On the Examples of the Holy Fathers
Consider the glowing examples of the holy Fathers, in whom shone true religion and perfection; compared with them, we do little or nothing. Alas, how can our life be compared with theirs! The Saints and friends of Christ served Our Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in toil and weariness: in watching and fasting, in prayer and meditation, in persecutions and insults without number (Heb.9:38; ICor.4:11).
How countless and constant were the trials endured by the Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, and all those others who strove to follow in the footsteps of Christ. These all hated their lives in this world, that they might keep them to life eternal (John 12:35). How strict and self-denying was the life of the holy Fathers in the desert! How long and grievous the temptations they endured! How often they were assaulted by the Devil! How frequent and fervent their prayers to God! How strict their fasts! How great their zeal and ardor for spiritual progress! How valiant the battles they fought to overcome their vices! How pure and upright their intention towards God!
All day long they labored, and the night they gave to continuous prayer; even as they worked, they never ceased from mental prayer. They spent all their time with profit, every hour seeming short in the service of God. They often forgot even their bodily needs in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced all riches, dignities, honors, friends and kindred; they desired to possess nothing in this world. Scarcely would they take the necessities of life, and only with reluctance would they provide for the needs of the body. Thus, though destitute of earthly goods, they were abundantly rich in grace and all virtues. Outwardly they were poor, but inwardly they were refreshed with grace and heavenly consolation. They were strangers to the world, but to God they were dear and familiar friends (Exod.33:11). To themselves they were nothing, but in the eyes of God they were precious and beloved. Grounded in true humility, they lived in simple obedience, they walked in charity and patience; (Eph.5:2) and thus daily increased in the Spirit, and received great grace from God. They were given for an example to all Religious, and they should encourage us to advance in holiness, rather than the lukewarm should incline us to laxness.
How deep was the fervor of all Religious at the foundation of their Order! How great was their devotion in prayer, and their zeal for virtue! How strict was their observance of the Rule! What respect and obedience to the direction of the Superior flourished in those days! Their examples still witness that they were indeed holy and perfect men, who fought valiantly, and trampled the world under their feet. But in these days, any who is not a breaker of rules, or who obeys with patience is accounted outstanding!
Oh, the carelessness and coldness of this present time! Sloth and luke warmness makes life wearisome for us, and we soon lose our early fervor! May the longing to grow in grace not remain dormant in you, who have been privileged to witness so many examples of the holy life.
1. Wisd 3:6 4. Exod. 33, ll.
2. Heb 11:38; 5. Ephes. 5, 2.
I Cor 4:11
3. John 12:25
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