17 December, 2023

A Pastoral Letter for Advent by Archbishop Polding : 1856

The Holy Season of Advent, which commences this day, has been instituted to dispose the faithful to celebrate with proper sentiments the feast of Christmas.   Sorrow for sin : atonement for it by prayer and penitential exercises, in union with all our dear Saviour suffered for our sins; meditation on the Incarnation of the Son of God; [these] are specially recommended and enjoined by the Church, as suitable for this holy time.   It is therefore a Lent, mitigated in form, and shortened in its duration, during which, gratitude for the first coming of Jesus in the flesh, a great desire of His coming and taking possession of your hearts; a preparation for His third coming in great power and majesty to judge the world; these dispositions ought to influence us to amendment and holiness of life.

First, never let us forget the deplorable state from which the Blessed Son of God, by becoming man, has delivered us.  He has opened for us the kingdom of Heaven; He has obtained for us and granted us the means of rising out of the abyss of sin; He has redeemed us from a most cruel bondage.  He is our Saviour.   O, can we reflect on all that He has done and suffered for us, unmoved by feelings of profound gratitude?  Whilst yet in His Mother’s sacred womb let us unite ourselves with her in adoring, in thanking Him with all the affection of a devout and grateful heart.  And for this purpose, let us be assiduous and exact in reciting three times a day the Angelus, a short an excellent exercise of piety, instituted to keep before the mind of the faithful the remembrance of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

A second disposition for this holy time, is to have a great desire for Jesus Christ to be in possession of our souls.  This is the case when his grace is our spiritual life, and his spirit is the animating principle of our conduct. “If anyone love me” He says “the Father will love him, and we will come to him and abide with him.”  Entertain, therefore, a strong desire to be thus united and made one with your Saviour; and as it is impossible for an affection for sin and the love for Jesus Christ to exist in the same soul, hate and detest sin as the greatest of all evils and use the means appointed to be delivered from it.  Prepare to make a good Confession.  Invite your Saviour to come to you in Holy Communion …. Desire with a strong desire to eat the Pasch with your Saviour.  He is our wisdom.  He is our light.  He is our life.  Come then sweet Jesus, delay not! sin in our hearts shall be destroyed, and thou alone shall reign therein.

A third disposition proceeding from the consideration of the third coming of Jesus Christ in judgement, is to have a deep regret for our sins, and in earnest desire to do penance for them.  To inspire us with this disposition the Church brings before our minds on the first Sunday of Advent, the description of that judgement.  For the same reason she, on other Sundays of Advent, addresses to her children the admonitions John the Baptist gave the Jews: “Do penance” said he “the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The axe is already at the root of the tree - every tree which brings forth not good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire. Prepare you the way of the Lord, make straight his path, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  Moved by these admonitions, the faithful from the earliest times, consecrated the four weeks preceding Christmas to fasting and to prayer.

Excerpts from Bishop John Bede Polding's Pastoral Letter published 30th November 1856 as contained in the anthology The Eye of Faith.


The Eye of Faith was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

19 June, 2023

Looking through the eyes of Faith : 2 [re-posted]

Over a period of years, we hope to publish on this blog extracts from Archbishop Polding's Pastoral Letters, as published in The Eye of Faith : The Pastoral Letters of John Bede Polding.  The editors of this important volume had carefully collated all the Pastoral Letters which J B Polding had written to the Faithful of the Church in Australia, of which he was bishop, since 1835. 

In this post, we continue with extracts from an essay which acts as a preface to this volume.

In diebus illis
Archbishop Polding in 1869.
Image : State Library of NSW.
In Polding’s day, in the Church in the New World, the pastoral letter resumed something of the role and importance which its forerunners had in the early Church. In the United States and Australia, clergy were scarce and Catholics were in a minority. In each place, people from different cultural backgrounds were thrown together and were faced not only with the challenge of being pioneers in a new land, but also that of building new human and religious communities. In the case of Australia, there was the additional strangeness of the southern hemisphere and the worn, strange nature of the continent itself. 

In his Pastorals, Polding developed his themes after the manner of the early bishops and monastic leaders, the Fathers of the Church. His Benedictine formation ensured that the first foundation of his thought would be the Scriptures and their writings. … He was primarily a spiritual man, one who read Scripture with the eye of Faith. 

The Polding Pastorals are possibly Australia’s only (though by no means pure), example of a religious literature – and of an implied Christian culture – which was both markedly monastic in character and contemplatives in orientation. They confronted the activism and unbelief which marked his day (and do no less today). §

His monastic tradition and formation gave Polding the special aptitude to grasp the Pauline doctrines of the Body of Christ and a spiritual fatherhood. § [They] also gave him his compassionate understanding of the needs of convicts and aboriginals, an understanding which was never patronising. 

Most of Polding’s direct quotations came from the scriptural texts then most commonly employed by the liturgy … As a teacher, as well as one who had learnt in this school, he placed great value on the liturgy. He tried to make it a feature of the Australian Church, even to the public recitation of vespers during his visits to country stations. However, his best use of the Bible was not by quotation or as a basis for apologetics. It was when he savoured the Word of God that Polding’s thought was richest and his exhortations most telling. 

Polding’s liturgical formation gave him a sensus fidelium which enabled him, when he had the leisure, to ramble with delight and sureness through the whole field of the Scriptures. This it was which gave to his best teaching the charm of poetry and, to his exhortations, direct access to men’s hearts. 

This use of Scripture helped Polding to speak directly to his audience. It amounted to a form of teaching which flowed from a life of a prayer and which attempted to arouse in his people of desire for God and the things of God. In its subordinate parts, it presented values other than those materialistic and hedonistic ones which produced inhumanity, the crude brutality of the early colony and the refined cruelty which was taken its place. It took account of the fact that early Australia failed to support little more than a misconstrued old Testament religion – harsh justice, the thriving of the mighty and the lamentations of the weak, many of whom lapsed into that petty iniquity which their little means could afford. According to one observer, those many Catholics who had abandoned the religion had also erected proud barriers protect to protect either the success or their shabby iniquities. Polding deplored this but he seldom confronted the miscreant with the imprecations of church law. Rather, he sought to reach people with the immediacy of the Scriptures, to speak to their hearts and thus encourage them to overcome their pride or their lassitude. 

As a whole, Polding’s teaching aimed to bring a Christian culture to Australia, an integration of the ordinary and extraordinary elements of human life with its most sublime possibilities. He sought to bring to the young church in Australia a contemporary form of that monastic and Christian culture which had inspired medieval Europe. That this grand plan did not find full life, as its model had not found constant, living expression, save as an ideal, destroyed neither the value of Polding’s teaching nor the wisdom of striving to establish an inspiring religious culture in Australia. § 

As the interior of the old continent [of Australia] demands timeless youth, Polding knew how to start afresh. He faced fire, and flood, and dry rot, and disease and yet he continued. He fought for his foundation as a pioneer, in the face of the elements, had to fight for his flock and herds, his crops and his homestead. And when the occasion demanded a fierce fight he could be as a young David facing his Goliath. §

In his determination, Polding showed the young virtue, hope. In his labours, which continued almost until the sun had set, he acknowledged that, as they were from him, his works were impermanent; [yet] as requested by God, by his office as a founder- bishop, they were somehow necessary. The sympathy between Polding and Australia gave a special attraction to the teaching which was required of him. He wrote of spiritual freedom in a land of penal origin. To a land mostly desert, he brought the seeds of a new and satisfying spiritual fruit. His pastoral letters present the gospel truth which sets men free. They present this truth in ways which invite and show men how to live in brotherhood. They brought wisdom to a fertile desert land, to a place which, it has seemed to eyes blind to faith, God forgot.

The Eye of Faith was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

The engraving of Archbishop Polding was published at the time of his death, but was based on a photograph taken in Melbourne in 1869.  In it, the Archbishop is wearing a cope and mitre which were not his, but belonged to the Bishop of Melbourne, James Alipius Goold OSA.  The mitre was designed by AWN Pugin.

14 June, 2023

Looking through the eyes of Faith : 1 [reposted]

In diebus illis
The newly-consecrated Bishop Polding OSB in 1834.
Image : State Library of NSW.
Thanks to the zeal of a previous generation of Church historians, a most important volume was published in 1977, to coincide with the centenary of the death of Archbishop Polding.  This volume was The Eye of Faith : The Pastoral Letters of John Bede Polding.  Its editors had carefully collated all the Pastoral Letters which Polding had written to the Faithful of the Church in Australia, of which he was bishop, since 1835.  It is a collection of great value.  In two marvellous and inspiring essays at the beginning of the volume, the editors describe the significance of these Pastoral Letters.  Extracts from these essays will be published at this blog over the following weeks.  These are some extracts from the first of those essays :


John Bede Polding’s Pastoral Letters are valuable historical documents. During middle forty years of the nineteenth century, Archbishop Polding wrote some seventy letters on a variety of subjects : education; the care of orphans; hospitals; capital punishment; salacious literature and censorship; world events,  including the Crimean war, the Indian mutiny; the papacy and the Papal States; floods and other very local events; politics, the responsibility of government, social harmony and the monarchy.  A number of them comment on questions which are attractive to present-day historians: aboriginals; family life and the role of women; the wider social life of colonial Australia, rather than its more narrow political expression. §

For the historian, the value of the Polding Letters is enhanced by the acuteness of their observations and comment.  Their author’s sensitivity to the nuances of colonial life - as well as to its obvious aspects - grew out of his belief that religion was a vitally involved with human activity, that each moment of time had an eschatological significance. §

Polding did not observe facts alone, but their implications for people in Australia. Each time he wrote he tried to draw his audience closer to God, to encourage upright human conduct and to counter evil, sin and the false ideologies which challenged God’s presence in Australia.  His letters present a consistently based view of the state of religion and of private and public morals in Australia throughout the crucial years of the nineteenth century. §

As historical documents, these letters present aspects of colonial life which are not often encountered in the writings of politicians, administrators and newspaper correspondents.  They have an underlying unity which derives from the known and consistent attitude of the author and which, in turn, is of assistance to those who are seeking a basis of comparison between one time and another during the forty years which they span. §

The Pastoral Letters of John Bede Polding are the footprints of the Australian Catholic Church’s first apostolic tradition and its best surviving expression.  They comprise a testament of the faith proposed for the Church’s belief; of the hope which sustained its faith and justified its discipline; and of the soul of its life of faith and hope, the doing of the truth in charity.   This deeper value, this bond of greater unity in Polding’s Letters is to be seen by those who read, not as students of one discipline or another, but with the eye of Faith. §

The Polding Pastorals are possibly Australia’s only (though by no means pure), example of a religious literature – and of an implied Christian culture – which was both markedly monastic in character and contemplatives in orientation.  They confronted the activism and unbelief which marked his day and do no less today.  ...

Polding  … and his writings suffer no embarrassment by being numbered with John Henry Newman and his works.

To be continued.

The Eye of Faith was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

This, the earliest known illustration of John Bede Polding, was painted at Downside Abbey shortly after his consecration as a bishop in 1834 and before his voyage to Australia.  This image was digitally enhanced from an old photograph made of the painting many years ago.


24 May, 2023

The Help of Christians

A 20th century Australian hymn to Our Lady, Help of Christians

Statue of Our Lady Help of Christians
Saint Mary's Cathedral Sydney.
Help of Christians, guard this land
From assault or inward stain;
Let it be what Christ has planned
His new Eden, where you reign.

Teach us that in Christ your Son
Lies the wisdom to be free;
For the Cross, which we would shun,
Is man's Tree of Liberty.

Should the powers of hell arise,
And our peace be trampled down,
In that night of blood and lies
Show us still your twelve-starred crown.

Take from us the coward heart,
Fleeting will, divided mind,
Give us sight to play our part,
Through the world around is blind.

Image of the risen life
Shining in eternity,
Glimmer through our earthly strife,
Draw us to your victory.

By Professor James MacAuley 
with music by Richard Connolly.

30 April, 2023

"In Those Dayes" Australian Catholic History blog

The Latin words In diebus illis are translated as "in those days" and we have chosen them as a title for this blog which presents Australian Catholic history.  Although primarily concerned with detailing the life of our first Christian bishop, John Bede Polding O.S.B., we also present articles about various aspects of the history of the Church in Australia in the nineteenth century.

The following are some articles which you might find interesting :

Catholics and the First Fleet.   

The beginnings of Catholicism in Australia 1792 - 1834

The La Perouse Mysteries

The Founding of old Saint Mary's Cathedral 1821

Biography of Archbishop Polding

Our project to promote interest in the life and work of Archbishop Polding is being blessed by good numbers of visitors to our Facebook page and blog.  We are discovering that interest in Archbishop Polding is not confined to Australia, but that there are "followers" overseas, particularly in England and Europe.

Archbishop Polding
Archbishop Polding OSB

It is so wonderful to learn of the esteem in which the Archbishop is held even by those beyond these shores.

As our project continues, we find ourselves in need of support from those of you following this work.  We need support in planning events (such as the annual Polding pilgrimage), help in distributing promotional material about the Archbishop, assistance with our ongoing research work and other general assistance.

Perhaps you have some time to assist?  Perhaps you have already studied Catholic history in Australia and would like to help make it better known? Perhaps you are retired with more free time and have an interest in Archbishop Polding?  Perhaps you are interested in history or genealogy and are familiar with historical research?  Perhaps you have experience in organising religious gatherings? Perhaps you have secretarial skills?  Perhaps you are young and enthusiastic?

Would you consider offering assistance?

We can be contacted at this e-mail address or via our Facebook page.


27 April, 2023

The Pioneering Australian Benedictine Bishops


Archbishop Polding

A new digital likeness by the Saint Bede Studio of our two Benedictine pioneering Bishops, John Bede Polding and Charles Henry Davis. It is available as a card for bookmark or other purposes, by writing to :

15 March, 2023

Lenten Pastoral of Archbishop Polding for 1852

Archbishop Polding

Remember man that dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return ... In all thy works remember thy last end,· and thou shalt never sin ... With desolation is all the land made desolate: because there is none that considereth in the heart.  [1]

These, Dearly Beloved in Jesus Christ, are admonitions which, at all times, but more especially at the present season, and in our present circumstances, merit our serious attention. For we require all the aids which reason and revelation offer to us, in order to be enabled to maintain our souls in simplicity before God, and to keep out of them those unruly desires which worldly prosperity, or the expectation of it, is too apt to excite : desires, which war against our peace, and destroy all concern for our eternal welfare. May the Holy season we commence prove to us the Days of Salvation, by recalling our thoughts to the one thing necessary.

How instructive is the ceremony with which our Holy Mother the Church opens the penitential offices of this time! On our humbled foreheads, she inscribes in ashes, fit emblem of our mortality, these words : Remember man that thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return. Year after year, this solemn admonition has been delivered to you; year after year, has it been addressed to each of you individually; year after year has the remembrance of this admonition vanished from your minds, almost before the ashes sprinkled upon your heads have ceased to appear.

We feel, Dearly Beloved, that we are particularly called upon in our present circumstances, to remind you of your mortality, and to warn you lest you stumble on the very edge of a precipice; our love for you, and our solicitude for your welfare, compel us to endeavour to draw you from a position of peril. We wish to arouse you from a state of indifference, or to guard you against falling into it, by a consideration of the last end of man: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell, and Eternity! These, are the awful realities of our existence, to which we are hastening rapidly; and we announce them, not to inspire terror and dismay, but rather hope and consolation, for the Church assures us this is the acceptable time - the days of Salvation, when the Lord is prepared to dissemble our iniquities, that he may spare. May these truths make the good more fervent, may they determine the sinner to renounce all impiety, to live soberly, justly, and piously, so that he also may expect the blessed hope and meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ !

With sin, came Death into the world; it is appointed that all men shall die: to this decree we must all sooner or later bow .... Each day's experience testifies that, in the words of Holy Job : “Man born of a woman, living for a short time, is full of miseries ... He comes forth like a flower, and is destroyed, and flees as a shadow;·his days are short, the number of his months is with you: you have appointed his bounds which cannot be passed.” [2]

And alas ! there are those who from the shortness of life, draw an argument to justify their criminal indulgence of sensual desires ... But no ! [such persons] cannot close their eyes to the light which revelation imparts; they cannot be deaf to the voice of all nations, and tribes, and tongues; they cannot resist the impulse of their own feelings; they cannot imagine that a God, infinite in justice and in goodness, has created us, and endowed us to no purpose with faculties aspiring to a perfectibility in this life not to be obtained; that He has ordained an order of things in which vice is seen to triumph; and virtue, conjoined with want and wretchedness, is so frequently calumniated and despised. The sufferings and steadfastness of the just will receive their recompense; the crimes of the wicked their condign punishment : God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every purpose, and for every work.

When the thread of life, at the appointed time, shall be dissevered, the soul, released from its earthly tenement which shall quickly speed to decay, will return to Him who created it: to render an account of the things done in the flesh and to receive retribution according to its works. And, hence, Dearly Beloved in Jesus Christ, the death of the sinner is said to be very evil, followed by a condemnation to the second death which the inspired Apostle describes in these awful words: “The lake of fire is the second death, the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars, their portion shall be in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” [3]

On the other hand, how different the death of the just! Over these that second death will have no dominion, hence it is written : “ Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours and their works follow them.”  [4]  And the God of all virtue awaits their coming that he may bestow the promised recompense. Whilst those who have done evil shall indeed be raised in the body, but it will be the resurrection of condemnation; the material part of the just, “sown in corruption shall rise in incorruption; sown in dishonour shall rise in glory.”  [5]  In the meanwhile, “the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and the torment of death shall not approach unto them. They shall be inebriated with the plenty of your house: and you shall make them drink of the torrent of your pleasure. For with you is the fountain of life."  [6]  ... Associated with the angels and with the good of all ages, in canticles of jubilation, they will celebrate eternally their happiness, their gratitude : “Alleluia! the Lord God omnipotent reigns … Let us be glad, and rejoice, and give glory to him, for the marriage of the lamb is come. "  [7]  Thus is expressed the mysterious union of the beatified soul with its Creator, through Jesus Christ, the end of her being, the consummation of her redemption, the completion of her sanctification.

Oh ye! who are yet in the dawn of life, prepare for yourselves a place amongst the blessed. Then will you experience that it is good for a man to have borne the yoke of the Lord from his youth. 

And you, who are advanced in life, whose pilgrimage must be in order of nature, shortly terminate, prepare for the awful change; render your old age venerable by your virtues. So live, Parents, that amidst the sorrows of your children there may be joy. May the recollection of the spotless tenor of your lives, of your continual good example, of your faithful discharge of all your duties to God, of your integrity in all your dealings, of your assiduous attention to all the exercises of your Religion - be to them a comfort, when comfort they most need.

Dearly Beloved in Christ. If you desire to die the death of the just, live the life of the just. “Fear not,” says Saint Augustine, “he who lives in the Grace of God will die in the Grace of God.”   On the other hand, Saint Jerome declares his conviction, “that of those who lead an habitually evil life - very few sincerely repent and obtain mercy.”  How many are taken away suddenly! How many defer till too late! How many are prevented by circumstances from obtaining the attendance of the Sacred Ministry, and the aid of the ordinary means instituted by Jesus Christ to convey the merits of his Passion to the soul!

O ye! Dearly Beloved in Jesus Christ, who study to live well, that you may die the death of the just, during this holy Time increase in piety, in fervour, in all good. Trim your lamps and with the prudent Virgins await the coming of your Lord “Behold, says he, I come quickly and my reward is with me. He that is righteous, let him be more righteous. And he that is holy, let him become more holy ... Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me, to render every man according to his works.” [8]

And in conclusion, we address ourselves in all fatherly solicitude to you, Dearly Beloved, who have lived long in habits of sin, in indifference, in the neglect of the ordinances of your Holy Religion : Do not, we entreat you, continue in a state which renders all that your Saviour has suffered for you, all the divine inspirations, fruitless and useless in your regard.  Determine to commence with this holy season, a new life : Do not, by systematic contempt of the abstinences and fasts, of the retirement and spiritual exercises of this penitential time, deprive yourselves of the grace so abundantly poured forth, and thus perhaps fill up the measure of your iniquities.  Follow the injunction of your Saviour : Enter into your chambers, close the door, that is, in secret commune with your own soul, alone in the presence of God; and say in the words of St Augustine : “Tomorrow, perchance today, I may be of the number of the dead, and how shall I appear before thee, my God! " 

Having thus judged yourselves, Dearly Beloved in Jesus Christ, at once go, like the Prodigal Son, to your loving Father, who has so long awaited your return; purify your consciences, by an humble avowal of your transgressions and omission; take up with courage the Cross of the Lord; fulfil the duties of this holy time; repair all wrong done as far as in you lies; merit by the sincerity of your repentance to be forgiven, to be made partakers of the Holy Communion, of the Heavenly food which nourishes the soul unto eternal life; dead to sin, live to God, and may He in his infinite goodness enable you to persevere, and crown all his merits in your regard, by granting you the inestimable favour of dying in his love.

Now, may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God the Father, who has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope in grace, exhort your hearts and confirm you in every good work and deed, that, made worthy of your vocation, the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in you and you in Him.  And may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.


1.  C.f. Book of Genesis 3 : 19 and The Prophet Jeremiah 12 : 11. 
2.  The  Prophet Job 14 : 1 - 5 
3.   Book of Revelation 21 : 8   
4.   Book of Revelation 14 : 13 
5.   1st letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 15 : 42 
6.   Book of Wisdom 3 : 1 and Psalm 36 : 8 
7.   Book of Revelation 19 : 6 - 7.  
8.   Book of Revelation 22 : 12 

This post is an edited extract from the Pastoral Letter for Lent 1852 written by Archbishop Polding and his coadjutor Bishop Charles Henry Davis OSB.  It is reproduced from The Eye of Faith, pp 78-83.  This anthology of the Pastoral  Letters of Archbishop Polding was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

The image of Archbishop Polding is based on a photograph taken circa 1860 and has been digitally enhanced by the Saint Bede Studio.


08 March, 2023

Lenten Pastoral of Archbishop Polding 1851 : 2

Archbishop Polding

A further extract from the Archbishop's Lenten Pastoral for 1851 :

Dearly Beloved, to render these days as Days of Salvation, you must enter upon them with proper dispositions.  You must not be of the number of those who are so enslaved to their sensuality that they will not serve the salutary laws of the Church, and purposely delay their preparation for the Sacraments, until the Penitential season is about to close, conscious that a breach of those laws is utterly incompatible with a sincere purpose of amendment.  Unrestrained indulgence during the season of Penance will be followed by deeper obstinacy in sin.

Enter at once into the spirit of this holy time by a strict conformity to the laws and ordinances of the Church.  Commence that salutary practice of self-restraint and self-denial, which is the foundation of the Christian life.  You know, Dearly Beloved, that where sin is, there is guilt - where guilt is, there is punishment.   This is the law of reason and of the Gospel.   In compliance with this law, our Holy Mother the Church ordains a solemn fast of forty days' duration from which none of her Children, without due cause, can claim exemption; that as all have sinned all may, in some degree, at least, do Penance.  Even those happy souls, who still enjoy their baptismal innocence, are thus required to expiate their imperfections.  A heavier duty, a more rigorous fast is not required from you, though you may be conscious that you have committed many grievous sins.  We do not call upon you to become the subjects of remarks in your households by [making] extraordinary fasts; we do not require you to abstain from amusements which others may enjoy, or to devote a portion of each day to retirement, prayer, and spiritual reading, in addition to that which all are expected to give at this holy time.  But, Dearly Beloved, we do exhort you not to adopt a course of life, which in reality the world expects from you; for the world, with all its follies, has a regard for inconsistency in conduct.  Hitherto you have been, perhaps, the solitary exception in a virtuous household.  Now, you have the example of all your Brethren in Christ to encourage you - the benefit of their prayers to avail you.

Consider what wonderful assistance you will derive from the co-operation of all the just throughout the world.  You believe in the Communion of Saints.  You believe that we are aided by the prayers and good works of each other.  Now all the faithful ascend the Holy Mountain, to pray with the chaste Virgins, the fervent solitaries who have left all things to abide with the beloved of their souls in holy retirement.  [1]  Behold, even now they pray, that the heaviest judgment may be averted from you, a hardened and impenitent heart.  Do not, then, lose courage; take up the exercises of this holy time; observe the fast; renounce the amusements of a vain world.  We entreat you, Dearly Beloved, to comply with your duties in the name of our dear Saviour Jesus Christ.  Behold, He endured for you a protracted fast of forty days, and can you refuse to submit to the ordinances of this holy time, relaxed as they have been to the utmost, to meet your abhorrence of mortification and of self-restraint?  Follow your Saviour throughout the stages of His Sacred Passion, from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross of Calvary; bear in recollection that for the expiation of your sins, He wept tears of blood in the excess of mental suffering; He submitted to the scourge and stretched forth His hands to receive the nails that fastened Him to the Cross; recollect all that your dear Saviour endured for you, and then you will take up with cheerfulness the obligations imposed upon you during the term of Lent.

Again, Dearly Beloved, we would not have you to be of the number of those who observe the fast of Lent but neglect the exercises of a religious life, who abstain from meats in compliance with the law of the Church, but omit obedience to the salutary law which insists on the frequentation of the Sacraments at the time appointed. Dearly Beloved, consider the foolish inconsistency of such conduct.

The holy season, the accepted time has once more returned, the days of salvation invite you to an easy repentance.  Be not duped by these excuses which in former years rendered this invitation futile in your regard. You dread the difficulties of a virtuous life : be not disheartened.  These difficulties like the apparent steepness of the distant hill will be found in reality of small account.  God will give you especial graces to enable you to surmount them.  Thousands have experienced this.  That holy Bishop of Carthage, St Cyprian, acknowledges that whilst he walked in darkness, he considered as impossible what God had promised - a new heart and a new spirit - so that a man should be enabled to rise out of his corruption and shake off habits formed by long use and custom  "Blessed be God," he exclaims, "a heavenly light shone upon my soul as soon as the filth of my former life was washed away; what was heretofore closed became open; what I doubted about was made certain; what I thought hard, nay impossible, now seemed easy and delightful."  [2]

And because in former years, your good resolutions were frustrated by your procrastination until the end of Lent, or until the next visit of your Pastor, commence your preparation for Confession forthwith.  As regards the case of one long absent from this duty, the best preparation is to go without delay, and to present himself to the ministers of God.

Finally, Dearly Beloved, bear in mind the words of St Peter : "The Lord deals patiently for your sakes, not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance."  [3] The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, wherefore, Dearly Beloved, be diligent that you may be found undefiled and unspotted to him in peace, and account the long suffering of the Lord unto salvation.  

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.


1.  In this sentence, the Archbishop is referring to men and women who have renounced the life of the world and joined Religious Communities under vows of chastity, poverty and obedience . 
2.  From the letters of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.  Perhaps the quotation is a re-working of a section of Cyprian's letter to Donatus.
3.   The second letter of Blessed Peter the Apostle, chapter 3, verse 9. 

This post is an edited extract from Archbishop Polding's Pastoral Letter for Lent 1851 and was reproduced from The Eye of Faith, pp 73-78.  This anthology of the Pastoral  Letters of Archbishop Polding was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

The image of Archbishop Polding is based on a photograph taken circa 1860 and has been digitally enhanced by the Saint Bede Studio.


01 March, 2023

Lenten Pastoral of Archbishop Polding 1851 : 1


Archbishop Polding

Dearly Beloved : we exhort you not to receive the Grace of God in vain.

That Man, of himself can do nothing that avails of Eternal Life; that the aid of Almighty God is necessary for this end; that this aid has been promised, and will be given; these are truths familiar to your minds. This aid, gratuitous indeed, on the part of God, though it may properly influence, yet touches not the integrity of Man's free will.  Hence the Apostle [Paul] exhorts the faithful not to receive this assistance or Divine Grace in vain, that is, without profit.  And, furthermore, he instructs them that while this Grace is unceasingly offered, still there are times and seasons when it is more abundant and more efficacious. For, in continuation, he quotes these words of the Prophet: “In an accepted time have I heard you and in the day of Salvation, have I helped you.  Behold now” concludes the Apostle, “is the acceptable time, now is the day of Salvation.” 

We commence the holy Season of Lent when all the Children of the Church help each other by their prayers, by their fastings and alms deeds, when, with their spiritual weapons, the kingdom of Heaven is taken by storm.  We do not call upon you to make efforts which will attract notice by their singularity; we merely entreat you to remove every obstacle which might divert from your souls the flow of grace by which the Church is inundated at this Holy time. 

Dearly Beloved, value the gift of God. His Grace was purchased for you by the blood of Jesus.  It is now offered to you; do not refuse to receive it; do not permit yourself to be deluded by those excuses and pretexts which too long, alas! have caused you to defer your conversion to God.   That pressure of business, those worldly engagements, which hitherto have taken off your attention from your spiritual concerns, are they always to have this effect?  And if there be circumstances connected with your present pursuits or employments, which, your conscience tells you, are at variance with the holiness and purity of a Christian life - ought not these at once be renounced? 

You are precisely in the case contemplated by your Saviour, when He says, “If your eye causes you scandal, pluck it out, if your right hand causes you scandal, cut it off”, that is, sacrifice every worldly advantage which endangers your salvation, though it be as pleasant as the light of your eye, or as useful as your hand.  In the supposition, however, that there is no obstacle of this kind, but that you are deferring your conversion to God, assigning as a reason the pressure of business or the distracting nature of your employments, I would exhort you to ask your own hearts if you be sincere? 

You find time for numberless avocations, more distantly connected with your business than the care of your immortal souls - be honest with yourself - you could also, were you so disposed, attend to this, the one thing necessary.   But you wait for a more favourable opportunity.”  This is not the first time you have offered a similar excuse.  How often have you determined that at such a time, or on the cessation of such and such an engagement, you would return to your duties to God?  The time came and then, one affair finished, another followed it; your resolutions were followed by other resolutions more feeble and vague, and your end state became worse than your former. 

Dearly Beloved, your engagements, your cares, will be never less pressing than they are now.  Never will your conversion be more easy than at present, which is emphatically the Acceptable Time, the Day of Salvation.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.


The above is an extract from Archbishop Polding's Pastoral Letter for Lent 1851 and was reproduced from The Eye of Faith, pp 73-78.  This anthology of the Pastoral  Letters of Archbishop Polding was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

The image of Archbishop Polding is based on a photograph taken circa 1860 and has been digitally enhanced by the Saint Bede Studio.


To be continued.