Contents 
Front Matter Believing and Doing The Moral Agent Conscience Laxity and Scruples The Law of God and its Breach Sin How to Count Sins Capital Sins Pride Covetousness Lust Anger Gluttony Drink Envy Sloth What We Believe Why We Believe Whence Our Belief: Reason Whence Our Belief: Grace and Will How We Believe Faith and Error The Consistent Believer Unbelief How Faith May Be Lost Hope Love of God Love of Neighbor Prayer Petition Religion Devotions Idolatry and Superstition Occultism Christian Science Swearing Oaths Vows The Professional Vow The Profession The Religious The Vow of Poverty The Vow of Obedience The Vow of Chastity Blasphemy Cursing Profanity The Law of Rest The Day of Rest Keeping the Lord's Day Holy Worship of Sacrifice Worship of Rest Servile Works Common Works Parental Dignity Filial Respect Filial Love Authority and Obedience Should We Help Our Parents? Disinterested Love in Parents Educate the Children Educational Extravagance Godless Education Catholic Schools Some Weak Points in the Catholic School System Correction Justice and Rights Homicide Is Suicide a Sin? Self-Defense Murder Often Sanctioned On the Ethics of War The Massacre of the Innocents Enmity Our Enemies Immorality The Sink of Iniquity Wherein Nature Is Opposed Hearts Occasions Scandal Not Good to Be Alone A Helping Hand Thou Shalt Not Steal Petty Thefts An Oft Exploited, But Specious Plea Contumely Defamation Detraction Calumny Rash Judgment Mendacity Concealing the Truth Restitution Undoing the Evil Paying Back Getting Rid of Ill-Gotten Goods What Excuses From Restitution Debts

Explanation of Catholic Morals - J. Stapleton




Prayer

No word so common and familiar among Christians as prayer. Religion itself is nothing more than a vast, mighty, universal, never ceasing prayer. Our churches are monuments of prayer and houses of prayer. Our worship, our devotions, our ceremonies are expressions of prayer. Our sacred music is a prayer. The incense, rising in white clouds before the altar, is symbolical of prayer. And the one accent that is dinned into our ears from altar and pulpit is prayer.

Prayer is the life of the Christian as work is the life of the man; without one and the other we would starve spiritually and physically. If we live well, it is because we pray; if we lead sinful lives, it is because we neglect to pray. Where prayer is, there is virtue; where prayer is unknown, there is sin. The atmosphere of piety, sanctity, and honesty is the atmosphere of prayer.

Strange that the nature and necessity of prayer are so often misunderstood! Yet the definition in our Catechism is clear and precise. There are four kinds of prayer; adoration, thanksgiving, petition for pardon, and for our needs, spiritual and bodily.

One need be neither a Catholic nor a Christian to see how becoming it is in us to offer to God our homage of adoration and thanksgiving; it is necessary only to believe in a God who made us and who is infinitely perfect. Why, the very heathens made gods to adore, and erected temples to thank them, so deep was their sense of the devotion they owed the Deity. They put the early Christians to death because the latter refused to adore their gods. Everywhere you go, under the sun, you will find the creature offering to the Creator a homage of worship.

He, therefore, who makes so little of God as to forget to adore and thank Him becomes inferior to the very pagans who, sunk in the darkness of corruption and superstition as they were, did not, however, forget their first and natural duty to the Maker. Neglect of this obligation in a man betrays an absence, a loss of religious instinct, and an irreligious man is a pure animal, if he is a refined one. His refinement and superiority come from his intelligence, and these qualities, far from attenuating his guilt, only serve to aggravate it.

The brute eats and drinks; when he is full and tired he throws himself down to rest. When refreshed, he gets up, shakes himself and goes off again in quest of food and amusement. In what does a man without prayer differ from such a being?

But prayer, strictly speaking, means a demand, a petition, an asking. We ask for our needs and our principal needs are pardon and succor. This is prayer as it is generally understood. It is necessary to salvation. Without it no man can be saved. Our assurance of heaven should be in exact proportion to our asking. "Ask and you shall receive." Ask nothing, and you obtain nothing; and that which you do not obtain is just what you must have to save your soul.

Here is the explanation of it in a nutshell. The doctrine of the Church is that when God created man, He raised him from a natural to a supernatural state, and assigned to him a supernatural end. Supernatural means what is above the natural, beyond our natural powers of obtaining. Our destiny therefore cannot be fulfilled without the help of a superior power. We are utterly incapable by ourselves of realizing the end to which we are called. The condition absolutely required is the grace of God and through that alone can we expect to come to our appointed end.

Here is a stone. That that stone should have feeling is not natural, but supernatural. God, to give sensation to that stone, must break through the natural order of things, because to feel is beyond the native powers of a stone. It is not natural for an animal to reason, it is impossible. God must work a miracle to make it understand. Well, the stone is just as capable of feeling, and the animal of reasoning, as is man capable of saving his soul by himself.

To persevere in the state of grace and the friendship of God, to recover it when lost by sin, are supernatural works. Only by the grace of God can this be effected. Will God do this without being asked? Say rather will God save us in spite of ourselves, or unknown to ourselves. He who does not ask gives no token of a desire to obtain.