BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 26: OF THE EXCELLENCE OF A FREE MIND,
WHICH DEVOUT PRAYER RATHER MERITETH THAN READING
LORD, this is the work of a perfect man, never to let the mind slacken from attending to heavenly things, and amidst many cares to pass on as it were without care: not after the manner of an indolent person, but by a certain prerogative of a free mind, not cleaving with an inordinate affection to anything created.
2. Preserve me, I beseech Thee, O most merciful Lord God, from the cares of this life, that I be not too much entangled by them; from the many necessities of the body, that I be not ensnared by pleasure; and from all obstruction of mind, lest, overcome by molestations, I be quite cast down.
I do not say from those things which worldly vanity covets with so much eagerness; but from those miseries, which, by the common curse of our mortality, penally weigh down and keep back the soul of Thy servant from entering as often as it pleaseth into liberty of spirit.
3. O my God, unspeakable sweetness, turn from me into bitterness all carnal consolation, which withdraweth me from the love of things eternal, and wickedly allureth me to itself, by setting before me some delightful present good.
Let not flesh and blood, O my God, prevail over me; let it not overcome me; let not the world and its transitory glory deceive me; let not the devil supplant me by his craftiness.
Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, and constancy to persevere.
Give me, instead of all worldly consolation, the most sweet unction of Thy Spirit; and instead of carnal love, infuse into me the love of Thy Name.
4. Behold! eating, drinking, clothing, and other necessaries appertaining to the support of the body; are burdensome to the fervent spirit.
Grant that I may use such necessary supports with moderation, and not be entangled with any inordinate affection.
It is not lawful to cast them all away, for nature must be sustained; but to require superfluities, and such things as are rather for delight, Thy holy law forbiddeth; for otherwise the flesh would grow insolent against the spirit.
In all this, I beseech Thee, let Thy hand govern and teach me, that I may in no way exceed.
THE mortification of the senses, and the victory over our own humors, are so essential for salvation, that, in truth, the soul which gives itself to exterior objects, and is often more engaged upon itself than upon God, is totally unworthy of Him; because, when it gives itself to its passions, it can have no desire to please God. Ah! how will it change its ideas and sentiments at the hour of death! when, alone with God, it shall hear from Him this reproach: I have not been thine in time, I will not be thine for eternity? Thou hast preferred the pleasures of sense to the happiness of pleasing Me; it is just thou shouldst now be consigned to all the horrors of a miserable eternity!
"Thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime," was it said to the rich man when he complained in hell of the rigor of his torments; and so will it one day be said to those sensual souls who will not now restrain nor mortify themselves in anything, unless they endeavor to prefer the happiness of eternity to the pleasures of time, and to merit heaven by self-control.
GRANT me, O God, strength and courage to restrain the desires of my heart, that I may be free to possess Thee; grant that, renouncing all sensual gratifications, I may become pleasing and acceptable to Thee; happy in sacrificing all that can give me pleasure for the sake of pleasing Thee, and in spending my life in repairing Thy past displeasure by penance, and in preventing it in the future by fidelity. O penance, what charms hast thou for a soul that is penetrated with the love of God, and is resolved to avenge Him, and to punish itself! Amen.