Friday, 11 September 2009

The Voice of... Blessed Pius IX (Part V)

On 17th March, 1856, Blessed Pius IX issued an Encyclical on the subject of the Church in Austria, entitled Singulari Quidem, which was addressed to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Austrian Empire.

"10. Now We entreat you by your singular piety and prudence to take with wisdom and foresight the means which you believe at this meeting to be especially suitable for obtaining the greater glory of God and the eternal salvation of mankind in this vast empire. We sincerely rejoice to see the numerous faithful, both clergy and laity, animated by the spirit of faith and Christian love and spreading the good name of Jesus Christ. We are nonetheless deeply afflicted to know that in certain places some members of the clergy forget their dignity and their duty, choosing not to walk in the way of the vocation to which they were called. The Christian people, too little instructed in the holy precepts of our divine religion and exposed to serious dangers, unfortunately abstain from works of piety and from frequenting the sacraments. They stray from good moral practices and from the discipline of a Christian life and hurry to their ruin. Knowing your pastoral concern, We are persuaded that you will use all your cares and all your thoughts to bring about the complete cessation of the evil which We have just described. You know that the canonical decrees wisely prescribed provincial councils and Our holy bishops always celebrated them to the great advantage of the Church. These councils contribute very much to the renewal of ecclesiastical discipline, to correcting the habits of the people, and to the removal of whatever might be harmful to them. We ardently desire that you celebrate provincial councils in conformity with the holy canons, so that suitable and salutary remedies might be applied to the evils which commonly afflict the ecclesiastical provinces of the empire."

"11. Many serious matters need to be treated in these provincial councils. We desire that, at your meeting in Vienna, you take united measures by which you are able to agree on the principal points which need to be treated and stablished in the provincial synods. Furthermore you should with one and the same zeal take action so that in all the provinces of this empire, Our divine religion and its salutary doctrine might thrive, flourish, and rule. Then the faithful will walk as sons of light in all goodness, justice, and truth, leaving the bad and doing the good. There is nothing more effective in laying others to virtue, piety, and divine worship than the life and example of those who have consecrated themselves to the holy ministry. Do not neglect to establish as soon as possible whatever can restore ecclesiastical discipline where it has fallen and foster its accurate establishment wherever necessary."

"12. Beloved sons and venerable brothers, see to this matter with a common accord. Unite your efforts and your cares so that the clergy never forget their dignity and their duty, avoiding everything which is forbidden to them. Shining with every virtue, they should be an example for the faithful in their words, in love, in faith, and in chastity. They should pray the breviary each day with suitable attention and devotion and should exercise themselves in holy prayer. They should apply themselves to the meditation of heavenly matters and should love the beauty of God's house. Let them exercise the sacred duties and ceremonies according to the Pontifical and the Roman Ritual, and let them fulfill the offices of their ministry with diligence, wisdom, and holiness. They should work continually to obtain the eternal salvation of mankind, never ceasing in their zealous discharge of sacred discipline."

"13. Watch with equal care that the canons and the other beneficiaries of the metropolitan, cathedral, and collegiate churches who are bound to chair duty excel in seriousness of conduct, integrity of life, and zeal for piety. They should shine like brilliant lights placed on the lampstand in the Lord's temple, carefully fulfilling all the duties of their charge and observing the law of residence. They should concern themselves with the distinction of divine worship. Full of ardor in the Lord's vigils, let them celebrate the divine lauds with attention, exactness, piety, and religion, and not with a distracted mind, wandering eyes, and unsuitable conduct. They should always remember that they gather in choir not only to render to God the honor and worship which are due Him, but also to implore Him for every good thing for themselves and for others."

"14. Each of you knows very well how spiritual exercises contribute to preserving and fostering an ecclesiatical spirit and to retaining a salutary constancy. For that reason the popes of the pasten riched them with countless indulgences, and you should constantly recommend them to the priests placed under your authority.They should retire frequently for a certain number of days to a suitable place where, far fromhuman cares, they can purify themselves from the stains accumulated with the dust of the world.They should also occupy themselves with reviving the grace which the imposition of handsconferred on them, and with putting off the old man and his works and putting on the new mancreated in justice and holiness. They should do this through the careful consideration before God oftheir thoughts, words, and deeds. They should also meditate with care on eternity and rememberthe immense gifts they have received from God."

"15. The lips of the priests must protect the wisdom which allows them to respond to those who consult them on the law and to convince those who combat it. It is thus necessary that you apply yourselves with the greatest care to the correct and precise instruction of the clergy. Especially in your seminaries, see that an excellent and entirely Catholic course of studies flourishes, a course by which the young clerics, under the direction of approved teachers, might be formed right from their most tender years to piety, virtue, and a Christian spirit. They should be instructed in the knowledge of Latin, in the humanities, and in philosophy, free from every danger of error. Then apply yourselves to teaching them carefully, for a sufficiently long period, dogmatic and moral theology based on the Holy Scriptures, on the tradition of the holy Fathers, and on the infallible authority of the Church. Give them a solid knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, of the sacred canons, of church history, and of the liturgy. Exercise the greatest precaution in choosing books, lest in the deluge of errors which prevails everywhere the young seminarians might be imprudently led off the path of sound doctrine. You know that there are learned men who dissent from this Holy See in religious matters and who are cut off from the Church. They are publishing the Holy Scriptures and the works of the holy Fathers, undoubtedly with a pleasing elegance but often-We cannot deplore this enough -- in an altered condition, turned away from their true meaning by perverted commentaries."

"16. Each of you knows how much the Church needs capable ministers, especially in these times. It needs ministers who valiantly watch over the cause of God and His holy Church. It needs ministers who stand out in holiness of living and reputation for salutary teaching, who are powerful in word and deed and who build a faithful house for the Lord. Do not neglect anything in educating the young clerics in holiness and wisdom even from their tender years, for they will not be able to become useful ministers of the Church unless they are properly taught. Also, to more easily effect that clerical education on which the good of the Church and the salvation of its people greatly depends, seek money from the leading churchmen of your dioceses and the wealthy laymen who are especially zealous for Catholic interests. At your example, they might offer the money for you to establish new seminaries and endow them suitably, so that the young seminarians might receive a good education right from their early years."

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