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96. Special Heavenly Rewards

1. The essential reward of heaven is called theaurea, that is, the golden crown. All the blessed havethis aurea. Now, it seems that some saints-by reason of the specialtype of victory they won in saving their souls: by martyrdom, byvirginity, by notable teaching of the truths of faith-have aspecial crown or aureola in addition to the aurea.Aureola means a little golden crown; sometimes it iscalled nimbus or halo. Christian art often depicts anysaint, and even our Lord, with the nimbus or halo. But the precisemeaning of aureola is not something general and to beattributed to all the blessed, but something special, bestowed inrecognition of a particular excellence, on certain saints.

2. In addition to the aurea, which all theblessed possess, and also in addition to the aureola whichcertain saints have, there is a special gift called fruitwhich belongs as a reward to certain saints. We may say: (a) theaurea is the joy that all the blessed have in God, who istheir reward exceeding great; (b) the aureola is thespecial joy that some saints have in the perfection of their worksdone on earth; (c) fruit is a special joy that some saintshave in the disposition, that marked their lives on earth, to befertile fields for the seed of God's word.

3. The fruit of fertility for the implanted seed ofGod's word belongs especially to those saints whose lives werecharacterized by continence.

4. Scripture (Matt. 13:8) tells of the planting of theseed of God's words in human souls, and "they broughtforth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and somethirtyfold." The three fruits fittingly apply to the threetypes of continence, namely, the continence of virgins, thecontinence of widowed people, and the continence of married people.The continence of virgins is complete and perpetual and receivesthe fruit called "a hundredfold." The continenceof widowed people is like that of virgins, but was not always so;it receives the fruit called "sixtyfold." Thecontinence of married people is the lawful use of sex under therule of reason and God's law; it receives the fruitcalled "thirtyfold."

5. Fruit, then, is the special heavenly reward of virgins,widowed persons, and faithful spouses. Virginity has both fruit andaureola. The virginity that has the reward of the aureola is notthe virginity of the innocent who never knew temptation, but israther the award for shining victory in the war where "theflesh lusteth against the spirit" (Gal. 5:17).

6. An aureola is assigned to martyrs. For martyrdom is thegaining of victory under special difficulties. It is a notabletriumph. And so it has its special little crown.

7. Those who have been notable teachers of God's truthhave gained much, not alone for themselves but for all whoprofitably heard their teaching or preaching. Such teachers are thesaints called holy doctors. A special reward or aureola rightlymarks their victory over error.

8. Since the aureola is the mark and reward ofthose who shared the victory of Christ, it is not properlyassigned or ascribed to him who won the perfect victory, that is,to Christ himself. The aurea belongs to the perfect humanity of ourLord. But the aureola would indicate rather a failure to awardChrist his due than to express his perfection. The aureola meansparticipation in the work of Christ; it means conforming by graceto the perfection of Christ. But Christ does not merely participateor conform with himself and his perfect works.

9. Angels have not an aureola; at least, not inthe sense in which this award is found in certain saints. For anangel has by its nature as confirmed in grace what the haloedsaints have by reason of their brave warring against contraryforces.

10. The aureola is a reward possessed by the soulof a saint; it is not an ornament to appear in the risen body,although the risen body may be the more beautiful by reason of theoverflow of joy from the aureola. The symbols in Christianart which indicate the aurea (glow of light about thehead) or the aureola (circle of gold, halo) are not actualpictures of these heavenly rewards, for, as we have said, therewards are spiritual.

11. It is suitable that aureolas should beassigned to virgins, martyrs, and doctors. These three types ofsaints represent, each in its own way, a special and notableconformity with Christ.

12. Speaking generally, or in the abstract, we may saythat the ranking order of the aureolas seems to be this:first and greatest, that of martyrs; second, that of doctors;third, that of virgins. Yet in concrete particular cases, avirgin's aureola might be more excellent than amartyr's, or a doctor's aureola might be greaterthan that of either virgin or martyr.

13. The rank of the aureola in excellencedepends, in individual cases, upon the greatness of the act orreality (with all implied in it -purposes, circumstances, andconditions) for which the aureola is conferred as a reward.

"It is well to choose some one good devotion, and to stick to it, and never to abandon it."
St Philip Neri

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."
Thomas á Kempis

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