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Catholic Pocket Dictionary/M


MAJOR ORDERS             


MARIST FATHER             





MARY, FEASTS OF             







MINOR ORDERS             




MISSIONS, POPULAR             


MIXED MARRIAGES             



MORAL THEOLOGY             





("My Lady") A name given to representations of the Blessed Virgin in art, and occasionally used as an invocation in devotions to her.


The superior ranks of the sacred ministry – that is, priests, deacons, and subdeacons – are said to have major orders.


A vestment made of silk or woollen stuff, open but fastened in front, reaching almost to the knees, without sleeves but with openings for the arms and with a low collar around the neck. It is worn by cardinals, bishops, abbots, and the prelates of the Roman Court, as well as by others to whom the privilege is granted by the Pope. It is used to cover the rochet, so that bishops wear it only when they are out of their dioceses, the uncovered rochet being the sign of jurisdiction.


This religious order was founded early in the present century by the Very Reverend Father Colin, who was born on August 7, 1790, in the diocese of Lyons. From the beginning the society of Mary devoted itself to the foreign missions.


Marriage is a natural contract between man and woman, which Christ has raised to the dignity of a sacrament.


A witness for Christ. In early times this title was given generally to those who were distinguished witnesses for Christ, then to those who suffered for Him; lastly, after the middle of the third century, the title was restricted to those who actually died for Him.


A list of martyrs and other saints, and the mysteries commemorated on each day of the year, with brief notices of the life and death of the former.


Mary, the daughter or Joachim and Anne, received the highest dignity possible to a mere creature. She was not merely the passive instrument of the Incarnation. By the free use of her own will she co-operated in our salvation, and was associated with her divine Son. She was not indeed the mother of the Godhead, but she was the mother of God, for the simple reason that Christ her Son was God and man in one Person. True, her Son did not take his divine nature from her, any more than a son who is mere man receives his soul from his mother. The soul is infused by God, but as body and soul are united in one human person, we reasonably speak of a woman as the mother of her son, not merely as the mother of a human body. And granting this, it is strange that sincere Christians should stumble on the language in which the Church speaks of Mary. She is exalted above the angels, for surely God's mother is nearer to Him than the angels who stand before the throne. From her Christ took the blood He was to shed for her and for us all. Moreover, whereas the two great dignities of virginity and maternity are, according to God's ordinary law, incompatible, in Mary's case they were united. Joseph "took unto him his wife, and he knew her not until she brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name Jesus" (Matt. i. 24, 25).


At present, the number of her principal feasts are twenty.


From the word "Missa," and comes from "mittere," "to send," and designates the sacrifice of the Altar.


Christ was the "one mediator between God and man," and it is plain that St. Paul vindicates this office as one proper to Christ alone, for the passage runs: "There is one God, one mediator also between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself also a ransom for all," &c.


Meditation may be defined as the application of the three powers of the soul to prayer – the memory proposing a religious or moral truth, the understanding considering this truth in its application to the individual who meditates, while the will forms practical resolutions and desires grace to keep them. It is distinguished from vocal prayer, because in meditation no words are spoken but all attention is given to the contemplation of the truths under consideration. St. Ignatius of Loyola was the first who reduced the rules of meditation to system, and contributed to the spread of meditation at a regular hour and for a fixed space of time.


The Seven Works of Corporal Mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit prisoners, visit the sick, harbor strangers, bury the dead (Matt. xxv. 35, 36; Tob. xii. 12); of Spiritual Mercy, to convert shiners, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, console the afflicted, bear wrongs patiently, forgive injuries, pray for the living and the dead.


Merit, in its theological sense, is a quality which belongs to the moral actions of free and responsible agents and makes these actions worthy of reward. Merit implies a real proportion between the work done and the reward given. Thus, a man who labors well deserves, or merits, his wages. To put it in another way, a man who merits can claim his reward as a matter of justice, but one who has been promised a reward out of all proportion to the work done may appeal, to the fidelity and kindness, but not, strictly speaking, to the justice of the donor. In order to merit, a man must be free, since he cannot claim reward for a service which he has no power to withhold, and which, therefore, is not his to give; what he does must, obviously, be good; it must be done in the service of the person who is to confer the reward, and the latter must have agreed to accept the work done and to reward it, since nobody is bound to pay for work, however excellent, which he does not want.


The prelate of the most important city (metropolis) in the province or country.


The inferior ranks of the sacred ministry: door-keepers, lectors, exorcists, and acolytes – are said to be in minor orders.


The Latin word miraculum means something wonderful – not necessarily supernatural. In the theology of the Church the word miracle is used commonly of events so wonderful that they cannot be accounted for by natural causes.

Miracles are called "signs," "marvels," "prodigies," "wonders," and are a token of God's presence, and they confirm the mission and the teaching of those who deliver a message in God's name. They are often described as "powers," inasmuch as they exhibit God's powers. They are evidences that new powers have entered our world and are working thus for the good of mankind. Christ's miracles are often called his “works,” as if the form of working to be looked for from Him in whom the "fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily." They were the characteristic works of Him who came to free us from the bondage of Nature, to be our life, to overcome death, to lead us, first to a worthier and more unselfish life, and then to a better world in which sorrow and death shall be no more. They are the first-fruits of his power; the pledges of that mighty working by which, one day, He will subject all things to Himself and make all things new.

From a different point of view, then, the same event is a "prodigy,” a "sign," and a "power"; each word presenting it under a distinct .and instructive aspect.

We cannot to consider here, in full, the objections made to the possibility of miracles, but can only give in brief the teaching of Catholic theologians, and particularly of St. Thomas, on the matter. The latter defines a miracle as an effect which "is beyond the order (or laws) of the whole of created nature."

The definition given makes it unreasonable to deny the possibility of miracles, unless we also deny the existence of God. Usually, He works according to natural laws, and this for our good, since we should be unable to control natural agents and to make them serve us, unless we could count on the effects known causes will produce. But God is necessarily free; He is not subject to natural laws, and He may, for wise reasons, make created things the instruments of effects which are beyond their natural capacity. A miracle is not an effect without a cause; on the contrary, it is a miracle because produced by God, the First Cause. It is not a capricious exercise of power. The same God who operates usually, and for wise ends, according to the laws which He has implanted in Nature, may on occasion, and for ends equally wise, produce effects which transcend these laws.


The book which contains the complete service for Mass throughout the year.


Mission is inseparably connected with jurisdiction, so that he who is validly sent exercises a lawful jurisdiction in the place to which, and over the persons to, whom, he is sent; and, on the other hand, any person exercising a lawful jurisdiction must be held to have received a true mission. Mission precedes jurisdiction in the order of thought, but is coincident with it in practice.

A priest having the care of souls within a certain district must be sent to that district by the bishop, who has the general charge of all the souls within his diocese; he cannot appoint himself to it. "How shall they preach unless they be sent)" In a regular parish there may be more priests than one engaged in ministerial functions, but one alone has the responsibility, of the souls within it. He has ordinary, not delegated faculties; other priests ministering within his parish have not ordinary faculties.


To quicken faith and piety among Christians whom their life in the world has made tepid and careless, is for the pastors of the Church, an object of no less solicitude than to convert the heathen. In substance, mission-preaching has been employed 'in every age of the Church; it was applied with extraordinary fruit by St. Francis and St. Dominic; but its reduction to a system has been the work of comparatively recent times, and was commenced by St. Vincent of Paul, when (1617) he preached his first mission to the peasants of Folleville. The Jesuits, Redemptorists, Passionists, Paulists. Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians and other orders have applied themselves with special earnestness to this branch of pastoral work.


A head-dress worn by bishops, abbots, and in certain cases by other distinguished ecclesiastics.


Mixed Marriages are marriages between persons of different religions. A marriage between a baptized and unbaptized person is null and void; one between a Catholic and a person of another communion is valid, but, unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Pope or his delegate, unlawful.


In the middle of the third century the persecution of Decius caused many fervent Christians to leave the cities and flee into the deserts, there to find that freedom in the divine service which human laws denied them. For a long time they lived apart, each in his own cell, supporting themselves by daily labor. The anchorites or hermits were those who specially desired solitude; of these St. Paul was the founder. St. Anthony, whose life embraces more than a hundred years (250-356), chose for a time absolute solitude, but in his later years he allowed a number of disciples to gather round him, who, though living each apart, were eager to profit by the depth and wisdom of his advice, and ready to practice whatever rules he might impose. Thus St. Anthony was the founder of Monachism, although the coenobitic life, which has been a characteristic of nearly all the monks of later times, had not yet appeared. Of this, St. Pachomius is regarded as the originator, who, about A. D. 315, built monasteries in the Thebaid.


From the Latin monstrare, "to show;" the vessel in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed at Benediction or carried in procession. It has a large stem and base like a chalice, and the upper portion is generally fashioned to represent rays issuing from the host as a central sun.


Moral Theology is the science of the laws which regulate duty. It is distinguished from moral philosophy or ethics, which is concerned with the principles of right and wrong, and with their application, so far only as they can be discovered from the light of nature; whereas moral theology estimates the moral character of actions by their conformity, or want of conformity, not only to the natural standard of ethics, but also to the Christian revelation and positive law of the Church. It is different from dogmatic theology, which investigates the truths of revelation and positive law of the Church, and the conclusions which may be drawn from them; moral theology, on the other hand, looks primarily to duty and practice, not to speculative truth; it considers faith as a moral obligation, and the truths of faith as principles of conduct.


A short vestment, quite open in front, which can, however, be buttoned over the breast, covering the shoulders, and with a little hood behind. It is worn by the Pope, by cardinals, bishops, abbots, and others who do so by custom or Papal privilege.


In the historical or literal sense words signify things; but sometimes God ordained that the things signified by the words should signify other things, and so we get the mystical or spiritual sense. St. Paul, for example, tells us in the Epistle to the Galatians that Ismael and Isaac were types of Jewish bondage and Christian liberty. The mystical sense is subdivided into the allegorical, where the things of the old signify the mysteries of the new law, the moral where they signify moral precepts, the anagogical where they signify future glory.


One of the subdivisions of theology classed under the more general division of Moral Theology. It is sometimes identified with Ascetical Theology, but it seems more proper to confine its definition in such a way as to distinguish it precisely by its specific name of "Mystical," from that which is more properly called "Ascetical." According to this stricter definition it is described as comprising two parts-viz. the doctrinal and the experimental. The experimental is defined as "a pure knowledge of God which the soul ordinarily receives in a luminous darkness or obscure light of sublime contemplation, together with an experimental love so intimate that the soul, losing itself altogether, is united to God and transformed into Him." This is called Theology because it contains acts proximately referred to God as their object. Mystical because acquired by a secret operation known only to God and the recipient of His Divine favors; and experimental, because it is only by personal spiritual experience that such a knowledge of God can be gained.


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