BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 22: OF THE CONSIDERATION OF HUMAN MISERY
WRETCHED art thou, wheresoever thou be and whithersoever thou turn thee, unless thou turn thyself unto God.
Why art thou troubled that things go not with thee as thou wishest and desirest? Who is there that hath all things according to his will? Neither I, nor thou, nor any man upon earth.
There is no man in the world without some trouble or affliction, be he King or Pope.
Who then, is the best off? Truly he that is able to suffer something for the love of God.
2. Weak-minded and inconstant people often say: See what a happy life that man leadeth! How rich he is, how great, how powerful and exalted!
But take heed to heavenly riches, and thou wilt see that all these temporal ones are nothing; yea, most uncertain, and rather a heavy burden, since they never are possessed without solicitude and fear.
Man's happiness is not the having temporal goods in abundance; but a moderate portion is sufficient for him.
Truly it is a misery to live upon the earth.
The more a man desireth to be spiritual, the more distasteful doth this present life become to him; for he the better understandeth, and more clearly seeth the defects of human corruption.
For to eat, to drink, to watch, to sleep, to rest, to labor, and to be subject to the other necessities of nature, truly is a great misery and affliction to a devout man, who longeth to be released, and to have done with all sin.
3. For the interior man is greatly weighed down by the necessities of the body in this life.
Hence the Prophet devoutly prayeth that he may be free from them, saying: "From my necessities deliver me, O Lord."
But woe to them that know not their own misery; and still more woe to them that make this wretched and perishable life the object of their love.
For some there are who cling to it so closely (though even by laboring or by begging they hardly have bare necessaries) that could they live here always, they would care nothing for the kingdom of God.
4. O senseless people! and unbelieving in heart, to lie buried so deep in earthly things; as to relish nothing but what is carnal!
Miserable men! yet a while, and in the end they will feel bitterly what a worthless thing and nothing it was that they have been loving.
But the Saints of God, and all devoted friends of Christ, looked not to what pleased the flesh, nor to what flourished for the time of this life; but all their hopes and aims inspired after the good things that are eternal.
All their desire tended upwards to the things everlasting and invisible, for fear lest by the love of things visible they should be dragged down to things below.
Lose not, brother, thy confidence of making spiritual progress; thou hast yet time-----the hour is not yet passed.
5. Why wilt thou put off thy purpose from day to day? Arise, and begin this very instant, and say: Now is the time to do, now is the time to fight, now is the proper time to amend my life.
When thou art troubled and afflicted, then is the time of merit.
Thou must pass through fire and water before thou come to refreshment.
Except thou do violence to thyself, thou wilt not overcome vice.
As long as we carry about this frail body, we cannot be free from sin, nor live without weariness and sorrow.
Fain would we be at rest from all misery; but since we have lost innocence through sin, we have lost also true blessedness.
We must therefore have patience, and wait God's mercy, till iniquity pass away, and this mortality be swallowed up in life.
6. Oh, how great is human frailty, which is ever prone to vice!
Today thou confessest thy sins, and tomorrow thou again committest what thou didst confess.
Now thou purposest to be upon thy guard, and an hour after thou art acting as if thou hadst made no resolution.
Justly then may we humble ourselves, and never think anything great of ourselves; since we are so frail and unstable.
And even what we have at last just acquired through grace, and with great labor, may soon be lost through negligence.
7. What will become of us in the end, if we begin so early to grow lukewarm?
Woe to us if we thus wish to turn aside to rest, as if there were already peace and security, when there doth not as yet appear a trace of true holiness in our deportment!
Very useful would it be for us to be yet again instructed, like good novices, to the highest morality-----if, haply, there might be hope of some future improvement and greater spiritual progress.
WHAT a happiness, and what a gain to see and to find God, in Whom we may forget all our cares, and end all our miseries! And how happy are we in knowing and feeling that it is really true happiness, a heaven upon earth, to suffer all for God's sake, even such things as are most humiliating and repugnant to our nature! for this can proceed only from the true love of God. How miserable are we, if we are not sensible of or love the miseries of this life, and sigh not incessantly for the enjoyments of the life to come! How justly does St. Gregory observe that to act thus is to love hunger and misery, and not to love nourishment and happiness! Can we experience every hour, as we do, the inconstancy and frailty of our hearts, how soon we forget our good resolutions, and how light we make of our promises to God, and not humble ourselves in His presence, and implore Him, with holy Judith, to fortify us and make us faithful!
WE beseech Thee, O Father of mercies, and God of all consolation, to support us in the perpetual combats we are summoned to maintain against our passions, our self-love, and our whole self, which is so opposed to Thee; for alas! O God, what can we do of ourselves, if Thou support us not, but fall into sin and offend Thee? Leave us not, therefore, to ourselves, but strengthen us in the inward man, that so we may at all times and in all things renounce our evil inclinations, which are incessantly endeavoring to withdraw our hearts from Thee. Complete Thy conquest and make us all Thine Own both now and forever. Amen.