omnes gentes, baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti: docentes eos servare omnia quaecumque mandavi vobis. Et ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi.
  8. Pius IX, Ep. Quum non sine, 14 lul, 1864: Columna et firmamentum viritatis a Divino suo Auctore fuit constituta, ut omnes homines divinam edoceat fidem, eiusque depositum sibi traditum integrum inviolatumque custodiat, ac homines eotumque consortia et actiones ad morum honestatem vitaeque integritatem, iuxta revelatae doctrinae normam, dirigat et fingat.
  9. De Symbolo ad catech., Xlll: Non habebit Deum patrem, qui Ecclesiam noluerit habere matrem.
  10. Ep. enc. Libertas, 20 Iun. 1888: in fide atque in institutione morum, divini magisterii Ecclesiam fecit Deus ipse participem, eamdemque divino eius beneficio falli nesciam: quare magistra mortalium est maxima ac tutissima, in eaque inest non violabile ius ad magisterii libertatem.
  11. Ep. enc. Singulari quadam. 24 Sept. 1912: Quidquid homo christianus agat, etiam in ordine rerum terrenarum, non ei licet bona negligere quae sunt supra naturam, immo oportet ad summum bonum, tamquam ad ultimum finem, ex christianae sapientiae praescriptis omnia dirigat: omnes autem actiones eius, quatenus bonae aut malae sunt in genere morum, id est cum iure naturali et divino congruunt aut discrepant, indicio et iurisdictioni Ecclesiae subsunt.
  12. A. Manzoni, Osservazioni sulla Morale Cattolica, c. III.
  13. Codex luris Canonici, c. 1375.
  14. Commentar. in Matth., cap. 18: Quid mundo tam periculosum quam non recepisse Christum?
  15. Cod. I.C., cc. 1381, 1382.
  16. Ep. enc. Nobilissima Gallorum Gens, 8 Febr. 1884: male sana omnis futura est animarum cultura: insueti ad verecundiam Dei adolescentes nullam ferre poterunt honeste vivendi disciplinam, suisque cupiditatibus nihil unquam negare ausi, facile ad miscendas civitates pertrahentur.
  17. Matth., XXVIII, 19: docete omnes gentes.
  18. Discourse to the students of Mondragone College, May 14,1929.
  19. Deut., XXXII, 4: Dei perfecta sunt opera, et omnes viae eius indicia.
  20. S. Th., 2-2, Q. Cll, a. 1: Carnalis pater particulariter participat rationem principii quae universaliter invenitur in Deo. . . . Pater est principium et generationis et educatonis et disciplinae, et omnium quae ad perfectionem humanae vitae pertinent.
  21. S. Th., 2-2, Q. X, a. 12: Filius enim naturaliter est aliquid patris . . .; ita de iure naturali est quod filius, antequam habeat usum rationis, sit sub cura patris. Unde contra iustitiam naturalem esset, si puer, antequam habeat usum rationis, a cura parentum subtrahatur, vel de eo aliquid ordinetur invitis parentibus.
  22. Suppl. S. Th. 3; p. Q. 41, a. 1: Non enim intendit natura solum generationem prolis, sed etiam traductionem et promotionem usque ad perfectum statum hominis in quantum homo est, qui est virtutis status.
  23. Cod. 1. C. , c. 1113: Parentes gravissima obligatione tenentur prolis educationem tum religiosam et moralem, tum physicam et civilem pro viribus curandi, et etiam temporali eorum bono providendi.
  24. Ep. enc. Rerum novarum, 15 Maii 1891: Filii sunt aliquid patris, et velut paternae amplificatio quaedam personae proprieque loqui si volumus, non ipsi per se, sed per communitatem domesticam, in qua generati sunt, civilem ineunt ac participant societatem.
  25. Ep. enc. Rerum novarum, 15 Maii 1891: Patria potestas est eiusmodi, ut nec extingui, neque absorberi a republica possit, quia idem et commune habet cum ipsa hominum vita principium .
  26. Ep. enc. Sapientiae christianae, 10 lan. 1890: Natura parentes habent ius suum instituendi, quos procrearint, hoc adiuncto officio, ut cum fine, cuius gratia sobolem Dei beneficio susceperunt, ipsa educatio conveniat et doctrina puerilis. Igitur parentibus est necessanum eniti et contendere, ut omnem in hoc genere propulsent iniuriam, omninoque pervincant ut sua in potestate sit educere liberos, uti par est, more christiano, maximeque prohibere scholis iis, a quibus periculum est ne malum venenum imbibant impietatis.
  27. Cod.l. C.,c.1113.
  28. “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty, to recognize, and prepare him for additional duties.” U.S. Supreme Court Decision in the Oregon School Case, June 1, 1925.
  29. Letter to the Cardinal Secretary of State, May 30, 1929.
  30. Cod. 1. C., c. 750, 2. S. Th., 2, 2. Q. X., a. 12.
  31. Discourse to the students of Mondragone College, May 14,1929.
  32. Discourse to the students of Mondragone College, May 14,1929.
  33. P. L. Taparelli, Saggio teor. di Diritto Naturale, n. 922; a work never sufficiently praised and recommended to university students (Cfr. Our Discourse of Dec. 18, 1927).
  34. Ep. enc. Immortale Dei, I Nov. 1885: Deus humani generis procurationem inter duos potestates partitus est, scilicet eccesiasticam et civilem, alteram quidem divinis, alteram humanis rebus praepositam. Utraque est in suo genere maxima: habet utraque certos, quibus contineatur, terminos, eosque sua cuiusque natura causaque proxime definitos; unde aliquis velut orbis circumscribitur, in quo sua cuiusque actio iure proprio versetur. Sed quia utriusque imperium est in eosdem, cum usuvenire possit, ut res una atque eadem quamquam aliter atque aliter, sed tamen eadem res, ad utriusque ius iudiciumque pertineat, debet providentissimus Deus, a quo sunt ambae constitutae, utriusque itinera recte atque ordine composiusse. Quae autem sunt, a Deo ordinatae sunt (Rom., Xlll, 1).
  35. Ep. enc. Immortale Dei, 1 Nov. 1885: Itaque inter utramque potestatem quaedam intercedat necesse est ordinata colligatio: quae quidem coniunctioni non immerito comparatur, per quam anima et corpus in homine copulantur. Qualis autem et quanta ea sit, aliter iudicari non potest, nisi respiciendo, uti diximus, ad utriusque naturam, habendaque ratione excellentiae et nobilitatis causarum; cum alteri proxime maximeque propositum sit rerum mortalium curare commoda, alteri caelestia ac sempiterna bona comparare. Quidquid igitur est in rebus humanis quoquo modo sacrum, quidquid ad salutem animorum cultumve Dei pertinet, sive tale illud sit natura sua, sive rursus tale intelligatur propter caussam ad quam refertur, id est omne in potestate arbitrioque Ecclesiae: cetera vero, quae civile et politicum genus complectitur, rectum est civili auctoritati esse subiecta, cum lesus Christus iusserit, quae Caesaris sint, reddi Caesari, quae Dei, Deo.
  36. Ep. 138: Proinde qui doctrinam Christi adversam dicunt esse reipublicae, dent exercitum talem, quales doctrinas Christi esse milites iussit; dent tales provinciales, tales maritos, tales coniuges, tales parentes, tales filios, tales dominos, tales servos, tales reges, tales iudices, tales denique debitorum ipsius fisci redditores et exactores, quales esse praecipit doctrina christiana, et audeant eam dicere adversam esse reipublicae, ima vero non dubitent eam confiteri magnam, si obtemperetur, salutem esse reiublicae.
  37. Dell ‘educaz. crist., lib. 1, c. 43.
  38. Letter to the Cardinal Secretary of State, May 30, 1929.
  39. Conc. Vat., Sess. 3, cap. 4. Neque solum fides et ratio inter se dissidere nunquam possunt, sed opem quoque sibi mutuam ferunt, cum recta ratio fidei fundamenta demonstret eiusque lumine illustrata rerum divinarum scientiam excolat, fides vero rationem ab erroribus liberet ac tueatur eamque multiplici cognitione instruat. Quapropter tantum abest. ut Ecclesia humanarum artium et disciplinarium culturae obsistat, ut hanc multis modis invet atque promoveat. Non enim commoda ab iis ad hominum vitam dimanantia aut ignorat aut dispicit; fatetur immo, eas, quemadmodum a Deo scientiarum Domino profectae sunt, ita, si rite pertractentur, ad Deum iuvante eius gratia perducere. Nec sane ipsa vetat, ne huiusmodi disciplinae in suo quaeque ambitu propriis utantur principiis et propria methodo; sed iustam hanc libertatem agnoscens, id sedulo cavet, ne divinae doctrinae repugnando errores in se suscipiant, aut fines proprios transgressae ea, quae sunt fidei, occupent et perturbent.
  40. Prov., XXII, 15: Stultitia colligata est in corde pueri: et virga disciplinae fugabit eam.
  41. Sap., Vlll, 1: attingit a fine usque ad finem fortiter, et disponit omnia suaviter.
  42. Io., III, 8: Spiritus ubi vult spirat.
  43. Rom., Vll, 23.
  44. Silvio Antonio, Dell ‘educazione cristiana dei figliuoli, lib. II, e. 88.
  45. Matth., XVIII, 7: Vae mundo a scandalis!
  46. Eph., Vl, 4: Patres, nolite ad iracundiam provocare filios vestros.
  47. Nic. Tommaseo, Pensieri sull ‘educazione, Parte 1, 3, 6.
  48. Pius IX, Ep. Quum non sine, 14 Jul. 1864.–Syllabus, Prop. 48.–Leo Xlll, alloc. Summi Pontificatus, 20 Aug. 1880, Ep. enc. Nobilissima, 8 Febr. 1884, Ep. enc. Quod multum, 22 Aug. 1886, Ep. Officio sanctissimo, 22 Dec. 1887, Ep. enc. Caritatis, 19 Mart. 1894, etc. (cfr. Cod. I.C. cum. Fontium Annot., c. 1374).
  49. Cod. I.C., c. 1374.
  50. Ep. enc. Militantis Ecclesiae, I Aug. 1897: Necesse est non modo certis horis doceri iuvenes religionem, sed reliquam institutionem omnem christianae pietatis sensus redolere. Id si desit, si sacer hic halitus non doctorum animos ac discentum pervadat foveatque, exiguae capientur ex qualibet doctrina utilitates; damna saepe consequentur haud exigua.
  51. P.G., t. 31, 570.
  52. Inst. Or., 1, 8.
  53. I Thess., V, 21: omnia probate; quod bonum est tenete.
  54. Seneca, Epist. 45: invenissent forsitan necessaria nisi et superflua quaesiissent.
  55. Leo Xll, Ep. enc., Insrutabli 21 Apr. 1878: . . .alacrius adnitendum est, ut non solum apta ac solida institutionis methodus, sed maxime institutio ipsa catholicae fidei omnino confommis in litteris et disciplinis vigeat, praesertim autem in philosophia, ex qua recta aliarum scientiarum ratio magna ex parte dependet.
  56. Oratio 11, P.G., t. 35, 426: ars artium et scientia scientiarvum.
  57. Matth., IX, 37: Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci.
  58. Horat., Art. poet., v. 163: cereus in vitium flecti.
  59. I Cor. XV, 33: corrumpunt mores bonos colloquia mala.
  60. Conf., Vl, 8.
  61. I lo., II, 16: concupiscentia carnis, concupiscentia oculorum et superbia vitae.
  62. De Idololatria, 14: compossessores mundi, non erroris.
  63. Gal., IV, 19: Filioli mei, quos iterum parturio, donec formetur Christus in vobis.
  64. Col., III, 4: Christus, vita vestra.
  65. II Cor., IV, II: ut et vita lesu manifestetur in carne nostra mortali.
  66. Horat., Od., 1,III, od. 3, v. 1: lustum et tenacem propositi virum.
  67. Apol., 42: Non sumus exules vitae. Meminimus gratiam nos debere Deo Domino Creatori; nullum fructum operum eius repudiamus; plane temperamus, ne ultra modum aut perperam utamur. Itaque non sine foro, non sine macello, non sine balneis, tabernis, officinis, stabulis, nundinis vestris, caeterisque commerciis cohabitamus in hoc saeculo. Navigamus et nos vobiscum et militamus et rusticamur, et mercamur, proinde miscemus artes, operas nostras publicamus usui vestro. Quomodo infructuosi videamur negotiis vestris, cum quibus et de quibus vivimus, non scio.
  68. De moribus Eccleslae catholicae, lib. 1, c. 30: Merito Ecclesia catholica Mater christianorum verissima, non solum ipsum Deum, cuius adeptio Vita est beatissima, purissime atque castissime colendum praedicas; sed etiam proximi dilectionem atque charitatem ita complecteris, ut variorum morborum, quibus pro peccatis suis animae aegrotant, omnis apud te medicina praepolleat. Tu pueriliter, pueros, fortiter iuvenes, quiete senes prout cuiusque non corporis tantum, sed et animi aetas est, exerces ac doces. Tu parentibus filios libera quadam servitute subiungis, parentes filiis pia dominatione praeponis. Tu fratribus fratres religionis vinculo firmiore atque arctiore quam sanguinis nectis . . . Tu cives civibus, gentes gentibus, et prorsus homines primorum parentum recordatione, non societate tantum, sed quadam etiam fraternitate coniungis. Doces Reges prospicere populis; mones populos se subdere Regibus. Quibus honor debeatur, quibus affectus, quibus reverentia, quibus timor, quibus consolatio, quibus admonitio, quibus cohortatio, quibus disciplina, quibus obiurgatio, quibus supplicium, sedulo doces; ostendens quemadmodum et non omnibus omnia, et omnibus charitas, et nulli debeatur iniuria.
  69. Cfr. I Petr., II, 25: ad Pastorem et Episcopum animarum vrotrarum.

Back to: 1900 DOCUMENTS



Quinquagesimo Ante

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on December 23, 1929.

To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See, and to all Our Beloved Children, Faithful of Christ in the Catholic World.

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, Health and the Apostolic Benediction.

  1. Fifty years ago, in the fulness of youth, We received the priesthood in that Lateran Church which is the Mother and Chief of all churches. The memory of that day still lives with Us, and at this time especially brings Us the greatest happiness. At that time no one, least of all Ourselves, could have suspected that the secret providence of God would so raise Our lowliness as to make that very church Our cathedral in the Roman Pontificate.
  2. In this change We recognize and humbly marvel at the supreme condescension towards Us of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Pastors. We shall never be able sufficiently to proclaim the favors which He has allowed His unworthy Vicar to enjoy in the course of this Pontificate. The less shall We be able to do so, now that He has added to His other bounties a fiftieth year overflowing with consolation and happiness to Us and all. Desirous to bring down on the labors of the Church in this year the mercy of God; anxious that this year should not pass without its fruits, that the Faithful might be called to better and holier ways of life, and that all human society might come to value more the goods of the spirit-desirous of all this, at the very beginning of this year We established it as an extraordinary Holy Year or Year of Jubilee.
  3. Today We can say that by God’s grace the hopes We placed in this great communion of prayers were not deluded, but were most fully satisfied. When We think of the many proofs of piety and filial gratitude, of the happenings that have come about in the course of this single year, We can rightly say that our blessed God, from whom we derive “every best thing and every perfect gift,” has willed this brief period to appear as a special manifestation of His providence. We take pleasure therefore today in casting, as it were, the balance of these twelve months and in recalling in detail the great benefits granted by God to His Christian people. Accordingly we invite you, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, to join us in thanking the Almighty, who moves the minds of mortals strongly and sweetly and directs time and events to the accomplishment of His own ends.

Settlement of Roman Question

  1. Let Us begin with those things that seem more important because they have closer relation to the Holy See and to the government of the Church entrusted by Providence to the Supreme Pontiff. It seems especially opportune in this connection to recall some passages of Our first Encyclical, “Ubi Arcana.” In this letter We made the following complaint: “It is scarcely necessary to say with how much pain and grief We see Italy outside this friendly harmony of so many States. For Italy is Our own country, the country in which the overruling hand of God placed and fixed the See of His Vicar on earth. He placed it here in Rome, which had been the capital of that marvelous, yet limited empire, thus making it capital of the entire world. For thus it became the seat of a sovereignty that surpasses all national and political boundaries, that embraces all men and all peoples, like the sovereignty of Christ Himself, whom it represents and whose office it fills. The origin and character of this sovereignty, no less than the inviolable rights of conscience of millions of the Faithful throughout the world, require that it should be, in fact and in appearance, independent and free from every human authority and law, even though it be a ‘Law of Guarantees.'”
  2. We thus renewed on Our part the protests which Our predecessors had made in turn after the occupation of the city, so as to protect and affirm the rights and dignity of the Holy See. Then, having proclaimed the impossibility of restoring peace without respecting the interests of justice, We added: “It is for God Almighty in His mercy to bring about the coming of that happy day, rich in so much good, whether for the restoration of the Kingdom of Christ, or for a juster regulation of the affairs of Italy and of the world. But it is the part of men of good will so to act that this day shall not dawn in vain.”
  3. Now this most happy day has indeed dawned, and it has come more quickly than was commonly hoped. For the many grave difficulties that stood in the way made almost everybody believe that it was still far off. This day, We say, arrived when the conventions between the Roman Pontiff and the King of Italy were arranged through the Ministers Plenipotentiary in the Lateran Palace, whence they took their name, and were ratified in the Vatican.

Character of the Settlement

  1. Thus we have seen the end of that condition which the Holy See had suffered up to then.

It was a condition intolerable and unjust, for, in addition to the absolute denial of the necessity of civil sovereignty, its actual continuance was interrupted in such a way that the rightful independence of the Roman Pontiff was no longer apparent. This is not the place to discuss in detail the reasons We had for undertaking the grave enterprise, for conducting and completing the negotiations. More than once, indeed, and not obscurely-in fact, very clearly-We have made public the scope of Our plans and desires; what benefits We wished and hoped for during the time that We were uniting our fervent and persevering prayers to the Most High with the utmost efforts of Our soul in the solution of this difficult problem.

  1. This much, however, We wish, though briefly, to indicate. Once the full sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff was assured, once his rights were recognized and solemnly sanctioned and the peace of Christ had been restored to Italy, on other points We showed our paternal benevolence and indulgence as far as duty permitted. Thus We gave proof, if there was need of such, that in claiming the sacred rights of the Apostolic See as We had done in the above-mentioned Encyclical, We had not been moved by the vain and selfish desire for an earthly kingdom, but had always entertained “thoughts of peace and not of affliction.”
  2. Next, as regards the Concordat which at the same time We agreed to and ratified. As We expressly proclaimed at the time, We now reaffirm and proclaim that it is not to be considered as a sort of guarantee of the treaty by which the so-called Roman Question was ended, but that bothTreaty and Concordat-on account of the identical fundamental principle from which they derive, form one indivisible and inseparable whole, so that either both hold good or both perish.
  3. Therefore all the Catholics of the world, so desirous of the liberty of the Roman Pontiff, welcomed this memorable event with a universal hymn of praise to the Lord and with messages of congratulations to Ourselves. The joy of the Italians was especially great. Some, after the successful settlement of the ancient difference, laid aside their old prejudices against the Holy See, and reconciled their souls to God. Many others rejoiced because from now on no question could be made of their patriotism, as had been done in the past when the enemies of the Church would not believe in their love of country as long as they declared themselves devout children of the Roman Pontiff. And all Catholics, whether Italians or foreigners, realized that a new era and a new order were about to rise. For these conventions were concluded in the seventy-fifth year after the definition of the Immaculate Conception. They were signed on the exact day on which, a few years later, the Blessed Virgin appeared in the grotto at Lourdes. They seemed, therefore, to be taken under the special protection of the Mother of God. Having been, moreover, ratified on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they seemed to bear the countersign of His approval. And indeed, if all the points agreed upon are conscientiously and faithfully carried out-as there is reason to hope they will be-there is no doubt that the agreement will bring the best results to the Catholic cause, to Our Fatherland, and to all the human family.

Settlement of Other Questions

  1. After having spoken more at large of this happy event on account of its unique importance, We think it fitting to add that by God’s providence We have also been able this year to settle and ratify other conventions and treaties which, while providing for the liberty of the Church, also confer no little benefit on the States themselves. Besides the convention contracted with the Republic of Portugal for establishing the confines and prerogatives of the Diocese of Meliapor, We also concluded a Concordat with Rumania, and another with Prussia. The result of these will be to avoid in the future every reason for conflict, and to bring the civil and religious authorities together in cooperation for the greater good of Christian people. Certainly in negotiating these Concordats many and grave difficulties were present. For it was a question of determining by law the status of the Catholic Church among peoples mostly non-Catholic. Yet we gladly recognize that the public authorities of those nations cordially helped in overcoming these difficulties.
  2. Arrived, then, at the end of the year and looking at the world around Us, We are greatly rejoiced to see that many nations have already, by public conventions, entered upon relations of friendship with the Holy See, or else are on the verge of making or renewing Concordats. It is true We are deeply saddened to think that in the vast regions of Eastern Europe a most terrible war is still being waged not only against the Christian religion but against all law, human and Divine. On the other hand, We are consoled that the horrible persecution of clergy and laity in Mexico seems now to have calmed down and to give place to hope that the wished-for peace is now not far away.

Eastern Church Draws Nearer

  1. No less consolation and delight come from the fact that during this prosperous year the Eastern Church has demonstrated how close are its bonds with the Apostolic See. It has made this jubilee the occasion to give open and public testimony to its ardent love for the unity of the Church. In doing this, Our children of the Oriental Church have given Us a tribute of gratitude, inasmuch as We, like Our predecessors, have always entertained for the Oriental peoples great feelings of good will and tenderness. They have sent Us letters full of affection and veneration, and they have manifested in solemn and public fashion their joy and happiness.
  2. The Patriarchs and Bishops of those churches have visited Us personally or through representatives, to bring out more clearly in the name of their flocks their love for the supreme Pastor of souls. In the past year the Armenian Bishops came to Rome to the Chair of St. Peter to discuss the remedies for the evils that afflict their nation. Following this example, the Ruthenian Bishops, who had never before been all together in Rome, chose a short time ago to hold their meeting near Our side, as though, by their choice of time and place, to show the fond attachment of the whole Ruthenian Church for the successor of the Prince of the Apostles. The result of their meetings was truly such as to satisfy Our hopes most fully. They discussed most important questions, submitting to Us, as was fitting, their deliberations: the course of studies for the young clergy, the establishment of junior seminaries, the development through a period of years of catechetical instructions for the people, the assistance in the codification of Oriental Canon Law, and the promotion among the Faithful of Catholic activities under Our direction. In all these things We recognize that they could not have arrived at decisions more valuable for their clergy and people.
  3. The matters of which We have thus far treated may seem of greater importance and may draw more easily public attention and remark. Yet We think that the Church has profited no less by those works and institutions which the Lord has made it possible for Us to begin or complete this year. Such were the many parish houses erected to provide for a more becoming discharge of parochial duties; the International Colleges that the Servites and Minims have built for their young students and which have already opened and begun their scholastic courses; the colleges founded in Rome for the education of the clergy and which have been so numerous in this brief space of time that one should not have expected to see so many rise in a long period of years. Such were the new College of the Propaganda, the Lombard, Russian and Czechoslovak colleges, already finished and completely furnished. We must not omit the new site for the Ethiopian Seminary, which We had placed near the Vatican, nor the two which have laid their cornerstones, the Ruthenian and Brazilian, nor, finally, the new site for the Vatican Seminary of Rome which will shortly begin building.

Joy at Promise of More Priests

  1. In regard to these numerous and increasing institutions which are so important for the salvation of the souls which our Divine Redeemer purchased with His blood, We have the greatest confidence that with the Divine help they will furnish many skilled levites for the evangelization of peoples. There is no doubt that these levites here in the center of the Catholic world will be brought up in the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ and will be trained in sacerdotal virtues. Going forth then as priests into their own countries, they will give strenuous effort to render yet more firm the bonds of union between their peoples and the Apostolic See; or, if their peoples are separated from the Roman Church, will recall them little by little to the ancient unity; or, if they are still involved in “darkness and the shadow of death,” will try to bring them the light of the Gospel and to enlarge ever more the boundaries of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Truly the hope of these precious results gives Us such comfort that We cannot sufficiently praise Him who has granted Us such consolation and who has permitted Us to accomplish these great contributions to the welfare of the Church.
  2. We wish next, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, to recall with you other events that by the Divine will have rendered this year still further memorable. We say “by the Divine will,” since nothing happens by mere chance and all these things are regulated and ordained by God. It is in the nature of men that they should be more ready at certain periods of the year to pause in the recollection of past benefits granted by God to society, and that they should thence draw inspiration for persevering in their enterprises. So it has happened during these twelve months that the Faithful have seized every opportunity of this kind to express their gratitude and love to the Most High God and Father of all. And for Our part, in order to correspond as a father with this filial piety, We have been glad to take part in these solemnities and to render them more imposing by sending to them Our letters and Our legates.

Monte Cassino Fourteenth Centenary

  1. Thus the Apostolic See could not but favor the famous family of the Father and Lawgiver St. Benedict, when it was preparing the celebration of the fourteenth centenary of the Archabbey of Monte Cassino, of that which was the “chief place of training in the monastic rule” and which has for so long deserved so well of die Holy See and of civilization generally. In saying and repeating this, We say something that is not only known by the learned, but which is familiar to the people, who have now formed a just concept of these merits. For it is the custom to repeat to the people, especially here in Italy, the maxim of the holy Patriarch, “Work and pray.” No one is ignorant of the fact that the monks of the Archabbey, and indeed the whole family of St. Benedict, promoted the fine arts; that they passed on to posterity the monuments of both Divine and human wisdom; that they sent preachers of the Gospel into distant regions. They did all this with such benefit to both the Faith and civilization that Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius X, wishing to express briefly and forcibly the just praise of Monte Cassino, could say with perfect truth that its annals are in great part the very history of the Church of Rome. There is thus no reason for surprise in the fact that on the occasion of the centenary such a multitude of travelers from every quarter rivaled each other in the desire to visit that holy mountain and to venerate the memory of the saintly father, Benedict, and to purify their souls with penance.

Sweden’s Great Celebration

  1. Somewhat less distant in history is the event commemorated at Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, with a splendor unusual for a place where there is such a small number of Catholics. t was the celebration of the coming of St. Ansgar, who landed in Sweden eleven hundred years ago, after his unwearying zeal had already evangelized Denmark.
  2. A solemn triduum was celebrated. There were present representatives, so to speak, of fourteen nations, two Cardinals, some bishops and abbots of the Benedictine Order, and more than a thousand of the Faithful. Addresses were made on the work of St. Ansgar and his marvelous apostolate according to the latest research. The letters which We had sent with Our blessing were received with great applause. The participants were welcomed with great honors in the City Hall were Stockholm. Messages of homage and good wishes were sent to Us and to the King of Sweden.
  3. This centenary will not appear of slight importance when We reflect that seventy years ago things were so bad for the Catholic religion in Sweden that conversion to the Catholic Church was still punished with exile and forfeiture of the right of inheritance. With reference to the same subject, it is worthy of note that recently in those countries a number of the most cultivated men and women have embraced Catholicism. This very year, too, in Iceland, which is subject to Denmark, the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda had the happiness of dedicating the new Cathedral. In consequence, We number among the Divine benefits of the year the consoling hopes that have come to Us that, under the patronage of St. Ansgar, from this time on, a much more abundant harvest will be reaped by the Vicars Apostolic, the priest, the Religious of both sexes who give their heavy toil in that great portion of the vineyard of the Lord.

French and Czechoslovak Fetes

  1. Inasmuch as We had sent as our representative to Monte Cassino a Cardinal to assist at the celebrations there, We also sent a Legate a latere from the Sacred College to France for the fifth centenary of the entry into Orleans of the holy virgin so beloved by her nation, Joan of Arc. Assuredly Our own presence in the person of Our Legate must have helped to make the celebration of that triumph more pleasing to the citizens and more helpful to Catholics.
  2. We thought it also Our duty to take part through Our Apostolic Nuncio with the citizens of the Czechoslovak Republic in the second centenary of the canonization of St. John Nepomucene, and especially in the thousandth anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, the famous Duke of Bohemia and the Patron of the Republic, who was slain by his brother’s hand. As We recently stated in Consistorial Allocution, it gave Us great happiness to learn that a part was taken in these celebrations not only by very great numbers of citizens and strangers, but also by representatives and high officials of the Government. How could we have failed to be happy at witnessing such a common enthusiasm! After the terrible war, public disturbances had brought great danger to Catholic unity and to Catholic activity. But this was succeeded by such peace and by such conditions of public life as, at the arrival of the feast, We had prayed God and St. Wenceslas to bring about and to maintain. Oh, that the issue may correspond to Our desires! There is no one who can fail to see how much cooperation between Church and State would contribute to the true prosperity of that nation.

Emancipation Centenary

  1. Most wonderful to Us was the manner in which Our fiftieth anniversary was honored by Our most beloved children of England, Scotland and Ireland, second to none in their fervent loyalty to their Faith and in their ardent piety. With magnificent display and an almost incredible attendance of people from all parts of the world, they too commemorated a centennial. It was the completion of a century since Catholics, in other times persecuted and cruelly outraged, and later excluded from civil rights, had finally through public recognition gotten back their rights and the freedom to profess their own religion. It was a great pleasure to see how English, Scotch and Irish conducted their celebration in such a way as not to reproach anyone for past injustices, but rather in the desire to use their recovered liberty more and more for the more faithful observance and the wider spread of the law of Christ, more and more for the public welfare in proper deference to the civil power.
  2. There was more than one reason which made Us wish to take a large part in this centenary. It is always fitting that the Vicar of Jesus Christ should be associated in the joy of his children. Much more is this the case here when We commemorate emancipation from those penalties which the ancestors of these Catholics so nobly and generously bore in defense of their Faith and of their union with the Holy See. For by God’s will We had the good fortune to be able to increase the happiness of these Catholics by solemnities corresponding to their own. Not long ago, after a rigorous and canonical investigation, We placed on the rolls of the Blessed that brave band of men who fought in those countries in the long age of persecution; who fought, not all at the same time, but all in the same cause of Christ and His Church; who incurred their glorious martyrdom in the defense of Papal authority. So Our fiftieth year, which earlier had been honored by the beatification of the Armenian martyr, Cosmas of Carbognano, who shed his blood for Catholic unity, arrived at its close made brighter still by the awarding to these numerous victims of persecution the martyr’s crown and the honors of our altars.

Other Beatifications

  1. From this victory of the martyrs it becomes evident that the undying power and strength of the Holy Spirit runs, so to speak, through the Church’s veins. But was it not evident also in the month of June when We proposed still other heroes of holiness to the veneration and imitation of the Faithful?
  2. It is enough merely to recall what a multitude of citizens and strangers came with Us to the Vatican Basilica to venerate the newly beatified: Claude de la Colombiere, that illustrious Jesuit who was called a “faithful servant” by Christ Himself, whom Christ gave as counselor to Margaret Mary Alacoque, and to whom He entrusted the charge of propagating the devotion to His Sacred Heart among the Faithful; Teresa Margaret Redi, the Florentine Carmelite, a flower of youth and innocence; Francis Mary of Camporosso, the Capuchin, practically a contemporary, who for forty years went about begging for his Order, who by the example of his unblemished life, by his counsels full of a heavenly prudence, by his appealing exhortations to holiness, made on all classes of the people an impression so like that of St. Francis that the Genoese loved and honored him in life and gratefully remembered him and venerated him after death.
  3. Again, how can We describe the joy We felt when We beatified John Bosco and paid him public veneration in the Vatican Basilica. In the dawning years of Our Priesthood We had the happiness of listening to that great man’s conversation. Remembering this, We could not but admire the mercy of God who is so wonderful in His saints, the mercy of God who raised up this man to oppose so long and so well the bitterness and sectarian spirit of those who were bent on the destruction of the Christian religion and on the degradation of the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff through accusation and calumny. From his youth he had been in the custom of gathering young men of his own age for common prayer and for instruction in the elements of Christian doctrine. After he became a priest, he turned all this thought and care to the salvation of youth from the deceits and evils to which it is exposed. He drew the young to himself so as to hold them far from danger, instructed them in the law of the Gospel, and trained them in upright character. He associated with himself companions to spread this work, and was so successful as to add to the Church a new and numerous band of soldiers of Christ. He founded colleges and workshops at home and abroad to instruct the young in study and in the crafts. And finally he sent out a great number of missionaries to propagate among the infidels the Kingdom of Christ.
  4. We thought of all this during that visit to St. Peter’s. We reflected how the Lord is accustomed in times of adversity to come to the aid of His Church and to strengthen her in fitting ways. And it impressed Us as a special providence of the Author of all good that the first one to whom We gave the honors of the altar after the conclusion of the peace with Italy was John Bosco. For he was one who deplored greatly the violation of the rights of the Holy See, and who tried several times to reestablish those rights and to put an end to the sad difference by which Italy had been wrested from the paternal embrace of the Pope.

Great Throngs of Pilgrims

  1. And now, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, We must speak of the extraordinary number of Catholics who came to Rome as pilgrims during the past year. Perhaps it is not right to call them pilgrims or strangers, since no one can be considered a stranger in the house of the father of all. In this We witnessed something most delightful to Us for many reasons. For did not this harmony between nations otherwise so different, so divided in character, feelings and customs, did not this harmony in their Faith and their veneration for the Chief Shepherd of souls argue clearly to the unity and universality which the Divine Founder gave as the peculiar characteristics of His Church? At certain periods of the year. not a day passed without its crowds of Faithful visiting Rome’s famous temples, after coming here from the dioceses of Italy, from the other nations of Europe and even from the distant lands beyond the sea. Nor must We forget that the citizens of Rome, who are nearer the Pope, their Bishop, rivaled the strangers and pilgrims in their frequent processions to the basilicas for the gaining of the indulgences. On the first of December such a great number of them came to the Basilica of St. Peter’s for the jubilee indulgence that We have probably never seen that great temple so crowded.
  2. We very willingly granted audience to the great crowds who sought it, and we were made very happy by their presence. The several thousand men, and especially the young ones that came listened to Our Words with such attention, and with the display of so much affectionate eagerness and love for Us burst into shouts of applause, that We felt certain of having attained the end proposed in the promulgation of a new Holy Year.
  3. As We noted at the beginning of this letter, We had no other end in view than to lay open the way for a betterment of private and public morals by arousing to greater fervor the faith and piety of Christian people. For, as Our predecessor Leo XIII said: “The more individuals increase in perfection, so much the more will honesty and virtue be evident in public morals and in social life.”

Examples of Piety and Virtue

  1. What splendid examples of piety and virtue did We not see this year! There was a sort of holy rivalry to attain the everlasting riches from that treasury entrusted to Us and which We opened with paternal generosity. It stood in contrast with the worldliness and desire for earthly riches displayed in the world around. All those who made the jubilee, especially those who might have availed themselves of it at home and who yet preferred the inconveniences and expense of the journey, all of these proclaimed by their actions that there are goods superior to the vain and passing values of the world, goods more worthy of an immortal soul, into whose pursuit therefore we must put a more intense desire.
  2. To this consolation was added the further one that, from Our daily interviews with so many of Our children, We became certain how generously they are working nowadays to strengthen the kingdom of Christ in Catholic countries and to introduce it among peoples alien to our religion and our culture. Hence there was an increase this year in Catholic activity aimed at helping and sustaining the clerical apostolate. More abundant contributions were made to the missions. And here We must thank also those who took occasion of the Jubilee to offer a great supply of vases, ornaments and other things useful for the missions.
  3. Finally, We repeat the desire We expressed in the beginning of this letter, Venerable Brethren and beloved children; that is, that you join with Us in thanking God for giving Us this long term of priestly years, for granting Us such mighty aid, and for giving Us such consolation, more particularly during this year. Then, after having attributed to God, as is just, this great accumulation of goodness, let us cordially thank also those whom He has used, in His Divine providence, as His instruments in these benefits that He has heaped upon Us: the heads of States who showed their respectful good will in Our regard by their magnificent gifts and by facilitating the visits of their subjects; the great Catholic family that gained the indulgence, whether in their own countries or at Rome, thereby giving splendid evidence of their faith and piety to Us and to the Faithful. These fruits of virtue shall not diminish nor weaken with the passing of time-such is Our prayer to the Divine Founder and Ruler of the human race. On the contrary, it is Our hope that, when party passions have been softened everywhere by Christian charity, and when public and private morals have been regulated by the principals of the Gospel, citizens will preserve unbroken such peace among themselves and with the civil authority, and will show themselves to everyone adorned with such great virtues, as to complete most happily their pilgrimage to their heavenly country.

Indulgence Period Extended

  1. From various quarters, and many times in the past months, We have been asked to prolong a little this happy period of special spiritual advantages. It is a request that it is not customary to allow. But through Our anxiety for the common good, and through Our desire to show Our gratitude more fully, We are driven to consent. Therefore, by Our Apostolic authority, We extend to the end of the month of June of the year 1930, everything to the contrary notwithstanding, that same plenary remission to be gained under the same conditions as those cited in the Apostolic Constitution “Auspicantibus Nobis” of January 6, in which We appointed a second extraordinary Holy Year.

Meanwhile, in pledge of that peace which Jesus Christ at His birth brought down to men, and as evidence of Our fatherly benevolence, We impart to you with all Our heart, Venerable Brethren and beloved children, Our Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome at St. Peter’s the twenty-third day of December, 1929, the eighth of Our Pontificate.

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Encyclical on the Promotion of the Spiritual Exercises
His Holiness Pope Pius XI
Promulgated on December 20, 1929

To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren, Health and the Apostolic Benediction.

  1. ALL OF YOU KNOW, assuredly, Venerable Brethren, what was Our mind and Our purpose when, at the beginning of the year, We proclaimed to the whole Catholic world an extraordinary Jubilee to commemorate the anniversary of the day on which, having received the consecration of the priesthood, We offered the divine Sacrifice for the first time, fifty years ago. For as We solemnly declared in the Apostolic Constitution “Auspicantibus Nobis,” published on January 6th, 1929,[1] we were moved to this partly by the purpose of calling Our beloved children, the great Christian household entrusted to Our heart by the Heart of the most merciful God, to share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good. But, besides this, we were moved by the sweet hope, which pleased us greatly, that when with fatherly liberality we unlocked the treasures of heavenly graces entrusted to our dispensation, the Christian people would make use of this happy opportunity to the strengthening of faith, to the increase of piety and perfection, and the faithful reformation of private and public morals in the most joyful fruit of peace and pardon obtained from God, the peace of all severally and of the whole society might be confidently expected. And these hopes have not been falsified. For the pious enthusiasm with which the Christian people welcomed the promulgation of the Jubilee did not grow cold as time went on. On the contrary, we saw it daily waxing stronger, by the help of God, who brought such things to pass as will make this year, a veritable year of salvation, memorable in days to come. We, for our part, have had abundant cause for rejoicing, since we have seen, on many sides, such noble advance in faith and piety; and we have enjoyed the sight of such a multitude of our most dear children whom we have been enabled to receive, right willingly, into our home, and to press, most lovingly, to our heart. And now, while we strive very earnestly to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Father of mercies for the many and rich fruits which He has vouchsafed to bring forth in the course of this year of expiation, our pastoral solicitude moves us and impels us to draw from these auspicious beginnings greater and abiding advantages, to provide for the happiness and well-being of each and all, and the good estate of society. Now, while we were considering how, or in what way, such fruits can be best secured, we thought how Our predecessor Leo XIII, of happy memory, proclaiming a Holy Year on another occasion, exhorted all the faithful in very weighty words, which we ourselves repeated in the aforesaid Constitution Auspicantibus Nobis, urging them “to recollect themselves a little and to run their thoughts, now immersed in the earth, to better things.”[2]
  2. In like manner we recalled Our Predecessor Pius X of holy memory, who, after ceaselessly promoting sacerdotal sanctity both by word and by example when he was keeping the fiftieth year from ordination to the priesthood, addressed a most pious “Exhortation to the Catholic Clergy,”[3] replete with precious and most choice lessons by which the edifice of the spiritual life is raised to no mean altitude.
  3. Accordingly following in the footsteps of these Pontiffs, We have deemed it fitting to do somewhat in like manner Ourselves, and establish something most excellent, which will, we trust, prove a source of many rare advantages to the Christian people, We are speaking of the practice of the “Spiritual Exercises”, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity; and it is Our pleasure to bequeath this to our beloved children as a memorial of this Holy Year. And we do this the more gladly at the end of the fiftieth year since Our first offering of the Divine Sacrifice. For nothing can be more pleasing to us than the recollection of the heavenly graces and the unutterable consolations which we have often experienced when occupied in the “Spiritual Exercises”; and of the diligence we devoted to the sacred retreats, marking our priestly course, as it were, by so many stages; of the light and the impulse that we drew from them, enabling us to know the divine will and to fulfil it; and lastly of the labour therein bestowed, in the whole course of our priestly life, on instructing our neighbours in heavenly things, and that so fruitfully and successfully, that we may rightly conclude that a singular resource for the eternal salvation of souls is set in the “Spiritual Exercises”.
  4. And, in very deed, Venerable Brethren, the importance for more than one reason; the utility and the opportuneness of Sacred Retreats, will be readily recognised by any one who considers, however lightly, the times in which we now live. The most grave disease by which our age is oppressed, and at the same time the fruitful source of all the evils deplored by every man of good heart, is that levity and thoughtlessness which carry men hither and thither through devious ways. Hence comes the constant and passionate absorption in external things; hence, the insatiable thirst for riches and pleasures that gradually weakens and extinguishes in the minds of men the desire for more excellent goods, and so entangles them in outward and fleeting things that it forbids them to think of eternal truths, and of the Divine laws, and of God Himself, the one beginning and end of all created things, Who, nevertheless, for his boundless goodness and mercy, even in these our days, though moral corruption may spread apace, ceases not to draw men to himself by a bounteous abundance of graces. Now, if we would cure this sickness from which human society suffers so sorely, what healing remedy could we devise more appropriate for our purpose than that of calling these enervated souls, so neglectful of eternal things, to the recollection of the “Spiritual Exercises”? And, indeed, if the “Spiritual Exercises” were nothing more than a brief retirement for a few days, wherein a man removed from the common society of mortals and from the crowd of cares, was given, not empty silence, but the opportunity of examining those most grave and penetrating questions concerning the origin and the destiny of man: “Whence he comes; and whither he is going”; surely, no one can deny that great benefits may be derived from these sacred exercises. But pious retreats of this kind do much greater things than this, for since they compel the mind of a man to examine more diligently and intently into all the things that he has thought, or said, or done; they assist the human faculties in a marvellous manner; so that the mind becomes accustomed, in this spiritual arena, to weigh things maturely and with even balance, the will acquires strength and firmness, the passions are restrained by the rule of counsel; the activities of human life, being in unison with the thought of the mind, are effectively conformed to the fixed standard of reason; and, lastly, the soul attains its native nobility and altitude, as the holy Pontiff St. Gregory declares in his “Pastoral,” by a concise similitude: “The human mind, like water, when shut up around, is gathered up to higher things; because it seeks that from which it descended; but when it is left loose, it perishes; because it spreads itself uselessly on lowly things.”[4] Moreover, as St. Eucherius Bishop of Lyons wisely observes; when exercising itself in these spiritual meditations; “the mind rejoicing in the Lord is stirred up by a certain stimulus of silence; and grows by unutterable increments.”[5] And not only so, but it also acquires that “heavenly nourishment,” concerning which Lactantius says “for no food is sweeter to the mind than the knowledge of truth”;[6] and according to an ancient author, who long passed as St. Basil, it is admitted to “the school of heavenly doctrine and the discipline of the divine arts”[7] wherein “God is all that is learnt, the way by which we are directed, all that whereby the knowledge of the supreme truth is attained.”[8] From all this it clearly appears that the “Spiritual Exercises” avail both to perfect the natural powers of man; and further, and more specially, to form the supernatural or Christian man. Now, certainly in these days when so many impediments and obstacles are raised against the true sense of Christ, and the supernatural spirit, wherein alone our holy religion consists; when Naturalism, which weakens the firmness of faith, and quenches the flames of Christian charity, holds dominion far and wide; it is of the greatest importance that a man should withdraw himself from that bewitching of vanity which obscureth good things[9] and hide himself in that blessed secrecy, where, cultured by heavenly teaching, he may form a just estimate, and understand the value of human life devoted to the service of God alone; he may abhor the turpitude of sin; he may conceive the holy fear of God; he may clearly see unveiled the vanity of earthly things; and, stirred up by the precepts and the example of Him who is “the way, the truth and the life,”[10] he may put off the old man[11] may deny himself, and with humility, obedience, and voluntary chastisement of self, may put on Christ and strive to attain to the “perfect man,” and to that absolute “measure of the age of the fulness of Christ,”[12] whereof the Apostle speaks; nay, more, may endeavour, with all his soul, to be able to say himself, with the same Apostle: “I live now not I; but Christ liveth in me.”[13] By these degrees, indeed, the soul goes upward to consummate perfection, and is most sweetly united to God by the help of divine grace, which is obtained in greater abundance, during these days, by more fervent prayers, and more frequent reception of the sacred mysteries. These things, assuredly, Venerable Brethren, are singular and most excellent, and far surpassing nature; and in obtaining them alone are to be found the quiet, and happiness, and true peace for which the human mind longingly thirsts; and which the society of today, carried away by the heat of temptations, vainly seeks in the hungry quest of uncertain and fleeting goods, and in the tumult of a perturbed life. On the other hand, we are clearly taught that in the “Spiritual Exercises” there is a wonderful power of bringing peace to men and of carrying them upwards to holiness of life; which has been proved by daily experience in former ages, and perhaps yet more clearly in our own: for we can hardly number those who, being duly exercised in a sacred retreat, come forth from it “rooted and built up”[14] in Christ; filled with light, heaped up with joy, and flooded with that “peace which surpasseth all understanding.”[15] Moreover, from this perfection of life, which is manifestly obtained from the “Spiritual Exercises”; besides that inward peace of the soul, there springs forth spontaneously another most choice fruit, which redounds to the great advantage of the social life: namely that desire of gaining souls to Christ which is known as the Apostolic Spirit. For it is the genuine effect of charity that the just soul, in whom God dwells by grace, burns in a wondrous way to call others to share in the knowledge and love of that Infinite Good, which she has attained and possesses And, now, in this our age, when human society is in so much need of spiritual graces; when the foreign Mission fields, which “are white already to harvest”[16] demand, more and more, the care of apostles adequate to their need; and our own regions, likewise, require elect bands of men, of the secular and regular clergy, as faithful dispensers of the mysteries of God; and compact companies of pious laymen, who, united to the Apostolic Hierarchy by close bonds of charity, may help it with active industry, by manifold works and labours devoting themselves to the Catholic Action. And We, Venerable Brethren, being taught by history, regard these sacred retreats for exercises as upper chambers raised by God, wherein any one of generous mind, supported by the help of divine grace, illuminated by eternal truths, and exhorted by the example of Christ, may not only see clearly the value of souls, and be inflamed with the desire of helping them, in whatsoever state of life, he sees, on careful examination, he is called to serve his Creator; but many likewise, learn the ardent spirit of the apostolate, its diligence, its labours, its deeds of daring.
  5. Furthermore, our Lord often made use of this method in forming the preachers of the Gospel. For the Divine Master Himself, not content with having spent long years in the domestic retreat of Nazareth, before he shone forth in full light before the nations, and taught them heavenly things by his word, chose to spend full forty days in desert wilderness. Nay more, in the midst of his evangelical labours, he was wont to invite his Apostles to the friendly silence of retreat: “Come apart into a desert place, and rest a little,”[17] and when he left this earth of sorrows to go to heaven, he willed that these same Apostles and his disciples should be polished and perfected in the upper chamber at Jerusalem, where for the space of ten days “persevering with one mind in prayer”[18] they were made worthy to receive the Holy Spirit: surely a memorable retreat, which first foreshadowed the “Spiritual Exercises”; from which the church came forth endowed with virtue and perpetual strength; and in which, in the presence of the Virgin Mary Mother of God, and aided by her patronage, those also were instituted whom we may rightly call precursors of the Catholic Action.
  6. From that day, the use of the “Spiritual Exercises” if not under the same name and in the modern manner, at least in substance, “became familiar among the primitive Christians,”[19] as St. Francis of Sales taught, and as appears from clear indications in the writings of the holy Fathers. For it is thus St. Jerome exhorts the noble lady Celantia “Choose to thyself a suitable place, remote from the noise of the household, whither thou mayst betake thyself as a haven. Let there be there so much care in divine readings, such frequent turns of prayers, such steadfast thought of things to come, that thou mayest redeem the occupations of other hours by this vacation. We do not say this to withdraw thee from thine own: nay, rather we say it that thou mayst learn there and meditate how thou shouldst show thyself to thine own: nay, rather we say it that thou mayst learn there and meditate how thou shouldst show thyself to thine own.”[20] And St. Peter Chrysologus Bishop of Ravenna, in the same age as St. Jerome urges the faithful with this famous invitation: “We have given a year to the body, let us give days to the soul…Let us live to God a little who have lived the whole time to the world. Let the divine voice sound in our ears: let not the noise of the household confuse our hearing…Being thus armed brethren and thus instructed let us declare war on sins…secure of victory.”[21] But as time went on men were still held by the desire of placid solitude wherein away from witnesses the soul might give attention; nay more, it is found that in the most turbulent ages of human society men athirst for justice and truth were the more vehemently urged by the Divine Spirit seek the solitude “in order being free from bodily desire they might more often be intent on the divine wisdom in the court of the mind where all the tumult of earthly cares being silent, they may rejoice in holy mediations and eternal delights.”[22] Now after God in his supreme providence had raised up many men in his Church, abundantly endowed with supernal gifts an conspicuous as masters of the supernatural life who set forth wise rules, approved ascetical methods, whether from divine revelation, or from their own practice, or from the experience of former times; by the disposition of Divine Providence like manner, the “Spiritual Exercises”, properly so called were given to the world by the work of the illustrious servant of God St. Ignatius of Loyola–“a treasure,” as is called by that venerable man of the Order of St. Benedict, Louis of Blois, whose opinion is cited by St. Alphonsus Liguori in a very beautiful letter “On making the “Exercises” in solitude”–“A treasure which God has set open for his Church in these last ages, and for which abundant thanksgiving should be rendered to Him.”[23]
  7. From these “Spiritual Exercises”, whose fame spread very rapidly in the Church, many drew a stimulus to make them run with more alacrity in the paths of sanctity. And among these was one most dear to Us on many grounds, the Venerable St. Charles Borromeo, who as we have mentioned on another occasion, spread their use among the clergy and the people;[24] and by this care and authority enriched them with appropriated rules and directions; and what is more, established a house for the special purpose of cultivating the Ignatian meditations. This house, which he called the “Asceterium”, was, so far as we know, the first among the many houses of this kind, which, by happy imitation have flourished everywhere. For as the estimation of the “Exercises” grew continually greater in the Church, there was a marvellous multiplication of these houses, which may be called most opportune places of entertainment, set in the arid desert of the world, wherein the faithful of both sexes are separately recreated and refreshed with spiritual nourishment. And, indeed, after the cruel carnage of the war, which has so bitterly troubled the human family, after so many wounds inflicted on the spiritual and civil prosperity of the peoples, who can count the vast number of those who having seen the fallacious hopes they cherished fail and fade away, clearly understood that earthly things must give place to those of heaven, and, by the most present aid of the Divine Spirit, fled to seek true peace of mind in holy retreats? Let all those remain as a manifest proof, how, whether drawn by the beauty of a more holy and more perfect life, or tossed by the turbid tempests of the time, or moved by the solicitudes of life, or beset by the frauds and fallacies of the world, or fighting against the deadly plague of Rationalism, or allured by the fascination of the senses, withdrawing themselves into those holy houses, have tasted again the peace of solitude, all the sweeter to them because of the heavy labours they have borne, and meditating on heavenly things, have ordered their life in accordance with supernatural lessons.
  8. We, therefore, Venerable Brethren, rejoicing in these happy beginnings of a noble piety, and seeing in its further extension a powerful help against the evils that assail us; must, at the same time, endeavour, as far as in us lies, to second the most sweet counsel of the Divine Goodness; so that this secret calling, breathed by the Holy Spirit into the minds of men, may not be deprived of the much-desired abundance of heavenly graces. Moreover, We do this the more willingly because We see what has already been done by Our Predecessors. For, long since, this Apostolic See, which had often commended the “Spiritual Exercises” by word, taught the faithful by its own example and authority, converting the august Vatican temple into a Cenacle for meditation and prayers; which custom We have willingly received, with no small joy and consolation to Ourselves. And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already had arrangements made for holding the “Spiritual Exercises” every year in the Vatican.
  9. We know well, Venerable Brethren, how much store you also set by the “Spiritual Exercises”; for you gave yourselves to them before you were adorned with the fulness of the Priesthood; and often afterwards, in company with your Priests you have sought them anew in order to refresh your souls with the contemplation of heavenly things. This excellent practice, assuredly, is deserving of our solemn and public commendation. And we commend, likewise, no less warmly those bishops, whether of the Eastern or of the Western Church, who, as we know, have sometimes come together, with their own Patriarch or Metropolitan, to make a pious retreat adapted to their offices and duties. We hope that this luminous example, so far as circumstances allow, may be followed with sedulous emulation. And perchance there would be no great difficulty in this if a retreat of this kind were instituted on the occasion of one of those synods which all the Prelates of an ecclesiastical province celebrate “ex officio”, whether to provide for the common salvation of souls, or to deliberate on those things which the conditions of the time seem to require. And, indeed We ourselves had determined to do this, with all the Bishops of Lombardy, during the brief space of our rule over the Metropolitan Church of Milan; and, without doubt, we should have accomplished it, in that first year of office, if the inscrutable decrees of Divine Providence had not disposed otherwise of our lowliness. Wherefore, We are well assured that those priests and religious men who, anticipating the law of the Church, in this matter, already frequented the “Spiritual Exercises” will, hereafter, use this means of acquiring sanctity with yet greater diligence, now that they are more gravely bound to it by the authority of the sacred Canons.
  10. For this reason We earnestly exhort all priests of the secular clergy to let the faithful see them following the “Spiritual Exercises”, at least in that modest measure which the Code of Canon Law prescribes for them:[25] and let them approach and fulfil the exercises with an ardent desire of their own perfection, so that they may obtain that abundance of the supernatural spirit, which is very necessary for them, if they would secure the spiritual advantage of their flock, and win a multitude of souls to Christ. For this was the path trodden by all those priests who, burning with zeal for the salvation of souls, were foremost in guiding their neighbours on the way to holiness, and in educating the clergy; as may be seen, to take a recent example, in B. Joseph Cafasso, to whom We ourselves decreed the honours of the blessed in Heaven. For it was the constant custom of this most holy man to labour assiduously in the “Spiritual Exercises”, in order that, by this means, he might better nourish his own sanctity, and that of other ministers of Christ, and might know the heavenly counsels. And once, when he came forth from a sacred retreat, gifted with divine light, he clearly showed this same path to a younger priest, whose confessor he was; and he followed it up to the highest summit of sanctity. This was the blessed John Bosco, whose name is beyond all praise. As for those who, under whatever title, serve within the bounds of religious discipline; since they are commanded by law to make the sacred exercises every year[26] there can be no doubt that they will bring from these sacred retreats an abundance of heavenly goods for which, as each one needs, they may draw draughts of greater perfection, and all the graces enabling them to run the way of the evangelical counsels with alacrity. For the annual “Exercises” are the mystical “tree of life”[27] by which both individuals and communities may live in that fame of sanctity, in which every religious family must needs flourish. Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the “Spiritual Exercises” tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry. On this matter, let them hear St. Bernard, who did not hesitate to write thus to the Supreme Pontiff, Blessed Eugene II, whose master he had been: “If thou wouldst belong wholly to all, after the manner of him who became all things to all men; I praise thy humanity, provided it be full. But, how is it full when thou art excluded? Thou also art a man: therefore, that the humanity may be whole and full, let it gather thee also into the bosom which receives all: else, what will it profit, if thou gain all, and lost thyself? Wherefore, when all have thee, be thyself one of them that have. Remember, I say not always, I say not often, but at least sometimes, to render thyself to thyself.”[28]
  11. With no less care, Venerable Brethren, would we have manifold cohorts of the Catholic Action polished or cultivated fitly by the “Spiritual Exercises”. With all our power, we desire to promote this Action; and we cease not, and will never cease, to commend it; because the co-operation of the laity with the apostolic hierarchy is exceedingly useful, not to say necessary. And, indeed, we can hardly find words to express the joy we experienced, when we learnt that special series of sacred meditations were established almost everywhere, for the cultivation of these pacific and strenuous soldiers of Christ and in particular for bands of young recruits. For while they crowd to this course, in order that they may be found more ready and more prompt to fight the battles of the Lord, they will find there not only the helps enabling them to express the form of the Christian life more perfectly in themselves, but may also, not rarely, receive in their hearts the secret voice of God, calling them to the sacred offices, and to work for the salvation of souls, and urging them on to the full exercise of the apostolate. This is, indeed, the glowing dawn of heavenly goods, and in a short time it will be followed and completed by a perfect day; if only the practice of the “Spiritual Exercises” is yet more widely extended and is propagated with prudence and wisdom among the various associations of Catholics and chiefly those of younger members.[29]
  12. Now, even as in this age of ours, temporal goods and the various advantages flowing from them, together with a certain measure of wealth, have been extended somewhat freely to workmen and others hiring out their labour, thereby raising them to a happier condition of life, it must be ascribed to the bounty of the provident and merciful God, that this treasure of the “Spiritual Exercises” also has been scattered abroad among the common mass of the faithful so as to serve as a counterpoise to hold men back, lest borne down by the weight of fleeting things and immersed in pleasures and delights of life, they fall into the tenets and morals of Materialism. For this reason we cordially commend the works of the “Exercises” which have spring up already in certain regions, and the exceedingly fruitful and opportune “Retreats for Workmen,” together with the associated sodalities of Perseverance; all which, Venerable Brethren, We recommend to your care and solicitude.
  13. Now in order that the joyful fruits we have mentioned may flow forth from these sacred “Exercises”, these must needs be made with due care and diligence. For if the exercises are performed merely for the sake of custom, or tardily, and with hesitation, little or no advantage will be derived from them; wherefore before all things it is necessary that the mind, assisted by solitude should devote itself to the sacred meditations, leaving aside all the cares and solicitudes of daily life. For as that golden book, the “Imitation of Christ”, clearly teaches: The devout soul makes progress in silence and in peace.”[30] For this reason, although we regard those meditations as worthy of praise and pastoral approval in which many make the exercises together in public–for these have received many blessings from God–still we most strongly recommend those “Spiritual Exercises” which are made in private, and are called “closed.” For in these a man is more easily separated from intercourse with creatures and concentrates the dissipated powers of his soul on God himself and on the contemplation of eternal truths.
  14. Moreover, “Spiritual Exercises”, truly so-called, require a certain space of time for their fulfilment. And though, by reason of circumstances and persons, this may be reduced to a few days, or extended to a whole month; nevertheless it should not be curtailed too much if one wishes to obtain the benefits promised by the “Exercises”. For even as the salubrity of a place can only contribute to the health of the body of one who stays there for awhile, so the salutary art of sacred meditations cannot effectively benefit the spirit unless it spends some time in the “Exercises”.
  15. Lastly it is of great moment for making the “Spiritual Exercises” properly and deriving fruit from them that they should be conducted in a wise and appropriate method.
  16. Now it is recognised that among all the methods of “Spiritual Exercises” which very laudably adhere to the principles of sound Catholic asceticism one has ever held the foremost place and adorned by the full and repeated approbation of the Holy See and honoured by the praises of men, distinguished for spiritual doctrine and sanctity, has borne abundant fruits of holiness during the space of well nigh four hundred years; we mean the method introduced by St. Ignatius of Loyola, whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of “Spiritual Exercises” whose “admirable book of “Exercises”[31] ever since it was solemnly approved, praised, and commended by our predecessor Paul III of happy memory,[32] already to repeat some words we once used, before our elevation to the Chair of Peter, already we say “stood forth and conspicuous as a most wise and universal code of laws for the direction of souls in the way of salvation and perfection; an unexhausted fountain of most excellent and most solid piety; as a most keen stimulus, and a well instructed guide showing the way to secure the amendment of morals and attain the summit of the spiritual life.”[33] And when at the beginning of Our pontificate satisfying the most ardent desires and vows of sacred Prelates of almost the whole Catholic world from both Rites in the Apostolic Constitution “Summorum Pontificum”, given on July 22, 1922, We declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola “the heavenly Patron of all “Spiritual Exercises”, and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the “Spiritual Exercises”,”[34] we did little else but sanction by our supreme authority what was already proclaimed by the common feeling of Pastors and of the faithful; and what together with the aforesaid Paul III, our illustrious Predecessors Alexander VII,[35] Benedict XIV,[36] Leo XIII,[37] had often said implicitly, when praising the Ignatian meditations, and what all those who, in the words of Leo XIII, had been most conspicuous “in the discipline of ascetic, or in sanctity or morals,” during the last four hundred years[38] had said by their praises and yet more by the example of the virtues which they had acquired in this arena. And in very deed, the excellence of spiritual doctrine altogether free from the perils and errors of false mysticism, the admirable facility of adapting the exercises to any order or state of man, whether they devote themselves to contemplation in the cloisters, or lead an active life in the affairs of the world, the apt co-ordination of the various parts, the wonderful and lucid order in the meditation of truths that seem to follow naturally one from another; and lastly the spiritual lessons which after casting off the yoke of sin and washing away the diseases inherent in his morals lead a man through the safe paths of abnegation and the removal of evil habits[39] up to the supreme heights of prayer and divine love; without doubt all these are things which sufficiently show the efficacious nature of the Ignatian method and abundantly commend the Ignatian meditations.
  17. It remains, Venerable Brethren, in order to guard and preserve the fruit of the “Spiritual Exercises” which we have been praising and to revive its salutary memory that we should earnestly recommend a pious custom which may be called a brief repetition of the “Exercises” namely a monthly or trimestrial recollection. This custom which, to borrow the words of Our Predecessor of holy memory, Pius X, “We gladly see introduced in many places”[40] and flourishing especially in religious communities and among pious priests of the secular clergy we earnestly desire to see adopted by the laity also. For it would prove a real benefit more especially for those who are prevented by the cares of their family from using the “Spiritual Exercises”. For these recollections might supply in some measure the advantages to be derived from the “Spiritual Exercises”. In this manner, Venerable Brethren, may these “Spiritual Exercises” be extended everywhere through all the orders of Christian society and if they are diligently performed a spiritual regeneration will follow. Piety will be enkindled, the forces of religious will be nourished, the apostolic office will unfold its fruit bearing branches, and peace will reign in society and in the hearts of all.
  18. When the heavens were serene and earth was silent and night lay on the world, in secret, far from the crowd of men, the Eternal Word of the Father, having assumed the nature of man, appeared to mortals, and the heavenly regions echoed the heavenly hymn, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”[41] This praise of Christian peace–the Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ–setting forth the supreme desire of Our Apostolic heart to which all our aims and our labours are directed, nearly touches the minds of Christians who withdrawn from the tumult and the vanities of the world in deep and hidden solitude have pondered on the truth of faith and the example of Him who brought peace to the world and left it as a heritage: “My peace I give to you.”[42]
  19. This peace truly so called We wish for you from our heart, Venerable Brethren, on this very day on which by the Divine bounty the fiftieth year of Our Priesthood is completed, and as the sweet festival of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ approaches, which may be called the mystery of peace approaches, we with fervent prayer supplicate for that gift for him who is hailed as the Prince of Peace.

And with our mind raised by these thoughts a joyful and firm hope as an omen of divine gifts, and as a pledge of Our affection to you, Venerable Brethren, and to your clergy and people–that is, to all our most beloved Catholic family–We impart the Apostolic Benediction most loving in the Lord.

Given at St. Peter’s Rome, on the twentieth day of December, 1929, the eighth year of Our Pontificate.


  1. Acta Apost. Sedis, vol. XXI, (1929), page 6.
    2. Litt. Encycl. “Quod auctorifate”, 22 Dec., 1885; Acta Leonis XIII, vol. II, pp. 175 ss.
    3. Exhortatio ad clerum catholicum: “Haerent animo”, 4 Aug., 1903; “Acta Sanctae Sedis”, vol. XLI, pp. 555-577.
    4. S. Greg. M. Pastor L. 3 adm. 15. (Migne P. L. tom. 77, col. 73)
    5. S. Eucher. “De laud. eremi.” 37. (Migne P. L. tom. 50, col. 709)
    6. Lactant. “De falsa relig.” L. 1, c. 1. (Migne P. L. tom. 6, col. 118).
    7. S. Basil M. “De laude solitariae vitae,” initio. (“Opera omnia. Venetiis,” 1751, tom. 2, p. 379).
    8. Ibid.
    9. Wisdom IV, 12.
    10. John XIV, 6.
    11. Romans XIII, 14.
    12. Ephesians IV, 13.
    13. Galatians II, 20.
    14. Colossians II, 7.
    15. Philippians IV, 7.
    16. John IV, 35.
    17. Mark VI, 31.
    18. Acts I, 14.
    19. S. Franc. Sal. Traite de l’Amour de Dieu, L. 12, c. 8.
    20. S. Hieronym, Ep. 148, ad Celant. 24. (Migne P. L. tom. col. 1, 216.)
    21. S. Petr. Chrysolog. serm. 12. (Migne P. L. tom. col. 186).
    22. S. Leo Magn. serm. 19. (Migne P. L. tom. 54, col. 18.)
    23. S. Alf. M. de Liguori, “Lettera sull’ utilita degli Esercizi in solitudine.” Opere ascet. (Marrietti, 1847), vol. 3, pag. 616.
    24. Const. Apost. “Summorum Pontificum”, 25 Juillet, 1922; Acta Apost. Sedis. vol. XIV (1922), p. 421.
    25. Cod. Iur. Can. can. 126.
    26. Cod. Iur. Can. can. 595, pr. 1.
    27. Genesis 11., 9. 28. S. Bern. “De consider.” L. 1. c. 5. (Migne P. L. tom. 182, col 734.)
    29. Cfr. “Ordine del giornodi Mons. Radini-Tedeschi,” nel Congr. Cattol. Ital. an. 1895.
    30. “De Imit.” Chr., L.I., c. 206.
    31. Brev. Rom. “in festo S. Ign.” (31 Iul.), lect. 4.
    32. Litt. Apost., “Pastoralis officii,” 31 Iul., 1548.
    33. “S. Carlo egli Esercizi spirituali di S. Ignazio” in “S. Carlo Borromeo nel 3 Centenario della Canonizzazione,” 23 Sett., 1910, pag. 488.
    34. Const. Apost., “Summorum Pontificum,” 25 Iul., 1922; “Acta Apost. Sedis,” vol. XIV (1922), pag. 420.
    35. Litt. Apost. “Cum sicut,” 12 Oct., 1647.
    36. Litt. Apost., “Quantum secussus,” 20 Mart., 1753; Litt. Apost., “Dedimus sane,” 18 Maii, 1753.
    37. Epist., “Ignatianae commentationes,” 8 Febr., 1900; Acta Leonis XIII, vol. CII, pag. 373.
    38. Ibid.
    39. Epist. Apost. Pii PP. XI, “Nous avons appris,” 28 Maii 1929, ad Card. Dubois.
    40. Exhort. ad Cler. Cathol., “Haerent animo,” 4 Aug., 1908, “Acta Sanctae Sedis,” vol. XLI, pag. 575.
    41. Luc. II, 14.
    42. Io XIV, 27.

Back to: 1900 DOCUMENTS


On Divine Worship

Pius, Servant of the Servants of God
For Everlasting Memory

Since the Church has received from Christ her Founder the office of safeguarding the sanctity of divine worship, it is certainly incumbent upon her, while leaving intact the substance of the Sacrifice and the sacraments, to prescribe ceremonies, rites, formulae, prayers and chant for the proper regulation of that august public ministry, whose special name is “Liturgy”, as being the eminently sacred action.

For the Liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need. There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred Liturgy, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful. Hence Pope Celestine I saw the standard of faith expressed in the sacred formulae of the Liturgy. “The rule of our faith”, he says, “is indicated by the law of our worship. When those who are set over the Christian people fulfill the function committed to them, they plead the cause of the human race in the sight of God’s clemency, and pray and supplicate in conjunction with the whole Church”.

These public prayers, called at first “the work of God” and later “the divine office” or the daily “debt” which man owes to God, used to be offered both day and night in the presence of a great concourse of the faithful. From the earliest times the simple chants which graced the sacred prayers and the Liturgy gave a wonderful impulse to the piety of the people. History tells us how in the ancient basilicas, where bishop, clergy and people alternately sang the divine praises, the liturgical chant played no small part in converting many barbarians to Christianity and civilization. It was in the churches that heretics came to understand more fully the meaning of the communion of saints; thus the Emperor Valens, an Arian, being present at Mass celebrated by Saint Basil, was overcome by an extraordinary seizure and fainted. At Milan, Saint Ambrose was accused by heretics of attracting the crowds by means of liturgical chants. It was due to these that Saint Augustine made up his mind to become a Christian. It was in the churches, finally, where practically the whole city formed a great joint choir, that the workers, builders, artists, sculptors and writers gained from the Liturgy that deep knowledge of theology which is now so apparent in the monuments of the Middle Ages.

No wonder, then, that the Roman Pontiffs have been so solicitous to safeguard and protect the Liturgy. They have used the same care in making laws for the regulation of the Liturgy, in preserving it from adulteration, as they have in giving accurate expression to the dogmas of the faith. This is the reason why the Fathers made both spoken and written commentary upon the Liturgy or “the law of worship”; for this reason the Council of Trent ordained that the Liturgy should be expounded and explained to the faithful.

In our times too, the chief object of Pope Pius X, in the Motu Proprio [Tra le Sollecitudini] which he issued twenty-five years ago, making certain prescriptions concerning Gregorian Chant and sacred music, was to arouse and foster a Christian spirit in the faithful, by wisely excluding all that might ill befit the sacredness and majesty of our churches. The faithful come to church in order to derive piety from its chief source, by taking an active part in the venerated mysteries and the public solemn prayers of the Church. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that anything that is used to adorn the Liturgy should be controlled by the Church, so that the arts may take their proper place as most noble ministers in sacred worship. Far from resulting in a loss to art, such an arrangement will certainly make for the greater splendor and dignity of the arts that are used in the Church. This has been especially true of sacred music. Wherever the regulations on this subject have been carefully observed, a new life has been given to this delightful art, and the spirit of religion has prospered; the faithful have gained a deeper understanding of the sacred Liturgy, and have taken part with greater zest in the ceremonies of the Mass, in the singing of the psalms and the public prayers. Of this We Ourselves had happy experience when, in the first year of Our Pontificate, We celebrated solemn High Mass in the Vatican Basilica to the noble accompaniment of a choir of clerics of all nationalities, singing in Gregorian Chant.

It is, however, to be deplored that these most wise laws in some places have not been fully observed, and therefore their intended results not obtained. We know that some have declared these laws, though so solemnly promulgated, were not binding upon their obedience. Others obeyed them at first, but have since come gradually to give countenance to a type of music which should be altogether banned from our churches. In some cases, especially when the memory of some famous musician was being celebrated, the opportunity has been taken of performing in church certain works which, however excellent, should never have been performed there, since they were entirely out of keeping with the sacredness of the place and of the Liturgy.

In order to urge the clergy and faithful to a more scrupulous observance of these laws and directions which are to be carefully obeyed by the whole Church, We think it opportune to set down here something of the fruits of Our experience during the last twenty-five years. We celebrate not only the memory of the reform of sacred music to which We have referred, but also the centenary of the monk Guido of Arezzo. Nine hundred years ago Guido, at the bidding of the pope, came to Rome and produced his wonderful invention, whereby the ancient and traditional chants might be more easily published, circulated and preserved intact for posterity — to the great benefit and glory of the Church and of art.

It was in the Lateran Palace that Gregory the Great, having made his famous collection of the traditional treasures of plainsong, editing them with additions of his own, had wisely founded his great Schola in order to perpetuate the true interpretation of the liturgical chant. It was in the same building that the monk Guido gave a demonstration of his marvelous invention before the Roman clergy and the Roman Pontiff himself. The pope, by his approbation and high praise of it, was responsible for the gradual spread of the new system throughout the whole world, and thus for the great advantages that accrued therefrom to musical art in general.

We wish, then, to make certain recommendations to the bishops and ordinaries, whose duty it is, since they are the custodians of the Liturgy, to promote ecclesiastical art. We are thus acceding to the requests which, as a result of many musical congresses and especially that recently held at Rome, have been made to Us by not a few bishops and learned masters in the musical art. To these We accord due meed of praise; and We ordain that the following directions, as here-under set forth, with the practical methods indicated, be put into effect.

All those who aspire to the priesthood, whether in seminaries or in religious houses, from their earliest years are to be taught Gregorian Chant and sacred music. At that age they are able more easily to learn to sing, and to modify, if not entirely to overcome, any defects in their voices, which in later years would be quite incurable. Instruction in music and singing must be begun in the elementary, and continued in the higher classes. In this way, those who are about to receive sacred orders, having become gradually experienced in chant, will be able during their theological course quite easily to undertake the higher and “aesthetic” study of plainsong and sacred music, of polyphony and the organ, concerning which the clergy certainly ought to have a thorough knowledge.

In seminaries, and in other houses of study for the formation of the clergy both secular and regular there should be a frequent and almost daily lecture or practice — however short — in Gregorian Chant and sacred music. If this is carried out in the spirit of the Liturgy, the students will find it a relief rather than a burden to their minds, after the study of the more exacting subjects. Thus a more complete education of both branches of the clergy in liturgical music will result in the restoration to its former dignity and splendor of the choral Office, a most important part of divine worship; moreover, the scholae and choirs will be invested again with their ancient glory.

Those who are responsible for, and engaged in divine worship in basilicas and cathedrals, in collegiate and conventual churches of religious, should use all their endeavors to see that the choral Office is carried out duly — i.e. in accordance with the prescriptions of the Church. And this, not only as regards the precept of reciting the divine Office “worthily, attentive and devoutly”, but also as regards the chant. In singing the psalms attention should be paid to the right tone, with its appropriate mediation and termination, and a suitable pause at the asterisk; so that every verse of the psalms and every strophe of the hymns may be sung by all in perfect time together. If this were rightly observed, then all who worthily sing the psalms would signify their unity of intention in worshipping God and, as one side of the choir sings in answer to the other, would seem to emulate the everlasting praise of the Seraphim who cried one to the other “Holy, Holy, Holy”.

Lest anyone in future should invent easy excuses for exempting himself from obedience to the laws of the Church, let every chapter and religious community deal with these matters at meetings held for the purpose; and just as formerly there used to be a “Cantor” or director of the choir, so in future let one be chosen from each chapter or choir of religious, whose duty it will be to see that the rules of the Liturgy and of choral chant are observed and, both individually and generally, to correct the faults of the choir. In this connection it should be observed that, according to the ancient discipline of the Church and the constitutions of chapters still in force, all those at least who are bound to office in choir, are obliged to be familiar with Gregorian Chant. And the Gregorian Chant which is to be used in every church of whatever order, is the text which, revised according to the ancient manuscripts, has been authentically published by the Church from the Vatican Press.

We wish here to recommend, to those whom it may concern, the formation of choirs. These in the course of time came to replace the ancient scholae and were established in the basilicas and greater churches especially for the singing of polyphonic music. Sacred polyphony, We may here remark, is rightly held second only to Gregorian Chant. We are desirous, therefore, that such choirs, as they flourished from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, should now also be created anew and prosper especially in churches where the scale on which the Liturgy is carried out demands a greater number and a more careful selection of singers.

Choir-schools for boys should be established not only for the greater churches and cathedrals, but also for smaller parish churches. The boys should be taught by the choirmaster to sing properly, so that, in accordance with the ancient custom of the Church, they may sing in the choir with the men, especially as in polyphonic music the highest part, the cantus, ought to be sung by boys. Choir-boys, especially in the sixteenth century, have given us masters of polyphony: first and foremost among them, the great Palestrina.

As We have learned that in some places an attempt is being made to reintroduce a type of music which is not entirely in keeping with the performance of the sacred Office, particularly owing to the excessive use made of musical instruments, We hereby declare that singing with orchestra accompaniment is not regarded by the Church as a more perfect form of music or as more suitable for sacred purposes. Voices, rather than instruments, ought to be heard in the church: the voices of the clergy, the choir and the congregation. Nor should it be deemed that the Church, in preferring the human voice to any musical instrument, is obstructing the progress of music; for no instrument, however perfect, however excellent, can surpass the human voice in expressing human thought, especially when it is used by the mind to offer up prayer and praise to Almighty God.

The traditionally appropriate musical instrument of the Church is the organ, which, by reason of its extraordinary grandeur and majesty, has been considered a worthy adjunct to the Liturgy, whether for accompanying the chant or, when the choir is silent, for playing harmonious music at the prescribed times. But here too must be avoided that mixture of the profane with the sacred which, through the fault partly of organ-builders and partly of certain performers who are partial to the singularities of modern music, may result eventually in diverting this magnificent instrument from the purpose for which it is intended. We wish, within the limits prescribed by the Liturgy, to encourage the development of all that concerns the organ; but We cannot but lament the fact that, as in the case of certain types of music which the Church has rightly forbidden in the past, so now attempts are being made to introduce a profane spirit into the Church by modern forms of music; which forms, if they begin to enter in, the Church would likewise be bound to condemn. Let our churches resound with organ-music that gives expression to the majesty of the edifice and breathes the sacredness of the religious rites; in this way will the art both of those who build the organs and of those who play them flourish afresh and render effective service to the sacred liturgy.

In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let them be made once more to sing the Gregorian Chant, so far as it belongs to them to take part in it. It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies, or when pious sodalities take part with the clergy in a procession, they should not be merely detached and silent spectators, but, filled with a deep sense of the beauty of the Liturgy, they should sing alternately with the clergy or the choir, as it is prescribed. If this is done, then it will no longer happen that the people either make no answer at all to the public prayers — whether in the language of the Liturgy or in the vernacular — or at best utter the responses in a low and subdued manner.

Let the clergy, both secular and regular, under the lead of their bishops and ordinaries devote their energies either directly, or through other trained teachers, to instructing the people in the Liturgy and in music, as being matters closely associated with Christian doctrine. This will be best effected by teaching liturgical chant in schools, pious confraternities and similar associations. Religious communities of men and women should devote particular attention to the achievement of this purpose in the various educational institutions committed to their care. Moreover, We are confident that this object will be greatly furthered by those societies which, under the control of ecclesiastical authority, are striving to reform sacred music according to the laws of the Church.

To achieve all that We hope for in this matter numerous trained teachers will be required. And in this connection We accord due praise to all the schools and institutes throughout the Catholic world, which by giving careful instruction in these subjects are forming good and suitable teachers. But We have a special word of commendation for the “Pontifical Higher School of Sacred Music”, founded in Rome in the year 1910. This school, which was greatly encouraged by Pope Benedict XV and was by him endowed with new privileges, is most particularly favored by Us; for We regard it as a precious heritage left to Us by two Sovereign Pontiffs, and We therefore wish to recommend it in a special way to all the Bishops.

We are well aware that the fulfillment of these injunctions will entail great trouble and labor. But do we not all know how many artistic works our forefathers, undaunted by difficulties, have handed down to posterity, imbued as they were with pious zeal and with the spirit of the Liturgy? Nor is this to be wondered at; for anything that is the fruit of the interior life of the Church surpasses even the most perfect works of this world. Let the difficulties of this sacred task, far from deterring, rather stimulate and encourage the bishops of the Church, who, by their universal and unfailing obedience to Our behests, will render to the Sovereign Bishop a service most worthy of their episcopal office.

Dated in Rome, 20 December 1928, in the seventh year of our pontificate.


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Rerum Orientalium

Encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on September 8, 1928

To Our Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Health and Apostolic Benediction.

  1. In order to promote the study of Oriental sciences and a more thorough knowledge of them among the faithful, and still more among priests, our Predecessors, during the past centuries, have applied themselves with an ardor of which no one can be ignorant who has even rapidly glanced at the annals of the Catholic Church. They well knew that the cause of many evils in the past, and especially of the deplorable dissension which has detached from the root of unity many churches once so flourishing, has resulted principally and almost fatally from mutual ignorance and contempt, and from the prejudices which followed on a long division among souls. They knew also that no remedy can be supplied until those impediments are removed. Hence, to touch but briefly on a few of the historical documents which, beginning from the time when the bonds of unity began to be relaxed, bear witness to the care and solicitude of the Roman Pontiffs in this respect, every one knows with what benevolence and veneration Adrian I received the two apostles of the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius, and how singularly he honored them; with what diligence he supported the Eighth Ecumenical Council, the fourth of Constantinople, to which he sent his legates, shortly after such a great portion of the flock of the Lord had been lamentably snatched away from the Roman Pontiff, the divinely-constituted Shepherd. Such sacred assemblies, convoked for the purpose of discussing Oriental affairs, were held one after another, as when at Bari, at the grave of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, Anselm, Doctor of Aosta and Archbishop of Canterbury, moved the minds and hearts of all by his learning and the wonderful sanctity of his life; or again as at Lyons, to which those two luminaries of the Church, the angelic Doctor St. Thomas, and the seraphic St. Bonaventure, were summoned by Gregory X, and how the one died on the journey and the other in the midst of the great labors of the Council; or as at Ferrara and Florence, when the palm must certainly be awarded to those ornaments of the Christian East, soon to become Cardinals of the Roman Church, Bessarion of Nice, and Isidore of Kieff; and when the truth of Catholic dogma, logically and methodically stated, and made to shine forth anew by the charity of Christ, seemed to pave the way for the reconciliation of Oriental Christians with the Supreme Pastor.
  2. The few facts We have cited manifest the paternal affection and devotion of the Apostolic See towards Oriental nations, but, because more remarkable they also occur more rarely. Innumerable other acts concerning the Orient, Venerable Brethren, bear testimony to the benefits which the Roman Church wished to confer on the East. It was to this end especially that she sent her religious to spend their lives in the service of Oriental nations. Sustained by the authority of the Apostolic See, these heroic men, recruited chiefly from the religious families of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic, went forth to found houses and to create new provinces of their Order, not only in Palestine and Armenia, where they cultivated anew with great effort theology and other sciences that contributed to the profane and the religious civilization not only of those countries but also of other regions, but in other countries also where the Orientals subjected to the domination of the Turk or of the Tartar, and forcibly separated from Roman Unity, were deprived of access to every form of education, especially religious education.
  3. These remarkable benefits and aims of the Apostolic See seemed to carry weight with the doctors of the University of Paris who, since the thirteenth century, following the wishes and aspirations of the Holy See, founded, as history teaches us, and incorporated with their University, an Oriental college, with which our predecessor John XX, a few years later, kept in touch through Hugo Bishop of Paris.[1] Equally remarkable also, as the documents of that time testify, were the efforts of Humbert de Romans, a very learned religious and Master General of the Order of Preachers. In his book “Of what it befits to treat in the coming Council of Lyons,” he recommended point by point what was necessary in order to win the souls of the Orientals:[2] a knowledge of the Greek language, because the diversity of nations is joined in the unity of faith by means of various languages; an abundance of Greek books and a sufficient number of translations of the works of the West into the languages of the East. He also exhorted the Friars Preachers assembled in General Chapter at Milan to hold in high esteem the languages of the East, and to study them earnestly so as to be ready to go forth to those nations if it were God’s Will.
  4. Thus also in the Franciscan family, Roger Bacon, that scholar so dear to Our Predecessor, Clement IV, not only wrote learnedly on the Chaldean, Arab and Greek languages,[3] but also facilitated their study for others.

Following the above examples, Raymond Lulli, a man of singular learning and piety, urged with all the impetuosity of his nature, and obtained from Our Predecessors, Celestine V and Boniface VIII, favors which at the time were most unusual: that a Cardinal should be placed at the head of Oriental affairs and studies, and that Apostolic expeditions be sent to the Tartar, the Saracen, and other infidels, as well as to bring the “schismatics” once more into the unity of the Church.

  1. But We specially wish to emphasize how, through the initiative of the same Raymond Lulli, a decree was formulated in the General Council of Vienne and promulgated by Our Predecessor Clement V, in which We seem to see foreshadowed Our own Oriental Institute. With the approbation of this sacred Council, We provide for the erection of schools for the study of the above-mentioned languages wherever the Roman Curia shall happen to reside, as also in Paris, Oxford, Bologna and Salamanca, and for the appointment of two Catholic professors with sufficient knowledge for each of the languages- Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and Chaldaic-who shall direct those schools, and shall translate into Latin books written in the above languages, shall teach them to others, and shall pass on their knowledge through instruction; so that the young men by this means may with God’s help produce the fruits hoped for by propagating the Faith among infidel nations.[4]
  2. But since, among Oriental nations, on account of the confusion of the times, nearly all the possibilities of scientific study were destroyed and it was impossible to cultivate higher studies among students well qualified for them, you know, Venerable Brethren, that Our Predecessors also were careful that not only in the chief Universities of that age there should be Oriental centers of learning, but also in a special manner that seminaries should be opened in the heart of this mother city of Rome, easily accessible to students of those nations, whence after a careful education they should go forth prepared to fight the good fight. On that account monasteries and colleges were opened in Rome for the Greeks and the Ruthenians, and also houses were given to the Maronites and Armenians. We may see what gain for souls was achieved when we consider the liturgical and other works which the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda caused to be published in various Oriental languages, and the precious Oriental codices which the Vatican library diligently gathered together and religiously preserved.
  3. Nor is this by any means all. As Our Predecessors realized that a more complete knowledge of things Oriental among Occidentals was of great importance to foster charity and mutual esteem, they strove with all their might to attain this end. Thus Gregory XVI, who, raised to the Supreme Pontificate in the very year he was about to begin his mission as legate at the court of Alexander I, studied Russian affairs with the greatest diligence; thus Pius IX, who before and after the Vatican Council earnestly recommended the publication of works on Oriental rites and traditions; thus Leo XIII, who showed so great a love and pastoral solicitude not only for the Copts and the Slavs, but for all the Orientals. Besides the new religious Congregation of the Augustinians of the Assumption, he encouraged also other Religious Orders to acquire or increase their knowledge of Eastern matters. He caused to be erected new colleges for the Orientals, in the Orient, as well as here in Rome. He praised most highly the University of the Society of Jesus at Beirut, which is even today in a most flourishing state and very dear to Us. Again Pius X also, who, having founded the Pontifical Biblical Institute, kindled in the souls of many a new ardor for Oriental studies, and thereby reaped a rich harvest.
  4. Our immediate Predecessor, Benedict XV, diligently emulating this paternal providence towards the Oriental nations, as a sacred inheritance accepted by Pius X, constituted a Congregation for the affairs of the Oriental Church, and decided to found in this City, the Head of Christendom, a “special center for higher Oriental studies,” endowed with “all the scientific apparatus which modern erudition requires, and staffed with zealous teachers, thoroughly trained in all branches of study concerning the Orient,”[5] and empowered with the faculty of giving “the degree of Doctor in ecclesiastical sciences related to the Christian nations of the East.”[6] This Institute was open not only to the Orientals (among whom are included those also who are separated from Catholic Unity), but also to the Latin priests who wished to become proficient in these branches, or who wished to minister to the Orientals. The greatest praise is to be given to these men, who worked diligently during a period of four years to initiate the first students of the Institute in Oriental sciences.
  5. There was, however, this difficulty to a fitting development of the Institute, that, though near the Vatican, it was far from the center of the city. Therefore We, wishing to carry into effect what Benedict XV had in mind, had decreed, at the beginning of Our Pontificate, the transfer of the Oriental Institute to the Pontifical Biblical Institute, as being closely related to it in studies and purposes, the Institutes remaining distinct from one another. We intended to give the Oriental Institute an abode of its own as soon as possible. Moreover, with the intention of there never being a lack of men fitted to teach Oriental subjects, and thinking that We should reach this end more easily by confiding so important a charge to one religious family, by Our Letter of September 14, 1922,[7] We commanded the General of the Society of Jesus that, by his love towards the Holy See and his Vicar, and the obedience he owed to him, he should, in spite of all difficulties, under take the entire administration of the Institute, observing the following conditions: that the supreme direction of the Institute being reserved to Us and to Our successors, the General of the Society of Jesus should find men capable of filling the difficult offices of President and lecturers of the Institute; that henceforth, either directly or through the President, he should propose for Our approval and that of Our successors those whom he considered competent to lecture on the various subjects of the Institute; and that he should suggest all that might seem to conduce to the security and prosperity of the Institute.
  6. Now, at the close of the sixth year since We, with the special guidance of God, made this decision, We may thank God most gratefully that an abundant harvest has resulted from Our labors. Although the number of students-as the nature of the Institute itself requires-has not been, nor ever will be, very great, still it has been sufficient to enable Us to rejoice when We realize that already an important group of men, rapidly increasing in numbers, will soon leave the shelter of this abode of learning, so formed in piety and learning that we have every hope that they may, in the field which lies open before them, be of great assistance to the Oriental Churches.
  7. And now, while praising with all Our hearts the local Ordinaries and Heads of Religious Orders, who, making Our wishes their own, have sent to Rome, from divers nations and countries, their priests to be formed in Oriental sciences, We at the same time exhort all Religious Heads of groups scattered far and wide upon the earth, that, following such an example, they neglect not to send to this Our Oriental Institute those students whom they may consider suitable and who may feel an attraction for such studies. Let us recall to your memories, Venerable Brethren, what we recently declared in Our Encyclical Mortalium animos. Who is there who does not know how often a kind of unity among Christians, completely foreign to the mind of Christ the Founder of the Church, is contemplated; and who has not heard of those most important discussions, carried on especially in the greater part of Europe and of America on the most important subject of the Orientals, whether united to the Roman Church or separated from her? But, though the students from Our seminaries, having acquired, as they should, a knowledge of Protestant errors and fallacies of later date, are able to recognize and promptly to refute them, they are not, however, trained, at least generally speaking, in that particular branch of learning which would enable them to pass a sure judgment on matters pertaining to Oriental sciences and customs, and to the liturgy which is to be preserved with all reverence within the Catholic unity. For this a very special and accurate study is required.
  8. Therefore, since We cannot in any way neglect all that could help to bring about that most desirable reunion of such a remarkable portion of the flock of Jesus Christ to His true Church, or to show the greatest charity towards those who, in their different rites, closely adhere with their minds and their hearts to the Roman Church and the Vicar of Christ, we earnestly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, that each one choose among his priests at least one who, being well trained in these branches of learning, shall be able to instruct seminarists in them when opportunities arise. We are not ignorant of the fact that it belongs in a peculiar manner to Catholic Universities to institute a special faculty of Oriental sciences. With Our initiative and Our help, We are glad that this work has already begun in Paris, Louvain, Lille. Of late, also, in several other seats of theological learning, chairs of Oriental sciences have been founded at the expense of the civil government, with the consent of and by the encouragement of the local Ordinaries. Nevertheless, it ought not to be too difficult to find a Professor in each of the theological seminaries who, together with history, liturgy, or canon law, will be able to teach the elements of Oriental sciences. And when the minds and hearts of the students shall thus be turned towards Eastern teaching and rites, no small gain should result. Not only will the Orientals thus derive benefit, but also the students themselves will have a better knowledge of Catholic theology and Latin discipline, and will conceive a greater love for the true Spouse of Christ, whose beauty, on account of the variety of rites, will shine forth the more.
  9. Having considered all the advantages to Christianity that would follow from such training of young men, We have considered it part of Our duty to spare no labors, not only to ensure the life of the Institute which from the outset We confirmed, but also to facilitate its success by new developments. Hence, as soon as it was possible to Us, We wished to assign to it an abode of its own, spending for the purchase and establishing of the house of St. Anthony, near St. Mary Major on the Esquiline, the funds bequeathed to Us by the liberality of a benevolent prelate as also those offered Us by a devout citizen of the United States; We hope and pray that their reward in Heaven may be exceeding great. Nor should We pass over in silence the fact that funds reached Us from Spain, sufficient to furnish and to endow a larger and more beautiful library. May these examples of liberality encourage others, for, after an experience of many years as Librarian of the Ambrosian and the Vatican Library, We realize how important it is to furnish this library with all necessary material, so that not only the Doctors, but also the students, should be enabled to acquire knowledge concerning the Orient from sources often hidden or unknown, but yet extremely rich, and to turn them to public service. Undeterred by difficulties (though We foresee these will be numerous and great), We shall strive, as far as in Us lies, to procure all things that appertain to the countries of the Orient, to their customs, to their languages and to their rites; and We shall be very grateful to any who, through filial love for the Vicar of Christ, shall help Us to attain this end, whether by giving funds, or books, or codices, or paintings, or anything of the kind relating to the Christian East.
  10. And thus We hope that the Oriental nations, seeing with their own eyes the monuments of the piety, the learning, and the arts of their ancestors, shall be taught how true, eternal orthodoxy was held in honor in the Roman Church and with what sacredness it is preserved, defended and propagated. May We not hope, that moved by such strong arguments (especially if over the mutual intercourse between scholars Christian charity shall preside) the greater number of Orientals, striving to regain their ancient glories, and putting aside prejudice, will desire to return to that Christian unity maintained by a full profession of faith, such as befits the true followers of Christ, united in One flock under One Shepherd?
  11. While We hope and pray to God that this most happy day may finally dawn upon the Christian world, it will perhaps be useful, Venerable Brethren, to indicate briefly how Our Oriental Institute, uniting with us to carry out Our desires, shall work to attain this end. The Professors are engaged in two different sorts of studies, of which some are contained, as it were, within the walls of the Institute, while others have a wider sphere, by means of the publication of documents relating to the Christian East, whether unedited, or forgotten in the days in which we live.
  12. As to the education of the students, besides the dogmatic theology of the dissidents, the explanation of the Oriental Fathers, and of all that appertains to Oriental studies, whether of history, liturgy, archaeology, or other sacred branches of learning, and the languages of various nations, we recall with special gratification how We have been enabled to add to the Byzantine Institutions a chair of Islamic Institutions, a thing hitherto unheard of in Roman centers of learning. By a special favor of Divine Providence, We have been able to place at the head of this Department a man who, born a Turk, and after many years of study, having by God’s help professed the Catholic religion and been ordained to the priesthood, seemed capable of teaching those among his compatriots who were to be destined to the sacred ministry how to present, as well to scholars as to the ignorant, the cause of the One Individual God, and of the Gospel law.
  13. Nor are the publications of the Oriental Institute for the propagation of the Catholic religion and the achievement of true union among Christians of less importance. The greater number of these volumes, called Orientalia Christiana, were written during the past few years by Professors of the Institute; the rest, under its auspices, by other experts on Oriental questions. These either deal with both the ancient and modern conditions of the Eastern nations generally unknown to Westerners, or else cast a new light upon the religious history of the East by means of documents hitherto unknown; or describe the relations of Oriental monks, and even Patriarchs, with this Apostolic See, and the solicitude of the Roman Pontiffs in defending their rights and property; or compare the theology of the dissidents regarding the sacraments or even the nature of the Church herself with the Catholic Truth; or again make a study of ancient codices. In a word, there is nothing which relates to sacred sciences, or has any connection with Oriental civilization (as for instance the remains of Greek culture in Southern Italy) which does not appeal to the diligence of these scholars.
  14. Who then, considering the great extent of these labors, undertaken chiefly for the benefit of Orientals, does not trust Jesus Christ the most merciful Redeemer of men, taking pity upon the sad fate of so many, long astray from the right road, will complete what We have begun, and guide His flock into the One Fold, ruled over by the One Shepherd? A special reason for this hope is that among those nations a very great part of Revelation has been religiously preserved, sincere service is rendered to Christ Our Lord, great piety and love are shown towards His sinless Mother, and devout use made of the Sacraments. Therefore, since God in His mercy has willed that men, and especially priests, should as His instruments co-operate in the work of Redemption, what is there left to Us, Venerable Brethren, but once more to supplicate, yea to compel you not only to agree in mind and in heart with Our designs, but also to labor that the longed-for day may soon dawn, when We shall all welcome back, not only a few, but the vast majority of the Greeks, of the Slavs, of the Roumanians, and of the Eastern nations, hitherto separated, to their former communion with the Roman Church. And as we meditate upon what We have already begun to do, and what We hope to bring to perfection, so as to hasten this joyful day, it seems to Us that We may compare Ourselves to the Father of the family whom Christ Our Lord describes as calling the guests invited to His supper “that they should come, for now all things are ready” (Luke xiv, 17). Applying these words to Our own case, We earnestly entreat you, Venerable Brethren, that you add your efforts to ours, for this most important end of promoting Oriental studies. So that, after the removal of all obstacles, under the auspices of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and of the Holy Fathers and Doctors of East and West, We may receive into the House of the Father those brethren and sons of Ours, so long separated from Us, but once more united in bonds of a charity based upon the solid foundation of truth and the full profession of the Christian religion.

And in order that these Our desires and enterprises may be most happily realized, as an earnest of heavenly gifts and as a token of Our paternal affection, We most lovingly impart the apostolic benediction to you, Venerable Brethren, and to all the flock committed to your care.

Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 1928, in the seventh year of Our Pontificate.


  • 1. Denifle-Chatelain, Chartul, Univ. Paris, t. II, n. 857.
  • 2. Mansi, t. xxiv, ed. 128.
  • 3. Opus maius, pars tertia.
  • 4. Denifle-Chatelain, Chartul, Univ. Paris, t. ii. n. 695.
  • 5. Benedict XV, Motu proprio Orientis catholici, Oct. 15, 1917. Acta Ap. Sedis IX (1917), n. 11, pp. 531-533.
  • 6. Benedict XV, Litterae Apostolicae Quod Nobis, Sept. 25, 1920 (Acta Apost. Sedis XII (1920), n. 11, pp. 440-441.
  • 7. Letter Decessor Noster (Acta Apost. Sed. XIV (1922), n. 15, pp. 545-546.

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