When will be the time of this complete abandonment? How long will this agony be prolonged? This is a secret known only to God.
POVERTY, chastity, obedience, and charity--such are the virtues suitable and characteristic of the religious. In this little treatise we have endeavoured to trace the features of the last.
In every community we can distinguish two sorts of religious-- those who mount and those who descend--those whose face is towards the path of perfection, and those who have turned their back to it. Perhaps amongst these latter some have only one more step to abandon it altogether. Now we mount or descend, proceed or retrace our steps, in proportion as we practise these four virtues or neglect them.
A religious Order is like a fire balloon, which requires four conditions in order to rise into the clouds amidst the applause of the spectators. First, the rarefaction of the air by fire. This represents the vow of poverty, which empties the heart through the hands, and substitutes the desire of heavenly goods for those of earth. Second, release from the cords which bind it down. This represents the effects of the vow of chastity, which, by breaking human attachments, permits us to soar towards God with freedom and rapidity. Third, a man who will feed the fire and moderate the flight of the balloon upwards. This represents the right which the vow of obedience places in the hands of the Superior, to nourish the sacred fire, and direct the sublime movement of the soul and foresee dangers. Fourth, the union of its component parts. This represents the operations of charity, in causing all the members of a community to have but one heart and one soul.
Possessing these four virtues, a religious Order soars in the heights of perfection; but if one of these be wanting it falls helplessly, and is no longer an object of edification, but of scandal and ridicule.
When it happens that some members, losing the spirit of their state, abandon their holy vocation, we may say with St. John: "They went out from us; but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but that they might be made manifest that they are not all of us" (1 John ii.). They appeared to have the religious virtues, but in reality one or all were wanting to them.
O God, do not permit that lukewarmness or an uncontrolled passion will ever make me waver in my vocation. During life and at death I wish to remain a faithful religious, so that I may find the salvation which Thou hast promised by procuring Thy glory. As good grain improves by pulling up the weeds, and the body becomes healthy when purged of bad humours, pour into my soul the grace and unction which others refuse, in order that, practising more perfectly from day to day poverty, chastity, obedience, and charity, and redoubling my ardour and zeal to my last hour, I may obtain the priceless treasure promised to those who have quitted all to follow Thee. Amen.
THE PRACTICE OF FRATERNAL CHARITY (FATHER FABER)
1. OFTEN reflect on some good point in each of your brethren.
2. Reflect on the opposite faults in yourself.
3. Do this most in the case of those whom we are most inclined to criticize.
4. Never claim rights or even let ourselves feel that we have them, as this spirit is most fatal both to obedience and charity.
5. Charitable thoughts are the only security of charitable deeds and words. They save us from surprises, especially from surprises of temper.
6. Never have an aversion for another, much less manifest it.
7. Avoid particular friendships.
8. Never judge another. Always, if possible, excuse the faults we see, and if we cannot excuse the action, excuse the intention. We cannot all think alike, and we should, therefore, avoid attributing bad motives to others.
They have a disregard of self and a desire to accommodate others.
They rejoice with their companions in their joys and recreations, and grieve with them in their afflictions.
They try to bring all the good they can to the community and to avert all the evil. They begin with themselves, by being as little trouble as possible to others.
With great charity and affability they bear with the faults and shortcomings of others, careful to fulfil the law of Christ, which tells us to bear one another's burdens.
They dispense to others what they have for their own advantage; more particularly do they give spiritual assistance by prayer and the other spiritual works of mercy.
They never contradict anyone. They never speak against anyone.
They are convinced that charity, holy friendships, and concord form the great solace of this life, and that no good ever came from dissensions and disputes.
They consider that God is ever in the midst of those who live united together by the bonds of holy love.
We will do likewise if we consider the image of God in the souls of our brethren. As we form one body here and one spirit in the same faith and charity, let us hope not to be separated hereafter, but to belong for ever to that one body in heaven when faith and hope shall disappear, but where charity alone shall remain, and remain for ever.
_R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1, 2 & 4 Paternoster Row_