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Evangelizing By Example

Written for priests, seminarians, and men discerning the priesthood, The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood strengthens souls and unites them to Christ and to their sublime vocation. In this excerpt, Venerable Louise Margaret Claret de la Touche implores priests to lead and teach above all by example. Her instruction is priceless not only to priests, but to all of us who seek to act as our Lord’s instrument in this life. 


Our adorable Master did not confine Himself to teaching by words, to teaching by public preaching and private instruction; He taught above all by example. “He first did,” says Holy Scripture, “and then He taught.” (Acts. 1:1). Is not the best lesson the lesson by example? What the ear cannot be always hearing, the eye can see, and is not the impression received through the eye, the stronger and the more vivid? Is not the heart more easily inflamed by having seen than by having heard? Jesus knew this; that is why, when He came to the teaching of the virtues, He commenced by practicing them all. He made them appear in Himself so beautiful, so desirable, so fascinating, that hearts became inflamed with the desire of possessing them.

And even now, is it not the recollection of the sublime virtues which He practiced on earth that moves us to imitate them? Is it not the thought of His divine patience that makes us patient, of His humility that makes us accept humiliation? Is it not the example of His adorable purity and that of His Virgin Mother, more than the few short words that He has said about it, which we find related in the Gospel, that causes the flower of virginity to bloom in all lands?

Our poor nature had been so profoundly affected by original sin that the words of Jesus, the words of the Word Incarnate, all powerful though they are, would not have been able, perhaps, to transform souls so promptly, if Our Saviour had not added to them His divine example.

Jesus Christ Himself first carried out all that He demanded of regenerated man in the way of virtue and sanctity. He carved out the way, He walked in it Himself, drawing after Him souls of good will. He placed Himself as a model before humanity, before this deformed and diseased humanity which had long lost the divine resemblance, and He said to it: “Look at Me and reproduce on the canvas of your soul My divine lineaments.” Jesus washed this canvas in His blood and made it white. The Church came and seeing man weak and incapable, maternally took his hand and guided the brush. And behold! soon copies of the divine Model appeared. Some of them bore such a close resemblance, were so conformable to the original, that the Heavenly Father recognized in them His divine Son. (Rom. 8:29). They were the saints formed after the example of Jesus, nourished by His word and living His life.

As in the case of Jesus Christ, it is above all by his example that the priest must teach. He ought therefore to be a living copy of Christ, he ought always to present to the world this divine image. Let him then offer in himself a finished model of virtue, a living and visible model, easy to imitate. Being a man, weak like other men, although raised by grace above the miseries and baseness of the earth, he must, by his example, help other men, his brethren, to rise even to the height of Christ.

“Let your modesty,” says the Apostle to the faithful, “appear before all men.” (Philip 4:5). What then is modesty? It is the transparent veil which moderates the light of two sublime virtues, humility and purity, without hiding them; it is their most fragrant perfume which insinuates itself into hearts, draws them and transforms them; it is the most sweet odor of humility and purity. If the Apostle recommended this modesty to the faithful, how much more should he demand it of priests!

This divine virtue shone in the countenance and in the whole outward demeanor of Christ; it flowed from His profound humility and from His adorable purity. Let it be also the ornament of the priest; let it envelop him on every side, let it mingle itself with all his actions, let it be found in all his words, let it accompany him in the exercise of his priestly duties, and he will be a living sermon of the truth and the virtues of Jesus. Everything in the priest should instruct, everything should edify. Placed as a connecting link between Jesus and souls, he ought to lead them in his own person to His Divine Master, and unite them to Him. Souls should ascend to Jesus by means of the priest. The words of the priest, his actions, the purity, humility and self-sacrifice of his life, ought to be as powerful levers to lift up souls, as serene lights to guide them to God!

Prayer

O, Christ, ineffable light, divine fire of uncreated truth, come and enlighten our minds! Thou art the Word of the Father, the splendor of His glory, the light of the world, come and dispel the darkness which clouds our horizon! Thou dost always speak. Thou dost always instruct in the person of priests. May Thy light come to us by Thy priests; and, as it is by their hands that we receive Thy adorable body, may it also be from their lips that we receive Thy truth! So strengthen them in the possession of justice and truth that they may never fail in Thy way. Unite them so intimately to Thee, that they may think only Thy thoughts, that they may teach only Thy wisdom. Unite them so closely among themselves, that they may be made strong against the assaults of sin. Fill their minds with Thy light and their hearts with Thy chaste love, in order that, in their turn, they may enlighten all the souls that Thou has confided to them. Amen.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood by Venerable Louise Margaret Claret de la Touche which is available from TAN Books

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