(The third and final part of the sermon by Rev. FERREOL GIRARDEY, C.SS.R., Imprimatur ARSH 1915. Emphases mine.)
The terrible persecutions waged against the Church during the first three centuries of her existence made many millions of martyrs; but their blood was the seed of Christians, for their number increased with the number of martyrs, whose bodies alone suffered. The Church had, and has still, reason to rejoice over the great number of her martyrs; she honors these heroic defenders of the faith by celebrating their feasts, their praises; by erecting churches and altars in their honor, venerating their relics and proposing their examples and virtues to our imitation. But human respect, on the contrary, is the worst of her persecutors and robs the Church of numberless children and precipitates them into the endless torments of the infernal abyss.
Human respect attacks the souls of men, corrupts their morals, weakens and even destroys the faith of its victims, drags them into hell, and thus renders vain the blood and death of Jesus Christ and the ministrations of His Church. Human respect causes the very children of the Church to wage a relentless war on her! Although the Church does not undergo a bloody persecution thereby, she has every reason to utter these complaints: “Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter” (Is. 38. 17). “Who will give water to my head and a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I will weep day and night for the (spiritually) slain of the daughter of my people” (Jer. 9. i). Human respect is the accursed murderer of the souls of so many Catholics! Hence St. Augustine indignantly exclaims : “Woe to thee, O stream of human custom (respect), how long wilt thou toss about the children of Eve in the great and dangerous sea ?”
St. Peter became a victim of human respect, for not withstanding his ardent love of Jesus and his firm resolution to die with Him, he nevertheless, swayed by human respect and the fear of the company he was in, shamefully denied Him. Pontius Pilate several times emphatically acknowledged the innocence of Jesus, and even did so whilst condemning Him to die on the cross; but he had not the courage to displease the Jewish rabble and despise the danger of incurring Cesar’s displeasure. Incalculable is the immense multitude of the victims of human respect on account of the weakening and loss of the faith, the neglect of keeping the commandments of God and of the Church, the loss of innocence through bad company, profane and dangerous amusements, conniving at dishonest practices, etc. The loss of faith results not from arguments alleged against it, but from human respect and yielding to one’s passions. “What So and So will say” often causes the shipwreck of the best resolutions!
Human respect is the idol worshiped by many Catholics. It is a dishonorable, contemptible and disgraceful yoke and slavery which the world imposes on its votaries. He who yields to it, is ashamed of Jesus Christ and practically denies Him. Of him Jesus Christ says: “He that shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him the Son of man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty to judge mankind (Luke 9. 26). Unless such a one sincerely repents and changes his life, he will surely forfeit his salvation. On the other hand, he who never yields to human respect, “he who is not ashamed of Jesus Christ,” says Tertullian, “is certain of salvation.” In fact, our divine Saviour says so Himself: “Every one that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father, who is in heaven” (Mat. 10. 32).
Source: Sermon Matter by Rev. FERREOL GIRARDEY, C.SS.R., Imprimatur 1915