RSS

Tag Archives: holiness

JESUS CHRIST’S WORK OF MERCY HAS TWO PARTS

JESUS CHRIST’S WORK OF MERCY HAS TWO PARTS

Christ’s work of mercy has two chief parts: what he did for all men, what he does for each; what he did once for all, what he does for one by one continually; what he did externally to us, what he does within us; what he did on earth, what he does in heaven; what he did in his own person, what he does by his Spirit; his death, and the water and blood after it; his meritorious sufferings, and the various gifts thereby purchased, of pardon, grace, reconciliation, renewal, holiness, spiritual communion; that is, his atonement, and the application of his atonement, or his atonement and our justification; he atones by the offering of himself on the cross; and as certainly (which is the point before us) he justifies by the mission of his Spirit.

– St John Henry Newman; Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification. (Jfc., 203-4)

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SHUN THE GOSSIP OF MEN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

SHUN THE GOSSIP OF MEN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

AVOIDING IDLE TALK

Shun the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs, even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared and captivated by vanity.

Many a time I wish that I had held my peace and had not associated with men. Why, indeed, do we converse and gossip among ourselves when we so seldom part without a troubled conscience? We do so because we seek comfort from one another’s conversation and wish to ease the mind wearied by diverse thoughts. Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine consolation.

Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly.

When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify.

Bad habits and indifference to spiritual progress do much to remove the guard from the tongue. Devout conversation on spiritual matters, on the contrary, is a great aid to spiritual progress, especially when persons of the same mind and spirit associate together in God.

From: Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

THE SPIRIT OF ENVY CANNOT CO-EXIST WITH TRUE APOSTLESHIP

THE SPIRIT OF ENVY CANNOT CO-EXIST WITH TRUE APOSTLESHIP

HE MUST INCREASE; I MUST DECREASE. (Jn 3:30)

In the true Marian soul, there is no room for jealousy, petty or otherwise. The flame of charity consumes the feeling of resentment which at times comes even to the most un-selfish and purest of hearts upon seeing himself displaced by another or outpaced in virtue or set aside in favour of the young.

The contemplation of one’s own eclipse is a bitter thing: but if one feels a secret pang when another is preferred to him, he takes warning that his charity is yet imperfect. He must aim higher. The bitterness, the smouldering jealousy and the latent hate revealed by a feeling of resentment, be it ever so slight, must be transformed wholly into Christ-like love, by which he sees his Master in each of his brethren.

When they advance, even at his own expense, he is content to say with St John the Baptist: “He must increase; I must decrease.” In this way, Mary is given scope to free the souls of Her soldiers from every taint of vanity, transforming them into selfless envoys who go forth to prepare the way before the Lord. When those around him grow in virtue, he never measures their growth against his own for he knows that the spirit of envy cannot co-exist with true apostleship.

– Excerpts from “Holiness Through Mary” by Fr Francis Ripley, copied from a pamphlet by the Universal Rosary Association. For the Association’s details, please visit the link above (Part I).

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Prayers to Our Lady

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

THE FINEST SERMON EVER PREACHED WAS DELIVERED BY GOD

THE FINEST SERMON EVER PREACHED WAS DELIVERED BY GOD

HOLINESS THROUGH MARY

The finest sermon ever preached was delivered by God, in Person, as He sat on the slopes of a mountain over 2000 years ago: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are the patient; they shall inherit the land. Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill.”

Christ was challenging the world. Speaking to a group of ordinary, illiterate country people, He told them that their vocation in life was to aspire after the holiness of God Himself. “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect… Lay up treasure for yourselves in Heaven… Make it your first care to find the Kingdom of God and His approval… Make your way in by the narrow gate.” Little wonder that St Paul, a few years later, could tell the people of Thessalonica: “What God asks of you is that you should sanctify yourselves.”

Christ lived and taught on this earth to sanctify souls. That was the reason He established His Church. He intended all men to be saints. There is not one kind of Christianity for priests, monks and nuns, and another for people living in the world. To all, St Peter addresses these words: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people God means to have for Himself; it is yours to proclaim the exploits of the God Who has called you out of the darkness into His marvellous light.”

Every Christian, in virtue of the fact that he is a Christian, is bound to seek after holiness. Monks and nuns bind themselves by vows to help them in their quest, but the vows do not make the obligation: they simply reinforce and emphasise it. The destination of the Christian life is perfection for all. In every Age of the Church, there have been saints in the world as well as in the cloister. [to be continued]

– Excerpts from Holiness Through Mary by Fr Francis Ripley, copied from a pamphlet by the Universal Rosary Association. For the Association’s contact details, please click here.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

SOME CONSIDERATIONS CONCERNING OUR IMITATION OF THE SAINTS

It is a doctrine of St Thomas that angels not only differ numerically but that each one constitutes a different species in himself. Such a teaching gives us a wonderful insight into the nature of that multitudinous angelic host, and into the prodigality of God’s creative power in endowing with life and intelligence so many glorious spirits vastly superior to us in every attribute that we can conceive.

Not two leaves of the forest are exactly alike

In the material order we see a similar lavishness displayed in the stars of the firmament, in the living things of earth and sea; and yet not two leaves of the forest are exactly alike; not two drops of water or two particles of dust are identically similar. So it is, too, that among the myriads of human beings who have existed upon this earth no two have been indistinguishable from each other. We know as a certain fact that no two persons leave the same finger marks.

Each human person is unique

In the supernatural order things are similarly disposed by an all-wise Creator. “Just as He ordained,” says St Francis de Sales, “that plants for instance should bear fruit, each according to its kind, even so He has willed that Christians, the living plants of the Church, should bear fruits of piety, each according to his character and vocation.” Thus God distributes His gifts and graces in inexhaustible abundance, and yet with such diversity that it is impossible, so the saints tell us, for two human beings to possess those graces in exactly the same form and degree.

God never repeats Himself. We see that statement evidenced in the saints and holy men and women whom we venerate. All of them have had some points in which they differ one from another, some virtue which they practised otherwise and in a less greater degree than others: indeed, leaving others out of consideration, they have not applied themselves at all times with equal zeal or success to the cultivation of every form of holiness.

God never repeats Himself

Now if we enter into most of our Catholic art shops, we shall see there, exposed to view, pictures of the saints (saints who lived before the days of photography) and we would gather that they all had the same eyes, the same features, the same bodily deportment. And were it not that one holds a sceptre, another a lily, and another something else, you would never know which was St Louis of France, which St Aloysius, which somebody else.

Are the saints really too lofty and remote for us to imitate?

Of course there are seldom reliable portraits dating back to those times, and accordingly one can make excuses for those artists. But what is insupportable is when a writer, in describing the life and character of a saint does away with all that is distinctive in his life, and instead of dealing with facts, gives us an account only of those good deeds and virtues which recommend themselves to him and which he fancies that servant of God must have possessed or should have possessed. And what makes it worse is that, whereas the artists who perpetrate those pious images have perhaps never seen an authentic picture of the saints whom they depict, the writers of the saints’ lives referred to have had at their hand truthful sources on which they could draw, historical documents which they were free to consult. By neglecting these they have produced a work mainly of the imagination, a caricature more than a biography, something which has the effect of exciting our doubts instead of offering us examples which we might follow. We have indeed to be thankful that this style of hagiography has been, in the last thirty years or more, markedly on the decline, and we may congratulate ourselves that we have among us those who write saints’ lives as they should be written.

We do not do the saints justice by glossing over their faults and shortcomings

If there is anything that rouses the wrath of the mild St Francis de Sales it is when the class of writers first alluded to make it their object to pass over in silence, as much as possible, all mention of the failings or sins of those same saints and exaggerate almost beyond credibility their good points and qualities. “We are guilty of no injustice to them,” says St Francis, a Doctor of the Church, “if besides giving an account of their virtues, we also represent what were their weaknesses and deficiencies. We need not fear that in doing so we take away from the high esteem in which they are held.” Pius XI, in his encyclical Rerum Omnium (1923), explicitly condemns as erroneous the proposition that “those who have attained the summits of Christian perfection did not suffer the same weakness of nature as other men, or were not exposed to the same dangers.”

There has been, however, a class of hagiographers whose practice has certainly not been founded on these principles. Their procedure was to take the broad lines of the saint’s life and embroider upon them just those facts which they deemed edifying and pious, and carefully to eliminate all failings, all imperfections even, which they imagine might tend to lower ever so little the esteem in which the holiness of their saint might be held.

“Stained-glass-window” saints

We may take an example from the life of St Francis de Sales himself. At the end of a letter to Madame de Chantal – a great saint writing to another great saint – we find, “Bonjour, Mon unique, ma très chère, mon incomparable chère fille.” This was too much for the English translator, who did not scruple to render this delightful ending by the curt “Good day, my child.” And it is in this way that the writings of the saints have often been treated. It is not fair either to them, or to the Catholic reader. And thus it is that not merely isolated sentences have been bowdlerised, but the entire lives of many servants of God have been mutilated, dressed up, garbled, “edited” (as the saying is) – everything that is thought disparaging to the saint being carefully excluded. Thus, until comparatively recent years, it was an entirely different Aloysius who was offered for our admiration, an ethereal, unapproachable, “stained-glass-window” saint – not perhaps very lovable in consequence. It is difficult to understand what these goody-goody writers mean to achieve. Sometimes they are quite incomprehensible. A story is told of one who in a conversation ventured to say that he could wish that the Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs] was not in the Bible. And when it was remarked to him that after all the text was inspired by the Holy Ghost, he replied: “Well, it was not one of His happiest…” Fortunately he stopped there, but it was easy to see what he had in mind. The incident shows, however, to what lengths unconscious prudery may sometimes lead.

Through the saints’ example, we are to be encouraged to rise up from the quagmire of our sins and failings

But to return to our theme. The considerations which have been laid before the reader have an important bearing on the subject of the imitation of the saints. We are therefore to be careful not to put them on a pinnacle where it is impossible for ordinary mortals to reach them, and where even saintly souls can only make the attempt on occasion and imperfectly. A badly-written saint’s life is one which makes the reader exclaim, “Oh, but that was a great saint, and I am not called to speak or act as he spoke or acted.”

When, on the other hand, we take up a life written on the lines laid down by Pope Pius XI, a life in which all the imperfections, faults, mistakes of the saint are exposed boldly and without concealment, a life which was perhaps stained by many sins and delinquencies, and yet was subsequently adorned with the most sublime virtues, we are encouraged to rise up too from the quagmire of our own sins and failings.

“What these have done I can do also”

On reading the lives of saints who had gone before them, both St Augustine and St Ignatius exclaimed: “What these have done I can do also.” And though the sentence as it stands is not strictly correct, it serves to show how the example of the saints can incite us to deeds of penance and to the practice of perfection.

Yes, what others have done, we can do also, but only on the condition that the grace of God accompanies and assists us all through as it assisted them. “Without me,” says our Saviour, “ye can do nothing – certainly not follow in the footsteps of the saints.

No two saints are exactly alike

Now the graces that were bestowed on these favoured servants of God were given to them for a special purpose, and were accommodated to their characters and to the circumstances of time and place in which they lived. Hence no two saints are alike, inasmuch as the actual graces afforded to each have all been different; and similarly no two ordinary men can be alike in the spiritual order, to say nothing of the natural.

Accordingly there may be a fallacy in the statement that the saints were given us in order that we should imitate them. In point of fact we may endeavour to reproduce in ourselves one or the other of these holy men in some detail of their conduct or of their life, but beyond that we cannot go.

Can we “copy” a saint?

In the lives of the Fathers of the Desert, we read that many of them made it their chief effort to study the methods and actions of those amongst their number who were most in renown for their holiness and spirit of mortification, in order that they should copy them and attain a similar degree of sanctity. Such a desire may be in itself laudable, but it is not without dangers.

In Egypt it was soon to degenerate into a sort of ambition for each to outdo his neighbour, or even those very men on whom they were striving to model themselves, a rivalry which pushed them to go one better in the penitential and ascetic life, and aim at what we should call holding the record.

The danger of vainglory

St Anthony, and others among the Fathers, were aware of this tendency and frequently warned their flock, hermits as they might be or cenobites, against such competitive spirit, which could only lead, they said, to vainglory or pride in those who succeeded: and worse still, to envy and jealousy in those who failed, because they had not the stamina to keep up the pace. And these often lost their vocation in consequence.

At what point do we leave safe ground?

And the same danger exists in our own time. If by imitating a saint we mean drawing edification from his example, or even seeking to resemble him in certain points of conduct, we are on safe ground, provided the imitation be in keeping with our state of life and other obligations. But if what we aim at is the copying in ourselves of the life of any particular saint, we are off the right track. Indeed many canonised saints are more to be wondered at than imitated, says a holy writer. They acted on the impulse of the grace given them. We have not been given that grace, and until we actually receive it, we should be very imprudent if we sought to do what they did with that grace. We may wonder at St Benedict Labre and his vermin, but we should be acting very wrongly in trying to be like him. All men are certainly not obliged to follow the Poverello in his practice of poverty, but all would benefit by endeavouring to resemble him in his love of poverty and detaching themselves from this world. So we may not emulate St Patrick in his (probably) legendary daily recital of the Psalter and other long devotions, but the recital of our own prayers could not but gain if we put into them some of the intensity of his prayer.

It is no doubt helpful to have some great model proposed to us as an example for our own life, but the masters of the spiritual life warn us very earnestly against making a slavish copy of the original. And the reason is that what was for a particular personality in special circumstances the right course to adopt, or the right thing to do, cannot without further investigation be right for other men in other conditions.

A principle which was not always well understood

This is a principle which in former times was not always well understood. But with the progress of ascetical science – for ascetics is a science, in which study and research can bring to light much that was unknown or dimly realised in the past – it has come to be generally acknowledged that every saint has his own personality, his particular cachet or stamp, wherein he cannot be imitated by others.The Almighty never intended that the life of any saint should be a sort of prototype, a photographic negative, from which any number of copies could be struck off, all alike, and more to follow if wanted.

“All these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will” (1Cor. 12:2)

A final consideration on the subject may be drawn from the teaching of St Paul. “To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giving of Christ” (Eph. 15:7). And after describing to the Corinthians the different gifts which God imparts to men, he concludes: “All these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will” (1Cor. 12:2). Holiness indeed is always the same, inasmuch as it implies man’s entire conformity with the will of God.

That Divine Will, however, as it affects us, has a regard to our personality and idiosyncracy and mental constitution. Grace and nature go together: the one supposes the other. Grace does not destroy what we have received in the natural order but it raises and ennobles it in each one according to his own disposition, given to him at the outset; and in each one too according to the station and occupation in life to which he has been called.

We never can be like any saint: we may attain a distant resemblance in one or two respects. But our imitation will never result in producing a portrait. And God never intended that it should. We might take as a principle of conduct that is true in the supernatural order as well as in the natural, the well-known lines in Hamlet:

This above all: – to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

Let us take ourselves – and we are all different – as God has made us, and by imitating the saints in those things that fit in with our characters, disposition, and circumstances of life, we may hope and pray that, God aiding, we shall arrive at that degree of holiness to which He has called us.

Attaining the degree of holiness to which God has called us

Saints are found in every class and condition of life, among queens and kings, among the lowly-born, among the servants and slaves (when slavery existed) and among the many who occupied no conspicuous position in the eyes of the world but were just ordinary folk. There is no Catholic who cannot by fervent exercise of his religion reach a high degree of sanctity, and it is by striving to be as much of a saint as with God’s grace he can be that he will find his greatest consolation on earth.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

THE HEALTH OF THE SOUL IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HEALTH OF THE BODY

The consolation of helping a world in distress

In the account that St Matthew gives us in his gospel (9:1-8) of the cure of the man sick with the palsy, it is a point of special significance that Our Blessed Lord forgave the sick man his sins before He cured him of his physical ailment. In other words, Our Lord emphasises here, as He did on other occasions, the fact that spiritual sickness is worse than physical and that the health of the soul is of far more importance than the health of the body.

Spiritual sickness is far worse than physical ailments 

This is a truth that the world at large entirely ignores. Even professing Christians are often far more solicitous about obtaining material benefits than spiritual ones. Indeed there are some who will only give themselves to earnest prayer when they are threatened by some temporal calamity.

The death of the soul by mortal sin is an infinitely worse evil than the death of the body: one deprives of temporal life only, the other of eternal.

These are truths that we, as Catholic Christians, learnt in our earliest years. But we can test the strength of our belief in them by whether we pray at least just as fervently to avoid mortal sin, as we do when we are in danger of losing our life by sickness or misadventure. Or again, it may be put in this way: do we give at least as much – of course we ought to give more – attention and care to our souls as we do to our bodies?

There are people who spend time and money on keeping their body fit – clothing, feeding, adorning it (not always successfully); they become anxious when means fail to secure this end: they are much concerned if anything interferes with their temporal well-being: they will go to considerable trouble to rectify anything that is amiss in their worldly affairs: they will go almost to any lengths to secure comfort and ease and to see that their body does not suffer.

The death of the soul by mortal sin is an infinitely worse evil than the death of the body

But the point is that they or we, if we are in the same category, ought to be doing at least as much for the soul if we really believe that the soul is more than the body. Well, are we? Our Blessed Lord said,

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be added unto you.”[Mt 6:33]

But there are a great number of people who are seeking the other things – the material and temporal goods of this world – first, and concern themselves very little, if at all, with the kingdom of heaven. In other words, God does not take the first place in their lives. Indeed He may take no place at all. Practically He may not be taken into account in His own world and yet, inconsistently enough, He will be blamed because things are not to men’s liking.

Do we give at least as much – of course we ought to give more – attention and care to our souls as we do to our bodies?

It is precisely because men ignored God in the first instance and disregarded His will that everything went awry. It is because men have abused the freedom of will that God gave them and chose evil rather than good, that evil exists at all.

Evils of every kind – spiritual, material, physical – are of men’s own making, the consequence of sin, of desertion of God, of neglect of His will.

It is foolish to argue that if God were good He would have prevented all these evils. How could He prevent them and still leave men in the possession of their free-will? If you say that He should not have given men free will, then you take away all moral goodness, the highest possible good, the very splendour of rational created nature; and reduce men to the condition of mere automata or irrational animals.

Do we pray at least just as fervently to avoid mortal sin, as we do when we are in danger of losing our life by sickness or misadventure?

But that God is good and remains good is proved by the fact that when men abused his free-will and so sinned, bringing evil into the world, God in His merciful love at once brought a remedy for the evil and gave man the opportunity and the means of reestablishing himself in God’s favour.

The Incarnation – the life and death of Christ – is that remedy. It is the remedy that has made the first sin of man, in the words of the Church’s liturgy, a “felix culpa”, so that out of evil good has come, and God’s love has been the more clearly revealed in all its merciful understanding of our weakness and its ever constant and unceasing desire to work our ultimate good.

It is precisely because men ignored God in the first instance and disregarded His will that everything in the world went awry

Sin then is the absolute evil: sin is the barrier that stands between ourselves and God: sin the barrier that keeps men from true peace and happiness: but the effect of Christ’s redemptive work is to remove that barrier every time we come in sorrow for our share in its erection. Because sin is the greatest evil in the world, God can do us no greater favour than to forgive us our sins. In doing that He gives Himself back to us in the supernatural life of grace and in so giving Himself He gives us everything best worth having in this world and an earnest of that infinite happiness which He would have us enjoy in heaven.

Evils of every kind – spiritual, material, physical – are of men’s own making, the consequence of sin

All this is disclosed in the cure of the sick man, with which we began this conference. Because sickness of the soul is so much worse than that of the body, Our Lord by His divine power first forgives the sins of the repentant man before He works, as a vindication of His divinity, the lesser miracle of curing him of His palsy.

When man abused his God-given free will and sinned, bringing evil into this world, God in His merciful love sent His only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus

The bodily palsy of the man in the gospel may be regarded as a symbol of the material and physical evils of the world to-day, in which we all to a greater or lesser degree have a share. If these miseries are to be removed, the world must first be cured of its pernicious and destructive spiritual palsy, the palsy engendered by sin, by denial of God and His claims, by neglect of His commandments and laws.

It is not only those who are the avowed enemies of God and are bent upon the utter destruction of religion – it is not only they who are suffering from this spiritual palsy. But alas only too many others, who would range themselves on God’s side, and advocate the cause of Jesus Christ, are themselves infected, even though to a lesser extent, with the same malady.

It is futile for such to hope to have God on their side, to restore His law and order on this earth, if in their endeavours they are not seeking first the kingdom of heaven but rather the goods of this world and the success of their own material aspirations.

“The spiritual palsy”

We, as Catholics, have a great part to play in the regeneration of the world and in the destruction of all those atheistical agencies which are chiefly responsible for such widespread unrest and misery. But if our efforts are to be effective, we must begin by being cured of our own spiritual palsy in whatever degree we suffer from it.

We must first be purged from our own sins, be they great or small, and in our thoughts and in our actions God must be paramount: religion and its constant practice must be our first care: the eternal must take precedence at all times over the temporal and transitory. If we come to Him in right dispositions the tenderhearted Saviour of the world will say to us too, as He said to the man in the gospel,

“Be of good heart, your sins are forgiven you” [Mt 9:2b]

And it is then, and only then, when sins are deplored and forgiven, that we may confidently hope that the sufferings and afflictions, which sin has brought about, will be removed, or to some degree at least mitigated, and that the world will be cleared of the chief horrors in which it is now plunged.

We, as Catholics, have a great part to play in the regeneration of the world 

It is when we have demonstrated to pagan and irreligious men, not by our words but by our loving example, that we are sincere in making God’s cause ours, and that it is His claims and not our own worldly ones that we are seeking to vindicate; that we are seeking, not for ourselves only but for all men, the peace and happiness that only the true service of God can secure; it is when, in short, our own lives are in complete accord with our protestations that we can hope to bring conviction to so many darkened souls and to make them sharers with us in a new world, brightened, gladdened and refreshed by the true reign of Christ in our midst.

Our living example

Everyone, whoever he be, can have part, and a large part, in this consoling work of helping a distressed world. Not everyone can take an active part in such external works as “The Sword of the Spirit” and “The Catholic Evidence Guild,” admirable as they are, but there is no Catholic who cannot live a life in close union with God and by the holiness of his, or her, example, perhaps even more efficaciously promote the Cause of Christ.

Promoting the Cause of Christ by the holiness of our daily day example

There are many who live hidden lives in religious cloisters but whose earnest prayers are ever ascending to God in supplication for the sore and painful needs of the world. There are others who are bedridden with some painful and protracted disease, but by the exercise of patience and resignation to God’s holy will are helping, in greater measure than we can guess, to the conversion of the ungodly and sinful.

A world brightened, gladdened and refreshed by the true reign of Christ in our midst

There are many too old to take part in active apostolic work, but they can offer up to God the inevitable ailments and distresses of their declining years, and find a true consolation in doing so, by the thought that they too are contributing to the regeneration and true welfare of this distressed world. [see also Col 1:24]

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J. [headings and brackets added], The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 

 

 

 

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

HOW TO CONQUER ONE’S FAULTS

Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt5:48)

“On the whole, I am a good Christian”

With regard to virtue, “that which costs nothing is worth nothing.”

This thought, an author remarks, makes us tremble. In examining our conscience, our life, and our habits, we sometimes feel a certain pleasure in discovering that we possess a small collection of virtues, “very agreeable ones…”

Thus we like to pray, “at such an hour, such a place, and with such and such sentiments,” and we say, “I am pious,” we are gentle, polite, smiling “to such a person;” we are patient “before those we fear or whose esteem we desire to gain;” we are devoted, charitable, generous, “because in the depths of our soul we feel an undesirable pleasure in giving charity and devoting ourselves to others;” we willingly suffer something “from those we love,” and we say, “I am good;” we are silent “because we do not care to talk;” we fly from society “because we do not shine in it,” and we say, “I am recollected.”

Examine yourself carefully

But examine one by one those virtues which make you so self-satisfied, and perhaps lead you to prefer yourself to others. Examine at what a price, at what sacrifice, with what labour and struggling, with what special attention you have succeeded at acquiring them… Alas! you will find that all this patience, affability, generosity, and loving piety are nothing more than so many nothings inflated with pride.

“Staying on the carpet” in order to become as holy as one can be

That which has cost nothing is worth nothing.

Sacrifice being the essential basis of virtue, as De Maistre remarks, the most meritorious virtues are those which are acquaint with the greatest trouble.

Then do not regard this charming collection of pretty virtues with such complacency, but face your faults.

Tackling one fault at a time

Take one of them, the first that comes – “impatience, laziness, want of order, gossiping, judgement of others, bad temper, …” and attack it firmly and with perseverance. A month, at least, is necessary, calculating on three victories a day, not, indeed, to destroy it – a fault has very great tenacity of life – but to prevent it ruling you.

Preventing your faults from ruling your life

One having been conquered, take another.

It is the work of a lifetime; it is especially with regard to faults that we may apply the popular proverb, “When there are not any, there are still very many.”

I will consider myself fortunate, says St Francis de Sales, if I succeed in ridding myself of my faults even a short quarter of an hour before my death.

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,