On the Practices of a Good Religious
The life of a good Religious should shine with all the virtues, that he may be inwardly as he appears outwardly to men. Indeed, there should rightly be far more inward goodness than appears outwardly, for God Himself searches all hearts. We must revere Him above all things, and live purely in his sight as the angels. Each day we should renew our resolution, and bestir ourselves to fervour, as though it were the first day of our conversion, and say, `Help me, O Lord God, in my good resolve and in your holy service: grant me this day to begin perfectly, for hitherto I have accomplished nothing.'
As our purpose is, so will our spiritual progress be, and we need to be truly diligent if we wish to progress far. For if a man of firm resolution often encounters failure, how can any who seldom makes any firm resolve achieve anything? We fail in our purposes in various ways, and the light omission of our spiritual exercises seldom passes without certain loss to our souls. The resolution of good men depends more on the grace of God than on their own wisdom, and they put their whole trust in Hiin in all their undertakings. Man proposes, but God disposes, (Prov.16:9) and man's destiny is not in his own hands (Jer.10:23).
If any of our proper exercises are omitted in order to perform some act of mercy or help a brother, they may be resumed later. But if they are lightly set aside out of sloth or carelessness, this is blameworthy indeed, and will prove harmful to our souls. Try as we will, we shall still fail all too easily in many things. Nevertheless, we should always have a firm resolve, especially against such faults as most hinder our progress. We should carefully examine and order both our inner and outer life, since both are vital to our advance.
Although we cannot always preserve our recollection, yet we must do so from time to time, and at the least once a day, either in the morning or the evening. In the morning form your intention, and at night examine your conduct, what you have done, said, and thought during the day, for in each of these you may have often offended both God and your neighbour. Arm yourself manfully against the wickedness of the Devil (Eph.6:11); control the appetite, and you will more easily control all bodily desires. Never be entirely idle, but be reading or writing, in prayer or in meditation, or else be engaged in some work for the common good. But undertake manual employments with discretion, for they are not to be practised by all men alike. Those spiritual exercises which are not obligatory should not be made in public; for whatever is purely personal is best done in private.
Take care not to become careless in the common observances, preferring your personal devotions. But when you have fully and faithfully fulfilled all that you are bound to do, then, if there be time left, employ it in your own devotions. All cannot use the same kind of spiritual exercises, but one suits this person, and another that. Different devotions are suited also to the Seasons, some being best for the Festivals, and others for ordinary days. We find some helpful in temptations, others in peace and quietness. Some things we like to consider when we are sad, and others when we are full of joy in the Lord.
At the great Festivals good spiritual exercises should be renewed, and the prayers of the Saints implored more fervently than ever. From one Festival to another we should resolve so to live, as though we were then to depart from this world and come to the heavenly Feast. During holy seasons, therefore, we should prepare ourselves with care, and live ever more devoutly, keeping every observance more strictly, as though we were soon to receive the reward of our labours from God Himself.
If this reward be delayed, let us consider that we are not ready or worthy of the great glory which will be revealed (Rom.8:18) us at the appointed time: and let us strive to prepare ourselves better for our departure from this world, `Blessed is the servant,' writes Luke the Evangelist, `whom the Lord, when He comes, will find ready. I tell you truly that He will set over all His possessions(Matt.24:47).
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