The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 186.

We have often heard of picturesque brigands in Sicily who are supposed to burn a candle to our Lady at one of her shrines, before setting out on their day's enterprise, hoping thus to conciliate the blessing of Heaven upon their evil undertaking—or of someone given over to another form of wickedness, who presumptuously continues in an evil life, but trusts the salvation of his soul to the mere wearing of the brown scapular Such cases may have occurred. It is difficult to set limits to human perversity. I own that I am sceptical as to their existence. I have not yet come across anyone who professed to have met the pious highwayman, or to have rubbed shoulders with the professional cut-throat who was devout to the Madonna. Whatever evidence there may be on this subject is certainly of a hearsay character. Still it is hard to set limits to human superstitions, and without doubt the sin of presumption is to be found amongst Catholics as well as amongst Protestants. It may, conceivably, have now and again taken grotesque forms. But it is quite certain that if any Catholic has deluded himself into imagining that all will be well with him, provided he continue some external practice in honour of the Blessed Virgin, he knows all the time quite well in his heart that he is deliberately contradicting the teaching of his religion. Catholic preachers in every age—particularly perhaps in the ages of faith, when faith was strong—have warned their hearers that faith without works is dead, and that it is useless to be externally devout to Mary, useless even to pray to God, unless there be a real wish in the heart to turn away from sin. Superstition is the excess of faith ; presumption is the excess of hope. Rather, superstition and presumption are misplaced faith and hope. Faith and hope irrationally exercised inevitably run to seed. Superstitions are far more likely to arise amongst those who possess no Divine Faith than amongst Catholics who by faith submit their minds to the Word of God. In adherence to a supernatural revelation it is impossible to exceed. But where the Catholic Faith is unknown, we often find strange superstitions ram pant—table-turning and the like, that proceed from the excess of faith—in other words, from misplaced faith ; from faith given not to God, but to man—faith irrationally based upon an imposture. Similarly, with regard to presumption. It is impossible to hope too much in the Promises of the religion revealed by God; it is easy to hope too much where there is no real ground for hope at all. It is doubtless possible for a Catholic to presume on the Mercy of God, for getting that the Divine Mercy can only be extended to those who turn from sin ; it is more than possible, it is alas! too easy for a man without a definite religion to say to himself vaguely that everything will come all right in the end, notwithstanding his sins, because " God is good."