Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Imitation of the Saints

1. We are taught by words, and we are attracted by examples. Speech is a wonderful gift from God. By means of it we photograph our thoughts, as it were, and communicate them to others. We express our wishes and our commands; we give life and colour to the innermost feelings of the heart. We can employ the spoken word to do great good or to do great evil. We can teach and educate, or we can deceive and corrupt.

Speech is an extraordinary gift, and one day we shall have to render God a strict account of it. Learn from the Saints. They understood perfectly that they would have to account not only for evil or deceitful words, but that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment (Mt. 12:36). For this reason their conversation was always impregnated with divine wisdom. By their instruction and advice they raised men's minds to an appreciation of heavenly truths and encouraged them to practice virtue. They did this not only by word, but also by example. Their own lives were a complete theoretical and practical model which led others to sanctity.

2. Sacred Scripture says of Jesus that he did and taught (Acts 1:1). We should reflect on these words. Very often we come across thinkers who teach but do nothing. Sometimes they even act contrary to their own precepts, and then their work is futile and harmful. Many unfortunate young men are the victims of false ideas and bad examples of their teachers. It was not so with Jesus, nor was it so with the Saints, His faithful followers. We can learn much from their writings, and still more from their example. For this reason we should read about their lives. People read so many books and reviews which teach them nothing, and many others which arouse their lower instincts and smother their high ideals. A good Christian should read The Lives of the Saints as well as those books which it is his duty to know. The highest and most useful school of learning for a sincere Christian is the reading of the Gospel and The Lives of the Saints.

3. If we read The Lives of the Saints, we cannot fail to be inspired by their example. We shall learn the burning love of God from the missionary zeal of St. Paul, who feels that he himself has ceased to live, but that Jesus Christ lives in him. We shall learn detachment from worldly things and the love of holy poverty from St. Francis of Assisi. We shall learn from St. Theresa and St. Philip Neri to love God alone, and from St. Francis de Sales peace of mind in the midst of misfortune. We shall learn to love purity more than life itself from St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Maria Goretti. We can learn so many good and beautiful things from the lives of those whom the Church has elevated to her Altars. Let us read these lives with humility and devotion. We shall be happier and better as a result of our reading.

The Shortness of Time

1. We often complain about the swift passage of time. Hours, days, and years pass us by, never to return. When we think about the past, do we feel consoled or depressed? How many hours have we spent on useless pursuits such as idle conversation or excessive entertainment? How many have we devoted to serious sin? How many, on the other hand, have we spent in prayer, mortification or apostolic work? How many have we devoted to helping our neighbour by our charitable assistance or advice? Weight it all up. If we discover that the time uselessly or badly spent far outweighs the time spent to our own advantage or to the advantage of others, let us determine to make good the deficit. Resolve to use God's precious gift of time in a manner befitting a reasonable being and a Christian, who knows that he has been created for eternity.

2. When we are dying, we shall think with sorrow of our past life. Then we shall fully understand the fleeting nature of time and the vanity of worldly things. The world, with its empty grandeur and hollow or sinful pleasures, will seem like a cloud which passes or like a curtain which is drawn to reveal the entrance to eternity. Our only comfort will be the number of hours which we have given to prayer and mortification, to charitable work for our poor brothers in Christ and to apostolic labours. All the rest will have passed away, never to return. But the good which we have done will remain as our supreme consolation in that final hour.

3. Another vision will confront us also in that final hour. Our frightened minds will see again all those hours which we have misused in sin. The devil will try be every means in his power to repaint them in our troubled imagination. He will do his best to lead us into despair, even as he tempted Judas and many other sinners before us. We know well that the mercy of God is infinite, and that it remains infinite at the hour of death. But we know also that His justice is no less infinite. Since God has granted us so much time in which He called us to repentance and to a life of virtue, it could happen that at the point of death He will put an end to the mercy and to the favours which He has shown us and which we have disregarded. What will become of us then? Remember that only of the two thieves was converted. The other died unrepentant on his cross, even though he was hanging by the side of Jesus. Reflect and make provision while there is still time.
While we have time, let us do good (Gal. 6:10). We shall be unable to do anything about it afterwards.