BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 21: OF COMPUNCTION OF HEART
IF thou wouldst make any progress, keep thyself in the fear of God, and be not too free; curb all thy senses under discipline, and give not thyself up to foolish mirth. Give thyself to compunction of heart, and thou shalt find devotion.
Compunction opens the way to much good which dissipation is wont quickly to lose.
It is wonderful that any man can ever abandon himself wholly to joy in this life, when he considereth and weigheth his exile and the many dangers of his soul.
2. Through levity of heart and neglect of our defects we feel not the sorrows of the soul; and we often vainly laugh when in all reason we should weep.
There is no true liberty nor profitable joy but in the fear of God with a good conscience.
Happy is the man that can cast away all the hindrance of distraction, and recollect himself in the unity of holy compunction.
Happy the man who casteth away from him whatever may stain or burden his conscience.
Strive manfully: habit is overcome by habit.
If thou canst let men alone, they will let thee alone to do whatever thou hast to do.
3. Busy not thyself in matters which appertain to others; and entangle not thyself in the affairs of the great.
Have always an eye upon thyself in the first place, and admonish thyself preferably to all thy dearest friends.
If thou hast not the favor of men, be not afflicted; but let it seriously concern thee, that thou dost not carry thyself so well and circumspectly as a servant of God and a devout religious ought to do.
Oftentimes it is better and safer for a man not to have many consolations in this life, especially such as are according to the flesh. Still, that we have not Divine comfort is our own fault, because we seek not compunction of heart, and do not wholly renounce vain and outward satisfactions.
4. Know that thou art unworthy of heavenly consolation, but rather deservest much tribulation.
When a man hath perfect compunction, then the whole world is to him burdensome and distasteful.
A good man findeth abundant matter for sorrow and tears.
For whether he considereth himself, or thinketh of his neighbor, he knoweth that no man liveth here below without tribulation.
And the more strictly he doth consider himself, the greater is his sorrow.
The subjects of just sorrow and interior compunction are our sins and vices, in which we are so enrapt that we are seldom able to fix our mind on heavenly things.
5. Didst thou think oftener of thy death than of a long life, no doubt but thou wouldst be more in earnest for thine amendment.
Didst thou also well ponder in thy heart the future pains of Hell or Purgatory, methinks thou wouldst bear willingly labor and sorrow, and fear no kind of austerity.
But because these things reach not the heart, and we still love flattering pleasure, therefore we remain cold and very slothful.
Oftentimes it is our want of spirit that maketh the wretched body complain for so slight cause.
Pray, therefore, humbly to the Lord to give unto thee the spirit of compunction; and say with the Prophet: "Feed me, O Lord, with, the food of tears, and give me to drink the tears in measure."
CAN we be sensible of our miseries and not deplore them, and humble ourselves under them before God, and have continual recourse to Him to support and keep us from offending Him? It is this humble diffidence in ourselves, and firm confidence in God, which constitute the spirit of compunction of which the author speaks in this chapter. How is it possible we should taste true joy for one moment in this life, in which we are beset with miseries and sin-----are continually in danger of being lost forever, and are exiles from Paradise, our true country? Well might St. Augustine say that a true Christian suffereth life, and sigheth after death, which will put an end to sin, and unite him forever to his God. How afflicting to feel ever prone to offend God-----always in danger of forfeiting salvation! O life! How burdensome art thou to a soul that truly loves God, and is grieved at being separated at a distance from Him-----an exile from Heaven! O death, how sweet art thou to a soul that breathes only God, and can no longer exist without possessing Him!
GRANT, O God, that my heart may become detached from all things, and, being wholly recollected in Thee, relish no other pleasure than that of loving Thee, of acting and suffering for Thy sake. I willingly consent to the sweet portion Thou allot-----test me to do Thy will in time, by patiently receiving all the pains Thou sendest me, that Thou mayst become, my happiness for eternity. What should I not do and suffer for such a reward? Keep me, O Lord, in the holy desire with which Thou now inspirest me, of sparing no pains to obtain it. Amen.