TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE, Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
THE EUCHARIST AND LIFE IN THE WORLD.
"The Lord is not in the whirlwind."—3 Kings xix. 11.
If I have been able, 0 Christian soul, to show you easily the relations which exist between the Eucharist and the various practices which religion proposes to you, have I not, on the contrary, to show you now that an impassable abyss separates the Eucharist and the world ? It is Jesus Christ Himself Who pronounces these words: "Woe to the world." (Matthew xviii. 7. ) And He adds: " The whole world is seated in wickedness." (1 John v. 19.)
Hidden from our eyes at this time, far from the crowd, and far from noise, under the Eucharistic species, will the Saviour approve that on which He bestowed His curse during His earthly life ? And the worldly soul, which has chosen to dwell on, and to delight in, evil, can it at the same time become the tabernacle of the Holy of Holies ?
Far be it from me this thought, 0 Christian soul. And yet if Providence has caused you to be born in the midst of the world; if you have duties to fulfil there, and have to keep up your relations with it, I would tell you, without hesitation, that neither these duties nor this connection should separate you from the holy Eucharist.
At the same time, on this delicate point there are some distinctions to make, and I would first point them out clearly.
O Christian soul, there is world and world. Jesus Christ cursed the world because of its offences. Væ mundo a scandalis (Matthew xviii. 7.) He cursed it because the spirit of evil resides and has dominion in it. Totus mundus in maligno positus est. (John v. 19.)
Hence the more the world avoids offences, the more it departs from the works of the devil, and the less will it merit the curses of the Saviour. God did not create man to live alone; social life is his natural life, and all the efforts of religion have tended to this one end—that the world should become Christian. Alas! this work, I know, is still incomplete, and it is seldom that worldly reunions are not perilous to the soul. One cannot, however, deny that a little experience suffices to discern the world which Jesus Christ condemns from that which one can frequent without ceasing to be Christian.
A second distinction refers to the different relations which one may have with the world. There are those which family ties, charity, and zeal recommend to us. These, far from being condemned by religion, form part of our duties, and we must take care not to omit them. There are others which are imposed upon us by the obligations caused by our social position. If they present no danger, they also are no obstacle to our Christian habits. If they are of such a nature as may cause harm to us, such as large reunions, dances, and other worldly diversions, they must be carefully regulated by the inspirations of Christian prudence and the advice of a wise director.
Finally, a third distinction arises from the personal condition of each one. The youth and the old man, the young girl and the married woman, do not encounter the world under the same conditions. Here, again, an enlightened guide can alone enter into practical details, and settle for each soul the line of conduct it should follow.
These distinctions made, I come, 0 Christian soul, to the object of this conversation, and I ask if, living in the world, you can, or even ought to, interrupt the holy habit of communion ?
My answer—you understand it at once— will depend especially both on the world you frequent, and on the kind of relations which you will have with it. Either, in the first place, it will be a world corrupt and perverse, where your presence will be a scandal, and where your Christian life will be exposed to deadly attacks. It is certain, in this case, that you cannot unite the holy practice of communion with a kind of life which the Eucharist reproves and which religion condemns. But on this point I presume that your love for the sacrament of the altar will always guard you against a world that Jesus Christ has cursed, and which you cannot frequent without losing yourself.
Or, in the second place, I suppose that life in the world will reduce itself for you to those social relations from which you cannot withdraw yourself, and which your position imposes on you. And then two motives will induce me to advise you not to give up the Eucharist. On one side the divine nourishment will he to you a necessary antidote to the poisons which you will breathe in the world; on the other side, you will thence draw the strength which alone will enable you one day to triumph over the vain attractions of the age and over its dangerous seductions.
The development of these thoughts will express my feelings on the salutary action that the holy Eucharist can exert with respect to the world.