The Imitation of Christ

 

 

 

 

 

By

Thomas Kempis, 1380-1471

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rights: Public Domain

 

 

 

 

TRANSLATED FROM

THE LATIN INTO MODERN ENGLISH

THE BRUCE PUBLISHING COMPANY

MILWAUKEE

Nihil obstat: H. B. Ries, Censor liborum

Imprimatur: +Moyses E. Kiley, Archiepiscopus Milwaukiensis

November 5, 1940

 

Copyright, 1940

The Bruce Publishing Company

Printed in the U. S. A. (Ninth Printing - 1949)


Table of Contents

Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Book One: Thoughts helpful to the Life of the Soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Chapter 1: Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth. . . . . 7

Chapter 2: Having a Humble Opinion of Self . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Chapter 3: The Doctrine of Truth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Chapter 4: Prudence in Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Chapter 5: Reading the Holy Scripture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Chapter 6: Unbridled Affections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Chapter 7: Avoiding False Hope and Pride . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Chapter 8: Shunning Over-Familiarity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Chapter 9: Obedience and Subjection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Chapter 10: Avoiding Idle Talk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Chapter 11: Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

Chapter 12: The Value of Adversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Chapter 13: Resisting Temptation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Chapter 14: Avoiding Rash Judgment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Chapter 15: Works Done in Charity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Chapter 16: Bearing with the Faults of Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Chapter 17: Monastic Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

Chapter 18: The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

Chapter 19: The Practices of a Good Religious . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Chapter 20: The Love of Solitude and Silence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

Chapter 21: Sorrow of Heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

Chapter 22: Thoughts on the Misery of Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

Chapter 23: Thoughts on Death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Chapter 24: Judgment and the Punishment of Sin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Chapter 25: Zeal in Amending our Lives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

 

Book Two: The Interior Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

Chapter 1: Meditation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

Chapter 2: Humility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Chapter 3: Goodness and Peace in Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

Chapter 4: Purity of Mind and Unity of Purpose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Chapter 5: Ourselves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

Chapter 6: The Joy of a Good Conscience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Chapter 7: Loving Jesus Above All Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57

Chapter 8: The Intimate Friendship of Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

Chapter 9: Wanting No Share in Comfort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60

Chapter 10: Appreciating God's Grace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

Chapter 11: Few Love the Cross of Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

Chapter 12: The Royal Road of the Holy Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

 

Book Three: Internal Consolation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71

Chapter 1: The Inward Conversation of Christ with the Faithful Soul 71

Chapter 2: Truth Speaks Inwardly Without the Sound of Words . . . . . 72

Chapter 3: Listen Humbly to the Words of God. Many Do Not Heed Them
74

Chapter 4: We Must Walk Before God in Humility and Truth . . . . . . . 76

Chapter 5: The Wonderful Effect of Divine Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

Chapter 6: The Proving of a True Lover . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

Chapter 7: Grace Must Be Hidden Under the Mantle of Humility . . . . . 82

Chapter 8: Self-Abasement in the Sight of God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

Chapter 9: All Things should be Referred to God as their Last End . . . 85

Chapter 10: To Despise the World and Serve God is Sweet . . . . . . . . . 86

Chapter 11: The Longings of our Hearts Must Be Examined And
Moderated
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

Chapter 12: Acquiring Patience in the Fight Against Concupiscence . . .89

Chapter 13: The Obedience of One Humbly Subject to the Example of
Jesus Christ
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

Chapter 14: Consider the Hidden Judgments of God Lest You Become
Proud of Your Own Good Deeds
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92

Chapter 15: How One Should Feel and Speak on Every Desirable Thing 93

Chapter 16: True Comfort Is to Be Sought in God Alone . . . . . . . . . . . 95

Chapter 17: All Our Care is to Be Placed in God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96

Chapter 18: Temporal Sufferings Should Be Borne Patiently, After the
Example of Christ
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

Chapter 19: True Patience in Suffering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

Chapter 20: Confessing Our Weakness in the Miseries of Life . . . . . . 100

Chapter 21: Above All Goods and All Gifts We Must Rest in God . . 102

Chapter 22: Remember the Innumerable Gifts of God . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104

Chapter 23: Four Things Which Bring Great Peace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106

Chapter 24: Avoiding Curious Inquiry About the Lives of Others . . . 108

Chapter 25: The Basis of Firm Peace of Heart and True Progress. . . . 109

Chapter 26: The Excellence of a Free Mind, Gained Through Prayer Rather
Than By Study
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

Chapter 27: Self-Love is the Greatest Hindrance to the Highest Good 112

Chapter 28: Strength Against Slander . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

Chapter 29: How We Must Call Upon and Bless the Lord When Trouble
Presses
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Chapter 30: The Quest of Divine Help and Confidence in Regaining Grace
116

Chapter 31: To Find the Creator, Forsake All Creatures . . . . . . . . . . . 118

Chapter 32: Self-Denial and the Renunciation of Evil Appetites. . . . . 120

Chapter 33: Restlessness of Soul--Directing Our Final Intention Toward
God
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122

Chapter 34: God is Sweet Above All Things and in All Things to Those
Who Love Him
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123

Chapter 35: There is No Security from Temptation in This Life . . . . .125

Chapter 36: The Vain Judgments of Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126

Chapter 37: Pure and Entire Resignation of Self to Obtain Freedom of
Heart
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127

Chapter 38: The Right Ordering of External Affairs; Recourse to God in
Dangers
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128

Chapter 39: A Man Should Not Be Unduly Solicitous About His Affairs
129

Chapter 40: Man Has No Good in Himself and Can Glory in Nothing 130

Chapter 41: Contempt for All Earthly Honor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132

Chapter 42: Peace is Not to Be Placed in Men . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

Chapter 43: Beware Vain and Worldly Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134

Chapter 44: Do Not Be Concerned About Outward Things . . . . . . . . . 136

Chapter 45: All Men Are Not to Be Believed, for It Is Easy to Err in
Speech
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137

Chapter 46: Trust in God Against Slander . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139

Chapter 47: Every Trial Must Be Borne for the Sake of Eternal Life . . 141

Chapter 48: The Day of Eternity and the Distresses of This Life . . . . . 143

Chapter 49: The Desire of Eternal Life; the Great Rewards Promised to
Those Who Struggle
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .145

Chapter 50: How a Desolate Person Ought to Commit Himself Into the
Hands of God
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148

Chapter 51: When We Cannot Attain to the Highest, We Must Practice the
Humble Works
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .151

Chapter 52: A Man Ought Not to Consider Himself Worthy of
Consolation, But Rather Deserving of Chastisement
. . . . . . . . 152

Chapter 53: God's Grace Is Not Given to the Earthly Minded . . . . . . . 154

Chapter 54: The Different Motions of Nature and Grace. . . . . . . . . . . . 156

Chapter 55: The Corruption of Nature and the Efficacy of Divine Grace 159

Chapter 56: We Ought to Deny Ourselves and Imitate Christ Through
Bearing the Cross
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161

Chapter 57: A Man Should Not Be Too Downcast When He Falls Into
Defects
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163

Chapter 58: High Matters and the Hidden Judgments of God Are Not to Be
Scrutinized
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165

Chapter 59: All Hope and Trust Are to Be Fixed In God Alone . . . . . . 168

 

Book Four: An Invitation to Holy Communion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170

Chapter 1: The Great Reverence With Which We Should Receive Christ

170

Chapter 2: God's Great Goodness and Love is Shown to Man in This
Sacrament
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174

Chapter 3: It Is Profitable to Receive Communion Often . . . . . . . . . . . 176

Chapter 4: Many Blessings Are Given Those Who Receive Communion
Worthily
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Chapter 5: The Dignity of the Sacrament and of the Priesthood . . . . . . 180

Chapter 6: An Inquiry on the Proper Thing to Do Before Communion 182

Chapter 7: The Examination of Conscience and the Resolution to Amend
183

Chapter 8: The Offering of Christ on the Cross; Our Offering . . . . . . 185

Chapter 9: We Should Offer Ourselves and All That We Have to God,
Praying for All
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186

Chapter 10: Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion . . . . . . . . . . . 188

Chapter 11: The Body of Christ and Sacred Scripture Are Most Necessary
to a Faithful Soul
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191

Chapter 12: The Communicant Should Prepare Himself for Christ with
Great Care
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194

Chapter 13: With All Her Heart the Devout Soul Should Desire Union with
Christ in the Sacrament
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196

Chapter 14: The Ardent Longing of Devout Men for the Body of Christ 198

Chapter 15: The Grace of Devotion is Acquired Through Humility and
Self-Denial
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199

Chapter 16: We Should Show Our Needs to Christ and Ask His Grace 201

Chapter 17: The Burning Love and Strong Desire to Receive Christ . . .202

Chapter 18: Man Should Not Scrutinize This Sacrament in Curiosity, But
Humbly Imitate Christ and Submit Reason to Holy Faith . . . . . . 204

 

Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

 

IN PREPARING this edition of The Imitation of Christ, the aim was to

achieve a simple, readable text which would ring true to those who are

already lovers of this incomparable book and would attract others to

it. For this reason we have attempted to render the text into English

as it is spoken today rather than the cloudy, archaic terminology that

encumbers so many translations of Christian classics. The result, we

feel, has achieved a directness and conciseness which will meet the

approval of modern readers. In the second place, we have made use of

the familiar paragraph form, doing away with the simple statement or

verse form of the original and of many translations. This was done in

the interest of easier reading, and in order to bring out more clearly

the connection between the single statements.

 

No claim of literary excellence over the many English versions now

extant is here advanced, nor any attempt to solve in further confusion

the problem of the book's authorship.

 

Theories most popular at the moment ascribe the Imitation to two or

three men, members of the Brethren of the Common Life, an association

of priests organized in the Netherlands in the latter half of the

fourteenth century. That Thomas Hemerken of Kempen, or Thomas Kempis

as he is now known, later translated a composite of their writings,

essentially a spiritual diary, from the original Netherlandish into

Latin is generally admitted by scholars. This Thomas, born about the

year 1380, was educated by the Brethren of the Common Life, was moved

to join their community, and was ordained priest. His career thereafter

was devoted to practicing the counsels of spiritual perfection and to

copying books for the schools. From both pursuits evolved The Imitation

of Christ. As editor and translator he was not without faults, but

thanks to him the Imitation became and has remained, after the Bible,

the most widely read book in the world. It is his edition that is here

rendered into English, without deletion of chapters or parts of them

because doubts exist as to their authorship, or because of variants in

style, or for any of the other more or less valid reasons.

 

There is but one major change. The treatise on Holy Communion, which

Kempis places as Book Three, is here titled Book Four. The move makes

the order of the whole more logical and agrees with the thought of most

editors.

The Translators: Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton

BOOK ONE

 

 

THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

 

The First Chapter

 

Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth

 

HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord (John 8:12).

By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits,

if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of

heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus

Christ.

 

The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the

saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now,

there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because

they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand

fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of

Christ.

 

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking

humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that

makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to

God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For

what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the

principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the

love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God

and serve Him alone.

 

This is the greatest wisdom--to seek the kingdom of heaven through

contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in

riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed

up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to

desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity

to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is

vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision

for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to

look ahead where eternal joy abides.

 

Often recall the proverb: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the

ear filled with hearing." [1] Try, moreover, to turn your heart from

the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For

they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and

lose the grace of God.

[1] Eccles. 1:8.


 

The Second Chapter

 

Having a Humble Opinion of Self

 

EVERY man naturally desires knowledge [2]; 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. [3] He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes

and is not happy when praised by men.

 

If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it

profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?

 

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting

and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called

wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or

no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things

than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.

 

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and

a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.

 

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will

you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud,

therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of

the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand

them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do

not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why

prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more

cultured than you?

 

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to

be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is

the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and

always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect

wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious

crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long

you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit

that none is more frail than yourself.

 

[2] Aristotle, Metaphysics, i. 1.

[3] Augustine, Confessions V. 4.


 

The Third Chapter

 

The Doctrine of Truth

 

HAPPY is he to whom truth manifests itself, not in signs and words that

fade, but as it actually is. Our opinions, our senses often deceive us

and we discern very little.

 

What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our

ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day? Neglect

of things which are profitable and necessary and undue concern with

those which are irrelevant and harmful, are great folly.

 

We have eyes and do not see.

 

What, therefore, have we to do with questions of philosophy? He to whom

the Eternal Word speaks is free from theorizing. For from this Word are

all things and of Him all things speak--the Beginning Who also speaks

to us. Without this Word no man understands or judges aright. He to

whom it becomes everything, who traces all things to it and who sees

all things in it, may ease his heart and remain at peace with God.

 

O God, You Who are the truth, make me one with You in love everlasting.

I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is

all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be

silent before You; You alone speak to me.

 

The more recollected a man is, and the more simple of heart he becomes,

the easier he understands sublime things, for he receives the light of

knowledge from above. The pure, simple, and steadfast spirit is not

distracted by many labors, for he does them all for the honor of God.

And since he enjoys interior peace he seeks no selfish end in anything.

What, indeed, gives more trouble and affliction than uncontrolled

desires of the heart?

 

A good and devout man arranges in his mind the things he has to do, not

according to the whims of evil inclination but according to the

dictates of right reason. Who is forced to struggle more than he who

tries to master himself? This ought to be our purpose, then: to conquer

self, to become stronger each day, to advance in virtue.

 

Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it and

no learning of ours is without some darkness. Humble knowledge of self

is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning. Not that

learning is to be considered evil, or knowledge, which is good in

itself and so ordained by God; but a clean conscience and virtuous life

ought always to be preferred. Many often err and accomplish little or

nothing because they try to become learned rather than to live well.

 

If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as

they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and

scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the

day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but

what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have

lived.

 

Tell me, where now are all the masters and teachers whom you knew so

well in life and who were famous for their learning? Others have

already taken their places and I know not whether they ever think of

their predecessors. During life they seemed to be something; now they

are seldom remembered. How quickly the glory of the world passes away!

If only their lives had kept pace with their learning, then their study

and reading would have been worth while.

 

How many there are who perish because of vain worldly knowledge and too

little care for serving God. They became vain in their own conceits

because they chose to be great rather than humble.

 

He is truly great who has great charity. He is truly great who is

little in his own eyes and makes nothing of the highest honor. He is

truly wise who looks upon all earthly things as folly that he may gain

Christ. He who does God's will and renounces his own is truly very

learned.

 


 

The Fourth Chapter

 

Prudence in Action

 

DO NOT yield to every impulse and suggestion but consider things

carefully and patiently in the light of God's will. For very often, sad

to say, we are so weak that we believe and speak evil of others rather

than good. Perfect men, however, do not readily believe every

talebearer, because they know that human frailty is prone to evil and

is likely to appear in speech.

 

Not to act rashly or to cling obstinately to one's opinion, not to

believe everything people say or to spread abroad the gossip one has

heard, is great wisdom.

 

Take counsel with a wise and conscientious man. Seek the advice of your

betters in preference to following your own inclinations.

 

A good life makes a man wise according to God and gives him experience

in many things, for the more humble he is and the more subject to God,

the wiser and the more at peace he will be in all things.

 

 


 

The Fifth Chapter

 

Reading the Holy Scripture

 

TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures;

and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For

in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.

 

Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as

learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority

of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant

person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is

speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the

Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for

persons.

 

Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish

to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.

 

If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity,

and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek

willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be

displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made

without purpose.

 

 


 

The Sixth Chapter

 

Unbridled Affections

 

WHEN a man desires a thing too much, he at once becomes ill at ease. A

proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble

of heart lives in a world of peace. An unmortified man is quickly

tempted and overcome in small, trifling evils; his spirit is weak, in a

measure carnal and inclined to sensual things; he can hardly abstain

from earthly desires. Hence it makes him sad to forego them; he is

quick to anger if reproved. Yet if he satisfies his desires, remorse of

conscience overwhelms him because he followed his passions and they did

not lead to the peace he sought.

 

True peace of heart, then, is found in resisting passions, not in

satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal man, in the man given

to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and spiritual

man.

 


 

The Seventh Chapter

 

Avoiding False Hope and Pride

 

VAIN is the man who puts his trust in men, in created things.

 

Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ and to

seem poor in this world. Do not be self-sufficient but place your trust

in God. Do what lies in your power and God will aid your good will. Put

no trust in your own learning nor in the cunning of any man, but rather

in the grace of God Who helps the humble and humbles the proud.

 

If you have wealth, do not glory in it, nor in friends because they are

powerful, but in God Who gives all things and Who desires above all to

give Himself. Do not boast of personal stature or of physical beauty,

qualities which are marred and destroyed by a little sickness. Do not

take pride in your talent or ability, lest you displease God to Whom

belongs all the natural gifts that you have.

 

Do not think yourself better than others lest, perhaps, you be

accounted worse before God Who knows what is in man. Do not take pride

in your good deeds, for God's judgments differ from those of men and

what pleases them often displeases Him. If there is good in you, see

more good in others, so that you may remain humble. It does no harm to

esteem yourself less than anyone else, but it is very harmful to think

yourself better than even one. The humble live in continuous peace,

while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.

 

 


 

The Eighth Chapter

 

Shunning Over-Familiarity

 

DO NOT open your heart to every man, but discuss your affairs with one

who is wise and who fears God. Do not keep company with young people

and strangers. Do not fawn upon the rich, and do not be fond of

mingling with the great. Associate with the humble and the simple, with

the devout and virtuous, and with them speak of edifying things. Be not

intimate with any woman, but generally commend all good women to God.

Seek only the intimacy of God and of His angels, and avoid the notice

of men.

 

We ought to have charity for all men but familiarity with all is not

expedient. Sometimes it happens that a person enjoys a good reputation

among those who do not know him, but at the same time is held in slight

regard by those who do. Frequently we think we are pleasing others by

our presence and we begin rather to displease them by the faults they

find in us.

 


 

The Ninth Chapter

 

Obedience and Subjection

 

IT IS a very great thing to obey, to live under a superior and not to

be one's own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to

command. Many live in obedience more from necessity than from love.

Such become discontented and dejected on the slightest pretext; they

will never gain peace of mind unless they subject themselves

wholeheartedly for the love of God.

 

Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to

the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and

different places have deceived many.

 

Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to

those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give

up our opinions for the blessings of peace.

 

Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of

everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing

to listen to those of others. If, though your own be good, you accept

another's opinion for love of God, you will gain much more merit; for I

have often heard that it is safer to listen to advice and take it than

to give it. It may happen, too, that while one's own opinion may be

good, refusal to agree with others when reason and occasion demand it,

is a sign of pride and obstinacy.

 


 

The Tenth Chapter

 

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.

 


 

The Eleventh Chapter

 

Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection

 

WE SHOULD enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what

others say and do, for these are no concern of ours. How can a man who

meddles in affairs not his own, who seeks strange distractions, and who

is little or seldom inwardly recollected, live long in peace?

 

Blessed are the simple of heart for they shall enjoy peace in

abundance.

 

Why were some of the saints so perfect and so given to contemplation?

Because they tried to mortify entirely in themselves all earthly

desires, and thus they were able to attach themselves to God with all

their heart and freely to concentrate their innermost thoughts.

 

We are too occupied with our own whims and fancies, too taken up with

passing things. Rarely do we completely conquer even one vice, and we

are not inflamed with the desire to improve ourselves day by day;

hence, we remain cold and indifferent. If we mortified our bodies

perfectly and allowed no distractions to enter our minds, we could

appreciate divine things and experience something of heavenly

contemplation.

 

The greatest obstacle, indeed, the only obstacle, is that we are not

free from passions and lusts, that we do not try to follow the perfect

way of the saints. Thus when we encounter some slight difficulty, we

are too easily dejected and turn to human consolations. If we tried,

however, to stand as brave men in battle, the help of the Lord from

heaven would surely sustain us. For He Who gives us the opportunity of

fighting for victory, is ready to help those who carry on and trust in

His grace.

 

If we let our progress in religious life depend on the observance of

its externals alone, our devotion will quickly come to an end. Let us,

then, lay the ax to the root that we may be freed from our passions and

thus have peace of mind.

 

If we were to uproot only one vice each year, we should soon become

perfect. The contrary, however, is often the case--we feel that we were

better and purer in the first fervor of our conversion than we are

after many years in the practice of our faith. Our fervor and progress

ought to increase day by day; yet it is now considered noteworthy if a

man can retain even a part of his first fervor.

 

If we did a little violence to ourselves at the start, we should

afterwards be able to do all things with ease and joy. It is hard to

break old habits, but harder still to go against our will.

 

If you do not overcome small, trifling things, how will you overcome

the more difficult? Resist temptations in the beginning, and unlearn

the evil habit lest perhaps, little by little, it lead to a more evil

one.

 

If you but consider what peace a good life will bring to yourself and

what joy it will give to others, I think you will be more concerned

about your spiritual progress.

 

 


 

The Twelfth Chapter

 

The Value of Adversity

 

IT IS good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often

remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly

thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be

misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things

help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward

appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us,

then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. Therefore, a

man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the

consolations of men.

 

When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil

thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God, without

Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he

laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death

that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands

fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on

earth.

 


 

The Thirteenth Chapter

 

Resisting Temptation

 

SO LONG as we live in this world we cannot escape suffering and

temptation. Whence it is written in Job: "The life of man upon earth is

a warfare." [4] Everyone, therefore, must guard against temptation and

must watch in prayer lest the devil, who never sleeps but goes about

seeking whom he may devour, find occasion to deceive him. No one is so

perfect or so holy but he is sometimes tempted; man cannot be

altogether free from temptation.

 

Yet temptations, though troublesome and severe, are often useful to a

man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed. The saints

all passed through many temptations and trials to profit by them, while

those who could not resist became reprobate and fell away. There is no

state so holy, no place so secret that temptations and trials will not

come. Man is never safe from them as long as he lives, for they come

from within us--in sin we were born. When one temptation or trial

passes, another comes; we shall always have something to suffer because

we have lost the state of original blessedness.

 

Many people try to escape temptations, only to fall more deeply. We

cannot conquer simply by fleeing, but by patience and true humility we

become stronger than all our enemies. The man who only shuns

temptations outwardly and does not uproot them will make little

progress; indeed they will quickly return, more violent than before.

 

Little by little, in patience and long-suffering you will overcome

them, by the help of God rather than by severity and your own rash

ways. Often take counsel when tempted; and do not be harsh with others

who are tempted, but console them as you yourself would wish to be

consoled.

 

The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little

trust in God, for as a rudderless ship is driven hither and yon by

waves, so a careless and irresolute man is tempted in many ways. Fire

tempers iron and temptation steels the just. Often we do not know what

we can stand, but temptation shows us what we are.

 

Above all, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of

temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused

admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold when he knocks.

 

Someone has said very aptly: "Resist the beginnings; remedies come too

late, when by long delay the evil has gained strength." First, a mere

thought comes to mind, then strong imagination, followed by pleasure,

evil delight, and consent. Thus, because he is not resisted in the

beginning, Satan gains full entry. And the longer a man delays in

resisting, so much the weaker does he become each day, while the

strength of the enemy grows against him.

 

Some suffer great temptations in the beginning of their conversion,

others toward the end, while some are troubled almost constantly

throughout their life. Others, again, are tempted but lightly according

to the wisdom and justice of Divine Providence Who weighs the status

and merit of each and prepares all for the salvation of His elect.

 

We should not despair, therefore, when we are tempted, but pray to God

the more fervently that He may see fit to help us, for according to the

word of Paul, He will make issue with temptation that we may be able to

bear it. Let us humble our souls under the hand of God in every trial

and temptation for He will save and exalt the humble in spirit.

 

In temptations and trials the progress of a man is measured; in them

opportunity for merit and virtue is made more manifest.

 

When a man is not troubled it is not hard for him to be fervent and

devout, but if he bears up patiently in time of adversity, there is

hope for great progress.

 

Some, guarded against great temptations, are frequently overcome by

small ones in order that, humbled by their weakness in small trials,

they may not presume on their own strength in great ones.

 

[4] Job 7:1.


 

The Fourteenth Chapter

 

Avoiding Rash Judgment

 

TURN your attention upon yourself and beware of judging the deeds of

other men, for in judging others a man labors vainly, often makes

mistakes, and easily sins; whereas, in judging and taking stock of

himself he does something that is always profitable.

 

We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through

personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.

 

If God were the sole object of our desire, we should not be disturbed

so easily by opposition to our opinions. But often something lurks

within or happens from without to draw us along with it.

 

Many, unawares, seek themselves in the things they do. They seem even

to enjoy peace of mind when things happen according to their wish and

liking, but if otherwise than they desire, they are soon disturbed and

saddened. Differences of feeling and opinion often divide friends and

acquaintances, even those who are religious and devout.

 

An old habit is hard to break, and no one is willing to be led farther

than he can see.

 

If you rely more upon your intelligence or industry than upon the

virtue of submission to Jesus Christ, you will hardly, and in any case

slowly, become an enlightened man. God wants us to be completely

subject to Him and, through ardent love, to rise above all human

wisdom.

 

 


 

The Fifteenth Chapter

 

Works Done in Charity

 

NEVER do evil for anything in the world, or for the love of any man.

For one who is in need, however, a good work may at times be purposely

left undone or changed for a better one. This is not the omission of a

good deed but rather its improvement.

 

Without charity external work is of no value, but anything done in

charity, be it ever so small and trivial, is entirely fruitful inasmuch

as God weighs the love with which a man acts rather than the deed

itself.

 

He does much who loves much. He does much who does a thing well. He

does well who serves the common good rather than his own interests.

 

Now, that which seems to be charity is oftentimes really sensuality,

for man's own inclination, his own will, his hope of reward, and his

self-interest, are motives seldom absent. On the contrary, he who has

true and perfect charity seeks self in nothing, but searches all things

for the glory of God. Moreover, he envies no man, because he desires no

personal pleasure nor does he wish to rejoice in himself; rather he

desires the greater glory of God above all things. He ascribes to man

nothing that is good but attributes it wholly to God from Whom all

things proceed as from a fountain, and in Whom all the blessed shall

rest as their last end and fruition.

 

If man had but a spark of true charity he would surely sense that all

the things of earth are full of vanity!

 

 


 

The Sixteenth Chapter

 

Bearing with the Faults of Others

 

UNTIL God ordains otherwise, a man ought to bear patiently whatever he

cannot correct in himself and in others. Consider it better

thus--perhaps to try your patience and to test you, for without such

patience and trial your merits are of little account. Nevertheless,

under such difficulties you should pray that God will consent to help

you bear them calmly.

 

If, after being admonished once or twice, a person does not amend, do

not argue with him but commit the whole matter to God that His will and

honor may be furthered in all His servants, for God knows well how to

turn evil to good. Try to bear patiently with the defects and

infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many

a fault which others must endure.

 

If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend

others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct

our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not

correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not

be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will

allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing. Hence, it is clear how

seldom we think of others as we do of ourselves.

 

If all were perfect, what should we have to suffer from others for

God's sake? But God has so ordained, that we may learn to bear with one

another's burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without

burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must

support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and

advise, for the measure of every man's virtue is best revealed in time

of adversity--adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows

what he is.

 

 


 

The Seventeenth Chapter

 

Monastic Life

 

IF YOU wish peace and concord with others, you must learn to break your

will in many things. To live in monasteries or religious communities,

to remain there without complaint, and to persevere faithfully till

death is no small matter. Blessed indeed is he who there lives a good

life and there ends his days in happiness.

 

If you would persevere in seeking perfection, you must consider

yourself a pilgrim, an exile on earth. If you would become a religious,

you must be content to seem a fool for the sake of Christ. Habit and

tonsure change a man but little; it is the change of life, the complete

mortification of passions that endow a true religious.

 

He who seeks anything but God alone and the salvation of his soul will

find only trouble and grief, and he who does not try to become the

least, the servant of all, cannot remain at peace for long.

 

You have come to serve, not to rule. You must understand, too, that you

have been called to suffer and to work, not to idle and gossip away

your time. Here men are tried as gold in a furnace. Here no man can

remain unless he desires with all his heart to humble himself before

God.

 

 


 

The Eighteenth Chapter

 

The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers

 

CONSIDER the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the

light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how

nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs?

The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst,

in cold and nakedness, in work and fatigue, in vigils and fasts, in

prayers and holy meditations, in persecutions and many afflictions. How

many and severe were the trials they suffered--the Apostles, martyrs,

confessors, virgins, and all the rest who willed to follow in the

footsteps of Christ! They hated their lives on earth that they might

have life in eternity.

 

How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the

desert! What long and grave temptations they suffered! How often were

they beset by the enemy! What frequent and ardent prayers they offered

to God! What rigorous fasts they observed! How great their zeal and

their love for spiritual perfection! How brave the fight they waged to

master their evil habits! What pure and straightforward purpose they

showed toward God! By day they labored and by night they spent

themselves in long prayers. Even at work they did not cease from mental

prayer. They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too

short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation,

they forgot even their bodily needs.

 

They renounced all riches, dignities, honors, friends, and associates.

They desired nothing of the world. They scarcely allowed themselves the

necessities of life, and the service of the body, even when necessary,

was irksome to them. They were poor in earthly things but rich in grace

and virtue. Outwardly destitute, inwardly they were full of grace and

divine consolation. Strangers to the world, they were close and

intimate friends of God. To themselves they seemed as nothing, and they

were despised by the world, but in the eyes of God they were precious

and beloved. They lived in true humility and simple obedience; they

walked in charity and patience, making progress daily on the pathway of

spiritual life and obtaining great favor with God.

 

They were given as an example for all religious, and their power to

stimulate us to perfection ought to be greater than that of the

lukewarm to tempt us to laxity.

 

How great was the fervor of all religious in the beginning of their

holy institution! How great their devotion in prayer and their rivalry

for virtue! What splendid discipline flourished among them! What great

reverence and obedience in all things under the rule of a superior! The

footsteps they left behind still bear witness that they indeed were

holy and perfect men who fought bravely and conquered the world.

 

Today, he who is not a transgressor and who can bear patiently the

duties which he has taken upon himself is considered great. How

lukewarm and negligent we are! We lose our original fervor very quickly

and we even become weary of life from laziness! Do not you, who have

seen so many examples of the devout, fall asleep in the pursuit of

virtue!

 


 

The Nineteenth Chapter

 

The Practices of a Good Religious

 

THE life of a good religious ought to abound in every virtue so that he

is interiorly what to others he appears to be. With good reason there

ought to be much more within than appears on the outside, for He who

sees within is God, Whom we ought to reverence most highly wherever we

are and in Whose sight we ought to walk pure as the angels.

 

Each day we ought to renew our resolutions and arouse ourselves to

fervor as though it were the first day of our religious life. We ought

to say: "Help me, O Lord God, in my good resolution and in Your holy

service. Grant me now, this very day, to begin perfectly, for thus far

I have done nothing."

 

As our intention is, so will be our progress; and he who desires

perfection must be very diligent. If the strong-willed man fails

frequently, what of the man who makes up his mind seldom or

half-heartedly? Many are the ways of failing in our resolutions; even a

slight omission of religious practice entails a loss of some kind.

 

Just men depend on the grace of God rather than on their own wisdom in

keeping their resolutions. In Him they confide every undertaking, for

man, indeed, proposes but God disposes, and God's way is not man's. If

a habitual exercise is sometimes omitted out of piety or in the

interests of another, it can easily be resumed later. But if it be

abandoned carelessly, through weariness or neglect, then the fault is

great and will prove hurtful. Much as we try, we still fail too easily

in many things. Yet we must always have some fixed purpose, especially

against things which beset us the most. Our outward and inward lives

alike must be closely watched and well ordered, for both are important

to perfection.

 

If you cannot recollect yourself continuously, do so once a day at

least, in the morning or in the evening. In the morning make a

resolution and in the evening examine yourself on what you have said

this day, what you have done and thought, for in these things perhaps

you have often offended God and those about you.

 

Arm yourself like a man against the devil's assaults. Curb your

appetite and you will more easily curb every inclination of the flesh.

Never be completely unoccupied, but read or write or pray or meditate

or do something for the common good. Bodily discipline, however, must

be undertaken with discretion and is not to be practiced

indiscriminately by everyone.

 

Devotions not common to all are not to be displayed in public, for such

personal things are better performed in private. Furthermore, beware of

indifference to community prayer through love of your own devotions.

If, however, after doing completely and faithfully all you are bound

and commanded to do, you then have leisure, use it as personal piety

suggests.

 

Not everyone can have the same devotion. One exactly suits this person,

another that. Different exercises, likewise, are suitable for different

times, some for feast days and some again for weekdays. In time of

temptation we need certain devotions. For days of rest and peace we

need others. Some are suitable when we are sad, others when we are

joyful in the Lord.

 

About the time of the principal feasts good devotions ought to be

renewed and the intercession of the saints more fervently implored.

From one feast day to the next we ought to fix our purpose as though we

were then to pass from this world and come to the eternal holyday.

 

During holy seasons, finally, we ought to prepare ourselves carefully,

to live holier lives, and to observe each rule more strictly, as though

we were soon to receive from God the reward of our labors. If this end

be deferred, let us believe that we are not well prepared and that we

are not yet worthy of the great glory that shall in due time be

revealed to us. Let us try, meanwhile, to prepare ourselves better for

death.

 

"Blessed is the servant," says Christ, "whom his master, when he

comes, shall find watching. Amen I say to you: he shall make him ruler

over all his goods." [5]

 

 

[5] Luke 12:43, 44.


 

The Twentieth Chapter

 

The Love of Solitude and Silence

 

SEEK a suitable time for leisure and meditate often on the favors of

God. Leave curiosities alone. Read such matters as bring sorrow to the

heart rather than occupation to the mind. If you withdraw yourself from

unnecessary talking and idle running about, from listening to gossip

and rumors, you will find enough time that is suitable for holy

meditation.

 

Very many great saints avoided the company of men wherever possible and

chose to serve God in retirement. "As often as I have been among men,"

said one writer, "I have returned less a man." We often find this to be

true when we take part in long conversations. It is easier to be silent

altogether than not to speak too much. To stay at home is easier than

to be sufficiently on guard while away. Anyone, then, who aims to live

the inner and spiritual life must go apart, with Jesus, from the crowd.

 

No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes

obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No

man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands

safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely

unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience.

 

More than this, the security of the saints was always enveloped in the

fear of God, nor were they less cautious and humble because they were

conspicuous for great virtues and graces. The security of the wicked,

on the contrary, springs from pride and presumption, and will end in

their own deception.

 

Never promise yourself security in this life, even though you seem to

be a good religious, or a devout hermit. It happens very often that

those whom men esteem highly are more seriously endangered by their own

excessive confidence. Hence, for many it is better not to be too free

from temptations, but often to be tried lest they become too secure,

too filled with pride, or even too eager to fall back upon external

comforts.

 

If only a man would never seek passing joys or entangle himself with

worldly affairs, what a good conscience he would have. What great peace

and tranquillity would be his, if he cut himself off from all empty

care and thought only of things divine, things helpful to his soul, and

put all his trust in God.

 

No man deserves the consolation of heaven unless he persistently

arouses himself to holy contrition. If you desire true sorrow of heart,

seek the privacy of your cell and shut out the uproar of the world, as

it is written: "In your chamber bewail your sins." There you will find

what too often you lose abroad.

 

Your cell will become dear to you if you remain in it, but if you do

not, it will become wearisome. If in the beginning of your religious

life, you live within your cell and keep to it, it will soon become a

special friend and a very great comfort.

 

In silence and quiet the devout soul advances in virtue and learns the

hidden truths of Scripture. There she finds a flood of tears with which

to bathe and cleanse herself nightly, that she may become the more

intimate with her Creator the farther she withdraws from all the tumult

of the world. For God and His holy angels will draw near to him who

withdraws from friends and acquaintances.

 

It is better for a man to be obscure and to attend to his salvation

than to neglect it and work miracles. It is praiseworthy for a

religious seldom to go abroad, to flee the sight of men and have no

wish to see them.

 

Why wish to see what you are not permitted to have? "The world passes

away and the concupiscence thereof." Sensual craving sometimes entices

you to wander around, but when the moment is past, what do you bring

back with you save a disturbed conscience and heavy heart? A happy

going often leads to a sad return, a merry evening to a mournful dawn.

Thus, all carnal joy begins sweetly but in the end brings remorse and

death.

 

What can you find elsewhere that you cannot find here in your cell?

Behold heaven and earth and all the elements, for of these all things

are made. What can you see anywhere under the sun that will remain

long? Perhaps you think you will completely satisfy yourself, but you

cannot do so, for if you should see all existing things, what would

they be but an empty vision?

 

Raise your eyes to God in heaven and pray because of your sins and

shortcomings. Leave vanity to the vain. Set yourself to the things

which God has commanded you to do. Close the door upon yourself and

call to you Jesus, your Beloved. Remain with Him in your cell, for

nowhere else will you find such peace. If you had not left it, and had

not listened to idle gossip, you would have remained in greater peace.

But since you love, sometimes, to hear news, it is only right that you

should suffer sorrow of heart from it.

 

 

 


 

The Twenty-First Chapter

 

Sorrow of Heart

 

IF YOU wish to make progress in virtue, live in the fear of the Lord,

do not look for too much freedom, discipline your senses, and shun

inane silliness. Sorrow opens the door to many a blessing which

dissoluteness usually destroys.

 

It is a wonder that any man who considers and meditates on his exiled

state and the many dangers to his soul, can ever be perfectly happy in

this life. Lighthearted and heedless of our defects, we do not feel the

real sorrows of our souls, but often indulge in empty laughter when we

have good reason to weep. No liberty is true and no joy is genuine

unless it is founded in the fear of the Lord and a good conscience.

 

Happy is the man who can throw off the weight of every care and

recollect himself in holy contrition. Happy is the man who casts from

him all that can stain or burden his conscience.

 

Fight like a man. Habit is overcome by habit. If you leave men alone,

they will leave you alone to do what you have to do. Do not busy

yourself about the affairs of others and do not become entangled in the

business of your superiors. Keep an eye primarily on yourself and

admonish yourself instead of your friends.

 

If you do not enjoy the favor of men, do not let it sadden you; but

consider it a serious matter if you do not conduct yourself as well or

as carefully as is becoming for a servant of God and a devout

religious.

 

It is often better and safer for us to have few consolations in this

life, especially comforts of the body. Yet if we do not have divine

consolation or experience it rarely, it is our own fault because we

seek no sorrow of heart and do not forsake vain outward satisfaction.

 

Consider yourself unworthy of divine solace and deserving rather of

much tribulation. When a man is perfectly contrite, the whole world is

bitter and wearisome to him.

 

A good man always finds enough over which to mourn and weep; whether he

thinks of himself or of his neighbor he knows that no one lives here

without suffering, and the closer he examines himself the more he

grieves.

 

The sins and vices in which we are so entangled that we can rarely

apply ourselves to the contemplation of heaven are matters for just

sorrow and inner remorse.

 

I do not doubt that you would correct yourself more earnestly if you

would think more of an early death than of a long life. And if you

pondered in your heart the future pains of hell or of purgatory, I

believe you would willingly endure labor and trouble and would fear no

hardship. But since these thoughts never pierce the heart and since we

are enamored of flattering pleasure, we remain very cold and

indifferent. Our wretched body complains so easily because our soul is

altogether too lifeless.

 

Pray humbly to the Lord, therefore, that He may give you the spirit of

contrition and say with the Prophet: "Feed me, Lord, with the bread of

mourning and give me to drink of tears in full measure." [6]

 

 

[6] Ps. 80:9.


 

The Twenty-Second Chapter

 

Thoughts on the Misery of Man

 

WHEREVER you are, wherever you go, you are miserable unless you turn to

God. So why be dismayed when things do not happen as you wish and

desire? Is there anyone who has everything as he wishes? No--neither I,

nor you, nor any man on earth. There is no one in the world, be he Pope

or king, who does not suffer trial and anguish.

 

Who is the better off then? Surely, it is the man who will suffer

something for God. Many unstable and weak-minded people say: "See how

well that man lives, how rich, how great he is, how powerful and

mighty." But you must lift up your eyes to the riches of heaven and

realize that the material goods of which they speak are nothing. These

things are uncertain and very burdensome because they are never

possessed without anxiety and fear. Man's happiness does not consist in

the possession of abundant goods; a very little is enough.

 

Living on earth is truly a misery. The more a man desires spiritual

life, the more bitter the present becomes to him, because he

understands better and sees more clearly the defects, the corruption of

human nature. To eat and drink, to watch and sleep, to rest, to labor,

and to be bound by other human necessities is certainly a great misery

and affliction to the devout man, who would gladly be released from

them and be free from all sin. Truly, the inner man is greatly burdened

in this world by the necessities of the body, and for this reason the

Prophet prayed that he might be as free from them as possible, when he

said: "From my necessities, O Lord, deliver me." [7]

 

But woe to those who know not their own misery, and greater woe to

those who love this miserable and corruptible life. Some, indeed, can

scarcely procure its necessities either by work or by begging; yet they

love it so much that, if they could live here always, they would care

nothing for the kingdom of God.

 

How foolish and faithless of heart are those who are so engrossed in

earthly things as to relish nothing but what is carnal! Miserable men

indeed, for in the end they will see to their sorrow how cheap and

worthless was the thing they loved.

 

The saints of God and all devout friends of Christ did not look to what

pleases the body nor to the things that are popular from time to time.

Their whole hope and aim centered on the everlasting good. Their whole

desire pointed upward to the lasting and invisible realm, lest the love

of what is visible drag them down to lower things.

 

Do not lose heart, then, my brother, in pursuing your spiritual life.

There is yet time, and your hour is not past. Why delay your purpose?

Arise! Begin at once and say: "Now is the time to act, now is the time

to fight, now is the proper time to amend."

 

When you are troubled and afflicted, that is the time to gain merit.

You must pass through water and fire before coming to rest. Unless you

do violence to yourself you will not overcome vice.

 

So long as we live in this fragile body, we can neither be free from

sin nor live without weariness and sorrow. Gladly would we rest from

all misery, but in losing innocence through sin we also lost true

blessedness. Therefore, we must have patience and await the mercy of

God until this iniquity passes, until mortality is swallowed up in

life.

 

How great is the frailty of human nature which is ever prone to evil!

Today you confess your sins and tomorrow you again commit the sins

which you confessed. One moment you resolve to be careful, and yet

after an hour you act as though you had made no resolution.

 

We have cause, therefore, because of our frailty and feebleness, to

humble ourselves and never think anything great of ourselves. Through

neglect we may quickly lose that which by God's grace we have acquired

only through long, hard labor. What, eventually, will become of us who

so quickly grow lukewarm? Woe to us if we presume to rest in peace and

security when actually there is no true holiness in our lives. It would

be beneficial for us, like good novices, to be instructed once more in

the principles of a good life, to see if there be hope of amendment and

greater spiritual progress in the future.

 

 

[7] Ps. 34:17.


 

The Twenty-Third Chapter

 

Thoughts on Death

 

VERY soon your life here will end; consider, then, what may be in store

for you elsewhere. Today we live; tomorrow we die and are quickly

forgotten. Oh, the dullness and hardness of a heart which looks only to

the present instead of preparing for that which is to come!

 

Therefore, in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to

die this very day. If you had a good conscience you would not fear

death very much. It is better to avoid sin than to fear death. If you

are not prepared today, how will you be prepared tomorrow? Tomorrow is

an uncertain day; how do you know you will have a tomorrow?

 

What good is it to live a long life when we amend that life so little?

Indeed, a long life does not always benefit us, but on the contrary,

frequently adds to our guilt. Would that in this world we had lived

well throughout one single day. Many count up the years they have spent

in religion but find their lives made little holier. If it is so

terrifying to die, it is nevertheless possible that to live longer is

more dangerous. Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before

his eyes and prepares for it every day.

 

If you have ever seen a man die, remember that you, too, must go the

same way. In the morning consider that you may not live till evening,

and when evening comes do not dare to promise yourself the dawn. Be

always ready, therefore, and so live that death will never take you

unprepared. Many die suddenly and unexpectedly, for in the unexpected

hour the Son of God will come. When that last moment arrives you will

begin to have a quite different opinion of the life that is now

entirely past and you will regret very much that you were so careless

and remiss.

 

How happy and prudent is he who tries now in life to be what he wants

to be found in death. Perfect contempt of the world, a lively desire to

advance in virtue, a love for discipline, the works of penance,

readiness to obey, self-denial, and the endurance of every hardship for

the love of Christ, these will give a man great expectations of a happy

death.

 

You can do many good works when in good health; what can you do when

you are ill? Few are made better by sickness. Likewise they who

undertake many pilgrimages seldom become holy.

 

Do not put your trust in friends and relatives, and do not put off the

care of your soul till later, for men will forget you more quickly than

you think. It is better to provide now, in time, and send some good

account ahead of you than to rely on the help of others. If you do not

care for your own welfare now, who will care when you are gone?

 

The present is very precious; these are the days of salvation; now is

the acceptable time. How sad that you do not spend the time in which

you might purchase everlasting life in a better way. The time will come

when you will want just one day, just one hour in which to make amends,

and do you know whether you will obtain it?

 

See, then, dearly beloved, the great danger from which you can free

yourself and the great fear from which you can be saved, if only you

will always be wary and mindful of death. Try to live now in such a

manner that at the moment of death you may be glad rather than fearful.

Learn to die to the world now, that then you may begin to live with

Christ. Learn to spurn all things now, that then you may freely go to

Him. Chastise your body in penance now, that then you may have the

confidence born of certainty.

 

Ah, foolish man, why do you plan to live long when you are not sure of

living even a day? How many have been deceived and suddenly snatched

away! How often have you heard of persons being killed by drownings, by

fatal falls from high places, of persons dying at meals, at play, in

fires, by the sword, in pestilence, or at the hands of robbers! Death

is the end of everyone and the life of man quickly passes away like a

shadow.

 

Who will remember you when you are dead? Who will pray for you? Do now,

beloved, what you can, because you do not know when you will die, nor

what your fate will be after death. Gather for yourself the riches of

immortality while you have time. Think of nothing but your salvation.

Care only for the things of God. Make friends for yourself now by

honoring the saints of God, by imitating their actions, so that when

you depart this life they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.

 

Keep yourself as a stranger here on earth, a pilgrim whom its affairs

do not concern at all. Keep your heart free and raise it up to God, for

you have not here a lasting home. To Him direct your daily prayers,

your sighs and tears, that your soul may merit after death to pass in

happiness to the Lord.

 


 

The Twenty-Fourth Chapter

 

Judgment and the Punishment of Sin

 

IN ALL things consider the end; how you shall stand before the strict

Judge from Whom nothing is hidden and Who will pronounce judgment in

all justice, accepting neither bribes nor excuses. And you, miserable

and wretched sinner, who fear even the countenance of an angry man,

what answer will you make to the God Who knows all your sins? Why do

you not provide for yourself against the day of judgment when no man

can be excused or defended by another because each will have enough to

do to answer for himself? In this life your work is profitable, your

tears acceptable, your sighs audible, your sorrow satisfying and

purifying.

 

The patient man goes through a great and salutary purgatory when he

grieves more over the malice of one who harms him than for his own

injury; when he prays readily for his enemies and forgives offenses

from his heart; when he does not hesitate to ask pardon of others; when

he is more easily moved to pity than to anger; when he does frequent

violence to himself and tries to bring the body into complete

subjection to the spirit.

 

It is better to atone for sin now and to cut away vices than to keep

them for purgation in the hereafter. In truth, we deceive ourselves by

our ill-advised love of the flesh. What will that fire feed upon but

our sins? The more we spare ourselves now and the more we satisfy the

flesh, the harder will the reckoning be and the more we keep for the

burning.

 

For a man will be more grievously punished in the things in which he

has sinned. There the lazy will be driven with burning prongs, and

gluttons tormented with unspeakable hunger and thirst; the wanton and

lust-loving will be bathed in burning pitch and foul brimstone; the

envious will howl in their grief like mad dogs.

 

Every vice will have its own proper punishment. The proud will be faced

with every confusion and the avaricious pinched with the most abject

want. One hour of suffering there will be more bitter than a hundred

years of the most severe penance here. In this life men sometimes rest

from work and enjoy the comfort of friends, but the damned have no rest

or consolation.

 

You must, therefore, take care and repent of your sins now so that on

the day of judgment you may rest secure with the blessed. For on that

day the just will stand firm against those who tortured and oppressed

them, and he who now submits humbly to the judgment of men will arise

to pass judgment upon them. The poor and humble will have great

confidence, while the proud will be struck with fear. He who learned to

be a fool in this world and to be scorned for Christ will then appear

to have been wise.

 

In that day every trial borne in patience will be pleasing and the

voice of iniquity will be stilled; the devout will be glad; the

irreligious will mourn; and the mortified body will rejoice far more

than if it had been pampered with every pleasure. Then the cheap

garment will shine with splendor and the rich one become faded and

worn; the poor cottage will be more praised than the gilded palace. In

that day persevering patience will count more than all the power in

this world; simple obedience will be exalted above all worldly

cleverness; a good and clean conscience will gladden the heart of man

far more than the philosophy of the learned; and contempt for riches

will be of more weight than every treasure on earth.

 

Then you will find more consolation in having prayed devoutly than in

having fared daintily; you will be happy that you preferred silence to

prolonged gossip.

 

Then holy works will be of greater value than many fair words;

strictness of life and hard penances will be more pleasing than all

earthly delights.

 

Learn, then, to suffer little things now that you may not have to

suffer greater ones in eternity. Prove here what you can bear

hereafter. If you can suffer only a little now, how will you be able to

endure eternal torment? If a little suffering makes you impatient now,

what will hell fire do? In truth, you cannot have two joys: you cannot

taste the pleasures of this world and afterward reign with Christ.

 

If your life to this moment had been full of honors and pleasures, what

good would it do if at this instant you should die? All is vanity,

therefore, except to love God and to serve Him alone.

 

He who loves God with all his heart does not fear death or punishment

or judgment or hell, because perfect love assures access to God.

 

It is no wonder that he who still delights in sin fears death and

judgment.

 

It is good, however, that even if love does not as yet restrain you

from evil, at least the fear of hell does. The man who casts aside the

fear of God cannot continue long in goodness but will quickly fall into

the snares of the devil.

 

 


 

The Twenty-Fifth Chapter

 

Zeal in Amending our Lives

 

BE WATCHFUL and diligent in God's service and often think of why you

left the world and came here. Was it not that you might live for God

and become a spiritual man? Strive earnestly for perfection, then,

because in a short time you will receive the reward of your labor, and

neither fear nor sorrow shall come upon you at the hour of death.

 

Labor a little now, and soon you shall find great rest, in truth,

eternal joy; for if you continue faithful and diligent in doing, God

will undoubtedly be faithful and generous in rewarding. Continue to

have reasonable hope of gaining salvation, but do not act as though you

were certain of it lest you grow indolent and proud.

 

One day when a certain man who wavered often and anxiously between hope

and fear was struck with sadness, he knelt in humble prayer before the

altar of a church. While meditating on these things, he said: "Oh if I

but knew whether I should persevere to the end!" Instantly he heard

within the divine answer: "If you knew this, what would you do? Do now

what you would do then and you will be quite secure." Immediately

consoled and comforted, he resigned himself to the divine will and the

anxious uncertainty ceased. His curiosity no longer sought to know what

the future held for him, and he tried instead to find the perfect, the

acceptable will of God in the beginning and end of every good work.

 

"Trust in the Lord and do good," says the Prophet; "dwell in the

land and you shall feed on its riches." [8]

 

There is one thing that keeps many from zealously improving their

lives, that is, dread of the difficulty, the toil of battle. Certainly

they who try bravely to overcome the most difficult and unpleasant

obstacles far outstrip others in the pursuit of virtue. A man makes the

most progress and merits the most grace precisely in those matters

wherein he gains the greatest victories over self and most mortifies

his will. True, each one has his own difficulties to meet and conquer,

but a diligent and sincere man will make greater progress even though

he have more passions than one who is more even-tempered but less

concerned about virtue.

 

Two things particularly further improvement--to withdraw oneself

forcibly from those vices to which nature is viciously inclined, and to

work fervently for those graces which are most needed.

 

Study also to guard against and to overcome the faults which in others

very frequently displease you. Make the best of every opportunity, so

that if you see or hear good example you may be moved to imitate it. On

the other hand, take care lest you be guilty of those things which you

consider reprehensible, or if you have ever been guilty of them, try to

correct yourself as soon as possible. As you see others, so they see

you.

 

How pleasant and sweet to behold brethren fervent and devout, well

mannered and disciplined! How sad and painful to see them wandering in

dissolution, not practicing the things to which they are called! How

hurtful it is to neglect the purpose of their vocation and to attend to

what is not their business!

 

Remember the purpose you have undertaken, and keep in mind the image of

the Crucified. Even though you may have walked for many years on the

pathway to God, you may well be ashamed if, with the image of Christ

before you, you do not try to make yourself still more like Him.

 

The religious who concerns himself intently and devoutly with our

Lord's most holy life and passion will find there an abundance of all

things useful and necessary for him. He need not seek for anything

better than Jesus.

 

If the Crucified should come to our hearts, how quickly and abundantly

we would learn!

 

A fervent religious accepts all the things that are commanded him and

does them well, but a negligent and lukewarm religious has trial upon

trial, and suffers anguish from every side because he has no

consolation within and is forbidden to seek it from without. The

religious who does not live up to his rule exposes himself to dreadful

ruin, and he who wishes to be more free and untrammeled will always be

in trouble, for something or other will always displease him.

 

How do so many other religious who are confined in cloistered

discipline get along? They seldom go out, they live in contemplation,

their food is poor, their clothing coarse, they work hard, they speak

but little, keep long vigils, rise early, pray much, read frequently,

and subject themselves to all sorts of discipline. Think of the

Carthusians and the Cistercians, the monks and nuns of different

orders, how every night they rise to sing praise to the Lord. It would

be a shame if you should grow lazy in such holy service when so many

religious have already begun to rejoice in God.

 

If there were nothing else to do but praise the Lord God with all your

heart and voice, if you had never to eat, or drink, or sleep, but could

praise God always and occupy yourself solely with spiritual pursuits,

how much happier you would be than you are now, a slave to every

necessity of the body! Would that there were no such needs, but only

the spiritual refreshments of the soul which, sad to say, we taste too

seldom!

 

When a man reaches a point where he seeks no solace from any creature,

then he begins to relish God perfectly. Then also he will be content no

matter what may happen to him. He will neither rejoice over great

things nor grieve over small ones, but will place himself entirely and

confidently in the hands of God, Who for him is all in all, to Whom

nothing ever perishes or dies, for Whom all things live, and Whom they

serve as He desires.

 

Always remember your end and do not forget that lost time never

returns. Without care and diligence you will never acquire virtue. When

you begin to grow lukewarm, you are falling into the beginning of evil;

but if you give yourself to fervor, you will find peace and will

experience less hardship because of God's grace and the love of virtue.

 

A fervent and diligent man is ready for all things. It is greater work

to resist vices and passions than to sweat in physical toil. He who

does not overcome small faults, shall fall little by little into

greater ones.

 

If you have spent the day profitably, you will always be happy at

eventide. Watch over yourself, arouse yourself, warn yourself, and

regardless of what becomes of others, do not neglect yourself. The more

violence you do to yourself, the more progress you will make.

 

[8] Ps. 37:3.


 

BOOK TWO


THE INTERIOR LIFE

 

 

The First Chapter

 

Meditation

 

THE kingdom of God is within you," says the Lord. [9]

 

Turn, then, to God with all your heart. Forsake this wretched world and

your soul shall find rest. Learn to despise external things, to devote

yourself to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God

come unto you, that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

gifts not given to the impious.

 

Christ will come to you offering His consolation, if you prepare a fit

dwelling for Him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein He

takes delight, are all from within. His visits with the inward man are

frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great,

and His intimacy wonderful indeed.

 

Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that

He may come and dwell within you; He Himself says: "If any one love Me,

he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to

him, and will make Our abode with him." [10]

 

Give place, then, to Christ, but deny entrance to all others, for when

you have Christ you are rich and He is sufficient for you. He will

provide for you. He will supply your every want, so that you need not

trust in frail, changeable men. Christ remains forever, standing firmly

with us to the end.

 

Do not place much confidence in weak and mortal man, helpful and

friendly though he be; and do not grieve too much if he sometimes

opposes and contradicts you. Those who are with us today may be against

us tomorrow, and vice versa, for men change with the wind. Place all

your trust in God; let Him be your fear and your love. He will answer

for you; He will do what is best for you.

 

You have here no lasting home. You are a stranger and a pilgrim

wherever you may be, and you shall have no rest until you are wholly

united with Christ.

 

Why do you look about here when this is not the place of your repose?

Dwell rather upon heaven and give but a passing glance to all earthly

things. They all pass away, and you together with them. Take care,

then, that you do not cling to them lest you be entrapped and perish.

Fix your mind on the Most High, and pray unceasingly to Christ.

 

If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly things, direct your

thoughts to Christ's passion and willingly behold His sacred wounds. If

you turn devoutly to the wounds and precious stigmata of Christ, you

will find great comfort in suffering, you will mind but little the

scorn of men, and you will easily bear their slanderous talk.

 

When Christ was in the world, He was despised by men; in the hour of

need He was forsaken by acquaintances and left by friends to the depths

of scorn. He was willing to suffer and to be despised; do you dare to

complain of anything? He had enemies and defamers; do you want everyone

to be your friend, your benefactor? How can your patience be rewarded

if no adversity test it? How can you be a friend of Christ if you are

not willing to suffer any hardship? Suffer with Christ and for Christ

if you wish to reign with Him.

 

Had you but once entered into perfect communion with Jesus or tasted a

little of His ardent love, you would care nothing at all for your own

comfort or discomfort but would rejoice in the reproach you suffer; for

love of Him makes a man despise himself.

 

A man who is a lover of Jesus and of truth, a truly interior man who is

free from uncontrolled affections, can turn to God at will and rise

above himself to enjoy spiritual peace.

 

He who tastes life as it really is, not as men say or think it is, is

indeed wise with the wisdom of God rather than of men.

 

He who learns to live the interior life and to take little account of

outward things, does not seek special places or times to perform devout

exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollects himself because he has

never wasted his attention upon externals. No outside work, no business

that cannot wait stands in his way. He adjusts himself to things as

they happen. He whose disposition is well ordered cares nothing about

the strange, perverse behavior of others, for a man is upset and

distracted only in proportion as he engrosses himself in externals.

 

If all were well with you, therefore, and if you were purified from all

sin, everything would tend to your good and be to your profit. But

because you are as yet neither entirely dead to self nor free from all

earthly affection, there is much that often displeases and disturbs

you. Nothing so mars and defiles the heart of man as impure attachment

to created things. But if you refuse external consolation, you will be

able to contemplate heavenly things and often to experience interior

joy.

 

[9] Luke 17:21.

[10] John 14:23.


 

The Second Chapter

 

Humility

 

BE NOT troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take

care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience

clear and God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one

whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will

undoubtedly experience God's help. He knows when and how to deliver

you; therefore, place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine

prerogative to help men and free them from all distress.

 

It is often good for us to have others know our faults and rebuke them,

for it gives us greater humility. When a man humbles himself because of

his faults, he easily placates those about him and readily appeases

those who are angry with him.

 

It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble

whom He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them

bestows great grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up

to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind

invitation bids them come to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in

the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the

world. Hence, you must not think that you have made any progress until

you look upon yourself as inferior to all others.

 


 

The Third Chapter

 

Goodness and Peace in Man

 

FIRST keep peace with yourself; then you will be able to bring peace to

others. A peaceful man does more good than a learned man. Whereas a

passionate man turns even good to evil and is quick to believe evil,

the peaceful man, being good himself, turns all things to good.

 

The man who is at perfect ease is never suspicious, but the disturbed

and discontented spirit is upset by many a suspicion. He neither rests

himself nor permits others to do so. He often says what ought not to be

said and leaves undone what ought to be done. He is concerned with the

duties of others but neglects his own.

 

Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with

justice exercise it upon those about you. You are well versed in

coloring your own actions with excuses which you will not accept from

others, though it would be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your

brother. If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them.

Behold, how far you are from true charity and humility which does not

know how to be angry with anyone, or to be indignant save only against

self!

 

It is no great thing to associate with the good and gentle, for such

association is naturally pleasing. Everyone enjoys a peaceful life and

prefers persons of congenial habits. But to be able to live at peace

with harsh and perverse men, or with the undisciplined and those who

irritate us, is a great grace, a praiseworthy and manly thing.

 

Some people live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men,

but others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to

anyone else. These latter are a burden to everyone, but they are more

of a burden to themselves. A few, finally, live at peace with

themselves and try to restore it to others.

 

Now, all our peace in this miserable life is found in humbly enduring

suffering rather than in being free from it. He who knows best how to

suffer will enjoy the greater peace, because he is the conqueror of

himself, the master of the world, a friend of Christ, and an heir of

heaven.

 

 

The Fourth Chapter

 

Purity of Mind and Unity of Purpose

 

A MAN is raised up from the earth by two wings--simplicity and purity.

There must be simplicity in his intention and purity in his desires.

Simplicity leads to God, purity embraces and enjoys Him.

 

If your heart is free from ill-ordered affection, no good deed will be

difficult for you. If you aim at and seek after nothing but the

pleasure of God and the welfare of your neighbor, you will enjoy

freedom within.

 

If your heart were right, then every created thing would be a mirror of

life for you and a book of holy teaching, for there is no creature so

small and worthless that it does not show forth the goodness of God. If

inwardly you were good and pure, you would see all things clearly and

understand them rightly, for a pure heart penetrates to heaven and

hell, and as a man is within, so he judges what is without. If there be

joy in the world, the pure of heart certainly possess it; and if there

be anguish and affliction anywhere, an evil conscience knows it too

well.

 

As iron cast into fire loses its rust and becomes glowing white, so he

who turns completely to God is stripped of his sluggishness and changed

into a new man. When a man begins to grow lax, he fears a little toil

and welcomes external comfort, but when he begins perfectly to conquer

himself and to walk bravely in the ways of God, then he thinks those

things less difficult which he thought so hard before.

 


 

The Fifth Chapter

 

Ourselves

 

WE MUST not rely too much upon ourselves, for grace and understanding

are often lacking in us. We have but little inborn light, and this we

quickly lose through negligence. Often we are not aware that we are so

blind in heart. Meanwhile we do wrong, and then do worse in excusing

it. At times we are moved by passion, and we think it zeal. We take

others to task for small mistakes, and overlook greater ones in

ourselves. We are quick enough to feel and brood over the things we

suffer from others, but we think nothing of how much others suffer from

us. If a man would weigh his own deeds fully and rightly, he would find

little cause to pass severe judgment on others.

 

The interior man puts the care of himself before all other concerns,

and he who attends to himself carefully does not find it hard to hold

his tongue about others. You will never be devout of heart unless you

are thus silent about the affairs of others and pay particular

attention to yourself. If you attend wholly to God and yourself, you

will be little disturbed by what you see about you.

 

Where are your thoughts when they are not upon yourself? And after

attending to various things, what have you gained if you have neglected

self? If you wish to have true peace of mind and unity of purpose, you

must cast all else aside and keep only yourself before your eyes.

 

You will make great progress if you keep yourself free from all

temporal cares, for to value anything that is temporal is a great

mistake. Consider nothing great, nothing high, nothing pleasing,

nothing acceptable, except God Himself or that which is of God.

Consider the consolations of creatures as vanity, for the soul that

loves God scorns all things that are inferior to Him. God alone, the

eternal and infinite, satisfies all, bringing comfort to the soul and

true joy to the body.

 

 


 

The Sixth Chapter

 

The Joy of a Good Conscience

 

THE glory of a good man is the testimony of a good conscience.

Therefore, keep your conscience good and you will always enjoy

happiness, for a good conscience can bear a great deal and can bring

joy even in the midst of adversity. But an evil conscience is ever

restive and fearful.

 

Sweet shall be your rest if your heart does not reproach you.

 

Do not rejoice unless you have done well. Sinners never experience true

interior joy or peace, for "there is no peace to the wicked," says the

Lord. [11] Even if they say: "We are at peace, no evil shall befall us

and no one dares to hurt us," do not believe them; for the wrath of God

will arise quickly, and their deeds will be brought to naught and their

thoughts will perish.

 

To glory in adversity is not hard for the man who loves, for this is to

glory in the cross of the Lord. But the glory given or received of men

is short lived, and the glory of the world is ever companioned by

sorrow. The glory of the good, however, is in their conscience and not

in the lips of men, for the joy of the just is from God and in God, and

their gladness is founded on truth.

 

The man who longs for the true, eternal glory does not care for that of

time; and he who seeks passing fame or does not in his heart despise

it, undoubtedly cares little for the glory of heaven.

 

He who minds neither praise nor blame possesses great peace of heart

and, if his conscience is good, he will easily be contented and at

peace.

 

Praise adds nothing to your holiness, nor does blame take anything from

it. You are what you are, and you cannot be said to be better than you

are in God's sight. If you consider well what you are within, you will

not care what men say about you. They look to appearances but God looks

to the heart. They consider the deed but God weighs the motive.

 

It is characteristic of a humble soul always to do good and to think

little of itself. It is a mark of great purity and deep faith to look

for no consolation in created things. The man who desires no

justification from without has clearly entrusted himself to God: "For

not he who commendeth himself is approved," says St. Paul, "but he whom

God commendeth." [12]

 

To walk with God interiorly, to be free from any external

affection--this is the state of the inward man.

 

 

[11] Isa. 48:22.

[12] 2 Cor. 10:18.


 

The Seventh Chapter

 

Loving Jesus Above All Things

 

BLESSED is he who appreciates what it is to love Jesus and who despises

himself for the sake of Jesus. Give up all other love for His, since He

wishes to be loved alone above all things.

 

Affection for creatures is deceitful and inconstant, but the love of

Jesus is true and enduring. He who clings to a creature will fall with

its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be

strengthened.

 

Love Him, then; keep Him as a friend. He will not leave you as others

do, or let you suffer lasting death. Sometime, whether you will or not,

you will have to part with everything. Cling, therefore, to Jesus in

life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help

you when all others fail.

 

Your Beloved is such that He will not accept what belongs to

another--He wants your heart for Himself alone, to be enthroned therein

as King in His own right. If you but knew how to free yourself entirely

from all creatures, Jesus would gladly dwell within you.

 

You will find, apart from Him, that nearly all the trust you place in

men is a total loss. Therefore, neither confide in nor depend upon a

wind-shaken reed, for "all flesh is grass" [13] and all its glory, like

the flower of grass, will fade away.

 

You will quickly be deceived if you look only to the outward appearance

of men, and you will often be disappointed if you seek comfort and gain

in them. If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely

find Him. Likewise, if you seek yourself, you will find yourself--to

your own ruin. For the man who does not seek Jesus does himself much

greater harm than the whole world and all his enemies could ever do.

 

 

[13] Isa. 15:6.


 

The Eighth Chapter

 

The Intimate Friendship of Jesus

 

WHEN Jesus is near, all is well and nothing seems difficult. When He is

absent, all is hard. When Jesus does not speak within, all other

comfort is empty, but if He says only a word, it brings great

consolation.

 

Did not Mary Magdalen rise at once from her weeping when Martha said to

her: "The Master is come, and calls for you"? [14] Happy is the hour

when Jesus calls one from tears to joy of spirit.

 

How dry and hard you are without Jesus! How foolish and vain if you

desire anything but Him! Is it not a greater loss than losing the whole

world? For what, without Jesus, can the world give you? Life without

Him is a relentless hell, but living with Him is a sweet paradise. If

Jesus be with you, no enemy can harm you.

 

He who finds Jesus finds a rare treasure, indeed, a good above every

good, whereas he who loses Him loses more than the whole world. The man

who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor, whereas no one is

so rich as the man who lives in His grace.

 

It is a great art to know how to converse with Jesus, and great wisdom

to know how to keep Him. Be humble and peaceful, and Jesus will be with

you. Be devout and calm, and He will remain with you. You may quickly

drive Him away and lose His grace, if you turn back to the outside

world. And, if you drive Him away and lose Him, to whom will you go and

whom will you then seek as a friend? You cannot live well without a

friend, and if Jesus be not your friend above all else, you will be

very sad and desolate. Thus, you are acting foolishly if you trust or

rejoice in any other. Choose the opposition of the whole world rather

than offend Jesus. Of all those who are dear to you, let Him be your

special love. Let all things be loved for the sake of Jesus, but Jesus

for His own sake.

 

Jesus Christ must be loved alone with a special love for He alone, of

all friends, is good and faithful. For Him and in Him you must love

friends and foes alike, and pray to Him that all may know and love Him.

 

Never desire special praise or love, for that belongs to God alone Who

has no equal. Never wish that anyone's affection be centered in you,

nor let yourself be taken up with the love of anyone, but let Jesus be

in you and in every good man. Be pure and free within, unentangled with

any creature.

 

You must bring to God a clean and open heart if you wish to attend and

see how sweet the Lord is. Truly you will never attain this happiness

unless His grace prepares you and draws you on so that you may forsake

all things to be united with Him alone.

 

When the grace of God comes to a man he can do all things, but when it

leaves him he becomes poor and weak, abandoned, as it were, to

affliction. Yet, in this condition he should not become dejected or

despair. On the contrary, he should calmly await the will of God and

bear whatever befalls him in praise of Jesus Christ, for after winter

comes summer, after night, the day, and after the storm, a great calm.

 

 

[14] John 11:28.


 

The Ninth Chapter

 

Wanting No Share in Comfort

 

IT IS not hard to spurn human consolation when we have the divine. It

is, however, a very great thing indeed to be able to live without

either divine or human comforting and for the honor of God willingly to

endure this exile of heart, not to seek oneself in anything, and to

think nothing of one's own merit.

 

Does it matter much, if at the coming of grace, you are cheerful and

devout? This is an hour desired by all, for he whom the grace of God

sustains travels easily enough. What wonder if he feel no burden when

borne up by the Almighty and led on by the Supreme Guide! For we are

always glad to have something to comfort us, and only with difficulty

does a man divest himself of self.

 

The holy martyr, Lawrence, with his priest, conquered the world because

he despised everything in it that seemed pleasing to him, and for love

of Christ patiently suffered the great high priest of God, Sixtus, whom

he loved dearly, to be taken from him. Thus, by his love for the

Creator he overcame the love of man, and chose instead of human

consolation the good pleasure of God. So you, too, must learn to part

with an intimate and much-needed friend for the love of God. Do not

take it to heart when you are deserted by a friend, knowing that in the

end we must all be parted from one another.

 

A man must fight long and bravely against himself before he learns to

master himself fully and to direct all his affections toward God. When

he trusts in himself, he easily takes to human consolation. The true

lover of Christ, however, who sincerely pursues virtue, does not fall

back upon consolations nor seek such pleasures of sense, but prefers

severe trials and hard labors for the sake of Christ.

 

When, therefore, spiritual consolation is given by God, receive it

gratefully, but understand that it is His gift and not your meriting.

Do not exult, do not be overjoyed, do not be presumptuous, but be the

humbler for the gift, more careful and wary in all your actions, for

this hour will pass and temptation will come in its wake.

 

When consolation is taken away, do not at once despair but wait humbly

and patiently for the heavenly visit, since God can restore to you more

abundant solace.

 

This is neither new nor strange to one who knows God's ways, for such

change of fortune often visited the great saints and prophets of old.

Thus there was one who, when grace was with him, declared: "In my

prosperity I said: I shall never be moved.'" But when grace was taken

away, he adds what he experienced in himself: "You did hide your

face, and I was troubled." Meanwhile he does not despair; rather he

prays more earnestly to the Lord, saying: "To you, O Lord, will I cry;

and I will make supplication to my God." At length, he receives the

fruit of his prayer, and testifying that he was heard, says "The Lord

has heard, and has had mercy on me: the Lord became my helper." And

how was he helped? "You have turned," he says, "my mourning into joy,

and have surrounded me with gladness." [15]

 

If this is the case with great saints, we who are weak and poor ought

not to despair because we are fervent at times and at other times cold,

for the spirit comes and goes according to His will. Of this the

blessed Job declared: "You visited him early in the morning, and You

proved him suddenly." [16]

 

In what can I hope, then, or in whom ought I trust, save only in the

great mercy of God and the hope of heavenly grace? For though I have

with me good men, devout brethren, faithful friends, holy books,

beautiful treatises, sweet songs and hymns, all these help and please

but little when I am abandoned by grace and left to my poverty. At such

times there is no better remedy than patience and resignation of self

to the will of God.

 

I have never met a man so religious and devout that he has not

experienced at some time a withdrawal of grace and felt a lessening of

fervor. No saint was so sublimely rapt and enlightened as not to be

tempted before and after. He, indeed, is not worthy of the sublime

contemplation of God who has not been tried by some tribulation for the

sake of God. For temptation is usually the sign preceding the

consolation that is to follow, and heavenly consolation is promised to

all those proved by temptation. "To him that overcomes," says Christ,

"I will give to eat of the Tree of Life." [17] Divine consolation,

then, is given in order to make a man braver in enduring adversity, and

temptation follows in order that he may not pride himself on the good

he has done.

 

The devil does not sleep, nor is the flesh yet dead; therefore, you

must never cease your preparation for battle, because on the right and

on the left are enemies who never rest.

 

[15] Ps. 29:7-12.

[16] Job 7:18.

[17] Apoc. 2:7.


 

The Tenth Chapter

 

Appreciating God's Grace

 

WHY do you look for rest when you were born to work? Resign yourself to

patience rather than to comfort, to carrying your cross rather than to

enjoyment.

 

What man in the world, if he could always have them, would not readily

accept consolation and spiritual joy, benefits which excel all earthly

delights and pleasures of the body? The latter, indeed, are either vain

or base, while spiritual joys, born of virtue and infused by God into

pure minds, are alone truly pleasant and noble.

 

Now, since the moment of temptation is always nigh, since false freedom

of mind and overconfidence in self are serious obstacles to these

visitations from heaven, a man can never enjoy them just as he wishes.

 

God does well in giving the grace of consolation, but man does evil in

not returning everything gratefully to God. Thus, the gifts of grace

cannot flow in us when we are ungrateful to the Giver, when we do not

return them to the Fountainhead. Grace is always given to him who is

duly grateful, and what is wont to be given the humble will be taken

away from the proud.

 

I do not desire consolation that robs me of contrition, nor do I care

for contemplation that leads to pride, for not all that is high is

holy, nor is all that is sweet good, nor every desire pure, nor all

that is dear to us pleasing to God. I accept willingly the grace

whereby I become more humble and contrite, more willing to renounce

self.

 

The man who has been taught by the gift of grace, and who learns by the

lash of its withdrawal, will never dare to attribute any good to

himself, but will rather admit his poverty and emptiness. Give to God

what is God's and ascribe to yourself what is yours. Give Him thanks,

then, for His grace, but place upon yourself alone the blame and the

punishment your fault deserves.

 

Always take the lowest place and the highest will be given you, for the

highest cannot exist apart from the lowest. The saints who are greatest

before God are those who consider themselves the least, and the more

humble they are within themselves, so much the more glorious they are.

Since they do not desire vainglory, they are full of truth and heavenly

glory. Being established and strengthened in God, they can by no means

be proud. They attribute to God whatever good they have received; they

seek no glory from one another but only that which comes from God

alone. They desire above all things that He be praised in themselves

and in all His saints--this is their constant purpose.

 

Be grateful, therefore, for the least gift and you will be worthy to

receive a greater. Consider the least gift as the greatest, the most

contemptible as something special. And, if you but look to the dignity

of the Giver, no gift will appear too small or worthless. Even though

He give punishments and scourges, accept them, because He acts for our

welfare in whatever He allows to befall us.

 

He who desires to keep the grace of God ought to be grateful when it is

given and patient when it is withdrawn. Let him pray that it return;

let him be cautious and humble lest he lose it.

 

 

 


 

The Eleventh Chapter

 

Few Love the Cross of Jesus

 

JESUS has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear

His cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for

trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His

fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything

for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the

drinking of the chalice of His passion. Many revere His miracles; few

approach the shame of the Cross. Many love Him as long as they

encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they

receive some comfort from Him. But if Jesus hides Himself and leaves

them for a while, they fall either into complaints or into deep

dejection. Those, on the contrary, who love Him for His own sake and

not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all trial and anguish of

heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. Even if He should never

give them consolation, yet they would continue to praise Him and wish

always to give Him thanks. What power there is in pure love for

Jesus--love that is free from all self-interest and self-love!

 

Do not those who always seek consolation deserve to be called

mercenaries? Do not those who always think of their own profit and gain

prove that they love themselves rather than Christ? Where can a man be

found who desires to serve God for nothing? Rarely indeed is a man so

spiritual as to strip himself of all things. And who shall find a man

so truly poor in spirit as to be free from every creature? His value is

like that of things brought from the most distant lands.

 

If a man give all his wealth, it is nothing; if he do great penance, it

is little; if he gain all knowledge, he is still far afield; if he have

great virtue and much ardent devotion, he still lacks a great deal, and

especially, the one thing that is most necessary to him. What is this

one thing? That leaving all, he forsake himself, completely renounce

himself, and give up all private affections. Then, when he has done all

that he knows ought to be done, let him consider it as nothing, let him

make little of what may be considered great; let him in all honesty

call himself an unprofitable servant. For truth itself has said: "When

you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: we

are unprofitable servants.'" [18]

 

Then he will be truly poor and stripped in spirit, and with the prophet

may say: "I am alone and poor." [19] No one, however, is more wealthy

than such a man; no one is more powerful, no one freer than he who

knows how to leave all things and think of himself as the least of all.

 

 

[18] Luke 17:10.

[19] Ps. 24:16.


 

The Twelfth Chapter

 

The Royal Road of the Holy Cross

 

TO MANY the saying, "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me,"

[20] seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word:

"Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." [21] Those who hear

the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that

they will hear of eternal damnation on the day of judgment. This sign

of the cross will be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge. Then

all the servants of the cross, who during life made themselves one with

the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to Christ, the judge.

 

Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win

a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the

cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly

sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of

spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect

holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life

but in the cross.

 

Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter

eternal life. He Himself opened the way before you in carrying His

cross, and upon it He died for you, that you, too, might take up your

cross and long to die upon it. If you die with Him, you shall also live

with Him, and if you share His suffering, you shall also share His

glory.

 

Behold, in the cross is everything, and upon your dying on the cross

everything depends. There is no other way to life and to true inward

peace than the way of the holy cross and daily mortification. Go where

you will, seek what you will, you will not find a higher way, nor a

less exalted but safer way, than the way of the holy cross. Arrange and

order everything to suit your will and judgment, and still you will

find that some suffering must always be borne, willingly or

unwillingly, and thus you will always find the cross.

 

Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation

of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times

troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow

weary of yourself. You cannot escape, you cannot be relieved by any

remedy or comfort but must bear with it as long as God wills. For He

wishes you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit

yourself wholly to Him that you may become more humble through

suffering. No one understands the passion of Christ so thoroughly or

heartily as the man whose lot it is to suffer the like himself.

 

The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No

matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you

take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you

will--above, below, without, or within--you will find a cross in

everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have

peace within and merit an eternal crown.

 

If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry and lead you to the

desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but here

there shall be. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for

yourself and increase the load, though still you have to bear it. If

you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier

one. Do you expect to escape what no mortal man can ever avoid? Which

of the saints was without a cross or trial on this earth? Not even

Jesus Christ, our Lord, Whose every hour on earth knew the pain of His

passion. "It behooves Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the

dead, . . . and so enter into his glory." [22] How is it that you look

for another way than this, the royal way of the holy cross?

 

The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek

rest and enjoyment for yourself? You deceive yourself, you are mistaken

if you seek anything but to suffer, for this mortal life is full of

miseries and marked with crosses on all sides. Indeed, the more

spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently

find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile

also increases.

 

Yet such a man, though afflicted in many ways, is not without hope of

consolation, because he knows that great reward is coming to him for

bearing his cross. And when he carries it willingly, every pang of

tribulation is changed into hope of solace from God. Besides, the more

the flesh is distressed by affliction, so much the more is the spirit

strengthened by inward grace. Not infrequently a man is so strengthened

by his love of trials and hardship in his desire to conform to the

cross of Christ, that he does not wish to be without sorrow or pain,

since he believes he will be the more acceptable to God if he is able

to endure more and more grievous things for His sake.

 

It is the grace of Christ, and not the virtue of man, which can and

does bring it about that through fervor of spirit frail flesh learns to

love and to gain what it naturally hates and shuns.

 

To carry the cross, to love the cross, to chastise the body and bring

it to subjection, to flee honors, to endure contempt gladly, to despise

self and wish to be despised, to suffer any adversity and loss, to

desire no prosperous days on earth--this is not man's way. If you rely

upon yourself, you can do none of these things, but if you trust in the

Lord, strength will be given you from heaven and the world and the

flesh will be made subject to your word. You will not even fear your

enemy, the devil, if you are armed with faith and signed with the cross

of Christ.

 

Set yourself, then, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear

bravely the cross of your Lord, Who out of love was crucified for you.

Be ready to suffer many adversities and many kinds of trouble in this

miserable life, for troublesome and miserable life will always be, no

matter where you are; and so you will find it wherever you may hide.

Thus it must be; and there is no way to evade the trials and sorrows of

life but to bear them.

 

Drink the chalice of the Lord with affection if you wish to be His

friend and to have part with Him. Leave consolation to God; let Him do

as most pleases Him. On your part, be ready to bear sufferings and

consider them the greatest consolation, for even though you alone were

to undergo them all, the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be

compared with the glory to come.

 

When you shall have come to the point where suffering is sweet and

acceptable for the sake of Christ, then consider yourself fortunate,

for you have found paradise on earth. But as long as suffering irks you

and you seek to escape, so long will you be unfortunate, and the

tribulation you seek to evade will follow you everywhere. If you put

your mind to the things you ought to consider, that is, to suffering

and death, you would soon be in a better state and would find peace.

 

Although you were taken to the third heaven with Paul, you were not

thereby insured against suffering. Jesus said: "I will show him how

great things he must suffer for My name's sake." [23] To suffer, then,

remains your lot, if you mean to love Jesus and serve Him forever.

 

If you were but worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus, what

great glory would be in store for you, what great joy to all the saints

of God, what great edification to those about you! For all men praise

patience though there are few who wish to practice it.

 

With good reason, then, ought you to be willing to suffer a little for

Christ since many suffer much more for the world.

 

Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to

himself, the more he begins to live unto God.

 

No man is fit to enjoy heaven unless he has resigned himself to suffer

hardship for Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more

helpful for you on this earth than to suffer willingly for Christ. If

you had to make a choice, you ought to wish rather to suffer for Christ

than to enjoy many consolations, for thus you would be more like Christ

and more like all the saints. Our merit and progress consist not in

many pleasures and comforts but rather in enduring great afflictions

and sufferings.

 

If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man's

salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it by word and

example. But He clearly exhorts the disciples who follow Him and all

who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying: "If any man will

come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and

follow Me." [24]

 

When, therefore, we have read and searched all that has been written,

let this be the final conclusion--that through much suffering we must

enter into the kingdom of God.

 

[20] Matt. 16:24.

[21] Matt. 25:41.

[22] Luke 24:46, 26.

[23] Acts 9:16.

[24] Luke 9:23.


 

BOOK THREE

 

INTERNAL CONSOLATION

 

 

 

The First Chapter

 

The Inward Conversation of Christ with the Faithful Soul

 

I WILL hear what the Lord God will speak in me." [25]

 

Blessed is the soul who hears the Lord speaking within her, who

receives the word of consolation from His lips. Blessed are the ears

that catch the accents of divine whispering, and pay no heed to the

murmurings of this world. Blessed indeed are the ears that listen, not

to the voice which sounds without, but to the truth which teaches

within. Blessed are the eyes which are closed to exterior things and

are fixed upon those which are interior. Blessed are they who penetrate

inwardly, who try daily to prepare themselves more and more to

understand mysteries. Blessed are they who long to give their time to

God, and who cut themselves off from the hindrances of the world.

 

Consider these things, my soul, and close the door of your senses, so

that you can hear what the Lord your God speaks within you. "I am your

salvation," says your Beloved. "I am your peace and your life. Remain

with Me and you will find peace. Dismiss all passing things and seek

the eternal. What are all temporal things but snares? And what help

will all creatures be able to give you if you are deserted by the

Creator?" Leave all these things, therefore, and make yourself pleasing

and faithful to your Creator so that you may attain to true happiness.

 

 

[25] Ps. 84:9.


 

The Second Chapter

 

Truth Speaks Inwardly Without the Sound of Words

 

 

The Disciple

 

SPEAK, Lord, for Your servant hears." [26] "I am Your servant. Give me

understanding that I may know Your ordinances [27] . . . Incline my

heart to Your ordinances [28] . . . Let Your speech distil as the dew."

[29]

 

The children of Israel once said to Moses: "You speak to us and we

will hear you: let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die." [30]

 

Not so, Lord, not so do I pray. Rather with Samuel the prophet I

entreat humbly and earnestly: "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears."

Do not let Moses or any of the prophets speak to me; but You speak, O

Lord God, Who inspired and enlightened all the prophets; for You alone,

without them, can instruct me perfectly, whereas they, without You, can

do nothing. They, indeed, utter fine words, but they cannot impart the

spirit. They do indeed speak beautifully, but if You remain silent they

cannot inflame the heart. They deliver the message; You lay bare the

sense. They place before us mysteries, but You unlock their meaning.

They proclaim commandments; You help us to keep them. They point out

the way; You give strength for the journey. They work only outwardly;

You instruct and enlighten our hearts. They water on the outside; You

give the increase.

 

They cry out words; You give understanding to the hearer.

 

Let not Moses speak to me, therefore, but You, the Lord my God,

everlasting truth, speak lest I die and prove barren if I am merely

given outward advice and am not inflamed within; lest the word heard

and not kept, known and not loved, believed and not obeyed, rise up in

judgment against me.

 

Speak, therefore, Lord, for Your servant listens. "You have the words

of eternal life." [31] Speak to me for the comfort of my soul and for

the amendment of my life, for Your praise, Your glory, and Your

everlasting honor.

 

 

[26] 1 Kings 3:9.

[27] Ps. 119:125.

[28] Ps. 119:36.

[29] Deut. 32:2.

[30] Exod. 20:19.

[31] John 6:68.


 

The Third Chapter

 

Listen Humbly to the Words of God. Many Do Not Heed Them

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, hear My words, words of greatest sweetness surpassing all the

knowledge of the philosophers and wise men of earth. My words are

spirit and life, and they are not to be weighed by man's understanding.

They are not to be invoked in vanity but are to be heard in silence,

and accepted with all humility and with great affection.

 

 

The Disciple

 

"Happy is the man whom You admonish, O Lord, and teach out of

Your law, to give him peace from the days of evil," [32] and that he be

not desolate on earth.

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

I taught the prophets from the beginning, and even to this day I

continue to speak to all men. But many are hardened. Many are deaf to

My voice. Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. They

are more ready to follow the appetite of their flesh than the good

pleasure of God. The world, which promises small and passing things, is

served with great eagerness: I promise great and eternal things and the

hearts of men grow dull. Who is there that serves and obeys Me in all

things with as great care as that with which the world and its masters

are served?

 

"Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea speaks." [33] And if you ask

why, listen to the cause: for a small gain they travel far; for eternal

life many will scarcely lift a foot from the ground. They seek a petty

reward, and sometimes fight shamefully in law courts for a single piece

of money. They are not afraid to work day and night for a trifle or an

empty promise. But, for an unchanging good, for a reward beyond

estimate, for the greatest honor and for glory everlasting, it must be

said to their shame that men begrudge even the least fatigue. Be

ashamed, then, lazy and complaining servant, that they should be found

more eager for perdition than you are for life, that they rejoice more

in vanity than you in truth.

 

Sometimes indeed their expectations fail them, but My promise never

deceives, nor does it send away empty-handed him who trusts in Me. What

I have promised I will give. What I have said I will fulfill, if only a

man remain faithful in My love to the end. I am the rewarder of all the

good, the strong approver of all who are devoted to Me.

 

Write My words in your heart and meditate on them earnestly, for in

time of temptation they will be very necessary. What you do not

understand when you read, you will learn in the day of visitation. I am

wont to visit My elect in two ways--by temptation and by consolation.

To them I read two lessons daily--one reproving their vices, the other

exhorting them to progress in virtue. He who has My words and despises

them has that which shall condemn him on the last day.

 

 

A Prayer for the Grace of Devotion

 

O Lord my God, You are all my good. And who am I that I should dare to

speak to You? I am Your poorest and meanest servant, a vile worm, much

more poor and contemptible than I know or dare to say. Yet remember me,

Lord, because I am nothing, I have nothing, and I can do nothing. You

alone are good, just, and holy. You can do all things, You give all

things, You fill all things: only the sinner do You leave empty-handed.

Remember Your tender mercies and fill my heart with Your grace, You Who

will not allow Your works to be in vain. How can I bear this life of

misery unless You comfort me with Your mercy and grace? Do not turn

Your face from me. Do not delay Your visitation. Do not withdraw Your

consolation, lest in Your sight my soul become as desert land. Teach

me, Lord, to do Your will. Teach me to live worthily and humbly in Your

sight, for You are my wisdom Who know me truly, and Who knew me even

before the world was made and before I was born into it.

 

[32] Ps. 94:12.

[33] Isa. 23:4.


 

The Fourth Chapter

 

We Must Walk Before God in Humility and Truth

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, walk before Me in truth, and seek Me always in the simplicity

of your heart. He who walks before Me in truth shall be defended from

the attacks of evil, and the truth shall free him from seducers and

from the slanders of wicked men. For if the truth has made you free,

then you shall be free indeed, and you shall not care for the vain

words of men.

 

 

The Disciple

 

O Lord, it is true. I ask that it be with me as You say. Let your truth

teach me. Let it guard me, and keep me safe to the end. Let it free me

from all evil affection and badly ordered love, and I shall walk with

You in great freedom of heart.

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

I shall teach you those things which are right and pleasing to Me.

Consider your sins with great displeasure and sorrow, and never think

yourself to be someone because of your good works. You are truly a

sinner. You are subject to many passions and entangled in them. Of

yourself you always tend to nothing. You fall quickly, are quickly

overcome, quickly troubled, and quickly undone. You have nothing in

which you can glory, but you have many things for which you should

think yourself vile, for you are much weaker than you can comprehend.

Hence, let none of the things you do seem great to you. Let nothing

seem important or precious or desirable except that which is

everlasting. Let the eternal truth please you above all things, and let

your extreme unworthiness always displease you. Fear nothing, abhor

nothing, and fly nothing as you do your own vices and sins; these

should be more unpleasant for you than any material losses.

 

Some men walk before Me without sincerity. Led on by a certain

curiosity and arrogance, they wish to know My secrets and to understand

the high things of God, to the neglect of themselves and their own

salvation. Through their own pride and curiosity, and because I am

against them, such men often fall into great temptations and sins.

 

Fear the judgments of God! Dread the wrath of the Almighty! Do not

discuss the works of the Most High, but examine your sins--in what

serious things you have offended and how many good things you have

neglected.

 

Some carry their devotion only in books, some in pictures, some in

outward signs and figures. Some have Me on their lips when there is

little of Me in their hearts. Others, indeed, with enlightened

understanding and purified affections, constantly long for everlasting

things; they are unwilling to hear of earthly affairs and only with

reluctance do they serve the necessities of nature. These sense what

the Spirit of truth speaks within them: for He teaches them to despise

earthly things and to love those of heaven, to neglect the world, and

each day and night to desire heaven.

 

 


 

The Fifth Chapter

 

The Wonderful Effect of Divine Love

 

 

The Disciple

 

I BLESS You, O heavenly Father, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, for

having condescended to remember me, a poor creature. Thanks to You, O

Father of mercies, God of all consolation, Who with Your comfort

sometimes refresh me, who am not worthy of it. I bless You always and

glorify You with Your only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, the

Paraclete, forever and ever.

 

Ah, Lord God, my holy Lover, when You come into my heart, all that is

within me will rejoice. You are my glory and the exultation of my

heart. You are my hope and refuge in the day of my tribulation. But

because my love is as yet weak and my virtue imperfect, I must be

strengthened and comforted by You. Visit me often, therefore, and teach

me Your holy discipline. Free me from evil passions and cleanse my

heart of all disorderly affection so that, healed and purified within,

I may be fit to love, strong to suffer, and firm to persevere.

 

Love is an excellent thing, a very great blessing, indeed. It makes

every difficulty easy, and bears all wrongs with equanimity. For it

bears a burden without being weighted and renders sweet all that is

bitter. The noble love of Jesus spurs to great deeds and excites

longing for that which is more perfect. Love tends upward; it will not

be held down by anything low. Love wishes to be free and estranged from

all worldly affections, lest its inward sight be obstructed, lest it be

entangled in any temporal interest and overcome by adversity.

 

Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger or higher or wider;

nothing is more pleasant, nothing fuller, and nothing better in heaven

or on earth, for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God, Who

is above all created things.

 

One who is in love flies, runs, and rejoices; he is free, not bound. He

gives all for all and possesses all in all, because he rests in the one

sovereign Good, Who is above all things, and from Whom every good flows

and proceeds. He does not look to the gift but turns himself above all

gifts to the Giver.

 

Love often knows no limits but overflows all bounds. Love feels no

burden, thinks nothing of troubles, attempts more than it is able, and

does not plead impossibility, because it believes that it may and can

do all things. For this reason, it is able to do all, performing and

effecting much where he who does not love fails and falls.

 

Love is watchful. Sleeping, it does not slumber. Wearied, it is not

tired. Pressed, it is not straitened. Alarmed, it is not confused, but

like a living flame, a burning torch, it forces its way upward and

passes unharmed through every obstacle.

 

If a man loves, he will know the sound of this voice. For this warm

affection of soul is a loud voice crying in the ears of God, and it

says: "My God, my love, You are all mine and I am all Yours. Give me an

increase of love, that I may learn to taste with the inward lips of my

heart how sweet it is to love, how sweet to be dissolved in love and

bathe in it. Let me be rapt in love. Let me rise above self in great

fervor and wonder. Let me sing the hymn of love, and let me follow You,

my Love, to the heights. Let my soul exhaust itself in praising You,

rejoicing out of love. Let me love You more than myself, and let me not

love myself except for Your sake. In You let me love all those who

truly love You, as the law of love, which shines forth from You,

commands.

 

Love is swift, sincere, kind, pleasant, and delightful. Love is strong,

patient and faithful, prudent, long-suffering, and manly. Love is never

self-seeking, for in whatever a person seeks himself there he falls

from love. Love is circumspect, humble, and upright. It is neither soft

nor light, nor intent upon vain things. It is sober and chaste, firm

and quiet, guarded in all the senses. Love is subject and obedient to

superiors. It is mean and contemptible in its own eyes, devoted and

thankful to God; always trusting and hoping in Him even when He is

distasteful to it, for there is no living in love without sorrow. He

who is not ready to suffer all things and to stand resigned to the will

of the Beloved is not worthy to be called a lover. A lover must embrace

willingly all that is difficult and bitter for the sake of the Beloved,

and he should not turn away from Him because of adversities.

 


 

The Sixth Chapter

 

The Proving of a True Lover

 

 

The Voice of Christ

MY CHILD, you are not yet a brave and wise lover.

 

The Disciple

Why, Lord?

The Voice of Christ

Because, on account of a slight difficulty you give up what you have

undertaken and are too eager to seek consolation.

 

The brave lover stands firm in temptations and pays no heed to the

crafty persuasions of the enemy. As I please him in prosperity, so in

adversity I am not displeasing to him. The wise lover regards not so

much the gift of Him Who loves as the love of Him Who gives. He regards

the affection of the Giver rather than the value of the gift, and sets

his Beloved above all gifts. The noble lover does not rest in the gift

but in Me Who am above every gift.

 

All is not lost, then, if you sometimes feel less devout than you wish

toward Me or My saints. That good and sweet feeling which you sometimes

have is the effect of present grace and a certain foretaste of your

heavenly home. You must not lean upon it too much, because it comes and

goes. But to fight against evil thoughts which attack you is a sign of

virtue and great merit. Do not, therefore, let strange fantasies

disturb you, no matter what they concern. Hold strongly to your

resolution and keep a right intention toward God.

 

It is not an illusion that you are sometimes rapt in ecstasy and then

quickly returned to the usual follies of your heart. For these are

evils which you suffer rather than commit; and so long as they

displease you and you struggle against them, it is a matter of merit

and not a loss.

 

You must know that the old enemy tries by all means in his power to

hinder your desire for good and to turn you from every devotional

practice, especially from the veneration of the saints, from devout

meditation on My passion, and from your firm purpose of advancing in

virtue. He suggests many evil thoughts that he may cause you weariness

and horror, and thus draw you away from prayer and holy reading. A

humble confession displeases him and, if he could, he would make you

omit Holy Communion.

 

Do not believe him or heed him, even though he often sets traps to

deceive you. When he suggests evil, unclean things, accuse him. Say to

him: "Away, unclean spirit! Shame, miserable creature! You are but

filth to bring such things to my ears. Begone, most wretched seducer!

You shall have no part in me, for Jesus will be my strength, and you

shall be confounded. I would rather die and suffer all torments than

consent to you. Be still! Be silent! Though you bring many troubles

upon me I will have none of you. The Lord is my light, my salvation.

Whom shall I fear? Though armies unite against me, my heart will not

fear, for the Lord is my Helper, my Redeemer."

 

Fight like a good soldier and if you sometimes fall through weakness,

rise again with greater strength than before, trusting in My most

abundant grace. But beware of vain complacency and pride. For many are

led into error through these faults and sometimes fall into almost

perpetual blindness. Let the fall of these, who proudly presume on

self, be a warning to you and a constant incentive to humility.

 

 

 


 

The Seventh Chapter

 

Grace Must Be Hidden Under the Mantle of Humility

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

IT IS better and safer for you to conceal the grace of devotion, not to

be elated by it, not to speak or think much of it, and instead to

humble yourself and fear lest it is being given to one unworthy of it.

Do not cling too closely to this affection, for it may quickly be

changed to its opposite. When you are in grace, think how miserable and

needy you are without it. Your progress in spiritual life does not

consist in having the grace of consolation, but in enduring its

withdrawal with humility, resignation, and patience, so that you

neither become listless in prayer nor neglect your other duties in the

least; but on the contrary do what you can do as well as you know how,

and do not neglect yourself completely because of your dryness or

anxiety of mind.

 

There are many, indeed, who immediately become impatient and lazy when

things do not go well with them. The way of man, however, does not

always lie in his own power. It is God's prerogative to give grace and

to console when He wishes, as much as He wishes, and whom He wishes, as

it shall please Him and no more.

 

Some careless persons, misusing the grace of devotion, have destroyed

themselves because they wished to do more than they were able. They

failed to take account of their own weakness, and followed the desire

of their heart rather than the judgment of their reason. Then, because

they presumed to greater things than pleased God they quickly lost His

grace. They who had built their homes in heaven became helpless, vile

outcasts, humbled and impoverished, that they might learn not to fly

with their own wings but to trust in Mine.

 

They who are still new and inexperienced in the way of the Lord may

easily be deceived and overthrown unless they guide themselves by the

advice of discreet persons. But if they wish to follow their own

notions rather than to trust in others who are more experienced, they

will be in danger of a sorry end, at least if they are unwilling to be

drawn from their vanity. Seldom do they who are wise in their own

conceits bear humbly the guidance of others. Yet a little knowledge

humbly and meekly pursued is better than great treasures of learning

sought in vain complacency. It is better for you to have little than to

have much which may become the source of pride.

 

He who gives himself up entirely to enjoyment acts very unwisely, for

he forgets his former helplessness and that chastened fear of the Lord

which dreads to lose a proffered grace. Nor is he very brave or wise

who becomes too despondent in times of adversity and difficulty and

thinks less confidently of Me than he should. He who wishes to be too

secure in time of peace will often become too dejected and fearful in

time of trial.

 

If you were wise enough to remain always humble and small in your own

eyes, and to restrain and rule your spirit well, you would not fall so

quickly into danger and offense.

 

When a spirit of fervor is enkindled within you, you may well meditate

on how you will feel when the fervor leaves. Then, when this happens,

remember that the light which I have withdrawn for a time as a warning

to you and for My own glory may again return. Such trials are often

more beneficial than if you had things always as you wish. For a man's

merits are not measured by many visions or consolations, or by

knowledge of the Scriptures, or by his being in a higher position than

others, but by the truth of his humility, by his capacity for divine

charity, by his constancy in seeking purely and entirely the honor of

God, by his disregard and positive contempt of self, and more, by

preferring to be despised and humiliated rather than honored by others.

 

 


 

The Eighth Chapter

 

Self-Abasement in the Sight of God

 

 

The Disciple

 

I WILL speak to my Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. If I consider

myself anything more than this, behold You stand against me, and my

sins bear witness to the truth which I cannot contradict. If I abase

myself, however, if I humble myself to nothingness, if I shrink from

all self-esteem and account myself as the dust which I am, Your grace

will favor me, Your light will enshroud my heart, and all self-esteem,

no matter how little, will sink in the depths of my nothingness to

perish forever.

 

It is there You show me to myself--what I am, what I have been, and

what I am coming to; for I am nothing and I did not know it. Left to

myself, I am nothing but total weakness. But if You look upon me for an

instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy. Great wonder

it is that I, who of my own weight always sink to the depths, am so

suddenly lifted up, and so graciously embraced by You.

 

It is Your love that does this, graciously upholding me, supporting me

in so many necessities, guarding me from so many grave dangers, and

snatching me, as I may truly say, from evils without number. Indeed, by

loving myself badly I lost myself; by seeking only You and by truly

loving You I have found both myself and You, and by that love I have

reduced myself more profoundly to nothing. For You, O sweetest Lord,

deal with me above all my merits and above all that I dare to hope or

ask.

 

May You be blessed, my God, for although I am unworthy of any benefits,

yet Your nobility and infinite goodness never cease to do good even for

those who are ungrateful and far from You. Convert us to You, that we

may be thankful, humble, and devout, for You are our salvation, our

courage, and our strength.

 


 

The Ninth Chapter

 

All Things should be Referred to God as their Last End

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, I must be your supreme and last end, if you truly desire to

be blessed. With this intention your affections, which are too often

perversely inclined to self and to creatures, will be purified. For if

you seek yourself in anything, you immediately fail interiorly and

become dry of heart.

 

Refer all things principally to Me, therefore, for it is I Who have

given them all. Consider each thing as flowing from the highest good,

and therefore to Me, as to their highest source, must all things be

brought back.

 

From Me the small and the great, the poor and the rich draw the water

of life as from a living fountain, and they who serve Me willingly and

freely shall receive grace upon grace. He who wishes to glory in things

apart from Me, however, or to delight in some good as his own, shall

not be grounded in true joy or gladdened in his heart, but shall be

burdened and distressed in many ways. Hence you ought not to attribute

any good to yourself or ascribe virtue to any man, but give all to God

without Whom man has nothing.

 

I have given all things. I will that all be returned to Me again, and I

exact most strictly a return of thanks. This is the truth by which

vainglory is put to flight.

 

Where heavenly grace and true charity enter in, there neither envy nor

narrowness of heart nor self-love will have place. Divine love conquers

all and enlarges the powers of the soul.

 

If you are truly wise, you will rejoice only in Me, because no one is

good except God alone, Who is to be praised above all things and above

all to be blessed.

 


 

The Tenth Chapter

 

To Despise the World and Serve God is Sweet

 

 

The Disciple

 

NOW again I will speak, Lord, and will not be silent. I will speak to

the hearing of my God, my Lord, and my King Who is in heaven. How

great, O Lord, is the multitude of Your mercies which You have stored

up for those who love You. But what are You to those who love You? What

are You to those who serve You with their whole heart?

 

Truly beyond the power of words is the sweetness of contemplation You

give to those who love You. To me You have shown the sweetness of Your

charity, especially in having made me when I did not exist, in having

brought me back to serve You when I had gone far astray from You, in

having commanded me to love You.

 

O Fountain of unceasing love, what shall I say of You? How can I forget

You, Who have been pleased to remember me even after I had wasted away

and perished? You have shown mercy to Your servant beyond all hope, and

have exhibited grace and friendship beyond his deserving.

 

What return shall I make to You for this grace? For it is not given

every man to forsake all things, to renounce the world, and undertake

the religious life. Is it anything great that I should serve You Whom

every creature is bound to serve? It should not seem much to me;

instead it should appear great and wonderful that You condescend to

receive into Your service one who is so poor and unworthy. Behold, all

things are Yours, even those which I have and by which I serve You.

Behold, heaven and earth which You created for the service of man,

stand ready, and each day they do whatever You command. But even this

is little, for You have appointed angels also to minister to man--yea

more than all this--You Yourself have condescended to serve man and

have promised to give him Yourself.

 

What return shall I make for all these thousands of benefits? Would

that I could serve You all the days of my life! Would that for but one

day I could serve You worthily! Truly You are worthy of all service,

all honor, and everlasting praise. Truly You are my Lord, and I am Your

poor servant, bound to serve You with all my powers, praising You

without ever becoming weary. I wish to do this--this is my desire. Do

You supply whatever is wanting in me.

 

It is a great honor, a great glory to serve You and to despise all

things for Your sake. They who give themselves gladly to Your most holy

service will possess great grace. They who cast aside all carnal

delights for Your love will find the most sweet consolation of the Holy

Spirit. They who enter upon the narrow way for Your name and cast aside

all worldly care will attain great freedom of mind.

 

O sweet and joyful service of God, which makes man truly free and holy!

O sacred state of religious bondage which makes man equal to the

angels, pleasing to God, terrible to the demons, and worthy of the

commendation of all the faithful! O service to be embraced and always

desired, in which the highest good is offered and joy is won which

shall remain forever!

 


 

The Eleventh Chapter

 

The Longings of our Hearts Must Be Examined And Moderated

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, it is necessary for you to learn many things which you have

not yet learned well.

 

The Disciple

What are they, Lord?

The Voice of Christ

That you conform your desires entirely according to My good pleasure,

and be not a lover of self but an earnest doer of My will. Desires very

often inflame you and drive you madly on, but consider whether you act

for My honor, or for your own advantage. If I am the cause, you will be

well content with whatever I ordain. If, on the other hand, any

self-seeking lurk in you, it troubles you and weighs you down. Take

care, then, that you do not rely too much on preconceived desire that

has no reference to Me, lest you repent later on and be displeased with

what at first pleased you and which you desired as being for the best.

Not every desire which seems good should be followed immediately, nor,

on the other hand, should every contrary affection be at once rejected.

 

It is sometimes well to use a little restraint even in good desires and

inclinations, lest through too much eagerness you bring upon yourself

distraction of mind; lest through your lack of discipline you create

scandal for others; or lest you be suddenly upset and fall because of

resistance from others. Sometimes, however, you must use violence and

resist your sensual appetite bravely. You must pay no attention to what

the flesh does or does not desire, taking pains that it be subjected,

even by force, to the spirit. And it should be chastised and forced to

remain in subjection until it is prepared for anything and is taught to

be satisfied with little, to take pleasure in simple things, and not to

murmur against inconveniences.


 

 

The Twelfth Chapter

 

Acquiring Patience in the Fight Against Concupiscence

 

 

The Disciple

 

PATIENCE, O Lord God, is very necessary for me, I see, because there

are many adversities in this life. No matter what plans I make for my

own peace, my life cannot be free from struggle and sorrow.

 

The Voice of Christ

 

My child, you are right, yet My wish is not that you seek that peace

which is free from temptations or meets with no opposition, but rather

that you consider yourself as having found peace when you have been

tormented with many tribulations and tried with many adversities.

 

If you say that you cannot suffer much, how will you endure the fire of

purgatory? Of two evils, the lesser is always to be chosen. Therefore,

in order that you may escape the everlasting punishments to come, try

to bear present evils patiently for the sake of God.

 

Do you think that men of the world have no suffering, or perhaps but

little? Ask even those who enjoy the most delights and you will learn

otherwise. "But," you will say, "they enjoy many pleasures and follow

their own wishes; therefore they do not feel their troubles very much."

Granted that they do have whatever they wish, how long do you think it

will last? Behold, they who prosper in the world shall perish as smoke,

and there shall be no memory of their past joys. Even in this life they

do not find rest in these pleasures without bitterness, weariness, and

fear. For they often receive the penalty of sorrow from the very thing

whence they believe their happiness comes. And it is just. Since they

seek and follow after pleasures without reason, they should not enjoy

them without shame and bitterness.

 

How brief, how false, how unreasonable and shameful all these pleasures

are! Yet in their drunken blindness men do not understand this, but

like brute beasts incur death of soul for the miserly enjoyment of a

corruptible life.

 

Therefore, My child, do not pursue your lusts, but turn away from your

own will. "Seek your pleasure in the Lord and He will give you your

heart's desires." [34] If you wish to be truly delighted and more

abundantly comforted by Me, behold, in contempt of all worldly things

and in the cutting off of all base pleasures shall your blessing be,

and great consolation shall be given you. Further, the more you

withdraw yourself from any solace of creatures, the sweeter and

stronger comfort will you find in Me.

 

At first you will not gain these blessings without sadness and toil and

conflict. Habit already formed will resist you, but it shall be

overcome by a better habit. The flesh will murmur against you, but it

will be bridled by fervor of spirit. The old serpent will sting and

trouble you, but prayer will put him to flight and by steadfast, useful

toil the way will be closed to him.

 

[34] Ps. 37:4.


 

The Thirteenth Chapter

 

The Obedience of One Humbly Subject to the Example of Jesus Christ

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, he who attempts to escape obeying withdraws himself from

grace. Likewise he who seeks private benefits for himself loses those

which are common to all. He who does not submit himself freely and

willingly to his superior, shows that his flesh is not yet perfectly

obedient but that it often rebels and murmurs against him.

 

Learn quickly, then, to submit yourself to your superior if you wish to

conquer your own flesh. For the exterior enemy is more quickly overcome

if the inner man is not laid waste. There is no more troublesome, no

worse enemy of the soul than you yourself, if you are not in harmony

with the spirit. It is absolutely necessary that you conceive a true

contempt for yourself if you wish to be victorious over flesh and

blood.

 

Because you still love yourself too inordinately, you are afraid to

resign yourself wholly to the will of others. Is it such a great matter

if you, who are but dust and nothingness, subject yourself to man for

the sake of God, when I, the All-Powerful, the Most High, Who created

all things out of nothing, humbly subjected Myself to man for your

sake? I became the most humble and the lowest of all men that you might

overcome your pride with My humility.

 

Learn to obey, you who are but dust! Learn to humble yourself, you who

are but earth and clay, and bow down under the foot of every man! Learn

to break your own will, to submit to all subjection! Be zealous against

yourself! Allow no pride to dwell in you, but prove yourself so humble

and lowly that all may walk over you and trample upon you as dust in

the streets!

 

What have you, vain man, to complain of? What answer can you make, vile

sinner, to those who accuse you, you who have so often offended God and

so many times deserved hell? But My eye has spared you because your

soul was precious in My sight, so that you might know My love and

always be thankful for My benefits, so that you might give yourself

continually to true subjection and humility, and might patiently endure

contempt.

The Fourteenth Chapter

 

Consider the Hidden Judgments of God Lest You Become Proud of Your Own Good Deeds

 

 

The Disciple

 

YOU thunder forth Your judgments over me, Lord. You shake all my bones

with fear and trembling, and my soul is very much afraid. I stand in

awe as I consider that the heavens are not pure in Your sight. If You

found wickedness in the angels and did not spare them, what will become

of me? Stars have fallen from heaven, and I--I who am but dust--how can

I be presumptuous? They whose deeds seemed worthy of praise have fallen

into the depths, and I have seen those who ate the bread of angels

delighting themselves with the husks of swine.

 

There is no holiness, then, if You withdraw Your hand, Lord. There is

no wisdom if You cease to guide, no courage if You cease to defend. No

chastity is secure if You do not guard it. Our vigilance avails nothing

if Your holy watchfulness does not protect us. Left to ourselves we

sink and perish, but visited by You we are lifted up and live. We are

truly unstable, but You make us strong. We grow lukewarm, but You

inflame us.

 

Oh, how humbly and lowly should I consider myself! How very little

should I esteem anything that seems good in me! How profoundly should I

submit to Your unfathomable judgments, Lord, where I find myself to be

but nothing!

 

O immeasurable weight! O impassable sea, where I find myself to be

nothing but bare nothingness! Where, then, is glory's hiding place?

Where can there be any trust in my own virtue? All vainglory is

swallowed up in the depths of Your judgments upon me.

 

What is all flesh in Your sight? Shall the clay glory against Him that

formed it? How can he whose heart is truly subject to God be lifted up

by vainglory? The whole world will not make him proud whom truth has

subjected to itself. Nor shall he who has placed all his hope in God be

moved by the tongues of flatterers. For behold, even they who speak are

nothing; they will pass away with the sound of their words, but the

truth of the Lord remains forever.


 

The Fifteenth Chapter

 

How One Should Feel and Speak on Every Desirable Thing

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, this is the way you must speak on every occasion: "Lord, if

it be pleasing to You, so be it. If it be to Your honor, Lord, be it

done in Your name. Lord, if You see that it is expedient and profitable

for me, then grant that I may use it to Your honor. But if You know

that it will be harmful to me, and of no good benefit to the welfare of

my soul, then take this desire away from me."

 

Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right

and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or

a bad one that prompts one to this or that, and even to know whether

you are being moved by your own spirit. Many who seemed at first to be

led by a good spirit have been deceived in the end.

 

Whatever the mind sees as good, ask and desire in fear of God and

humility of heart. Above all, commit the whole matter to Me with true

resignation, and say: "Lord, You know what is better for me; let this

be done or that be done as You please. Grant what You will, as much as

You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most

please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will

and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about

whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all

things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You--would that I

could do this worthily and perfectly!"

 

A Prayer that the Will of God Be Done

 

Grant me Your grace, O most merciful Jesus, that it may be with me, and

work with me, and remain with me to the very end. Grant that I may

always desire and will that which is most acceptable and pleasing to

You. Let Your will be mine. Let my will always follow Yours and agree

perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Yours in willing and in not

willing, and let me be unable to will or not will anything but what You

will or do not will. Grant that I may die to all things in this world,

and for Your sake love to be despised and unknown in this life. Give me

above all desires the desire to rest in You, and in You let my heart

have peace. You are true peace of heart. You alone are its rest.

Without You all things are difficult and troubled. In this peace, the

selfsame that is in You, the Most High, the everlasting Good, I will

sleep and take my rest. Amen.

 

 


 

The Sixteenth Chapter

 

True Comfort Is to Be Sought in God Alone

 

 

The Disciple

 

WHATEVER I can desire or imagine for my own comfort I look for not here

but hereafter. For if I alone should have all the world's comforts and

could enjoy all its delights, it is certain that they could not long

endure. Therefore, my soul, you cannot enjoy full consolation or

perfect delight except in God, the Consoler of the poor and the Helper

of the humble. Wait a little, my soul, wait for the divine promise and

you will have an abundance of all good things in heaven. If you desire

these present things too much, you will lose those which are

everlasting and heavenly. Use temporal things but desire eternal

things. You cannot be satisfied with any temporal goods because you

were not created to enjoy them.

 

Even if you possessed all created things you could not be happy and

blessed; for in God, Who created all these things, your whole

blessedness and happiness consists--not indeed such happiness as is

seen and praised by lovers of the world, but such as that for which the

good and faithful servants of Christ wait, and of which the spiritual

and pure of heart, whose conversation is in heaven, sometime have a

foretaste.

 

Vain and brief is all human consolation. But that which is received

inwardly from the Truth is blessed and true. The devout man carries his

Consoler, Jesus, everywhere with him, and he says to Him: "Be with me,

Lord Jesus, in every place and at all times. Let this be my

consolation, to be willing to forego all human comforting. And if Your

consolation be wanting to me, let Your will and just trial of me be my

greatest comfort. For You will not always be angry, nor will You

threaten forever."

 


 

The Seventeenth Chapter

 

All Our Care is to Be Placed in God

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

MY CHILD, allow me to do what I will with you. I know what is best for

you. You think as a man; you feel in many things as human affection

persuades.

 

 

The Disciple

 

Lord, what You say is true. Your care for me is greater than all the

care I can take of myself. For he who does not cast all his care upon

You stands very unsafely. If only my will remain right and firm toward

You, Lord, do with me whatever pleases You. For whatever You shall do

with me can only be good.

 

If You wish me to be in darkness, I shall bless You. And if You wish me

to be in light, again I shall bless You. If You stoop down to comfort

me, I shall bless You, and if You wish me to be afflicted, I shall

bless You forever.

 

 

The Voice of Christ

 

My child, this is the disposition which you should have if you wish to

walk with Me. You should be as ready to suffer as to enjoy. You should

as willingly be destitute and poor as rich and satisfied.

 

 

The Disciple

 

O Lord, I shall suffer willingly for Your sake whatever You wish to

send me. I am ready to accept from Your hand both good and evil alike,

the sweet and the bitter together, sorrow with joy; and for all that

happens to me I am grateful. Keep me from all sin and I will fear

neither death nor hell. Do not cast me out forever nor blot me out of

the Book of Life, and whatever tribulation befalls will not harm me.