BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 19: OF THE EXERCISES OF A GOOD RELIGIOUS
THE life of a good religious ought to abound in every virtue: that he may be such inwardly as he seemeth to men outwardly to be.
And with good reason ought he to be much more within than he appears outwardly; for it is God that overseeth us, and we should exceedingly stand in awe of Him, and walk in His sight wherever we may be, as the Angels do in purity.
Every day we ought to renew our purpose, and stir ourselves up to fervor, as if it were the first day of our conversion.
And to say: Help me, O Lord God, in my good purpose, and in Thy holy service, and grant that I may this day begin indeed, since what I have hitherto done is nothing.
2. As our purpose is, so will our progress be; and there is need of much diligence for him that wisheth to advance much.
And if he who strongly purposeth doth yet oftentimes fail, what will he do that seldom or but weakly resolveth?
But the falling off from any good resolution happeneth many ways; and a trifling omission in our exercises hardly passeth over without some loss.
The resolutions of the just depend rather on the grace of God than on their own wisdom; and they always, whatever they take in hand, put their trust in Him.
For man proposeth, but God disposeth; neither is the way of man as he chooseth.
3. If, for piety's sake, or for a brother's benefit, any accustomed exercise be sometimes omitted, it can easily be resumed afterwards.
But if it be laid aside lightly, out of weariness of mind or negligence, it is justly blamable, and will be found to do harm.
Let us try as much as we can, we shall still unavoidably fail in many things.
Nevertheless, we should always have some certain resolution, and especially against the things that are our greatest hindrances.
We must alike examine and set in order both our interior and exterior, for both are necessary to our advancement.
4. If thou canst not be continually recollected, at all events be so sometimes, and at least once a day-----in the morning, for example, or the evening.
In the morning frame thy purpose; in the evening examine thy conduct-----how thou hast behaved today in word, deed, and thought; for it may be that in these thou hast many times offended God and thy neighbor.
Gird thyself up like a man to resist the wicked suggestions of the devil; bridle gluttony, and thou wilt the easier bridle every inclination of the flesh.
Never be wholly idle, but either reading or writing, or praying or meditating, or laboring at something for the common good.
Nevertheless, bodily exercises are to be practiced with discretion, and not equally to be undertaken by all.
5. Those things which are not common ought not to be done in public; for what is private is more safely practiced in secret.
But thou must take care not to be slothful in what is common, and too ready to do what is singular; but when thou hast fully and faithfully fulfilled what is of obligation, and whatever hath been enjoined thee, then if there be any time left give thyself to thyself, as thy devotion may lead thee.
All cannot use the same exercise; but one suits this person better, another that.
Moreover, according to the diversity of times, are different exercises agreeable; some please on holy days, others suit better on common days.
We have need of one sort in time of temptation, of another in time of peace, and quiet.
There are some things we love to think of when we are sad, and others when we are joyful in the Lord.
6. About the time of the principal festivals we should renew our good exercises, and implore more fervently the intercession of the Saints.
From festival to festival we should make our resolutions, as if we were then to depart from this world, and to come to the eternal festival.
And so we ought carefully to prepare ourselves in seasons of devotion, and walk the more devoutly, and keep every observance the more strictly, as if we were in a little while to receive from God the reward of our labor.
7. And if it be put off, let us believe that we were not well enough prepared, and as yet unworthy of that so great glory which shall be revealed to us in the time appointed; and let us study to prepare ourselves the better for our departure.
"Blessed is that servant," saith the Evangelist St. Luke, "whom, when the Lord shall come, He shall find watching. Amen, I say unto you, He shall set him over all His possessions."
TO engage us to die to ourselves, and to live to God and for God! How efficacious are lively desires when constantly directed to that object! For we ever accomplish what we earnestly desire: but our misfortune is, that oftentimes our desires of pleasing God are weak and feeble, while the desires of gratifying ourselves are strong and active. Hence proceeds the inefficacy of our good purposes, which is a great obstacle to perfection and salvation. We wish to give ourselves to God, and we wish it not; we desire to do so in time of prayer and the Holy Communion, and at other times we desire it not. We, in part, and for a time only, would acquit ourselves of our duties; hence our lives become a succession of good desires and evil effects, of promises and infidelities. Is this to labor effectually for salvation?
WEARY, O Lord, of the inefficacy of our desires, and of offering Thee only thoughts which we reduce not to practice, and promises which we never fulfill, we earnestly supplicate Thee to grant us the grace of adding effect to our desires, and of uniting the practice with the knowledge of virtue; for we well know, as Thou teachest in the Gospel, that not every one who says, "Lord, Lord," shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of Thy Father; grant, therefore, O my Savior, that I may not only think of and desire, but ever accomplish Thy blessed will. Amen.