Tuesday, April 20, 2010

St. Peter Julian Eymard on Mercy

I have no idea where the following comes from so I hope I am not breaking some copyright somewhere. This text came my way and I thought I'd share it. It is attributed to St. Peter Julian Eymard:

The love which God feels for us is more merciful than benevolent because, sinners by nature, we have above all need of mercy. Besides it is His mercy which He reveals more than all His other attributes, on this earth, during our lifetime. This world is its empire; time, its kingdom.

Mercy has left the Heavens. It has come down to earth to envelop and cover man. It is his atmosphere and his environment, the air which he breathes, the light which illumines him. We live on mercy.

It rescues the sinner from that justice which should punish every sin; it arrests it, holds it up until death itself. It follows man, accompanies him everywhere he goes, never leaves him, not even after his death, for it follows him into purgatory. Purgatory is nothing but the last effort of the mercy of God toward the sinner, and there is written above the door of that flaming prison: “The Mercy of God!”

The mercy of God for man is infinite. We can never exhaust it, never smother it under our ingratitude, cannot tire it nor dishearten it. It pardons always; it pardons everyone. Even face to face with patent crime, it still says: “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.

Our Sins will never be as great as the mercy of God.
The sinner despairs of course; that is the aftermath of the pleasure of his sin, and this despair is even surer than the first. Adam and Eve, who feel and doubt the possibility of finding mercy, Cain, who rejects it and cries out, “My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon, are types of sinners after they have committed their crimes. We give ourselves up to despair after our infidelity, and for the most part those sinners who put off being converted are held back by their despondency: “I cannot be forgiven; I have offended God too much”—the day when they will weep, they will be converted.

And the pious souls, why do they fall? From despair also. They are discouraged by a few failures; they have not succeeded; things have not gone as they expected. Then the devil fills them with doubt—his most successful manner of entering into a soul and destroying it. Never let this feeling dominate you. Would it be possible for you to doubt God’s mercy! No, never! If you fall, raise yourself up again by humble trust and repentance. Self-abasement which is content to remain in its abjection is the same as pride humiliated and in defiance. Sincere humility flies to God on wings of faith.

Instead of descending into hell to find out what place you might occupy there, it is better to make an act of faith in the mercy of God. Take hold of God through His weakness, His tenderness, and His Heart: a man taken by his weakness will give all he has and more besides. Therefore, point out to God that His glory lies in showing mercy to you, that His mercy cannot be put to better use than in exercising it on you, that you will become mercy’s victory and greatest work. Gain God’s benevolence by way of His Heart.

But observe the mercy of God. How different it is from man’s. When men forgive they humiliate, and the fear of the humiliation prevents a child from asking pardon. The good Lord forgives with kindness; His pardon is a grace which confers honor, purifies, sanctifies, and embellishes. It is the same act which forgives us and sanctifies us. On the instant, our garb of innocence, our white robe is returned to us. We have humbled ourselves only for the purpose of being raised up immediately by forgiveness.

Man tires of forgiving. He is more severe in case of a relapse and demands various conditions, while God seems to become more merciful the oftener He pardons. Great sinners who return to Him are His dearest friends. He came for those who were ill, rather than those who are well. As long as there is humility and confidence in our confession, we are always sure of being well received.

He forgives irrevocably and forever. “He casts our sins behind His back” says Holy Scripture, He plunges them into the sea, and the scarlet of our crimes becomes the snowy white of innocence in the bath of His mercy. They will never reappear to accuse us, and, personally I like the opinion of a great many of theologians, according to which they will not even be mentioned in the last judgment, because our Lord says: I will pardon their wrong-doing; I will not remember their sins any more.” (Heb 8:12)

Men make us pay for pardon with a punishment or at least with loss of position or of our civil rights: Jesus Christ gives us back our honour and re-establishes us in all our rights as they were before the sin. Thus He redeemed St. Peter and confirmed him in the function of supreme shepherd after his fall.

He ennobles in pardoning: of Magdalene the sinner He makes a heroine of supernatural love and He lauds her publicly with the most beautiful praise that God can bestow: “She has greatly loved.”

He takes sinners and makes them princes of His Mercy and of His love, as He did with Saint Paul and so many others.

And we should despair after that? You must know then that it is a necessity for Our Lord to pardon. His heart is oppressed by the possibility of having to condemn us; He weeps over us; and when He pardons us He is relieved and delighted by His mercy. And if Our Lord could still suffer, it would be by seeing us despair of His mercy and not implore His pardon.

But it is for us, priests and religious, that the mercy of God is most in evidence. For our sins we should be deprived of our dignities. That is what the world does with its magistrates and public officers, but then there would be no more priests to pardon other sinners.

Our Lord is more generous toward us, His mercies are more abundant, His pardon more full of goodness. That is because we have more need of pardon than the others. This should make us more merciful toward sinners. Being transgressors ourselves, pardoned so often, and having still need of pardon for the future, how could it be possible not to pardon others?


  1. Wow, this was amazing. I've been struggling with the idea of Hell and with my own numerous sins and with the idea that God is vindictive towards weak human beings. This whole life is a great mystery to me and I've always struggled with the idea that so many people could be damned. Most people, according to Christ in the scripture. Its hard for me to even think of God's mercy when I think of his justice. I want to have this notion of God that Julian is describing, but it seems in conflict with the idea that most of the human race will be damned. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I wasn't aware that most of humanity would go to hell. It certainly isn't taught by the Church. I know that the Lord spoke of many taking the broad road to perdition, but many is not the same as most. Though I suppose he speaks of the few and that would give the impression that more are lost than saved.

    However, we must never cease to trust in the mercy of the good God who so desires our salvation. God wants us to be saved and that is surely an enormous advantage for us. As St. Paul says: If God is for us - who can be against us.

    So I suppose there are two extremes to avoid when we contemplate the possibility of our salvatiuon or our ruin:
    1. that God is so good and so merciful that nothing I can do will ever shipwreck my salvation; because God will save me no matter what.
    2. that God's has set the bar so high that I couldn't possibly measure up and be saved.

    Yes the bar is high - we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, but God the Son came down to our level to raise us up to the heights of heavenly glory and that is the source of our great trust - the great lengths his desire to save us has brought him to. for he has loved us to the end, to the extremes.

    In essence what I'd like to tell you is that you shouldn't focus so much on the global level, but on your own salvation and that of those God has placed in your life and on your path. Know that you are infinitely loved and lovable to the Almighty God and that you are an important part of his creation and he wills that to be so for all eternity.

    I leave you with the advice St. Padre Pio gave to souls: Pray, Hope and Don't Worry.

  3. Thank you for the explanation Father. My wife and I are having a child soon. If it's a boy, we're going to name him Julian after this saint.