The Twentieth Chapter: The Love of Solitude and Silence

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

The Twentieth Chapter: The Love of Solitude and Silence


SEEK a suitable time for leisure and meditate often on the favors of God. Leave curiosities alone. Read such matters as bring sorrow to the heart rather than occupation to the mind. If you withdraw yourself from unnecessary talking and idle running about, from listening to gossip and rumors, you will find enough time that is suitable for holy meditation.

Very many great saints avoided the company of men wherever possible and chose to serve God in retirement. “As often as I have been among men,” said one writer, “I have returned less a man.” We often find this to be true when we take part in long conversations. It is easier to be silent altogether than not to speak too much. To stay at home is easier than to be sufficiently on guard while away. Anyone, then, who aims to live the inner and spiritual life must go apart, with Jesus, from the crowd.

No man appears in safety before the public eye unless he first relishes obscurity. No man is safe in speaking unless he loves to be silent. No man rules safely unless he is willing to be ruled. No man commands safely unless he has learned well how to obey. No man rejoices safely unless he has within him the testimony of a good conscience. Continue reading

COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER XX.

Challoner’s Reflection on The Imitation of Christ1
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

CHAPTER XX.: The Love of Solitude and Silence


What do you seek in the world? Is it happiness? There is none in it Listen to that cry of distress, that wailing lamentation which arises from all parts of the earth, and continues from age to age. It is the voice of the world. What more do you seek? Enlightenment, help, consolation, in order to accomplish your pilgrimage in peace? The world is delivered up to the spirit of darkness, to all the unholy desires that he inspires, to all the crimes and to all the evils of which he is the principle; and that is why the prophet cries out: Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness (Psalm 54:8). There, amid the silence of creatures, God speaks to the heart, and his word is so marvelous, so sweet and so ravishing, that the soul no longer desires to hear anything but Him, until the day when, the veils being rent asunder, she will contemplate Him face to fate. Christianity has peopled the deserts with those chosen souls who, flying from the world and trampling beneath their feet its pleasures, its honours, its treasures, and flesh and blood, offer to us, in the purity of their lives, an image of the life of the angels. Nevertheless, Christians are not all called to this sublime state of perfection; but in the midst of the noise and tumult of society, all should create for themselves, in the bottom of their hearts, a solitude into which they may retire to converse with Jesus Christ, and to recollect themselves in his presence. It is thus that, drawn away from the thoughts of temporal to the thoughts of eternal things, they will be disgusted with the former, and will be in the world as if they were not in it. Happy is the state in which is accomplished for the faithful man what the Apostle says: Your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

Continue reading

  1. Right Rev. R. Challoner, D.D., V.A., Imitation of Christ, Dublin: McGlashan and Gill, 1873

The Nineteenth Chapter: The Practices of a Good Religious

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

The Nineteenth Chapter: The Practices of a Good Religious


THE life of a good religious ought to abound in every virtue so that he is interiorly what to others he appears to be. With good reason there ought to be much more within than appears on the outside, for He who sees within is God, Whom we ought to reverence most highly wherever we are and in Whose sight we ought to walk pure as the angels.

Each day we ought to renew our resolutions and arouse ourselves to fervor as though it were the first day of our religious life. We ought to say: “Help me, O Lord God, in my good resolution and in Your holy service. Grant me now, this very day, to begin perfectly, for thus far I have done nothing.”

As our intention is, so will be our progress; and he who desires perfection must be very diligent. If the strong-willed man fails frequently, what of the man who makes up his mind seldom or half-heartedly? Many are the ways of failing in our resolutions; even a slight omission of religious practice entails a loss of some kind. Continue reading

COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER XIX.

Challoner’s Reflection on The Imitation of Christ1
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

CHAPTER XIX.: The Practices of a Good Religious


The life of man upon earth is a warfare (Job. 7:1) against the devil, against the world, and against himself. Some retire into the cloister in order to resist more easily, others remain in the midst of the world 5 but no one can conquer except by the exercise of continual vigilance. The habit of reflection, the love of retirement, constant attention to one’s words, thoughts, and sentiments; fidelity to the most trifling duties, to the most humble practices; preserve from temptations and draw down graces from heaven. The Holy Ghost says, He who neglects small things will Jail by little and little.

ASPIRATION.

Grant me, O God, the grace to practise all the duties and virtues thou hast commanded, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

  1. Right Rev. R. Challoner, D.D., V.A., Imitation of Christ, Dublin: McGlashan and Gill, 1873

The Eighteenth Chapter: The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

The Eighteenth Chapter: The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers


CONSIDER the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs? The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in work and fatigue, in vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditations, in persecutions and many afflictions. How many and severe were the trials they suffered–the Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the rest who willed to follow in the footsteps of Christ! They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity.

How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the desert! What long and grave temptations they suffered! How often were they beset by the enemy! What frequent and ardent prayers they offered to God! What rigorous fasts they observed! How great their zeal and their love for spiritual perfection! How brave the fight they waged to master their evil habits! What pure and straightforward purpose they showed toward God! By day they labored and by night they spent themselves in long prayers. Even at work they did not cease from mental prayer. They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation, they forgot even their bodily needs.

They renounced all riches, dignities, honors, friends, and associates. They desired nothing of the world. They scarcely allowed themselves the necessities of life, and the service of the body, even when necessary, was irksome to them. They were poor in earthly things but rich in grace and virtue. Outwardly destitute, inwardly they were full of grace and divine consolation. Strangers to the world, they were close and intimate friends of God. To themselves they seemed as nothing, and they were despised by the world, but in the eyes of God they were precious and beloved. They lived in true humility and simple obedience; they walked in charity and patience, making progress daily on the pathway of spiritual life and obtaining great favor with God. Continue reading

COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER XVIII.

Challoner’s Reflection on The Imitation of Christ1
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

CHAPTER XVIII.: The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers


In sight of the admirable examples which so many fervent disciples of Jesus Christ have left us, let us blush at our cowardice, and let us animate ourselves to walk courageously in their footprints. Let us often repeat the words of a Saint: What! cannot I do what others have done? And add with the Apostle: I can do all things in him who strengthened me (Philippians 4:13). All our strength consists in feeling our weakness and in knowing the remedy for it, which is the grace of the Saviour.

Continue reading

  1. Right Rev. R. Challoner, D.D., V.A., Imitation of Christ, Dublin: McGlashan and Gill, 1873

The Seventeenth Chapter: Monastic Life

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

The Seventeenth Chapter: Monastic Life


IF YOU wish peace and concord with others, you must learn to break your will in many things. To live in monasteries or religious communities, to remain there without complaint, and to persevere faithfully till death is no small matter. Blessed indeed is he who there lives a good life and there ends his days in happiness.

If you would persevere in seeking perfection, you must consider yourself a pilgrim, an exile on earth. If you would become a religious, you must be content to seem a fool for the sake of Christ. Habit and tonsure change a man but little; it is the change of life, the complete mortification of passions that endow a true religious.

He who seeks anything but God alone and the salvation of his soul will find only trouble and grief, and he who does not try to become the least, the servant of all, cannot remain at peace for long. Continue reading

COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER XVII.

Challoner’s Reflection on The Imitation of Christ1
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

CHAPTER XVII.: Monastic Life


What is a good religious? He is a Christian always occupied in striving after perfection. The religious life is but a life, so to speak, more Christian, and the abnegation of self is the epitome of all the duties that it imposes. Now those duties are also ours, since it is not only to some, but to all that Jesus Christ has said: Be you, therefore, perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew v. 48). In order to fulfill this great vocation, let us renounce ourselves; let us unite ourselves fully to the sacrifice of our divine leader; let us love especially dependence, humiliations and scorn. Salvation is a building which can only be erected on the ruins of pride.

Continue reading

  1. Right Rev. R. Challoner, D.D., V.A., Imitation of Christ, Dublin: McGlashan and Gill, 1873

The Sixteenth Chapter: Bearing with the Faults of Others

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

The Sixteenth Chapter: Bearing with the Faults of Others


UNTIL God ordains otherwise, a man ought to bear patiently whatever he cannot correct in himself and in others. Consider it better thus–perhaps to try your patience and to test you, for without such patience and trial your merits are of little account. Nevertheless, under such difficulties you should pray that God will consent to help you bear them calmly.

If, after being admonished once or twice, a person does not amend, do not argue with him but commit the whole matter to God that His will and honor may be furthered in all His servants, for God knows well how to turn evil to good. Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure.

If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing. Hence, it is clear how seldom we think of others as we do of ourselves. Continue reading

COMMENTARY ON CHAPTER XVI.

Challoner’s Reflection on The Imitation of Christ1
BOOK ONE: THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

CHAPTER XVI.: Bearing with the Faults of Others


You would not be able, you say, to bear such and such faults; a powerful motive to humble yourself! For God, who is perfection itself, bears them and even much greater ones. That which renders you so susceptible is not zeal for your neighbour, but a harsh, irritable, suspicious self-love. Direct your regards on yourself, and see if your brethren have nothing to suffer from you? True piety is sweet and patient, because it enlightens you as to what you really are. He who feels himself weak, and grieves on that account, is not easily shocked by the weaknesses of others; he knows that all of us require support, indulgence and mercy; he excuses, he compassionates, he pardons, and thus preserves peace within himself and charity without.

Continue reading

  1. Right Rev. R. Challoner, D.D., V.A., Imitation of Christ, Dublin: McGlashan and Gill, 1873