CHAPTER XIV. MARIOLATRY AND IMAGE WORSHIP.
In some churches the mail-box stands in a corner, and "Letters to the Virgin" is printed over it. There are always many young women to be seen before the image of St. Anthony, for he is the patron of marriages, and many a timid confession of love is dropped into the letter-box, and it often happens that a marriage is arranged as a result. The superstitious maiden believes that her letter goes directly to the Virgin or to the saint in his heavenly mansion, and she has no suspicion that it is read by the parish priest.
Saints are innumerable and their powers extraordinary. When travelling in Entre Rios, I learned that St. Ramon was an adept in guiding the path of the thunderbolt. A terrific storm swept across the country, and a woman, afraid for her house, placed his image leaning against the outside wall, that he might be able to see and direct the elements. The tempest raged, and as though to show the saint's utter helplessness, the end of the house was struck by lightning and set on fire. Little damage was done, but I smiled when the indignant woman, after the storm ceased, soundly thrashed the image for not attending to its duty.
While preaching in the town of Quilmes, a poor deluded worshipper of Rome "turned from idols to serve the living and true God." He had been a sincere believer in St. Nicolas, and implicitly believed the absurd account of that saint having raised to life three children who had been brutally murdered by their father and secreted in a barrel. He brought me a picture of this wonder-worker tapping the barrel, and the little ones in the act of coming out alive and well.
One familiar with Romanism in South America has said: "It is amazing to hear men who have access to the Word of God and the facts of history and of the actual state of the Romish world attempt to apologize for or even defend Romanism. Romanism is not Christianity."
The Church deliberately lies about the Ten Commandments, entirely omitting the second and dividing the tenth in order to make the requisite number. Can a Church which deceives the people teach them true religion? Is the preaching of Mary the preaching of Christ? [Footnote: "Mission In South America," Robert B. Speer.]
"There is not an essential truth which is not distorted, covered up, neutralized, poisoned, and completely nullified by the doctrines of the Romish system." [Footnote: Bishop Neely's "South America."]
A missionary in Cartago writes: "I must tell you about the annual procession of the wonderful miracle-working image called 'Our Lady Queen of the Angels,' through the principal streets of the town. Picture to yourselves, if you can, hundreds of people praying, worshipping, and doing homage to this little stone idol, for which a special church has been built. To this image many people come with their diseases, for she is supposed to have power to cure all. On a special day of the procession, people receive pardon for particular sins if they only carry out the bidding of 'Our Lady,' She seems to order some extraordinary things, such as crawling in the streets with big rocks on the head after the procession, or painting one's self all the colors of the rainbow. One man was painted black, while others wore wigs and beards of a long parasitic grass which grows from the trees. Some were dressed in sackcloth, and all were doing penance for some sin or crime. This little image was carried by priests, incense was burned before her, and at intervals in the journey she was put on lovely altars, on which sat little girls dressed in blue and green, with wings of white, representing angels. Some weeks ago 'Our Lady' was carried through the streets to collect money for the bull-fights got up in her honor. She is said to be very fond of these fights, which are immoral and full of bloody cruelty. This year the bulls were to kill the men, or the men the bulls, and the awful drunkenness I cannot describe. After this collection the bishop came over here, and is said to have taken away some of the money. Soon after he died, and the people here say that 'Our Lady' was angry with him."
From a recent list of prayers used in the Church of Rome I select the following expressions:
"Queen of heaven and earth, Mother of God,
my Sovereign Mistress, I present myself before
you as a poor mendicant before a mighty Queen.
"All is subject to Mary's empire, even God
Himself. Jesus has rendered Mary omnipotent:
the one is omnipotent by nature, the other
omnipotent by grace.
"You, O Holy Virgin, have over God the authority
of a mother.
"It is impossible that a true servant of Mary
should be damned.
"My soul is in the hands of Mary, so that if
the Judge wishes to condemn me the sentence
must pass through this clement Queen, and she
knows how to prevent its execution.
"We, Holy Virgin, hope for grace and salvation
"Dispensatrix of Divine Grace."