The Deacon's Bench

Well, it was in 1891.

But this clip from the Brooklyn Eagle (thanks to Pat McNamara!) offers a fascinating glimpse at the way we were:

On the Tuesday after the beginning of the week’s exercises the missionaries commenced to hear confessions. By this time the sermons had prepared the people for this sacrament. The missionaries were reinforced by other priests of the church in hearing confession, the number of those desiring to ask forgiveness for their sins having been so large. After the opening of the confessionals the priests sat ready to hear all that came. During confession days these hours were devoted to that part of the mission: From 5 A.M. to 7 A.M., from 9 A.M. to 12 P.M., from 3 P.M. to 6 P.M., and in the evening as long as necessary. After confession the people received communion. Those who were heard early in the morning generally went to communion on the same day as they confessed, and others on the following day. By the time the confession were begun the people were full of fervor, and in order to carry them on to a firm purpose to lead a new life the tone of the sermons was somewhat changed. How to preserve God’s grace, avoiding the occasions of sin, the necessity of temperance, habits of prayer and the practice of a devout life were what they specially dwelt on.

Every one who went to confession received from the priest a leaflet containing short instructions as to how to lead a good life so as to preserve the fruits of the mission. The priests kept count of the leaflets they distributed, and they ascertained how many people went to confession. Over 4,000 women and 5,000 men received leaflets. This is what the leaflets said:

Put this in your prayer book and keep it as a remembrance of the mission of the Paulist fathers:

O my soul! Never forget these happy days when you were so sincerely converted to God. Never forget the promises you then made to God and your father confessor.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus! Burning with love for me, inflame my heart with love for Thee.

O Mary! Obtain for me the grace to persevere in my good resolutions.

The last words of advice given at the mission:
Be careful to say your morning and evening prayers: for prayer is the key to the treasures of heaven. “Ask and you shall receive,” says our Lord.

Often call to mind that it is appointed once for you to die–you know not when, nor where, nor how: only this, you know: that if you die in mortal sin you will be lost forever; if you die in the state of grace, you will be happy forever. “In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”–Ecclas. vii.

Never neglect to hear mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. By uniting our hearts with all the faithful in offering up the great sacrifice of the mass; first, we offer an act of infinite adoration to God and, second, we bring down on ourselves the choicest blessings of heaven. A dark cloud hangs over the Catholic family that neglects mass.

Be careful about whet you read, for bad reading is poison to the soul. Provide yourself with Catholic books. Take a Catholic newspaper.

Remember that a man is known by his company. Keep away from the saloon. Beware of the familiar company of persons of the other sex. Remember what you promised at the mission and fly from the danger of sin, “for he that loveth the danger shall perish in it.”–Ecclas. Iii

When you are tempted by bad thoughts, say quickly, “Jesus and Mary, help me!” Then say the Hail Mary till you have banished the temptation. Remember that God sees you at every instant.

If you are so unhappy as to fall again into sin, be not discouraged: quickly beg pardon of God and seek the first opportunity to go to confession and start again in a new life. “He that shall persevere unto the end he shall be saved.” Matthew.x

Go to confession and communion once a month, if possible; at least never allow three months to pass without approaching these sacraments. By confession our souls are cleansed from sin and strengthened to resist temptation. By communion our souls are nourished by the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ. “He that eateth me, the same shall also live by me.”–John, vi:58.

Consider how noble it is to make some sacrifice for the love of God. “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”–Matthew, xvi:24.

Check out the rest. It’s fascinating.

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