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gentle and humble Lamb of God, crushed, clothed in His blood as in a garment, and I thought I heard from His own mouth the words which the psalmist uttered in His name: "O God, my God, look upon me; why hast Thou forsaken me? O my God, I shall cry, and Thou wilt not hear."
And forthwith the murmur died upon my lips, and I remembered what our Divine Saviour said in His gospel: "The discipline is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord." The Christian is the servant of a God who became man in order to suffer and to die.
To rebel against pain, to revolt against Providence because it permits grief and bereavement, is to forget whence we came, the school in which we have been taught, the example that each of us carries graven in the name of a Christian, which each of us honors at his hearth, contemplates at the altar of his prayers, and of which de desires that his tomb, the place of his last sleep, shall bear the sign.
My dearest brethren, I shall return by and by to the providential law of suffering, but you will agree that since it has pleased a God-made man who was holy, innocent, without stain, to suffer and to die for us who are sinners, who are guilty, who are perhaps criminals, it ill becomes us to complain whatever we may be called upon to endure. The truth is that no disaster on earth, striking creatures only, is comparable with that which our sins provoked and whereof God Himself chose to be the blameless victim.
Having recalled to mind this fundamental truth, I find it easier to summon you to face what has befallen us and to speak to you simply and directly of what is your duty and of what may be your hope. That duty I shall express in two words-patriotism and endurance.
My dearest brethren, I desire to utter in your name and my own the gratitude of those whose age, vocation, and social conditions cause them to benefit by the heroism of others without bearing in it any active part.
When, immediately on my return
from Rome, I went to Havre to greet our Belgian, French, and English wounded; when, later, at Malines, at Louvain, at Antwerp, it was given to me to take the hands of those brave men who carried a bullet in their flesh, a wound on their forehead, because they had marched to the attack of the enemy or borne the shock of his onslaught, it was a word of gratitude to them that rose to my lips. "O valiant friends," I said, "it was for us, it was for each one of us, it was for me, that you risked your lives and are now in pain. I am moved to tell you of my respect, of my thankfulness, to assure you that the whole nation knows how much she is in debt to you."
For in truth our soldiers are our saviors.
A first time, at Liége, they saved France; a second time, in Flanders, they arrested the advance of the enemy upon Calais. France and England know it; and Belgium stands before them both, and before the entire world, as a nation of heroes.
Never before in my whole life did I feel so proud to be a Belgian as when, on the platforms of French stations, and halting a while in Paris, and visiting London, I was witness of the enthusiastic admiration our allies feel for the heroism of our army. Our King is, in the esteem of all, at the very summit of the moral scale. He is doubtless the only man who does not recognize that fact, as, simple as the simplest of his soldiers, he stands in the trenches and puts new courage, by the serenity of his face, into the hearts of those of whom he requires that they shall not doubt of their country. The foremost duty of every Belgian citizen at this hour is gratitude to the army..
If any man had rescued you from shipwreck or from a fire,you would assuredly hold yourselves bound to him by a debt of everlasting thankfulness. But it is not one man, it is 250,000 men who fought, who suffered, who fell for you so that you might be free, so that Belgium might keep her independence, her dynasty, her patriotic unity; so that after the vicissitudes of battle she might rise nobler.
purer, more erect, and more glorious than before.
Pray daily, my brethren, for these 250,000 and for their leaders to victory; pray for our brothers in arms; pray for the fallen; pray for those who are still engaged; pray for the recruits who are making ready for the fight to come.
In your name I send them the greeting of our fraternal sympathy and our assurance that not only do we pray for the success of their arms and for the eternal welfare of their souls, but that we also accept for their sake all the distress, whether physical or moral, that falls to our own share in the oppression that hourly besets us, and all that the future may have in store for us, in humiliation for a time, in anxiety, and in sorrow. In the day of final victory we shall all be in honor; it is just that today we should all be in grief.
To judge by certain rumors that have reached me, I gather that from districts that have had least to suffer some bitter words have arisen toward our God, words which, if spoken with cold calculation, would not be far from blasphemous.
Oh, all too easily do I understand how natural instinct rebels against the evils that have fallen upon Catholic Belgium. The spontaneous thought of mankind is ever that virtue should have its instantaneous crown and injustice its immediate retribution.
But the ways of God are not our ways, the Scriptures tell us. Providence gives free courses, for a time measured by Divine wisdom, to human passions and the conflict of desires. God, being eternal, is patient. The last word is the word of mercy, and it belongs to those who believe in love. "Why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me? Quare tristis es anima, et quare conturbas me?" Hope in God. Bless Him always. Is He not thy Saviour and thy God? Spera in Deo quoniam adhuc confitebor illi, salutare vultus mei et Deus meus.
When holy Job, whom God presented as an example of constancy to the generations to come, had been stricken, blow
upon blow, by Satan, with the loss of his children, of his goods, of his health, his enemies approached him with provocations to discouragement; his wife urged upon him a blasphemy and a curse. "Dost thou still continue in thy simplicity? Curse God, and die." But the man of God was unshaken in his confidence. "And he said to her: Thou hast spoken like one of the foolish women; if we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil? Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit; sicut Domino placuit ita factum est. Sit nomen Domini benedictum." And experience proved that saintly one to be right. It pleased the Lord to recompense, even here below, His faithful servant. "The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. And for his sake God pardoned his friends."
Better than any other man, perhaps, do I know what our unhappy country has undergone. Nor will any Belgian, I trust, doubt of what I suffer in my soul, as a citizen and as a Bishop, in sympathy with all this sorrow. These last four months have seemed to me age long. By thousands have our brave ones been mowed down. Wives, mothers are weeping for those they shall not see again; hearths are desolate; dire poverty spreads, anguish increases.
At Malines, at Antwerp the people of two great cities have been given over, the one for six hours, the other for thirtyfour hours, to a continuous bombardment, to the throes of death.
I have treversed the greater part of the districts most terribly devastated in my diocese,* and the ruins I beheld and the ashes were more dreadful than I, prepared by the saddest of forebodings, could have imagined.
*Duffel, Lierre, Berlaer Saint Rombautt, Konings-Hoyckt, Mortsel, Waelhem, Muysen, Wavre Sainte Caterine, Wavre Nôtre Dame, Sempst, Weerde, Eppeghen, Hofstade, Elewyt, Rymenam, Boort-Meerbeek, Wespelaer, Haecht, Werchter-Wackerzeel, Rotselaer, Tremeloo; Louvain and its suburban environs, Blauwput, Kessel-Loo, Booven-Loo, Linden. Herent, Thildonck, Bueken, Relst, Aerschot, Wesemael, Hersselt, Diest, Schaffen, Molenstede, Rillaer, Gelrode.
Other parts of my diocese, which I have not had time to visit,† have in like manner been laid waste. Churches, schools, asylums, hospitals, convents in great numbers are in ruins. Entire villages have all but disappeared. At Werchter-Wackerzeel, for instance, out of 380 homes 130 remain. At Tremeloo two-thirds of the village are overthrown. At Bueken, out of 100 houses 20 are standing. At Schaffen, 189 houses out of 200 are destroyed; 11 still stand. At Louvain the third part of the buildings are down; 1,074 dwellings have disappeared. On the town land and in the suburbs 1,823 houses have been burned.
In this dear City of Louvain, perpetually in my thoughts, the magnificent Church of St. Peter will never recover its former splendor. The ancient College of St. Ives, the art schools, the consular and commercial schools of the university, the old markets, our rich library with its collections, its unique and unpublished manuscripts, its archives, its gallery of great portraits of illustrious rectors, chancellors, professors, dating from the time of its foundation, which preserved for masters and students alike a noble tradition, and were an incitement in their studies, all this accumulation of intellectual, of historic, and of artistic riches, the fruit of the labors of five centuries-all is in the dust.
Many a parish lost its pastor. There is now sounding in my ears the sorrowful voice of an old man, of whom I asked whether he had had mass on Sunday in his battered church. "It is two months," he said, "since we had a church." The parish priest and the curate had been interned in a concentration camp.
Thousands of Belgian citizens have in like manner been deported to the prisons of Germany, to Munsterlagen, to Celle, to Magdeburg. At Munsterlagen alone, 3,100 civil prisoners were numbered.
†Haekendover, Roosbeek, Bautersem, Budingen, Neerlinder, Ottignies, Mousty, Wavre, Beyghem, Capelle-au-Bois, Humbeek, Nieuwenrode, Liezelo, Londerzeel, Heyndonck, Mariekerke, Weert, Blaesvelt.
History will tell of the physical and moral torments of their long martyrdom.
Hundreds of innocent men were shot. I possess no complete necrology; but I know that there were ninety-one shot at Aerschot and that there, under pain of death, their fellow-citizens were compelled to dig their graves. In the Louvain group of communes 176 persons, men and women, old men and sucklings, rich and poor, in health and sickness, were shot or burned.
In my diocese alone I know that thirteen priests or religious were put to death.‡
One of these, the parish priest of Gelrode, suffered, I believe, a veritable martyrdom. I made a pilgrimage to his grave, and amid the little flock which so lately he had been feeding with the zeal of an apostle, there did I pray to him that from the height of heaven he would guard his parish, his diocese, his country.
We can neither number our dead nor compute the measure of our ruins. And what would it be if we turned our sad steps toward Liége, Namur, Audenne, Dinant, Tamines, Charleroi, and elsewhere?§ And there, where lives were not taken, and there, where the stones of buildings were not thrown down, what anguish unrevealed! Families hitherto living at ease now in bitter want; all commerce at an end, all careers ruined, industry at a standstill, thousands upon thousands of workingmen without employment, working women, shopgirls, humble servant girls without the means of earning their bread, and poor souls forlorn on the bed of sickness and fever,
Their brothers in religion or in the priesthood will wish to know their names. Here they are: Dupierreux of the Society of Jesus, Brothers Sebastian and Allard of the Congregation of the Josephites, Brother Candide of the Congregation of the Brothers of Mercy, Father Maximin, Capuchin, and Father Vincent, Conventional; Lombaerts, parish priest at Boven-Loo; Goris, parish priest at Autgaerden; Carette, professor at the Episcopal College of Louvain; de Clerck, parish priest at Bueken; Dergent, parish priest at Gelrode, and Wouters Jean, parish priest at PontBuûlé: We have reason to believe that the parish priest of Hérent, van Bladel, an old man of 71, was also killed. Until now, however, his body has not been found.
crying, "O Lord, how long, how long?" There is nothing to reply. The reply remains the secret of God.
Yes, dearest brethren, it is the secret of God. He is the Master of events and the Sovereign Director of the human multitude. Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus; orbis terrarum et universi qui habitant in eo. The first relation between the creature and his Creator is that of absolute dependence. The very being of the creature is dependent; dependent are his nature, his faculties, his acts, his works.
At every passing moment that dependence is renewed, is incessantly reasserted, inasmuch as, without the will of the Almighty, existence of the first single instant would vanish before the next. Adoration, which is the recognition of the sovereignty of God, is not, therefore, a fugitive act; it is the permanent state of a being conscious of his own origin. Ọn every page of the Scriptures Jehovah affirms His sovereign dominion.
The whole economy of the old law, the whole history of the chosen people, tend to the same end-to maintain Jehovah upon His throne and to cast idols down. "I am the first and the last. I am the Lord, and there is none else; there is no God beside Me. I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create
§I have said that thirteen ecclesiastics had been shot within the Diocese of Malines. There were, to my own actual personal knowledge, more than thirty in the Dioceses of Namur, Tournai, and Liége-Schlogel, parish priest of Hastière; Gille, parish priest of Couvin; Pieret, curate at Etalle; Alexandre, curate at Mussy-la-Ville; Maréchal, seminarist at Maissin; Father the Rev. Gillet, Benedictine of Maredsous; the Rev. Father Nicolas, Premonstratensian of the Abbey of Leffe; two brothers of the same abbey; one brother of the Congregation of Oblates; Poskin, parish priest of Surice; Hotlet, parish priest of Les Alloux; Georges, parish priest of Tintigny; Glouden, parish priest of Latour; Zenden, retired parish priest of Latour; Jacques, a priest; Druet, parish priest of Acoz; Pollart, parish priest of Roselies; Labeye, parish priest of BlegnyTrembleur; Thielen, parish priest of Haccourt; Janssen, parish priest of Heure le Romain; Chabot, parish priest of Forêt; Dossogne, parish priest of Hockay; Reusonnet, curate of Olme; Bilande, chaplain of the Institute of Deaf Mutes at Bouge; Docq, a priest, and others.
evil. Woe to him that gainsayeth his maker, a sherd of the earthen pots. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What art thou making, and thy work is without hands? Tell ye, and come, and consult together. A just God and a Saviour, there is none beside Me."
Ah, did the proud reason of mankind dream that it could dismiss our God? Did it smile in irony when through Christ and through His Church He pronounced the solemn words of expiation and of repentance? Vain of fugitive successes, O light-minded man, full of pleasure and of wealth, hast thou imagined that thou couldst suffice even to thyself?
Then was God set aside in oblivion, then was He misunderstood, then was He blasphemed with acclamation, and by those whose authority, whose influence, whose power had charged them with the duty of causing His great laws and His great order to be revered and obeyed: Anarchy then spread among the lower ranks of mankind, and many sincere consciences were troubled by the evil example. How long, O Lord, they wondered, how long wilt Thou suffer the pride of this inquity? Or wilt Thou finally justify the impious opinion that Thou carest no more for the work of Thy hands? A shock from a thunderbolt, and behold, all human foresight is set at nought! Europe trembles upon the brink of destruction!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Many are the thoughts that throng the breast of man today, and the chief of them all is this:
God reveals Himself as the Master. The nations that made the attack, and the nations that are warring in selfdefense, alike confess themselves to be in the hand of Him without Whom nothing is made, nothing is done.
Men long unaccustomed to prayer are turning again to God. Within the army, within the civil world, in public, and within the individual conscience, there is prayer. Nor is that prayer today a word learned by rote, uttered lightly by the lip; it surges from the troubled heart, it
takes the form, at the feet of God, of the very sacrifice of life. The being of man is a whole offering to God. This is worship, this is the fulfillment of the primal moral and religious law-the Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve.
And even those who murmur, and whose courage is not sufficient for submission to the hand that smites us and saves us, even these implicitly acknowledge God to be the Master, for if they blaspheme Him, they blaspheme Him for His delay in closing with their desires.
But as for us, my brethren, we will adore Him in the integrity of our souls. Not yet do we see in all its magnificence the revelation of His wisdom, but our faith trusts Him with it all. Before His justice we are humble, and in His mercy hopeful. With holy Tobias we
know that because we have sinned He has chastised us, but because He is merciful He will save us.
It would perhaps be cruel to dwell upon our guilt now, when we are paying so well and so nobly what we owe. But shall we not confess that we have indeed something to expiate? He who has received much, from him shall much be required. Now dare we say that the moral and religious standard of our people has risen as its economic prosperity has risen? The observance of Sunday rest, the Sunday mass, the reverence for marriage, the restraints of modesty-what had you made of these?
What, even within Christian families, had become of the simplicity practiced by our fathers, what of the spirit of penance, what of respect for authority? And we, too, we priests, we religious, I, the Bishop, we whose great mission it is to present in our lives, yet more than in our speech, the Gospel of Christ, have we earned the right to speak to our people the word spoken by the Apostle to the nations, "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ "?
We labor indeed, we pray indeed, but it is all too little. We should be, by the very duty of our State, the public expiators for the sins of the world. But which was the thing dominant in our
lives-expiation or our comfort and wellbeing as citizens? Alas! we have all had times in which we, too, fell under God's reproach to His people after the escape from Egypt: "The beloved grew fat and kicked; they have provoked me with that which was no god, and I will provoke them with that which is no people." Nevertheless, He will save us, for He wills not that our adversaries should boast that they, and not the Eternal, did these things. "See ye that I alone am, and there is no other God beside me. I will kill and I will make to live. I will strike and I will heal."
God will save Belgium, my brethren; you cannot doubt it.
Nay, rather, He is saving her.
Across the smoke of conflagration, across the stream of blood, have you not glimpses, do you not perceive signs of His love for us? Is there a patriot among us who does not know that Belgium has grown great? Nay, which of us would have the heart to cancel this last page of our national history? Which of us does not exult in the brightness of the glory of this shattered nation? When in her throes she brings forth heroes, our mother country gives her own energy to the blood of those sons of hers. Let us acknowledge that we needed a lesson in patriotism. There were Belgians, and many such, who wasted their time and their talents in futile quarrels of class with class, of race with race, of passion with personal passion.
Yet when, on Aug. 2, a mighty foreign power, confident in its own strength and defiant of the faith of treaties, dared to threaten us in our independence, then did all Belgians, without difference of party, or of condition, or of origin, rise up as one man, close ranged about their own King and their own Government, and cry to the invader: "Thou shalt not go through!"
At once, instantly, we were conscious of our own patriotism. For down within us all is something deeper than personal interests, than personal kinships, than party feeling, and this is the need and the will to devote ourselves to that more general interest which Rome termed the