As for danger of idolatry, I believe that well-to-do and, it may be, highly educated Catholics are far The danger more likely to fall into this sin than are of Idolatry, those who are poor in this world's goods and altogether without human learning. Idolatry consists in placing some creature in the place of the Creator and giving to that creature the due of the Creator. No Catholic, remaining a Catholic, has it in his power thus to act towards Mary, but all Catholics are capable of thus acting towards money, or towards the esteem of their fellow-men, or towards the pleasures of the flesh, or towards their own undisciplined wills and cupidities. There is no danger for any of us of Mariolatry; there is real danger for us all of—to coin another barbarous word—what I may call Egoolatry, but into this danger simple folk are far less prone to fall, or will fall far less deeply than those whose lives are complex. God in truth is a jealous God, and will have no gods beside Him. If we would come to Him, we must needs break down all our idols. In other words, God is jealous of sins which shut His children out from the vision of their Father, but He is not jealous of pure affections that help to unite us to Him, who is the source from whom those affections spring.
To argue that our Lord is jealous of the honour paid to His Mother is to utter (unthinkingly no doubt) what is in itself one of the most terrible of blasphemies. Our Lord is True Man as well as True God. It can hardly be meant that, as Man, He who is our One Supreme Example—from the standard of whose Life there lies no possible appeal—is "jealous " of the honour given to His own Mother ! In that case it would be right for us to be jealous of honour paid to our mothers, a suggestion from which every decent man will shrink with horror.
Honour paid to a mother is regarded by every son as his own—to dishonour his mother would be to render him the deadliest insult. Jealousy, regarded as a monstrous human vice, certainly in no way belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ. It must therefore—I suppose—be meant that, as God, Christ is "jealous" of the honour we pay to His Mother This could only conceivably be the case if that honour drew us away from Him, but all experience proves—every Catholic knows it—that the direct opposite is the fact—that all honour given to our Lady is the result of meditation on supernatural truths revealed by God, is rendered to Mary for the sake of God, and deepens in our hearts the conception of the Majesty of God, of His inalienable rights over the lives of all His creatures, and of His Infinite Perfections. Danger of But, though I am intimately convinced that there is no danger for Catholics lest they honour our Lady unduly, I do think—if I may be allowed to say it by way of digression—that there is a danger sometimes lest we Priests should forget the prejudices and confusion of thought (arising from ignorance of our religion) that in this matter will exist in the minds of many people who may be listening to our sermons. Preaching in England, we are not preaching (as we should be were we preaching in Italy or in Spain) solely to Catholics—to those who could not misunderstand us if they would. Surely, we are bound, under our circumstances, to remember that words are only tokens, understood by a recognised convention to represent certain ideas. If there be confusion in any case about the convention, words will be taken in a sense that was not intended by the speaker, and will become false tokens. Moreover, if the speaker ought to have foreseen that his words would be thus misunderstood, he is responsible for the mistake. Many years ago a very holy priest, long since dead, preached a sermon on our Lady ; a friend of mine who was present told me afterwards that he had observed two young men sitting near him, obviously Protestants, listening attentively to the discourse. At its end one said to the other: " There can be no doubt about it now. They do put the Virgin in the place of Christ." The preacher would have been horrified could he have heard this comment, but one wonders whether he had been sufficiently guarded in his language. I know not— but I do know that in England we all ought to be careful in this matter, and that it is often dangerous for us here to use the language that it would be quite safe to use were we preaching to Spaniards in Madrid. Needless to say that there is no question of keeping back the true doctrine about our Lady, or of neglecting the right of Catholics to have their religion preached to them as fully and completely in London as in Madrid. It is only a matter of choosing words that will convey our ideas correctly to the minds of our audience. For example, I think that twice in this book I have written of the " worship of Mary." I did so because it seemed the most suitable word, and I thought that it was morally impossible for any of my readers to misconceive my meaning. In a book one has space to set out the Catholic doctrine as a whole ; in a sermon often one has no time for explanations. However convenient and suitable a word may be in itself, it must be better to sacrifice it in a sermon and substitute a synonym, where by its use there might be even the slightest risk of intensifying the prejudices of even one single soul. We, like the Apostle before us, are " debtors to all men." It is obvious that in all public speaking our object should be to convey true, not false, impressions to our hearers, and that when speaking of our Lady it must be our desire to strengthen devotion, not to turn away were it but one soul, in fear—even in idle fear—lest he should give to the creature what is due to the Creator. St. Alphonsus has written that if any one really believed what Protestants believe about the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning our Lady, it would be a grievous sin for him, in that state of mind, to become a Catholic. The longing of our hearts is surely to remove such a terrible perversion of the truth—our dread, then, should be lest we strengthen, or even possibly create it by careless words, the true meaning of which it would have been so easy otherwise to make clear.
It is one of the dangers of extempore speaking that one often says what it gives satisfaction at the moment to say, without sufficient consideration as to its ultimate effect. We priests should surely be careful, when preaching, to say nothing for the mere pleasure of saying it—or merely because we know it to be true—without reflection as to whether the saying of it at that moment will be of real advantage to souls for whom Christ died.