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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
Exclusive Representation of the Nativity Scene.
The scholar Æneas Sylvius, who later became pope under the name of Pius II, speaks in his writings of a gentleman who was long tormented by violent temptations to commit suicide. More than once, he was on the verge of executing his infernal plan. One day, it occurred to him to turn to a very learned religious for advice. The servant of God consoled him as best he could, advising him to keep a priest in his castle and to attend Holy Mass daily. The gentleman received this advice gratefully, took great care to follow it punctually, and was so well off that he was for a year free from the temptations which had once so cruelly tormented him. But it so happened that at this time his chaplain was invited to go and celebrate Mass in a neighboring parish, an invitation to which the gentleman readily gave his consent, since he intended to go there. However, pressing and unforeseen occupations kept him at the castle. Towards the hour of noon, he was, to his great horror, assailed again by his old temptations of suicide. Without thinking long about his desperate situation, he mounted one of his best horses, and immediately set off at full speed, fearing that he would not arrive soon enough to attend Mass. On his way he met a peasant, who, at his request, told him that it was in vain that he was hurrying, since mass was over. At these words, the gentleman began to curse his fate and to exclaim with the accent of deep sorrow: “It is done with me, I am lost!” The peasant, curious to know what was causing him so much fear, asked him the reason, and was greatly surprised to learn that it was simply because he had not yet heard Mass. “If you will consent, he then said to him, to give me your cloak, I will give you in return all the merit I may have derived from the Mass.” The gentleman did not hesitate; he threw his cloak to him, and nevertheless continued to walk towards a small church to satisfy his particular devotion. – But what was his astonishment, when, turning back, he saw the peasant hanging from a tree, a few steps from the place where the exchange we have spoken of had taken place.
It is probable that as a punishment for his greed and the low esteem in which he had held the fruits of the mass, he had been assailed by the same temptations to commit suicide that had tormented the gentleman, and that he had succumbed to them. The gentleman renewed his pious resolution never to let a day pass without attending Mass, and from that time on he was completely free of his old temptation.
(Æneas sylv., De Europa, c. 21.)