From the great Abbe Gaume (Catechism of Peseverance) his beautiful, homey, and comforting explication of religion:
Q. What is religion?
A. Religion, according to St. Augustine, is the bond which unites man to God; in other words, religion is the society of man with God.
Q. Explain this answer.
A. Between parents and children there exist ties, or natural and sacred relations. In the same manner there exist relations between God, the creator and father of man, and man, who is the creature and child of God. The ties which exist between God and man are even more sacred than those which unite a son to a father.
Q. Why so ?
A. Because we owe more to God than a son owes to his father; God is our creator and our last end, (which cannot be said of our earthly fathers.) From which we must conclude that our obligations to God are much more holy than are the obligations of children to their parents.
Q. What does the word religion signify ?
A. The word religion signifies the tie by excellence or the re-tieing. The tie by excellence, because religion unites us in a supernatural manner to God, who is the most perfect of beings; the retieing, because our Lord, by offering himself up to his father as a victim for us, has re-established the supernatural union which existed between God and man previous to original sin.
Q. Is there any other religion than the religion of Jesus Christ ?
A. No, there is no other religion than the religion of Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ alone, as both God and man, could expiate sin, reconcile man to God, and re-establish the supernatural tie which united them.
Q. Is the true religion, or religion of Jesus Christ of ancient date?
A. The religion of Jesus Christ is as ancient as the world. For it goes back to the time when the Son of God offered himself to his Father to redeem man, and has always had as the object of its faith and its hope this same Mediator and the same rewards.
Q. Has religion been at all times as fully taught as it is at the present day ?
A. No, religion has not been at all times as fully taught as it is at the present day. But it has not on that account ceased to be the same religion, no more than man, by passing through the difierent stages of life, ceases to be the same man.
Q. What difference is there between the faithful who preceded and those who have come after the Messiah ?
A. The difference is that the ancient just believed in Jesus Christ to come, whilst we believe in Jesus Christ already come. Our faith, our hope, our religion is the same as that of the patriarchs and prophets.
Unity of Religion and of the Church.
Q. What conclusion must we draw from this first part of the Catechism ?
A. From this first part of the Catechism we must draw this conclusion : that religion, whose children we are, goes back to the beginning of the world, and that it has always been one and the same, although not at all times as fully taught as at later periods.
Q. How do you show in a few words that religion has always been one and the same ?
A. Religion has always been one and the same in its Author, who is the Messiah. Whether expected or already come, Jesus Christ has ever been the foundation of religion; eternal salvation was never at any time possible except through him.
Q. Has religion been always one and the same in her doctrine ?
A. She has always been one and the same in her doctrine. With respect to God, she has always be-lieved and taught from the beginning of the world, that there is but one only God, infinitely perfect, the Creator and Preserver of all things ; that a Redeemer should save the world, and that the Spirit of the Lord should sanctify us by his grace ; only these truths are more clearly known to Christians than they were to the Jews
Q. What has she always believed and taught concerning man ?
A. Concerning man, religion has always believed and taught that he was created to the likeness of God ; that he is composed of a body, and a soul which is spiritual, free and immortal ; that man is fallen, through his own fault ; that all men are born in a state of sin and degradation ; that they will all rise at the last day, and that there shall be eternal rewards for the just and eternal punishments for the wicked.
Q. With regard to the world, what has she always believed and taught ?
A. With regard to the world, she has always believed and taught that it was created out of nothing ; that it is governed by a God all-powerful, infinitely wise, and infinitely good ; that it will be purified by fire, and then there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.
Q. Has religion been always the same in her morality and in her worship ?
A. Yes. Religion has always been the same in her morality, and in her worship. She has always admitted the same distinction between good and evil; always commended the same virtues and condemned the same vices. In her worship she has never failed to practice the two essential acts of worship, viz: prayer and sacrifice,
Q. And in her object ?
A. Her object has always been to destroy sin in the world, and to lead men to happiness.
Q. In her means ?
A. In her means she has always believed that man has need of grace, whereby to be saved ; she has always taught the manner and furnished the means of obtaining it. Only, the Christian religion, that is to say, religion as taught by our Lord, is more perfect and is richer in graces, than it was before the coming of the Messiah.
Q. Can it be said that the church has always been one and the same ?
A. Yes, it can be said that the church has always been one and the same. In order to protect religion, and to teach it to mankind, an exterior, visible, and perpetual society was necessary; this society is the church. It, therefore, commenced with religion, and has always kept pace with it.
Q. How do you explain this truth
A. We find the church existing at every period, from the beginning of the world, under the Patriarchs it was restricted, like religion, to the family ; under Moses, it expanded, like religion, into a national state ; and finally, under the gospel, it extended, like religion, to all people, of whom it made but one family.
Q. How do you show that the church, like religion, is the same since Christ as it was before the coming of the Messiah ?
A. The church, since Jesus Christ, is the same as before the coming of the Messiah; first, in its founder, who is God ; and second, in her object, which has always been the preservation and teaching of religion ; she recognizes the same holy books ; she has a tribunal to explain them; a sovereign pontiff, and different orders of the sacred ministers; she has her day of rest, consecrated to the Lord ; she has her grand solemnities and feasts.
A. Since Jesus Christ, as before him, the church has always been attacked, sometimes by strangers,sometimes by her own children ; she has had her great schism, which has separated many of her children from her; but all her afflictions redound to her glory; as formerly, all revolutions of empires, all other events, aided her to attain her end, the establishment of the gospel, so also do they now combine for its preservation and diffusion ; as formerly nothing could destroy her, so now neither hell nor the world shall prevail against her.