BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 22: ON THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE MANIFOLD BENEFITS OF GOD
OPEN, O Lord, my heart in Thy law, and teach me to walk in Thy Commandments. Give me to understand Thy will, and to commemorate with great reverence and diligent consideration all Thy benefits, as well in general as in particular, that so henceforth I may be able worthily to return thanks for them.
But I know, and confess, indeed, that I am not able to return Thee due thanks of praise, not even for the least.
I am less than any of Thy benefits bestowed upon me; and when I consider Thine excellency, my spirit fainteth before the greatness thereof.
2. All things that we have in soul and body, and whatsoever outwardly and inwardly, naturally or supernaturally, we possess, are Thy benefits, and celebrate Thy bounty, mercy, and goodness, from Whom we have received all good.
Although one hath received more, another less, yet all are Thine, and without Thee even the least cannot be had.
He who hath received greater things, cannot glory of his own merit, nor extol himself above others, nor exult over the lesser; because he is indeed greater and better, who attributeth less to himself, and is more humble and devout in returning thanks.
And he who esteemeth himself the vilest of all men, and judgeth himself the most unworthy, is fitted to receive still greater blessings.
3. But he who hath received fewer ought not to be saddened, nor take it ill; nor envy him that is more enriched; but attend rather to Thee, and very much praise Thy goodness, for that Thou bestowest Thy gifts so plentifully, so freely and willingly, without acceptance of persons.
All things are from Thee, and therefore Thou art to be praised in all.
Thou knowest what is expedient to be given to each; and why this one hath less, and the other more, is not ours to decide, but Thine, with Whom are determined the merits of each.
4. Wherefore, O Lord God, I deem it a great benefit not to have much which outwardly and according to men might appear praiseworthy and glorious; so that a person, considering his own poverty and meanness, ought to be so far from conceiving thereat despondency, or sadness, or dejection, that he should rather take consolation and great joy.
For Thou, O God, hast chosen the poor and the humble, and those that are despised by this world, for Thy familiar friends and servants.
The Apostles themselves are witnesses, whom Thou hast appointed rulers over the whole earth.
Arid yet they lived in this world without complaint, so humble and simple, without any malice or guile, that they even rejoiced to suffer reproaches for Thy Name; and what things the world flies from, those they embraced with great affection.
5. Nothing, therefore, ought to give so great a joy to one that loveth Thee and knoweth Thy benefits as the accomplishment of Thy will in himself, and the good pleasure of Thine eternal appointment.
With which He ought to be so far contented and comforted as to be as willing to be the least as anyone would wish to be the greatest; to enjoy as much peace and content in the lowest place as in the highest; and to be as willing to be despicable and mean and of no name and repute, as to be more honorable and of greater rank in the world than others.
For Thy will and the love of Thy honor ought to take precedence of all things, and to comfort and please one more than any benefits whatsoever which have been or can be given.
HAPPY the soul that is little in its own eyes, and is as content to be below all men, as others are desirous to be above them; that makes its merit and delight consist in being unknown, abject, and despised, and longs as ardently to become the reproach and the outcast of the world, as others do to be esteemed and honored by it. Such a soul is after God's own heart; it is great in the eyes of His majesty, and by its humility renders itself worthy of His greatest graces. To arrive at this degree of perfection we must love an abject and hidden life, do nothing for the sake of esteem or praise, cheerfully receive contempt and adversity as our due; accept, with humble submission, blame, contradiction, and calumny, and nourish ourselves with reproaches in imitation of Jesus Christ; esteeming it our greatest honor thus to resemble Him.
WHEN, O my Savior, shall the esteem of men, and the honor of the world become, as they ought to be, the disdain and the dread of my soul; humiliation and contempt, its joy and delight? Grant that the love which Thou hadst for contempt, Thou Who art the adoration of the Angels, may be the motive and the rule of my patience in bearing with it, who have deserved to become the eternal object of Thy hatred and malediction. Amen.