The Imitation of Christ
Copyright © 2015, Daughters of St. Paul, Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3491, www.pauline.org
An Inspired Assortment of Readings from 'The Imitation of Christ' Link Above
Book 1, Chapter 14. Avoid rash judgment
- Look to yourself rather than judging the doings of others. In judging others, one wastes energy, errs often, and easily sins. But in looking at yourself and judging only yourself, you always gain. We often judge according to what we already have at heart, and thus make false assumptions based on our personal feelings. If God were always the sole object of our desire, we would not so easily be disturbed when our opinions are resisted.
- But often something [hidden (lurks)] within us, or an occurrence without (something), overcomes us. Many are unaware that they are secretly seeking themselves in whatever they do. They go along peacefully when things are done their way, but if something goes contrary to their desires, they become disturbed and sad. Differing thoughts and opinions frequently cause dissensions among friends and neighbors, even among religious and devout persons.
- An old habit is difficult to break. No one willingly goes beyond where they feel comfortable. If you rely more on your own reason or industry than on the power of Jesus Christ, it is unlikely, and only with great difficulty, that you will become an enlightened person. God wants us to rely completely on him and to overcome our reasoning with an ardent love.
Be attentive to your duties as you prepare to render an account of your life to God. If you have judged yourself carefully, God will not have to judge you. Above all guard against judging others. By attending to ourselves, we will avoid making rash judgments against our neighbor.
O God, grant me the grace to judge myself as I should. Remember your promise that if I judge myself you will not judge me. Fill my heart with humility and charity so that I will not pardon myself but that I will always pardon others. Amen.
Book 1, Chapter 16. Bear the defects of others
- Whatever is impossible to amend in one's self or in others, must be borne with patience until God decides otherwise. Keep in mind that this is better for you, because without such testing and patience your merits would be worth very little. And because of these hindrances, pray earnestly to God for the help to bear them.
- If someone is corrected once or twice and still does not comply, just leave the matter to God who knows best how to convert evil into good, so that God's will may be done, and that God be duly honored (see Mt 6:10). Endeavor to be patient in bearing the defects and weaknesses of others because there are many things about you that they too must bear. If you cannot make yourself what you would want to be, why do you have expectations about others? We want others to be perfect, but we do not correct our own faults.
- We wish that others would be vigorously corrected, and yet we are unable to accept correction. We are displeased at the extent of the liberty taken by others, and yet we do not want to be denied anything we request. We do not mind that others are bound by laws, but we cannot put up with any restraints. It is obvious that we seldom weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves. If everyone was perfect, what would we have to suffer for God's love?
- But now God has disposed things so that we can learn to bear one another's burdens (see Gal 6:2): for no one is without defect, no one without burdens, no one completely self-sufficient, no one wise enough. We must support one another (see Col 3:13), comfort one another, assist, instruct, and correct one another (see 1 Thess 5:11). The extent of each one's virtue is best seen in times of adversity. The occasion does not make anyone fragile; it demonstrates what he is already.
There are many reasons why we are obliged to bear the defects of others. Prudence is one of them. It is easier to support defects than to correct them, and it is not as difficult to tolerate defects when we practice patience. Justice is another reason: because we have defects that make us a bother to others. It is just that we bear their defects with the same meekness and kindness we ourselves expect. The pain our weakness and faults cause us should make us understanding and compassionate toward others. The conclusion is that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.
Imprint on my heart, Lord, your admonition to carry the burdens of others with patience and understanding. May I fulfill it lovingly for your glory and my salvation. Amen.
Book 1, Chapter 19. Practices of a good religious
- The good religious should excel in all virtues, so that he may be interiorly what he appears to be exteriorly. And with good reason, we should perfect the interior more than the exterior because it is God who sees us (see Prov 24:12). We should stand in awe of God wherever we are, and like the angels, be pure in God's sight. Every day we renew our resolution and excite ourselves to be fervent as if this were the first day of our conversion, saying: Lord God, help me in my good resolutions and in your holy service. Give me the grace today to begin anew, for what I have done so far is nothing.
- Depending on what our resolution is, so will our progress be, and if one wants to make much progress, he will need much diligence. If one who makes a solid resolution often fails, what will happen to the one who seldom or poorly makes resolutions? Failure to keep a resolution can happen in many ways, and a small omission in our exercises seldom passes without some loss. The resolutions of the just depend upon the grace of God rather than upon their own wisdom. They always trust in God, no matter what they do. While man proposes, it is God who disposes. The way of man is not in his own hands (see Jer 10:23).
- If you occasionally omit some part of your prayer schedule for some other good work or to do a good deed for another, you can easily remedy it later. If, however, through annoyance or negligence you pass over the omission lightly, it is not a small fault and later it will prove hurtful. Even with our best efforts, we are likely to fail many times. Always make a resolution on something definite, and in particular resolve against those things that hinder you most. It is important to examine and regulate both our exterior and interior because they are both necessary for our advancement.
- If it is impossible for you to be constantly recollected, make an effort to be so sometimes, at least once a day, either in the morning or evening. In the morning make a resolution and, in the evening, examine how you did. Look at what you said, did, or thought, to discover if you have offended God or your neighbor. Courageously prepare yourself to resist the wicked suggestions of the devil. Bridle gluttony, and you will more easily restrain all carnal inclinations. Never be altogether idle, rather be reading or writing, praying or meditating, or doing something to benefit the common good. Use discretion in bodily exertion. In this regard not, everyone is equally capable.
- Anything that is not common should not be done in public. It is better to do particular exercises privately. Take care not to be lazy about common exercises and zealous about your own particular devotion. Only after faithfully performing what you are bound to do and what is assigned can you devote any remaining time to what your own devotion inspires. Everyone cannot have the same exercise; someone may prefer this, and another will prefer something else. Preferences also differ according to the time or season. Some devotions are more proper on feast days, others on common days. We may find one type helpful during temptation, and another more suited for a time of peace and quiet. Some we willingly seek when we are sad, others when we rejoice in the Lord.
- As major feasts approach, we renew our good exercises and pray fervently for the saints' intercession. We ought to make our resolutions from one feast to another, as if we were about to depart from this world and enter the everlasting feast. Therefore, let us prepare ourselves well in times of devotion, conduct ourselves more fervently, and keep all the observances strictly, as though we were soon to receive from God the reward of our labor.
- And if this coming is deferred, let us believe that we are not prepared well enough and are still unworthy of the great glory to be revealed to us (see Rom 8: 18) at the appointed time. Let us endeavor to prepare well for our death. "Blessed the servant," says the evangelist Saint Luke, "who is found watching when his Master comes. Amen I say to you, he will be given charge over all his possessions" (Lk 12:43,44).
The lively and constant desire to disregard what we want and to live only in God and for God will motivate us to do what is required of us. It is always possible to do what we want. Our downfall is that we desire to please God only halfheartedly, while we wholeheartedly desire to please ourselves.
Grant me the grace, dear Jesus, to allow no time to elapse between desiring to do what pleases you and actually putting it into practice. Amen.
Book 1, Chapter 23. Meditation on death
- Very soon your time here will be finished. Check how well you are doing! We are here today, and tomorrow we are gone. And when we are out of sight, we are soon out of mind as well. Oh, the folly and the obstinacy of the human heart! We only think of the present and do not look to what lies ahead. You should regulate every action and thought as if death were imminent. If you have a good conscience, you will not fear death. It is better to flee sin than to fear death. If today you are not prepared, how will tomorrow be any better? Tomorrow is an uncertainty (see Jas 4:14); how do you know that you will be alive tomorrow?
- What profit is there in a long life when we make so little progress? Ah, a long life does not always make us better, it may add to our guilt. If only we lived with consistency for even a day! Many count the years of their conversion; but the fruit of amendment is very small. If the thought of death is frightening, it may prove more dangerous to live longer. Blessed the one who keeps death always before his eyes and is daily disposed to die. If you have ever seen someone die, reflect that you also must pass the same way (see Sir 38:22).
- In the morning imagine that you will not be alive by the evening. And when evening comes, do not presume you will see the next morning. Always be prepared; live so that death may never find you unprepared (see Mt 24:44). Many die unexpectedly: "For at an hour you do not know the Son of Man will come" (Lk 12:40). When that last hour does come, you will begin to rethink your entire life, and you will be very sorry for having been so negligent and careless.
- How happy and prudent the one who strives to live now as he would want to find himself at death. He can hope to die happily who has perfect contempt for this world, a fervent desire to advance in virtue, a love for discipline, the spirit of penance, promptness in obedience, self-denial and patience, bearing all adversities for the love of Christ. Many things can be done well while you have good health, but when you are sick, I am not sure what you will be able to do (see Jn 9:4). Just as few are improved by sickness, so those who often travel around rarely become saints.
- Do not place your trust in friends and relatives, nor put off the care of your soul for the future; others will forget you sooner than you imagine. If you are not solicitous for yourself now, who will be solicitous for you later? The present is very precious: "Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). But it is very sad that you do not spend this time more profitably in preparation for eternal life. The time will come when you will wish for just a single day, or at least one hour, to make amends, but I do not know that you will get it.
- So, go ahead, my dear ones! From what great danger you will be delivered and from what great fear you will be freed, if you are always attentive and prepared for death! Live now in a way so that when death comes you can rejoice and not be fearful. Learn now how to die to the world so that you may begin to live with Christ (see Rom 6:8). Learn now to despise all things that you may freely go to Christ. Chastise your body now by penance (see 1 Cor 9:27), so that you may have confidence then.
- How foolish to plan for a long life, when you are not sure of one day? (see Lk 12:20). How many thinking to live long were deceived and unexpectedly snatched away! How often have you heard the news of one slain by the sword, another drowned, another breaking his neck in a fall, another who died at table, or of one who met his end while at play? Some have perished by fire, some by the sword, some by disease, some by robbers, and so death is the end of all and "life passes suddenly like a shadow" (Ps 144:4).
- Who will remember you when you are dead and who will pray for you? Work, work, my dear ones! Do what you can right now because you do not know when you will die; nor do you know what will happen to you after death (see Eccl 9:10). While you have time put away for yourself riches that will never die! (see Mt 6:19). Think of nothing but your salvation, care for nothing but the things of God. Make friends for yourself now, by honoring God's saints and imitating their actions. Then when your life here is over, they will welcome you into everlasting dwellings.
- Remain a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth, one for whom this world's affairs hold no interest (see 1 Pet 2:11). Keep your heart free and raised toward God because you have no lasting home here (see Heb 13:14). With sighs and tears send your daily prayers heavenward so that after death your spirit may be worthy to pass with joy to our Lord. Amen.
The great secret of dying well is to always live with those dispositions with which we wish to be found by God at the point of death. Hence it is necessary to do good and to practice all the virtues. Let us detach our hearts from all things which we must leave at death. Thus, our death will truly be holy and precious in the sight of God.
Lord, grant me always to live in preparedness for death. And let me die the death of the just so that I may receive the crown of a life spent wholly for you. Amen.
Book 2, Chapter 9. Lack of all consolation
- It is not difficult to be without any human consolation when we have the consolation of God. But it would be almost insupportable to live without any human or divine consolation, and to be willing to bear this desolation of heart for God's honor, seeking nothing for oneself, not even merit. Is it surprising that you are cheerful and good when grace comes? This hour is desired by everyone. When carried by God's grace one travels the path of virtue easily. Is it really such a wonder if a person who is carried by the Almighty and led by this Sovereign Guide feels no stress?
- We gladly receive consolation, but only with difficulty can we be deprived of it. The holy martyr Lawrence, with his priest, triumphed over the world because he despised all of its delights. For the love of Christ, he patiently bore even separation from Pope Sixtus, whom he greatly loved. In this manner he overcame the love of man by the love of the Creator, preferring to please God rather than to enjoy human pleasure. We should, therefore, learn to part with a dear friend for the love of God. Do not be sorrowful if a friend abandons you, but reflect that one day we must leave each other forever.
- We must wage a long and painful internal struggle before we fully master ourselves and can center all of our affections on God. When one relies on himself, he easily turns to human consolations. But one who truly loves Jesus Christ and seeks to imitate him does not get lost searching for such sensible sweetness but seeks rather to exercise himself in strong trials and hard labors for love of Christ.
- Therefore, when God gives you spiritual consolation, receive it with thanksgiving, but reflect that it is a gift of God, not the result of your merit. Do not become puffed up, nor overjoyed, nor vainly presumptuous, but become more humble in this gift. Also, be more cautious and fearful in all you do, because this hour will pass away and temptation will follow. When consolation is taken from you, do not immediately despair, but with humility and patience wait for another heavenly visit because in his power God will gift you with a greater consolation. None of this is new or unknown to those who are experienced in the ways of God, for the great saints and the ancient prophets often experienced this kind of trial.
- Hence one said, at a time when he felt grace was in him, "I am confident that I shall never be moved" (Ps 30:6). But when grace was withdrawn, he immediately added what he experienced in himself saying, "You hid your face, and I was troubled" (Ps 30:7). Yet in these circumstances he does not despair, but prays to the Lord more earnestly, saying, "To you, LORD, I cry, imploring the mercy of my God" (Ps 30:8). In the end he obtains the fruit of his prayer and testifies to the fact that he was heard, by saying, "The LORD heard me and has mercy on me: the LORD is my helper" (Ps 30:10). How did this occur? "You have turned my mourning into a dance," he says. ''And you surrounded me with joy" (Ps 30:11). If this happened to the saints, we who are weak and poor should not be discouraged if we are sometimes fervent, sometimes cold, because the Holy Spirit comes and goes as he pleases. This is what Job meant in saying, "You visit him daily and test him continually" (Job 7:18).
- In what can I hope, then, or in what should I confide, if not in God's great mercy alone and in the hope of heavenly grace? There is little help and scant joy in good devout people, or faithful friends, or even in holy books or beautiful treatises, or lovely canticles and hymns, when I am abandoned by grace and left in my own misery. At a time like this there is no better remedy than patience and the acceptance of God's holy will.
- I have never encountered anyone so religious or devout that they never felt a lessening of grace or a decrease in fervor. There has never been a saint so caught up in ecstasy or enlightened by God that they were not tempted before or after the experience. This is because no one is worthy of deep contemplation who does not suffer some tribulation for God. Hence the temptation that precedes the experience is usually a sign of the consolation that follows. For heavenly consolation is promised to those who overcome temptation, "The one who is victorious," says the Lord, "I will permit to eat of the tree of life" (Rev 2:7).
- Divine consolation is given to help a person bear difficulty better. Temptation then follows so that one will not become proud in success. The devil never sleeps; neither is concupiscence already dead. Therefore, do not fail to prepare yourself for battle. There are enemies on the right hand and on the left, who never rest.
The spiritual life, one could say, is a combination of consolation and pleasure, along with desolation and aridity. God gives us the one for a time to strengthen us, and then the other to keep us humble. We must accept the first with humility, the second with resignation.
O Lord, grant me the grace to love you in every circumstance, whether I suffer or rejoice. I humbly ask this grace of you, Lord Jesus, for your greater glory and my eternal salvation. Amen.
Book 2, Chapter 11. Few love the cross of Jesus
- Jesus now has many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his cross. He has many who desire consolations, but few who desire tribulation. He finds many companions at table, but few in fasting. All desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer something for him and with him. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few follow him to the drinking of the chalice of his passion. Many venerate his miracles, but few follow him in the humiliation of the cross. Many love Jesus as long as they do not meet with any adversity. Many praise him and bless him as long as they receive consolation from him. But if Jesus hides himself and abandons them for a little while, they either complain or fall into extreme discouragement.
- But those who love Jesus for his own sake, not for any consolation of their own, bless him in every tribulation and anguish of heart as in the greatest consolation. And even if he never gave them his consolation, they would still always praise him and always want to thank him.
- Oh, how powerful is the love of Jesus when it is pure and not mixed with any self-interest or other love. Shouldn't those who are always seeking consolation be called mercenaries? Don't they show that they are more lovers of themselves than of Christ, if they are always thinking of their own comfort and gain? Where will we find someone who is willing to serve God gratuitously?
- Rarely do we find a person so spiritual as to be devoid of all things. Who can find the person who is truly poor in spirit and detached from the love of all created things? Such a person is "more valuable than precious stones" (Prov 31:10). If you were to distribute everything you own, it would still be nothing. And even if you were to do great penance, it would still be a little thing. And if you were to learn all knowledge, you would still be far away. And if you had great virtue and a very fervent devotion, much would still be lacking, that is, the one thing which is supremely necessary. And what is it? After having left all things, you also leave yourself completely and retain nothing of self-love. And when you have done everything that you thought should be done, believe that you have done nothing.
- Do not give much weight to what may be considered great, but in truth confess yourself to be a useless servant; as Truth himself has said: "When you have done all that was ordered, say, 'We are worthless servants, having done only what was required of us!'" (Lk 17:10). Then one who is truly poor and naked in spirit may say with the prophet, "I am alone and in distress" (Ps 25:16). However, no one will be richer, no one more powerful, no one freer than a person who knows how to abandon himself in all things and put himself in the last place.
How many Christians there are who adore Jesus, poor, suffering, and crucified for their love, but are themselves unwilling to suffer or be deprived of anything. Yet, by his whole life and death, our Savior provided an example of generous renunciation of the things of this world and patience in bearing our crosses. What would be the use of adoring Jesus Christ as our way, Truth, and Life, if we fail to imitate his examples?
O Lord, grant me the grace to practice your teachings and imitate your examples. May I be able to say with the saints: Christ is my life. To die is of great advantage to me, so that I may live only in him, of him, and for him. Amen.
Book 2, Chapter 12. The royal road of the cross
- To many this seems a hard saying: "Jesus told his followers, 'Whoever wants to become my disciple must deny self and shoulder the cross and follow me'" (Mt 16:24). But it will be much harder to hear that last word: "Leave me and go into the eternal fire" (Mt 25:41). Those, however, who at present willingly hear and follow the precept of the cross will not then be afraid of hearing the sentence of eternal damnation. This sign of the cross will appear in heaven when the Lord will come to judge us. Then all the servants of the cross, who in life have conformed themselves to the crucified Jesus, shall approach Christ their Judge with great confidence.
- Why then are you afraid to take up that cross, which leads to the kingdom? In the cross there is salvation; in the cross there is life; in the cross there is protection from your enemies; in the cross there is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the cross there is strength of mind; in the cross there is spiritual joy; in the cross there is the fullness of virtue; in the cross there is the perfection of sanctity. There is no health for the soul or hope of eternal life except in the cross. Therefore, take up your cross and follow Jesus, and you will attain eternal life. He has preceded you carrying his cross. He died for you upon the cross so that you may also bear your cross and desire to die on the cross. "If we die with Christ, our belief is that we will live with him" (Rom 6:8). If we are his companions in suffering, we shall also be partakers in his glory.
- And so all is reduced to the cross, and all consists in dying on it. There is no road that leads to life and to true interior peace except the holy road of the cross and of daily self-denial. Go where you wish and seek as much as you wish; you will not find a more sublime road above, nor a safer way below, than the road of the holy cross. Arrange everything as you please, as it seems best to you, but you will always find something you will have to suffer, either willingly or unwillingly. You will always find the cross. For you will either feel pain in your body or have to endure some spiritual difficulty in your soul.
- Often you will be abandoned by God, often you will be troubled by your neighbor, and what is more, you will often be a burden to yourself. Neither will you find any remedy or comfort which can free you or relieve you, but you must bear with it as long as God wills. For if God wants you to learn to suffer tribulation without comfort, it is so that you may surrender yourself entirely to him and so become more humble through tribulation. No one feels the passion of Christ more intimately than one who has suffered as he did. The cross, then, is always ready and waits for you in every place. You cannot escape it wherever you run. For wherever you go you carry yourself with you, and you will always find yourself. Look up or look down; look out or look in; and in all directions you will find the cross. And so, it is necessary for you to be patient everywhere, if you wish to have interior peace and merit the eternal crown.
- If you bear the cross willingly, it will bear you and lead you to the desired end, to that place where suffering will end, a place impossible to find here on earth. If you bear it unwillingly, you make it a heavier burden for yourself, while you still have to bear it. If you fling away one cross, you will certainly find another, perhaps heavier one.
- Do you think to escape that which no one can ever escape? What saint was there without crosses and tribulations in this world? Our Lord Jesus Christ himself was not without suffering even for one hour of his life: "It is so written: The Messiah is to suffer and on the third day rise from the dead" (Lk 24:46, Lk 24:26), and so enter into his glory. Why do you seek a way other than this royal road, the road of the holy cross?
- The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom, and you seek rest and happiness? You are wrong, so wrong, if you seek anything other than to suffer tribulations, because this earthly life is full of miseries and riddled with crosses. The more a person progresses spiritually, the heavier the crosses are to bear, because the pain of exile increases in proportion to love.
- Yet the one, who in so many ways is afflicted, is not without some relief and consolation because he feels the great benefit derived from bearing his cross. Although he willingly submits, his burden of tribulation is changed into hope of heavenly consolation. And the more the body is weakened by affliction, the more the spirit is strengthened by interior grace. In fact, sometimes, one gains such comfort from the thought of tribulations and adversities, and the desire to conform to the cross of Christ, that there is the fear of being without suffering. One imagines the more he bears and the heavier his crosses, the more pleasing he is to God. This is not because of virtue, for only by the grace of Jesus Christ are such things possible to our frail flesh. It is spiritual fervor that allows man to undertake with love that which he naturally abhors and flees.
- It is not easy for anyone to bear the cross with love, to chastise the body and make it serve willingly, to flee from honors and to desire reproaches, to despise oneself and desire to be despised, to tolerate all adversity and loss while not desiring prosperity in this life. Looking at yourself, you realize the impossibility of all this, but the strength will come from confidence in the Lord. And with the thought of heaven, you will find that you are able to control yourself. Armed with faith and signed with the cross of Christ, there will be no fear of the infernal enemy either.
- Convince yourself, then, as a good and faithful servant of Christ who was crucified for love of you, to bear his cross bravely. Be prepared to endure any type of adversity and discomfort in this sad world, for you will find these constantly no matter how you try to avoid them. They are part of life, and there is no way to escape from evil or suffering; it is necessary that they be endured. Eagerly drink the Lord's chalice if you wish to be his friend and companion. As for consolations, let God give them as it pleases him. On your part prepare yourself to bear tribulations and consider them as the greatest consolations. "The sufferings of this life are not worthy of the glory to come" (Rom 8:18), even if you were to suffer all of them by yourself.
- When you have become convinced that tribulation is sweet and, for the love of Christ, pleasing to you, then realize that you are in a good place, for you have found paradise on earth. As long as you cannot bear suffering and you seek to avoid it, all will go wrong with you and tribulation will follow you wherever you go.
- If you resign yourself to what has to be, that is suffering and death, things will immediately become better, and you will find peace. Even though you were taken up to the third heaven as was Saint Paul (see 2 Cor 12:2-4), you would not because of this be guaranteed no suffering. Jesus said, "I will make it clear to him how much he will suffer in my name" (Acts 9:16). Therefore, suffering awaits you if you wish to love Jesus and serve him always.
- Would to God you were worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus! What great glory would be yours, how much joy would come to all God's saints, and what an example it would be for your neighbor! Everyone recommends patience, but few want to suffer. Meanwhile you should willingly suffer a little for Christ, considering how greatly many suffer for the world.
- Keep firmly in mind that it is good to always live as though you were about to die. The more you die to yourself, the more you begin to live in God. None of us will be able to comprehend heavenly things unless we willingly bear adversities for love of Christ. Nothing is more pleasing to God, and nothing is more salutary for you in this world, than to willingly suffer adversities for Christ. If you were free to choose, your preference should be to suffer adversities for Christ rather than to be comforted by many consolations, because this suffering would make you more like Christ and more similar to the saints. Our merit and our progress do not consist in having many sweet consolations, but rather in tolerating great calamities and great tribulations.
- If anything was more useful for our salvation than suffering, Christ would certainly have taught it to us by word and example. He clearly exhorts his followers to bear the cross, saying: "Those who want to be my followers, must deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow me" (Mk 8:34/Lk 9:23). After having read and meditated on all these things, let the conclusion be, that "it is only through persecutions that we enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
The only road that leads to heaven is the royal road of the cross. Jesus Christ, way, Truth, and Life has taught us this. Therefore, we must be resigned to suffer with patience and, if possible, with joy, in order to make amends for our sins. We suffer for love of Jesus, who suffered and died for our salvation.
O Lord, speak to my heart. Strengthen me with your grace, teach me to accept with joy, patience, and resignation the daily crosses which, in your mercy, you send to purify my imperfections. Father of mercy and God of consolations, receive me into heaven so that I may live and enjoy you for all eternity. Amen.
Book 3, Chapter 19. Support of injuries proves true patience
- What are you saying, my child? Instead of complaining, consider my passion and the sufferings of the saints. "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb 12:4). What you suffer is little in comparison to those who suffered so much, who were strongly tempted, grievously afflicted, tried and tested in many ways. Therefore, you must recall the gravity of the tribulations that others have suffered, so that you may more easily bear your own small miseries. And if they do not seem small to you, make sure that your judgment does not stem from your impatience. But whether they are small or great, try to bear them with patience.
- The better you dispose yourself to suffer, the more wisely you will act, and you will have greater merit. If your mind has been prepared for it and has become accustomed to it, you will find it easier to suffer. Do not say: "I cannot tolerate these things from this person. I shouldn't have to suffer these things, because he has done me great harm and has reproached me for things I never thought of doing. I will suffer willingly, however, at the hands of another, and in the manner that I shall deem best." Such thoughts are foolish because they do not consider the virtue of patience, nor the One who will bestow the crown. Rather, they consider only that person and the offense that has been given.
- You are not truly patient if you want to suffer only so much, and only from those you choose. A truly patient person does not mind who does the testing, whether that person excels over you, is your peer, or is subordinate, whether a good and holy person, or someone wayward and unworthy. One who is patient will be indifferent toward the source of the adversity, receiving it all with gratitude from the hands of God, and with a positive outlook. Nothing, no matter how small, if suffered for God, will go unrewarded.
- Therefore, be prepared to fight if you want to gain the victory, for "no one is crowned without competing according to the rules" (2 Tim 2:5). So, if you do not want to suffer, you are refusing to be crowned. If, however, you desire to be crowned, fight bravely and endure with patience. Without labor one cannot rest. Without fighting one cannot be victorious.
- Lord, may your grace make possible to me what seems, by nature, impossible. You know how little I can suffer and how quickly I am discouraged by a small difficulty. For your name's sake, help me find all trials lovable and desirable, knowing that to suffer affliction for your love is very good for my soul.
What are our sufferings when compared to those of Jesus and of the saints? Whatever evils befall us, it is always God who sends them to us in order to humble us. Patience is an indispensable duty, because without it we cannot merit anything. The practice of patience means: (1) to accept all adversities with resignation; (2) to think that those who make us suffer are instruments used by God to humiliate us; (3) to thank God in time of adversity as well as in time of prosperity, saying with Job: "The Lord has given, the Lord has taken, may the name of the Lord be blessed" (Job 1:21).
O my God, may your grace make me capable of doing what my corrupt nature thinks difficult or impossible. Infuse in me the virtue of patience. Amen.
Book 3, Chapter 43. Against useless, worldly learning
- My child, do not be affected by the beautiful and subtle sayings of men, "for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (1 Cor 4:20). Listen to my words, which inflame hearts and enlighten minds. They will excite you to sorrow and bless you with consolations. Never read anything in order to appear more learned or wise. Instead learn to mortify your vices, for this will benefit you more than the knowledge of many difficult questions.
- When you are well-read and very knowledgeable, you must still turn to the one source. I am he who teaches men knowledge and gives a clearer understanding to little ones than that taught by men (see Ps 119:130). The one to whom I speak will soon be wise and will greatly profit in spirit. Woe to those who inquire after many things yet have little curiosity about how to serve me. The time will come when Christ, the Master of masters, the Lord of angels, will appear to listen to everyone's lessons, that is, to examine the conscience of everyone. And he will search Jerusalem with lamps
(see Zeph 1:12), and the things hidden in darkness will be brought to light (see 1 Cor 4:6), and all arguments will be silenced.
- I am he who in an instant can infuse into a humble mind greater understanding of the eternal truth than one might gain in ten years of study. I teach without the sound of words, without the confusion of opinions, without the ambition of honor, and without the strife of arguments. I teach you to despise earthly things, to hate present things, to seek and enjoy eternal things, to flee from honors, to endure scandals, to place all hope in me, to desire nothing outside of me, and above all things to love me fervently.
- A certain person, by loving me intimately, learned divine secrets and spoke of marvelous things. He learned more by abandoning everything than by studying all subtleties. To some I speak of common things, to others of more particular things. To some I appear sweetly in signs and figures; to others in great light I reveal mysteries. Books say the same thing to everyone, but the lesson is not the same for each because I, within it, am the Teacher of truth, the Searcher of the heart. I understand thoughts. I motivate actions, distributing my gifts to each one as I see fit.
The Word was made flesh and lived among us to make us Christians and saints. He spoke to us to make us understand the conceit of human sciences and to teach us that the only true science is that of our eternal salvation. This science is acquired not only by the study of the sacred books, but also and especially by loving God with our whole mind, will, and heart. Let us, therefore, go to the school of Jesus Master, way, Truth, and Life·
Invite me, Lord, to attend your school: Make me simple and docile as a child, so that I may learn your divine science and love you with all my mind, will, and heart. Amen.
Book 3, Chapter 46. Confidence in God when criticized
- My child, stand firm and trust in me for what are words, but merely words? They may fly through the air but hurt not even a stone. If you are guilty of what has been said, think of how you can willingly correct yourself. If your conscience does not accuse you, think of how you can willingly suffer this for love of God. The least you can do is to put up with a few words sometimes, if you are not yet able to endure harsher blows. And why do you take such trifles so much to heart, except that your nature is still so carnal and you regard the opinions of others more than you should? Since you so fear being despised, you are not willing to be corrected for your faults and seek refuge in excuses.
- But look inside yourself more carefully and you will find that the world is still within you along with a foolish desire to please others. While you refuse to be humbled and confronted for your defects, it is obvious that you are neither truly humble nor have you died to the world, nor has the world been crucified to you. But listen to my word and disregard the ten thousand words said by others. Look! Even if all the things that malicious people could invent were said against you, what harm could it do to you if you let it pass and give it no more value than a piece of straw? Do you suppose they can even pluck one hair from you?
- But one who does not maintain recollection, nor keep God before his eyes, is easily upset by a disparaging word. On the other side, one who trusts in me and doesn't try to defend his own judgment will fear no one. I am the judge and discerner of all secrets. I know the truth of the matter. I know both the one who inflicts injury and the one who suffers it. From me came this word: I have permitted that it happens "so that the thoughts out of many hearts might be revealed" (Lk 2:35). I will judge the guilty and the innocent. But by a secret judgment they will both be tried beforehand.
- The testimony of men is often deceiving, but my judgment is true. It will stand firm and not be overthrown. For the most part it is hidden and its meaning revealed to a very few. However, it never errs, nor is it even capable of erring, although to the eyes of the foolish it may not seem right. Therefore, have recourse to me in every decision and do not depend on your own judgment. A just person will be untroubled no matter what God permits to happen to him. And if any unjust charge is made against him, he will remain unmoved. Neither will he vainly rejoice if he is justified. For he realizes that it is I who search the heart and the inner motivations (see Ps 7:10); I who judge not on face value, as it may appear to men. It often happens that what I find blameworthy is judged commendable by men.
- O Lord God, the just Judge, you who are strong and patient and aware of human frailty and depravity, be my strength and my entire confidence, for my own conscience is not sufficient for me. You know that which I do not know, and therefore in every reprimand I should humble myself and accept it meekly. In your mercy, kindly pardon me for the times I have not done this, and in the future give me the grace to suffer still more. In order to obtain the pardon, I ask, it is better to rely on your abundant mercy than on my own imaginary justice to defend my hidden integrity. Although my conscience does not accuse me, I am in no position to justify myself (see 1 Cor 4:4), for without your mercy, "no one living can be justified in your sight" (Ps 143:2).
In this chapter the author tries to persuade and convince us to disregard the opinions and judgments of all others, and not to be disturbed by anything they may say in regard to us. We must try to profit from these calumnies in order to become more humble and patient. God alone is our judge and knows the very depths of our soul.
O Lord God, just Judge, you know the fragility and malice of men. Therefore, be my strength and my hope. Mercifully grant me your pardon for all the times I have foiled to follow your counsel and advice. Amen.
Book 3, Chapter 49. Desire for eternal life and promises to those who persevere
- My child, when you are aware that a desire for heaven has been infused from above and that you long to depart from your body in order to contemplate my glory where there is no change, enlarge your heart, open your affections to receive this holy inspiration. Greatly thank the Divine Goodness, who favors you so, mercifully visits you, ardently excites you, and powerfully raises you up so that your own weight won't drag you back to the things of the earth. Remember that it is not your own thoughts or endeavors that have attained this, but it is only by the favor of heavenly grace and the visit of God. It is so that you may advance in virtues, possess greater humility, prepare yourself for future conflicts, and work with your whole heart to remain near me and serve me fervently.
- My child, fire burns, but the flame doesn't ascend without smoke. So, it is that some people's wishes burn with heavenly desire, and still they are not free from the temptation of carnal affection. Therefore, it is not that they act solely for God's honor when they so earnestly pray. And this is true also of your desire, which you have admitted is so strong at times. What is tainted with self-interest is not yet pure and perfect.
- Don't ask for what is delightful and convenient for you, but for what is pleasing to me and for my honor. For if your judgment is upright, you should follow what I have ordained rather than what you desire or find pleasing. I know your desire, and I have often heard your sighs. You would like to be in the liberty of the glory enjoyed by the children of God. You dream of being in your eternal home, in your heavenly country filled with joy, but that time has not yet come. For now, there is another time, a time of war, a time of labor, and of probation. You desire to be filled with the highest good, but you can't attain it yet. I am that Sovereign Good: "Wait for me, says the Lord, until the kingdom of God comes" (Zeph 3:8).
- You still face trials here on earth and must better yourself in many ways. You will receive consolation at times, but full satisfaction will not be granted to you. Take courage, therefore, and be brave in doing, as well as in suffering, things that are repugnant to your nature. You must put on the new man in order to have the likeness of God (Eph 4:24). You must often do what you don't want to do and leave undone what you would like to do. What pleases others will succeed while what pleases you shall not. What is said by others will be heard, yet your words will be ignored. When others ask, they will receive, you will ask and not receive.
- Others will be great in the world's opinion, but of you nothing will be said. This or that matter will be entrusted to others, while you will be accounted of no use. Your nature may react to this, so to bear it silently will be no small thing. It is in these and in like things that the faithful servant is tried in order to demonstrate his ability to deny himself and control his desires. There is almost nothing more necessary than dying to self, as you recognize and suffer what is opposed to your will. This is especially true when what is commanded seems inconvenient and of little use. And because you dare not resist the authority of the superior, you are apt to think it is hard to be at the beck and call of another and to completely give up your own opinion.
- But consider the fruit of these labors, how quickly they pass and their great reward. Then you won't find them a suffering, but rather a consolation in suffering. For that little bit of your will that you now readily renounce, you shall possess your will forever in heaven. There you will find all that you have wanted, all that you ever desired. There your will shall be one with mine, and you will never desire anything extraneous or personal. There no one will resist you, complain of you, or obstruct you. Nothing will stand in your way. Every good you desire will be present simultaneously, and all your affections will be replenished and satisfied. There I will replace the shame you have suffered with glory, a garment of praise in place of your mourning, and for having been seated in the lowest place here, a royal throne in my kingdom for all eternity. There the fruit of obedience will appear, the work of penance rejoices, and humble subjection be crowned gloriously.
- Therefore, bow down humbly under the hands of all regardless of who gave the order or what was commanded. Take great care, whether your superior, an inferior, or an equal; asks anything of you, or hints at anything, that you accept the request and work diligently to carry it out. Let one seek this, another that. Let this person find praise in this thing, another in that, and let them be praised over and over. For your part, rejoice in none of this, but in contempt of yourself and in my good pleasure and honor alone. This ought to be your wish: that whether in life or in death, God may always be glorified in you.
The anticipated pleasure, the consolations and delights of the future life that God gives us in this life, are given to uphold and strengthen us in the trials, battles, and temptations we experience. Therefore, when God gives us these precious moments, let us fulfill our duties with greater fidelity, zeal, and fervor.
Lord, open my heart so that I may receive your favors with joy and gratitude. Make me realize that these are your gifts and that you give them to me to make me more humble and patient, detached from all creatures, perfectly resigned to your divine will, and ready to obey you in all. Amen.
Book 3, Chapter 53. The grace of God is not communicated to the worldly
- My child, my grace is precious. It does not mingle with external things or with earthly consolations. You must get rid of every obstacle to grace if you desire to receive it. Choose a quiet place for yourself and enjoy dwelling within yourself alone. Do not speak with anyone, but rather pour out devout prayers to God, that you may remain recollected and pure of conscience. Think of the whole world as nothing. Prefer being with God more than all external occupations. For you cannot be attentive to me and at the same time take delight in passing things. You must be separated from all acquaintances, as well as from your dearest friends, and not think of temporal consolation. For this reason, the blessed Apostle Peter recommends the faithful of Christ to live as strangers and pilgrims in this world (see 1 Pet 2:11).
- Oh, how confident at death will be the one who is not held by affection for anything in the world! But a weak soul is not yet capable of perfectly detaching the heart from things, neither does the sensual person understand the freedom of a spiritual person. But if one wants to be truly spiritual, he must renounce not only those who are near, but also those who are afar, and to beware particularly of himself. If you master yourself perfectly, you will more easily tame all other things. The perfect victory is to triumph over oneself. For the one who keeps self in subjection, so that sensuality obeys reason, and reason obeys me in all things, is indeed conqueror of himself and master of the world.
- If you really desire to climb this mountain you must be strong from the outset. Wield the axe at the root so as to chop off and destroy any secret, inordinate personal inclination, or any attraction to a private or material good. All that needs to be rooted out and overcome stems from this vice of inordinate self-love. Once it is conquered, a great peace and tranquility ensue. However, since few work at this perfect death to self, or try to come out of themselves, they remain entangled in themselves and cannot be elevated in spirit above themselves. Anyone who desires to walk freely with me needs to mortify all his perverse and inordinate affections and not cling to any created thing with any concupiscence or special love.
In order to obtain special graces and favors from God, we must voluntarily set ourselves apart from creatures and be recollected. In fact, we must also be detached from ourselves and give ourselves entirely up to prayer and meditation. It is necessary to eliminate our self-love. Once this is accomplished, it will be easy for us to overcome all our other dejects.
O Lord, grant me this grace of detachment from all creatures and above all from myself May my mind and heart be centered only in you, and so may I possess you forever in heaven. Amen.
Book 3, Chapter 56. Deny self and imitate Christ carrying the cross
- My child, you will be able to enter into me to the extent that you go out of yourself. As desiring nothing external brings peace, so leaving yourself behind freely joins you interiorly to God. I would like you to learn perfect self-renunciation according to my will, without contradiction or complaint. Follow me, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; and without the life there is no living. I am the Way that you must follow, the Truth that you must believe, the Life that you must hope for. I am the Way inviolable, the Truth infallible, and the Life interminable. I am the straightest Way, the sovereign Truth, the true Life, the blessed Life, and uncreated Life. If you continue in my way, you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (see Jn 8:32), and you will attain everlasting life.
- "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). If you wish to know the truth, believe me. "If you want perfection, go and sell your possessions" (Mt 19:21). If you wish to be my disciples, deny yourself. If you wish to have a blessed life, do not get lost in this present life. If you wish to be exalted in heaven, humble yourself in this world. If you wish to reign with me, carry the cross with me. No one but the servants of the cross find their way to the light and happiness of heaven.
- Lord Jesus, although your way is narrow and despised by the world, may I follow you despite the world's contempt. "A disciple is not greater than his teacher, nor a slave above his master" (Mt 10:24). Train me by the example of your life, for there is my salvation and true sanctity. I am neither refreshed nor delighted by anything else that I read or hear.
- My child, now that you know these things and have read them all, blessed will you be if you carry them out (see Jn 13:17). "Those who have received my commandments and keep them are the ones who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal to them myself" (Jn 14:21), and I will bring them to sit down with me in the kingdom of my Father.
- Lord Jesus, let everything be as you promised, and let me merit it, too. I have received the cross from your hand. I will carry it until my death because you have given it to me. I see that the life of a fervent person is a cross, but that cross is also the guide that leads to heaven. We have started out and may not go back, nor may we abandon it.
- Take courage, friends. Let us go on together. Jesus will be with us. For him we have picked up the cross; for his sake let us continue on. He will help us as our Captain and our Forerunner. Our King who marches ahead of us will also fight for us. Let us follow him courageously. Let no one be afraid. Let us prepare to die heroically in the battle; let us not disgrace ourselves by flying from the cross.
A true imitator of Jesus Christ is one who is willing to suffer, but who never makes others suffer. All spiritual and material trials and tribulations are received from God's hands. All adversities are borne patiently as if they come from God's justice, although they are often caused by the injustice of men. One who follows Christ considers it a misfortune not to suffer anything for God and for eternal salvation.
O my Redeemer. my crucified Christ, grant me the grace to live and die happily in the shadow of the cross, because you saved me by your holy death on the cross. Amen.