BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 25: OF THE FERVENT AMENDMENT OF OUR WHOLE LIFE
BE watchful and diligent in the service of God, and often reflect:
What hast thou come hither for, and why hast thou left the world? Was it not that thou mightest live for God, and become a spiritual man?
Be fervent, then, in making progress; for thou shalt shortly receive the reward of thy labors, and then neither fear nor sorrow shall come near thy borders.
Thou shalt labor a little now, and thou shalt find great rest, yea, everlasting joy.
If thou continue faithful and fervent in doing, God will doubtless be faithful and rich in rewarding.
Thou must keep a good and firm hope of coming to the crown; but thou must not be too secure, lest thou grow indolent, or be lifted up.
2. When a certain anxious person, who oftentimes wavered between hope and fear, once overcome with sadness, threw himself upon the ground in prayer before one of the altars in the church, and revolving these things in his mind, said, oh, if I only knew that I should persevere; that very instant he heard within him this heavenly answer: And if thou didst know this, what wouldst thou do? Do now what thou wouldst then do, and thou shalt be perfectly secure.
And immediately being consoled and comforted, he committed himself to the Divine will, and his anxious wavering ceased.
He had no longer any wish for curious searchings to find out what should happen to him, but studied rather to learn what was the acceptable and perfect will of God for the beginning and the perfecting of every good work.
3. "Hope in the Lord," saith the Prophet: "and do good, and inhabit the land, and thou shalt be fed with the riches thereof."
There is one thing that keepeth many back from spiritual progress, and from fervor in amendment; namely, a dread of the difficulty or of the labor that is necessary in the struggle.
And assuredly they especially advance beyond others in virtue, who strive the most manfully to overcome the very things which are the hardest and most contrary to them.
For there a man doth profit most and merit more abundant grace, where he doth most overcome himself and mortify his spirit.
4. All have not; indeed, equal difficulties to overcome and mortify; but a diligent and zealous person will make greater progress, though he have more passions than another, who is well-regulated but less fervent in the pursuit of virtues.
Two things especially conduce to great improvement; namely; forcibly to withdraw one's self from what nature is viciously inclined to, and fervently to follow up the good one is most in need of.
Study, likewise, especially to guard against and to get the better of such things as oftenest displease thee in others.
5. Turn all occasions to thy spiritual profit, so that the good examples thou mayst see or hear of, may stir thee up to imitate them.
And whatever thou shalt observe that is blameworthy; take care not to do the same thing thyself; or if thou hast ever done so, study to amend as soon as possible.
As thine eye observeth others, so again thou art also observed by others.
How pleasant and sweet it is to see brethren fervent, and devout, well-mannered and well-disciplined!
How sad and afflicting to see them walking disorderly, and not practicing the things that they are called to!
How mischievous it is to neglect the purpose of their vocation, and turn their minds to what is not their business!
6. Do thou be mindful of the purpose thou hast undertaken, and place before thee the image of the Crucified.
Well mayst thou be ashamed when looking into the life of Jesus Christ, that as yet thou hast not studied more to conform thyself to Him, long as thou hast been in the way of God.
The religious who exerciseth himself earnestly and devoutly in the most holy life and Passion of our Lord, shall find there abundantly all that is useful and necessary for him; nor need he seek out of Jesus for anything better.
Oh, if the crucified Jesus should come into our heart, how quickly and sufficiently learned should we be!
7. The fervent religious beareth and taketh all things well, whatever he is commanded.
The negligent and lukewarm religious hath trouble upon trouble, and endureth anguish on every side; for he has no consolation within, and is forbidden to seek it without.
The religious that liveth out of discipline is exposed to dreadful ruin.
He that is seeking to be more free and unrestrained will always be in trouble, for one thing or other will ever disgust him.
8. How do so many other religious, who live most strictly under the cloistered discipline? They seldom go abroad, they live retired, they are fed on the very poorest, they are coarsely clad, they labor much, they talk little, they keep late vigils, they rise early, they spend much time in prayer, they read frequently, and keep themselves in all discipline.
Consider the Carthusians and the Cistercians, and the monks and nuns of other religious orders, how they rise every night to sing praises to the Lord! And what a shame it would be for thee to grow slothful at such a time, when so great a multitude of religious are beginning to sing aloud with joy to God!
9. Oh, if there were nothing else to do, but praise the Lord our God with all our heart and voice! Oh, if thou didst never require to eat, or drink, or sleep, but couldst be always praising God, and occupied with spiritual pursuits only, then thou wouldst be much happier than now, since thou art a slave to the flesh from necessities of every kind.
Would to God that there were none of these necessities, but only spiritual reflections required for the soul. These, alas, it is seldom enough we taste!
10. When a man hath arrived so far, that he seeks his consolation from no created thing, then first doth he begin truly to taste what God is; then, too, will he be well content with everything that happens.
Then will he neither rejoice for much nor be sorrowful for little, but will commit himself wholly and confidingly to God, Who is to him all in all: to Whom nothing is lost or dieth, but for Whom all things live, and at Whose call they instantly obey.
11. Ever keep in mind thine end, and that time lost returneth no more.
Without care and diligence thou shalt never acquire virtues.
If once thou beginnest to grow lukewarm, thou beginnest to be in a bad state.
But if thou give thyself to fervor thou shalt find great peace; and thou shalt feel thy labor light, through the grace of God, and for the love of virtue.
The fervent and diligent man is ready for all things.
It is harder labor to withstand our vices and passions than to toil at bodily labors.
He that shunneth not small defects, by little and little falleth into greater.
Thou wilt always be glad in the evening if thou spend the day profitably.
Watch over thyself, stir up thyself; admonish thyself, and whatever may become of others, neglect not thyself.
In proportion as thou dost violence to thyself, the greater progress wilt thou make. Amen.
ACCORDING to our zeal for advancement, we take advantage of the good we see to practice it, and carry us to God. To advance in virtue, we must overcome and renounce ourselves in all things, and die to the insatiable desires of our heart. It is certain that we can merit in the service of God only in proportion as we do violence to ourselves. Wherefore, let us fight against and subdue the irregular inclinations which allure us to sin or to relaxation of our fervor: by this means we shall secure our salvation. A vigorous, constant, and generous effort to overcome ourselves, forwards us more in the ways of perfection and salvation than those fruitless desires by which we would give ourselves to God, yet we do not what we would. The more we die to ourselves, the more do we live to God: and the more we refuse to gratify ourselves, so much the more do we please Him. How delightful must the life of that Christian be whose desires are so regulated that his chief happiness is in denying himself, and pleasing God! How sure a means of obtaining a happy eternity!
THOU knowest, O Jesus, the extreme difficulty we experience in subduing and subjecting ourselves to Thee; suffer not this difficulty to hinder us from accomplishing it. It is just we should prefer Thy glory, and Thy holy will, to our own will and gratification, and hence we are resolved to do so. Strengthen us in this resolution, and make us faithful. Grant that all in us may yield to Thee, that, advancing daily in virtue, and leading a supernatural and, through Thy merits, an acceptable life, we may become worthy of Thy grace here, and of Thine eternal glory hereafter. Amen.