Monday, February 1, 2010

Food for Thought

This weekend one of the priests on the faculty shared the following words from Archbishop Goodier, who served many years ago in India. They seemed really powerful and mad me think. I hope you enjoy them.

When I was younger, a novice in religion,
and knew myself less, and knew others less,
and was full of high ambitions in the spiritual life,
and sought in books and in study,
in thought-out plans and schemes on paper
for guides to the summit of perfection,
I set virtues before me, and meditated on their beauty,
and proposed to myself to acquire them,
sub-dividing them, analyzing them,
arranging their degrees as the steps of a ladder.

This week, as the good spiritual writers bade me,
I would acquire the virtue of patience;
next week it should be a carefully guarded tongue;
the week after should be given to charity;
then should come the spirit of prayer;
and in a month or two, perhaps, I might have an ecstasy
and “see the Lord.”

But now, when I have grown older, and find myself
still struggling for the first of these virtues,
and that in a very elementary degree,
and have been taught quite other lessons than I dreamt of,
in part by the sorry disappointments in my own soul,
in part by the progress seen in the souls of others,
I am convinced there is one road to perfection better than all else—
in fact, that if we neglect this one no other will be of much avail.

….it is not possible to grow in the knowledge, and love,
and imitation of Jesus Christ, without at the same time
growing in the perfection of every virtue
and becoming more a saint every day.

This, then, if I were allowed to start my spiritual life over again,
is the line along which I would try to live it;
and is the line along which I would try to lead
the lives of any whom God gave into my care.
Particular virtues are good things—of course they are;
it is much to be always patient,
to be diligent in the use of our time,
to be considerate of those who try us,
to keep our tongue in control;
nevertheless, “Do not the heathens do this?”
And is it not possible to possess all these, and yet,
on their very account, to remain as proud as Lucifer?
I would go further and say that the devil himself
must possess many of these virtues;
he can certainly bide his time, he can be very busy,
he can speak honeyed words,
he can accommodate himself to everybody’s needs,
he can be the most attractive of companions.
But these things are not the main issue;
they are often no more than the paint on the surface;
and true sanctity only begins when the affected.

And this is done, almost alone, by love;
when the creature loves, then it is changed,
and till then scarcely at all.
Thus it is that the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ
goes deeper down than any stoic striving after virtue;
it is flesh and blood where the other is but bleached bones;
it gives life and substance where the other is only dead perfection;
the imitation of Jesus Christ includes every virtue,
makes them unconsciously our own, produces them from itself,
and does not merely put them on from without,
even as the brown earth gives forth the beauty of spring flowers
and does not know it.

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